Season 7, Episode 10: Hide
– Posted by Sage
To be perfectly honest, the convoluted plotting of Series 6 left me exhausted and more than a little frustrated with Doctor Who. I was missing the standalone episodes that pluck the Doctor and friends out of their own serial dramas and get them busy having a good old fashioned adventure. Happily, the good lord Moffat has heard my cries, and Series 7 has been rich in “Monster of the Week” fun. I was SO looking forward to watching and recapping “Hide,” which seemed to have all the hallmarks of a spooky Doctor Who classic. A huge, fuck-off Victorian manor? Check. Attractive ghost hunters in tasteful 70s fashions? Check. A scary thunderstorm? You got it. It’s ghost time.
The Doctor and Clara show up on the door step of Downton Shabby to meet aforementioned good-looking explorers Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine, who is also starring as Verity Lambert in the dramatization of Who‘s origin story) and Major Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott – Drew Barrymore’s prince – you’re welcome). And then the Doctor does that thing where he meets someone he admires and shamelessly fangirls him. Alec is a seeker of knowledge – a man who bought a huge, fuck-off Victorian manor just so he could investigate its haunting – just the Doctor’s type.
But it’s not all man-crushes and toggle switches. Alec is haunted, not by the Caliban Ghast, but by the ghosts of his past. He has killed and “has caused to have killed” and he really doesn’t know how else to live his life but to keep on reaching out for the next mystery. Sound like anyone we know?
Like the Doctor, Alec is not alone. The lovely Emma serves his project as an empathic psychic – he catalogs the appearances of the ghast, while Emma interprets her emotions. But she also gives him a reason to hold on. The Major is not exactly forthcoming with his feelings about her though, until the moment of crisis arrives. (SOUND LIKE ANYONE WE KNOW?) “You brought me back from the dead,” he tells her.
And here is where I launch into my frantic analysis of the Rose Tyler parallels and allusions in this episode. I know that I am biased, and maybe I’m seeing things that I want to see, but writer Neil Cross (Luther showrunner, “The Rings of Akhaten”) has packed so many references into this episode that I can’t be making them ALL up:
- The “ghost”, really time traveler Hilla Tacorien, is stuck in a pocket universe, not a parallel one. But the term is bandied about quite a bit, with Clara trying to understand the difference between the two. Don’t tell me there isn’t a pang in his hearts when someone says those words.
- The original ghostbusters.
- The Doctor takes Clara to the end of the earth to prove his theory about Hilla’s whereabouts (whenabouts?). At the VERY SAME MOMENT, Nine and Rose are holding hands and watching the planet’s death from Platform One. Stop taking your dates to watch the world end, Doctor. It makes us feel very insignificant.
- When they say goodbye, Alec asks the Doctor what he and Emma should do now. The Doctor tells them to “hold hands.” “Keep doing that, and don’t let go.” I juuuuust…
- In fact, the entire relationship between Alec and Emma is very Rose and Doctor-esque. I wrote in one of my playlist posts about Rose’s deep empathy for the Doctor. More than any other modern companion, she seemed to feel what he was feeling. (“Girl in the Fireplace” is the ultimate proof of that.) And Emma is an empath – very literally able to do that. That skill serves Alec personally more than professionally. He needed someone to bring him back, someone who would only consider his past mistakes in terms of how they still affect him. This is so Rose and Nine that it hurts.
- The moment where everyone in the Doctor/Rose fandom fell apart: “It’s the oldest story in the universe, this one or any other. Boy and girl fall in love, get separated by events, war, politics, accidents in time. Since they’ve been yearning for each other, across time and space across dimensions! It’s not a ghost story, it’s a love story!”
Now that I have that out of my system, let’s get back to the companion at hand. Just because this was a MoTW ep, it doesn’t mean that the Clara mystery was ignored. Quite the contrary. The whole reason that the Doctor came to meet Alec and Emma in 1974 was to learn more about the impossible girl. Emma is sure that Clara is completely normal. But Emma is an empath, not a Time Lord. She doesn’t have the depth of knowledge to explain entities from other worlds or times. She could only feel what Hilla felt, not identify her origin. So: the only way she could explain Clara would be if Clara HERSELF knew what she was. Am I rambling? I feel like I’m rambling.
Besides Emma’s analysis, the other Clara clues in “Hide” were the pops of bright red that are always near her (this time, the umbrella and her signature bag) and the fact that the TARDIS still rejects her. The TARDIS was giving me serious Tinkerbell vibes this episode, especially when she used Clara’s own image for the visual interface. Is she jealous, or does her dislike have to do with the anomaly of Clara? As others have pointed out, the TARDIS also doesn’t like Jack – another impossibility. The Doctor brushes the friction off when she mentions it, but I think he’s weighing it along with the rest of the clues to Clara.
