Leslie is gearing up for her first big City Council meeting and she’s as excited as a young lass with new shoes and an apple for the teacher on the first day of school. The first item on the agenda? A tax to minimize the appeal of massive sodas served by the trough at Paunch Burger, Big and Wide, and Colonel Plumps (sound familiar, New Yorkers?). Beautiful Anne is of course on hand to help Leslie with her health research and moral support. Meanwhile, Andy enlists Tom and Chris to help him train for the Police Department physical exam and, in Washington, Ben is struggling to appease his entitled interns. We’ve got a full plate, folks, let’s get to it!
We start the episode in the Nation’s Capital, as Ben and April open care packages sent from their lovers back home. Leslie has sent Ben 12 boxes filled with her favorite things. Andy has sent April a box full of his laundry complete with an SOS photo of himself wearing underwear that he’s fashioned from a bandana. “That’s horrifying,” gasps Ben. “I love him so much,” says April. I love him too, April, I love him, too.
In the season premiere we were treated to the glamor and luxury — this is politics, so I’m using these terms loosely — of Ben’s new life in Washington, but in episode two we see none of the cocktail parties or elbow rubbing with members of Congress. Instead we see an office full of interns and Ben with a short fuse. While I sympathize with Ben’s hatred of superfluous font changes (and April’s proclamation of, “There’s no place for Papyrus in a professional setting” might as well be my mantra), our uptight Batman wannabe really needs to learn how to loosen up a bit — lest he be treated to more stick up the a** sketches.
Let’s give Ben a little bit of time to figure things out and turn our attention back to Pawnee, where a “child size” soda is “roughly the size of a two-year-old child, if that child were liquified.” Chris Traeger isn’t the only Pawneean with a penchant for literalism. Before Leslie can push her soda tax forward, she must meet with Kathryn Pinewood, Paunch Burger’s syrupy sweet customer liaison. The customer’s wallets, however, not their waistlines, are her priority. By the end of their meeting, Leslie is convinced that her proposed bill is just what the town needs to kickstart their healthier lifestyles; that is, until Kathryn drops her not-so-sugary bomb. She has already prepared a press release announcing that Leslie’s bill will cause over 100 layoffs. Womp womp. Leslie doesn’t like the sound of that one bit.
And that brings us to Andy Dwyer: police officer candidate in training. To join the Pawnee Police Department, Andy tells us, he must run two miles in under 25 miles, a feat that is simply not humanly possible. Luckily for Andy, he’s got the healthiest man in the world in his corner. Oh yeah, and Tom, too. The three boys head out to the field to get to work. Andy takes 29 minutes to run two miles and responds by taking off his clothes and lying on the track. “I’m never gong to be a cop,” he says. “I have to be a robber.” This is the most accurate depiction of how running long-distance (yes, two miles is long distance) feels I’ve ever seen on television. Get Andy a pick me up from Tom’s Mad Men mini-bar immediately.
During Andy’s training — which was perhaps a missed opportunity for an “Eye of the Tiger” clip montage — we bear witness to something surprising, sad, and a little scary. After realizing that Andy is motivated by his love for April and hope for a family, Chris has a bit of a panic attack. He was spurred to get into shape by a rare blood disorder as a child, he reveals, but now he’s going to die alone (or so he thinks, there’s no way a man that attractive will die alone). Pretty heavy stuff for Parks and Rec, right? As Chris collapses on the track I briefly wonder if I’ve accidentally switched over to ABC where Grey’s Anatomy was airing its premiere. (I’m kidding, no one is saying “seriously” over here on NBC.)
As Andy carries Chris to the hospital for an evaluation, Leslie arrives at her first ever City Council meeting. “You look weird,” says Anne. And it’s true. Due to a Paunch Burger child sized soda-fueled all nighter, Leslie looks a bit like she’s been replaced by a hyperactive Chihuahua, shivering from anxiety and malnutrition. It’s the moment of truth, Leslie must vote for her own bill. Instead, we are greeted with what, by my calculation, is Parks‘s first vomit shot. Meeting is recessed.
In DC (man this back and forth is exhausting), Ben is trying hard to relate to his interns, whom he realizes are all seriously connected. Ben’s approach to approachability takes the form of pizza parties and ultimate frisbee in the park. Oh, also, the other interns think that April is Ben’s daughter. Oh, and she’s the one who drew the offending sketch. Oh yeah, and she is too smart to care so little (so says Ben). So Ben gives April a lecture, she agrees to put in 15% effort, and Ben goes back to acting like a stiff stodgy sot.
Following her vomitous meltdown, Leslie goes to our favorite mustachioed curmudgeon for advice. Ron reveals that he tried to fire Leslie. Four times! Because she was annoying! Leslie is shocked, offended, and yet spurred to succeed. Score another successful motivational/teachable moment for Ron Swanson. When did he become such an overt mentor? Of course, Ron’s speech was enough to remind Leslie that she believes more strongly in expensive sodas than she does in hypothetical layoffs.
Lastly, Tom shows Chris that he could benefit from the help of a therapist. Now, who could that be?
Best line of the night: “We should tax all bad things, like racism, and women’s vaginas.” — Random Old Dude at Public Forum
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[Photo Credit: NBC]