Sorry for my delay in getting this review posted—maybe I need an Eagleton counterpart to help with all of my writing!
Two-Sentence Summary The merger of Pawnee and Eagleton brings new faces into the parks department as Ron, April, Tom, Donna, and even Ann meet their Eagleton counterparts. In the middle of these big changes comes another major shift in Leslie’s life, as Ann tells her she’s planning to leave Pawnee to raise her baby with Chris.
Favorite Line “Pawnee has the very first documented case of mega-diabetes. And the only known occurrence of Lou Gehrig’s other disease. We’ve been written about in textbooks.” (Leslie)
My Thoughts This episode was an important one, but I can’t help feeling it wasn’t as good as I was hoping it would be. Yes, it was funny, and I loved almost all of the Eagleton characters. Yes, it had some great Ben Wyatt moments (a surefire way for a Parks and Recreation episode to win my heart), and it did some really great things with Ben and Chris’s relationship. However, the central plot of this episode—Leslie’s reaction to Ann’s decision to leave Pawnee—was written to go for the funny bone instead of the heartstrings, and I think it was missing something intangible because of that reason.
I understand that Leslie is overdramatic, overbearing, and idealistic to a fault—especially when it comes to her personal life. Leslie is the most devoted and passionate character I know of on television, and she expects that same devotion (or at least a small percentage of it) from the people she loves. That’s not news, and that’s actually something I love about her. However, I get uncomfortable when the show takes Leslie’s reactions and makes them so over-the-top that it’s hard for us to sympathize with or even really relate to her. I know it’s a matter of taste, and I’m sure most people find it funny. I’m just not one of them. I’m okay with a childish outburst or some ridiculousness for a little while; I just don’t like when it becomes the focal point of the episode.
This episode reminded me of Season Four’s “Smallest Park,” which is interesting because I love that episode and feel less positively about this one. Both feature Leslie acting ridiculously because she wants something she can’t have from a person she loves (a relationship with Ben in one and for Ann to decide to stay in the other). However, what made “Smallest Park” work was the scene at the end, where the emotions ran raw and real, making the resolution feel earned because we got to really see both Leslie and Ben talking through things together. We got to feel Leslie’s pain and Ben’s, which made her actions more understandable. In “Doppelgangers,” everything felt rushed between Ann and Leslie. There was very little nuance, which is something this show usually does quite well. I wish we could have seen more of the scene between Leslie and Ann at the end of the episode. It felt like the episode was tied up with a nice little bow, but it didn’t feel as earned or as heartwarming as I wanted it to feel.
Don’t get me wrong; this storyline had some great moments. I loved how Ann knew exactly how to break the news to Leslie—with waffles and shirtless Joe Biden. I loved the way the rest of the parks department called Leslie out on how ridiculous she was being with the loyalty contracts. And I really liked the contrast with Ben’s reaction to Chris telling him the news. Adam Scott’s delivery was characteristically perfect—you could feel his surprise and sadness, but you could also sense how happy he was for his friend to find happiness. That scene between Chris and Ben hit all the emotional beats I wanted from the last scene between Leslie and Ann. In fact, I really think Chris and Ben’s friendship (and adorable working relationship) is my favorite thing about Parks and Rec right now. The writing for them and the performances by Scott and Rob Lowe are firing on all cylinders right now.
I’m sure Leslie and Ann’s story is going to get the emotional resonance I want it to have in later episodes, but I’m greedy and spoiled when it comes to this show and its many fantastic relationships.
As far as the rest of the episode goes, I really enjoyed the introduction of the various Eagletonians. Ron and Ron’s interactions cracked me up (“I like Ron…I no longer like Ron.”), as did April and Tynnyfer’s. The name Tynnyfer itself is perfect, and any storyline that allows Aubrey Plaza to talk like a Bravo Real Housewife is a winner in my book. Finally, Craig and his obsessive intensity can stick around this show for however long he wants. I loved his bonding with Donna and his apparent hatred for everyone else. I adore episodes that feature little nods to Retta’s TV obsessions and Twitter habits, so the Scandal bit between Donna and Craig was one of my favorite moments of the episode. Also, I would just like to say I wish I was as cool as Donna, with her condo in Seattle and her fiancé in Denver.
All in all, this wasn’t Parks and Rec at its best, but it was still a very enjoyable way to spend a half-hour on a Thursday night.