‘Parks and Recreation’ Recap: Soulmates

Tom and Leslie Sitting in a tree, Parks and RecreationS3E10: Parks and Recreation feels good, you know? It’s hard to explain why (although I may try), but I get so happy watching — and last night’s “Soulmates” was no exception. Somehow, the writers have managed to make every single character not only funny, but likable funny. What I mean is that there may be certain traits about each person that we don’t like or, at times, feel are pretty obnoxious, but the writers have been smart enough to provide enough depth for each so that — even though it’s just a half an hour sitcom with the simple goal of making us laugh — we can see there’s something more to these characters. For example, Tom may be ridiculous and make a different dating profile for every letter in the alphabet, but earlier in the series, we saw how torn up he was about Wendy, so we know there’s something more to him than just hand lotions and two-button suits. Don’t get me wrong, providing depth to characters is rule number one when it comes to story telling, but so often in the half-hour television sitcom world, the idea of depth is abandoned for funny gags and attempts for humor. And, sure, that works. But what pushes Parks and Recreation to a different level of comedy is that because it invests in its characters and really allows the audience time to get to know them, the payoff of their absurd actions is that much better. In a way, the characters almost become like a group of friends you really like to hang out — friends who are really motherfucking funny.

“What do I get if I win?” -Chris

“The rarest jewel of all: victory over me, Ron Swanson.” -Ron

There’s a few different story lines happening this week, but first, let’s talk about the Ron versus Chris cook-off. Pawnee is the fourth fattest city in the country (soon to be third: they’re “coming after you San Antonio!”), and so Chris (being the health nut he is) wants to do something about it (other than running backwards uphills behind Wal-Mart). One of the first steps is eliminating red meat from the cafeteria — and when one of your top employees is Ron Swanson, a man who loves breakfast so much that he hangs a picture of bacon and eggs in his office, you’re going to (no pun intended) meet some resistance. Chris challenges Ron to a cook-off, saying that he can cook a turkey burger that tastes better than any red meat burger, and of course, Ron accepts. (As a sidenote: Parks and Recreation is also awesome at taking incredibly boring stories and making them hilarious. Seriously. A cook-off? Yawn. But with the characters of this show? Awesome.)

“You’re great. And you have great ideas. And. Ummmmmmmmmmmmm. Bye.” -Ben

Meanwhile, Leslie straight up asks Ben out to dinner and he says no — but in a very, very awkward way (even awkward for Ben standards). Leslie’s disappointed, and she reaches out to Ann who, with her multiple boyfriends, probably isn’t in the best state of mind to give relationship advice. Instead of thinking about the situation a little bit, Ann automatically assumes that Ben is a jerk and missed his chance. She encourages Leslie to try out the online dating world and signs her up for “HoosierDate.com.” They enter all of her details, and search for a mate, coming up with a 98% match with probably the worst person in the world for Leslie: Tom Haverford. And of course, Leslie being the kind of airhead that she is, decides to give it an honest try (despite every bone in her body telling her that it’s a terrible, terrible idea).

“Root beer is super water.” -Tom

Leslie invites Tom out to lunch, who only agrees to go if he can get “apps and ‘serts” (appetizers and desserts). They spend a few moments together and Leslie tries some first date conversations (if you had three wishes, how interested are you in my interests, etc.) but without much success. It’s painfully obvious that Tom is a horrible match, and after awkward conversation, Leslie fesses up to why she wanted to go out to lunch. Of course, with Tom being Tom, he makes a huge deal about it, immediately calling her “boo” and wanting to hold her hands (all in the matter of about two hours). Tom refuses to drop it, so Leslie pulls him out into the hall and kisses him, just to shut up him. It works, but unfortunately Chris sees it happen and, because government employees dating is such a major “bugaboo” of his, he is forced to suspend Leslie. But it’s not all bad, she learns that Ben actually said no to her request for dinner because of Chris’ policy.

“This is a hamburger. It’s made of meat.” -Ron

Back to the cook-off, and Ron and Chris (along with Andy and April) have made trips to Grains And Simple for Chris’ turkey burger, and to Food and Stuff for Ron (also, his favorite place because it’s where he gets “all of his food, and most of his stuff.”). They head back and have the cook-off! And although Chris presents a gorgeous turkey burger that Tom says “tastes like Beyoncé smells” (he hopes!), as soon as everybody sinks their teeth into the hamburger made of meat, it’s all over. Ron wins. Even Chris admits it. The reasoning? Well, because as Ron says, turkey will never beat cow.

Oh, and one last thing, because Aziz Ansari was on fire last night, here’s a bunch of hilarious stray Tom quotes:

“Forever young, I wanna be, forever young!”

“I call sandwiches sammies, sandoozles, or Adam Sandlers.”

“I call noodles long-ass rice.”

“Chicken parm is chicky chicky parm parm.”

“I call eggs pre-birds or future birds.”

“Let’s get in my go-go mobile.”

“His favorite movie is books!”