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Parks and Recreation Recap: The Schlemiel and the Schlemazel

Every workplace has a Jerry, the buffoonish common target that unites otherwise un-uniteable colleagues in the name of scorn and light cruelty. Until now, the running joke about the Jerry of the Pawnee, Indiana, Parks and Recreation department is that he actually is a perfectly nice, reasonable, personality-free fellow who has seemingly inherited the punching-bag role by default. So it is with a somewhat heavy heart that we must now report that this Jerry is, in fact, a fucking mess. Then the soon-to-be-departing Mark Brendanawicz, stick-in-the-mud office scold, drops the hammer: Maybe the years of baseless, ceaseless taunting have turned Jerry into the Jerry?

For the third year in a row, Jerry “wins” the lottery determining who must fill the parks’ hummingbird feeders with sugar water, which is hard to avoid when everyone else is putting his name into the hat. And when he’s mugged and beaten in the process, the department faces their greatest challenge yet: going a whole day without making fun of Jerry. Oh, and also finding a way to improve park safety despite the city’s budget cuts. The former proves nearly impossible as he stumbles, mispronounces “trout,” and, regrettably, splits his pants and farts during a presentation. (Note: Fart jokes usually result in an automatic yellow card, but we’ll let this one slide.)

To deal with the latter crisis, Leslie is forced to consult with park ranger Carl, an Andy Samberg–type loud-talker, played, fortuitously, by Andy Samberg. To illustrate the difficulties in improving safety, Carl gives Leslie and Jerry a tour of Ratsett Park in a raccoon-piss-covered golf cart, while Tom must jog along to keep up. (Ron Swanson does his part by teaching the gang self-defense and reminds Jerry that “there’s no shame in attacking a criminal’s beanbag.”) After Leslie tears into the government on Pawnee Today for allowing one of its own (“Diabetic. Sloppily out-of-shape. Friend.”) to get hurt, she must make amends at a press conference, which is when Jerry decides to come clean: He wasn’t mugged in the park so much as he separated his shoulder while fetching his breakfast burrito from a creek, and lied because he feared office ridicule. As Leslie illustrates with a spot-on Aziz Ansari impersonation, his fears would not have been unfounded.

Coupla things: Samberg’s character could have been irritating but somehow wasn’t, and there’s little question we haven’t seen the last of him — the perfect kicker was his feebly whispered “okay” in the face of an unprovoked cougar attack. Also, it’s great to see how the show is methodically building the community’s mythology from within, like a live-action Springfield: This episode alone sees Andy’s Fairway Frank news clipping adorning the wall of his “shoe-shouse” and the first glimpse of the Sweetums concession stand — these in-jokes and cross-references will only snowball over time. And Ron’s shout-out to “David Myers, the Jewish guy” is a sly reminder that the show does take place in Indiana, after all.

As for the episode’s true burning question, let’s weigh in: As awesome a band name as Scrotation Marks might be, I fear meaning might be lost without the visual of Andy’s helpful air-scrotes. We agree with Ann (hi, Ann!) that the band needs to pick a name and stick with it, but we’re not feeling Baby in a Straitjacket. Really, what’s wrong with Mouse Rat? The shirts are already printed, and they’re only $12.


More Recaps:
Alan Sepinwall thinks Carl might have been a bit too broad for the show’s grounded-in-reality milieu, although he didn’t use the word milieu.
Actually, the AV Club agrees.

Photo: Courtesy of NBC