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‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Jerry’s Retirement”

Parks and Recreation Jerrys Retirement
NBC

In the second episode of ‘Parks and Recreation‘ tonight, Jerry’s retiring from the Parks and Rec department, but it looks like he didn’t make sure everyone was aware of it. Dammit, Jerry!

Guys, Ben’s Letter to Cleo t-shirt returns in tonight’s episode! Casual day-off Ben tries to get Leslie to take the day off too, but someone else is taking off — Jerry is retiring, but not everyone is aware since they, you know, ignore Jerry all the time. Feeling guilty, Leslie tries to make some of Jerry’s wishes come true by helping him eat in the executive city council dining room (he can’t), introducing him to the mayor who was in office when Jerry was hired (he’s dead), and naming a building after him (they name the conference room instead). And even though she tries, Leslie can’t help but feel as though it’s just not good enough. As much as she believes he wasn’t a great employee, Leslie knows that Jerry’s taken enough crap on the chin all these years that he deserves something better.

But that’s the thing — Jerry kind of has a great life. His wife (Christie Brinkley) and daughters are beautiful, and he always got off work at 5 pm so he could go home and make wonderful memories with his family. And weirdly enough, at home, Jerry isn’t a bumbling dodo at all. He’s actually pretty damn smooth. So maybe Jerry isn’t the problem — maybe the Parks and Rec department is the problem, and maybe they need to quit focusing so much negative energy on one person in the office.

Which leads us to Tom, who fears he’s becoming the next Jerry, inspiring Ron to bring Jerry back in for a few hours a week (until they hire someone to replace him) and take the heat off of Tom. All of this Jerry business has Leslie thinking that maybe work isn’t all there is — it certainly wasn’t for Jerry, who had such an amazing home life that his foibles at work hardly mattered, and work always came in second to his family. Leslie could use a little of that thinking, and while anyone would be hard-pressed to make Leslie de-prioritize government work, she realizes she’s going to have to budge a little because while her career has given her so much joy, a family could provide much more. Can you guys imagine Leslie as a mom? I don’t think it’d be a great concept for the show, but I can imagine a Leslie post-’Parks and Rec,’ raising a little girl and teaching her how to become a strong, intelligent woman of Knope caliber.

Here’s something we learned tonight thanks to Ann and Chris’ trip to the fertility clinic: if you fill up the semen specimen cup all the way to the top, you get your picture on a bulletin board — and surprise, former Animal Control employee Harris is the only picture on the board because of course he is. (Seriously, Harris is quickly becoming my favorite minor recurring character, and he earned one of the two huge laughs tonight just by appearing in the form of a photograph.)

I’m not sure putting Ann and Chris back together works — it feels like a two steps forward, one step back situation. Granted, this time out feels a little more organic thanks to their unique situation, but it still feels like the writers putting themselves in a corner, and one that’s unnecessary. Why can’t Ann and Chris have this baby and be platonic parents? Why do sitcoms feel the need to create couples out of all their single characters? I was enjoying this new, independent Ann and her endeavor to platonically have a child with Chris. This relationship could work out, but I am concerned that they’re running in circles with these two.

While “Jerry’s Retirement” isn’t as laugh out loud funny as tonight’s other episode, “Article Two,” it still retains an immense charm, tugs a few heart strings (if Jerry had really disappeared, I think we’d all be pretty bummed) and helps evolve its characters. Earlier I said Harris got one of two big laughs tonight — the other belongs to Ben in the episode’s tag, when he question’s why Gail married Jerry, wondering if she has “Oliver Sacks disease.” This line killed me: “Like, does she think Jerry is a friendly hat?”

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