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Parks and Recreation Recap: You Just Got Jammed

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Emergency Response" Episode 512 -- Pictured: (l-r) Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson, Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate, Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger, Rashida Jones as Ann Perkins, Jim O'Heir as Associate Director Jerry Gergich, Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt

Readers, we all have entertainment soft spots: Those TV and movie tropes that, while objectively silly and emotionally manipulative, still lure us in like the Sirens to the shoals. For you, maybe it’s when the overlooked ingénue turns out to have a killer voice, when the rookie scores a touchdown, or when the guy shows up outside the girl’s door/window/residence. It could be a montage: makeover, studying, getting into shape. We all love a good montage.

For me, it is this: The “we need to raise [outrageous sum of money] in [ridiculously short amount of time]” challenge. How I love this obvious plot device and the even more obvious set pieces it brings! The dance competition, the dodgeball tournament, the battle of the bands. The cries of “But you can’t close down the [beloved local institution] and replace it with a [soulless corporate entity]!” I adore it so.

It is in this predicament that our dear Pawnee folk find themselves this week. Despite Leslie’s DYNAMITE presentation (all-caps because it’s an acronym; the T stands for “Tourist Attraction-y”), Pawnee Commons isn’t gaining traction with the Planning Commission. Her idea is better for the community than Councilman Jamm’s Paunch Burger, but the park project is grossly underfunded.

They need $50,000. They have one week. IT IS ON.

But first, Leslie and Ben go to register for the Wedding of the Millennium. They have Tom in tow, whose eyes are all a-glitter at this special occasion. “Registering for your wedding is the most important day of your life,” he says, because love fades but things are forever. (Before you mock him, just remember that DeBeers’ “a diamond is forever” campaign is literally sending the exact same message, just cloaked in the distortion packaging that is the wedding industrial complex. No points, just saying.)

Leslie doesn’t want stuff. All she wants is Ben, plus that $50,000. All Ben wants is a batsuit Leslie. Wait for it … wait for it …

“Hang on,” says Ben. “What if we register for the park instead of this stuff? We could organize a black tie gala with food and music, and maybe a silent auction to raise money?”

OMG GEARS TURNING HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS/CITRUS REAMERS

Leslie agrees! Tom is too busy counting threads to notice, but the plan is a go!

Does the idea that this impromptu formal event can raise $50,000 sound likely? I don’t know. Did it sound likely that the East Compton Clovers would find a way to get to nationals and prove once and for all who could truly bring it? That’s what I thought.

One week later, things are proceeding according to plan until out of nowhere — or so it seems! — the Department of Emergency Preparedness rolls into town for what I have to say is the most elaborate safety drill I have ever seen, and I was a fifth grade safety patrol officer. Pawnee has failed this drill twelve years in a row. Even the slightest drizzle would send the town into “Thunderdome style post-apocalyptic mayhem.” Leslie heads back to the office with Chris and Ann, leaving Ben in charge of the gala.

Enter Matt Walsh, a.k.a. Mike from Veep. “Today, I’m going to bring death and destruction to your town,” he says. Everyone is on lockdown until the end of the drill, which simulates a breakout of the Avian flu. Yikes! This would be a nightmare, but Leslie can’t fly away so it must be real.

Leslie Knope, Pawnee Emergency Czar, has made these amazing protocol-filled DVDs starring, written, and directed by Leslie. But Councilman Jamm is sabotaging all of her meticulously well-laid plans. Chris has come down with the Avian flu, which apparently means more diarrhea, as if he hadn’t dealt with that enough last week. Leslie admits almost-defeat. “It is with a heavy heart that I say: we have been jammed.”

Back at the ranch/gala, Donna speaks the truth: “This simulated disaster is a total disaster.” Ben doesn’t quite have the leadership thing down — Why does Ben send Ron to be on TV while delegating the furniture acquisition to Donna and not the other way around? — and has Ron fill in for Leslie on Pawnee Today.

It is fantastic.

Joan Callamezzo has a vicious hangover and passes out on set. Ron proceeds to impart Swanson Wisdom to all of Joan’s callers: “Any dog under 50 pounds is a cat, and cats are pointless.” “Any bank is a Ponzi scheme run by morons.” “Your house isn’t haunted.” Later we learn he also helped a child perform a tracheotomy on his elderly uncle.

As Chris succumbs to the Avian flu, the solution to this crisis dawns on Leslie. She realizes she must go into the crevasse. “In order to save our park, we have to destroy the entire town.” Flu vaccines get flushed down the toilet and police are instructed to give CPR to all the infected birds in the area. “Our top priority is now SAVING ALL THE BIRDS,” declares Leslie, before turning things up a notch with a tornadoquake. The conch shell has been smashed, people, and chaos reigns! To misquote Bane: Now is the time for fear.

The bad news is everyone in Pawnee is fake-killed by the fake-flu. The good news is Amy Poehler looks smokin’ hot in her red dress and everyone makes it to the gala on time.

The gala is a smashing success! Leslie announces that they’ve reached their fund-raising goal. Anything is possible! “No one achieves anything alone,” she adds, which is so lovely and also is something her character would never have said in season one and has been struggling to say ever since. In my heart, I am so proud of her progress even though I know in my brain she is not a real person.

Leslie and Ben can’t wait three whole months to get married, and Ben points out that they could get married right then because, oh that’s right, this black-tie gala is exactly like a wedding. I’m about to feel robbed because you can’t have two legit surprise weddings in the same series, but the “To be continued” title card calms me down.

In other news, Andy took his police entrance exam. He got a perfect score on the written portion but failed the personality test. I thought all of these scenes were very sweet and funny, from April’s promise that, “If you don’t [pass], I’ll just divorce you, marry someone else, and cheat on him with you” to Andy’s explanation of what he’d do if he realized he’d pulled over his dad for speeding. “First I’d be like, Dad, you’re alive? What the hell? Also, do you know where my catcher’s mitt is?” Those Dwyer kids.

Next week is an hour-long wedding special! Holler at me on Twitter @jessicagolds to talk all things Knope-Wyatt nuptials.

Photo: Tyler Golden/NBC