Parks And Recreation: "Freddy Spaghetti"
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Parks And Recreation: "Freddy Spaghetti"

Hi, all!  Thanks to the busy schedule of Mr. Steve Heisler, I'll be recapping the season finale of Parks And Recreation for you.  If NBC continues to handle what's turned out to be the most solid traditional sitcom on its roster this badly, though, it might just turn out to be the series finale as well.

While Community has reached dizzying heights of greatness in only one season, P&R has transformed itself in its second year from a shaky enterprise to a remarkably consistent and reliably funny situation comedy with a great deal of heart and probably the best cast on television.  For those who haven't heard, it's been yanked out of the Thursday night lineup thanks to its undeniably crappy ratings and shuttled off to become a midseason replacement series next year.  How this is going to help its ratings recover is hard to figure out, but in the A.V. Club spirit, we remain cautiously optimistic; since a third season has already been ordered, it's unlikely the network will bail out entirely.  But this may be the last episode we see for a long time, so savor every moment.

When we last left the intrepid public servants of the Pawnee Parks Department, they were reacting with mixed feelings to the news of the city government being shut down barring a review of their budget.  Most everyone was terrified for their job, but Ron Swanson acted as if it were Christmas morning of his sixth birthday and Santa brought him a rocket ship.  That continues into this episode, where a delighted Ron sits in the empty City Hall building gloating like a vulture after the Apocalypse.   He even gets made a member of the budget-cutting task force, which excites him in a very profound way.

Leslie, on the other hand, is devastated:  far from being resigned to her non-essentiality, she constantly pesters the hapless Ben and has nothing to do but listen to the citizens -- suddenly keenly aware of how much they need the Parks Department -- bitch about the lack of services.  Refusing to cave to Ben's budget tyranny, she attempts to get the gang back together and stage the much-awaited annual Freddy Spaghetti concert in the empty lot behind Ann's house.  (Remember the lot?  That used to be a pit?  Yeah, there you go.)

Meanwhile, romantic entanglements are entangling themselves everywhere:  Mark, dumped by Ann, leaves government for a private-sector job; Ann herself is being macked by the impossibly high-strung auditor Chris; and, just as Andy tells April how he feels about her, she puts the brakes on things with her concerns that he still has feelings for Ann.  Tom's new girlfriend seems to have eyes for Ron and his bacon-wrapped turkey leg -- though Ron's got eyes for someone else.  Even Ron's highly charged relationship with the destruction of government gets monkey-wrenched when he learns that Leslie's job is on the chopping block, which would mean that he'd have to actually do his work himself.

This episode had a lot of plates to keep spinning, an affliction that used to slow Parks And Recreation down, but it's learned to juggle pretty adeptly, and this one whirled around with gusto, keeping all the subplots running at an enjoyable pace.  It gave us lots of lovely character moments and plot development without losing sight of its central premise, and the way it's anchored by Leslie Knope and how she loves a job that doesn't love her back.  It even comes to a touching full circle, as Mark and Leslie share a moment on the edge of the lot.  It's this ability to hold down the 'situation' part of situation comedy, while never scrimping on the comedy, that makes it the class of the NBC lineup -- the purest, if not the best, sitcom on the air.  It's just too bad nobody's paying attention.

Rating:  A-

Stray Observations: 

- Who was that playing Tom's new lady friend?  She looks terribly familiar but I can't quite place her.  If she's listed on IMDB, I didn't see it.

- Nick Offerman has a new canoe-making video, for those who couldn't get enough of his caning lesson last episode.

- "I got a really good deal on my lease.  It's like 12%.  That's one of the highest you can get."

- "With the government shut down, who's going to stop al-Q'aeda?"

- "What am I going to do with my kids, keep them in my house?  Where I live?"

- "Yesterday, one of those pigeons took a shit on me, and I was indoors.  So."

- "Don't make it last very long.  Ladies don't like that."

- "My father told me that limp handshakes were for weak men and Communists.  He hated both."

- "Suck it, Paris, France!"

- Thanks for sticking with us through this season of Parks And Recreation, everyone, and thanks to Steve for letting me sit in again.  I hope we see you all whenever the hell the show comes back.

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