Gentleman (and ladies), the Parks and Rec recap is upon us. Pick up some bulgolgi from our ethnic food court, choose the cuddliest puppy from the table, raise your Gertrude Steins, and turn those canvas sheets into a three-bed-two-and-a-half bath shelter for the night, pronto!
“Pawnee Rangers,” Parks' 50th episode, was a strong outing, transporting us from nature (where allies Leslie and Ron faced off against each other) to nurture (Tom and Donna taught Ben how to spoil himself silly) to nutso (Chris and... Jerry's daughter?). That makes four weeks in a row of good comedy, which seem to be going unrewarded in the ratings department. What up, people? Too busy googling rat tumors?
We’ll start with the big news: Ron ate a jumbo-sized can of bean-flavored humble pie, served up happily by Leslie. He simply wanted to take his Pawnee Rangers on a weekend journey into the wild, where he'd teach them about self-reliance and suffering, with the help of Mother Nature and her goofy brother, Andy, a.k.a. Brother Nature. But Leslie was bringing along her Pawnee Goddesses, a group she founded because girls weren’t allowed to join the Rangers; now she aimed to prove that anything boys could do, girls could do much less lamely -- and to get Ron to admit as much. (Her broken-record command of "Say it, Ron" was this week’s “Jail, Ron. Ron, Jail. Jail, jail, jail.”)
And so after giving the troops his one-sentence survival guide ( “1. Be a Man"), Ron led them into the semi-woods and presented two “gifts” -- a canvas sheet and the box it came in — and ordered the boys to construct a shelter within 10 minutes. He couldn’t worry about winning hearts and minds here; there were too many asses that needed to be unpampered. But Ron’s pragmatism was no match for Leslie’s magnetism. And cozy cabin. And candy. And purple vest, which teemed with enough flair to shame Brian at Flingers. Leslie joyously treated the Goddesses to amazing Korean food, while Ron forced his Rangers to feed on sad cans of beans. Leslie engaged the girls with Capture the Flag, a puppet show about the Bill of Rights set to Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.,” lasso training, and a s’mores-off, while Ron’s featured activity for his boys was “not getting killed.” Perhaps it was less of a surprise that one of Ron’s miserable prisoners tried to defect to the Goddesses and more of a surprise that April, the closest thing Ron has to a daughter, didn’t defect to the underdoggy, joyless Rangers. (At least she kept true to herself by using craft time to draw a chilling portrait on her arm of a pioneer watching her grandmother get trampled by buffalo. The only thing creepier? Ann's corn husk dolls.)
Leslie was so consumed with her mission, her kids basically had to point out that she’d lost sight of the battle on which she founded her cause. (Leslie: “C’mon, Goddesses, we just struck a huge blow for equality by proving we were better than them!”) A public forum was held, featuring heady discourse that referenced Brown v. Board of Education, but was rendered moot when a batch of baby Golden Retrievers arrived for the Puppy Party. (Oh, the look of glee on Brother Nature’s face -- and that hangdog sadness on Ron’s ol’ mug.) Seeing Ron sit alone and defeated down by the fire while his troops donned sashes and channeled their inner Goddesses, Leslie left the party and tried to cheer him up. It was to no avail; he poignantly lamented that he didn't understand kids these days and "they certainly don't understand me." His final words before retiring were the gift to Leslie that she no longer wanted: “You were right, by the way -- your group is better.”
Ron left camp the next day, declining Leslie’s invitation to show the kids how he catches fish with his bare hands. (FACT: I would pay money to see him battle Creed in a hands-only fishing derby.) The conclusion of this plot brought with it a slightly unexpected, genuinely touching moment. (Parks has given us a few of those sneak-up-on-you tearjerkers this season, no?) Ron found a collection of kids in his office, who’d responded to an ad placed by Leslie, inviting them to join Pawnee’s most hardcore outdoor group. (“Are you tough as nails? Do you march to the beat of a different drummer? Did you make the drum yourself?”) Then: Leslie’s salute. Ron’s wrinkled acknowledgement. Ron’s warning to the kids -- “This will be no fun at all" -- followed by that slight smile. Turns out, Ron wasn’t wrong; he just didn’t "know his audience." They are: The few. The proud. The Swansons.
NEXT: Uh oh. Batman is crying!
