Amy Poehler, Kristen Bell and Rob Lowe on Parks and Recreation
Photo: Colleen Hayes/NBC
Is there a more treasured Pawnee pastime than hating on Eagleton? What’s not to hate about that neighboring town, what with their stupid beautiful faces and their stupid shiny hair and all that Gretchen-and-Elliott-esque wealth? As Leslie explains to Ben, “Slamming Eagleton is the easiest way to score some points. Am I proud of it? Yes, because Eagleton sucks. Is it the classiest move? Yes, because Eagleton sucks. Would I do it again? Yes, because Eagleton sucks.” And who better to direct this episode than Enough Said’s Nicole Holofcener, who helmed season three’s “Eagleton” (not to mention my all-time favorite half hour of Ben and Leslie: “Smallest Park”).
Enter Ingrid de Forest, a.k.a. Kristen Bell. She won the Miss Indiana Beauty Pageant. Last year. While she was in office. And pregnant. She won’t say the word money but she’ll tip with €100 bills. XOXO, girl.
Leslie’s cracks at Eagleton’s expense (money pun!) are delightful: “I’m not saying Eagletonians are out of touch. But when you tell them it’s time to change the oil, they say ‘extra virgin or white truffle?’” But the most adorable moment of the entire episode might be when Chris gives Ben his old calculator and Ben squeals, “Dr. Buttons!” Turns out Eagleton is on the brink of financial disaster. “Looks like a job for Butch Count-city and the Sum-dance kid! [Elaborate high-five] Auditing bros!”
Veronica Mars can’t believe some of Ben and Chris’s recommendations for handling the budget crisis by paring down some of the town’s expenses. Eagletonians fill their swimming pools with bottled water. The entire town gets HBO. (Chris doesn’t look too bummed about that, maybe because he thinks it means everyone in Eagleton is watching Behind the Candelabra.) They’ve got Michael Bublé on retainer, and they’ve got a saying: You don’t kick a dressage horse after a failed pas de deux.
Ben suggests Leslie get over the whole Eagleton-hatred thing; after all, the inciting incident was over 200 years ago. Ummm, so what? The American Revolution was over 200 years ago but it’s not like we stopped celebrating the Fourth of July!
Leslie does come around, though, in what I think is such an exciting plot twist for Parks: The town of Eagleton will be absolved and reabsorbed into Pawnee! How do you like them apples? This saves Eagleton from financial ruin and maybe, just maybe, will help Leslie stay in office. Someone from Eagleton refers to Pawneeans as “greasy, denim-clad angels,” which means I have a new front-runner for my favorite band-name idea.
I always feel like somebody’s watching me
Clearly Ron Swanson read that same terrifying Times story that I did — you know the one, where Target knew that girl was pregnant before she did? It’s enough to make even a reasonable-ish person want to curl up in an NSA-proof chamber and live there forever, communicating with people only by handwritten note and/or tin-can telephone. All it takes is one Pennysaver sent to Ron at Diane’s address to send Swanson over the edge. He’s had problems like this before, of course (remember when April had to explain to him how cookies work on the Internet?), and he dedicates the episode to trying to go fully off the grid, right down to getting rid of the photo of him at J.J.’s Diner, where he ate 51 eggs in twenty minutes (incriminating caption: “MAN — Most Eggs”). Between this Cool Hand Luke wink and the Butch Cassidy shout-out, I’m just going to go ahead and assume that someone on the Parks writing staff loves Paul Newman as much as I do.
Donna Watch is satisfied by this arc, which sends up but still celebrates Tom and Donna’s addiction to the grid. (Besides, without Twitter, how would I have known Donna was IN D.C. yesterday? Retta, hit a recapper up! #coffeequest #blowinupmytimeline #gridgridgrid.) Sometimes Tom’s total dependency on technology is mocked or revealed to be a coping mechanism for a deep inner sadness, but to go in that direction all the time would be too Franzen-y to stomach. Tom and Ron’s opposing points of view are both equally sympathetic and equally ridiculous. I wholeheartedly endorse Ron’s mantra that “Food is for eating. Places are for being. End of discussion,” but Ron sounds insane when he tries to buy an RV in exchange for gold without giving an address for insurance purposes. Tom and Donna might be the best example in the Parks universe of how social media can be used to enhance, not replace, human interaction, but they sound bananas when made to say stuff like, “You just Vined your first selfie, Ron!”
It’s Diane who convinces Ron that he needs to be on “our grid” for his new family, and it’s Diane who runs away with my favorite line of the night: “I love you, but your solution to every problem is to live inside a mountain.”
Cool means good, Meema
April has orientation at vet school in Bloomington and Ann decides to tag along and buy baby supplies, because the only baby store in Pawnee is attached to a chemical refinery and also, I guess, because there’s no such thing as online shopping? Whatever, who cares. Worth it for April to make Ann pretend to be her 65-year-old Grandma. “Sometimes I wish you went down on the Titanic like the rest of your sorority sisters.”
Let’s talk about Chris and Ann for a second, who it appears will be moving to Bloomington so Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones can leave the show. I’ve been rooting for that pairing for ages (you all know how I feel about Gorgeousness Gravity), but they are exponentially more interesting when they’re onscreen with anyone but each other. Ann and April’s chemistry is so endearing, maybe because they’re still fumbling in the dark toward friendship and because they really do seem to need each other: They both push each other into places where they’re uncomfortable but will ultimately grow. April teaches Ann to listen to her gut. Ann will hopefully teach April that it’s cooler to care than to not care. Are we supposed to take this to believe April will follow her gut and not go to vet school? Because I was really on board with that April-pursues-her-animal-loving-education development.
In related news, I would really like to go on a road trip and listen to Mariah Carey with Rashida Jones and Aubrey Plaza.
Tell me what you thought of last night’s episode on Twitter @jessicagolds. I can check it with this original Wall Street phone that I’ve got in my cell phone belt clip.