Hello fellow Pawneeians! I’ll be guiding you through this fourth (fourth!) season of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation”. So let’s get kicking.
The end of last season saw most of the parks department moving towards brighter futures, making their lives about a million times more complicated than they were before. Leslie and Ben decided to keep their forbidden romance from the rest of the office, which makes for a potential scandal when Leslie’s political career suddenly sprouts legs. Tom resigned so he can follow his dreams of being—well Jay-Z, I guess. Even Andy is looking to moving on from his sweet shoe shining gig, assigning his wife April to be his manager.
The premiere picks up right where last season let off, with Leslie telling Ann Perkins about her upcoming bid for a seat on the city council (yay!) but then realizing that in order to do so, she will have to break things off with Ben (baw!). Leslie’s lifelong political ambitions have been the key tenant of her character from day 1--after all, how many people spent their youth playing with homemade Geraldine Ferraro action figures? But while Leslie has spent the entire series so far looking starry eyed at pictures of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Hilary Clinton, the woman has a pretty mean romantic streak in her as well. She’s spent much of the last three seasons looking for the right match--a match she’s seemingly found in Ben. This makes Leslie’s seemingly no-brainer decision to end things with him all the more complicated. The thought of giving up on her dream in favor of a (still secret) romance with Ben never crosses her mind, but it pains her to have to call things off when the two share such a cute, goofy, make-outy connection.
Leslie trying, in vain, to work up the nerve to break the news of her candidacy to Ben is the crux of the episode. Her attempt to cut things off at a fancy restaurant ends with her nervously running to the “whiz palace” (that’s not the first time she’s said that is it?) before Ben can give her a special gift—a bit of sentiment she no doubt knows she’ll love, making her break up even more impossible.
Needing help, Leslie seeks out a heavily bearded Ron Swanson (how long did it take him to grow that? A day?), who’s grabbed his emergency Tammy pack and absconded to his creepy Evil Dead-style cabin in the woods after his first wife, the much feared Tammy 1, unexpectedly showed up in his office at the end of last season. Seeing Leslie’s desperation, Ron imparts a bit of R. F'ing Swanson’s patented advice. It’s always nice to see Ron when he’s being nice in his own special way. Ron couldn’t simply tell Leslie to stop running from her fears—he involves an anecdote about how his brother once shot him in the toe with a nail gun and how he lost the toe because he opted out of going to the doctor to avoid all the paper work. But his point hit home. Hiding in the woods isn’t going to get either of them anywhere, and as painful as it is to kill her budding relationship, she’s Leslie F'ing Knope, and by hell or highwater, she is a woman who gets what she wants.
Of course, Ben beats her to the punch. Being the intuitive guy that he is, Ben had already figured out that Leslie was running for office—after all, she was giving campaign speeches in her sleep. And he expresses his heartfelt support with the gift he tried to give her earlier: a Knope 2012 button. The scene where Ben and Leslie mutually agree to split is a real winner. Ben’s charming, selfless will to step aside so Leslie can fulfill her dreams (I typed destiny here, but changed it for want of something less dramatic—still, she does seem destined to make it to office) is a pretty big indicator that this little romance is far from over. I hope not. Like I said before, Leslie is a romantic and so is Ben, and I like the way that the show is putting Leslie's two biggest ambitions in life in direct conflict with eachother. I sense a scandal is still a’brewin’.
Other than that, this week saw Tom parading around City Hall pilfering his half-baked Entertainment 720 swag, and handing out his idiotic black on black business cards. He tries to recruit Andy as an employee (doing what? Who knows), which Andy—sweet, guileless, dumb… dumb Andy—wisely opts out of, only to score a gig as Leslie’s new assistant instead. It’s pretty clear that Tom has the ambition to make his “multinational entertainment company” work; he just doesn't have the slightest idea as to what the hell he’s doing.
The rest of the episode is pretty silly—even by “Parks and Rec” standards. It’s dedicated to a scandal that erupts in city hall when sewage department head, Joe (my personal favorite ancillary character and a Sarah Lawrence graduate, apparently), sends out a mass e-mail of his dong to everyone in the city government. It’s a silly B plot compared to Leslie’s heartfelt hand wringing over Ben, but it provides for some good laughs when Anne Perkins diagnoses Joe's weirdly shaped scrotal region (the ears of the genital system) as being mumps. This prompts the rest of the ever so clueless male populace of city hall to bombard her e-mail with pictures of their junkhoping for a diagnosis. This part of the episode doesn’t really go anywhere, save for some choice dick jokes that the Parks and Rec writers have no doubt been storing up for a few seasons (“Let’s say, I’ve been watching a lot of women’s’ golf, and I’ve had some wine…”). It doesn’t really matter though, we find out that Jerry has a disturbingly large penis—which, to me, gives the whole subplot a pass.
To end things, we finally get to meet Patricia Clarkson’s ice queen Tammy 1. We get a few details here, she’s an IRS agent (which makes total sense considering Ron’s tendency towards self-destructive romance) and she’s in town to audit her mustachioed ex. That’s it so far—next week’s episode will dwell more on that bombshell. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Tammy 1’s uncanny ability to intimidate everyone into doing what she wants, even April (“Sit up straight you aren’t’ doing your breasts any favors”).
Random notes that I couldn’t squeeze into the article:
I rather desperately want to meet Ron Swanson’s brother now.
I love Leslie’s habit of randomly hanging up people’s phone calls.
Leslie keeps emergency s’more rations in her car at all times. Good idea.
Ron Swanson fishes with a shotgun.
“Do you need to get that?” “No, it’s just penises.”
Leslie Knope and I have similar taste in wine. "I'm going to be direct and honest with you. I would like a glass of red wine, and I'll take the cheapest one you have because I can't tell the difference.”