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.
Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 7: Leslie vs. April
– Posted by Sage
“It was a real honor that, in my sitcom debut, I got to meet someone like Leslie Knope, who believes so deeply in public service. She’s an example for men and women across the country that there’s no higher calling than helping other people.” – Joe Biden
If it wasn’t already obvious to you that Leslie Knope is marrying the right man for her, Ben’s surprise engagement present should have made it abundantly clear. It’s better than a waffle tower! In one of the best Parks cold opens in recent memory, Ben and Leslie have an audience with Vice President and one-man celebrity sex list, Joe Biden. The cameo was secretly filmed in DC last summer, including a scene that would address the other possible election outcome. Thankfully, it wasn’t needed. Forward, bitches.
Amy, Adam, and the Vice President just kill this scene. Leslie is endearingly unhinged; Ben is appropriately horrified at her invading Joe’s personal space; and Mr. Biden is flattered and good-naturedly weirded out at the same time. It’s a beautiful, hilarious moment of wish fulfillment for fans, on our beloved Leslie’s behalf. I love the quote that opens this recap, because it lends so much more meaning to a PR-generating cameo. The President also recently revealed that his family watches Parks and Recreation together. Call me a sucker, but I’m comforted that the White House shares our admiration for this character and the values of this show. *Cue “America the Beautiful,” as I shed a single, patriotic tear.*
Back in Pawnee, Leslie proudly watches April give a presentation on the town’s need for a new dog park. She’s beaming, armed with a camera to capture her protege’s newfound motivation. (“Can you say ‘per capita’ again? I want to take a picture of you saying ‘per capita.'”) She and Ben (and Chris and Ron) have nurtured April’s very, very latent potential, so Leslie rightly feels responsible for her development as an adult and public servant. She’s over the moon until April proposes the dog park site: Lot 48, the infamous pit behind Ann’s house. Uh oh.
For years, Leslie has tried unsuccessfully to turn the cursed Lot 48 into a park. And if Leslie Knope can’t do it, ain’t nobody can. She won’t support April’s plan, even though it may be the one that finally turns the space into something useful. Leslie’s ego, like the rest of her life, exists in her work. We get the feeling that she kinda liked being the only competent person in Pawnee government. She was the hero. Now, under her influence, her coworkers and friends are working harder and caring more. Where does that leave Leslie ? April’s adoption of Lot 48 brings her identity crisis to a head.
Heeding some Swanson advice, Leslie attempts to distract April, first with a visit to Orin’s art show (disturbingly reminiscent of a Bosch painting), then by touring other possible sites for the park (which also sort of look like Bosch paintings, but with more radioactive sewage.) April sees straight through the scheme, and tells Leslie she’ll present her plan to at the council meeting with the support of Councilman Jamm. Leslie tries to warn April that Jamm is unreliable, but April doesn’t want to hear anything else from her. During her presentation, Leslie states that public opinion is clearly against the proposition (“I just heard one hag booing.”), and Jamm pulls his double cross. He thinks parks are useless, but hears that Paunch Burger is looking for a new location. April just got Jammed.
Ron and Ann stage an April/Leslie intervention. With Ann’s mediation, Leslie acknowledges that she hasn’t been a great mentor to April lately; and April apologizes for writing off all of Leslie’s advice in anger. And also, they love each other. Ugh, moments with these two always slay me.
April, Leslie and Ann join forces to fight the real enemy: Councilman Jamm. Leslie’s responsible for the “dick move” that gets him to back down on his dirty tricks. They invite all the park-less kids and dogs in his neighborhood to his play on his lawn. I get the feeling Jamm isn’t a big fan of either. Jamm lays out a peace treaty: in 90 days, they’ll put their various plans before the council and up to a vote. Fair and square. Now, get that hula hoop off my car.
Now that he has his start-up cash from Ron, Tom is taking the next steps with Rent-a-Swag. He smartly asks Ben to check out the business plan. Ben is impressed. Tom offers to cut him in, but Ben is just in to help a friend. Since being back in Pawnee, he’s accepted a position at the same accounting firm he quit in Season 4. He’s getting married and needs a stable, boring job where everyone gets his jokes (“Bond…Municipal Bond.”) Ben sets up a few meetings for Tom to try to partner Rent-a-Swag with other businesses and get some local exposure. Every single meeting results in a “no” to Tom, but a job offer for Ben. Tom’s certainly grown since Entertainment 720 bit it, but he hasn’t had to deal with much rejection yet with this idea. He’s nearly ready to chuck it all when Ben tells him to be patient. If he’s passionate about the idea and sticks with it, great things will happen.
Ben shows up for his first day at Tilton and Randomski (ha), and his boss could not be more thrilled to have him back. He must be a local celebrity, especially to Pawnee math geeks. (By the way, how amazing is John Balma as Barney?) Ben gets one look at his name plate and quits…again. Even though they haven’t shared a scene throughout this whole episode, Leslie is still the driving force behind his decision. She wants him to do something he loves, and now he knows that, even in Pawnee, he has options. Ben Wyatt could be the CFO of Rent-A-Swag or the Executive Director of the Sweetums Foundation. Sky’s the limit for the future First Gentlemen. But still, let’s hope that gorgeous house is paid off.