‘Parks and Recreation’ Recap: Citizen Knope

Parks and RecS4E10: No matter what went down on tonight’s Parks and Recreation it was going to be tough to top last week’s “The Trial of Leslie Knope,” an episode that featured some of the loveliest character moments and pure, laugh out loud comedy the show’s ever produced.

That said, the writers of Parks & Rec certainly didn’t miss a step with their follow up, “Citizen Knope,” a worthy successor that puts the next phase of the season (something I’ve been waiting on for week) into full motion.

“My suspension was kind of a blessing.” – Leslie

“Yeah, so was my resigning in disgrace.” – Ben

Leslie and Ben pick up where we left off last episode, both without jobs (Ben voluntarily left the Parks department, while Leslie is on probation) and both looking for something to fill their time. Already finished Christmas shopping for her Parks team members and biding her time until her campaign staff reassess the post-scandal situation, Leslie is antsy and without direction—but Ben has the perfect idea. If you can’t be a member of the government, be a member of the demanding public.

Leslie goes off and forms the Parks Committee of Pawnee (aka PCP), and like the drug, they’re “so fast acting and powerful, [they] should be illegal.” Leslie’s been impeded by forces greater than herself before, and the problem becomes what to do with her so that Amy Poehler can unleash her superpower comedic energy. The PCP division, that campaigns for meaningless issues like putting Yahtzee in the rec center, is just the ticket. Leslie hits the streets and goes wild.

“I’m gourmet fudge. But I didn’t decorate it. And don’t eat any because it costs $55 an ounce.” – Tom

We didn’t see too much of the rest of the cast this episode, with Leslie stirring up trouble around town, but they had a very important task to accomplish: whip up the greatest Christmas gift Leslie has ever received. After all, she always gets them the perfect presents—Donna gets a fluffy robe; April, a painting of her chopping the heads off the Black Eyed Peas; Ron, automatic closing doors—so the office reaches for the skies. Their solution: a gingerbread replica of the office. Even Ron, knowing only an eight-year-old girl would ever be concerned with making a gingerbread house, pitches in where he can. Andy gets his hand stuck in a jar of marshmellow fluff, but it doesn’t stop the team from working together and making the dream come true.

“Oh, treat him like you would treat another man you paid $25,000 to hunt.” – Dennis Feinstein

Meanwhile, Ben faces his own quest for work, applying his nerdy math skills in the most mundane of places. First he applies for an accounting job at an accounting firm, an occupation so boring, Ben’s crack “Well…calcu-later!” goes over like a set from Eddie Murphy Raw. His next attempt was at the office of Dennis Feinstein (played by The League‘s Jason Mantzoukas) last seen in the episode “Indianapolis.” When Ben realizes his interview was being conducted with the man he’d be replacing in the room…it dawns on him that the gig may not be a good fit either.

Lost and without direction, Ben takes advice from the freshly waxed Jean Ralphio, who asks him to consider passing on all the opportunities and pursuing something he wants to do (model trains?).

“No one wants a candidate that’s polling at last milkshake sip levels” – Leslie

There isn’t much danger running through the veins of “Citizen Knope”—that is, until Leslie’s campaign managers make a tail end appearance to tell her it’s over. They’re done. The campaign is kaput. She’s down to 1% in the polls and winning is an impossibility. Obviously, Leslie is devastated.

Leslie seeks guidance from Chris, who reassures her she’ll be fine, and gives her an early Christmas present: her work badge. The probation has been lifted early. Reinstated and back to her normal self, Leslie rejoins her co-workers, who surprise her with the gingerbread office and a second surprise. They’re going to manage her campaign! Of course they are, but I dare you not to get a little teary-eyed as every member of the Parks & Rec cast steps up to fill a role in the Leslie Knope 2012 mission. Except for Jerry. No one told Jerry.

I’ve been saying for the past few weeks that this is the real meat of the season I’ve been anticipating. The election should open doors for the cast to migrate out of the office and into the colorful town of Pawnee, where the show really shines. Get me one of those campaign pins—I’m voting Knope in 2012!