S4E12: Last night's Parks and Recreation felt odd; not necessarily bad odd or good odd, but just odd. Like a few past episodes (I'm thinking of both "Ron and Tammy" excursions, "Sweetums," and maybe "94 Meetings"), "Eagleton" channeled its wacky side, portraying itself in almost a cartoonish, Simpsons-like manner. The episode didn't concern itself with much outside of that. It wasn't worried about ongoing story lines (like Ben and Leslie) or other character growth (Ann sluttin' herself around). The goal was, simply, to make us laugh as hard as possible. These types of episodes are fun because they allow each character some space to really get wild, you know? And that's Parks and Recreation's strongest trait -- the characters -- so, any opportunity to show us the extremes of a Ron Swanson, a Tom Haverford, or a Leslie Knope without having to worry about what it means in the long run is a welcome change of pace and an enjoyable experience. Now if they were to take this approach every week, it wouldn't be nearly as effective or funny because the show would turn into a cartoon; but because the writers sprinkle these types of episodes in only a couple of times a season, whenever they happen, they work. Simple as that.
"It has a lot of heart." -Leslie
"That's what people always say when something sucks." -April
This episode, those, as Donna says, "stuck-up rich people even for rich people" in their sister town, Eagleton, built a fence in the middle of a park that the two towns share, separating their nice, green half from Pawnee's run-down, brown side where kids go to break fluorescent light bulbs; but regardless, Leslie is still upset. She calls up Eagleton parks department employee Lindsay Carlisle Shea (played by guest star Parker Posey) to sort out the problem. It turns out, Lindsay is Leslie's former best friend. She used to be a Pawneean six years ago (and 80 pounds heavier), but since, took a job in Eagleton (which we find out later was originally offered to Leslie), lost some weight, and adopted a faux-accent and their stuck-up, holier-than-thou attitude. In other words, she's a huge bitch who couldn't care less about how the fence affects Pawnee or its children.
Posey was terrific as Lindsay. It would be very easy for a character like Lindsay to be played as one-dimensional and, therefore, flat; but Posey avoided that. Even though her character held her nose above the rest of the town, she played Lindsay so over-the-top that it was obvious that it wasn't the real Lindsay. Her emphasis on the "stables" or asking Leslie if she needed "a mirror or a self-help book" were condescending things to say, of course, but those words and actions (among others) were so fake and unrealistic that they lacked any genuineness. She didn't really feel that way. She just was trying to fit into that Eagleton stereotype.
"Birthdays were invented by Hallmark to sell cards." -Ron
Meanwhile, it's Ron's birthday. And of course, Ron Swanson hates birthdays. Why would he like them? He hates "people making a fuss," especially about a piece of "private information." Unfortunately for Ron, though, Leslie finally found out his birthday and tells him that she's going to throw him a major surprise. This storyline started out small, but as it slowly developed beneath the rest of the episode, it got funnier and funnier. With each new scene -- whether it was April ordering a bunch of blow-up saxophones on the phone (sidetone: speaking of saxophones, where's Duke Silver this season? I hope he shows up soon) or Ann carrying in balloons for a sick child that Ron pops out of fear they are for him -- Ron just got more and more and more paranoid. So much so that, near the end, he's sleeping in the office out of fear that if he leaves, there will be some sort of surprise, somewhere, waiting for him. Hell, he even goes to Chris to try and get Leslie "sent away" to a "conference or something," but it turns sour for him. After he reveals that it's his birthday, Chris kisses him. And, well, I think it's safe to say Ron Swanson isn't a fan of being kissed by men.
It's all worth it in the end, though, as Leslie delivers the surprise: in the conference room, steak on the table (and bacon, too), whiskey, The Dirty Dozen on the TV and a cab waiting to take him home whenever he's ready. A perfect Ron Swanson birthday party.
"GARBAGE FIGHT!" -Andy
Leslie, Tom and Ben head over to Eagelton to make some noise in their town hall meeting about the fence, but are unsuccessful. I must say, the scenes in Eagleton were all pretty brilliant and it's the specific details that made them work so well: the air smells like vanilla because of the cupcake factory, they have valet parking and a crepe station, and to top it all off, gift bags each containing scented candles and an iPod touch. Magnificent. But the park situation is still not fixed when they leave, so Leslie wants to do the obviously logical thing: dump trash all over their side. Before she can, though, Lindsay shows up and the two get into a fight and Leslie "shoves a coffee filter down her pants." Cops show up (Eagleton police ride Segways, by the way), and the two women get thrown in jail (another nice detail about Eagleton: their jail walls are pink and they serve maple walnut scones, herbal tea, and Greek yogurt). Following her night in the big house, Leslie has the revelation to use the fence for Little League, and boom, just like that, Leslie Knope has fixed everything once again.
"Eagleton" was a funny episode that, as I stated earlier, emphasized the outlandish characteristics of each character. Tom, even though he's supposed to hate Eagleton, can't resist giving Lindsay his resume as he insults her. Leslie's not afraid to tackle another woman into a big pile of trash. And Ron's kept up all night at the thought of people celebrating his birthday. Seriously, his birthday. It's comedy that only Parks and Recreation can do, and "Eagleton" was just another fine episode in one of television's best shows.