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Parks and Recreation Recap: Get a Chard-On

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Farmer's Market" Episode 612 -- Pictured: (l-r) Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt.

So many of my favorite recurring Parks themes and things made appearances in this episode: Pawnee’s obesity epidemic, Burt Macklin, Craig the doppelgänger, delighted Ron, and Donna as the voice of reason. This was so much fun; I can’t believe it only cost me $150.

You can’t escape City Hall, fool! LET’S DANCE.
Ben and Leslie would be the worst couple if you knew them in real life, right? They can’t stop talking about how much they love each other, how hot Ben looks in slacks, and Leslie’s all-around adorableness. I mean, this “We rehearsed that at home. Naked. In bed. What!” stuff is great onscreen. In reality? Not so much. Ron can’t even be won over with a little GH (that’s group hug, obviously). The happiest newlyweds in Indiana frolic over to the farmers' market, where my favorite interaction of the episode takes place:

Pawnee Citizen 1 (holding up broccoli): Look at this tiny tree! Can you eat this?
Pawnee Citizen 2 (holding up cauliflower): Oh, this one’s dead.

Everything is so green and tame and family friendly and — whoa, get a look at that chard stand! It’s like an Adam and Eve–theme frat party! Or like a low-budget remake of Britney Spears’s “I’m a Slave 4 U” performance at the MTV VMAs! Leslie says it has to go; Ben tries to remind her that he is not an emperor. (He could be the Ledgerman, but then all he’d get to do is keep score and wear a hat.)

When Ben tells Leslie that they should only talk about work life at the office, my immediate reaction is: Has Ben ever met Leslie? Clearly this is not a sustainable plan. But if it means getting to watch Leslie and Ben wage war over the “pan-sexual stripper show” that is the chard stand, I say, bring on the implausible attempts at work-home separation and balance!

Listening to Ben, Leslie, and the chard man talk trash about chard makes me think that this whole episode started with the writers having ten thousand hilarious putdowns for chard and then deciding to build an entire episode around it. (Sort of reminds me of the “Jenna’s insults to the writers” dump in the last season of 30 Rock; you could just feel they’d been holding on to those “you factory-reject dildos!” lines for ages.) As it turns out, the chard guy doesn’t even like chard. He thinks it’s disgusting: “Tried lettuce? This is worse! It’s like kale took a dump on spinach!” Leslie agrees: “I like to think of it as celery with B.O.” (And later: “It’s like a tree barfed in my mouth.”)

Ben and Leslie’s turf war escalates even though escalation is so out of character for Leslie, who is super chill all the time!!! After almost freezing to death in a fountain, Ben and Leslie reach the solution of having a “Farmers' Market After Dark,” at which the PG-13 dancing shenanigans of the chard squad can entice the grown-up crowd without scandalizing the youths. The chard guy understands. When he got into the chard game, he knew he’d ruffle some feathers.

Johnny Karate and his magical guitar stick.
Craig is back! Hurrah, hurrah Craig! He bursts in while Andy is strumming on his guitar (or, according to April, a super-small piano), and demands Andy and his band be the entertainment at his nephew’s birthday party, because the clown they hired has shingles. “I love my nephew very much, but he’s a horrible little tyrant so do not ruin this day for him!” 

Andy’s band’s untimely breakup is rough to watch, even though we’ve been down rocky roads with Mouse Rat before. Once the guys find out they’re playing a kid’s birthday party — although seriously, Dave Grohl might be there. He might be anywhere! He’s cool and unpredictable — they bail, for umbilical school or whatever.

Everything Craig says at the birthday party is amazing. “I need you to calm them with the power of song!” “I got Erica Swarvane to come! Which is a huge get! She RUNS the first grade!” (Does anyone else think Erica looks like a baby Rashida Jones?) And as soon as Andy starts improvising his kid songs, I too see what April sees: the man has found his calling. April is totally turned on by the fact that Andy is great with kids; Aubrey Plaza has gone on the record maybe a million times to say she hopes April gets pregnant, so who knows? Much like with Dave Grohl’s social calendar, anything could happen. At the very least, this meant the brief return of Burt Macklin, who investigates stinky feet for the FBI.

Damn, that sucks.
Even though I think, story-wise, we’re running out of meaningful ways to integrate Chris and Ann into the main world of Parks and it probably is time for them to go, I’m going to miss these two lovebirds and their super-cute, hardly problematic problems. Ann feels like a whale and her feet are killing her — “Aw, whales don’t have feet!” — and instead of just letting her vent, Chris tries to solve all her problems by finding answers on RadDadSolutions.net, doting on her with flaxseed smoothies, and saying the word nipple too many times.

Enter: The Whine and Cheese Club, a brilliant idea that I would absolutely implement in the workplace if given the opportunity. Ann bursts in, needing to get out all her anger and the most bizarre grocery list of all time.

As a general rule, I am not a fan of “pregnant ladies be crazy” story lines. They tend to rely on the same set of uncreative generalizations about pregnancy — women have cravings! And hormones! They’re out of control! — and have a way of both making all pregnant women sound unreasonably bonkers while undermining the very legitimate grievances that pregnant women have. That being said, I think this works because even though Ann is losing her mind while pregnant, the trigger is Traeger (ha! See what I did there? Leslie’s not the only punner in pun-ville), not the baby. Chris’s relentless positivity could make anyone crazy.

Fortunately, Donna, Tom, and Ron come to the rescue. Donna watch is all about Donna’s “Hmmm, hard pass” to Chris’s offer to join him on a “night jog.” Girl is all about business: “We’re here because you need to attend to your woman.” Ron, at full volume, assists: “YOU’VE FALLEN INTO A CLASSIC TRAP, CHRISTOPHER.” Chris learns those magic words — “That sucks” — that will change his life forever. Big day for Chris, you guys. I’m glad we could all be there to witness it together.

Other things I like about this: Ann’s claim that Lamaze class is a Ponzi scheme, Chris calling nipples “boob hats,” Ron deeming his iPod “AN EXCELLENT RECTANGLE.”

Please send me all your best vegetable puns on Twitter, @Jessicagolds, and leave them in the comments. In the meantime, I would like to be Pac Man but instead of dots I want them to be cinnamon buns.

Photo: Colleen Hayes/NBC