The Parks and Recreation book, Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America was released this week, and, as a tie-in, this week’s Parks and Rec involved Leslie Knope dealing with the aftermath of writing said book. In the context of the show, Leslie wrote Pawnee on her own without any intention of releasing it to the public, but her campaign manager convinced her to publish it to generate some heat for her impending City Council campaign. In Pawnee, the highest honor a printed work can achieve is being named a part of talk show host Joan Callamezzo’s Book Club, and naturally, driven Leslie seeks out to win this title.
The episode’s opening scene further expands the collection of press and media figures in the Parks and Rec universe with the introduction of Dan “Homer Simpson” Castellaneta as Pawnee public radio host Derry Marbles. The entire segment in which Marbles interviews Leslie is a well-written and precise send-up of the bone-dry monotonous public radio set. It’s nice to see that Pawnee has such a well-rounded assortment of media personlaties, with Derry Marbles joining the ranks of clueless TV journalist Perd Hapley and morning zoo shock jock duo Crazy Ira and the Douche. It’s only a matter of time before we meet Pawnee’s small-town equivalent to Jay Leno.
After her appearance on Pawnee Community Radio, Leslie has a sit-down with Joan Callamezzo (played by Mo Collins) on her TV program Pawnee Today. Leslie hopes to gain membership in Callamezzo’s book club, but instead, she falls victim to an act of gotcha journalism. Joan Callamezzo goes several steps further than this underhanded style of reporting usually does by superimposing the word “Gotcha!” over Leslie’s face and calling out the show’s Gotcha Dancers to perform an elaborate number. The dirt Callamezzo has dug up on Leslie is a claim that she wasn’t born in Pawnee. Like that, Pawnee’s proudest resident is zapped of the very thing that makes her tick.
What follows for Leslie is a hostile reaction from Pawnee’s residents, who are outraged that she wasn’t born in town. Leslie insists that Pawnee is, in fact, her place of birth, but the betrayed citizens won’t buy it. In what’s becoming a trend for Parks and Rec, the show puts its own spin on a major news story – this time it’s the Barack Obama birther movement conspiracy theory – and offers up a scaled-down version of a real-life political scandal. Since the show already tackled Anthony Weiner’s downfall in the season premiere (in which an employee from the Sewage Department e-mailed a jpeg of his genitalia to all of City Hall’s female workers) and got the birthers out of the way here, this should be the last of these ripped from the headlines stories we see on Parks and Rec for a while – unless the Pawnee equivalent of Rick Perry’s inappropriately-named family ranch is coming up.
Looking to prove that she was born in Pawnee after all, Leslie heads to Eagleton - Pawnee’s Shelbyville – with Andy and Chris to pull her birth certificate from the County Records Office. When Leslie can’t convince the clerk to hand the document over and Chris’s charm and looks fail to grease the wheels, Andy goes into action as his old alter ego, Bert Macklin FBI, diving over the desk to retrieve the birth certificate. Yes, that’s right. Bert Macklin – who was said to be dead last season – has been resurrected and is back in action. It’s great to see Andy using this dumb persona again, although I did very much like the fake name he spit out last week when he was intimidated by Tammy #1: Tim Bukinowski.
The episode’s subplots involve Tom and Ben trying to convince Joan Callamezzo to name Leslie’s tome a part of her Book Club and Ann struggling to befriend Ron and April. The Tom and Ben storyline offers up another successful outing for this well-matched, always-funny duo, and gives Mo Collins a nice opportunity to play drunk. The Ann plot addresses Ann’s outsider status in the Parks Department by exploring her relationships (or lack thereof) she has with the show’s two most antisocial characters. It’s a nice look at the realities of Ann interacting with personality types like April and Ron. Ann makes some progress by sharing a gross hospital story with April and Ron, but she’s sent right back to square one when Ron pretends to forget her name, just to keep her from feeling close to him.
After examining her birth certificate, Leslie finds that she was born in Eagleton, not Pawnee, and that her mother has hid this fact from her for her entire life. She makes a return appearance to Pawnee Today, where she delivers a heartfelt speech about how it doesn’t matter where she was born because she loves Pawnee and lives to serve the people who live there. Joan Callamezzo puts her in the book club (complete with sticker of Joan’s face that blocks out most of the cover), but she also slaps a “Gotcha!” sticker over the back of the jacket.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.