Let’s just get one thing out of the way: There’s no way Tom Haverford doesn’t get tickets to the Watch the Throne tour. It’s impossible — even after draining all of Entertainment 7Wenty’s funds, he’s seeing this show if he has to join the road crew wrangling Kanye’s pleated leather kilts. A minor quibble.
And the only one, really. It’s hard to think of an episode of Parks and Recreation that better showcases this ensemble of core and satellite characters (and character actors) and pitch-perfect writing and sweet-as-salgar tone. After last week’s ethics trial, which was mostly the Leslie Show, everyone gets a moment, not the least of whom is Ron Swanson, master craftsman, who’s finally found a material he can’t work with: graham crackers and gingerbread, which would bother him if he were an 8-year-old girl.
Leslie is suspended from work for two weeks, a relative slap on the wrist compared to Ben, who resigned in disgrace and is dipping his Topsider’d toes into the private sector for the first time. But of course she can’t really tear herself away — after Chris catches her downloading files onto a flash drive, she forms the militant little Parks Committee of Pawnee (PCP) and bombards Chris’s office with demands such as more Yahtzee games in the rec center. (Chutes and Ladders remains, as ever, polarizing.) Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. The downtime also gives her a chance to start ramping up her city council campaign, only she can’t really do that either until results of new polling show what damage has been done by the scandal. Turns out she’s polling at … one percent. Like the last sip of a milkshake at the bottom of a silver milkshakey thing, only, really, much worse. Exit William and the not-Jewish lesbian adviser.
In Leslie’s absence, her co-workers attempt the daunting task of topping Leslie’s thoughtful, personal Christmas gifts — in the case of April’s painting of her beheading the Black Eyed Peas, simply not possible — by constructing a candy replica of the office, since it contains all the things she loves, as per the word cloud comprised by all of her e-mails and personal documents (please note Downton Abbey, Daniel Craig, and Baby Koala in particular). But the topper is Marshmallow Leslie in the city council chamber — the parks department is assuming control of her campaign. Now everyone has at least two jobs save for Jerry, who didn’t know they were doing that part, and Ben, who — thanks to the wisdom of Jean-Ralphio and Kim, the lady who rips hair from his b-hole — realizes that being an accountant for an accounting firm is not the answer. Nor is Dennis Feinstein, who considers hunting a human for $25,000 the best vacation of his life.
And yet, as taut as the main ensemble is, the episode is stolen by Jason Mantzoukas as the smarmy cologne kingpin and, ultimately, Jean-Ralphio, whose closing-credits single-take tracking shot through the accounting office is as awe-inspiring a piece of comedy as this show has produced in three and a half years. Just go out the way you came in.