‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Emergency Response”
'Parks and Recreation' gives us all a very special Valentine's Day gift in the form of... a disaster? Disaster (figuratively) comes to Pawnee, and Leslie might be powerless to stop it.
In order to get the council's approval on her park project, Leslie needs to raise $50,000, which means we get one of 'Parks and Rec's awesome special event episodes. Leslie is throwing a gala where townspeople will donate money for the new park, but disaster comes to Pawnee when councilman Jamm invites the emergency preparedness test representative (Matt Walsh) to schedule a test on the same day as Leslie's gala, which also happens to be the day before the council is scheduled to vote. That sneaky, sneaky Jamm.
So it's up to Ben, Ron, Donna, and Tom to put the gala together while Leslie, Ann, and Chris are stuck at city hall -- and they're arguably the most efficient people for planning a gala. Ron volunteers to go on Joan Calamezzo's show, where Joan spends the entire episode hungover and passed out, and Ron proves to be pretty damn amazing at answering viewers' calls and giving advice -- I'd actually love to see more of this. Can they give Ron a show in Pawnee that we drop in on from time to time? Among his advice gems: dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds are cats, and cats are pointless. Also, you can apparently avoid a hangover by making yourself a big, salty steak and going to sleep in wet socks... Strangely, that advice makes sense to me.
Andy and April are separated from the rest of the group because Andy is taking his police exam, which involves a written test and a personality test. As it turns out, Andy gets 100% on the written exam -- the first person to accomplish such in Pawnee history -- but he surprisingly flunks the personality test with his oblivious answers.
Of course Leslie pulls through and saves the day because that's what Leslie does -- when presented with a monumental obstacle, Leslie can always rise to the challenge. Sometimes (rarely) she fails, but her quick wit and passion always see her through. And there is not a single person or thing that will stand between her and her dream park, so she deliberately flunks the emergency preparedness test to ensure she makes it to her party on time.
What Leslie didn't count on was how efficient and reliable her friends could be without her, and they're able to acquire the donations needed to sell the council on the new park. The episode is simple, with a basic 'Parks and Rec' premise: Leslie is confronted with a problem and she solves it with the help of her friends. What makes the episode special are the ways that the writers place the characters in situations where they aren't usually useful, like sticking Ron on Joan's show or having Donna try to collect chairs. And you can easily imagine each of these characters placed in any of these situations, like maybe having Donna on Joan's show (she would have been so sassy to Joan!) while Ron tries to build enough chairs for the entire town in one afternoon.
The great surprise at the end of the episode, and the moment that moved me to tears (no surprise there) was Leslie deciding that she can't wait another minute to marry Ben -- this wonderful, special human who is so reliable, considerate, supportive, and never lets her down. Ben is impossibly perfect. So Ben agrees: they should get married right then and there with all the free food, the fancy set-up, and everyone in town in attendance. You guys, Ben and Leslie are getting married a lot quicker than we thought!
And we'll get to see it all next week in a special one-hour episode.