S4E4: Last episode, Leslie Knope faced one of her political dream's deadliest foes: The town of Pawnee. Thankfully, this week Leslie gets a much-needed reprieve from the cutthroat world of government elections—although with the pressure building as Leslie nears her run for office, a one-off, as fun as it is, ends up losing the momentum of the season.
No matter. So-so Parks and Recreation is still hilarious Parks and Recreation, and joining Ron and Leslie for an outdoor club-off packed a whole can of beans worth of comedy.
"Whose club do you think is better, yours or mine? The answer is mine." - Leslie
The title of tonight's episode, "Pawnee Rangers," refers to a group led by the manly Ron Swanson. The boy scout knock-off opens to door for Ron to bestow his vast knowledge of proper life-living to the young lads of Pawnee (Rule #1: Be a Man). On the other side of the court is Leslie, who previously came to the aid of a young girl turned away from the Rangers by forming the Pawnee Goddesses. The Goddesses is a pack of Leslie carbon copies ready to win merit badges, have pillow fights and excel at arts and crafts (I want one those Gertrude beer steins!).
When the two clubs take a joint camping trip to the woods, it quickly becomes apparent that one troop is having a lot more fun than the other. Ron's worst nightmare comes true when one of his boys abandons camp, leaving behind his can of beans and tarp for Leslie's candy and puppy party. What I love about Leslie compared to some of the other comedic protagonists on television is that, even with all the absurdity, she's a real person with real flaws. When this sad little man comes knocking at the Goddesses door, she doesn't welcome him in. Instead, she feels the victory of being able to turn him away. Ruthless! Thankfully, her fellow micro-Leslie's convince her to hold an open forum to come to a real solution. Either way, you know Ron isn't happy.
"Is he eating soup on a bench alone?" - Donna
While the camping mishaps were a hoot, the real pleasure of "Pawnee Rangers" was seeing some of my favorite side characters get real time to shine. Retta's Donna is way under-appreciated in what she brings to Parks, and I was glad that her team up with Tom for their annual "Treat Yourself!" holiday gave her a handful of great moments.
"Treat Yourself!" is a day of personal TLC—and in the case of Donna and Tom, it's when the duo hits up the spa and local mall. But knowing he's been Mr. Mopey lately, the two bring Ben into the fold in hopes of teaching him to love himself (they still don't realize he was dating and as broken up with Leslie). Though acupuncture and shopping doesn't do the trick, Donna and Tom are able to get to the bottom of what really makes Ben happy: a Batman costume! The Caped Crusader saves the day again.
"Running for charity is literally...one of my favorite things on Facebook." - Chris
People love Ron, they adore Leslie, but my favorite character on Parks is Jerry. The butt of every joke, Jerry is a tortured soul but is always ready to give 110% to his friends in the department. With everyone gone on the camping trip, Jerry invites Chris out to lunch with his daughter, Millicent. Chris initially declines...until he discovers that Millicent is a smoking hot lady.
Amazingly, things go quite well with Chris and Millicent's budding relationship. Jerry even gives his bossman full permission to date his unexpectedly beautiful offspring. But this is Jerry, who always gets the short end of the stick. Chris returns from a date with Millicent with lots of intimate details for the lovable shlub, much to his chagrin. That's why we love him: Jerry's the only guy who can take that blow and still comeback with a smile (OK, half smile) on his face.
"When did kids get so interested in fun?" - Ron
This season's been full of on-the-nose life lessons that only people as sweet as the cast of Parks can deliver and this episode follows suit. Feeling bad for the double standard she pulled with Ron's abandoned Ranger and feeling even worse for outdoing him in the fun department, Leslie goes to comfort the mustachioed man's man. Ron comes to terms with his misunderstanding of "fun" and walks away the better man.
That would have been a fine ending, poignant even, but the writers take it one step further (as Leslie's known for doing). When Ron returns to the office the next week, he's greeted by a gang of kids awaiting him. They're the "Swansons," a new club dedicated to taking life by the horns. "This will not be fun," Ron says with a smile.
If this is his definition of not having fun, I wouldn't mind all Parks episodes from here on out being devoid of entertainment!