S4E1: Tonight's premiere of Parks and Recreation kicked off with a reminder that the show's unlike any other sitcom on TV. Whereas most comedies can jump straight into a new batch of crazy situations and antics, Parks has a story to continue. While the episode gave us a quicky "Previously On..." recap of the Season Three finale's events (which you can get your own refresher course on here ), "I'm Leslie Knope" wasted no time jumping from the end of "Li'l Sebastian" to its own set of hijinks.
"I've accrued 128 personal days and I'm using them all now." - Ron
This week's cold open saw Ann comforting a still-anxious Leslie as she figures out a way to run for office and secretly date her boss Ben. Unfortunately, they both come to the same realization: It's impossible.
Before she can turn to him for advice, Leslie encounters Ron, still in panic mode after his ex-wife ("Tammy 2?" "No, Tammy 1") made a surprise appearance at the office. Racing down the halls, Ron gives Leslie a little heads up that he'll be taking some personal time to escape the clutches of his former flame. And that's there's ground beef in his desk that she should probably throw out.
Even when Ron's moving at the speed of light, he's still Ron. When it comes to a Parks and Recreation premiere, knowing all you friends (I mean...characters) are still familiar makes for a great start.
"That's a baller move—and I mean that literally" - Tom
The tail end of Season Three saw Tom Haverford teaming up with the fast-talking, always-rhyming Jean-Ralphio on a new enterprise: the media conglomerate Entertainment 720. But would Tom really leave forever? Inexplicably (and thankfully), Tom stops by at the beginning of the episode to remind his former co-workers he's got a new gig.
At the same time, Leslie discovers that the her countdown clock to break things off with Ben just got a little bit shorter—she's to start her campaign in three weeks. This sends the generally calm and assured bureaucrat into a tizzy, which (in true Parks fashion) is quickly derailed by another concern: someone's e-mailed all the women in the Pawnee government system a picture of their penis. Thank God Tom was around to drop all the terrible puns.
When Chris (whose grown quite the set of hair since we last saw him) gets word of the stunt, he moves into action, alerting the team and comforting them with usual poetic wisdom:
"If I could go back in time and cut your eyeballs out, I would." - Chris
When things die down and the hunt for the sexual organ e-mailer begins, Tom pulls the bumbling Andy aside from his shoe shining duties to make him an offer. Tom wants Andy to work at Entertainment 720. In Parks history, we've learned that Andy is the nicest guy in the world, ready for anything and capable of little to nothing. So, of course, this is the biggest decision of his life. If actor Chris Pratt was hired for any particular reason, I'm pretty sure it's for the face he makes when he's confused and frightened. Comedy gold.
When Anne finally gets a look at the infamous penis picture she realizes there's something terribly wrong with the balls and immediately alerts Chris. Chris notes that he too has problems with balls, saying that he always considered testicles to be "the ears of the genital system." Rob Lowe may come out as the victor of quotes this episode. Anne shrugs the odd comment off, telling Chris that the penis appears to have the mumps. Rut roh.
Elsewhere, Leslie puts her own problems aside to play damage control, making an appearance on Pawnee's favorite day time talk show host Perd Hapley's live coverage of the scandal. Naturally, Leslie slides in a little pre-campagin banter into her statement. This thrills her backers. This terrifies Leslie. The ticking clock counts down even further: her party wants Leslie to announce her candidacy in a few days time.
"Look what I have...I got you an L-shaped eclair!" - Ben
Why can't all shows be as nice as Parks and Recreation ? Leslie's biggest problem is finding a way to break up with Ben so there secret relationship doesn't blow up in her face. But she can't, because he's too damn nice . "He bought me an eclair!"
With a little digging, Ben and Chris soon discover the penis picture was sent by one of my favorite recurring characters, Sewage Joe, Pawnee's chauvinistic waste management man. Now we know Joe's e-mail address: email@example.com. Sarah Lawrence?
When word gets out that Anne diagnosed the mysterious penis picture for mumps, her e-mail box becomes a dumping ground for wiener photos, with every male government official looking for medical answers. Chris astutely assess the situation: ""Your inbox is LITERALLY...filled with penises."
Later, Leslie attempts to break-up with Ben over a nice meal and a few glasses of wine. When Ben reveals he's bought her a gift, Leslie loses her cool and bolts for the door. Where does she go? Where else—the middle of nowhere a.k.a. Ron Swanson's cabin. It's only been a few days since we've seen Ron depart from the office, but he's already grown a full mountain man beard. All too appropriate for the lover of bacon, whiskey and rifles.
"I'd really like to shoot a gun right now" - Leslie
"Fishing it is" - Ron
Back in the office, Tom is still hanging out pimping Entertainment 720, complete with Haverford-branded shwag like Rubix cubes with Tom's face on them, fireplace bellows and sound effect key chains. I have a feeling Tom's time at Entertainment 720 may not be lasting too long.
To put an end to the penis picture sending, Chris calls an impromptu meeting to explain to the city officials that Anne will not be analyzing their dong shots for mumps. I love every member of the Parks cast, but the pinnacle of the show is the forum scenes, when all of Pawnee's wackiest come out to play. "Let's say I was watching a lot of women's golf and I've had some wine..." Priceless.
Ron's defining quality is that he hates everyone on the planet and just wants to live his life in peace. That attitude makes Ron the best advice-giver on the show, as he as to buckle up against everything he loathes to help his real friends. We get another tender moment in this episode, when Ron reveals how he lost one of his toes in a nail gun fight with his brother. Ron explains that if he had gone straight to the hospital the day he lost his toe, maybe the doctor could have done something. Maybe they shouldn't be running away from their problems.
"You only have nine toes?" - Leslie
"I have the toes I have." - Ron
April didn't have too much to do this episode with Ron gone, but she flies in at the nick of time for her husband to help him sort out Tom's offer. Andy wants to be a rockstar, but he knows it might not be possible...at least for three or four more years. But April, in an unsually sweet turn, sets a mandate: "One year from now, Andy Dwyer won't be a shoe shinist." I'm glad to see April evolving as a character—Aubrey Plaza can do more than mope and this season, she's already proving it.
Tom and Leslie return to the office to find everyone in the main hub. It's time for action. Tom announces that Leslie will be running for office and she'll need a new assistant. Enter: Andy, who is thrilled to have an exciting new job (although I'll miss his shoe shining cubby hole, complete with Mouse Rat CD display). After business is taken care of, Tom returns to his office. April wonders if she should find Tammy 1, but Tom already knows—she'll find him. "She has the tracking ability and the body odor of a blood hound."
Now, it's Leslie's turn. Sitting Ben down for the big talk, Ben makes the first move, handing (and opening for her) the box he originally gave her as a present. Inside is a "Knope 2012." Yup, as if their relationship couldn't get any more adorable/sweet/awwwwww-worthy.
The episode ends with Leslie's announcement (which she's apparently been giving in her sleep all week): "I am Leslie Knope, and I am running for city council."
"Hello Tammy" - Ron
"Ronald" - Tammy 1
"That's enough small talk" - Ron
Sometimes end credit bumpers are just a cap on a fantastic reoccurring gag. Sometimes, they're the beginnings of a whole new arc.
The premiere bumper introduces us to actress Patricia Clarkson's Tammy 1, who arrives in Tom's office to deliver him an IRS audit. Everything Tammy 1 does and says is intimidating—even to Ron. "Why is your mustache trembling?"
I can already tell it's going to be a wicked fun season.