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‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Two Parties”

Parks and Recreation Two Parties
NBC

This week on ‘Parks and Recreation,’ Ben and Leslie get bachelor parties, and we finally witness just how far Leslie will go to protect the interests of her beloved prospective park.

We’ve seen a more well-rounded view of Leslie this season since she became a councilwoman — she’s been challenged by councilman Jamm and confronted with new obstacles, which have allowed ‘Parks and Rec’ to deepen our understanding of Leslie Knope. Sure, she’s still the strong, optimistic, and morally upright woman we’ve always known, but those shades vary by degrees in delightful ways.

This week we finally see a darker side of Leslie. I’ve often wondered just how far she would go to protect a park project, particularly Lot 48, which is an important lot not only for the characters, but for viewers, too. It was the first project on that very first episode back in season one that introduced us to this fantastic show and all these wonderful characters, and it was the lot that brought Leslie and Ann together, creating a beautiful friendship. That lot means, well, a lot to Leslie, but she’s not someone who would resort to shady means to justify a happy ending. Or is she?

During her bachelorette party (attended by Glen, April’s former schoolmate, now a stripper dressed as Abraham Lincoln because of course), Leslie is distracted by councilman Jamm’s insistence on putting up a Paunch Burger construction sign as he begins readying the land for construction. With two weeks left to get their proposals in order to present to the city for a vote, Jamm is going back on his deal, leaving Leslie worried that the Paunch Burger project just might win after all. But there’s a little law in Pawnee that says if Wamapoke artifacts are found during construction on any property, all construction must come to a halt until the artifacts can be inspected properly by the Wamapoke tribe.

This gives us another hilarious visit from Ken Hotate, whose sarcastic racial sensitivity jokes always give the white folks in town some discomfort. But jokes aside, I’m glad the show illustrated how Leslie could do something so dishonest — as expected, she does so for a damn good reason, but Leslie knows better, and in the past when she’s been confronted by obstacles, she’s never taken the easy, shadier way out. She’s always found and taken the moral path, even if it is always more difficult, and more importantly, she’s almost always been rewarded for doing so. Lot 48 is something special, though, and often when fighting for the things we love, we end up doing things that are, in the words of Ken Hotate, “not so great.”

Of course in the end Hotate rescues Leslie by denouncing the artifacts and demanding that Jamm hold up his end of the deal, lest he remove the six (!!!) Paunch Burgers from his Indian casino.

As for Ben’s bachelor party, things are a little more enjoyable — the guys begin by playing board games and drinking beer at Ben’s request, but they quickly realize that none of them has ever had a bachelor party of their own, taking them on an adventure to ensure that each guy gets his own special event. For Jerry, it’s ice cream where he and his wife met; for Tom, it’s cocktails at a “molecular mixology” bar, which includes vodka transmitted through flashing lights and whiskey lotion; for Ron, it’s steak and scotch, obviously; and for Andy, it’s a night on the Indiana Colts field playing with real football players. But what about Chris? We return to Chris’ seemingly infinite loneliness and his quest for a mate, which I much prefer over having Ann discuss her relationship prospects — both characters have been at a loss for plot development this season. Tom might be in the same boat if he weren’t so committed to making a business out of his personal style.

It gets tiresome when you have two great characters who are constantly relegated to plots about their love lives, or lack thereof. And we’ve only seen a remission in Ann’s dating plots thanks to Chris’ loneliness and depression. As with most sitcoms, various characters are rotated until two click into place, but with most of the office paired up, ancillary characters whom we rarely see are brought in to pair off with the single folk, so now we get reporter Shauna Malwae-Tweep as Chris’ new love interest. So help this show if this is just a long road to getting Chris and Ann back together because I am not even having it.

Just prior to ‘Parks and Recreation’ tonight, ‘30 Rock‘ confronted the idea of why Liz and Jack never hooked up, and as much as I love (read: emphatically) ‘Parks and Rec,’ I wish they would take a note from ’30 Rock’ — not every character has to have a love interest to be well-rounded and meaningful. Not every single person needs to constantly examine why they’re single. And not every character needs to hook up with another character just because they’re both single and are of the opposite sex. It feels like the show is trying too hard to pair everyone up, and it can be distracting.

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