A review of tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” coming up just as soon as I have a youthful grandmother…
“Indianapolis” is the last of the six episodes produced immediately after the end of season 2(*), and in many ways it feels very similar to the season 1 finale, “Rock Show.” That’s the episode that first made me think the show was capable of living up to the talent in front of and behind the camera, that first made Leslie seem like a likable new character rather than the female Michael Scott, and that recognized that if your characters are strong enough, sometimes it’s enough to just design an episode where we get to hang out with them.
(*) Technically, “Time Capsule” was the last one produced, but that was only because it allowed the greatest opportunity to hide Amy Poehler’s pregnancy. This one was always supposed to air sixth.
As with “Rock Show,” there wasn’t a ton of story to “Indianapolis.” Leslie and Ron go to the capitol to receive an award, but the episode ends before that even happens, and is content to toggle between the fragrance launch party at the Snakehole and Leslie and Ron’s long, strange visit to Chris’ apartment.
At the time the episode was made, Rob Lowe was still a guest star whose future availability was uncertain, so this was a way to say goodbye to Chris while leaving the door open for a possible return. He’s back in Indianapolis, and he’s broken up with Ann – which is a surprise to Ann, in the amusing ongoing mortification of that character(**) – but with Ben still in town and Ann clearly still interested, I imagine the show won’t have to contort too much whenever Chris returns. (Lowe’s not in the next
next week’s episode.) I’m glad he’ll be sticking around, as he plays so well off of all the other regulars, and here they dialed back his usual cheerful intensity just a bit so that he worked well as a reactive character to Leslie, Ann and the increasingly hungry and pitiful Ron.
(**) It also provided opportunity for Leslie to then debase herself for her friend, as the show went back to one of its deepest wells and let Amy Poehler just riff on Leslie’s horrifying romantic history. “Skywriting isn’t always positive.” Oh, indeed.
Oh, Ron. At this point, Ron’s love of meat is a really easy joke, but almost always effective. Here, it worked because of the depth of Ron’s passion for Mulligan’s: the scrapbook (where every photo at every age looks identical), the gross-yet-awesome notion that he won’t clean his mustache for weeks afterwards so that occasionally a fleck of meat will fall into his mouth, and of course Ron going through the stages of grief after discovering that the place was closed. I particularly enjoyed Ron trying to be brave at the diner as he sent the waiter back for “all the bacon and eggs you have.”
The Snakehole scenes were as much about integrating Adam Scott more deeply into the ensemble as they were about Leslie wanting Ben to fit in more. I like the rapport that Ben and Tom have – because Ben’s the new designated straight man, there are shades of how Tom interacted with Brendanawicz, but there’s that added amusing nerd layer where Ben keeps nitpicking Tom’s pop culture references. It was nice to see Ben cheer Tom up after he struck out with Dennis Feinstein(***), and I am always, always, always a sucker for humor about things that smell horrible, so the running gag about the foul odor of Tommy Fresh kept me laughing, all the way through Ben’s gagging in the tag.
(***) Played by Jason Mantzoukas, who plays Rafi (aka Bro-Lo El Cunado) on “The League.” Nice touch to have “Dennis Feinstein” be a more exotic moniker in Pawnee than Dante Fiero.
And April and Andy’s contest to see who could get the most free stuff was a fun kind of first date story for those two, dealing with both Andy’s complete lack of funds, his boundless enthusiasm and April’s gift for being evil. And I was very glad that they recognized at the end that they had to give all the money to the real waiters and waitresses. Season 1 Andy might have kept the cash, but the Andy we have now is too good a guy for that, and he definitely brings out the best in April Ludgate.
All in all, a fun, easy capper to the marathon that was the production of season 2 plus season 3.1. It’s a really good group this show has developed, and sometimes you just want to dispense with plot altogether and see how everybody interacts.
What did everybody else think?