‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Leslie vs. April”
Well, here we are at last — Leslie Knope finally gets to meet the man of her dreams, Vice President Joe Biden, in this week’s new ‘Parks and Recreation.’
‘Parks and Rec’ gets all that Joe Biden business out of the way fairly quickly (though it was kind of amazing) so we can move onto more important issues, like lot 48, which hasn’t been forgotten. As it turns out, April thinks it would make a great dog park, but Leslie is still determined to turn it into a regular park for kids. And here’s something we haven’t really seen before: what happens when one of those young women that Leslie works so hard to nurture and inspire wants something that Leslie doesn’t, but fights just as hard as Leslie would — and even against Leslie herself — to get what they want? This idea was teased a bit in the “Pawnee Rangers” episode, in which Leslie’s Pawnee Goddesses demand she open the issue of allowing a Pawnee Ranger to join the troop up to a public forum, and she’s begrudgingly proud of her young proteges.
It’s similar material here, but with something Leslie is much more invested in — the lot that was once the giant pit behind Ann’s house that Leslie fought so hard to get filled so that she could one day transform it into a beautiful park. She doesn’t want to dismiss April’s ideas, so she instead tries to find alternative locations (none of which are suitable) before finally going to Ron to ask how he slowed her down when she became too pushy with her ideas. His suggestions include busy work and menial tasks, and distracting April by appealing to one of her interests, so Leslie goes with her to Oren’s new performance art project, Human Farm, in which visitors can actually feed Oren by hand. (I can’t be alone in wanting to feed Oren at the Human Farm, right?)
But Leslie isn’t really giving April enough credit because she figures it out and appeals to councilman Jamm for help, who interrupts her presentation in front of the city council by declaring that he wants to sell the lot to Paunch Burger. And luckily, this gives Ann more to do this week than just sit around and talk about her ex-boyfriends and how she’s still single — instead, she gets to repair April and Leslie’s relationship, and the three of them bring a bunch of dogs and kids to Jamm’s yard to frolic until he agrees to put the future of lot 48 up for vote, giving the ladies three months to get their plans in order.
The connective tissue this week is all about characters living up to their potential. For April, it’s becoming the woman Leslie always knew she was and finding something she’s truly passionate about. For Andy, it’s figuring out if being a cop is what he really wants when computers go missing at work and he’s disappointed to discover that real policing is all about paperwork (and now that he’s taken a job as a security officer around city hall, we’ll get to see more of his delightful faux-copping). For Tom, it’s all about making stacks on stacks on stacks on stacks — but he’s kidding because he actually has a great business idea for once and he just needs Ben’s financial prowess to pull it off.
This leads to Ben’s potential, of which he has so much. As he takes Tom around to help get his new business some exposure, it’s not Tom the companies are interested in — it’s Ben. Sweetums wants Ben to help with their new non-profit, which they’ve started to combat the bad press from the molasses storage explosion that resulted in a “slow-moving ecological disaster” in which people somehow died. The local news team wants Ben as a correspondent for their new political show. And Tom just wants some help from his friend. In the end, Ben goes back to the accounting job he turned down before he left Pawnee and he turns it down again (in a hilarious scene that embraces the redundant absurdity, replete with Ben’s bad math puns) to pursue something he’s interested in, which might just be anything but accounting right now.