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Parks and Recreation Recap: The Merger Czar

PARKS AND RECREATION

Attention: Eagleton is now under martial law! Oh, wait, never mind: It’s just that Eagleton technically no longer exists, and Pawnee and its former foe are one for the first time since 1817. It’s just like those good old days, except women and minorities can vote, we have indoor toilets, and we no longer burn widows for learning arithmetic.

Almost every department in Eagleton has a Pawnee equivalent, save for the Department of Infinity Pool Design and the Department of Dressage, which is that thing Mrs. Mittens’s horse did at the Olympics. Each Pawnee employee is paired up with — but also competing against — his or her Eagleton counterpart. It’s all very Hunger Games. In honor of this remarkable occasion, I’m going to steal a page from my Rosewood doppelgänger … and do a special edition of the Pawnee-Eagleton Power Rankings!

These rankings are determined by a scientific algorithm wherein I decide who I like the best and then I call it science. May the odds be ever in your favor.

1. April and Tynnyfer
That’s Tynnyfer with two ys, okay? (She used to be Jennifer, but then she decided to rebrand herself.) Aubrey Plaza does the best vocal fry. This whole setup is a little like the bit from In a World when Lake Bell mocks “Do you know where I could get a smoothie around here?” girl to her face, but what comes off as speech-shaming (that’s slut-shaming, only for your voice) in the movie is just amazing here because April looks like she’s having the time of her life. She’s never felt this way before! Yes, I swear. I could have watched an entire episode of these two like blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, like talking like so much forever. How crazemazing is that? I’m disappointed that April’s sabotage was successful so quickly but, alas, Tynnyfer is going to Miami, where anything could happen to her. Well, except childbirth — she’s had so much rejuvenation that she doesn’t think a baby could get out of there if it tried.

2. Ron and Other Ron
Why even bother bringing in a doppelgänger for Ron? As if Ron Swanson could ever be replaced? Ron is basically a better version of George Washington. Yet at first it seems Ron has found a kindred spirit in Other Ron, a like-minded gentleman who speaks in short sentences and wields an impressive mustache. Our Ron gushes, his affection is so overwhelming: “I like Ron.” God! Get a room, Rons! But it turns out that Other Ron has a dark side: He wears sandals (“a man’s feet should remain uncaged,” says Other Ron), quotes Cat Stevens, and likes yoga, composting, and recycling. Any illusions that Other Ron might not be a villain are shattered when he reveals that he takes his tea with STEVIA, the evil person’s all-natural sweetener of choice. Look out for the ricin, Other Ron!

3. Ben and Chris
Technically not doppelgängers, but it’s my rankings and I’ll rank who I want to. It’s such a delight to see this good cop/bad cop duo back in action, raising hopes and crushing spirits like no time has passed. “Happy Birthday, new Pawnee!” “Party’s over.” Chris is so happy when Ben tells Eagleton they can’t have all their baristas, he breaks into celebratory lunges. They try to relive their glory days of budget slashing by going out to dinner together, but like all efforts at re-creating the past, the meal just isn’t what it used to be. Chris’s salad is just cheese, toffee, and gummy worms, and Ben had forgotten that after “the intense, meth-like high of solving accounting puzzles, I’m always just beat at the end of the day.” Nerdy Ben is the best Ben. 

4. Gregory and Winona
Wait, who are Gregory and Winona? I’ve never heard of them before. Are they better? Seriously, you need to get me in there. That’s a must, must, must.

5. Donna and Craig
“Donna — that is the perfect name for you. I love it. Never change it!” Craig knows Donna for all of 30 seconds before he starts referring to Donna as “my best friend.” Umm, red flag. It’s a good thing Donna got paired with a human and not a computer because Donna watch would not be okay with that. Craig is funny enough, and I do think I’m going to start referring to my DVR as being “thirteen months pregnant” with however many episodes of old shows I haven’t gotten around to watching yet. But even though Donna says she’s game to leave town — “I got the condo in Seattle, the fiancé in Denver; don’t worry, it’s not going to last” — we know she isn’t going anywhere. In fact, a small problem I have with this whole episode is how it hinges on the idea that loyalty-obsessed Leslie would voluntarily replace any of her Pawnee Parks employees with any of their Eagleton counterparts. Not exactly the most suspense-filled half-hour of television ever but, okay. However, important sidebar: Donna doesn’t like Mellie? Mellie is like the Scarlett O’Hara of the Scandalverse, if the brilliant, conniving Scarlett had married useless, boring Ashley. I know it’s hard to support someone who plays Kerry Washington’s enemy, but it can be done! I learned to cheer for Hayden Panettiere on Nashville, and she has to say mean things about Connie Britton, one of my all-time favorite humans.

6. Ann and Evelyn
If Evelyn thought she was overwhelmed by Pawnee’s health problems — after all, Pawnee is the first place where citizens have been diagnosed with megadiabetes and Lou Gehrig’s other disease — she had no idea what she’d be in for when Leslie found out Ann was planning to leave town. Which is to say, she was in for six hours of Leslie rehearsing her lines for a real conversation with Ann. As for Ann, she sure knows how to distract her BFF: a stack of fresh waffles and a shirtless pic of Joe Biden that she probably printed from The Onion.

7. Jerry and Larry
CLASSIC LARRY.

8. Tom and E.R.I.C.
Plus points for the “I’m Rajiv from IT; E.R.I.C. is a computer program” fake-out, but that’s where the positivity for this matchup ends. Tom has funnier, angrier chemistry with Rajiv than he ever ends up having with Eric, probably because E.R.I.C. is not a person. Really, the best they could do was give Tom a computer to fight? What could have been an opportunity to examine and/or crack jokes about Tom’s technological dependency coming back to take away his job turned out to just be a one-sided war. Why couldn’t Tom have just told Leslie it was a computer program, and trusted that Leslie would have kept him onboard?

Speaking of Leslie, why don’t we Segway — ah, I hear we cut all 400 Segways from the budget. Oops! Anyway, Leslie is floored that Ann would “abandon” her by leaving town. Of course, if Leslie had just consulted Chris, he could have explained to her that this day would eventually arrive because nothing gold can stay. Not even if you try to stop time with legally binding friendship contracts. It’s a testament to the politics of Parks and Amy Poehler’s off-screen commitment to preaching the value of female friendship that Leslie isn’t one of those people who acts or feels like her spouse can satisfy all her emotional needs, or that being married means she doesn’t need her best friend anymore. Case in point: While watching the Oscars last year, Ben had, and I quote, NO COMMENT about Angelina Jolie’s leg!

Leslie’s reaction to Ann’s moving talk was about as manic as Carrie Matthison on an upswing (a little reminiscent of season one Leslie, actually, but she’s allowed a little backslide every now and then), but the end of the episode gives some hope that she’ll calm down and take it like a grown-up. Mike Schur and the gang have promised Ann and Chris will be in the “extended universe” of the show, so any guesses on where they’ll eventually move? Is Michigan a red herring? Could it be Bloomington?

I’m off to go look for some Easter eggs on the Twin Peaks message boards. A tweet to @jessicagolds will be interpreted as an agreement to remain loyal to the Parks department for the rest of my life.

Photo: Colleen Hayes/NBC