‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Swing Vote”
Tonight’s ‘Parks and Recreation‘ pits Leslie and Ron against each other over the fate of a mini-golf course, and Mona Lisa Saperstein (Jenny Slate) makes her obnoxiously triumphant return.
See? Leslie doesn’t always get her way. In “Swing Vote,” Leslie fights to save a government-funded mini-golf course which Ron wants to de-fund thanks to his rigid anti-government values. It all comes down to Councilman Jamm, whose vote is all that stands between Leslie and Ron and what they each desire. So Leslie takes Jamm out for a night on the mini-golf course to convince him that it’s worth saving, resulting in a golf competition between Leslie and Ron, in which Ron wins, thus securing Jamm’s vote to de-fund the course.
But what’s interesting about this is something Jamm notes later on in the episode: Leslie is no different from some of her peers. Earlier this season she traded her office to Jamm to get funding for a local pool, and tonight she plies him with unlimited free sno-cones to get his vote. While her offerings may seem insignificant, she’s still bribing her fellow councilman to get what she wants. Even worse, her determination, as usual, is all-consuming, putting her at odds with her good friend Ron. The two of them have often been at odds, but their friendship enables them to respect their difference of opinion, and look past the conflict to see that behind the opposition is a great person with strong convictions. They may disagree on matters of government, but both of their hearts are in the right place, and that’s what’s always brought them together.
It’s no surprise, then, that in the end Leslie doesn’t get her way (Jamm tries to back stab Ron, but Leslie refuses to let him break a promise, even if it’s a promise she hates), but she and Ron make amends over a glass of scotch and a giant fake gorilla. (His name is Mr. Fluffy Face.) As Leslie notes, she’ll likely end up saving the mini-golf course with her proposed measure, but her biggest takeaway is the fear that she’s on a slippery slope — her bribes have been small and harmless, but maybe all politicians started out that way. It’s definitely an interesting concept, but I highly doubt Leslie’s warm heart and her doting friends would ever let her fall from such great heights.
Meanwhile, Tom is desperate to break up with the crazy and unpredictable Mona Lisa, so he enlists Ann to do it for him. But then Ann is roped in to becoming Mona Lisa’s new BFF and wacky hijinks ensue. At the same time, Andy is bummed because Mouse Rat has moved on without him, changing their name to Rat Mouse, leaving Andy feeling as though he’s become too much of a boring grown-up with his reliable job — leaving him no longer reliable for his band mates. This entire plot is a bit lackluster, especially since Andy reunites with the band in the end, thus making it all feel a bit too sitcom-y. Lessons are learned and everyone goes back to where they started when the episode began! It’s… a bit of a snooze, sadly, but Tom, Ann, and Mona Lisa provide tons of laughs in this B-plot, enough to make their time (and ours) worth it. Of particular note is Tom’s story about Mona Lisa mugging a girl, stealing her birth control, and selling it to college kids as a club drug.
The meat of the episode this week belongs to Leslie, and it’s yet another week that bucks convention, showing us that yes, Leslie will meet odds that she can’t always overcome, no matter how plucky she is. But at the end of the day, even her biggest perceived failures are as crucial as the little victories.