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Ann's Decision Promo Still
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 ParksBen/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?”)

Ben tries to get to the phone

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!?”)…

That son of a bitch is astute.

…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.

Random Thoughts/B-Stories:

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Ten Rose Hands

– Posted by Sage

XOXO to Kim for taking over my last playlist post while I dealt with day-job craziness. The storm has passed and I can now again focus on what’s really important: soundtracking the romantic relationship of fictional characters.

The Doctor is such a rich character to analyze. He’s constantly dealing with all the realities of the universe and the turn of time, but with some very familiar and human emotions. And he’s almost completely undone by his love for this girl. All of my playlist selections today are from the heartbreaking POV of the Doctor.

“Just Me Before We Met” – Noah and The Whale

“Looking through the photos you find in my drawer
Laughing so hard you’re rolling around on the floor
At all the bad haircuts and smoking cigarettes
The lustless romantic trying hard to impress

Well that’s just me before we met
Well that’s just me before we met

Putting down the photos you look up at me
Enjoying the thought of the person I used to be
The things I was proud of
The things I regret
Some things I remember
Some things I forget

Well that’s just me before we met
Well that’s just me before we met

Well I’ve always had a wild imagination
And a see through heart
Which I know can be a wild combination
Like a flame forms from a spark

But don’t be shy
Be brave little champion
It’s better to live than to hide”

“Just Me Before We Met” is one of those songs that just tackled me when it came up on shuffle one day. I had to stop on Astor Place, hit replay, and lean against the K-Mart while the feels washed over. It could speak to the Doctor’s relationship with any of his companions, but there’s something very Rose about it to me. I can picture them doing this, probably right after “School Reunion” – him showing her pictures of what he used to look like and the silly things he used to wear; and her wanting to know absolutely everything.

Rose is the only modern companion to have known more than one regeneration of the Doctor, so I think that she understands him in a way that Martha, Donna, and Amy don’t. (Every companion has a unique relationship with him, after all.) She’s had to come to terms with the fact that Nine is both always there and never coming back. I imagine that, once she understood the circumstances and came to trust Ten, he would regale her with stories about all of his past selves: mistakes, triumphs, and tragedies. What a relief for the Doctor that Rose accepts and loves this very alien part of him.

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Ben's Parents Promo Still

Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 6: Ben’s Parents
– Posted by Sage

Everything is Jean Ralphio and nothing hurts.

Jean Ralphio, dance up on me

As I predicted in my “Halloween Surprise” recap, Tom’s decision to let Jean Ralphio in on Rent-A-Swag (high-end clothing rentals for middle schoolers) ended up being a lot more fun for us than it was for him. Unlike Tom, Jean Ralphio learned absolutely nothing from the dramatic rise and fall of Entertainment 720. After the business partners’ first presentation plan is shot down by April, Tom takes her abrupt advice and embarks on a redesign. This idea has a good chance of working, and he’s not going to squander the opportunity. April has been Ron’s gatekeeper for long enough to know what he wants – no lights, no making it rain, no stupid, made-up words he won’t understand. While Tom tries to focus in on a tighter, more professional approach, Jean Ralphio buzzes around him –  an overgrown, be-scarfed, hyperactive child. To Tom’s credit, his reluctance to cut JR loose stems from his ideals of loyalty and friendship. They’re partners. But since Jean Ralphio flat out tells Tom that he couldn’t be less invested in the project, Tom can move forward solo and guilt-free.

Ron couldn’t have been less psyched to see Jean Ralphio at Ben and Leslie’s engagement party, despite the latter’s sick free association skills. While Ron certainly never wants to socialize with the man, he’s mostly disappointed that Tom would share his idea with someone so lacking in work ethic and, let’s face it, smarts. In giving Jean Ralphio the ax, Tom becomes a “serious person” in Ron’s eyes. He can make decisions that aren’t entirely based on instant gratification. Or, in his words, “Sometimes, you gotta work a little, so you can ball a lot.” Ron in 60 Seconds doesn’t even need to see a presentation. Tom has his start-up money. And with that, little Tommy Timberlake is all groweds up.

And acting like a grown up has very little to do with age. There’s no better evidence of this theory than the episode’s namesakes: Ben’s parents. Ben and Leslie are reveling in their new engagement and planning a party to celebrate. A party to which they’ll invite their families. Ben can see the thunder cloud on the horizon, threatening to rain cynicism and awkwardness all over their parade. He tries to warn Leslie that his parents have not been able to treat each other civilly since their divorce 30 years ago. “If there’s anyone who can bring my parents together,” he says to her, tenderly, “it’s no one.” Leslie, eternal optimist, has never met a lost cause she couldn’t fix. Her plan includes a Wyatt/Knope unity quilt, with each square signifying a member of their growing family. What could possibly go wrong?

