Episode Title Soda Tax
Two-Sentence Summary As Leslie struggles with whether or not to vote for a tax on soda in Pawnee, she leans on Ann for support, and Ron motivates her with some surprising information about his impression of her during her first year working for him. Ben has struggles of his own with his interns in Washington, and helping Andy train for the police academy brings back feelings of loneliness for Chris.
Favorite Line: “I’m never gonna be a cop. I’m gonna have to be a robber.” (Andy)
My Thoughts Though it was funnier than last week’s premiere, this episode showed me that Parks and Rec still has some growing pains to work through before it reaches the near-perfect levels of television comedy it was consistently producing for the last two seasons. The show still feels too fractured, too segmented. I love Parks and Rec the most when all of the characters have the opportunity to interact with each other, and that’s still missing right now. I especially miss the warmth and humor between Leslie and Ben. The wonderful chemistry (both comedic and romantic) between Amy Poehler and Adam Scott was one of the things that really got me hooked on the show, and I missed getting to see that in any capacity this week.
However, I did enjoy their separate storylines. The A-plot with Leslie and her discovery that not everyone is going to love her in her new job was done with a lot of heart, which should be no surprise for anyone who watches this show. I loved seeing Ann as her main source of support; their friendship is one of the best examples of female friendship on television. I loved the references to Leslie’s love for sugar (and hatred for Sue’s Salads). I loved seeing the citizens of Pawnee once again. And I especially loved Leslie’s scenes with Ron near the end of the episode. This is the Ron Swanson that was missing last week: the three-dimensional character who might be gruff on the outside but has a huge soft spot for Leslie and her impassioned sense of conviction.
Ben’s storyline in this episode reminded me why I love Adam Scott so much. He was so awkwardly hilarious that I found myself both cringing and laughing at his attempts to be cool (the change in his vocal inflection when he started trying to appeal to his interns was especially wonderful). Ben playing “Ultimate” may be one of the funniest things he’s ever done on the show—and that includes last season’s Batman costume moment. And while I didn’t love April this week (Haven’t we at least gotten a little bit past “apathetic April?”), her scene with Ben at the end and its aftermath were particularly memorable moments for both Scott and Aubrey Plaza in the episode. I really like the relationship between Ben and April because I think it strengthens both characters, so I’m eager to see more of them together.
Finally, from the “Chris Pratt Makes Me Laugh Until I Cry” department, I cannot find the proper words to express how much I loved seeing Andy train for his police academy tests. All Pratt has to do is open his mouth lately to get me laughing, and when he does physical comedy, it’s even better. Seeing Andy strip off his clothes after his two-mile run and collapse on the ground was quite possibly the highlight of the episode for me.
I also really enjoyed seeing Tom act like a sensitive human being towards Chris. Every character on this show has a big heart, and I love when Aziz Ansari gets to show us that Tom genuinely cares for the people he works with; he gives his character a level of depth sometimes that gives me pause in the best possible way. I’m also hopeful that after a long time spent hinting about it, they’re finally going to address Chris’s obvious issues head-on.
This episode was definitely a step in the right direction after what was a subpar premiere for Parks and Rec. I genuinely liked each of the major plots; I just wish those plots overlapped a little bit more. This cast has such phenomenal chemistry that it almost feels like a waste when it’s not being put to use as much as possible.
Or maybe I’m just the kind of person who takes a while to get used to change…