Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 13: Emergency Response, Producer’s Cut
– Posted by Sage
This is Willa Tremaine reporting to you from Head Over Feels, where we’ve just watched the extended producer’s cut of another classic episode of Parks and Recreation. If you’ve only seen the version that aired on NBC Thursday night, proceed immediately to Hulu and enjoy the episode plus some killer extra scenes. Now, back to our regularly scheduled recap.
It’s the moment of reckoning for this season’s great white whale, the Pawnee Commons Project. Despite Jamm’s best efforts to bribe the planning commission with Paunch Burger’s Greasy Lardbombs™, the group is still behind Leslie’s proposed park. The problem is that the park isn’t fully funded – there’s a $50k hole. Leslie mopes about the seemingly insurmountable gap while she and Ben head troll Macy’s (a rare obvious product placement for this show) with Tom to register for their wedding gifts. Ben comes up with a plan: they’ll register for the park instead. Beslie are purer of heart than your recapper, because I would be Harlem Shaking down the aisles with Tom and pointing that little gun thing on everything that wasn’t nailed down. Also, how does planning a gala fundraiser preclude you from having a wedding registry? I’m really upset about this, because I have more fantasies about registering than my actual wedding.
Team Parks Department kicks into action, as they are wont to do. Put together a black tie gala in one week? They won’t even break a sweat. “Breaking a sweat” is probably on both Tom and Donna’s “Oh No-Nos” lists. But crisis comes in the form of well, a fake crisis. Leonard Chulm, head of the Indiana Department of Emergency Preparedness (hey, Matt Walsh!) rolls into town to throw a emergency preparedness drill at Pawnee and (quelle surprise) Emergency Czar Leslie. We’ve got an outbreak of avian flu, ya’ll. I hope you’re prepared to bathtub-drown all the birds in town.
On any other day, Leslie would HAVE this. She’s prepared for every scenario, with binders and fake news casts at the ready. But passing the drill will likely mean losing Pawnee Commons forever. This is Lot 48. It represents every dream Leslie has ever had for herself and for Pawnee. She cannot let it end up in the hands of Jamm, ghost or otherwise.
So she makes the call: to save the town, she must destroy it. She puts her containment and recovery plans into reverse and quickly ensures that the entire town is soon struck down by bird flu. And if all our citizens are as over-therapized as Chris Traeger, they’ll be pretty psyched about it. (“I’m dead!) Off to save the gala – suck it, Jamm!
But if we’ve learned anything in the past few seasons of Parks besides some awesome nicknames for food, it’s that Leslie’s friends can be counted on to rise to the occasion. Under the inspiring leadership of one Ben Wyatt (“Get some chairs from…somewhere.”), the gala has already come together perfectly. All that’s left for Leslie to do is put on a super hot red dress, give an inspiring thank you speech, and introduce Mouserat. We will build it, the park!
Leonard Chulm’s entire purpose is to make sure every town in Indiana has the right protocol in place to survive a disaster. But protocols and processes are nothing without ingenuity and people who can think on their feet. Leslie has grown from a person who will blindly follow a prescribed plan to the letter to one who is ready to toss the rule book out if necessary, and even if she wrote it herself. And in what WOULD have been the episode’s twist had NBC not PUT IT IN THE PROMOS, we find out that Leslie might even be willing to do that with my – I mean her – dream wedding. I hear you, Les. I too, hate the feeling of not being married to Ben Wyatt. At least you can do something about it. Mazel, you crazy kids.
On Valentine’s Day, since Kim’s boyfriend is out of town and I’m flying solo preeeeetty much always, we’ll be celebrating our second annual Galentine’s Day! Plans include a taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; some pastel baked goods; and sneaking miniature bottles of whiskey into a screening of Safe Haven. Romance!
Now, my default setting is single, and I’m fine with that. Why wouldn’t I be, when I have all these amazing TV boyfriends? (Read that as something less sad than it sounded in my head.) I’m not opposed to wife-ing up, however, and CLEARLY, I have a type. So, if you know any nerdy-hot, brown-haired boys of an average height and an above-average wit, send them my way.
