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Parks and Recreation Recap: Love Is in the Air?

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Operation Ann" Episode 414 -- Pictured: (l-r) Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate, Aziz Ansari as Tom Haverford -- Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC Parks and Recreation

It's Valentine's Day in Pawnee, which reminds us all that Valentine's Day is always a way bigger deal on TV than it is in real life. And thank goodness for that! It has inspired me this year to celebrate Galentine's Day, Leslie's February 13 holiday that celebrates the gals in one's life. If this doesn't get as big as Festivus, I will be furious! All the ladies (Hi, Leslie's mom and several other random ladies who don't speak!) start sharing their personal relationship status, by Leslie's demand. Donna dishes about how she has a few in rotation, one of whom is waiting for her in the car: "Don't worry, I rolled down the window." April brags about Andy spending gas money on cookie cutters, and Ann tries hard not to sound sarcastic as she tells the gals that she is totally fine being single on Valentine's Day.

Aha! Leslie now has a purpose this episode, and that purpose is to find Ann a date. (Not every episode can be about the campaign!) At the staff meeting about the Valentine's Day Dance, Leslie gives a quick lecture on what kind of eligible men to bring to the dance for Ann, running through Ryan Gosling, VP Joe Biden, and Sam Waterston. Tom sets up a bit — "Does she have some Indian in her?" — and hard as Leslie tries to not let anyone take the bait, Jerry does, saying, "No, I don't think so." And there goes Tom! "Would she like some?!" He and Michael Scott would get along just fine.

It's Ben and Leslie's first Valentine's Day together, and Ben gets Leslie the stuffed-animal version of Yachter Otter, the playboy otter she dreamt about recently. In return, Leslie gives Ben a Da Vinci Code–inspired cryptex that can be opened with "the five-letter word that captures the essence of our third date," and will tell Ben where to meet Leslie that night. In an adorable moment, Ron and Andy both think the clue should be "fuck," and then suggest "fucks" when reminded it's a five-letter clue. Ben is clueless. Luckily, Ron secretly loves puzzles, a fact that is slowly revealed to us as Ron works harder and harder to hide his excitement, and so Ben, Ron, and Andy team up to figure out the clues for what turns out to be an elaborate scavenger hunt.

Meanwhile, at the dance, broken-hearted Chris's decision to D.J. (as opposed to using Tom's suggestion of D.J. Bluntz) means that the music is horrifyingly depressing. Or as Tom said, "It sounds like the end of a movie about a monk who killed himself." Chris could only lift his head long enough to move to the next sad-sack song.

Leslie's team starts showing up with potential dates for Ann. Jerry brings a male escort — "I searched for man seeking man for a night of casual fun," Donna brings only a rad updo, and April brings Orin! Orin was one of my favorite parts of season three, and I am so glad he is back. The only way I would have been happier to see this adorably mute Goth weirdo is if he had had Champion with him.

In scavenger hunt land, Ron, Ben, and Andy are at the diner, and Andy is emptying out a container of whipped cream onto a table in order to find a clue. When a clue found on Ron's shoe references "22 more clues to go," the team decides to split up and go to places in town that are meaningful to Leslie. Ron ends up in a gay bar, and I can't believe it's taken this long for it to be addressed that Ron is a textbook Bear. Ben ends up at the Snow Globe Museum, which is staffed by none other than Martin Starr. Party Down mini-reunion! Since we can't see him on TV regularly anymore, I'll take Starr in this tiny role, but I feel like he could have been used a bit more. He was born to play the bored, angry store employee.

Back at the dance, Ann is meeting a series of men, each more terrible than the one before. Jeff seems to be in love with his sister, Harris (played by show writer Harris Wittels) has been to 308 Phish concerts (listeners of the "Comedy Bang Bang" podcast know that Wittels is a Phish obsessive, and is apparently now trying to broadcast this passion through many types of media), and Bill is an amateur juggler. Orin's too busy hiding under a table to talk to Ann. Leslie manages to cheer Chris up a bit, at least enough so that he abandons the D.J. table, and now everyone's dancing and having fun. Ann decides to go home, but Leslie sees her outside using her emergency stash of hair equipment, and Leslie deduces that she's going on a secret date with Chris. She wants to follow but April talks her out of it, so she goes to meet Ben instead.

Ben has made it to the scavenger hunt's last stop only because Ron "I love riddles!" Swanson figured out that the final clue would be a place that Leslie loves that Ben didn't always understand, but eventually learned to love. Ben and Leslie meet, of course, at the Li'l Sebastian memorial. I love how this show rewards you for paying attention.

Ben and Leslie have plans for dinner, but when Leslie informs him that Chris and Ann are meeting on a secret date, breaking the same rules that Leslie and Ben were punished for, they decide to go catch them in the act. Instead, they come upon … (dramatic pause) TOM AND ANN ON A DATE! And (more dramatic pause) APRIL SET THEM UP! Leslie teases April about being a secretly nice person and then we zoom in to the restaurant, where Tom and Ann are trying to be on a date.

Tom: "Let's have a drink, go to my place, and snuggle like buuuuuunnies."
Ann: "This was a mistake."
Tom: "Noooooooooooo!"

I don't know how on earth the powers that be are going to play out a relationship between Ann and Tom, but it's not any more ridiculous than Ann and Andy, so I say go for it. It may not be the most romantic Valentine's Day ever, but I have a feeling Ann may end up with a little Indian in her.

Photo: Chris Haston/NBC