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‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Galentine’s Day”

Parks and Recreation Galentine's Day
NBC

On tonight’s all-new ‘Parks and Recreation,’ Galentine’s Day might have been a month ago, but that’s not stopping Leslie from celebrating one of her (many, many) favorite holidays in an effort to fill the Ann-shaped crater in her heart. Meanwhile, Ben and Tom run into problems looking for tents for the upcoming concert event, while Ron’s new parental instincts come in handy with Andy.

Oh, Leslie — who would’ve thought she’d ever use Galentine’s Day to do something so not-very-nice? But it’s more complicated than that. Losing a friend can be difficult, and although Ann hasn’t died or completely vanished from her life, her role has certainly diminished, leaving a hole in Leslie’s heart that she feels the need to fill. But that’s the thing: you can’t replace someone after they’ve gone, and trying to force other people to measure up to that ideal isn’t fair, either. So when Leslie gets all the ladies in the office — Ethel Beavers included — together for a Galentine’s Day brunch in an effort to find a new BFF, it’s funny, sure, but it’s really just super sad. None of them can replace Ann or be as amazing as Ann, and that’s okay because they’re all amazing in their own ways, and Leslie has to learn to give them all (okay, maybe just Donna and April) a chance to be friends to her in their own ways, to forge meaningful relationships and traditions with them, and embrace what’s unique about each of them. That’s what makes friendship special! (But also I agree with Leslie: the only answer to best television show is ‘Friday Night Lights,’ but I’d take Landry over Riggins and Saracen any day.)

It’s also really sweet this week to see Ben finally take a stand for Larry. We’ve seen this building for some time, and unlike most season-long arcs on ‘Parks and Rec,’ which typically involve political challenges or romantic developments, this has been a really interesting one, and definitely one of my favorites. Larry (formerly Jerry) has long been the butt, often literally, of the joke in the office, and while it’s hilarious, it’s hilarious in that really pitiful way — which is why, of course, it’s so rewarding on a narrative and comedic level that he has an incredibly beautiful wife and lovely daughters; a guy like Larry deserves victories in life. Ben and Tom bring him along for their tent deal, and when the shady salesman (guest star Rob Huebel) causes them a bunch of grief, it’s Larry who has the solution, but Tom takes the credit… and Ben’s had enough. Tonight’s end-credits scene involves Ben standing up on a chair and declaring that he likes Larry and considers him a friend, much to the dismay of everyone in the office. And come on, you know that everyone in the office actually is fond of Larry deep down, but they just love to use him as their punching bag, and it’s absolutely against the rules to admit that Larry is a cool guy.

What’s perhaps even more interesting is the way yet another layer is removed and we see that Larry seems to understand and even — sadly — happily accept that it’s not okay to pal around with him or think he’s cool, even going so far as to cover up for Ben when Tom almost discovers them having a real conversation. Poor Larry. I really hope that when this series ends, he gets the most satisfying of conclusions and is warmly embraced by all.

As for Ron, he takes the opportunity to leave the office and do a little solo park survey as a means to escape and get some peace and quiet after all the fathering he’s been doing lately, which involves a lot of suffering through some cartoon show called ‘Doc McStuffins.’ But Ron’s got the paternal instinct now, so when he gets saddled with Andy for a partner for the day and Andy’s horsing around results in a busted tooth, Ron can’t help but express immediate concern, reacting as a parent would, and rushing Andy straight to the dentist’s office — and although the old Ron creeps back up and he lets an impatient Andy leave before he ever sees the dentist, Ron eventually marches him right back down to the dentist. Ron might act exasperated, and he might complain that he can’t escape being a dad no matter where he goes, but the truth is that he’s a father now — he could’ve made Andy deal with it on his own, but he didn’t.

Tonight’s ‘Parks and Recreation’ is a really interesting episode that examines some pretty human stuff: the way fatherhood has impacted Ron’s life, and the meaning of friendship — from Ben’s newfound friendship with Larry to Leslie’s understanding of what being a true friend, and allowing others to be a friend to you, means.

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