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‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Pawnee Commons”

NBC

Leslie runs into problems with Eagleton (again) when she tries to get help planning her new park in this week’s ‘Parks and Recreation.’

Leslie’s stubbornness gets in the way this week when she makes a plea for skilled planners to submit resumes for help with her latest park. A highly-skilled planner from Eagleton offers his services, but Leslie is naturally skeptical, owing to the 80-year blood feud between the two towns. While Leslie tries to convince Ben that Eagletonians are condescending snobs who should never be trusted, Ben tries to get her to stop being stubborn for the sake of her park.

At first it seems that Ben might be right — the planner also cares about serving the people and thinks the feud is silly, and it looks like Leslie is acting just as bad as the people she despises by judging the planner based on where he’s from. But then two reps from the planner’s office come over with a model of the planned park (which he’s suspiciously offered to construct pro-bono), filled with showers, a cheeseburger trough, and overweight, slovenly citizens. Turns out, the planner isn’t responsible, and while we’ve seen this sort of double bait and switch before on ‘Parks and Rec,’ it’s still executed quite well. I find myself consistently surprised with how the show can take someone like Leslie and use her very familiar characteristics to show us the ways in which they both hurt and help her in City Hall, and making her a councilwoman seems to have only opened the doors for more dynamic plots, while still finding ways to keep her tethered to the parks department.

This week’s episode explores the ways in which our characters can reconcile two opposing ideas — for Andy, it’s letting go of Burt Macklin because Andy Dwyer makes a damn fine cop on his own; for Tom, it’s realizing that he can still have some of his old attitude while being responsible with his new business; and for Leslie, it’s realizing that she can accept help from an Eagleton resident even after all that’s happened between the two towns.

Plus, we get that totally awesome cameo from DJ Roomba while Tom tries to set up his new Rent-a-Swag shop with the help of his fellow employees. Ann seems to be the weak link again this week, but her chat with Tom at JJ’s Diner about marrying his old self with the new was sweet, although it felt like Ron or Donna or even Jerry could have given him the same pep-talk. The show is still struggling to find some way for Ann to be useful — we used to get stories that were entirely Ann-centric, but now she sort of gets lumped in with Donna and Jerry and whichever other characters are in the B- and C-plots that week.

While “Pawnee Commons” certainly isn’t one of the series’ strongest episodes in terms of laughs, it’s still a thoughtful outing with plenty of small moments between Andy and April and Leslie and Ben. I particularly liked April pretending to be Burt Macklin’s superior as he resigned, and offering up a farewell card (a piece of notebook paper) that said, “You were in the FBI.” And Leslie and Ben being cute together as they fawned over the planner’s concept for the new Pawnee park, which included a Lil’ Sebastian fountain and a Wamapoke Indian-themed playground.

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