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‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Doppelgangers”

Parks and Recreation Doppelgangers
NBC

Parks and Recreation‘ debuts the highly-anticipated “Doppelgangers” episode tonight, in which Pawnee and Eagleton formerly merge, thus uniting all of their departmental employees under one roof. And since there are so many similar jobs, everyone has their own doppelganger … kind of. It’s actually not quite what you think, which makes it even funnier.

As it turns out, the Eagleton doppelgangers are total opposites of the Pawnee characters. Kristen Bell’s Ingrid sits this week out, but we do get some new additions: Tynyfer (like Jennifer, but with two Ys), April’s doppelganger, played by the wonderful June Diane Raphael; Craig, who is matched up with Donna and is played by Billy Eichner; and Eagleton’s version of Ron, named … Ron, and played by the awesome Sam Elliott. Tom’s match is Eric, which ends up being a computer scheduling program, but in order to make sure Tom keeps his job, he pretends that Eric is a drug-dealing former inmate. There’s also Ann’s doppelganger Evelyn, which leads us to a complication much bigger than Eagleton merging with Pawnee.

Ann finally tells Leslie that she’s moving away, and tries to hilariously smooth the situation over by shoving waffles in her face and presenting her with a photoshopped picture of Joe Biden, shirtless, on a horse. But Leslie has always considered friendships in a different light than romantic relationships. With someone you love in a relationship, you can respect their choices even when you don’t agree with them; you make sacrifices because you care about their happiness. If a guy Leslie loved were breaking her heart, she wouldn’t completely shut down like she did on tonight’s episode. She would respect the decision. But this is Ann! Beautiful Ann! And Leslie is not ready to accept that her best friend is leaving her behind, so she ignores her and takes her frustrations out on the entire department, refusing to seriously address the merger.

And also everyone is calling Jerry “Larry,” which just makes you pity-laugh at Jerry even more. (His real name is Gary, in case you forgot.)

There are some really funny moments between Leslie and everyone this week, especially when she makes “unity cookies,” which involve mustard because she didn’t have yellow frosting, but it’s okay because she put lots of sugar in the mustard? But by far the best moments are between Donna and Craig, April and Tynyfer, and Ron and Ron. Craig is a shout-y nightmare, but he cares about his job far more than Donna ever could, and he gets results. She learns to respect him, and the two bond over their mutual interests (“My DVR is 13 months pregnant with episodes of ‘Scandal.’”) Tynyfer is your stereotypical superficial crazy lady, so April mimics her attitude to do a little sabotage, ensuring the safety of her job (as if it were ever in danger), and also getting to have the sort of mean fun April likes to have, like sending Tynyfer off to Dwayne Wade’s house in Miami. It’s kind of too bad because Raphael is so perfect in the part, but it’s also the kind of character we probably couldn’t stand for more than another week.

And then there’s Ron and Ron. New Ron is a man of few words just like Old Ron, and they both have mustaches and love the outdoors. It’s perfect until New Ron starts spouting off his hippie, environmentalist, vegan ideals, and the coffin is sealed when Old Ron spots New Ron’s sandals. As much as it would have been neat to see Ron meet someone just like him, there’s no substitute for his confessionals this week (“I no longer like Ron.”). Out of all the “doppelgangers,” it seems implied that Craig is the only one sticking around — or at least I hope he does, anyway.

This week’s ‘Parks and Recreation’ is definitely an improvement over last week’s, which spent a lot of time setting up how the two towns would merge and not enough time giving us the big, wacky laughs we love. But everyone’s back to normal this week — even Chris and Ben are back to their old tricks, gleefully doing their classic budget-cutting one-two punch. So while the new people aren’t here to stay (except for Craig and maybe Evelyn), it was fun while it lasted.

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