The first of the Wyatts to arrive is Julia, Ben’s mom (Glenne Headly). Leslie swiftly gets a Chardonnay into her hand as she chats with the formidable and always welcomed Marlene Griggs-Knope. This shaky peace is broken with the arrival of Ben’s dad Stephen (Jonathan Banks, aka Mike Ehrmantraut from television’s Breaking Bad) and, dun dun duuuun: his girlfriend Ulani. From there, the Wyatt family reunion spirals into a flurry of name-calling and snide remarks, leaving Ben dismayed and Leslie and Marlene incredulous. Ben’s thought of an exit strategy, however, which is probably a level of preparedness adult children of divorce need to develop. Leslie ignores his pleas to jump into the waiting cab (P.S. Love that Pawnee has yellow cabs.), and decides to unleash her secret weapon. She’s successfully used a quilt to end epic fights three times: once in junior high, once in relation to a Donna/Jerry parking lot feud that I hope we hear more about someday, and the third time? “Right f**king now.”

Ben’s parents have sunk so low in their pettiness that they only regard Leslie’s project to find fault and more reasons to scream at each other. Stephen is offended that there’s no square for Ulani; Julia resorts to vandalism to remove the square Leslie throws together for her replacement. And Ulani is pregnant. And none of them will go to the wedding. Finally, Leslie accepts defeat. A woman after my own heart, she packs up all the brownies and four bottles of wine and tries to convince Ben to run away with her. But Ben’s had it with being the grown up in his family. His parents have forced him and Leslie to spend their entire engagement party trying to keep them from strangling one another. He’s not going to let them ruin their wedding too. He and Leslie rejoin the party to take a stand, but not after a rejuvenating backseat makeout sesh. Beslie inform Julia, Ulani, and Stephen that they will all go to the wedding, they won’t make a scene, and they will tell the happy couple that they had a great time. The chastisement is more effective than any appeasement strategy. Ben can’t fix his parents, but he can tell them that he expects them to act like adults. More importantly, Leslie doesn’t hold Ben’s insane family against him. She rightly believes that his parents’ toxic relationship hasn’t a thing to do with her future happiness. Unless Ben goes crazy in his old age. But she’s got her eyes peeled for that. They’re so perfect.

Phil Dunphy loves you both

Random Thoughts/B-Stories:

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Leslie and Ann costumes
Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 5: Halloween Surprise, Director’s Cut
– Posted by Sage

Every day of our lives, we all make sacrifices to get us to where we know we need to be. Most of them are so tiny, we hardly notice them. We forgo an hour of extra sleep to make it to the gym. We’re nice to people we don’t particularly care for, because we want them to treat us well. This episode of Parks was about sacrifices that are not so tiny and the moment when we decide to give up things we want for the things we want more. Ron trades in his treasured peace and quiet for a real shot with Diane and her family. Ann gives up the comfort she finds in dependency to live a fuller life on her own. And Ben and Leslie…well, I’ll get to them.

Ron is still seeing single mom Diane (Lucy Lawless). She’s, like, the perfect Ron Swanson girlfriend: pretty, chill, and maybe secretly a warrior princess. She stops by the Parks department with her two adorable, wound-up daughters to invite Ron to come trick-or-treating with them. Andy can’t think of a better way to spend an evening, so he begs an invite too and demands that they go at primo candy time.

All is going relatively well on Halloween night, until Diane is called away on a “Vice-Principal Emergency,” leaving Ron and aspiring officer Dwyer alone with two little princesses. And one of their tiaras breaks. Fact of life: Sisters who are this close in age have to have THE EXACT SAME THINGS. If there isn’t two of everything, there will be no end to the tantrums. Problem-solver Ron knows how to fix this though – he breaks the other tiara. Now no one has one! Equality restored. Commence conniption. Even cool Diane gets a little riled when her crying children are returned to her. Ron doesn’t know how to apologize or doesn’t think he needs to. He’s almost ready to accept the end of something promising, just because the presence of her kids will complicate his life. April sees straight through the stoic Swanson face (“Oh my god, you are so sad.”) and suggests he make an effort to smooth things over. He shows up to Diane’s house with make-nice gifts (flowers, candy, grout cleaner), confesses his obvious unfamiliarity with tiny humans, and promises to work on it. Then he offers to teach them how to saw.

Now, on to the Surprise portion of “Halloween Surprise.” Spoilers beyond the cut. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Eleve Spoilers

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-Posted by Sage

Like Kim, I was a shipper long before there was a word for it. I shipped 80s cartoons and characters in terrible, short-run 90s sitcoms. I could not be stopped. (For the definition of “shipper” and Kim’s Top 5 TV Kisses, go to her post here.) So when a favorite TV kisses post was suggested, I basically had my Top 5 already selected, ranked, and laminated on a handy wallet-sized card.

How do you know if a TV kiss was a good one? If you look like this at work or school the next day, that’s a pretty good indicator:

Dreamy Cinderella

Without further ado, here are my Top 5 TV makeout moments. Get it, everyone:

Pacey and Joey

5) Pacey and Joey, “Cinderella Story”, Dawson’s Creek

“And you call me in the middle of the night to pick you up…why?”
“Well I’m sorry that I called, I thought that I-“
“I’m not mad that you called me, i just want to know why you called me.”
“You were the first person that I thought of, Pacey.”
“And what does that mean, Jo?”
“It means…I guess it…it means that I can talk to you and that you’re there for me.”
“Don’t you ever get tired of talking?”

Pacey Witter has always been and will always be TOO GOOD for Joey Potter. This kiss has the benefit of coming at the end of a “THAT’S IT,” pulling-over-to-the-side-of-the road moment, and also of SHUTTING HER UP.

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