Admit it: You miss the figure skating a little bit. Still, it’s nice to have our stories back, even if it was just a two-week break. Increasingly, the most surefire gags in any Parks and Rec episode are the ones that exist solely to humiliate agreeable, nondescript office punching bag Jerry. The jokes are so telegraphed and blunt and one-note and throwaway, you almost feel bad laughing at them. But humiliating people is funny. And humiliating people who by any standard seem undeserving of humiliation is even funnier. Sorry, we didn’t invent human nature, we just recap sitcom episodes that cleverly reflect its idiosyncracies.
Tonight, Leslie is Jerry. (Jerry, of course, is also Jerry, getting snapped at by April for getting soup on the mail and being put in mortal danger by Tom’s Snakehole investors presentation.) Despite being a dues-paying member of the Indiana Organization of Women since she was nine, she’s passed over for the prestigious, coveted Woman of the Year award in favor of Ron. Who’s getting credit for a project Leslie spearheaded. A straight-shooting man’s man like Ron Fuckin’ Swanson couldn’t have less use for hollow, meaningless awards like the Dorothy Everytime Smurf Girl Trophy for Female Stuff, or, really, for feminism; the opportunity to torture Leslie, however, is like the Super Bowl and the first day of pheasant-hunting season combined. He kids because he loves, of course, yet again. But it’s torture alright, even if he’s doing it with a wink and a nod and a self-commissioned photo of himself clutching a saucepan.
Welcome back, Jean-Ralphio. There was no chance you were gonna get the gig as Ron’s assistant, but we must have known we hadn’t seen the last of you. (Full disclosure: We’ve never actually been to suburban Indiana. But the mere notion that a fast-talking I-banker douche like this guy would live there seems one of the show’s forgivable and funnier contrivances.) J-R is only on screen for a minute, as Tom tries to coax money from him and Donna so he can realize his bottle-service dreams, but his whirlwind of smarm and daggering references (remember this?) is enough to yield perhaps Donna’s best line yet: “I hate this guy.”
When they build the Parks and Recreation time capsule, this episode may not make the cut. Compared to some of the season’s highs, it does feel like a bit of a place-holder — the Andy and April situation is mostly spinning its wheels, if amusingly so (“You’re like an angel with no wings.” “So, like, a person.”). And the writers couldn’t think of an excuse to have an ostensibly busy R.N. sit around City Hall all day. But once again, the show finds new ways to take aim at bureaucracy and glad-handing without ever feeling like the sly satire it secretly is.