S3E7: Some of Parks and Recreation’s best episodes are when it illustrates the dynamics in Pawnee and what goes on outside of the Parks Department. “Harvest Festival” did just that. In it, we saw the media of Pawnee taking something of Leslie’s and spinning it out of control and forcing her to do everything she can to put the non-existent fire out.
“Ladies and gentleman, Lil’ Sebastian!” -Leslie
After weeks of build-up, the Harvest Festival has finally arrived. Leslie knows that the future of the Parks Department depends on this one event so, of course, she’s not holding anything back. In fact, she’s brought in a guaranteed-to-be-successful attraction: Indiana’s favorite tiny horse (who has an honorary degree from Notre Dame) named Lil’ Sebastian. And Leslie isn’t the only who’s excited — the entire team is ecstatic.
“There are two things I know about white people: They love Matchbox 20, and they’re terrified of curses.” -Ken
But before they get all the festivities going, there’s one final piece that needs to be worked out. Ken, the leader of the local Native American tribe, wants Leslie to move the Harvest Festival because it’s taking place on the site of a Pawnee atrocity of the past. Leslie points out that it’s pretty difficult to avoid atrocities of Pawnee’s past, because nearly every place you go in the town was the spot of some terrible event that happened once upon a time — but that’s not enough for Ken. Until his demands are met, he puts an ancient “curse” on the Harvest Festival (which he even admits is a sham).
“Ferris wheel: beautiful, but deadly?” -Joan
After the festival is cursed, Pawnee’s media — who are always hungry for a scoop — shows up, looking for potential faults in all of the festivals happenings. Leslie takes Joan throughout the event and just as they finish up without any problems, Tom comes running with terrible news. They lost Lil’ Sebastian. Just like that, the entire Harvest Festival begins to fall apart. The tiny horse is gone. The media finds out about the curse, and just as Leslie begins to hold a press conference to attempt to convince everyone that it’s going to be okay, the power goes out. She can’t win.
Now, as I stated earlier, this is what Parks and Rec does best. In the show’s three seasons, Pawnee has developed into a character itself, slowly revealing the different sides of its personality — whether that’s the radio show, Ira and the Douche, from a few weeks ago or this week’s Lil’ Sebastian. It has quickly revealed itself as a place, much like Springfield in The Simpsons, where pretty much anything can happen. To see the way the town’s residents react to the different parts of Pawnee is, well, just hilarious. As someone who grew up in a town of 10,000 people in western Iowa, I can safely say that Parks and Rec is quickly becoming an accurate illustration of small-town America and how it’s so easy for people to get caught up in mob mentality, often making big deals about nothing. For example, within hours of finding out about “the curse,” the entire town’s media is out, viciously attacking Leslie.
“It’s been really awesome looking at you.” -Beefy Guy
Meanwhile, Ann didn’t take the break-up with Chris (who was unfortunately, literally, missing from this episode) too well and she’s spinning out of control. With Donna’s encouragement, she makes out with some dude with nice abs in the first aid tent while the power is out. This is an interesting development for Ann, who hasn’t really had much to her character since the beginning of the series. She’s just always kind of been there, but we’re quickly seeing that this break-up with Chris could really affect her. Perhaps over the next few episodes, we might see the slutty side of Ann? Now that would be funny.
“Took us four hours to solve that maze. Took the horse 15 minutes. Heh. Jerry’s still out there.” -Ron
Anyway, in the end, everything comes together. They find Lil’ Sebastian (to Ron’s glee, no doubt). Leslie works things out with Ken. The power comes back. And the Harvest Festival just works out. At first, I had a bit of an issue with how everything just seemed to be fine in the end, but really, I thought it played well into the world of Parks and Rec and the small-town life that it illustrates. Sure, within a few hours, the town’s residents can want Leslie’s head on a stick, but then within another few hours after a few changes, they can be celebrating her existence. It’s strange, but that’s just the way things are — in Pawnee, at least. And you know what? That’s okay. It really is.