For comparison, here are my Top 5 TV Valentines, in no particular order:
1. Eric Taylor
Friday Night Lights is a veritable buffet of delectable TV boyfriends. There’s something for everyone, whether you prefer Tim’s nobility; Jason’s perseverance; Matt’s sweetness; Landry’s sense of humor; or any of the other qualities displayed by the men of East and West Dillon. I love each and every one of them, but my heart will always come back to Coach.
Eric Taylor is a MAN-man, you guys, and not just because he’s so Sporty Spice. He is a husband and a father and a mentor, and takes all of those roles seriously. The chemistry between Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton was so epic that the creative team were sure they’d be having an affair before filming even began. They didn’t (that we know of…), but good god, do I see why they were concerned. The Taylor marriage would DESTROY in a cagematch of TV marriages.
And then there’s Eric as parent – to occasionally bratty daughter Julie, surprise!baby Gracie Bell, and the hundreds of boys he mentored and elevated as coach of the Dillon Panthers and Lions. As you may know if you’ve ever been in a bar with me after 1am on a particularly good night, I have the entire Coach/Saracen nighttime field scene from first season episode “Eyes Wide Open” memorized. Before all the “WHAT IS YOUR NAME?” inspirational yelling, Coach tells Matt exactly what he thinks about his tiny house and batty grandma:
“I’ll tell you somethin’. I know you didn’t want me to step foot in your house tonight. I’ll tell you somethin’ else and don’t you ever forget this: you should feel proud. You should feel real proud.”
If you ever felt confused about whether you wanted Coach to adopt you and help you unlock all your latent potential OR to rock your world in the back of a flat-bed truck, then congratulations – you watched FNL correctly.
2. Josh Lyman
From his introduction in The West Wing pilot, I was a 1003758% gone Josh Lyman fangirl. He is a hot damn mess of a person, I know. But Joshua Lyman is the same brilliant, wounded idiot that all of us have spent our lives chasing after. He just screams, “fix me.”
To prove I’m not a complete masochist, I’ll remind you of Josh’s good qualities: he’s rabidly loyal, and throws his entire self into his friendships and his work. He’s so fucking smart, and, whadaya know, speaks fluent Sorkin! Game on, indeed.
He also passes the “YOUR FACE” test, which has to do with how many times an episode I yell, “YOUR FACE!” and throw a pillow at the TV. See below.
3. Chandler Bing
Telling you that I love Chandler Bing is like telling you I have brown eyes. It’s chemical. It’s biological. It’s in my BLOOD.
4. Ed Stevens
Ed Stevens is perfectly on the edge of the right side of How I Met Your Mother‘s Dobbler/Dahmer line. His tireless pursuit of Carol Vessey (as Julie Bowen will always be known to me, Modern Family be damned) was so charming – how did the woman manage to resist for so long?
He is a BOWLING ALLEY LAWYER. How are you not going to marry that guy? Is there a roller skating rink doctor we don’t know about?
I will also accept as my Stuckeyville valentine Ed’s best friend, Dr. Mike Burton. We would spend our days making $10 bets and eating sarcasm sandwiches.
Finally: SOMEONE PUT THIS SHOW ON DVD, JESUS CHRIST.
5. Ben Wyatt
He owns his own batsuit and has hundreds of accounting jokes at the ready. What is not to love about Benjamin Wyatt, Human Disaster, Boy Mayor, First Man of Pawnee?
I basically sing the praises of Ben every week in my Parks recaps, so I don’t know what more there is to say. Just know that all the Roman gladiators and firey Latin lovers you could leave on my doorstep could never compare to a single Deputy City Manager in a plaid button-down.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of our gorgeous readers! If we could, we’d hug each and every one of you, a little too tightly and for a little bit too long.
Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 12: Ann’s Decision
– Posted by Sage
Even the truest love doesn’t always last forever. But we will hold on the misty, watercolored memories of perhaps the most delicious, yet least practical ship on Parks. Ben/Calzones has come to a tragic end.
The bitter breakup comes courtesy of the catering finals Ben has orchestrated to pick the menu for the wedding of the millennium. His judges lineup features veggie connoisseur Chris Traeger, meat specialist Ron Swanson, and Instagram king Tom Haverford. Andy isn’t invited, but we’re not sure if it’s because of his unsophisticated palate or tendency to use frisbees as plates. Everyone but Tom tries the delectable cheesy-meaty-saucey pastry appetizer that puts its creator on the top of Ben’s list. After all, serving calzones at his wedding is the closest to actually MARRYING a calzone that Ben will ever get, at least until those GOD DAMN LIBERALS get their way. But the next morning finds the boys lumbering and rolling around Chris’s office like they just walked off the set of The Walking Dead. Food poisoning. Ben is jilted. Doublecrossed. Forsaken by his beloved. (“The calzones…betrayed me?”)
