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‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Flu Season 2″

Parks and Recreation Flu Season 2
NBC

On tonight’s all-new episode of ‘Parks and Recreation,’ Tom heads to a vineyard with the gang to find a Sommelier for his restaurant, and Ben receives some bad news from his parents and goes on a bender with Ron. Meanwhile, Leslie and Andy scramble to secure a headliner for the Unity concert while Leslie deals with some surprising news. 

Well, that was sort of inevitable, wasn’t it? Look, on the one hand, Leslie and Ben having a baby is sweet, and they’re such an amazing television couple that you just want what’s best for them as if they were real and not fictive. On the other hand, ‘Parks and Recreation’ is now in the baby stretch: first you pair off the characters, then you give them babies. And with the fate of the show hanging in the balance for a while now and this season thought to be its last for a bit there, giving Leslie and Ben a baby seems like a step toward their logical happy conclusion. And yet even still, it seems so early for them to be having a baby, even if it is the bow to help wrap up their story — and I guess it’s probably safe to assume now that next season will be the show’s last, regardless of network judgment.

But anyway! Let’s look at the road we took to Leslie and Ben’s happy moment, which — regardless of how torn I feel about this pregnancy — still made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Leslie thinks she has the flu, but nope, it’s just the classic sitcom trope of “lady is vomiting and thinks she is sick but is actually pregnant” which would elicit gasps of delighted shock from a live studio audience. Meanwhile, Ben is off in wine country (Pawnee has one of these, kind of) where he’s grumbling about his parents selling off their lake house out of spite in their divorce, without even asking if he wanted it. I can totally get behind Ron not wanting to hear Ben whine about this “problem” which just sounds like a bunch of ungrateful, privileged B.S., but I enjoy the meandering misdirection that takes Ron and (a very wonderfully drunk) Ben through Eagleton Ron’s neck of the woods, giving us a visit from Sam Elliott. And who doesn’t love Sam Elliott? He makes Ben’s whininess a bit more tolerable, and the whole chat about spirit animals was great.

It leads Ben to realize that no, the lake house isn’t important — what he’s really upset about is losing the chance to take his own kids there so they might be able to create fond memories like he did when he was growing up. And for all Leslie’s fussing lately over legacy and ensuring that she can leave an imprint of herself behind in Pawnee if/when she leaves … well, isn’t a baby the ultimate legacy? A child gives Leslie the opportunity to instill her values into someone from the ground up, so really, it’s kind of perfect. Can Leslie pull a Liz Lemon and have it all? Of course she can. I can’t wait to see her do it.

And back at the winery, April has a ton of fun entering the Sommelier competition, drinking the wine and making fun of the fancy people, as April is wont to do. It’s funny, of course, but it’s predictable April behavior, and I’ve really gotten into seeing April do the unexpected. I guess in order to have her do the unexpected, she still has to act like classic April, and damned if I didn’t laugh when she was thanking Eddie Murphy characters for the award she didn’t win. Craig also participates in the competition because he actually knows about wine and secretly wants to work at Tom’s Bistro. I cannot get enough of Crazy Craig and Billy Eichner’s hilarious yelling and abrupt tantrums, and Tom, Donna, and April’s little fake restaurant test for Craig was definitely one of the highlights of the evening.

There were definitely some laughs this week: Watching Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy play a former rock star with a kid who tries — and fails — to keep up with Andy as he plays kids’ songs was super silly. And also comedian Bo Burnham’s obnoxious teen country idol was superbly funny and cringe-inducing with his douchey behavior. Drunk Ben: always a good time.

In a season full of highs, “Flu Season 2″ isn’t one of the funnier episodes. It’s not a bad episode by any means and it’s not a downer, but it definitely falls on the sweeter side of the ‘Parks and Rec’ spectrum, and one that also serves to move the plot forward a bit as we ramp up to the end of the season.

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