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Parks and Recreation Recap: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Galentine's Day"

Maybe I am crazy, too, but Leslie’s crazy wall makes perfect sense to me. Am I alone here? It’s the just-right amount of Carrie Mathison, with a little “Who is the Yellow King?” thrown in, plus a dash of A’s lair from Pretty Little Liars. And it’s all tied together with those multicolor index cards I used in college to study for exams! 

I cannot overstate how much I relate to Leslie’s phone call dilemma. I too often must go far too long between phone calls with my long-distance ladyfriends, and it is SO hard to keep track of all the things I am going to want to talk to them about. “What should be a higher priority: infinity scarves, or whether or not I should get Showtime?” Ben, I can see, is one of those people who responds to something like “I Gchat with my best friend every day” by saying, “Every day? What could you possibly have to talk about?” Ughhh, Ben, don’t even try to weigh in on Sandra Bullock skirt length, you’ll just embarrass yourself. In the meantime, though, Leslie wants to jump your bones.

Anyway: One of the things Parks does best is celebrate female friendship. I think it might be the best show out there at finding the sweet-as-J.J.’s-waffles spot between prioritizing romantic love and BFF love. While so many shows can barely acknowledge that women could be anything but frenemies, obstacles on the way to a desirable gentleman companion, or a straight-up nemeses, Parks understands how crucial it is, even as a grown woman — especially as a grown woman — to maintain strong relationships with your platonic female friends. Parks and Recreation: Passing the Bechdel Test and warming my heart for as long as Pawnee’s had an obesity epidemic.

People talk about how hard long distance romantic relationships are allllll the time. (It’s honestly like those kids want a freaking medal for racking up so many frequent flier miles. Hello, literally every generation of humans before you had to do exactly what you’re doing and they didn’t even have Skype.) But I’d argue that long-distance friendships can be just as hard and sometimes even harder: It’s harder to justify the cost to visit each other, and it’s not like you know there’s some marriage and cohabitation at the end of the long-distance rainbow. You might just have to be geographically apart for maybe ever. Is Leslie ever going to leave Pawnee? Will Ann ever come back? (“Listen to me: I have not been taken. This is not a Liam Neeson situation.”)

Leslie’s efforts at being hip with Donna and April remind me of Ben’s super-awkward attempts to be cool with the interns in D.C.; it’s the little things that remind me why those kids are so perfect together. “April! What’s the 4-1-1, lil mama? What’s the hot goss? Who you crushin’ on these days?” Leslie insists on having Galentine’s Day because NOW IS LADY TIME (April: “You sound like a tampon commercial”) and invites basically every woman she’s ever met, including sad Shauna, Evelyn, and Fake Ann.

Leslie makes the mistake of thinking she can audition all her current girlfriends for the role of “new Ann” without them finding out or getting offended. She issues a Galentine’s Day Q&A and as soon as she says the correct answer for “best TV show” is Friday Night Lights, I realize I SHOULD BE THE NEW ANN.

(Important sidebar: Later, when Leslie refers to the entire Riggins clan as “garbage,” I worry that I must reconsider. I mean, how dare Leslie throw my beloved Riggins under the bus! And this from a girl who leans Saracen? The kid popped the question outside the Alamo Freeze! COME ON, LESLIE. Riggins is the right choice always, unless you’re playing with the new class, in which case the right choice is Vince. Also an acceptable answer, if you’re thinking outside the student box: Coach Taylor.)

Alas, April’s favorite TV show is “watching Russian traffic accidents on YouTube” and Donna is still all about Scandal even though I must admit, I’m losing faith — remember the good old sexy days before B613 and wrist-chewing? Me too! — so Leslie is at a loss. Much like when Harriet the Spy’s classmates discover her notebook, the reveal that Leslie is keeping a friendship rankings during brunch does not go over well. Even I was upset; seasonally speaking, shouldn’t Leslie have been making a friendship bracket?

Yet we end, as Parks must, on a happy, life-affirming note: Oliver Perkins Traeger is born! Leslie sees Ann, she of the unmatchable ethnic hybrid energy, for a brief Rashida Jones cameo, and returns to her friends with an apology. April thinks Leslie is “fine, like a solid B-minus,” and she and Donna give Leslie a stuffed rabbit with a very sweet recording of Ann’s voice. No hugs, though. Touch me and I stab the bunny.

Meanwhile, Ron tries to take what sounds like a much-needed vacation from parenting — “There is no quiet anymore. There is only Doc McStuffin.” — but winds up parenting overgrown child Andy instead. I’m not going to say I’ve ever wondered what Andy wonders about whether there’s a person inside the ATM handing out the money, but I do think the internet consists of a bunch of tubes (like the old pipes screensaver!) and that when you send an email, little elves who live inside the tubes run the message to the recipient.

Unfortunate for Andy and maybe even more unfortunate for Ron, Andy falls while playing around and knocks out a tooth. (I love that Andy tries to shove his tooth back inside his mouth by going “Whoa, five-second rule!”) Andy in the waiting room is also kind of exactly like me in a waiting room. Why do you always have to remember what your allergies are? What’s my social security number again? Andy is fed up, even with the Highlights magazine quizzes — “Well, the numbers don’t lie. I’m a Goofus, not a Gallant.” — and wants to go home. Ron is onboard at first; after all, his grandmother was missing that tooth, and she was the most beautiful woman on that oil rig.

There is also a kind of meandering but also touching sequence with Ben, Tom, and Larry trying to close the deal for the Unity Concert tents. I wasn’t so into the jokes where these guys were getting the runaround from a very sneaky and monopolizing tent salesman, except for a few choice tent puns (The Tentagon!). But I do love Tom’s attention to detail regarding his business attire (“A straightforward deal? Why didn’t you tell me? I’m not wearing my straightforward deal fedora!”) and I like to see Larry be appreciated by someone, even if it’s Ben, even if it’s Dead Poets Society–style, and even if this public affection is sure to be short-lived.  

Bye, everyone! This was really … brunch.

Photo: Colleen Hayes/NBC