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.
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 6: Ben’s Parents
– Posted by Sage
Everything is Jean Ralphio and nothing hurts.
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.
Parks and Recreation
Season 4, Episode 8: Smallest Park
-Posted by Sage
Or at least, that’s usually our knee-jerk response. Change drags us, kicking and screaming, from the comfortable status quo of our relationships, family lives, and jobs. It demands us to pay attention, to alter our routine. Change is difficult enough to handle when it’s forced on us. This season 4 episode of Parks is about the courage it takes to bring about that change yourself.
April is helping Andy choose a course at the local Community College (“Achieving Standards Every Day!”). Her advice is to enroll in a subject that he’s already mastered and cruise through. (“Horizons are stupid. Never broaden your horizons.”) Ron rightly thinks that that sounds like a waste of time, so he offers to go along with them to audit a few classes. After all, Andy is one of the few coworkers he “does not actively root against.” Plan A for April leads them to “Guitar for Beginners,” where Andy’s pride at knowing the answer to every question quickly devolves into abject boredom. They make a dramatic exit (“I was secretly an undercover rock star this whole time!), and start taking Ron’s advice – Andy won’t be bored if he challenges himself. Luckily, every other class at this school will likely be a challenge for Andy, unless “Shoeshine for Beginners” or “Home Ec 128: Using Frisbees as Plates” are on the schedule.
After a disappointing visit to “Introduction to Lasers,” Andy decides to let fate choose his path. He closes his eyes and points to the book, which is how Ron Swanson, Andy Dwyer, and April Ludgate end up in a Women’s Studies class. Mesmerized. Andy practically skips to the Bursar’s office to enroll, but finds that the $940 tuition is way beyond his means. He won’t take the money from April’s parents, so he returns to his shoeshine post (KYLE!) for extra cash. April stands nearby, doing her best to sell Mouse Rat CDs and candy bars with a huge mark-up. Ron can’t help but be touched by Andy’s excitement and desire to learn and thus, creates the very first (and probably only) Ron Swanson Scholarship. Andy enters the world of academia, where he will stumble and get things wrong and eventually learn new things about himself and the world. I love this show.
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.
Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 4: Sex Education
Posted by Sage
Oh, Tommy Edamame. I felt for you in this one. We all did.
In this week’s episode, Tom Haverford had an unfortunate brush with the law. It turns out that live-tweeting your drive isn’t the safest way to get from point A to point B, and Big T gets into an accident. For the last two nights, I’ve been having nightmares about the punishment handed down to him by the judge, that crafty bastard.
One week tech blackout.
Be real: you and me would tumble down the same spiral of panic and despair when faced with that prospect. Tom deals with his grief in some creative, though perhaps not so effective ways. A paper iPhone won’t respond to a thumb swipe, and spying on Jerry’s internet use is just depressing. (“Oh my god, Jerry, when you check your email you go to AltaVista and type, ‘Please go to yahoo.com’?!”) Who better to help a tech-addict through withdrawl than consummate outdoorsman and old-school manly man, Ron? He whisks Tom away to his cabin in the woods for some good ol’ fashioned wood chopping and sage advice. All seems to be going well, but Ron doesn’t realize that Tom’s seemingly sincere acknowledgement of his problem is just a speech he memorized from Intervention. The other shoe drops when Tom borrows Ron’s car under false steak pretenses and crashes again. While tweeting. On a burner phone. Like he’s Marlo friggin’ Stanfield.
Then Parks serves some realness. Ron is determined to get to the bottom of Tom’s addiction and asks him why he constantly needs distraction. Tom’s answer? “The truth is – I spend a lot of time looking at screens because recently, a lot of stuff in my real life isn’t going so great.” Welcome to the internet, headquarters of, well, that. Ron decides not to turn Tom in to the judge and prolong his sentence, but does give him some Papa Bear advice: engage with people, and don’t use technology as a crutch. Message received loud and clear, LeRon James.
Meanwhile, Leslie and her team of Sex Avengers are out to tackle an STD epidemic in Pawnee’s senior centers. (“Good news! Lots of old people have chlamydia.” “Woo!”) The solution to this sexy problem is clear and simple: hold sex education seminars that encourage residents to use condoms and prevent the spread of disease. But where there is a clear and simple solution to a social problem, idiots will rear their ugly heads. Leslie’s first seminar is interrupted by said idiots, family values advocate Marsha Langman and her flamboyant husband Marshall, who has his own reasons for discouraging rampant heterosexual intercourse. Turns out, Pawnee has an Abstinence Only sex ed law, without an age limit. The Langmans take over the next session, entitled “It’s Great to Wait!”, to encourage a rec room full of 80 year olds to wait until marriage to get down to business. It’s delightfully ludicrous.
