On a day when noted technophobe Taylor Swift had her Twitter and Instagram accounts hacked reportedly by the lamely named “Lizard Squad”; in a week when our beloved Skymall, the premier in-air catalogue for all of your above-the-clouds shopping needs, declared bankruptcy because it couldn’t compete with the paid Wi-Fi we can somehow still access for free while in flight; in a month when other tech-related things definitely happened, it is fitting that we get this episode of Parks, devoted to one of my pet issues/paranoias: technology and privacy.
Gryzzl, Leslie and the gang discover, is all up in its users’ business. This not-quite-distant future has its nightmare version of Google stalking the residents of Pawnee in every way possible; reading emails and texts is just the beginning of their NSA-style violations. How does our fair hero discover this? First, Gryzzl sends a drone to her front door with personalized gifts inside, but then Donna really cracks the case when her gifts reference the pet names she and Joe only use in texts or emails. This just further proves why Donna is one of the greatest fictional humans in all the land: Her annoying couple code names are so secret, she knows Gryzzl has to be prying into her data to know what they are.
Ben claims he put specific language in the contract to prevent this kind of thing when Gryzzl gave Pawnee free Wi-Fi, so he knows for sure that it’s illegal. For once, everything seems to be going in Leslie’s favor: Donna is back on her team, the people of Pawnee actually agree with her (or, as they chant, “we’re not against you on this”), and I’m finally accepting the fact that her bangs were just a gambit to lure me in to this season and I’ll never see them again. But then roadblocks begin — and they start with Ron, who, though he has just repaired his friendship with Leslie, refuses to “pass judgment on the workings of private businesses.” (I love how he and Leslie swap pictures of their kids: Leslie gives him a calendar for the month with a variety of photos, including “water park vomit chain reaction”; Ron shows Leslie a single photograph, then promptly tears it apart.)
Donna gets Leslie and Ben a private tour of Gryzzl, for which they adorably attempt to go undercover. “I’m Darlene Johannsen and this is my assistant-turned-lover Gregory Strong. Ours is a new romance, but one that sent shock waves through our architecture firm.” Those disguises! Leslie looks great in the beret, am I right? The glasses are also working for her.
On the tour, all of Leslie and Ben’s worst fears — and my worst fears! — about Gryzzl are confirmed. “As you know,” Roscoe tells them, “the cameras on your phone are always on, whether you’re using them or not. This app uses facial-recognition software to track your mood.” That app is really just there to sell you coffee, but still! Given the company's ability to track all Gryzzl users, Roscoe knew who Leslie and Ben were the entire time. (Otherwise, though, the disguises definitely would’ve done the trick.) Roscoe describes Gryzzl’s 1984-style operating system, which reads emails, texts, medical records, and can even let the ladies know “when you need to buy some new ‘pons.”
Leslie quotes Gryzzl’s mantra at Roscoe: “Wouldn’t it be tight if everyone was chill to each other?” Roscoe doesn’t see what the problem is. “We just want to learn everything about everyone and track them everywhere they go and track everything that they do.” So Leslie plays what she believes is her trump card: She and Roscoe should debate these issues on TV. “TV, retro! I love it.”
Which brings us to: The Perdple’s Court, a legal debate show about issues facing Southern Indiana! (Perd Hapley is not a real judge.) Leslie is amped, until she finds out that, due to some insane legal loophole that the Gryzzl team added to the contract when they knew Ben would be busy with some Star Wars premiere, all of the data-mining is technically legal. Ben fears that this is “Ice Town all over again,” and Ron confirms this fear. Really good man to have in a crisis, that Ron.
Ben gives an impassioned speech about how it’s still immoral, which is all very sweet but still mostly useless. Then he goes for the jugular: He accuses Gryzzl of being “definitely not chill.” Perd declares a mistrial!
Productive night, everybody.
That night, Ron shows up on Leslie and Ben’s stoop. He stands there like a ghost, shaking from the rain, and says, “This is a flying robot I just shot out of the sky after it delivered a package to my house. The package was addressed to my son who is 4 years old and does not own a Gryzzl doodad.” Apparently Gryzzl snooped around Diane’s computer and found out ab— no, I’ve already said too much about this young Swanson. Now Ron is taking sides. “No one is safe from these bastards. Tell me what to do, Leslie. I want to help you take them down.” I want a framed photograph of the face Amy Poehler makes at this exact moment. I believe the scientific term for this expression is Oh Hell Yes It Is ON.
Elsewhere on the ranch, April is supposed to be training the new interns. Instead, she is having a quarter-life crisis that only kind of makes sense; she thinks that she’s wasted her life because she spent the past ten years in the Parks Department ... but if she hadn’t come to Parks, she never would have met and married Andy or found Champion or any number of obviously amazing things in her life. So, this is entertaining and all, but I’m not totally buying it, character-consistency-wise. Anyway, she encourages her mini-me — “a scary mermaid that lures sailors to their death” — to quit the Parks internship and find something she really wants to do. April says she’s also going to be filing papers to adopt this girl as her child, so keep an eye out for that.
Craig talks some sense into April and gets a great recurring bit about how he’s now listing three things to love about being alive to stop himself from shouting all the time. (He’s so right about unlikely animal friend pairings and Keri Russell’s hair. The side-swept loose wave thing she’s got going on The Americans? Perfection.)
We also get more of the side plot about Tom’s Lucy crush, which feels very perfunctory and let’s-give-Tom-something-to-do-in-the-final-season-y. Basically, she is going to Chicago to “see” her boyfriend, but with this few episodes left to air, obviously the real purpose of this trip is for Lucy to walk in on her boyfriend having sex with somebody else, or some other breakup-worthy offense. But Tom also does some good by stepping up to be Andy's agent for the week when it's revealed that he's only been getting paid $100 a week to do all the work over at Johnny Karate. Tom negotiates him better pay and, through an impressive display of high-pitched man-crying, gets him the rights to Johnny Karate and, one would hope, Jonathan Karate as well.
A few other things:
- “Oh my God, Ben! We’re about to die! The robots have come for us! I made fun of you when you said it would happen but your novel has come true!”
- Tom, trying to do a single crunch: “OWW, ANDY, MY TUM-TUM!”
- Craig is seeing Chris's old therapist!
- Biden the Rails: 1001 Poems Inspired by My Travels Through Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
- Donna: “Gryzzl is going down. You wanna put me on blast, Imma put you on front street.” Leslie’s reply: “I don’t understand what that means, but I think I get the context, and I love it.”
- Hamuel L. Jackson, from the movie Pork Fiction.
- “You discovered Selena Gomez?” “Different Selena Gomez.” So Selena Gomez, still a thing in 2017? Fine, I’ll just have to get used to it.
- “You put farts in my lunch! Puppy-army attack!” I would like all of the puppies from the puppy-army attack. I would like them to sit on my couch with me while I write these recaps. They can lick up the tears I cry when I think about how Parks is almost over. Their snuggles will ease my pain. In related news, I think Andy’s show might be awesome.
- The only contract Ron ever signed is his Mulligan’s Steakhouse club card. And even then, he used a fake name. Les. Les Vegetables.
- Can we talk about that shade Nicki Minaj threw at Jesse Eisenberg at the BAFTAs?