“Two Parties” S5 / E10
- B+ Community Grade
For four years, Parks And Recreation was an incredible case study on how to make jokes with people who like each other. There was no personal conflict left unresolved, no initially dickish demanding character like Andy Dwyer who didn’t morph into a big teddy bear. Even Jerry, the Gary of the group, got himself a few sympathizers and an enormous penis. First season aside, those teddy bears sure gave each other big bear hugs. Unless they were from Eagleton. Or the library.
Even those things weren’t objectively evil. The show adopted the perspective of Leslie Knope so gradually, I hardly even noticed. I hated Eagleton and the library because she did, not because I hated Eagleton’s unseasonable palm trees or the library’s…books? (I haven’t been to a library in a few years.)
Now we have Councilman Jamm. A man so obsessed with taking down Leslie’s park that he forgets to put schmutz in his hair and tame that glorious Jew ’fro. He’s not some cloaked figure that causes Leslie to shout on command when he comes into view. He’s just some guy who happens to do things terribly, not very cartoonish in the slightest. Which makes me hate him more. I can get why Leslie would think Sweetums would be a sour sack of shit; they’re so over-the-top in their ignorance that they’re the equivalent of a guy with a giant curly mustache and a pet snake that Andy gets for Chris but then keeps for himself. But at the end of the day, Sweetums provides candy to Pawnee folk who really want it. Jamm just wants to make Leslie’s life miserable. Sure, some Pawneeans will get paunchier from the burgers he wishes to put on top of Leslie’s park, but that’s not his goal. He wants Leslie gone for no good reason other than people like her and she’s good at his job.
He’s the show’s first true villain. And I say that about a guy in an episode that also includes Newt Gingrich.
It’s pretty clear that Jamm is going to get his comeuppance. I mean, this is a comedy, not Breaking Bad; he’s no Heisenberg. But the show delivers said comeuppance with the same heart it saves for bachelor parties surrounded by best friends, or bachelorette parties with an excess of gummy penises. Leslie decides to bury Wamapoke items in the pit, knowing that discovering Native American artifacts will halt construction until a thorough investigation can take place. She realizes her mistake almost immediately, before the first commercial break, which shows that becoming a councilwoman has enabled Leslie to meld her whirling OCD with her capacity to take a deep breath and have some perspective. She hates Jamm, but she hates the idea of misleading the Wamapoke even more. There are those who will do whatever it takes to take down a villain. Leslie is not one of those people. She’s too good to get dirty—though she’ll gamely dig for her buried treasure with her hands or any available penis hat.
If she’s going to win, she wants to do it the right way. This advice comes not from Leslie herself, but from April, actually. Everyone is growing up. Nobody’s capable of being as bad as the villain. Well, maybe Ken, who can play white people’s guilt like a fiddle. Somebody has to step up and deliver at least a bit of comeuppance.
There are plenty of transitions I could use here to get to Ben’s bachelor party using the word “comeuppance”, but there were no strippers or sexual stuff of any kind, so I believe I’m owed a begrudged, “Thank you” from all of you for sparing you the disgust. You’re welcome. It’s just an honor to be nominated.
So Ben… his bachelor party is exactly what he wanted: His best friends getting together and playing Settlers Of Catan. As usual, there’s a bit of an inside joke that these guys have no friends outside the office (though it makes more sense for Ben, since he is relatively new in town and theoretically might have lost new acquaintances when he spent all that time in DC), so those in attendance are those we see every day. And pretty much everyone except for perpetual optimist Chris hates it. But they’re too nice to let on. Even Tom is able to restrain himself for one whole game of Catan.
Regardless, Ben is one of the boys, so the derailment of his bachelor party is filled with a beautiful form of anarchy. He had his turn, and he’s willing to pass the proverbial and literal hat around to others who, it turns out, never had a bachelor party of their own. The gang heads to what appears to be the shuttered Entertainment 720 offices for some “molecular mixology,” aka scotch in the form of hand lotion. They go to Jerry’s favorite ice cream parlor and Ron’s favorite steakhouse. And just because dreams always come true in Pawnee, Chris calls in a few favors and ensures the guys can play football with a bunch of the Indianapolis Colts on their actual field, I’m sure a dream fulfilled for not only the characters but some of the actors, too. It’s no Golden Tee with Dave Matthews, but it’s a close second.
On the one side of the story, Jamm gets embarrassed and dressed down for trying to do wrong. On the other, Chris gets the love and respect of his colleagues and friends, and maybe even a promising date with Shauna. And yet the episode still manages to squeeze every ounce of humor out of Andy’s half-joking, extremely detailed description of how he’d stalk Chris for dating April after he fakes his death. Parks is morally unambiguous, and brazenly so. And that confidence only makes me like it more.