‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Filibuster; Recall Vote”
'Parks and Recreation' returns from its brief hiatus tonight with two -- that's right, two -- brand new episodes! In "Filibuster," Andy returns to Pawnee for a brief visit and Leslie has to ditch Ben's birthday party for an emergency late-night filibuster. And in "Recall Vote," Leslie helps Ben with a haunted house in a belated Halloween episode on the eve of her -- what else -- recall vote, while Tom seeks Ron's help to save Rent-a-Swag. It's a double dose of 'Parks and Rec,' which doubles the laughs, and we sure are happy to see Andy ... even if his visit is only temporary. Someone has to be the Guardian of the Galaxy, you know.
In "Filibuster," Leslie has to do just that when Councilman Jamm suggests a law that would make it impossible for Eagleton transplants to vote in the upcoming recall -- and although she has to sit out the elaborate early 90s rollerskating birthday party she planned for Ben, and although the Eagletonians plan on replacing her with Ingrid de Forest (a returning Kristen Bell) when they earn their right to vote, Leslie is, unsurprisingly, selfless. After weeks of seeing a Leslie that has come off as a bit annoying in her endless, narrow-sighted pursuits -- a Leslie who seems to get riled up over that which seems awfully trivial to others, we see the Leslie we all know is still there; the Leslie we've always loved.
The filibuster-themed episode is a reflection on another great woman's notorious filibuster earlier this year -- Texas representative Wendy Davis, who stood before the Texas legislature and filibustered for hours without assistance, demanding that women's voices be taken into account. To Leslie, her fight is just as vital -- the fight for democracy, even on the local level; because for her threatening democracy on such a small scale is the same as threatening national democracy. And all that matters to her is that every voice matters. And here, we even see a little of what Ms. Davis was up against, as Leslie fights against a male-dominated government who heckle and mock her beliefs.
Also, can we talk about how at-home Rob Lowe looks in his early 90s denim? It's like he never left. Speaking of leaving, we're sad to see 'Orphan Black' star Tatiana Maslany go after such a brief guest stint, but hopefully she'll return because her chemistry with Tom has been really charming.
In tonight's second episode, "Recall Vote," Tom aggressively tries to tackle his problems while Leslie spends the entire episode avoiding them. As Ron says, there's nothing more valuable than your name -- and everyone learns a little something about that tonight. With Rent-a-Swag in trouble, Jean-Ralphio's dad once again offers to buy Tom out (and his Thinking PJs), giving Tom only 48 hours to mull the offer over. Tom reaches out to Ron, whose chairs have been featured in local celeb Annabelle Porter's magazine, 'Bloosh' (think Gwyneth Paltrow and GOOP). 'Children's Hospital' star Erinn Hayes guests as the eccentrically shallow Porter, who tries to make Ron's handmade chairs into mass-manufactured home furnishings, and Tom tries to use the opportunity to put himself in Annabelle's orbit.
While Ron knows that his name and his works are more valuable than the money he can make off of them, Tom needs to find the happy medium. It's not just about what he's accomplished in this life or whatever legacy he thinks he can leave behind, but about what leaves him satisfied; what gives him a sense of dignity. By episode's end, he walks away with just that.
While Tom aggressively tries to tackle his problems, Leslie spends the entire episode avoiding them. Leslie decides to transform City Hall into haunted house on recall day, ignoring the voting altogether, while her friends form the Leslie Knope Emotional Support Task Force to try and keep the inevitable emotional roller coaster on track.
But then 'Parks and Rec' kind of does the unthinkable: Leslie Knope loses her job as city councilwoman. It'll be interesting to see how she eventually gets her place on the council back, or what new place she'll find for herself in Pawnee. But it's definitely a bold move that shakes things up for the show as it was starting to become repetitive. What comes next is wonderful: Ben and Leslie getting drunk, almost getting horrendously ill-advised drunk tattoos in a pawn shop of all places, and Ann coming to the rescue of her friend to remind her that she still has a lot of work to do in the 30 days she has left. All of her work isn't wasted, and there's still a lot of good Leslie can do. Just because she lost her job doesn't mean she's lost her ability to be Leslie Knope.
I look forward to seeing what the coming season (and possibly further seasons) bring with this exciting -- and sad! So sad! -- new development.