Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation
Episode 19: Article Two
Episode 20: Jerry's Retirement
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!

Article Two:

When I'm procrastinating, I sometimes like to look up the stupid laws that cities and states have passed. Some of them are still in effect while others made you question why they were passed in the first place. A lot of laws that are still in the books are severely outdated. Pawnee is a town that has existed for a while and it has acquired a whole bunch of outdated and stupid laws in the process. There's multiple examples of this throughout the episode but the most prominent is how a misspelling of the word tea leads to a day where a guy named Ted gets thrown into a lake. It's actually this custom that leads to change in Pawnee as Leslie decides to update the town charter and laws to get rid of outdated or stupid laws. It's a pretty sensible request that not even Jamm is going to get in the way off. The obstacle comes in the form of Patton Oswalt, a character who loves history. He loves it so much that he doesn't want the laws changed out of respect for it. He's only willing to update them when Leslie finds out that he doesn't really have a lot of friends. This character is so lonely that he actually responds to spam e-mail. She's able to use this information to get the character to join the Historical Society. He'll have a group of friends and he can talk about history all he wants. Leslie is able to put the outdated stupid laws in the history book but she doesn't get rid of all traditions. The Throw Ted in the Lake day is popular with citizens not named Ted so they decide to merely change it so that they'll only throw a volunteer in the lake. It's a nice compromise that allows them to update the tradition while keeping everyone happy. The first volunteer? Officially it's Patton Oswalt's character but Andy steals it from him. Which is good because Oswalt's character didn't know how to swim.

There is a lot of pressure having a relationship with Leslie Knope. It's a pressure that Ann feels because Leslie likes to have an anniversary for everything. She goes as far as to have the first day that Ann and her ate breakfast together. A day that Leslie considers the moment where their friendship really begun. That's not the only day as the calendar that Ann has contains multiple dates. It wouldn't be a problem except Leslie has a habit of buying thoughtful gifts for her. The calendar she's using was actually a gift for Ann for some calendar-related anniversary. Ann manages to find the perfect present for Breakfast Day only to find she has competition from Ben. Ann has it tough being Leslie's best friend but Ben is married to her. It's implied that it's not just these two who feel pressured to give Leslie gifts for anniversaries as her mail-woman needs to find a way to celebrate the anniversary of the first time she delivered a letter to Leslie. There's multiple moments in the episode where Ben complains about how his wife is so thoughtful. The two fight over the present (a waffle maker) only to combine forces at the end. They force an end to individual days and change the system so that they only have to deal with a week dedicated to them. This was a compromise they were willing to live with as they knew Leslie would counter their “friend's day” with a month. Of course, she can't help but create a seperate “friend's week” to commerate the time Ann and Ben became best friends. Which she expected as she already got them gifts. It's a funny plot that explores just what it means to be friends with Leslie Knope. It turns out that it can be pretty demanding because of her personality. As Ben complains, her thoughtfulness is killer.

The final plot has to do with a management seminar that Chris decides to give April. Only he ropes Ron into the class when he learns that Swanson has never taken a management course. What do they expect to get out of this? Ron expects to learn absolutely nothing. Chris expects that he'll engage Ron in the process. As for April? All she does is expect that she'll turn the two against each other so she can sneak out. She does this by putting their different world-views at odds. Chris believes that appreciation will motivate the workers but Ron believes fear, money, and hunger are better. They use Jerry as a guinea pig to see how many files he gets to. In the end, they're all proven to get exactly what they wrote in their envelope. It's a great plot born from their characters: Chris' optimism, Ron's cynicism, and April's manipulative games. The whole Jerry test was simply a way for the two males to test out their theories in the hope of proving themselves right. April got what she wanted by making the test happen in the first place. Overall, it was funny and worked well.

Jerry's Retirement:

It looks like Jerry is leaving Parks and Recreation. He retires this week. This comes as a surprise to the office as they had no idea he was planning on leaving work despite his numerous hints. His retirement spells problems for the office because it means he's upsetting the office dynamics. As Ron points out, every office has to have a Jerry. It's simply nature for the strongest co-workers to pick on the weakest link. The unlucky person is the one whose afraid of becoming the new Jerry the most, Tom. Tom is a character whose image is very important to him so it makes the most sense that he would be the one to lose the most if he became the new Jerry. He tries to make Andy the new Jerry but this fails because Andy has no shame. Tom convinces the department to find a new intern so he could make the new kid the new Jerry but the intern only turns out to be popular with the office. His fate seems to be set but then he gets saved by Ron. Since the intern turned out to be productive, Ron fired him and asked Jerry to come in one day a week until they can get a suitable replacement. Which basically allows Jerry to remain on the show. This might have made the plot feel like a waste of time but it was interesting to see that the character who has the most to lose by Jerry's absence is Tom. It would have also been a pity to have Jerry leave the show as he's a pretty funny character and I actually like his presence in every episode.

That's not the only plot that revolves around Jerry as Leslie realizes that Jerry didn't accomplish anything in his years as a civil servant. She looks at all his unrealistic dreams and realizes that none of his came true. She starts to worry that if he isn't able to get any of them to come true then it might rub off on her. She sets out to give Jerry one last day where she tries her best to make his list of career dreams come to life. This is basically fulfilled in three different points: when she photoshops Jerry inside the executive dining room he's always wanted to eat at, when she takes him to the tombstone of the mayor Jerry has always wanted to meet, and when she names a room after him in lieu of a building. Jerry is delighted but he doesn't really care about any of it. As Leslie learns, Jerry is happy because every day he got to come home to a loving family. He might not have had a lot of success in the government but his biggest accomplishment was his family. It's a nice plot but it makes Leslie realize she can't just be work all the time. She wants to have a family. Yes, Jerry comes back to work but it was a nice reflection of what he had failed and succeeded to accomplish as well as his initial expectations of what was going to happen. It was also a great way to help transition the viewers into Leslie wanting to start a family.

Talking about family, Chris and Ann struggle over becoming parents. The two are at the clinic when they learn that they're actually ready to get the baby into Ann. The two freak out because it's just sprung on them so they flee with the excuse that they plan to read pamphlets. This is a perfectly natural response. Their plot gets complicated when they sleep together. Their trying to start a family together but they can't be have a “on-and-off” relationship. This implies that they have to stay away from each other or get together for good. So far, their kiss at the end suggests that they at least carnally want the latter. It'll be interesting to see whether they become parents or how their much more complicated relationship is going to affect that. Whatever the case, it continues to be a tightly plotted arc. It began with their individual fears of being parents then it morphed into them being parents as a couple. Now that they've resolved these fears, it's their actual status as a relationship that is being explored. It's pretty strong material.

Article Two and Jerry's Retirement were two pretty great episodes.

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