Congratulations to Parks and Recreation for having the overabundance of quality jokes and, less than a year after its mid-season benching, a solid, loyal enough fan base to merit a commercial tie-in book, Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America, written by “Leslie Knope.” And for having the chutzpah to base an entire episode of the actual show around it, airing, as luck would have it, the week of the book’s release. But let’s not sugarcoat this — the whole thing’s a little weird. And while it’s difficult to fault any episode that features Adam Scott saying the line, “Is she powdering her vagina?” the self-referential gambit probably sounded a lot funnier in the writers’ room, or, in the Hyperion marketing office, or maybe the show lost a bet with Community.
The bombshell, of course, is that Leslie, who proudly touts herself as being born and raised in Pawnee, only has that equation half right. A trip to the hall of records in dreaded Shelbyville Eagleton reveals that Leslie was in fact born in her snooty arch-rival burg, Blaine to Pawnee’s Duckie. The ensuing birther scandal is Parks and Rec satire at its most ham-fisted (which is really not that ham-fisted at all by general TV standards, but still), and Leslie, once she was past the denial phase, salvages her reputation and her nascent candidacy by insisting contritely that it’s not where you’re born, it’s where you’re from. A very hung-over Joan reluctantly gives Leslie’s book her seal, and everyone eats waffles.
The C-plotline is, again, centered around Ann, who might as well be called Ann C-plotline at this point. Her attempt to engage Ron and April in a brief moment of small talk is a cute enough diversion, acknowledging that Ann doesn’t have any particular connection to the rest of the parks department, or, really, the show’s overall narrative. The payoff is Ann’s gnarly medical-emergency tale, which pricks up April and Ron’s ears, only to have Ron deflate her satisfaction by calling her by the wrong name, a classic Swanson-method social stratagem. Ron’s barely perceptible facial tic of paternal pride as he watches April call him Lester is, as ever, the show’s highlight, and the kind of thing you just can’t learn in a book.