One of my favorite things about Parks & Rec's stellar second season is that the characters started to exist beyond their work conversations. Their friends, families, personal lives, and the town of Pawnee itself all took their turn center stage. Tonight's episode, one of the greats, was pay-off for all the hard work the writers have poured into this season, with "Telethon" featuring appearances or mention of Sweetums, Pawnee Today, a callback to the tax guy, Ron Swanson's craftiness, Mouse Rat performing its hit single "Sex Hair", Jerry's wife, Jerry's sex life, Jerry himself, Detlef Schrempf, and even a call-out to the guy or gal who's been doing all this filming the entire time. Fittingly, the episode was written by Amy Poehler, who's been surrounded by all these elements the whole time, seeing them revolve around her ever-expanding baby bump (aka, "fire in my belly"), and she did a hell of a job.
Leslie Knope herself was thrilled to be the center of attention, plucking a plum timeslot hosting the Pawnee telethon against obesity—ironically sponsored by Sweetums. And by plum, I mean 2-6am. In the morning. She ropes the entire office into helping her answer the phones, and sends Tom off with former Indiana Pacer Detlef Schrempf to entertain the man prior to his appearance. The usual guys are excited: Andy, Tom (eventually). The usual people are less than excited: Everyone else, Ron Swanson.
Maybe it was all the sleep deprivation, but I thought the episode had some of the strongest one-liners in a while, and many of them. Leslie's self-seriousness shined through on "There are two kinds of diabetes, but only one kind of caring. Type one caring" and her realization that the money was, in fact, going down during Ron's, uh, beautiful chair demonstration. Ron himself was on full display, showing off his sleep fighting that isn't bad "unless I'm losing" and the early "take him out and shoot him" about the cutest dog in the world. Plus, his bleeped-out line caught me by surprise. Tom, having the time of his life out with Detlef (after two beers—light beers) never realized athletes were popular, he wears Brooks Bros. Kids., and thought Jerry's sharing about his sex night ruined sex, and the night. Then that random long-haired dude swooped in, claiming to be from the sewage department, where he's "waist deep in hot snatch." Hoo boy, Parks & Rec was on fire.
Of course, P&R always balances out the humor with just a touch of sobriety, and tonight it came in the form of Ann and Mark, perhaps the most mellow character on television. It's so rare that Mark gets excited about anything—the most he could muster over the prospect of asking Ann to marry him was, like, a sly grin and some head-nodding. It was extra heartbreaking to hear Ann admit she wants to break up with him (though not totally unexpected, given little looks she's had over the last few weeks), and to see the look of puppy-dog confusion on Mark's face when he arrives at the studio, ring in hand, only to be thwarted by a soon-to-be-pantsless Leslie. Of course, there's worse on the horizon once Ann finally works up the courage to do the deed. For now, though, we're all having a ton of fun.
- I used up most of the good lines up there, so I'll simply end with this: Rob "Fuckin'" Lowe.