They know that the calzones were the culprit, because Tom refuses to eat food that requires him to exert any effort. (“Drizzle it on for me! I’m not your maaaaaiiiid.”) After a long and painful recovery, the boys find themselves back at JJ’s for a return to solid food. Ben realizes he’s been overthinking it – why pick a fancy caterer over Leslie’s favorite food in town? Looks like Beslie will be serving their guests a waffle tower instead of a wedding cake. PLEASE, oh please let them have a waffle tower. (Note to self: find waffle tower photo to pin to “Future Wedding to Ben Schwartz” Pinterest board.)
After the madcap shenanigans and Salt N’ Pepa singalongs of the rotating bachelor party, it’s good to see that Parks has no intention of abandoning this male-bonding theme anytime soon. They’re adorable, even when grossly ill. (“I cracked the bottom of the toilet bowl.”) And this light, silly storyline was the perfect complement to Leslie and Ann’s big life decision arc.
The writers have done an admirable job this year of fixing “The Ann Problem.” It’s never bothered me as much as some other fans who I’ve read, but her stories this season have been the most compelling that they’ve ever been. And, more importantly, they feel organic and not forced. Also, this Ann-finding-herself theme has always felt like a meta-acknowledgement of the issues that the show has run into trying to integrate that character into the Parks Department.
I LOVE this single mom plot, because it gives Ann an opportunity to drive it and not always be reacting to the other characters. AND, it makes for some funny and interesting Leslie/Ann interplay. I feel like I learned a lot about both of their characters this week. It’s pretty cray-cray to compare this Leslie to the one-note Leslie of Season 1. She fully supports any woman’s right to create “the family that she wants,” but still believes, deep down in her heart, that a family created from a loving, monogamous relationship is still better than the alternatives. (“The body is Ann’s, and the woman in charge of it is me.”) She may not have even known that about herself until she’s faced with Ann’s no-nonsense, no-waiting plan to have a kid. Stupid Hot Ann’s not doing this because she feels sorry for herself. It’s something that she wants in her life, regardless of relationships. For Ann, waiting for a guy to come along so that she can finally have a baby would have been like Leslie waiting to have a boyfriend before she pursued her career.
Ann does agree with Leslie that she should know more about the biological dad of her future kid, so she side-steps the sperm bank and does some research. The top 3 come in to Ann’s office under the pretense that she’s interviewing them for her blog. (I assume that Leslie worked some of her questions on to the list. I too would not allow myself to be inseminated by a man before knowing his favorite season of Friends, even though any answer is the right answer there.) We’ve got Dr. Harris, who’s a little mean (“The chairs in MY office are leather.”); high school basketball star Pete, who’s a little too clued in (“When will the women in this town stop scheming for my sperm!?”)…
…and Howard Tuttleman, who may be juuuuuuust right. Operation: Baby Douche, engage.
Douche, how little we knew you! Turns out Howard studied semiotics at Northwestern, before creating his satiric second persona and becoming Crazy Ira’s morning radio co-host. But his dual personalities are now fused, and no one can tell where Howard ends and Douche begins! Considering the Pawnee alternatives, Howard isn’t a bad choice. But his Douche-side can’t resist revealing the truth about Ann’s plan on the show, with plenty of bodily function sound effects thrown in. Leslie realizes that she’s imposing her own priorities on Ann, and she needs to make up for butting in and telling Douche the truth. Her apology comes with all the humiliation Crazy Ira and the Douche can throw at her, i.e. Leslie going ass over tincups in a baby pool filled with Jello while doing a truly terrible Bill Cosby impression. Friendship rule: you always forgive the people who are willing to embarrass themselves to earn it. And that’s a Leslie Knope specialty.
Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 11: Women in Garbage
– Posted by Sage
If there’s one thing Leslie Knope can’t resist, it’s waffles. If there are two things, they’re waffles and making out with Ben, on his face. And if there are THREE things that Leslie Knope can’t resist, they are: waffles; making out with Ben, on his face; and knocking down gender stereotypes.
