Parks And Recreation Review: “Ron And Diane” (Season 5, Episode 9)

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So Leslie takes the hint, and the hit, by babysitting Tammy for the rest of the evening. Ron and Diane share a romantic dinner in Eagleton together, where he reveals his alter-ego as Duke Silver, which as it turns out, only causes more women to jealousy threaten Diane. And while you might think Leslie taking Tammy hostage and wrestling with her in a garbage bin would be too cartoonish for my taste (given how little I enjoyed last week’s shaving cream spree), but the zaniness was tuned just right this time, because Crazy Leslie was brought out by her dealing with a known psychopath, and doing so in order to help her friends. That’s the Leslie I love, the kind that let’s Poehler cut loose, without betraying the consistency of the character.

And there were surprising personal realizations across the board this week, not just for Chris and Leslie. Thanks to how little info has been given about the Parks Department’s Christmas traditions in past years, I was okay with the office staff revealing an annual effort to tuck away a dollar every time Jerry does something stupid, using the collected funds on a “Jerry Dinner” at Christmas time. This year’s total: $518. And while Donna, Tom, April and Andy are all very excited about the feast Jerry’s buffoonery will provide, Ann points something out that a lot of people have known for a while: people are really mean to Jerry.

For a show this sunny, optimistic and all-around good-natured, the abuse of Jerry by everyone, including Leslie, has been a bit of an oddity. It’s always been really funny, as his fart-attack earlier this year will attest, but it’s almost seemed like Jerry is a “niceness” black hole, where even the best people feel the need to make fun of him. The reason has less to do with him being a whipping boy than it does his attitude, as he never sticks up for himself. The clever trick is in how the show has slowly revealed why it is Jerry is so pleased despite his bad luck: he’s got three beautiful daughters, a smoking hot wife (former model Christie Brinkley is revelead as Gale Gergich), and, according to one expert, a rather large penis.

When Donna decides that, seeing as he funded it, Jerry should be invited to the dinner, the gang is shocked to see Gerry hosting what looks to be a wildly successful Christmas party. With Ann blocking their passage to the party, Andy, April and Tom are left to ruminate on how they’ve treated Jerry, and it takes an inspection of their spam box (where the “Jerry Filter” puts all messages from Jerry) to discover both the original invitation to the party, and all the other nice notes Jerry has sent them over the years. As their collective hearts melt over the kind words from the big, clumsy softy, no one comes out and says “we were overly cruel to Jerry,” because no one has to. When Tom gives him the Jerry Dinner funds, and explains that they had made donations every time they were being mean, it’s a beautifully sweet moment based on characters choosing to be better people, and the power in that little moment comes from the pathos being brought about from our knowledge of the characters, not from sappy music, or dialogue trying to force a reaction out of us.

Of course, this won’t be the end for Jerry being the butt of a joke, nor do I think Chris’ successful encounter with (the newly engaged) Millicent Gergich marks the end of his development. He thanks Ben for looking out for him, because, unlike Ron, he still needs an emotional guardian. It might be a while before he can face a fear as terrifying as Tammy II, but knowing that a journey to true stability is ahead of him, I’m more excited for Chris’ story than I’ve been in some time. And really, my favorite thing about the Parks holiday episodes is that they always end the year on a strong note. No 2012, hasn’t been quite as consistently sublime as the lofty standards set by 2011, but the reason why Parks and Recreation is the best comedy on television is that its rich core of characters, place, and optimism, is so strong, even a little bit of comedic rust seems like a negligible complaint compared to the overwhelming joy that Leslie, Ron, April and Tom inspire every week, and every year. Merry-congratu-Christmas Parks and Recreation. I can’t wait to see you in 2013.

  • Stray Thoughts

-Heartwarming episodes like these can often make me forget to emphasize how damn good the jokes are. Moment to moment, this might have been the funniest episode of the season.

-Given how often Chris mentions his therapist (Dr. Richard Nygard), he’ll have to be revealed at some point. What are the odds Chris snapped harder than we thought, and he’s got a Tyler-Durden-with-an-M.D. thing going?

-Rashida Jones and Aubrey Plaza had a great rapport tonight, both for Ann’s standup comedy attempts, and April’s weak forearms.

-Diane thinks she’s a Hufflepuff. Leslie says she’s a Gryffindor. Tammy is definitely a Slytherin. That clearly leaves Ron as a man who doesn’t know what the hell a Ravenclaw or a Harry Potter is, so stop trying to put a damn wizard hat on his head.

-The Indiana Fine Woodworking society is another wonderful little corner of Pawnee introduced tonight. The emcee’s wood-based puns were far funnier than they had any right to be.

-Even Chris acknowledges, “there’s no logical explanation for Jerry and Gale.”

-Ron shouldn’t feel bad about eating artichokes. Eating the heart of anything sounds perfectly masculine. Plums on the other hand…

-Andy beat his high score in snake!

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