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‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Ann’s Decision”

Parks and Recreation Ann's Decision
NBC

Everyone’s trying new things on this week’s ‘Parks and Recreation,’ but they’re all learning that sometimes it’s better to go with what you know, especially when it comes to food.

Ben has been tasked with choosing the food for his wedding to Leslie, so he’s brought Chris (the veggie man), Ron (the meat man), and Tom (the style man) along to help him choose the perfect catering service. Unfortunately, Ben’s beloved calzones betray them all and they wind up with food poisoning — except for Tom, who doesn’t believe he should have to eat foods where he’s expected to apply the sauce himself. There’s a great little aside moment where Chris and Ron talk smack about Ben and his calzone affection that makes me wish that Chris and Ron agreed on things more often because their comedic timing together is fantastic. Overall, you can’t go wrong pairing Ron with food, even when the results are disastrous.

Meanwhile, Ann has decided to just date herself — in an effort to liberate herself from the habit of mirroring the likes and dislikes of her boyfriends, she’s now trying new things and exploring alternative options, which leads her to decide to have a baby on her own. What I love about this plot for Ann is that it keeps her from trying to find a boyfriend and allows her to acknowledge logical things, like how Leslie is so certain Ann is perfect and will find the perfect guy, but realistically, not everyone finds a special someone when they want to. It might take Ann years to really click with someone, so if she wants a baby and she’s in her prime baby-making years, why not?

This arc also brings back Howard “The Douche” Tuttleman (Nick Kroll), whom Ann thinks would be a good donor because his Douche persona is just an act and he’s actually rather well-educated. When a desperate, protective Leslie tells him why Ann really wanted to meet up with him, he makes fun of her on his radio show, leaving Ann annoyed with Leslie for spilling the beans. I get the feeling Douche would have been making fun of Ann even if she was the one who told him what was up, but watching Leslie stand in a kiddie pool filled with Jell-O and do a horrible Cosby impression to fight for Ann’s honor is precious — and honestly, do we expect anything less from Leslie? She’s like the best BFF in television history.

As for April, she’s stuck hosting a public forum regarding the new Pawnee Commons project, so she decides to put the Leslie pants on (literally) and do her best Leslie impression in order to successfully acquire the signatures she needs for the project to move forward. The writers have been pushing April out of her comfort zone for the last couple of seasons, allowing us to see that her character has much more depth than we first assumed. Sure, the deadpan schtick is great and it’s what hooked us in the first place, but April is a living, breathing character, and watching her do things likeĀ try to be helpful or proactive in the parks department is not only hilarious, but it endears her more to us as viewers.

In the end, everyone learns a pretty basic lesson: Ben goes with JJ’s Diner to cater the reception (because waffles, obviously), Ann decides to think things through a little more with this baby business (and Leslie puts together a fun uterine-themed binder to help her on the journey), and April discovers that she can incorporate the knowledge gleaned from Leslie into her own attitude, which actually results in a more successful public forum than the ones Leslie usually oversees. Leslie’s facts with April’s no-nonsense sass combine to make the perfect person to deal with the Pawnee weirdos.

It’s a great, un-fussy episode that focuses on simple stories that would, in lesser writers’ hands, be generic — but that’s one of the things ‘Parks and Rec’ has always been great at. They have this ability to take familiar, generic sitcom-y ideas and elevate them with insanely clever humor. I’d almost say that this week matched ‘30 Rock‘ with jokes-per-minute. Bonus points for Andy’s fruit roll-up thumbs. Been there.

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