Leslie is used to just ignoring some of Pawnee’s more archaic guidelines (i.e., she really shouldn’t be reserving any conference rooms without permission from her husband or father). But after meeting with Pawnee’s first ever female City Council member Paula Hork, she learns two things: 1) it’s time to correct the underemployment of women in all areas of city government and 2) there is probably a calendar of her own menstrual cycle somewhere in City Hall. Leslie picks up the ball and brings the Equal Gender Employment Commission plan to Chris, who, of course, thinks it’s the greatest idea in the history of ideas. He asks every department to send two people to a meeting. And they do – they each send two men. The Pawnee man-pigs think that Chris (“Oh no, it’s just a very beautiful man.”) and “the girl who brought the snacks” are enough of a female contingency, thank you very much. After listening to some ancient lawmakers wax poetic about the frailty of women, Leslie challenges the worst offender of employment inequality, the sanitation department. She and April take over a garbage collection route to prove that women are up to the task. Chris brings his maybe-kinda-sorta girlfriend Shawna Mulwae-Tweep to cover it for the Pawnee Journal.
Leslie’s proving her point by being ahead of the regular timing for the route. April gets to dig through the trash of all her high school enemies. (“She has to use prescription-strength deodorant. This is the best day of my life.”) Arguably having a less awesome time are the misogynistic sanitation dudes, who are being taken to school, and poor Chris Traeger, who is completely at sea in Tweep’s twenty-something world of group hangs and no labels. The garbage dudes make a last ditch effort to hold on to their manhood by sending Leslie and April to move a giant bakery freezer that apparently the regular route guys couldn’t budge the week before. Of course, they don’t tell the girls that, so Leslie is ready to make it happen. (“Easy, breezy, beautiful. That’s the CoverGirl slogan. I didn’t mean to say that.”) They could call them on it, but April wants to WIN, not to tie. So Leslie calls in the ladies from the soup kitchen to take the donation. With all this combined lady power, the freezer gets onto the truck and the sanitation guys start hiring female workers. Joan of Arc would be proud.
Just like Leslie, Tom is doing his best to hang with the boys. His Rent-a-Swag customers are obsessed with basketball, so he recruits (or tricks, whatever) Andy and Ben into teaching him the basics. (Necessarily side flail: BEN’S BASKETBALL OUTFIT. The goggles. The gym socks. I cannot breathe.) Tom isn’t exactly a quick study (“Did I do basketball?”), and the guys get humiliated by some middle-schoolers in a 3-on-3.
Ben shows a depressed Tommy a video of Kevin Durant and Russel Westberg talking to press after a loss to show him that the best pros know how to come back after a defeat. Tom completely ignores that advice, but has his own epiphany. He uses Kids 46 News to position Rent-a-Swag as THE place to get your post-game press conference fashions.
And on more shaking up of traditional gender roles, Ron is playing babysitter to Diane’s little girls, Zoe and Ivy. He’s covered in stickers (courtesy of Leslie, obviously), his shoes are painted red, and his office now looks like something a Justice threw up. Diane asks if he can handle it for another day. After scouring the building for Ann (“I thought your last name was Hanson for some reason.”), Ron ropes her into helping out. Trouble is, beautiful Ann is a complete awkward turtle around kids. (“Hey, dudettes. So, you guys like Coldplay?”) But once she pulls out her medical supplies, the girls are enthralled. Somehow, they lock themselves into the conference room alone, and Doctors Ivy and Zoe perform surgery on each other’s infected hair. Ron has a meltdown and inadvertently reveals his true feelings for Diane. Yes, it’s true: Ron loves Mommy.
His fears of ruining the relationship are unfounded, as Diane remains the COOLEST CHICK EVER and takes the girls’ scissor adventures in stride. She’s so touched by Ron’s concern, that she makes a declaration of her own: Mommy loves Ron. Ron loves Mommy. Ron and Mommy 4-Ever. And Family Love Michael too, why not?
Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 10: Two Parties
– Posted by Sage
The wedding of the century is almost here, and the girls and guys of Pawnee are sending their friends Leslie and Ben into marriage with style. Well, they’re trying to, anyway.
