‘Parks and Recreation’ Recap: Campaign Ad

Bobby NewportS4E12: First, a heartfelt congratulations to Parks and Recreation for the way it is handling Leslie’s campaign for city council. As the season progresses, the show has taken to devoting stories more regularly to Leslie’s run for public office. The pattern is beginning to take a form such that each week, we’re seeing Leslie and her crack team take on another obstacle in the process of a political race. Now, this might seem like a risky habit to adopt: watching a group of underdogs battle bad luck and inexperience in the frequently hostile environment of their small-town setting could seem like it would get repetitive. But the thing about Leslie, and her coworkers—who are just as big a liability and a stressor to her as they are an aid, often—is that they are all such unbelievably dynamic characters that there is no foreseeable end to the entertainment value in watching them all interact, in large groups and in various smaller ones, and put their chaotic spin on any number of political situations.

Last week, Leslie launched her first major political event—which was endearingly ill-fated. This time around, in the episode “Campaign Ad,” we finally meet Leslie’s opponent: Bobby Newport, played by the most likable man in the world, Paul Rudd.

“I’m here with my Persian greyhound Raclette who was given to me by my buddy, the pretender to the crown of Alsace-Lorraine.” – Bobby Newport

Parks fans are likely familiar with Sweetums—the candy empire that reigns supreme in Pawnee, Indiana. Bobby Newport happens to be the son of Rick Newport, Sweetums president. And, in sitcom tradition, the raised-rich Bobby Newport is a self-entitled man-child. But he sure is a charmer. Pawnee loves him. He’s up seventy points in the polls. So, Leslie’s chief campaign strategist, Ben, decides they need to take the offensive and create an attack ad.

What ensues might play as just a simple power struggle plotline on a different show. But it is incredibly riveting because of how much Leslie’s argument with Ben over the idea of an attack ad says about both characters. Leslie and Ben are both good people, and both intelligent people. And although they are both a bit socially awkward, egregiously dorky, and madly in love with one another, they are very different people. In short, Leslie is an idealist and Ben is a cynic.


“I’m running for office? I’m surrounded by my friends? My campaign manager and I are in love? This is exactly how I dreamed it would be when I was a kid. Except, I wasn’t seventy points behind. And my campaign manager was Mr. Belvedere.” – Leslie

Leslie is a dreamer who assumes the best in everyone and everything, and in return always offers everyone and everything the best of herself. Ben, on the other hand, expects to be disappointed—we’ve seen that since he arrived in Pawnee. He didn’t want to get close to any of his coworkers because he assumed they’d be out of his life in no time. He is a pragmatic person, to a fault. In turn, he is not so much concerned with being “nice” in the creation of Leslie’s campaign ad as he is in obtaining results. But Leslie is a dreamer—also to a fault. All she wants is to spread positivity and help everyone. So, Leslie and Ben passionately disagree on whether or not a campaign ad should go negative.

So, Ben and Leslie split into two teams and create different ads. Ben and Jerry attack Bobby Newport’s flimsy campaign and inexperience, while Leslie, Ann and Donna give hotdogs to kids and make videos of Leslie jumping and talking about things she loves. Just a side-note: the scene of Ben, Jerry and Tom each practicing their best “attack ad narration voice” is very silly, but absolute gold. In the end, the entire team decides that Ben’s ad is superior, and Leslie concedes to let him play it during halftime at Pawnee’s biggest televised event, their high school basketball game against Eagleton.


However, Leslie’s guilt gets the better of her, and she intercepts Ben at the broadcast station and literally wrestles the ad out of his hands. Honestly, for someone running for office, she sure does seem to have no problem beating up a lot of her friends in public.

If I have one complaint about the storyline, it is the sudden jump that it seems to take from this scene to the conclusive element of Leslie and Ben compromising by running an ad comprised of Leslie’s old homemade campaign videos from when she was ten matched up with Bobby Newport’s actual campaign ads, contrasting the young Leslie Knope, favorably, with present day Bobby Newport. Ben convinces Leslie that she needs to toughen up to make it in the world of politics, which is a viable lesson, even if it’s one that sweet, idealistic Leslie would rather not embrace. However, her meeting with Bobby Newport after the airing of the ad convinces her that maybe Ben was right: Bobby complains that Leslie’s ad was mean, and that, being the self-entitled do-nothing that he is, insists she just “give” him the city council position by dropping out of the race. Leslie realizes that in order to do good for her town, she must defeat Bobby Newport. And in order to do that, she might have to get a little bit tough.

“Technically, I did smash my head area in the wall area.” – Andy

“He was hanging up his gold record.” – April

“The point is, I have a gold record.” – Andy

The April and Andy storyline is one of very little consequence, but a good amount of laughs. April escorts Andy from doctor to doctor, checking up on his cavalcade of medical problems, which include a minor concussion, a broken thumb, horrible vision, possibly damaged ankle bones, among many others. It’s actually pretty hilarious, given the fact that we’ve seen Andy live an incredibly reckless and unhealthy lifestyle, to see it all come into play.


“The important thing is, the dam is never happening, and your dream has been crushed.” – Ron

“We’re very sorry.” – Chris

“I am not. Good meeting.” – Ron

Chris Traeger tries to befriend Ron Swanson. When I read this synopsis before the episode, my heart skipped a beat. That alone is comic genius. And the manifestation is no disappointment: Chris brings Ron along to fill the “bad news guy” role that Ben used to play before he quit his job; Ron enjoys rejecting proposals to spend taxpayer money and crushing peoples’ dreams so much that he is willing to put up with Chris momentarily. However, Ron is put off when Chris insists on spending time with him socially (as one might expect), and he tries to avoid him. The dynamic here is especially funny to me since Chris is technically Ron’s boss, and Ron still has no reservation in telling him how much he does not want to be around him. At the end of the episode, Chris informs Ron that he is considering him as a possible replacement for Ben—which would mean a promotion, and the opportunity to reject proposals/squash dreams on a daily basis. Of course, we all know that Ron has a secret, special place in his heart for his Parks Department coworkers, so the last shot of Ron taking in this news is an in intriguing one that promises good things to come.

What did you think of this episode, and Paul Rudd’s performance? How do you think Parks and Recreation is handling Leslie’s campaign? Would you like to see Ron move onto a new job, or admit he loves his coworkers and stay on as head of the Parks Department? Let us know in the comments section, or on Twitter (@MichaelArbeiter).