‘Parks and Recreation’ – ‘Lucky’: Hot tub drive machine

Senior Television Writer
03.08.12 76 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” – which was written by Nick Offerman – coming up just as soon as I go buy myself a Walkman…

“Lucky” is the last episode we’ll get until the show returns on April 19 at 9:30 p.m. to finish out the season. As I’ve said before, this is probably a net positive for the show, as they get to air their final episodes – several of them featuring the return of Paul Rudd – in a better timeslot, but the decision was made late enough in the production process that “Lucky” wasn’t in any way designed as a bridge to this brief hiatus. It’s just another episode of “Parks,” and a relatively low-key one where the action all takes place over one long, strange night in and around Pawnee.

But all I really need to hold me over through the next few weeks is the memory of a good episode, and “Lucky” was definitely that.

The main story, with Leslie getting into and out of trouble with Sean Hayes’ smug Indianapolis newsman Buddy Hayes, spent a lot of time trying to paint Ben as the more uptight half of the Knope/Wyatt partnership. And while Ben certainly gives in easily to stress, Leslie’s among the most Type-A, work-obsessed characters in television history, and if anyone should have been pushing for them to relax for a night, my money would be on him before her.

That said, Amy Poehler always plays drunk wonderfully – and did a good job here of playing a Leslie trying very hard to not seem drunk (and, for a while, succeeding) – and that story wound up being very successful on another level where it decided to show us the point rather than telling us about it. Leslie being awesome isn’t new information, but it’s still good to be reminded of it, particularly in a stretch of the campaign arc where she and Ben are stumbling a lot. Seeing her know so much about the airport employees, and be relatively on her game with Buddy even while blitzed, was welcome, and nicely set up the solution to her problem when her pals deliberately lost Buddy’s luggage. I’m not sure why Buddy wouldn’t just carry such a bag on board, particularly on a short commuter flight, but I’ll accept it because, again, it was so welcome to see Leslie’s goodness paying off for her.

That storyline also featured a quantum leap forward in the execution of the Tom/Ann relationship, which I enjoyed throughout. Where previously, we got the mutual loathing without the attraction, here we could see them enjoying each other’s company part of the time (albeit with the help of a lot of booze), including Ann pulling off Tom and Jean-Ralphio’s douchey handshake. And the gag about their frequent break-ups, and Tom trying to set a new record, was both funny and added a bit of tension to their scenes. You knew he was going to blow it at some point, but not exactly when or how, and Tom’s indignant “Don’t punish me! I took a risk!” was one of the bigger laughs I got from the episode. On paper, Tom/Ann doesn’t make sense to me, but this was the first time where it worked in practice.

Conversely, I enjoyed how Professor Linda rejected the perfect-on-paper Chris for Ron, whose macho exterior is wrapped around one of the most staunchly feminist personalities on television. I thought it was pretty clear from the moment Ron and Linda talked that they would wind up in bed together, but I enjoyed how the episode toyed with the obvious (to us, if not to April and Chris) by having Ron quietly enjoy his three steaks (while still leaving room for after-dinner omelets) in the background while Chris was doing his best to impress Linda. And Ron’s victory – complete with the return of his Tiger Woods get-up (introduced back in the first Tammy episode) – led to another fun, uncomfortable hug between Ron and the lonely, depressed Chris (which has been a great redirection for Rob Lowe).

(One other note on that subplot: Chris Pratt had to shave to reshoot some scenes in a movie he did, which created the impression that Andy cleaned himself up for the oral exam. I’m used to Pratt in general this way, but I’ve grown accustomed to Andy’s scruff. If he keeps shaving, this may take some adjustment.)

And we got another “Parks” first, I think, as Jerry and Donna got their own subplot that didn’t really involve the other, more prominent regulars. Jerry robotically, enthusiastically stuffing envelopes (“I like it. Makes sense to me.”) was a good running gag, and fits what we know about poor Gary, but what really made it work was how fascinated Donna was by it, to the point of blowing off a bath date just so she could watch him go and go. Jerry stuffing envelopes in a vacuum? Funny. But Jerry doing it while Donna watches like it’s the most amazing thing she’s ever seen? Damn funny.

So if “Lucky” didn’t close with some kind of cliffhanger to tease the season’s final episodes, it distributed the wealth evenly among the cast, was emotional in some moments and broadly comic in others, and felt like a good summary of many of the things “Parks” does well. I’ll take that. This is the first script Offerman’s written in more than a decade; based on this one, I’d like to see another next season.

What did everybody else think?

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