After a long and difficult campaign it’s up to Leslie (Amy Poehler) and her performance in the debate to finally take down the charismatic Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd) in this episode of Parks and Recreation. Like in any political campaign, the debate may be the veritable “do or die” moment for any candidate and since the entire fourth season has been following Leslie and her dream of running for public office, ‘The Debate’ has been a very anticipated episode.
The city council debate is about to start and Leslie has been waiting for this day for too long now. Throughout the campaign (and season) Bobby Newport, the good-natured but very aloof son of Pawnee’s biggest employer, has been trouncing Leslie and her efforts to gain voter appeal. Since Bobby is not the most eloquent man and cannot hide behind his awesome campaign manager (Kathryn Hahn) during the debate, Leslie has been waiting for this chance to finally be able to face him one-on-one.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t just one-on-one since there are three other candidates. Fester Trim the gun enthusiast, Brandi Maxxxx the porn star, and Manrico Della Rossa the radical animal activist also filled the stage but as Ben (Adam Scott) mentioned, they were never really contenders and so they don’t really count.
Finally the debate starts and it doesn’t go as Leslie had hoped for. Bobby Newport and his boyish charm clearly won the audience over and any hard shot Leslie took at him made her seem like a bully and so she had to ease back. Brandi Maxxxx didn’t help Leslie either by dressing exactly like her and parroting everything she said, except she gave her answers a pornographic twist.
As the debate rages on, it’s demonstrated through quick takes of out-of-context sayings. Fester related everything to guns, Brandi talked about her films, Manrico discussed the evils of leather and Bobby Newport smiled proudly while he talked about anything and everything.
Meanwhile, Leslie begrudgingly answers all of the audience’s ludicrous questions: “I agree that movies should be more faithful to the books they’re based on.” Finally, things seem to be looking better for Leslie until Bobby releases his ace-in-the-hole which leaves everyone stunned and Leslie sweating.
‘The Debate’ was the third episode of Parks And Recreation that Amy Poehler wrote and directed and like her other two episodes, this was a hilarious work of the heart. In a classic David and Goliath tale, Leslie fought against all the odds and you really felt her plight during the entire journey. Despite her fight, you’re also able to laugh along the way. Even though I usually think that the best Parks And Recreation episodes utilize all of their near-perfect ensemble, the fact that they really focused on the main story here was a blessing as there was so much comedy available.
There were in fact two side stories in the episode: one had April (Aubrey Plaza), Andy (Chris Pratt) and Ron (Nick Offerman) host a party for Leslie’s supporters; the other had Tom (Aziz Ansari), Ann (Rashida Jones) and Chris (Rob Lowe) act as Leslie’s Spin Team. Those stories provided a few laughs but Leslie Knope was clearly the star here.
Paul Rudd did a great job playing the lovable idiot and hearing the debate audience applause after he’d say a ridiculous line was the icing on the cake:
“I’m against crime and I’m not afraid to admit it” – Bobby Newport
“By 2013 we are going to have a fully functional mall on Jupiter”- Bobby Newport
“My thoughts on abortion… you know we should all have a good time” - Bobby Newport
“How do we fix this town? I have no idea, you tell me. I’m counting on you telling me” - Bobby Newport
‘The Debate’ was a classic Parks and Recreation episode that used a city council debate to illustrate the ludicrousness of the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana as well as Leslie’s dedication to it. Her political journey was full of ups and downs this season and it was great to see her shine during this highly anticipated event. And, the fact that it was funny as hell was an amazing plus to this wonderful piece of storytelling.