S4E5: After a one week break, Parks and Recreation returned with their first ever Halloween episode, a half hour that gave every character on the show a little something to do. Leslie’s journey to election day is off to a slower start than I expected, with episodes like tonight’s “Meet ‘n’ Greet” only scratching the surface of her campaign trail. But with an ensemble that’s always delivering 110%, I rarely find myself hung up on the show’s misgivings. There’s too much good, and on the Thursday before Halloween, it’s like a bag of comedy candy.
“I don’t like to throw around the word butthead very often but…I can say without hesitation that Tom is being a real dick.” – Leslie
Leslie realizes that the way to really rally the people of Pawnee is to win over the many small business owners of the town. Tom has a great idea: Throw a party and invite them all for a small chit chat. Tom also has a terrible idea: Let Entertainment 720 throw the party.
Leslie arrives at the get-together to find the event space adorned with Tom’s face. It’s evident Tom has ulterior motives and hopes to convince the most successful man in town, Mr. Kernston (of Kernston Rubber Nipples), to invest in E720. Every moment Leslie tries to get a word in, Tom interjects, forcing her to employ the dirtiest of attacks: The nipple twist. We’ve been seeing a lot of angry Leslie this season and it’s fun—she’s out of her element, being pushed to the brink by pressure, and Amy Poehler is a fully capable maniac when necessary. In the wake of disaster, Leslie continuously dunks Tom’s head in the stretch limo hot tub he rented for the party.
“Way to join the party dude, where’s your costume?” – Andy
“Honey, that is his costume. He’s going as Lame.” – April
Meanwhile, Andy and April decide to go all out and throw a debaucherous Halloween party. Everyone who is anyone is there—even the creepy kid Oren!—minus Ben, who, even being the loving couple’s roomie, never caught wind of the shindig. Whoops.
Ben explains that he comes from a long line of passive family members who never really deal with their anger, so Ben tries to get work done while the rest of the crowd guzzles beer and lives it up. Andy explains that he comes from a long line of brothers who used headlocks and punching and hugs and wrestling to deal with their problems, so that’s exactly how he helps provoke Ben into honesty.
If there’s one thing I’ve been disappointed about thus far with Season Four of Parks is the lack of real Andy. Like the other characters, he’s not a caricature, but he is a nutball who can easily slip into that mode. Not so here. He may stage a fight between him and Ben that leads to a blood capsule going off in his nose (“Gotcha!”) that’s actually a serious injury (“I think my nose is broken…”), but it’s because he cares about Ben. The stuffy government employee admits to his oaf of a friend that, yes, he should speak up and, yes, Andy using his comforter in pillow forts does bother him. Andy pats Ben on the back and makes a touching statment: “We’re brothers.” Another classic Parks “aww” moment.
“Hi there, is there a project I can help you with?” – Hardware Store Employee
“I know more than you.” – Ron
This episode served up two short, but sweet subplots that were pulled off with the writing staff’s usual care and consideration. Ron arrives to the party in his annual Halloween costume (a pirate), only to discover that April and Andy’s house is in shambles. As a man who lives to fix things, home erosion of any kind is intolerable, and he recruits Ann to help him. Ann becomes entangled and mesmerized by the DIY approach, and the two share a few tender moments as the nurse learns to use tools.
This felt especially heartwarming as the two characters, who never really interacted in the past, finally begin to share scenes in the series (the seeds being planted in Episode 3, “Born & Raised”). I like this team!
“You’re beautiful! On the inside. Where your spirit lives.” – Chris
And not to be forgotten is Jerry, who watches horrified as Chris continues to date (and publicaly hook up with) his daughter Millicent. For the amount of screentime invested in this on-going gag, you would think the writers would either pile a little bit more substance or consequence into the thread or drop it from this episode. But that’s not their style—and frankly, I can’t really complain about peppering episodes with more Chris-isms. It’s looking like their relationship could have a real effect on Jerry in a future episode, and he too is a character I’m always anxious to see nab screentime.
“I’m going to watch it everyday until I die. And then when I die, I’m going to project it on my tombstone.” – Leslie
Parks, you sly dog. Two touching moments in one episode?! Before Leslie drowns Tom to death, an admission slips out that we’ve been pretty much waiting for since Episode 1 of the season: Entertainment 720 is bankrupt. Leslie cools down long enough for Tom to admit that he was trying to rake in one investor for the company, but did in fact spend a little time compiling a video biography of Leslie to show at the party. The two head back to the office to watch the video, a montage of Leslie’s past set to Ken Burnsian-like narration by Tom.
The visual poem has Leslie in tears. Everyone’s happy and friends again. That’s why I look forward to Parks and Recreation every week.