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‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Farmers Market”

Parks and Recreation Farmers Market
NBC

On tonight’s new episode of ‘Parks and Recreation,’ Leslie and Ben head down to the Pawnee farmers market, where a vendor’s salacious selling technique sparks an argument between the couple. Meanwhile, Ann struggles to cope with the ongoing stresses and pains of pregnancies with an overly-helpful Chris, and April helps Andy land a gig at a children’s birthday party.

Whoa, Leslie goes full-Knope on Ben tonight, which was a little unexpected. But it’s clear that Leslie is in the wrong, and Ben is trying so hard to strike this perfect balance between their lives at work and their lives at home when Leslie hones in on a farmer who uses scantily-clad models to sell his chard down at the farmers market. I see Leslie’s side of it: the farmers market is a family-friendly place and the models are just a notch above strippers, but I also see Ben’s side of it: The vendor isn’t breaking any explicit rules, and chard really is a difficult sell. And what’s a farmer to do when he’s stuck with trying to sell one of the most tricky vegetables? But Leslie just can’t keep her work separate from her home, and she lets yet another crusade take her overboard, leading into a crazy fight with Ben that winds up with them standing in a fountain, debating whether or not it’s technically City Hall — which they’ve agreed is the only place that they can talk about work.

And this is why I love these two: any other sitcom would have this petty argument devolve into a break-up or try to keep raising the stakes in some forced or contrived way, but these two realize how nuts they’re both acting and agree to just be more respectful and considerate. Leslie is one of the best women on television right now because she’s a woman who fights for what’s right and what she believes in, but she can also recognize when she’s wrong and have some humility about it. She’s just such a good human.

Anyway! Ann and Chris are really funny again this week, which keeps making me sad that next week is their last episode. Ann is dealing with increasingly horrible pregnancy problems, but she can’t just vent to Chris because he’s always trying to offer up optimistic solutions and fix everything, of course. So she crashes Donna, Tom, and Jerry’s Whine and Cheese club, where they get together to vent about work to Ron, who pretends to listen while actually listening to Willie Nelson on giant headphones (obviously). Although Leslie and Ben get what amounts to the A-story this week, I’m more fond of Ann and Chris and April and Andy’s stories, which are rife with much more humor — Chris referring to nipples as “boob hats” in a perfectly awkward deadpan was a highlight of the evening, and Ann’s pregnancy rage continues to delight me to no end.

And speaking of April and Andy, Billy Eichner’s Craig returns to ‘Parks and Rec’ tonight, and his nephew needs a last-minute entertainer for his birthday party, so he recruits Andy to play his guitar and sing some songs. When the rest of Mouse Rat bails, it’s just Andy, who hesitantly improvises some kid-friendly songs about boogers and matches and what not to entertain the kiddos. He even makes an appearance as Burt Macklin to sing a song about smelly feet. April’s impressed and totally smitten, and when Andy books a second gig, it looks like he might have a new career path. Yeah, I know, Andy’s had a lot of career paths, but for once he’s found something he seems naturally good at, and his interactions with those kids are so cute. It really does make perfect sense.

While I continue to love Leslie and Ben’s relationship, I wasn’t as thrilled about their plot tonight as I was the others — mostly because the other arcs provided way more laughs (Ron geeking out over the “music rectangle” was great, by the way). But I do like that the show continues to explore the dynamic between Leslie and Ben at the office and how that affects their relationship. It’s a little bit basic in concept, but it’s finding new situations for the two of them while keeping them in the same old places, and that’s no easy feat for a show that’s as contained as this. I just hope Leslie vs. Ben isn’t a well they aren’t planning on tapping too much.

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