‘Parks and Recreation’ Recap: Camping

S3E8: After the Harvest Festival’s success, the Parks Department is back and ready for their next challenge. What that challenge is, though, hasn’t yet been determined. “Camping” dealt with just that. Where do they turn next? Through their quest to figure that problem out, the episode showed off Parks and Recreation’s cast in a way we haven’t seen in a while: as an ensemble. And as all things seem to in this show, it worked.

“You only get one chance to make a second impression.” -Leslie

The Harvest Festival’s success has pushed Leslie’s reputation as someone who “gets thing done” to an even greater level. This is both a blessing and a curse. She’s now responsible for not only getting things done efficiently, but getting things done efficiently and in grand, dramatic ways. Chris, who’s back in Pawnee (“literally the greatest town in the world”), has taken over as City Manager and expects another home run from Leslie. So Leslie gathers up the rest of the Parks Department for a camping trip, where they’ll spend the night together, working on an idea that’s even greater than the Harvest Festival.

“Fishing relaxes me. It’s like yoga, except I still get to kill something.” -Ron

They arrive and we immediately understand each member in the group’s feelings on camping. Ron loves it. Ben has never done it. April hates it. And Tom only does it if he can order the entire SkyMall catalog. It’s small, but it’s a great little moment for everybody in the cast to chip in a bit of humor. The entire episode is this way. Unlike previous weeks where the group was paired off in smaller groups, “Camping” embraced the group as a whole and illustrated their relationships. This isn’t to say to that one works better than the other, because the former helps the show in other ways — establishing closer, more intimate relationships, etc. — but it was just nice to see the Parks Department be the Parks Department again. And more than that, Leslie is relying on the department because the reality of the situation is that, even though she acts like she has a great idea, she hasn’t been able to come up with anything. She hit a wall — and she doesn’t know what to do about it. Unfortunately, no one else has any ideas either. On top of that, Chris shows up on his midnight run and wants to hear some ideas because he’s always more “receptive to new ideas when his heart rate is up,” but they still have nothing, so the group packs everything up and heads to a bed and breakfast — where Ron’s room comes with 12 cats.

“Walk around in circles like I am, help triangulate the phone call.” -Andy

Meanwhile, Andy — being the dashing, wonderful boyfriend that he is — has decided to make April’s camping trip amazing . He bought flowers, balloons, champagne, along with pretty much every other romantic thing you could buy. He sets it all up (even spells out “April” in rose petals) and calls April to find out where the group is. And, um, they’re miles and miles away. So far away that he can’t even find himself on the map. He makes it his quest to find April and heads out with gear and balloons strapped to his back. Eventually, he finds April at the bed and breakfast, and in typical Andy-style, lets her know by singing a song about “fighting a squirrel” outside her window.

“I have to move, right? Yeah. I’m going to leave the country. Bye everybody… Bye!” -Ann

In the Chris-Ann world, there are still a few problems. Ann’s hair is still dyed red, but now that Chris is back, the two of them talk about their relationship more. But, again, Ann misreads Chris’ friendliness as another invitation to a relationship and again, she’s wrong. I can’t say I blame her though, because Chris was very friendly with her, even more so than usual, but, alas, this is Chris we’re talking about. Who knows what goes on in that character’s head? Regardless, I really enjoy where Parks and Recreation is taking Ann as a character. Rashida Jones hasn’t been given too much opportunity to shine within the ensemble, so pushing her off the deep-end seems to be a good decision. Jones is a really funny actress if given the right material, and it’s quickly becoming apparent that the “crazy, almost slutty” approach is one that works in a comedic way for her very, very well.

“Leslie Knope is back! Ha ha! …Oh my god, my breath is so bad.” -Leslie

Leslie continues to freak out because she can’t come up with any more ideas, so Ron does the logical thing and locks her in a room full of cats so she can sleep. She does (which is 7 hours — “twice as long as I usually sleep!”), and once she wakes, she’s full of new, game-changing ideas. This was a cute moment, because Leslie wouldn’t have been able to successfully think of these ideas without Ron’s help — even though he just locked her up. It’s small, but it’s these types of charming moments that make Parks and Recreation the lovable, happy comedy that it is. The characters sometimes pick on one another, but deep down, they all truly do care for one another’s success, and they rely on one another for that success. It’s a nice contradiction to the rest of comedy that focuses so much on cynicism. It’s not to say one is better than the other, but it’s just nice to see Parks and Recreation succeed with a different formula. Plus, it makes that moment at the end when Leslie rattles off her ideas to Chris and he loves them all that more satisfying. And once again, the town of Pawnee and its fans (we, the viewers) live happily ever after — at least until next week.