Monday, January 21, 2013

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation
Episode 10: Two Parties
By: Carlos Uribe

Parks and Recreation is a show about Pawnee's parks and recreation department and a town councilwoman named Leslie Knope.

Spoilers Ahoy!

Ben and Leslie are getting married which means it's time for their respective bachelor and bachelorette parties. Ann wants to throw Leslie the best party ever but it hits a huge snag when Leslie learns that Congressman Jamm reneged on their deal and is building a Paunch Burger on the lot. This kills any mood she might have had to celebrate her upcoming nuptials. She actually sneaks away from the party in order to hide fake native American artifacts within the dig site so that the construction can be delayed until the hearing. It doesn't take long for Leslie to realize that she was exploiting the native tribe for personal reasons and she immediately regrets her actions. Not even the stripper that Donna ordered makes her feel any better simply because the guilt is eating her up inside. She might want to beat Congressman Jamm's plot to build a fast food place on the lot but she doesn't want to play dirty. She might have stooped down to his level but she wants to fix the problem. This leads to a scene where the bachelorette party turns into a digging party to try and recover as many artifacts as possible. They do get some but not all of them. The artifacts are discovered but Leslie comes clean to Ken, the Native American chief. He forgives her and actually helps her when he threatens to close down the Paunch Burgers within his casino. This is enough to make the company actually force Congressman Jamm to step down until the proposals have been turned in.

When a show gets older, there are simply times when it starts to get a bit too predictable. There's nothing wrong with knowing what a character does as long as the show can continue to find ways to use them to surprise the viewer every now and then. Of course Leslie was going to let this issue ruin her party. Of course she would feel guilty and try to fix it. Of course she would admit her failure but Ken turns out be a friend. There's nothing wrong with this predictability since we know Leslie very well by now. Ann's desire to throw a good party makes sense considering her history of doing the opposite. The show did drag a bit down because of this predictability. Don't get me wrong: I was still laughing as it had some good jokes-although the penis-shaped object gags had diminishing returns. It's the ending that really saved this plot for me as it turned it from predictable into a fun surprise when April is the one who convinces Leslie to do the right thing. April's character growth this season has been quite extensive which makes the speech in-character for her but it's still not something you expect from her. It's this character development that allows this show to still put a smile on my face because I'm pleasantly surprised. Before April's speech, I'd day the plot was good and funny but after the plot became great. What a difference being able to show character development and using it to shift expectations by just a tiny bit can make.

Leslie's bachelorette party might have been ruined by Jamm but Ben basically has the one he asked for. All he wanted was beers and a game of Settlers of Catan. Which is not only completely in-character for him but it actually sounds kind of fun. Still the party ends pretty early in the episode's run until Tom convinces them to go to a new bar he's heard about. It's a molecular gastronomy bar where, in Ron's words, “this is the wrong way to consume alcohol.” While at the bar, all of the characters (except Chris and obviously Ben) realize they never had a bachelor party. This leads to them having a party that is so perfectly them. Jerry goes to an ice cream shop where he had his first date with his wife. Jerry might be made fun of but he's really a sweet guy and his decision on where to go reflects that. Of course, it also reflects his tendency to mess up as the ice cream clerk has a backup cone waiting for when Jerry accidentally drops his own.

Andy is a bit more problematic. He actually has a pretty specific dream that will never happen but he gets the second best thing. He gets to go to the Colts stadium and meet some of the top players along with the owner. He even gets to play football with his friends in the stadium. When he talks at the end about how this is the greatest day ever, it's hard to disagree. I'm sure the only thing that would have made it better is if April was there. It makes perfect sense that Andy's dream is too high to reach but he would settle for something pretty close-and that it's such a guy thing. Where does Ron chose to go? Isn't the answer obvious? A steakhouse! This leads to a Newt Gingrich cameo where he gets to deny being related to Jerry. It's fine but it's exactly what you would expect him to pick. On the other hand, would I have it any other way? No. At long last, the parties are over but they all realize that Chris didn't get anything special. He had never been married so they decide to try and make him happy by giving him a statue and wishing him best of luck with women. Ben also decides to try and set Chris up with the reporter Shauna. This probably won't be long-lived but it'll at least allow Chris to be with someone and make further progress in his therapy.

Two Parties is a fun episode of Parks and Recreation. It's not really the best episode of the season but it is up to the quality I expect from this show. It's funny and it contains a lot of what I love about this show. The character work it contains is pretty surprising. Is it a bit predictable? Sure-but it does manage to surprise when it shows just how much the characters have been evolving. Two Parties is a nice way for the show to begin the new year.

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