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Parks and Recreation Recap: Baby Talk and Mini Calzones

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Ann's Decision" Episode 511 -- Pictured: (l-r) Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger, Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson, Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt, Aziz Ansari as Tom Haverford

Let me begin by saying that I’m happy for Ann: She finally got a big ol’ story line all to herself. Good for you, Annie! The P&R cast is stacked like Jenga and it’s always a treat to see a supporting character get a crack at the A-plot. Unfortunately, a few too many recycled ideas plus a main character development that didn’t quite read true to me kept me from being as in love with this episode as the Douche is with combining Jell-O and Bill Cosby impersonations.

A quick plot overview before we dig into this advanced seminar-level analysis: Ann announces her intentions to have a baby and goes shopping for a sperm donor; Ben and the boys audition caterers for the Knope-Wyatt nuptials, a.k.a. the wedding of the millennium; and April leads a public forum to get the signatures she needs for her Pawnee Commons project.

The beautiful unicorn nurse and her multi-ethnic genius babies.
I like the idea of Ann dating herself to figure out who she is and what she wants. I especially like using this tactic as an excuse to order two meals at every restaurant. Smooth move, Perkins. But — stop me if I missed something — has Ann ever talked about wanting to start a family? We literally just saw her, two weeks ago, claiming utter incompetence around children. The heartbreaking work of staggering from guy to guy that is her dating life always looked like a quest for companionship, not a means to an infant-spawning end. Ann was searching for someone who, as Hannah Horvath would say, “wants to hang out all the time and thinks I’m the best person in the world and wants to have sex with only me,” not necessarily someone who could get into the baby-making business with her. So for this not exactly small character inconsistency, I had a hard time with this story line. Also because I believe in CHRIS AND ANN 4EVA.

That being said, I did appreciate the Leslie and Ann Real Talk. “My idea of a perfect family does not require a soul mate,” Ann says. “I want a baby. That’s it. Accept it.” Leslie, of course, wants Ann to have exactly what Leslie has with Ben: a soul mate, not “some rando weirdo.” Her initial reaction to Ann’s idea is, while hilarious, not exactly the world’s strongest vote of confidence: “Ann is giving up on love and deciding to have a baby with herself! And she’s only been dating herself for six weeks. If she’d been dating a guy for six weeks and told me she was going to have a baby, I’d be like, ‘Congratulations Ann and Channing Tatum!’ because that is literally the only scenario in which that would make sense to me.”

Leslie has had, shall we say, difficulties with acceptance in the past, but her ability to overcome those steamrolling impulses has brought us some of the best moments in the series: her embrace of April’s Pawnee Commons park-building ambitions, her support of the Dwyer marriage, and, lest we forget, the Best Kiss on TV Ever No Offense Nick And Jess From New Girl Last Week.

So when Leslie finally gives Ann her approval, complete with color-coded binders and a uterine cartoon — “What’s more cuterus than your uterus?” — it warmed my soon-to-be-blizzarded-upon heart. Plus, we got some solid jokes out of the adventure, like when real-life Harvard grad Rashida Jones pointed to a potential donor and said, “Oh, look, this guy went to Harvard!” and Leslie replied, “So did the Unabomber.” Also, it was great/vaguely depressing to witness the parade of Pawnee’s most eligible gentlemen, including the Douche and Joe the Sewage Guy.

Ann could look for a donor in Eagleton, but she doesn’t want a demon-baby.

With a taste of a poison paradise

On his hunt for a wedding caterer, Ben brings along a panel of experts: Ron the meat man, Chris the veggie guy, and Tom the “foodie” who just Instagrams everything. Ben thinks this way he’ll get the best advice on each topic. Ben. Dear sweet Ben. Obviously what will happen is all these parties will disagree with each other and you’ll be left to make a decision on your own. It’s like a kitchen cabinet of rivals.

Despite minus points for predictability, this scene wins a gold star for all the awesome food quips. “You’ve accidentally given me the food that my food eats,” says Ron, poking suspiciously at his lettuce with a fork. Tom describes one plating as “subtle and provocative, like a coy Dutch woman guarding a dark secret.” Ben breaks the three-way tie and chooses the caterer who served mini calzones.

AND THEN EVERYONE GETS FOOD POISONING AHH SO GROSS HAVING BRIDESMAIDS FLASHBACKS.

“Smells like some vomit took a dump in here,” reports Tom, who was spared this plague, like an Israelite with blood painted in his doorway, because he never eats what he Instagrams. “I cracked the bottom of the toilet bowl,” says Ron, which was definitely something I needed to hear before bed because I’m immune to nightmares. “I was dying earlier today. Then I died, now I’m dead,” moans Chris, looking, dare I say it, unattractive. Ben swears off his once-beloved calzones for all eternity. Tom drops some wisdom on us all: “Haverford rule No. 6: never eat anything with a sauce I have to dip in myself. Drizzle it on for me! I’m not your maiiiid.”

Let me get that visual/smell-sual out of your head with the thought of delicious wedding waffles as catered by J.J.’s Diner. There. That’s better.

Role-playing with the Dwyers, Leslie Knope Edition

April’s Pawnee Commons plan of action is to dress, talk, and act exactly like Leslie. The wardrobe alone presents a challenge. “This suit makes me want to scold a Catholic child,” says April. “I don’t know who Ann Taylor is, but I hate her and I want to kill her.” My girl Donna, in an echo of her “but it is my least favorite shirt” gem, decrees that one suit “is terrible, but it is slightly less terrible than the other ones.”

Mrs. Dwyer’s efforts to channel Leslie — “As Eleanor Roosevelt once said to Betty Ford, Hillary Clinton is great!”— produce exactly four signatures, two of which belong to her and Andy, and one that just says Farts McCool.

Bringing it all back home to when April told Andy he could hang up Burt Mackland’s uniform, Andy “accidentally” forgets April’s Leslie getup and tells his wife to just be her awesome, badass self. April crushes it; they get 80 signatures. “I wanted to bone her right there in that dirty church basement,” Andy says, while he and his honey torch Leslie’s pantsuit in celebration.

DONNA WATCH

Not enough Donna. Never enough Donna. Important question: If Donna is always getting with the smokingest bachelors in Pawnee, why can’t she set Ann up with someone? She’s got to know at least one not-terrible baby-daddy candidate.

All this talk about wedding waffles and food rules is making me hungry. I want to get twelve eggs and part of a dead animal. Dealer’s choice.

Photo: Jordin Althaus/NBC