As Parks and Recreation kicks off its third episode, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) continues to seek any and every reason to convert some highly sought-after land into a national park rather than a development opportunity for tech company Gryzzl – the Ron versus Leslie saga of the first episodes. In the opening sequence, she hosts a series of loveable Pawnee freaks that have reasons of their own:
- The land is held sacred by the Church of the Reasonablists because it is involved with the passage of Zorb the Lizard God through Jupiter’s sphincter.
- The land once housed 600 million Indiana brown ants, and in 200,000 years, they will be extinct.
- The land could be used to build a theme park with rides, food, and “sexy cartoon characters” called Disneyland (this guy admittedly broke a window to get in).
On the Gryzzl side, Roscoe, the vice president of “cool new shizz,” wants to bring celebrities in to strengthen their bid. The best part of this scene is that Roscoe conducts a meeting with Ron, Donna, and Tom while on a treadmill desk. The conversation continues as the team evaluates local celebrity options, settling on a local woman, Annabel Porter, who twice won the Pulitzer Prize for best top-ten listicle.
These are the things I’m going to so deeply miss when Parks and Recreation goes off air in mid-February.
Meanwhile, April (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy (Chris Pratt) struggle to find April a career opportunity. She immediately shuts down two options – airline or submarine pilot – because she doesn’t like, respectively, heights or depths.
The central plot point revolves around Leslie looking to President William Henry Harrison to save her project as Harrison, “history’s embarrassing footnote,” may have had a hunting lodge on the land, thus branding the land a historical landmark. The actual lodge is a dilapidated pile of stones.
This leads to Leslie, April, and Andy visiting the William Henry Harrison museum dedicated to such wonderful things as “If He’d Worn a Coat,” a room imagining how life would have been had Harrison not died 32 days into office, and the “Other Things That Were Famous for One Month” exhibit.
This episode features the manic, zany, hilarious insanity that made me fall in love with the series in the first place, particularly when Leslie and Ron use competing presentations to win favor – Leslie’s “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” versus Ron’s “Somebody’s Daughter Dancers.” The competing events ends poorly with Ron criticizing Leslie’s scrapbooking skills, bleeding over into the second half-hour (Episode 4, “Leslie & Ron”) with Ron and Leslie locked by their coworker friends in a City of Pawnee office.
Locking sparring friends in a room to heal their wounds is a hoary cliché, but they manage to lighten it up with Amy Poehler’s persistently annoying personality often showcased on Saturday Night Live as Kaitlin. Here, she tortures Ron into talking to her by singing Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” without knowing the words at all.
Once Ron breaks, we finally learn what caused the split between Leslie and Ron: Ron left the Parks and Rec department, started his own company (Very Good Construction, naturally), and built Morningstar luxury apartments adjacent to her first park on top of Ann’s (Rashida Jones, not yet seen in this final season) house. In a continuing effort to get to the bottom of why Ron left the Parks and Rec department, Leslie uncovers her original application on which Ron claimed her political leanings were to the left of Leon Trotsky, yet he hired her anyway.
Clearly, the episode is dedicated to fleshing out the close-knit, yet improbable, relationship between Ron and Leslie, and the episode’s resolution is genuinely heartfelt and meaningful to fans of the series. Theirs is a touching dialogue, one that will hopefully bring serious Emmy consideration to the actors – particularly for Nick Offerman who has been criminally underrated in this role.
Last week’s two episodes were decent outings, but this week’s offerings brilliantly showcase the best the series has given us through its 7-year run. They brought both the comedy and, most importantly, the heart.