Okay, consider me back on board. This episode made me laugh for 2/3s of its running time then reminded me of the potential for depth I saw in the pilot in the last third. It ends abruptly and without any kind of memorable push to make me want another episode right now, but this will do. So what made the difference? Two things: I felt like this revived the pilot’s feel for small-town life and it made me like Leslie again. Amy Poehler managed plenty of funny moments without going SNL broad, which made her final scene with Paul Schneider’s Mark work all the better. I believed it. And I cared what happened.
I also believed that Andy could have been walking around with an iPod and a spork lodged in his cast. And that he could have lied about needing it another two weeks for the sake of easy sandwich service, too. Chris Pratt’s been the MVP of several P&R episodes. He’s billed as guest star, which will hopefully change when the show returns next year. I’m not sure they’ll be able to keep Andy and Ann together, however. Or, put another way, it doesn’t make much sense for them to stay together, particularly after tonight’s revelation. But their relationship not making sense has been pretty terrific fodder so far.
Ann also seems pretty committed to it, for reasons yet to be revealed. (Assuming there are reasons.) Her scene with Mark, when he finally came onto her, however halfheartedly, revealed her as a woman who doesn’t give her affection away lightly, even if she’s committed to a man singing a terrible song to her that does nothing to compensate for an extra two weeks of misery. And Scarecrow Boat, sorry, Mouse Rat is pretty terrible, however accurate Andy’s description of their sound as a cross between Matchbox 20 and The Fray. (Although the presence of something called “Flannel Grunge” suggests they might not even be Pawnee’s least-inspired rock band.)
I also liked the unhurried pace of this episode. Whatever problems it’s had, creating funny supporting characters isn’t one of them. Tonight we meet Tom’s wife, who I suspected was going to remain unseen like Norm’s Vera. Seeing her didn’t shed any light on their marriage, though. Does she buy into his open relationship scheme? Has she had more success with it? Even more amusing: Ron’s date with Beth, his ex-wife Tammy’s better-looking sister. (“It’s like a fairy tale.” “Tammy stinks.”) And everything leading up to Mark’s drunken pass at Leslie gets set up slowly: The recognition that his accomplishments can literally be measured in inches, seeing everyone else paired up, Ann’s rejection and, of course, all that beer. Because in a town like Pawnee, why not keep drinking?
Well, there’s always dating, as Leslie inadvertently discovers when she realizes she’s been set up on a date with an inappropriately aged partner. Despite her unconvincing proclamation of love for the Everly Brothers, there’s not a lot of future there, and Poehler played the scene with the right mix of bitterness and pathos. It seems to have drawn her away from her singular focus on her job long enough to see a long, dark future stretching out in front of her, one best not spent as a striving cartoon.
Before we close out the season, here’s a comment from last week, courtesy of “The Teller Of Truths”: “This show is going to be widely beloved by the end of season 2, and everybody will go back and watch season 1 and like it way more than they do now.”
That’s exactly what I was thinking when the show premiered to widespread disappointment a few weeks ago. I had a hard time holding on to those thoughts in during those middle episodes, but now I’m feeling more confident Parks & Recreation is in it for the long run. I hope next year bears that suspicion out.
“Screw it! We are Mouse Rat!”