Parks And Recreation Review: “Ms. Knope Goes to Washington”/”Soda Tax” (Season 5 Episode 1&2)

It does seem like a bit of a cheat to validate Leslie’s assumption that the Sweetums representative was bluffing about the job cuts, but as we’ve seen in previous seasons, the writers know when to call back a temporarily defused bomb (e.g. last season’s sublime “The Trial of Leslie Knope”). Besides, the character moments the crises bring out of everyone are as great as ever, even when not as directly heartwarming as seeing Ron give Leslie his compass (“all great adventurers need one” he tells her).

Leslie’s absence from the office leaves Ron in charge of organizing the employee appreciation barbecue, about the only work related function Ron would conceivably be interested in. “There will be no froofy desserts, there will be no giant soap-bubble guns. And most of all, there will be no ****ing vegetables.” It goes about as well as you might expect, with Ron’s love of “shared meat” not winning over anyone, especially when it involves killing Tom, Ron’s pet pig who just so happens to be named Tom. After plenty of griping, Ron leaves in a huff, his car tearing off with a full and active BBQ in tow, leaving a smokey trail in his wake. Even when just exiting a scene, Ron Swanson remains one of television’s greatest treasures.

When Chris confronts him about the BBQ, he makes it clear that even if Ron doesn’t want to climb the bureaucratic ladder, he’ll have to at least show that he wants the job he already has, especially now that Leslie isn’t around to do everything for him. Chris appeals to Ron as a friend, but makes it clear that ultimately, being Ron’s boss takes precedent in certain cases, and Ron makes it up to everyone with a pile of corn, and some freshly cooked Tom (again, the pig, not the aspiring media mogul).

The balance a boss has to maintain when working with friends gets brought up again the next episode, as Ben struggles to earn the respect of his interns, most of whom got their positions through connections instead of hard work (another big difference between small town and big city government). Once Ben finds out that April is more or less leading the apathetic revolt, he chews her out more aggressively than Chris, but with the same personal touches that show he cares more about April not living up to her potential, than giving 110%. They settle for 15, and the tag sees April back on team Ben, scaring the other interns into doing their work.

That’s always been a big theme in Parks and Recreation, people finding ways to do the tasks they undertake -whether at work, with friends, or in public- in ways that are true to themselves. When Leslie doesn’t get her grant to clean up the Pawnee river, she just rolls up her sleeves and does it herself. It might not be that easy to fix the problems in Washington, but for now, Leslie, and Parks as a whole, are going to face these new challenges with the same optimism and can-do spirit that made them so successful in the first place. And so far, I have little reason to doubt that they are up to the task.

  • Stray Thoughts

-Reaction of the night(s) has to go to Rob Lowe, for the moment Chris puts together what Ron plans to do with Pig Tom. Runner-up is Leslie fondly looking at Andy, only to have him freakout and ask if something’s wrong, again, with all the mannerisms of a dog panicking over nothing.

-Shooting on location in D.C. was a smart move on all accounts, though I bet the D.C. Tourism Board wanted a Leslie soundbite that didn’t describe the city as “120 degrees out, and 200% humidity, cause it’s a stupid swamp town.”

-Too many great gags to go into detail on, so here are some standouts: Ron’s permit, Tom and Anne’s glitter-based enterprising, Donna’s reaction to Pig Tom, Ben’s increasingly bizarre nicknames for Ellis, Andy hunting for treasure clues, Andy giving a tour, Andy collapsing after running 2 miles, pretty much anything with Andy.

-Example of a bad gag made great: Leslie complaining about the sizes of the drinks supplied by Sweetums makes the reveal of just how big they are obvious, so kudos to the props team for just how big they made them.

-Restaurants to visit while in Pawnee: Paunch Burger, Big ‘n Wides, Fat Sacks, and Colonel Plump’s Slop Trough. Not Sue’s Salads though…don’t ask about Sue’s Salads.

-The town meetings are the well that just keeps on giving. Grover stealing a pill-filled purse was great, the walkout of the Genital Tax Block was even better.

-Julia Louis-Dreyfus would have one less Emmy in her closet if the voters had seen Poehler default to a British accent after throwing up in a bucket.

-Like so many things about The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift, Tom’s pace car goes underappreciated.