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Parks and Recreation Recap: Mona Lisa and Porn Shops

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Bailout" Episode 515 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jason Schwartzman as Dennis Lerpiss, Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Chris Pratt as Andy, Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson

This week in Pawnee, we see mortal enemies become friends, friends — friends who recently were walking down the aisle, arm-in-arm, like the father and daughter figures they are! — become opponents, single people become potential parents, and three of my favorite ladies in Indiana become the best girl group since Destiny’s Child circa 2000.

… Baby one more time
There’s so much great stuff happening at Rent-a-Swag: It’s got lots of foot traffic, Ben is the CFO, and JENNY SLATE IS HERE to play Jean-Ralphio’s twin sister, Mona Lisa. She makes her grand entrance wearing the fluffy dead carcass of a polar bear and Christian Bale’s BFF’s topper from Newsies and points at Chris, Ben, Ron, and Jerry as she announces, “For the record, would hit, would hit, would hit, hard pass.”

She’s the new salesperson at Rent-a-Swag and, according to her brother, “Honestly, she is the wooooorst; she’s the worst person in the world, huge skank, terrible.” Mona Lisa, in confirmation: “I need to leave early today because my shrink got me and him tickets to a Pitbull concert … If you say no, I will start a fire in the bathroom.” Jenny fucking Slate, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve missed you, girl.

Chris, who went a bit overboard with the self-tanner, hasn’t made up his mind about whether or not to be Ann’s sperm donor. Ben tells Chris that, back in high school, he had to carry around a sack of flour for a week and pretend it was a baby. Did you guys do the sack of flour thing? If I remember correctly, I went to an “egg baby” school, and some cruel but practical would-be parents hardboiled their rehearsal spawn so as to render the pseudo-babies unbreakable. Wonder what they’re doing now. Hopefully not parenting! Anyway, Ben suggests that Chris make Tom his sack of flour.

Chris takes a stab at parenting by telling Tom that Mona Lisa is taking advantage of him. Tom is scared to be assertive — “I once saw her punch a police horse in the face” — but with this paternal push in the brave direction, he goes for it. “If she murders me, tell Jean-Ralphio to clear my browser history.”

Tom asks Mona Lisa if she ordered Champagne for the party. (Sidebar: Aren’t the kids renting his swag and attending this shindig, like, 13 years old?) She’s distracted because “ecstasy takes forever to leave my systemmm.” Tom gets tough; Mona Lisa gets turned on. They hook up, which naturally makes Chris feel like a failure. But there’s Jerry to the rescue! Very sweet of Jerry to say that what matters in parenting is cherishing small victories, even if his words descend into incoherent babbling when he talks for too long.

If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me …
April — getting a major character development, hooray! — is applying to vet school and needs Ann to write a letter of recommendation. Ann uses this as an opportunity to crush April into being friends with her.

Step one: mani-pedis. Perhaps inspired by Lindsay Lohan’s use of nail polish as self expression, April has her nails painted to say “ANN SUCKS.” Then Ann puts April’s hair in those weird milkmaid braids that make your brain hurt. Ann also makes April decide which Sex and the City character she is. April says Miranda. Ann says Scary Charlotte. I say nothing as part of a protest against the fact that SATC beat 30 Rock in the Sitcom Smackdown. I cannot defend what happens elsewhere on Vulture, dear readers, but here in P&R recapland, such a victory is BLASPHEMY (as is Park’s exclusion from the tournament, but I digress).

And now the best part of the episode. It’s already in the running for my top five P&R moments of all time. Ann is jamming out to “Time After Time” when she breaks down and tells April the whole sperm-donor story. And then … April begins to sing: “Secrets, stolen, from deep inside … ” Ann: “You know this song already?” April: “Of course I do. Everyone knows this song. It’s amazing.”

You know what’s amazing? When Ann and April harmonize and then DONNA JOINS IN. There is nothing about this I do not love. I want them to start a band what will we call them ahhh how about Donna and the Parkettes? Leave ideas in the comments and we can start a Kickstarter like those Veronica Mars kids and this time tomorrow we’ll have $2 million.

Ann writes April her recommendation letter. April gives Ann a baby-naming book! Hugging happens! Chris tells Ann he is IN. He says, “Your uter-you and my uter-me are now uterus,” which is terrible, but whatever. I am already jealous of how attractive this yet-to-be-conceived fictional human is going to be.

Leslie Knope, proud supporter of the porn industry.
Oh hey, it’s Jason Schwartzman running the Pawnee Video Dome! Not for long, though, because it’s going out of business. You could blame that on the Internet, or you could blame it on the fact that the store won’t stock animated movies but has the Japanese documentary Tears of My Blowhole.

Leslie is sort of the anti–Frank Underwood in that she’s never met a dying thing she didn’t want to save. Her idea is to declare the store a historical landmark. Ron is not pleased. And honestly, it is a little weird that Leslie cares so much about a place we’ve never heard of or seen her frequent and that, most important, does not carry any Pixar movies.

At the town council meeting, Ron shows up (!!!) to say, “This action by Councilwoman Knope is nothing more than a thinly veiled government bailout. And I for one refuse to let her turn this town into a socialist hellscape.” The floodgates open; everyone wants government money. Zoinks! Somehow the Pawnee Video Dome gets to be a historical landmark anyway.

Then the place turns into a porn shop.

Oh. Well. That was a nice try, anyhow. There is even a porno starring Brandi Maxxxx, Leslie’s onetime competitor, about the bailout, called Too Big to Nail. In better news, we get GIGGLING RON! Post-gigglefest, Ron and Leslie go out to eat. “Capitalism is the only way, Leslie,” says Ron. “It moves our country forward. It’s what makes America great! And England okay, and France terrible.”

Leslie’s way of salvaging her accidental backing of a porn shop is to have the Pawnee government host a weekly movie night, starting with The Sound of Music. Don’t worry, Ron! One Hitler Youth does not a socialist hellscape make. Obviously the wrong DVD is set to play and we get to watch the opening seconds of Too Big to Nail.

Maybe the honeymoon really is over, because Ben was barely in this episode at all and Leslie got the weakest plot (although she did a great mocking rendition of what slam poetry sounds like).

It’s a heartwarming story, but it’s just not believable, which is why I give E.T. one and a half stars.

Photo: Danny Feld/NBC