Hello again, Unemployed Ben! Because the Esquire Network airs old episodes of Party Down on weeknights, I was not as jarred as I should have been by the sight of Adam Scott out of a job. But then I remember: The last time we saw Unemployed Ben, he fell deeply into a dark, unsatisfying Claymation phase. This time around, he creates a board game — excuse me, I mean, “The Cones of Dunshire. A brand new gaming experience!” Question: Is Cones of Dunshire more or less complicated than True American?
Leslie wants to build Pawnee Commons. In a way, this gets back to the origin of the show, when Leslie’s biggest ambition was — well, technically it was the White House, but the biggest ambition she could actually act on was her desire to build a park. Even loaded with the “It’s how I met my best friend Ann” significance, this goal feels so small for the Leslie whose latest accomplishment involved merging her town with its sworn town-enemy (townemy?) to save Eagleton from bankruptcy. But it also reaffirms why Leslie got involved in the Parks Department in the first place: her unwavering belief that government can be a force for good and improve the daily lives of citizens, even/especially through seemingly low-impact efforts, like the construction of the park. So I’m into it. And I’m into Cones of Dunshire, and I’m definitely into Ron’s cabin.
Really, what I’m over is Jamm.
I get it, he’s the worst! He is so the worst. No argument here re: his status as the worst. He wants to be Lex Luthor. He’s racist. Like, straight-up racist, not vaguely racist or doesn’t-know-any-better-racist or Danny “I’ve dated a girl of almost every single race” Catellano racist. Must we linger on this terribleness? His character never changes. (His admission/announcement that he wants to be Leslie’s best friend feels like a bizarro non-sequitur to me, not a character development, but I could be wrong on that front). It’s awfully convenient for Leslie to have a chart keeping track of her head-to-head wars with Jamm and, oh, what a coincidence, this is the tiebreaker battle! But those raised stakes don’t help me to get invested in a fight that plays out the same way every time.
When Leslie and Chris arrive at Jamm’s house, my first thought was, Why is Chris dressed like Beetlejuice? Then I thought, Wait, is that a Robin Thicke reference? And only on my third try realized, Oooooh, he’s the referee! Do with that chain of pop culture priorities what you will.
I did enjoy watching Leslie and Jamm engage in the ancient art of ka-ray-yo-kay just as much as the next Pink Lady, and I appreciate Leslie’s words of truth — “Beauty School Dropout” is sexist, and it is stupid that Michigan is split up into two pieces — and I guess it adds an interesting and even more repulsive layer to Jamm’s despicableness to know that he finds Morgan Freeman’s voice “grating.”
Anyway, Chris helps Leslie win this fight as a way of softening the blow of his and Ann’s departure. Pawnee’s prettiest parents-to-be are moving to Michigan because Ann has family there. (Well, really because Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones are leaving the show, but let's play along.) I love Leslie’s reaction to Chris asking if his trick on Jamm makes her feel better about the move to Michigan: “Oh, I’m currently in deep denial that that’s happening.”
What I really loved about this episode was the arc with Ron’s cabin. It begins with April’s perfect reading of Ron’s advertisement: “‘For Sale: small house. Location: forest.’ It’s a little wordy, don’t you think?” Ron wants to leave the cabin in its pristine, natural state; he will most certainly not remove the carcasses, as they must remain to fertilize his berry patch.
Donna watch would like to see even more of Regal Meagle Realty. Even though she and Tom kind of fail at rule number one of salesmanship — they utterly can not understand their client, Ron — I am hopeful we can see even more of these two crazy, brilliant kids working together. From their jinx of “Split that comish!” to Tom’s cutaway interview about how “The question I always ask myself is: What kind of mogul should I be? ... I even thought about downhill skiing. A mogul mogul.”
Outside the cabin, this magic happens:
Girl hipster: This place is so random.
Guy hipster: I don’t know. It’s kind of, like, in the middle of nowhere.
April as faux-hipster: That’s like, the hilarious part. It’s like a joke how long it takes to get here. It’s like a meta-cabin.
I think that is as great as a conversation could ever get. I also think maybe these are the same two kids from that recently tweeted rooftop breakup. Can’t you just hear this guy saying, “Yeah, but what is, like, living together? Like what's an apartment mean? You know what I'm saying?”
Then April says, “I heard that Dave Eggers wrote a short story about this tape cassette he found under that tree over there.” And then she tops herself once more: “Oh my God, I heard that Neko Case and Ben Gibbard made out here once.”
Brilliant. This girl.
She is only one-upped, accidentally, by the hipster inside the cabin who thinks Ron’s mustache is ironic. “You ever think about turning it up at the ends? Using a little beeswax?” This, and the prospect of a developer tearing down the cabin and turning the land into a glampground — “What you are describing is a hotel” — is all Ron can take. Just as I am thinking he should just sell the place to April and Andy, April makes Ron an offer he can’t refuse: the entire contents of her purse, which includes eight dollars and Larry’s asthma inhaler. (“Larry, this is part of a real estate transaction now! You have no claim to it!”) She promises to use the cabin “just to get away from everyone else and look at spiders. And it’s where I’d bury the bodies of that annoying couple after I murder them.”
This stage of the Parks game seems to be about everyone settling down and finding out where they’ll feel at home. Ron’s outgrown (one of) his old cabin(s) and needs to make room for Diane and the girls, while April and Andy are ready to move into it. Chris and Ann don’t have a reason to stay in Pawnee. (Besides over-the-top loyalty, Leslie doesn’t exactly have a reason to stay, either.)
Ben’s accounting job is too good to last, clearly, and it makes sense for the show that he’d go for Chris’s old gig as city manager. But I am going to miss watching him work there! They just really get him. Will people in government turn a light bulb on over his head whenever Ben has a great idea? How do they feel about calzones? Oh, well.
Can anyone explain the rules of Cones of Dunshire to me? Let me know on Twitter @Jessicagolds. In the meantime, I’ll be the Ledgerman, so I can just keep score and wear this hat.