Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Parks And Recreation: "Miss Pawnee Pageant"

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Hot diggity damn, that was a great episode. And not only does it continue the show's hot streak, but it does so in a way that bodes well for the rest of the season. Leslie's becoming less of a caricature by the episode, and the supporting cast has rarely been better. Although, let's get this out of the way right now, it was a huge bummer to be missing Ron "Fucking" Swanson.

But while he carried the show's best moments in season one, he was hardly needed this time around. I'm not sure what he would have done anyways; we're only in the office for a few moments tonight. Leslie is asked to help judge the Miss Pawnee Beauty Pageant, a responsibility she's not going to take lightly. In her typical delusions of grandeur style, Leslie sees the future of Pawnee women hinging on her very important decision. First she gives April a hard time for trying to bribe her with the sugariest coffee known to man, then is upset to see Trish, a no-talent piece of eye candy akin to Miss South Carolina (she rambles in a similar fashion), come out as the frontrunner. The rest of the judges' blind acceptance of Trish's tomfoolery—the panel consists of a former winner, a creepy old guy, and a less than smooth with the ladies Tom Haverford—only infuriates Leslie further, causing her to lock the judges in the decidin' room and demand they consider the truly talented but less hot Susan.

It's often been said about The Office that while Michael Scott is a nincompoop 90 percent of the time, he has to occasionally show flashes of brilliance at his job. After all, why else wouldn't he be fired by now? But I don't think Leslie's professional competence has ever been called into question; regardless of how socially inept she is, people really do take her seriously. None of the judges walk out on her, and they all hear her out; one of them even goes over to her side.

But in the end, the Tom Haverfords of the world award Trish the crown (mostly for her stunning baton routine that, somehow, didn't involve much baton-ing). If there's one thing Leslie loves more than the sinewy visage of Janet Reno, it's justice; thus this injustice digs at her, and causes her to stand up in front of everybody and say her piece. Though nothing is accomplished, she feels better for voicing her opinion at least—that's the Leslie Knope way. She can at least speak up for the little guy, even if it doesn't do much immediate good.

Speaking of justice, one of the most unexpectedly warm moments from the previous episode was the final scene when Louis CK, playing a Pawnee cop, confessed to the camera that he's sweet on Leslie. We see the next phase of his plan tonight: Show up under the guise of admiring murals like "A Lively Fisting," then slip in to ask Leslie out. And though Leslie initially dismisses him for his complete lack of knowledge about powerful political ladies, she comes around—and the little guy, Dave, wins. (We get another sweet moment where Dave confesses he looked a few facts up to impress Leslie. What a difference from Louis CK's caustic, say-anything stand-up.)

And speaking of the little guy, this was a great episode for two of season one's least utilized players. Andy dove into the pit last time; this time, he's covertly spying on Anne, who invited Mark over to fix her shower as part of "the weirdest second date ever." The stuff between Anne and Mark was, you know, okay and all—we see little flirtations, like Mark joking that he hooked Anne's toilet up to her shower—but once Anne let Andy in out of the rain, things got wonderfully passive aggressive. He's jealous of Mark, but completely naive to the fact that Anne has moved on, and that she's not feeling sympathy for him, but pity. Lots of pity.


April, as well, got a ton to do tonight, and did it well. Her character was meant to embody extreme apathy in season one, but now she's finding ways to actively put herself in uncomfortable situations. Last week she offered to take Ron to the emergency room, then showed up really late like it wasn't a big deal. This week she gets about as excited as she's ever going to get about anything, all over the $600 prize from winning the pageant. Her robotic pageant introduction, terrible impressions, and ill-timed stage walk-off (when she learns it's actually $600 in bad gift certificates) would embarrass a normal person, but April doesn't worry about that sort of stuff. All she worries about is not making friends—and, thankfully, everything went according to plan.

Grade: A-

Stray observations:

  • This episode was directed by Jason Woliner, who also directed Human Giant.
  • Seriously, Tom Haverford is the creepiest guy ever. Did you all watch the last two seconds where he talks about giving keys out to girls? Ha! The moment where he jumps on stage with Trish after she wins is priceless, too.
  • Anne: "We are leaving." Andy: "Oh, don't worry, I know these signals. Let's go, Mark."