Review: ‘Parks and Recreation’ – ‘Halloween Surprise’

Senior Television Writer
10.25.12 85 Comments


A review of tonight’s “Parks and Recreation” coming up just as soon as I get a chicken parm and watch “Blade Runner”…

Gary “Jerry” Gergich is a very wise man, even if his wisdom will not be appreciated in his time, by his co-workers in the parks department. After all, it’s hard to take a man seriously when, even in a potentially tragic moment like a heart attack, he keeps farting over and over and over again. (Leslie: “Oh, so much stuff is happening right now!”) It may be a natural biological response, as the doctor tells Tom, but it’s also one more reason for the staff to ignore what he says, even it’s something as on point as what he tells Leslie about the futility of planning your future and the value of having your loved ones be part of your life.

Jerry’s advice winds up applying to both of the major stories in this very sweet, very funny episode, as Leslie and Ben ponder their future now that the congressional campaign is done, while Ron has to deal with the reality that he really likes a woman with two small, mercurial, confusing daughters.

The Leslie/Ben story brings back Kathryn Hahn as Jen Barclay, and with her a new complication: Ben has proven good enough on the national stage that he’d be doing himself a disservice in going back to Pawnee, but Leslie’s life is tied to Pawnee. The show was able to get a few episodes’ worth of mileage out of Ben and April being in Washington, but having one of your leads in a different location from the other characters is problematic long-term. We’ll see if Ben takes this Florida job(*), but the marriage proposal in the episode’s beautiful climactic scene – another killer emotional moment from Amy Poehler, particularly as she’s trying to remember how perfect her life is in this moment – shows that no matter where he is, he and Leslie will be connected forever. 

(*) Note that the gubernatorial candidate who wants to hire Ben is played by Jack Scalia, who’s past his career prime (his most recent credit was “Jersey Shore Shark Attack”), but is still higher-profile than an actor the show would want for a single scene.

As for Ron and Diane, Ron Swanson plus children remains a potent combination, because they’re so far outside his area of expertise. (Loved a baffled Ron asking, “What the hell just happened?” at the end of the teaser.) Lucy Lawless makes an excellent foil for Nick Offerman, and I look forward to more Swanson misunderstandings of what little girls want. (Hint: not a saw.)

Some other thoughts:

* The “Death Canoe” subplot was a case of art imitating life tweeting about art. If you follow Retta’s Twitter feed, you know that she’s carved out a niche for herself as a funny live-tweeter of TV shows, some current, some older (she’s been working her way through “Buffy,” for instance).

* Rosie the Riveter is a very good look for Amy Poehler.

* Continuity: Ron is in the same pirate costume he wore both to Mark and Ann’s Halloween party back in season 2’s “Greg Pikitis” and April and Andy’s party in last season’s “Meet ‘N Greet.” As Ron told Andy in the latter, “This is my Halloween costume.”

* Speaking of Brendanawicz, when Ann is pointing out the boxes of stuff she bought while dating various boyfriends, she doesn’t appear to have one for Mark, which is a testament both to how unmemorable that relationship was, but also how little Ann seemed changed by it. (It doesn’t fit the Andy/Chris/Tom pattern.)

* Most of Tom’s business ideas are awful, but Rent-A-Swag seems clever, no?

What did everybody else think?

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