Last week’s episode capitalized on the blossoming Ben-Tom dynamic, and this one threw in the added dimension of Donna. (Good to see her getting more screen time. She’s a secret weapon just waiting to deploy.) Broken up by his break-up with Leslie, Ben was wearing his cranky pants in the office, scolding Jerry for not filling out his PC-10 forms, cousin of the TPS report. (Where did your brain go when he mentioned that he didn't know what was keeping him in Pawnee? Is he headed out of town...or into a new relationship, which could make for interesting tension with Leslie?) Meanwhile, Tom and Donna, a.k.a. T-Mobile and Donnatello, were gearing up for their annual just-the-two-of-us celebration, Treat Yo Self, which involved showering themselves with massages, mimosas, fine leather goods, etc. Sensing Ben’s bottoming-out, though, Donna persuaded Tom to turn it into a trio. The spa session didn’t go well for our relaxation rookie (“there’s something about the sound of harps that makes me nervous”), who was alarmed by Donna’s acupuncture treatment. (“Needles in your face, pleasure in your base,” she cooed.) Their next stop took them to the Plaza at Eagleton, which featured not one but three Burberrys. Seriously silly shopping ensued, with Tom doing his best impression of a cashmere velvet candy cane and Ben splurging for…white socks. Urged by Donna to think outside the bag, Ben nerded things up next level-style, trying on a hulked-out Batman costume, a moment surely to be immortalized in every fan montage vid of Ben hereafter. And when he fought back the tears, whimpering,“Thank you, I really need this”? Holy wow, Batman! (But it was Tom who geeked out with the Joker reference: “Why so serious????”) His mojo returning, the Man in Black continued to play superhero back at April and Andy's apartment, solving their internet co-necktivity problem.
And let us wrap this up with a chat about that other curveball subplot starring Chris and Jerry. What a great twist -- and another tiny victory for the well-hung Jerry: His daughter is HOT! (That'd be Sarah Wright from underrated comedy The Loop.) No one was more stunned than Chris, who spurned Jerry’s offer to have lunch with him and Millicent before he met her, only to “retroactively accept” Jerry’s original ask as soon as he laid eyes on her. (Chris Traeger, shallow bastard?) Their lunch was amusing -- they found common ground in biking for charity while Jerry played third wheel – but it was afterward that we were given two inspired jokes: (1) Chris’ line to Jerry about their meal: “I had an amazing lunch; I’ve already passed the kale salad I had” and (2): Jerry finally giving into Chris’ surprise hug with a oh-geez-this-is-pretty-great murmur of pleasure and eye close. And after being chivalrous enough to ask Jerry whether he wished to supervise three to six of their subsequent dates, an offer he declined -- Chris later obliviously and odiously informed the Gerg that his evening with Millicent was incredible, and in the interest of full disclosure, she spent the night. There's only one way to get him back, Jer. The good news is, I'm guessing Mama Traeger is pretty damn hot.
LINES OF MERIT
“And I am Mother Nature’s brother, Brother Nature. But you can call me Andy. Or Brother Nature. Your call.” –Andy to the Rangers
“On principle, I never say anything that another person is obviously trying to get me to say. My first wedding ceremony took two hours because after the priest said, ‘Repeat after me,’ I fell silent.” --Ron
“What is wrong with you today? Did they cancel Game of Thrones?” –Donna to Ben
“And they would never cancel Game of Thrones. It’s a crossover hit. It’s not just for fantasy enthusiasts. They’re telling human stories in a fantasy world.” –Ben to Donna
“That is a canvas sheet. The most versatile object known to man. It can be used to make tents, backpacks, shoes, stretchers, sails, tarpaulins, martial arts uniforms, and I suppose in the most dire of circumstances, it can be a surface on which to make ‘art.’” –Ron to the Rangers
“We’re relaxation professionals. There’s no way Ben could slow down enough to keep up with us. My Nubian princess, this is our holy day. It’s the one day a year I allow myself to be selfish. (Slaps Jerry’s hands away from cupcakes.) Those are all for me, Jerry.” --Tom to Donna
“I’m trying to teach my boys about rationing food, and your self-indulgent ethnic food court isn’t helping.” –Ron to Leslie
“I’ve taught them too well. I’ve created a mob of little Leslie Knope monsters. I’m so proud. And a little annoyed. But mostly proud... 70/30.” -- Leslie about her Goddesses
“Millicent Gergich, biking for charity is literally one of my interests on Facebook. I can’t believe how alike we are.” --Chris to Millicent
“Velvet slippies, cashmere socks, velvet pants, cashmere turtle -- I’m a cashmere velvet candy cane.” --Tom, about his outfit
“I’ve been standing in the water with the fish on my hook for 30 minutes. Saw it on episode of I Love Lucy. Pathetic? Maybe. But if feels pretty good to have a lunch of little boys be super into me. That came out wrong.” --Ann
So, what did you think of "Pawnee Rangers"? Treat yo self to a nice typing session.
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