TOPICAL STORYLINE ALERT: This week, possibly due to the outsize influence of Rob “Sodapop” Lowe on the Parks & Rec powers that be (P&RPTB) or, more likely, as a wink at Mayor Bloomberg’s large-soda ban, Leslie Knope attempts to pass a soda tax. She’s not the only one with an uphill battle. Andy, Ben, Sodapop, and Ellis the Intern Who Maybe Can’t Use a Computer all have obstacles to overcome. Onward!
Leslie and the Soda Tax vs. Pawnee’s Obesity Epidemic
In one of those bits with perfect tone that makes me love Parks and Rec, Leslie and Ann meet with Kathryn Pinewood from the Pawnee Restaurant Association to talk taxes. The sizes of available sodas to Pawnee consumers escalate from the “small” 64-ounce soda of Bloomberg infamy to the 128-ounce, which, Leslie points out, “most people call a gallon.” Then comes the 512-ounce option, deemed “child-sized” because it is roughly the size of a (liquefied) 2-year-old child.
This whole scene is wonderful and reminds me of this awesome Very Mary-Kate sketch.
Kathryn claims imposing the soda tax will result in job loss (because … why, exactly? This goes unexplained.). As Leslie once taught her Pawnee Goddesses, there’s no problem that can’t be addressed with a good old fashioned public forum. Look, I don’t mind catching cameos of the wonky citizens of Pawnee, but isn’t it a little tired to trot out the town weirdos whenever Leslie’s having an existential crisis? Even as Leslie says she’s trying to hear both sides of the issue, we know she is going to make like Barack and Michelle’s first date and do the right thing. However, this scene is worthwhile if only for this one great suggestion: “I think we should tax all bad things, like racism and women’s vaginas.”
The night before voting day, Leslie houses some awful mix of all the sugary Sweetums drinks. When called upon to yay or nay, she vomits in the empty cup. I thought maybe, post-puke, she would defiantly say, “Lick it up, baby, lick it up.” But instead she just speaks in a British accent and asks for a recess.
Ann checks Leslie’s pulse which is a great way to remind us that once upon a time, Ann was a nurse. Remember that, you guys? It’s like Ann was THIS close to having a defining character trait besides “friendly and easily mocked” and then they just kind of … let it go.
Ron gives Leslie a symbolic and also functional compass. Leslie votes for the soda tax. Surprise! Oh, not a surprise? Really? Well, cute compass, anyway.
Ben vs. Ellis and the Entitled Interns, April vs. April’s dark side
Ben’s office of snobby slacker interns accomplish negative nothing, unless you count drawing mean cartoons of Ben as an accomplishment. Worse, they use a variety of fonts on memos, even Papyrus which is just, really? Are you typing up the menu for a moderately priced Mediterranean restaurant? A flier for a new spa in suburban New Jersey? The worst intern of the lot is Ellis, a blond android who appears to have been cut out of an Abercrombie ad, dressed in a suit, and deposited in Washington. Ben wants to fire the interns except it turns out all the interns are connected to powerful people in Congress and/or Ben Bernanke’s dentist. Ben’s next move: sucking up.
You don’t need me to tell you that this is a terrible, horrible, no good very bad idea. Instead I shall just provide a list of stuff Ben says to the interns while in suck-up mode:
- “Ellis! What’s up my male? Grab some ‘za!”
- “Pre. Work. Ultimate. In the park. Let’s do it to it my dudes.”
- “Someone PLEASE tell me we kodaked that moment.”
- “Ellis, El-bow. Drinkin’ coff-ay.”
So, yeah. It doesn’t really go the way Ben planned. Saddest of all: Ellis reveals April is the perpetrator of the Ben cartoons. (Also, Ellis thinks April is Ben’s daughter.) I, like Ben, find April’s behavior here totally disappointing. What gives, Mrs. Dwyer? Wasn’t Ben a decent roommate, even during his depressed, Claymation phase? Ben isn’t Ann; what’s always redeemed April is her ability to focus her evil on at least semi-worthy targets. I don’t think she would’ve drawn a cartoon of Leslie with a giant soda straw up her butt, for instance. But I guess we’ll never know.
Fortunately, after getting some real talk from Ben, April’s human instinct to feel guilt/compassion kicks in and she redeems herself with her epic send-off to Ellis. She commands him to post pictures on a website (for some reason this very basic task that slutty fifth-grade Ben could’ve knocked out in minutes stumps the shiny-haired intern). She threatens him like so: “If you don’t, I will murder you. I know where you live … I’ll get a melon baller and scoop your eyes out, and your congressman dad will have to buy you a dog to drag your eyeless self around.”
I take back everything I said two paragraphs ago. I love her.
Andy vs. the 2-Mile Run, Sodapop vs. the Fear of Dying Alone
Perhaps you too suspected that beneath Sodapop’s carefully cultivated veneer of perpetual happiness was a deep, possibly bottomless, well of despair, like that pit from The Dark Knight Rises. You would be right. In his effort to help Andy run two miles in under 25 minutes, as he must to be a police officer, Sodapop asks Andy what his motivation is. When Andy declares he wants to do it for/with April, Sodapop realizes that he has nothing to run for. So he collapses.
It is Tom, bizarrely enough, who provides the voice of reason here, suggesting Sodapop might benefit from therapy. Sodapop agrees! “All my life, I’ve tried to achieve external goals,” he says. “But I need to climb the Mount Everest of my mind.” I am heartened by the thought of what jokes will be mined from Sodapop’s eat-pray-love-style quest for spiritual enlightenment.
Oh wait, was there a Donna plot in this episode? Or did she nail the two lines she got — arousal at the prospect of watching Andy and Sodapop exercise followed immediately by disinterest because the Community College was too far away — and then vanish into the Pawnee ether, probably to break hearts, take names, and treat herself somewhere off-screen?
Next week: MORE DONNA PLEASE.