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Parks and Recreation Recap: Going Negative

Well, someone had to run against Leslie Knope in her bid for City Council, and tonight, we meet that someone: Bobby Newport, son of the man who runs the local candy factory; a guy who feels like he’s made of candy himself. Played pitch-perfectly by Paul Rudd, Newport is like a friendly dog crossed with Will Ferrell’s version of George W. Bush — good-natured, rich, kinda dumb, and entitled as hell.

At an event where Bobby Newport is giving out “Bobby bars” and greeting the public with all the dumb enthusiasm available, Leslie goes to meet her opponent and finds that he doesn’t even realize anyone’s running against him. (Rudd’s double take to his bodyguard, who never even acknowledges him, is genius.) How will Leslie compete against a guy so clueless? Ben’s idea, and his first real act as campaign manager, is to suggest running an attack ad. Leslie doesn’t seem pleased.

Now it’s time to check in with Andy and April, who are rudely asking Nurse Ann for help. Andy hit his head while sneezing and is now having a host of physical problems that may or may not be related to the head injury. Ann reminds them that they have insurance and then reminds us of an interesting factoid, which is that she and Andy used to live together. These characters have evolved so much over the course of the show that now you cannot possibly imagine them ever being romantically involved.

Since someone still needs to be working at the Parks Department, Chris asks Ron to function as George Clooney in Up in the Air, and has him yank the funding from a Public Works employee’s programs. Ron does it with relish. Chris then asks Ron to lunch, and when the camera cuts from Chris laughing at Ron’s refusal to the two of them at a restaurant about to order, Ron seems befuddled at how they even got there. Ron wards off Chris’s friendship advances (“I think he wants to hang on with me”) by trying to pawn him off on another state employee, but Chris reveals that he’s being social because he’s thinking of asking Ron to replace Ben as the assistant city manager. Hmmmmm ...

Leslie tries to put it on the rest of her staff, but eventually has to come clean to Ben that she hates the idea of a negative campaign ad. They decide to break into two teams — Ben, Jerry, and Tom versus Leslie, Ann, and Tom (Tom likes to bet on all the horses) — to see if a negative or positive ad turns out better. Leslie’s ad is so positive that it just lists a ton of things she is “pro.” (My favorites: Better Better Business Bureau; Start talking to Cuba again; Reopen the toucan exhibit at the Pawnee Zoo; and Find Gabe the Toucan.) After a hilarious sequence where Tom, Ben, and Jerry try to see who has the best “negative campaign ad” voice, we see the results of their labor, which is a good ad attacking Newport for being a spoiled rich kid. They decide to run Ben’s ad, but at the last minute, Leslie literally tackles Ben at the TV station and no ads run.

And then, hooray, a doctor montage ... of sorts! Andy describes his litany of complaints to the doctor — "I ate a Twix with the wrapper still on and the wrapper never came out” — who refers them to a bunch of specialists. (Disgusting broken thumb makeup, by the way!) Andy gets his ankles microwaved, his eyes checked, and April gets her wisdom teeth out, but when they discover you still have to pay a $500 deductible on dental even if you have insurance, they pull a “dine and dash” from the hospital and Andy runs straight into an ambulance. As much as I like them with the rest of the group, I think they’re best when they’re on their own weird adventures.

Leslie and Ben reconcile their campaign styles when they put together an ad using footage of a 10-year-old Leslie’s fake campaign ad paired with Bobby Newport’s actual ad. Newport calls a meeting with them after seeing the ad and asks Leslie to stop running. Not the ad, but the campaign. We see the extent of Newport’s entitlement here, as he whines about wanting the job because he’s bored and how he just wants to win easily and then he’ll throw a big party with a man who does magic and everyone will be invited. Leslie politely and confusedly refuses, and I’m hoping this won’t be the last we see of Paul Rudd’s Newport.

Photo: NBC