‘Parks and Recreation’ – ‘The Master Plan’: Whoomp! (There it is)

I wrote in broad strokes about this season of “Parks and Recreation” and about tonight’s arrival of Adam Scott and Rob Lowe in yesterday’s post, but I have a more specific review of “The Master Plan” coming up just as soon as I count backwards from a thousand by sevens and think of warm brownies…

As I wrote yesterday, Lowe (who’ll be around for a handful of episodes at least) and Scott (who will be around full-time) fit in nicely, with the episode both playing off their respective roles on the show (Lowe as the charming pretty face, Scott as the guy who’s going to do the real work) and their screen personas (Lowe as almost pathologically charming, Scott as dry and guarded). I was particularly amused by the revelation about Ben’s minor celebrity as a teen mayor, since it so neatly parallels his character on “Party Down.”(*) For a good chunk of his career, he was typecast as d-bags. Now it appears he’s going to be typecast as guys who achieved fame much too soon and for much too silly a reason, and have spent the rest of their lives trying to live that down.

(*) And, yes, I’m sad that Scott wouldn’t be available full-time for a hypothetical third season of “Party Down,” but I blame Starz management for that – and I’m still not optimistic such a season will exist – and am therefore glad he’s found such a perfect place to jump to.

But “The Master Plan” wisely didn’t try to lean too heavily on the new guys, with a good chunk of the episode taking place at The Snake Hole for April’s 21st birthday party, featuring a drunken Ann (and Rashida Jones once again proving that she can be very funny, even if she’s not usually asked to be) and Leslie, the douche-tastic return of Jean-Ralphio (or, as Andy called him, “that Ralph Macchio guy”), Tom casting too wide a net for a hook-up, and more unfortunate but understandable crossed signals(**) between Andy and April.

(**) On that front, I’m glad that Ann only got really interested in talking to Andy after she was blitzed. While the similar beats in “Galentine’s Day” rang true – she put in all the work and didn’t get to reap the rewards – it still didn’t make Ann seem all that likable. To go there again in an episode in which we find she’s dumped Mark and been pretty blunt about why might have made the character seem too much the villain after we’ve spent a season rooting for Andy and April to hook up. Having her do it while drunk – and then hook up with Rob Lowe instead – forgives the behavior somewhat.

“Parks and Rec” has become as much a romantic comedy as a workplace one (just as “The Office” did), and so it was nice to see not only more Andy and April, but Ann potentially getting with Chris, and Leslie and Ben so obviously hitting it off once they went out for a beer, and Tom finding success with Lucy the waitress (played by “Middleman” star Natalie Morales) by putting aside his usual smarmy clowning and just being a guy.

But the work stuff was an awful lot of fun, too, particularly government-hating Ron’s growing delight at getting to watch Chris and Ben tear the Pawnee government to shreds. I never would have imagined Ron Effing Swanson could giggle, but Nick Offerman sold that, as well as the glee and concern for his image as he asked Leslie, “What’s a not-gay way to ask him to go camping with me.”

(Also good Swanson territory: him playing surrogate dad to both Leslie at her most petulant with the warm brownie advice, and then to April after he finds her clearly depressed after the party. That’s the great thing about the character: the show can tell so many jokes at his expense while never diminishing his innate awesomeness.)

What did everybody else think?