‘Parks and Recreation’ Recap: It’s Better Than Strawberry Jell-O Night


Parks and Rec HalloweenI laughed, I cried, I gasped in shock and horror (I wish I was exaggerating).Thursday’s episode of Parks and Recreation was full of more jumbled emotions than a Taylor Swift album. From the lows of a major health scare to the highs of — well, I’m going to keep you in suspense about the highs — “Halloween Surprise” hit all the right notes.

After a shaky start to Season 5, due largely in part to overly-fragmented storylines that made caricatures of the characters, I was able to welcome back the Parks I fell in love with when Andy fell in that pit all those years ago. Welcome back, guys, you’ve been missed.

It’s a Scary Nightmare Hoarder Nest

Hurrah! Ben is coming home in 10 days! And Leslie is scoping out a fancy, wood-paneled house for them to cohabitate in upon his return. Multiple assurances that the house does not have a trampoline room — to Leslie’s woe — and one LMFAO dance party later, Leslie has put down a deposit on one very wood-filled house. (Did I mention there’s a lot of wood in this house? Like, holy macaroni, is this a suburban home or an 18th century ship cabin?)

While Leslie is celebrating in Pawnee, Ben is still in DC, receiving a proposition that could change the course of his relationship with Leslie (again). Jen wants Ben to continue working for her, this time on a gubernatorial campaign in Florida. Ruh roh. I don’t think this is quite what Leslie had in mind when she submitted an application on that spit-spot trampolineless boat of a house.

Fart Attack

For now, though, Leslie remains blissfully unaware of Ben’s impending bombshell. She, clad in her Rosie the Riveter jumpsuit, is ready to get her Halloween on by watching Death Canoe 4 with her coworkers.

But just as Leslie snuggles next to her own personal member of the Fab Fierce Five (that’s Ann, clad in a team USA warm-up suit) for a terror-filled night of river-bound carnage, her phone rings. “Ring ring! This is Ben calling to make you very sad,” her phone says. Shut up, phone! Let Leslie enjoy her movie! Too late, the damage is done, and not even Donna’s very astute live-tweeted observations of the movie can take Leslie’s mind off the problem at hand. Hiding by the men’s room, waiting to scare Tom as he exits, however, might do just the trick.

Unfortunately, Jerry is the first man to exit the restroom. As Ann and Leslie jump and yell, “Boo!” Jerry gasps and goes, “Pfft.” Ann and Leslie have scared the crap — well, almost — right out of Jerry. But don’t be too quick to laugh, fine audience, Jerry is having a heart attack! While farting! He is still farting, but he is having a heart attack.

Once we arrive at the hospital and learn that Jerry is going to be just fine – excepting the hospital bills he’s now racked up — Tom points out that we just bore witness to an incredible feat of comedy. Jerry did not just have a heart attack, he had a fart attack. A fart joke has never been funnier.

All Princesses, All the Time

Over in Ron Swanson land, things are going well in the love department. Except for one itsy bitsy little detail. “Diane is a strong, confident, sharp woman,” Ron says. But, “Her children are loud.” What’s a man to do?

Go trick-or-treating, apparently. Ron is powerless when confronted with Xena Warrior Princess’ smile, just as Andy is when presented with the prospect of bags of candy. So the two set off with three pretty princesses for a night of knocking on doors and begging strangers for candy. This may be the closest Ron has ever come to socialism.

Disaster strikes while the night is still young, and Vice Principal Xena is called away from her motherly Halloween duties to tend to defecating hoodlums. “Don’t worry, Xena,” Andy says, “Ron and I will take care of your children!” (I’m paraphrasing.) And take care they do, until Ron breaks Princess No. 2’s tiara in a misguided attempt at fairness and faces a double princess meltdown, the very worst kind of meltdown.

When Princess Mommy Xena learns of Ron’s accidental ruthlessness she is not one iota amused.

(They then fight until Ron brings Xena flowers, chocolates, grout cleaner, and a saw for her kids to play with so all is forgotten.)

I Wouldn’t Sell Her to that Man

Leslie feels mighty guilty about the hospital bill she has saddled Jerry with, and when Leslie feels guilty she battles that guilty with proactivity. So she decides to throw a garage sale fundraiser in the name of Jerry’s fart attack. We learn a few important things at this garage sale. 1) Donna’s addiction to live-tweeting goes way beyond kitschy horror movies. 2) Tom might just have a head for business after all. Heck, I’d invest in Rent-a-Swag, “High end clothes rentals for teens, tweens and everything in betweens.” And 3) Leslie will stop at no end to fill her sorrow with good will.

Don’t get me wrong, Leslie doesn’t care that much about Jerry. He’s just the beneficiary of another upsetting phone call Leslie receives from Ben. Things are going just wunderbar in Florida, and Ben once again has to weigh his career against his relationship. To compensate for the stress and sadness this news brings to Leslie, she doubles her efforts in raising funds for Jerry. To kick things into high gear at the auction, Leslie puts Ann on the table. Who wants to take the most beautiful woman in the world, sexy nurse Ann, on a date… where there will be no funny business… well maybe just a little if she’s into it… which she’s not so none… except for maybe just a little…

The Part I didn’t Want to Spoil in the Opening (!!!)

Of course Ann escapes unscathed from the scary tattooed man who wanted to pay $950 to mud wrestle with her, which means we can move on to the part of the episode that made me cry. (Nope, I didn’t cry at Jerry’s fart attack. Well, maybe a little, but those were laughing tears.)

Once Jerry reminds Leslie that you can never plan out your exact future, just who you want to spend it with, Leslie takes a trip to the wood-paneled house to say good bye. If things are so up in the air with Ben’s job, she seems to decide, it’s not the best time to lease a house.

But twist ending! Dapper Ben (wearing that suit like he owns it, which I’m sure he does)has flown back from DC early and boy oh boy does he have a surprise for her. By now you must see this coming, but I was as shocked as a nun in Amsterdam to see Ben Wyatt get down on one knee and pull a jewelry box out of his pocket.

“I am deeply ridiculously in love with you, and above everything else I want to be with you forever. So Leslie Knope —” he begins, before Leslie tells him to “Wait!” Leslie’s eyes fill with tears, Ben’s eyes have a suspicious gleam that could only be caused by a hint of wetness, and I am reaching for the tissues to deal with the monsoon that has decided to migrate to my face. “I need to remember every little thing about how perfect my life is right now, at this exact moment,” says Leslie.

And perfect it is.

Oh yeah, and she said yes and they kiss and I am still crying.

Best line of the night: Sorry about your jaw, son.

Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone

[Photo Credit: NBC]


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