S3E2: Last week, Parks and Recreation delivered a fine season premiere. It had all the right pieces -- domineering Leslie, slacker Tom, dimwit Andy, and after all, we were introduced to the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness. But looking back on "Go Big or Go Home," I probably thought the episode was a little better than it actually was. The reason? Simply, "The Flu." The most recent installment of Parks and Rec showcased itself at its finest, giving each of its characters unforgettable moments to further prove that when it's on its game, it's is one of the finest comedies on television.
"I think my allergies are acting up. I've already vomited like five times today."
Pawnee's sick with the flu. And unfortunately for Leslie, although she doesn't believe it and calls her symptoms "allergies," that means she's sick with the flu. Now, anyone else with this type of illness would take some time off from work, but not Leslie, who is, as we all know, the definition of a workaholic. She's preparing her presentation to the Chamber of Commerce. The goal? Try and get at least 80 businesses to help with the Harvest Festival. It's a daunting task, Leslie always loves a good daunting task. Unfortunately though, she's sick as a dog with a 104.1 degree temperature, and, well, she's hallucinating. Not really the best condition to give a presentation that on which your career depends. So, after pleads from everyone in the office, she ends up in the hospital under the care of Ann.
"No, I can't go home. We have to get ready for the Chamber of Secrets."
-Leslie and Ben
But of course, her stay in the hospital doesn't last long. She escapes and ends up at the town hall with Ben, where she fights through her sickness to deliver a poignant, inspirational speech to the community's businesses. And it was brilliant.
Honestly, this episode reminded me a lot of last year's "Telethon," which had Leslie staying awake for 48 hours, all while fighting delirium and hallucinations. And frankly, I'm on board any time Leslie has to push through some type of obstacle because it always leads to a hilarious outcome (like taking a good two minutes to recite her favorite Friends episode as a way to kill time during the telethon at 3 a.m.). For example, on top of the brilliant quote above, when she showed up at the town hall and the "wall and floor had switched spots," seeing Leslie attempting to balance herself as she walked through the hall was one of the funniest bits of physical humor that the show has ever done.
"You had me at meat tornado."
Now in the B-plot, since all of Pawnee is sick, that means April's sick and Ron needs someone to fill in her assistant spot. Now, who's the logical fit? As always, the dimwitted, yet lovable Andy. Ron assigns him to his desk because he knows Andy is too stupid to figure out the phones and that means Ron can spend his time doing exactly what he loves best -- nothing. But then, something happens. Andy and Ron suddenly click. They're instantly best friends, sharing secrets on meat eating, talking Colts football, and even heading outside to toss the ol' pigskin around in the parking lot. Not only was this a great moment because Andy and Ron are both hilarious characters, and in turn, make hilarious friends. But damn, as I watched, I couldn't help wonder why hadn't I thought of this before? These guys are the perfect match. Of course they're going to both love meat. Of course they're both going to love football. One of Parks and Rec's best qualities is its capability to surprise you with things that you should expect, but don't. This was a perfect example of that. Plus? We got to hear Ron Swanson scream and giggle like a little girl.
Oh, Rob Lowe. Thank you for joining Parks and Rec. In "The Flu," you had your finest episode yet. Seeing the impeccable Chris -- who's body is "like a microchip" -- curled up in the fetal position on the hospital floor was something I very much appreciated. In fact, the whole montage of Chris' downward spiral was brilliant, and credit should be given to Lowe for his hilarious portrayal of Chris, which gets better every week.
On top of just being flat-out funny, Pawnee's town flu illustrated one of my favorite aspects of this show -- and that's Pawnee as a character. Underneath all the wackiness from each individual character, Parks and Rec is ultimately about Pawnee, or perhaps more accurately, life in small town America. You have a few people who are sick? Look out! It's an epidemic! Being from a town of 10,000 people, I can confidently say that when something like this happens, it's big news. It's not a bad thing, it's just the way small towns like this work. And I like that Parks and Rec doesn't ever make fun of the situations that Pawnee creates, instead, it just embraces them and illustrates how the people inside of this world feel.
"That was... That was Leslie Knope."
Well, the inevitable is happening. It appears that Ben and Leslie have some type of romance budding. I don't know if I'm on board with this, and I'd much rather have the writers keep the characters more of a Jack and Liz versus a Ross and Rachel. But, if they DO decide to pursue a Ben-Leslie romantic plot line, I hope it continues down a similarly charming path. Ben bringing waffles and chicken noodle soup was a bit corny, but Leslie only wanting the waffles was a clever switch and pretty cute. Oh, and speaking of cute, Andy kissing April in the hospital, only to complain about her forehead being sweaty but "still liking her," was adorable. If that were any other couple on television, that'd be a strange moment, but in Parks and Rec, it works. One of this show's greatest talents is embracing its goofiness, giving it the ability to turn a wacky scene into a charming one.
Have friends who you want to watch Parks and Rec? Well, "The Flu" is the episode to show them. From Leslie's hallucinations to the Ron and Andy guy time, it delivered exactly what Parks and Recreation is supposed to be, and would be the perfect episode to show your friends. Oh, and don't forget about Ladies' Night at the Snake Hole Lounge. I'll see you there at sunset.