Leslie tries to play by the rules, but loses patience while reading from the “So You Think You Know More Than God?” pamphlet. (“The devil likes to hide in all your private nooks and crannies.”) She drops the pamphlet, picks up a banana, and expertly rolls on a condom. Lucky Ben Wyatt. The Langmans are horrified. She receives a censure from the mayor (on thick paper!) and learns that the majority of Pawneeans don’t support sex ed. Our friend Perd Hapley has her own his show, presumably to apologize for her misstep. But Leslie, that beautiful rule-breaking moth, takes a stand. Yes, we live in a democracy. Yes, our elected officials represent the will of the people. But if the people are uneducated and misinformed, that process breaks down. (“So we’re just gonna do the thing we know doesn’t work? Great plan!”) Leslie vows to continue her crusade and to work to change the minds of her not-insignificant opposition. I stand up and slow clap in my bedroom.
Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 3: How A Bill Becomes a Law
Posted by Sage
Welp, this episode was about as uneven as Leslie’s perm. But even Parks at its most inconsistent is better than any other network TV comedy nonsense, and with 1000x more heart. And “How a Bill Becomes a Law” did deliver some quality moments and key character developments for a few of Pawnee’s finest.
This week was all about how government does or doesn’t work. Poor, sweet, idealistic Leslie runs up against corruption in the form of part-time dentist and full-time bathroom snob Councilman Jamm, who bribes her in exchange for his vote in favor of the Leslie Knope “Fun in the Sun Act.” Meanwhile, Libertarian Ron, who will tell anyone who will listen that government doesn’t work, exemplifies it at its best. He doesn’t even know that Diane (played by LUCY “Xena” LAWLESS) is a hot, single mom until he shows up at her house to fill her pothole (not a euphemism). All he knows is that she’s got a problem, the right department isn’t responding, and he knows how to fix it. If you’ve ever been at the mercy of someone in administration who refuses to step one foot out of his or her job description to help you, you know why Diane was instantly hot for him. Andy’s spray-painted “Ron likes you” note helped too.
Speaking of Andy, how perfect is it that he has an instant rapport with kids? He’s nothing if not a big kid himself, but I would have sooner imagined him roughhousing with boys than having a tea party with sparkle princesses. We’ll probably see Andy and April with child sometime in the future, and suddenly that thought isn’t quite so terrifying.
And guys? I know we’re all having confusing feelings about this Ben and April business. Don’t panic. They’re both hot; they’re alone in DC; they have great chemistry. It’s perfectly natural. The fact that we’re all feeling this way is proof that giving these characters time together was the right decision. Ben is encouraging April to be more invested in her life and maybe take one or two things somewhat seriously. April is encouraging Ben to fuck with people. It’s a great give and take. But this ain’t Gossip Girl. Everyone’s going home with the person they came with. Even I don’t think that reading someone your Star Trek fan fiction is a step on the road to seduction. Let’s just settle for them being new and unlikely BFFs.
Random thoughts/B Stories:
Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 2: Soda Tax
– Posted by Sage
Taking last week’s premiere and this week’s episode into consideration, it’s pretty obvious that the theme of this season of Parks will be Leslie adjusting to being the small fish in a bigger Pawnee pond. Now, this is a HUGE hurdle for her to overcome, and not because of her ego. It just seems that the more powerful you are, the more obstacles stand in the way of you getting shit done. There’s an Obama joke in here somewhere, but I’m just a pop culture blogger.
Even Leslie Knope’s enthusiasm and determination have their limits. When she crashes, she crashes hard; and that’s the time that her friends rally around her, individually or as a mighty Parks Department. Last week, it was up to Andy (who’s been wearing a bandanna as underwear for three days) to remind Leslie that her awesomeness still stands, even in the face of crippling bureaucracy.
This week, Leslie turned to reluctant mentor and hater of feelings and emotions, Ron. Her proposed giant soda tax resulted in a town divided down the middle and a threat of layoffs from the miraculously bitch-named Kathryn Pinewood. Should Leslie bend to the pressure and protect herself or vote her conscience? Ron laid out some Swanson-brand tough love by showing Leslie her personnel file. Turns out, he started the process to have her fired no less than 4 times. Her bubbliness being the main reason in most cases. The Ron moral of the story: not everyone is going to like you right away. Not everyone is going to like you at all. But if you have your handy adventurer’s compass, you won’t let that stray you from your path.