Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 8: Pawnee Commons
– Posted by Sage
Welp. First things first.
Because this episode will always be known as “The One Where Ben Made That Face.”
Now that that’s out of the way, let the recapping commence!
Other sitcoms take note: this is how you keep a “will they-won’t they” ship interesting to the audience after it’s been definitively established that they will. The Parks writers have a knack for putting Beslie into situations that milk comedy from their differences while solidifying their meant-to-be-ness.
The timeline of Ben Wyatt’s love affair with Pawnee runs in a parallel line to his love affair with Leslie Knope. In this episode, when he says that he’s in love with this “strange, passionate goofball,” he may as well be referring to this kooky town as much as his fiance. He equates the two, as you must, and would go to the mat for either. But Ben isn’t a native Pawneean. He still has a somewhat objective viewpoint. And that’s where his romance with this town diverges wildly from Leslie’s.
Leslie guests on the GENIUS Pawnee Community Radio show “Thought for Your Thoughts” to put out the call for designs for a new park and to introduce a segment of two jazz recordings played over each other to a cacophonic effect. They’re under a deadline for a decent plan and the submissions aren’t quite up to par. (Who wouldn’t want to spend a relaxing afternoon in “Worm Park”?) Ben and Leslie are both thrilled about the resume submitted by the decidedly overqualified Wreston St. James (played by SNL vet and Mr. Julia Louis Dreyfuss, Brad Hall). That is, until Leslie finds out that he’s from Eagleton. Fucking Eagleton, you guys.
Despite the “blood feud” between the neighboring towns, Wreston seems sincere and excited about mending fences. Ben is starry-eyed and possibly has a little crush on him. But Leslie Knope does not negotiate with Eagletonians. She can’t bring herself to believe that Wreston doesn’t have a plan to prank and shame Pawnee; and her ride-or-die hometown pride won’t abide her cozying up to someone from the other side. (Especially when that side is marked by a sign that reads, “Now Entering Pawnee: Good Luck With That.)
Ben should be especially aware that you don’t REASON with Leslie about the pride of Pawnee. But still, he tries to make her realize that she’s judging Wreston personally on the longstanding disagreements of their towns. The designer himself has been nothing but cordial and helpful. Much like Rhett Butler or Bono. The scene where Leslie wrenches out an apology is pure Amy Poehler genius, particularly the impromptu endorsement of Canada Dry.
“If your mouth is dry, drink Canada Dry! That’s nothing.”
Leslie Knope begrudgingly puts her faith in a citizen of Eagleton and is rewarded by the Carrie-style humiliation she expected. Two blandly attractive members of Wreston firm show up with a model of the park, complete with outdoor showers that come with instructions and drool buckets for the town’s “more slack-jawed” citizens. Ben has to physically hold her back.
Leslie wants, nay, NEEDS revenge. Dear, sweet, balloon-art loving Ben doesn’t see how it all adds up. He goes to meet with Wreston, who assures him that the d-bags responsible have been fired. Leslie has downgraded her revenge plan from arson to whipped cream, and attacks Mr. St. James with a spray can. Wreston must be the most patient man in Indiana, if not the world, as he decides to work on the park pro bono anyway. The resulting model is Leslie’s dream come true – a park that’s not only beautiful, but representative of Pawnee’s less racist and violent history. Maybe I’m a cynical jerk, but I have to say that I’m not entirely sure yet that Wreston isn’t a part of a long Eagleton con. Like Leslie, I remain cautiously optimistic about the future relationship of Pawnee and Eagleton. But really, how much compassion can you expect from the town that produced Voldemort?
Meanwhile, Andy Dwyer is bored. Bored with a capital B. So bored, he’s resorted to pondering our existence and place in this universe. Turns out that nighttime security guard at Pawnee City Hall isn’t exactly an action-packed post. And time is crawling by.
If you want to see two hours fly by in a blink of an eye, Andy, you should try writing a blog.
April suggests passing the hours not as regular joe Andy Dwyer, but as Burt Macklin, FBI loose cannon. April’s upped her role-playing game from duplicitous, wealthy Southern belle Janet Snakehole to Judy Hitler, daughter of The Führer. Andy feels a purpose, if not a real one, interrogating Ms. Hitler about the location of “the necklace with all of Germany’s war secrets.” But while he’s chasing stupid, sexy Hitler all over the building, Agent Macklin gets himself a real case: Little Joey can’t find his mom. But this isn’t a job for Macklin. This one is all Andy. Kid and mom are both grateful, and Andy gets to throw out his best, “Just doin’ my job, m’am.” April helps Andy realize that Burt is no longer what this town needs, and maybe it’s time for him to retire.
The rest of the gang are working on the new home of Rent-A-Swag with Tom, who has become obsessed with being a budget-concious and moderate businessman. Rent-A-Swag won’t be another Entertainment 720, and thus, these new digs have 100% Detlef Schrempf. Sad. The result of decorating the home base while pinching every penny is so depressing that not even DJ Roomba (hey, buddy!!) can jazz it up. And I hope everyone has dinner plans later, because the celebratory pizza party is one small pie. Ann takes Tom out for pancakes and real talk. Entertainment 720 folded because it was all style and no substance, but that doesn’t mean that Tom should withhold all his inherent showmanship from the running of this new business. (“You can’t have Rent-A-Swag without the swag.”) In fact, he needs it. Tom uses the money his friends have collected plus most of the contents of his apartment to trick out the store. There’s still room for small doses of Tommy Timberlake in Tom’s new responsible venture. Just like Ben/Leslie and April/Andy in this episode, Ann helps Tom to balance the extreme parts of his personality with the more down-to-earth. What would Leslie be without her passion? Or Tom without his overconfidence? Or Andy without his imagination? Like Eagleton without palm trees.
- Seriously, that public access radio show was perfect. Parks comes through with another incredible character name in Derry Murbles (played by The Simpsons’ Dan Castellaneta). The “spoken word opera about pear-shaped women” that he referenced reminded me of the one-woman show Joey tricks everyone into seeing on Friends – “WHY DON’T YOU LIKE ME? Chapter one: My first period.”
- Tom’s Michael Scott-esque welcome (“Friends, former lovers, acquaintances, Jerry…”) to the new Rent-a-Swag digs.
- Balloon Leslie and Ben!
- April’s certificate of appreciation (“I was in the FBI.”) and iPhone gun salute to Burt Macklin. Also, how cute did Aubrey look in that captain’s hat?
- Ben blurts out an invitation to Reston to the Beslie wedding. “It’s in May.” Season finale wedding, you guys!! I will legit watch with a bottle of champagne and toast my babies.
- “Don’t you do it, Hitler. Don’t you dare fall in love with me.”
Do you trust Wreston, Parks fans? Or will Eagleton prove again to be the most wretched hive of scum and villainy? Till next time!