Citizens of Pawnee, we are back! When we last left our beloved local officials, Leslie had won the election for city council and her sometimes-Batsuit-wearing boyfriend Ben had taken off to Washington to work on a congressional reelection campaign. April tagged along as Ben’s intern; Andy stayed in Pawnee to rock out/consider a career in law enforcement. Tom and Ann drunkenly decided to move in together (filed under: I can’t even). Ron rejected Sodapop’s offer to be Assistant City Manager and is now probably the first government-hating libertarian to helm the titular Parks and Recreation department.
We begin with Leslie and Andy in the capitol of our fair nation, “where you can practically smell the bills becoming laws!” Leslie is in town both to visit her honey and to present a request for federal funding to clean up the Pawnee River. We are treated to a handful of obvious D.C. jokes — hey, does the Washington Monument look like a penis? No one’s ever pointed that out before! — and some less obvious. For instance, even though I am a real life Washingtonian (RLW), I’d never noticed that the Capitol does kind of look like a boob. Thanks for that, Andy! No wonder so many men spend so much time there.
Back in Pawnee, Ron is organizing the Employee Appreciation Barbeque. But Ron has a new enemy, it seems, and that enemy is … fun. Wait, really? Where is this anti-Pawnee events attitude coming from? Wasn’t Ron pretty gung-ho about the Harvest Festival? Didn’t he mourn the loss of dear town mascot Lil’ Sebastian? Oh well. Apparently those fun-tolerating days are over.
At the fun-free BBQ, Ron introduces the adorable pig that he plans to kill, grill, and serve because “In my opinion, not enough people have looked their dinner in the eye and considered the circle of life.” EXCELLENT POINT, RON. Daaaa sinwenyaaa bababadeee deebababah, etc. After a lot of back and forth re: meat, Ron tires of the petty mortal requests of the guests — to be fed, have bathrooms, and drink water — and he abandons ship, driving away from the crowd with the still-smoking grill attached to his car. This steaming caravan looks like Belle’s father’s invention from Beauty and the Beast which makes me think this whole episode is secretly Disney-themed.
In a not at all surprising turn of events, Ann and Tom’s roommating/regular-mating lasted less than 24 hours. To prove the haters (a.k.a. their co-workers with brains and foresight) wrong, they have decided to maintain a charade of togetherness. Also if they break up Tom owes Donna $1000. That the Parks and Rec powers that be (P&RPTB) insist on schlepping the Tom and Ann storyline into the future is the narrative equivalent of being the guy who wears his fraternity T-shirts to the gym when he’s, like, 35. Just let them go, P&RPTB. They never really worked in the first place.
Our more consistent couples — Ben and Leslie (Bleslie? Len? Somebody help me out here) and Mr. and Mrs. Dwyer — reunite. Leslie finds that her meeter/meetee is out of the office, but she can leave her binder in that basket that is already overflowing with binders and he will get to it eventually, which is government-speak for “never.” Leslie is crushed. Her Washington plans are … not going as planned. No one even knows which Pawnee she’s from! And people from the Midwest really care about that stuff. Have you ever met someone from Kansas City, Missouri, and accidentally assumed they were from Kansas City, Kansas? Hits them where it hurts. In the heart(land).
Ben brings Leslie and the Dwyers to a fancy cocktail party (pants are required so you know it’s serious) but the political mingling only makes Leslie feel smaller, both in stature and status. “These women are so smart and accomplished and pretty and tall,” she says. “Why are they so tall?” As an RLW and in the interest of full disclosure, allow me to confirm that Leslie’s rant is a completely accurate description of all the women who live in D.C.
And here, in a third-time’s-the-charm move, is the REAL theme of the episode and also, I predict, the season: Leslie finally has her dream job and it is not at all like she dreamed it would be. Generally speaking this is the No. 1 problem with dream jobs. Say you always dreamed of being a princess or a mermaid. What about if you become a princess, people post topless photos of you on the internet? And HOW DO MERMAIDS HAVE SEX?
But because Leslie is dating Batsuit Ben, at least one of her dreams does come true: She meets Senators Olympia Snowe and Barbara Boxer, No. 4 and No. 26 on her list of amazing women! Then she goes back to being sad. So sad that, when she is crying on the floor of the coat closet, she doesn’t even see John McCain standing behind her. Still, fun cameo! This is just the sort of high-profile television gig Mittens can look forward to if he doesn’t win the election.
The episode ends with two pep talks: Sodapop plays the boss card — not to be confused with The Boss card, which is playing in N.J. tonight and tomorrow — and tells Ron that as leader of the Parks department, he needs to actually lead the Parks department. Ron brings in corn and the Circle of Life pig, now looking more edible than adorable, and gifts the employees some gratitude grub. Andy reminds Leslie that she is Kickass Leslie, that she never ever gives up on stuff, and also that she is an amalgam (just go with it). So Leslie, at the edge of the Pawnee river and wearing don’t-mess-with-me galoshes, announces she will be cleaning the river herself. She will also be having totally PG Skype-sex with Ben.
Was this a truly excellent episode, as sparkling as “Disco Dairy: Spread a Party”? Alas, as with most season premieres, much of our precious time was spent playing catch up with the gang. Still, like clumps of glitter in a tin of Sparkle Skin, there were some gems in this half hour: Sodapop’s designation of raisins as “nature’s candy,” Leslie’s imagined nemesis, Hot Rebecca, and the few lines uttered by the underused Donna (pop quiz: How many episodes of P&R would be improved by more Donna? ALL OF THEM).
Until next week, I shall hold down the fort in this stupid swamp town. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, I do give tours. $200 in cash, up front.