Parks And Recreation: "The Possum"
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Parks And Recreation: "The Possum"

Cheers, Pawnee taxpayers!  Steve Heisler is off freewheeling about like the billionaire gadfly he is, so it's up to me to recap tonight's episode, which promises to shed some light on the adversarial relationship between one small Indiana town and its indigenous opossum population.

One of the strengths of Parks & Recreation in the second season is that its producers have had the good sense to mix up the episodes before the show ends up in a rut.  It's been much improved by bringing out the personalities of the supporting cast, but it occasionally switches gears into straight-up silliness, or, in the case of tonight's episode, a plot that gets back to the inside-government premise of the show.  It's not a well that needs to be drawn from often, but it's a refreshing change sometimes, and "The Possum" illuminates the personalities of two central figures in an appealing way.

In the A plot, we get a glimpse of the obsessive dedication to her job that both gives Leslie Knope a reputation as a get-it-done figure in Pawnee government and makes her incredibly insufferable.  Mayor Gunderson's famous dog, Rufus, gets attacked on the golf course by notorious possum troublemaker Fairway Frank (#2 on Pawnee's most-wanted list after Poopy the Raccoon).  Because of Leslie's reputation as someone who can get things done -- and the reputation of Animal Control as a bunch of burned-out stoners -- the Mayor's assistant asks her to take care of the problem -- which she does, with the aid of Andy, who snags the beast with the same gusto he usually saves for fleeing the police. 

In a development only she could care about, though, it turns out they may have captured the wrong possum.  No one (including golf course manager Mr. Campopiano) gives a toss which possum it is except Leslie, who works herself into a frenzy over the possibility that they've framed an innocent beast.  She thus engages April -- who's housesitting for Ann, in a woefully underformed subplot -- to hide the possum while she deflects the inquiries of the press, in the person of the returning Shawna Mulway-Tweep.  Andy, however, embraces his new role as "Andy Radical", by which means the ever-optimistic shoeshiner hopes to win back his old girlfriend, much to April's chagrin.

Meanwhile, Ron Swanson, the mirror image of Leslie, the man who views government in much the same way as Grover Norquist, wants to upgrade his woodshop (and if you're not hip to the fact that Nick Offerman himself is a master woodworker, check out offermanwoodshop.com) and hopes to get a rubber stamp from Mark.  Unfortunately, the place is a deathtrap of oil-soaked rags, faulty wiring and fire extinguishers that have been expired for over a decade.  For Ron, bringing his shop up to code is tantamount to opening his front door to the forces of Communism, but Mark refuses to budge, leading to a showdown between professionalism and friendship.  Does friendship win out?  Can Ron Swanson fit a full-sized canoe into a 10x10 office?

The plot of "The Possum" is a bit of a trifle, and its subplots drop like autumn leaves, but it's got tons of laughs both precise and broad, and the way it contrasts Ron and Leslie's opposing, but equally dysfunctional, attitudes towards local government, fits snugly into the show's overall premise.  It's not often that shows need to focus on the 'situation' part of 'situation comedy', but as long as they don't forget the other half, episodes like this can be pretty enjoyable.

Rating:  B

Stray Observations:

- "It's a robot bear!  It's programmed to snuggle."

- "Coffee is my favorite non-alcoholic hot drink, except for hot tea.  And hot orange juice.  Weirdly delicious."

- Primary symptom of shoeshine head:  a thunderstorm in your brain.

- "We're acting under direct orders from Mayor Gunderson's dog."

- "I'm gonna hang yourself!"

- "I cannot emphasize enough how little I was thinking."

- "We brought a possum into your house and it got out and it may have laid eggs in your bed.  And it went it your kitchen and your bathroom and it touched all your bras."

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