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Parks and Recreation Recap: Water Fight

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Campaign Shake-Up" Episode 417 -- Pictured: (l-r) Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Kathryn Hahn as Jennifer Barkley, Carl Reiner as Nes Jones -- Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC

We start out this episode with some good news for Leslie's campaign: Thanks to Ben's tireless, brilliant, sexy little hummingbird work as campaign manager, Leslie is now gaining on Bobby Newport, so says a poll on The Final Word with Perd. Man, have I missed Perd. When will we get a spinoff show about a small-town news journalist who is also Perd?! I digress. The other candidates, Brandi Maxxxx, Fester Trim, and Manrico Della Rossa, are all trailing far behind. 

Ben and Leslie decide to continue their momentum by going after the seniors of Pawnee, via an endorsement from the President of Pawnee Seniors United, a.k.a. Carl Reiner!!! Reiner's Ned Jones listens patiently to Leslie's idea, Ramp Up Pawnee, to make the city more wheelchair accessible, and then delivers what I imagine was an improvised bit about his brother losing the middle third of his body to a motorcycle accident — "He's a fine, short man." He then clues Leslie and Ben into their newest competition, Jen Barkley, Bobby Newport's campaign manager.

Jen Barkley — the excellent Kathryn Hahn — is a D.C. insider whose website has her eating egg salad with Colin Powell, and Leslie is nervous. Ben suggests a meeting with her, causing Leslie to make a second bittersweet comment about Ben's stature SO FAR.

Back at the Parks and Rec office, Chris has realized that Ron's department has fewer employees than other comparable departments because Leslie had been doing the work of three people. He suggests to Ron that he will hire a deputy director to help out, eliciting a Rise of the Planet of the Apes–style "NOOOOOOOOOO!"

Ron instead concedes to complete one government project to prove to Chris that they don't need any new employees. It's a lose-lose situation for Ron, akin to when he was asked to choose one of his two pet calves for slaughter on his 6th birthday. He couldn't decide, so he slaughtered them both. He decides that Ann's project of improving water fountain hygiene will be completed, and Ann explains that there's a gross local quirk in Pawnee to put one's entire mouth over a water fountain spigot, basically deep-throating it. The shots are nearly pornographic.

We join Leslie and Ben at their meeting with Jen Barkley, and she is a nightmare woman. All dead eyes and fake smiles, and reading several newspapers at once, including one in Arabic. She compliments Leslie and Ben both and then explains that she realized immediately that Bobby Newport was a moron, but they offered her so much money ($250,000), she decided to take the job. Leslie and Jen bond a bit over Joe Biden's bankability. Team Knope leaves the meeting feeling hopeful that Jen will go easy on them, only to find an attack ad on TV that uses Knope's own footage of herself as a child. At Leslie's presentation at the Senior Center the next day, she makes a splash by entering on a motorized scooter with a Madonna-style wireless mike on — "Stairs are a young man's game!" — but Jen upstages her by announcing a plan called Rise Up Pawnee, with electric lifts on every outdoor staircase in town. You could use a ramp, but why not make the stairs work for you? And with that, Bobby Newport gains Ned Jones's endorsement, and Leslie manages to squeeze in another comment about Ben's small stature.

Ann and the rest of the team are hard at work figuring out how to make a water fountain that cannot be deep-throated, with Andy as the guinea pig. Jerry suggests a cage (Andy just pulls it off), Tom suggests a water butler by Tumi (just $600), and Donna suggests turning up the water pressure so that people don't have to lean down so hard. This results in Andy spraying April, and when Ann teases April, April spraying Ann. Cut to Chris and Ron, outside the office, and Ron is assuring Chris that his team will have the project done ASAP. They open the door to an epic water-balloon fight — Donna spraying Jerry with a hose! Tom chanting "Everything I'm wearing is suede!" like a mantra! Andy kamikaze water ballooning Chris! It's a lot of fun, but now Chris is insisting that Ron hire a deputy director.

Knope's campaign is collapsing around her, so she goes to see Jen Barkley again, just before another scheduled appearance on Perd's show to attack Jen. Leslie can't even get her carpet-bagging insult out because of Jen's fake pleasantries, but once they get down to the brass tacks, Jen admits that she doesn't care about the city or the issues, she just wants to win. She can read every move Leslie's going to make (including her breakfast order of waffles), and advises Leslie not to attack her, but rather to come up with a better idea. At the TV station, Leslie and Ben try to figure out how to proceed and realize that Jen has gotten in their heads, big time. Ben admits he's just not as good as Jen Barkley, but Leslie doesn't care. She reaffirms her love for her campaign manager/boyfriend and it's showtime.

Jen and Leslie face off on TV, and Leslie is having some trouble defending herself until Ben, off-camera, points out a local newspaper showing a picture of Bobby Newport cavorting with a floozy in Spain. Leslie gets the upper hand by reminding Pawnee that she's here while Bobby Newport has better things to do. She looks to be winning until Jen Barkley announces that Bobby is trying to convince a major European company to open a factory in Pawnee, and that the woman he's cavorting with is an anti-landmine advocate. "I didn't realize you were pro-landmine, Leslie." Score another point for Team Newport.

Later at a bar, Leslie and Ben are trying to drown their sorrows, when Jen Barkley saunters up to chitchat. She congratulates them on a good effort, and when questioned, admits that she made up everything about the European factories and the anti-landmine floozy. She leaves by telling Team Knope that she's picked up their tab, so they order more drinks.

Back to Water Fountaingate. Anne has summoned Ron to show him that the team has come up with an easy solution to the gross deep-throating problem: removing the splash guards on the fountains so there's nothing to deep-throat. Chris decides that the Leslie void can remain empty for a bit longer ("I think Ben's filling the Leslie void pretty good!" —Donna). Ron goes to congratulate Ann on the idea and learns that it was April's idea, but she lied about it to keep up appearances. Ron appeals to April to pick up some slack around the office, and even though April has just been wasting time like Ron taught her, she's willing to help out more since Ron has begged.

And I'm becoming more and more sure that Fester Trim is going to win the election.

Photo: Chris Haston/NBC