It’s really too bad this episode didn’t air just two weeks earlier, because this would have been a perfect Passover special. Many a plague struck our Pawneeans: wild animals, a contagion to kill livestock/a man who consumes nothing but livestock, extreme douchebaggery (which, technically speaking, was not a plague, but I think we can all agree there was some extreme douchebaggery going down in Egypt at the time). Brace yourselves, people! We’ve got some chaos on our hands.
A Heartbreaking Work of Sniffling
Finding out that Ron Swanson can be felled by illness is like finding out there are people on Earth who are taller than your dad (not that I would know; my dad is taller than all of you). When we first see the sick Swanson, he’s shivering behind his desk with a Holden Caulfield hat on his head, one of those very on-trend fur collars around his neck, and booze-as-medicine on his desk. Ann, really flexing that nursing degree, insists he go to the doctor. Crack observation, Annie! (Seriously, though, it feels like they’re really stretching just to get Rashida Jones in scrubs for some/no reason.)
Ron is still dating Xena, which is lovely, but Xena has children, which is gross. Here is a fun fact about the prepubescent crowd: Kids are human germ-factories. If you don’t want to get sick, you’re better off licking the floor of the subway than you are spending time with a small child. Ron learned this the hard way, by watching Finding Nemo with the postnasal-drip duo.
Of course Ron is unwilling to seek medical attention, but then he passes out — so, well, there goes his vote in the matter.
Apparently Ron goes to all the trouble of filling out those annoying medical forms that always make you question your life choices/feel judged just so he can redact all of the information. “For date of birth, you wrote ‘springtime,’” says Ann. Then this happens:
Ron: Yes, lovemaking and woodworking.
Ann: Is there a history of mental illness in your family?
Ron: I have an uncle who does yoga.
Ron: Cowardice and weak-willed men. And hazelnuts.
Ann: Sexual history?
Ron: Epic and private.
One, “epic and private” shall be the name of a lingerie store I open to compete with Victoria’s Secret. Epic & Private: where absolutely zero items have the word pink emblazoned across the ass (you’re welcome in advance, shoppers). Two, the examination that follows is an instant classic, what with Ron having sawdust in his ear and disdaining the tongue depressor because it isn’t even mahogany.
Turns out Ron has strep throat. In addition to hooking him up with some penicillin, Ann tells Ron to start taking his health more seriously because he’s got this serious squeeze and two little petri dishes who love him. This means he must eat bananas. Are the positives of the banana completely obliterated by the negatives of the Paunch Burger? Whatever. Ron Swanson is going to die when he’s going to die, and there is nothing anyone can do about it — not even Ron Swanson.
Someone wake up Milton! History is being made!
I love the recurring theme of pest and animal problems in Pawnee — remember the raccoon infestation of yore? Good times! — but its source has long been a mystery to me. UNTIL NOW. Animal Control is heavy on the animals, light on the control. Leslie says it best: “This place is a miserable suckhole run by two losers.” The heads of the department are, however, great at ingesting and selling marijuana, so at least they’ve got those multitasking skills going for them when they’re back on the job market.
Chris gets his foot caught in a trap and spends the rest of the episode in a cast. It is worthwhile if only for his immediate reaction to the injury: “This is one of my running feet!”
Leslie wants to find a new department head through your standard application and interview process. The councilmen are more into the whole nepotism-through-dentistry thing, and Jamm does have a contender who “is a war hero or a war criminal, depending on who you ask.” But Knope holds firm: Everyone has to bring back a potential replacement, and they’ll interview every option. “My thoroughly vetted candidate is going to blow your candidates out of the water.”
The pickings are slim. Rejects include: the two guys Chris literally just fired, Jerry, a woman who is terrified of animals, and April’s creepy friend Orin who, keeping in theme with the episode’s title, says he can control animals with his mind.
Leslie decides she wants April to apply and butters her up with lotion. By “lotion” I mean emptied-out lotion bottles that Leslie refilled with fake blood, vinegar, and mustard because April likes her hands to be cracked and calloused like a railroad worker. It’s pretty clear where this is going, given April’s history of animal lovin’ and the way this season has focused on giving her room to grow up as a professional. Maybe that’s why the scenes that follow feel kind of slow?
April gets destroyed during her first round of questioning but comes back after recess with the winning idea of having Animal Control absorbed into the Parks department. Her idea is so brilliant that Councilman Jamm declares, “I’m going to tell everyone this was my idea. Retrojammed!”
Leslie presents April with a nameplate that reads “April Ludgate: Deputy Director,” saying she had it made April’s first week. “I knew you were going places, so I wanted to be prepared.” Can we explore this beautiful relationship more, please? Because I love it almost as much as it appears April has grown to love her curling iron (a development I fully support).
Smells Like Team Spirit
This is where the episode sort of fell apart for me. This story line started with so much promise! A ridiculous Pawnee personality with some bonkers industry making perfumes and colognes — I mean, being a “scent artist” — whose products have names like Spasm and Butterface, and he owns a Rolexus, which is a Lexus filled with Rolexes? So far, so good. Ben is taking Tom and Andy along on a mission to get this $20 million man to donate to the Sweetums Foundation. It could be great!
But it is … not so great. Dennis Feinstein read like a heartless and wealthy Jean-Ralphio, and we already have a Jean-Ralphio (not to mention his twin sister). Maybe one scene of him being a jerk as our boys tried to win him over would’ve worked, but this felt like the same scene over and over again. Was it super-satisfying to watch Andy call Dennis a dick? Definitely. Was it just as satisfying to watch Ben call Dennis a major dick, like, ten minutes later? Not so much.
When Dennis refuses to get into the whole charity game, Tom offers to have Rent-a-Swag donate five cents for every dollar they make this month to the Sweetums Foundation. It’s unclear how much money that will actually raise, but still, excellent gesture.
Donna is at the smoking lounge where the Parks men attempt one of many failed pitches for Dennis. Even though all she says is “Gentlemen,” she still gets one of the best beats of the episode. No small parts, people.
I’m going to go take a Dwyer shower. Mmmm, new car!