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Parks and Recreation Recap: More Than One Surprise

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "One In 8,000" Episode 620 -- Pictured: Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC) PARKS AND RECREATION -- "One In 8,000" Episode 620 -- Pictured: Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

Why does anyone see Dr. Saperstein?

Dr. Saperstein would be my last choice for an ob-gyn. He’s probably the second-least competent sitcom doctor going, after Dr. Spaceman from 30 Rock. Yet it’s in Dr. Saperstein’s office where we find Ben and Leslie, awaiting news from the ultrasound. The news is big. The news is that Ben and Leslie are expecting four babies.

Wait! No, sorry, Saperstein’s bad. That’s just some cream cheese on the monitor. Three babies. Phew, they really dodged a bullet.

So: Leslie and Ben are having triplets! Is this just because our dear show has already dealt with pregnancy, and even a program as technically low-stakes as Parks is required to up the ante every time around? If Ann and Chris had one baby and Ron is a stepfather of two, Leslie has to be expecting three? Or is this just because Leslie, champion organizer and go-getter that she is, needs a bigger challenge than a simple one-baby pregnancy can provide? (One baby at a time sounds super challenging to me, but what do I know, I’m an adult who watches television for a living.)

What does this news bring out in our usually so-steady lovebirds? Unsurprisingly, Ben — who is supposed to be Leslie’s “Stress ShamWow” — immediately goes into accountant mode, realizes how expensive it is to raise three children, and has a panic attack. Leslie is calm. Does this make sense? It’s a classic setup: The woman, imbued with the gift of maternal Zen, understands that “everything will work out” because of, I don’t know, love or nature or whatever. The man completely loses his mind, trying to control that which cannot be controlled and predict what no mortal could predict. All of this is to say: Even though this is an inversion of Leslie’s tendency to go into overdrive over everything, it’s not really a new take on the pregnancy plot.

I wrote about this a bit when Ann was pregnant, but it merits repeating given this turn of events: Why do television shows reuse the same tropes over and over again when a character gets pregnant? Is it so hard to individuate the experience? Parks has found new and elegant ways to handle many a plot point we’ve seen on other shows: proposals, weddings, meeting a significant other’s parents, saying good-bye to friends. What is it about pregnancy that keeps things so far from fresh? I wish Ben and Leslie the happiest little hat trick of humans, I do, and I hope it is as hilarious as Parks at its best can be. But I am also bracing myself for the “Leslie has pregnancy crazy-brain” episode, and the “Leslie gets put on bed rest but, gosh darn it! She just can’t stay away from the [some Parks Department event that is approximately eight months from now]” episode.

In the meantime, let’s bask in the glow of some great triplet- and pregnancy-themed one-liners. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Leslie’s declaration that “We knocked it out of the park on the first try! If we do this right, we can be parents to one-third of the Supreme Court.”
  • Dr. Saperstein referring to Leslie’s pregnancy as “a going out of business sale.”
  • Ben asking Leslie if she wants “a whale sounds break.”
  • Dr. Saperstein’s instruction to Leslie and Ben to be “Buddha on Quaaludes” and “Matthew McConaughey on a hammock.”
  • Leslie, on how she and Ben will afford to have so many kids: “Maybe we’ll win the lottery. Hey, you’re lookin’ at a woman who just hit triple cherries in her uterus!”
  • Leslie’s belief that everything will be okay because their children will be geniuses: “Half of my tuition was paid for by the Indiana Scholarship for Pretty Blondes Who Like to Read! It’s now called the Virginia Woolf Prize. Different time.”

 In my favorite plot, Donna assists Ron at his daughters’ public school, where Donna’s ex — Key of Key and Peele fame — is a music teacher. Donna takes a photo of Ron (“King Sparkle of Cupcake Forest”) while he volunteers for this tax-funded institution of education, “In case I ever need to blackmail you,” and makes Ron promise to protect her from her ex. Ron agrees, introduces himself to Joe as “Donna’s work proximity associate” and then goes full Walter White: “I’m onto you, friend. Tread lightly.”

Turns out the only thing wrong with Joe is that there is nothing wrong with Joe. Donna doesn’t want to be tied down; Ron tells Donna not to “confuse drama with happiness.” Much as I love to follow Ron’s advice, that is not at all an accurate read on what Donna told him! Donna wasn’t saying that drama made her happy, only that she was afraid that a relationship would be boring. Her fear — that monogamy would breed monotony and therefore discontent — is a valid one, and Ron could have talked to her about that instead of just conflating her single life with “drama,” an oddly dismissive term given the fact that Donna, as far as I can remember, has never complained about romantic turmoil or dating problems before.  

That said, I’m glad that Donna is giving Joe another chance. Maybe we’ll see Key again! And hopefully we’ll get more exchanges like, “I have only one request: that you wear that red thing.” “I’ll wear that red thing when you deserve to see me in that red thing.”

As you may remember from last week, Andy is the only one of the gang who knows that Leslie is pregnant. He keeps busy as Johnny Karate and refuses to tell April the secret, which leads to a pretty great sequence in which April is nice to Larry (“who changed his name for some stupid reason” — Leslie, biggest laugh of the night) because she thinks he has a terminal disease. We also get to see Andy at a group birthday party; the dad has “got so many kids by so many different women, I just have all of their birthdays at the same time.” April learns that marriage means trusting your spouse, though it would be way more fun if marriage meant knowing twice the secrets.

At the end of the episode, all the hearts are warmed when Leslie and Ben announce the triplet news to the gang. Ron is “sure you will both raise a wonderful child with whom I will profoundly disagree on everything.” Everyone spontaneously volunteers to pitch in in their own beautiful, personal ways: Donna’s got the hookup on preschools, Ron will build a triple-crib in oak and pine so Ben and Leslie can choose between the two, April can babysit on weekdays during work hours.

Oh, and Larry can pass along his daughters’ hand-me-downs. He can stop working on those soil samples, too. It was a pointless ruse designed to waste time.

Photo: Colleen Hayes/NBC