Maid of Honor and beautiful nurse, Ann Perkins, has bought up all the penis-shaped novelties in three towns. She booked Babe Lincoln, professional historical stripper. But planning a party in honor of the ultimate planner is completely stressing her out. Meanwhile Chris Traeger, literally the Best Man anyone has ever had, is supporting Ben’s choice to have a beer and boardgames bachelor party. And maybe some Homeland on the DVR, if we have enough time.
**Head canon sidenote: before coming to Pawnee, I don’t think that Ben Wyatt would have called Chris Traeger his best friend. Old Ben drew a line between work and his personal life, and Chris’s status as his coworker would have trumped any familiar relationship they had. Also, thanks to Pawnee and Leslie, Ben’s come to appreciate the unique weirdness in everyone he meets. Thus, the coworkers become true bros. Head canon sidenote complete.**
But the boys can’t compete with a nationally ranked Settlers player and Tom Haverford isn’t going to let Jello Shot’s night go down like that. Andy, Ben, Chris, Ron, Tom, and Jerry move the festivities to Essence, Eagleton’s new “molecular mixology” bar, where Ron is served his drink via a whiskey-infused lotion hand massage. Turns out, none of the married or formerly married among them ever had a true bachelor party. So, new plan: this night is now about all of them, and each bachelor boy gets to pick one thing they want to do.
Female friendships often take center stage on Parks, so it was a complete joy to watch the boys bonding in this one. Again, Parks avoids the worst of tired and sexist sitcom tropes: These bachelor parties are about the guys celebrating their friends, not mourning their single lives. Tom gets his vaporized drinks. Andy gets to catch a touchdown pass thrown by the Colts’ Andrew Luck. Jerry gets a couple of ice cream cones and called by his actual name. And, of course, Ron gets a steak. With a rasher of bacon on the side. Chris is thrilled just to be the facilitator, but Ben wants to find some way besides a Best Man trophy to thank our lonely fitness guru. Then Pawnee reporter extraordinaire/former hole in the Beslie ship Shauna Mulwae-Tweep shows up, wanting to do a story on the rotating bachelor party. Ben hardly thinks it’s news, but Shauna disagrees. She thinks that people want to read about “a group of good friends, having fun, doing nice things for each other” and that she wants to write about it. (Ahem – practically Parks and Rec‘s reason to exist and brighten up our sad, desperate lives.) A light comes on in Ben’s mind, and he takes Shauna to Chris’s office to get the story – over lunch.
Let’s be real: this episode was all about the boys. I was disappointed with the girls’ storyline, mostly because my hopes for the return of my personal hero Drunk!Leslie were foiled. Of course it’s in character for Leslie to let work ruin her bachelorette party, but her lack of concern for Ann and the rest of her ladyfriends was a reversion to the Steamroller!Leslie of seasons past. None of them want to see another Paunch Burger location in old pit surely, but was it really worth digging Wamapoke artifacts out of the dirt in the middle of the night using penis hats for shovels? Just…Ann worked SO hard! And, sue me, I wanted the girls to have a little fun. On the bright side, now that this story has happened, hopefully the writers won’t let any Pawnee business get in the way of Ben and Leslie’s actual wedding. DON’T YOU DARE TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME, SCHUR. I NEED THIS.
It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, and then it’s hilarious.
My Saturday night involved, among other things, a spectacularly unglamorous faceplant on the subway stairs. And I woke up Sunday morning looking something like this:
Embarrassing and painful falls have their silver linings. Sometimes it’s a day off work to get an X-Ray, but mostly it’s entertaining your friends. And I’d never deny my friends the right to laugh at my humiliation. Let’s all just agree to admit that you are never too sophisticated to laugh at someone biting it.
Also, I think I heard somewhere that you’re supposed to channel your pain into art. It was probably on Smash, right before everyone pretended that they’d actually recognize Ryan Tedder on sight. So, here is my cathartic blog full of awesome falls. I’m feeling better already.
Chandler Bing and the bullies – Friends
There’s no shortage of Friends falls to choose from, but this one has always been my favorite. Matthew Perry defined Chandler’s physicality so early in the series (it’s all about the arms) and this is just a brilliant moment. He is simultaneously running AND falling down, which I don’t think is even possible. FF to 2:44 for the good stuff.
Tobias as Mrs. Featherbottom – Arrested Development
“We shan’t be telling your mother this, shan’t we?”