Sorry for the delay, fellow Parks and Recreation fans. I hope all of you had an excellent weekend that didn’t involve chard shots!
Title Farmers Market
Two-Sentence Summary Leslie oversteps her bounds as she tries to use Ben’s position as city manager to remove a chard vendor with questionable advertising techniques from the Pawnee farmers market. Meanwhile, Ann needs an outlet for her frustrations about what pregnancy is doing to her body, and Andy finds a potential new career as a children’s party performer.
Favorite Line “Tom put all my records into this rectangle…The songs just play one right after the other! This is an excellent rectangle!” (Ron)
My Thoughts I spent a lot of time this weekend watching old episodes of Parks and Recreation as I rested a bum shoulder on my couch. I laughed and cried as I made my way through my favorites—“Flu Season,” “The Debate,” “Win, Lose, or Draw,” and “Leslie and Ben”—and I spent a lot of time thinking, too. Something has been missing in recent Parks and Recreation episodes, including this week’s “Farmers Market,” and I finally figured out what it is: a likeable protagonist. Don’t get me wrong; Leslie’s overzealous personality and steamroller tendencies aren’t out-of-character traits. But after too many episodes this season of Leslie being the antagonist in a storyline, I’ve missed those lovely days of Parks and Rec past when I could root for Leslie Knope on a weekly basis.
I know that too many episodes spent celebrating Leslie would make the show feel too sappy, but I feel like this season has spent a lot of time highlighting Leslie’s worst traits without enough time spent on her best traits to create a strong balance. And while people may argue that another episode of Leslie and her friends rallying around each other would feel repetitive, I would say that these storylines, with Leslie overreacting towards one of her friends (or in this case her husband) because she can’t get her way, are even more repetitive.
For example, we’ve already seen Leslie and Ben at odds like they are in “Farmers Market” in this season’s “The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip Off Classic.” So while this storyline had some funny moments (Ben running away from Leslie to avoid conflict, Ben’s fear of dying in the fountain, and especially anything involving the actual farmers market—from the Chard Bodies to the cabbage saleswoman unbuttoning her blouse), it ultimately felt like a rehash of something we’ve already seen: Leslie overreacts, Ben gets her to see reason (because he’s literally the perfect husband for her), and they come to a conclusion that works for all involved. Yes, the laughs in this part of the episode felt original, but the emotional component—the thing that separates Parks and Rec from all other comedies—felt stale.
I’m tired of watching the warmest character on television be outlandishly petulant. Yes, Leslie can be overly forceful and ambitious in every aspect of her life, but she used to somehow manage to be those things without ever coming across as selfish. In fact, Leslie used to be defined by her selflessness, her desire to do everything she could to make the people around her happy. In “Farmers Market,” though, Leslie came across as selfish—plain and simple. And this wasn’t a kind of selfishness that could be attributed to a broken heart like in “Smallest Park” or even a sense of feeling left out like her story with Tom in “New Beginnings.” Instead, it was just another episode of Leslie being forceful without any of the warmth and kindness that used to be able to balance out her character. I may be guilty of an overreaction of Knope proportions here, but I think Leslie’s character has regressed this season; she’s lost some of the subtlety that the writers used to let Amy Poehler so brilliantly weave into her characterization.
I think the show is doing no favors to Leslie as a character by keeping her apart from Ann, especially in episodes—like this one—where Ann so clearly needed her. I’m sure it’s a scheduling problem with Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones, but separating them from the stories happening around them has done nothing but lessened my emotional response to their coming departure. In this episode, I actually got angry watching Ann desperately rant to Tom, Donna, and Jerry/Larry about needing someone to listen to her because I kept thinking, Where is Leslie during all this? Oh yeah, fighting with Ben about chard.
Leslie and Ann’s friendship was the great love story of Parks and Rec before Ben came along, and now it doesn’t even get a mention in an episode that saw Ann in need of her best friend more than ever. Leslie, the woman who loves celebrating milestones almost as much as she loves Ann, should be a huge factor in this pregnancy storyline, so it feels unbelievable to have week after week go by without an interaction between them. Like I said, I’m sure it’s a problem with scheduling rather than writing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be frustrated with the absence of Leslie in Ann’s life and the warmth that this friendship has always added to the show—especially at a time when that warmth is needed more than ever.
When I wasn’t venting my frustrations over the lack of Leslie in Ann’s storyline, I actually really enjoyed it. I liked seeing Jones get to interact with someone besides Lowe for a change. It’s especially fun when Ann gets to share a scene with Ron, and this episode didn’t disappoint on that front (Ron calling Ann “nurse” instead of her name cracked me up). I also think this was the funniest Jones has been in a long time. He rant about wanting to be a Pac-Man with cinnamon rolls and needing a bag of mashed potatoes might go down as one of my favorite Ann moments ever. And Chris learning to just listen and say “That sucks” instead of trying to fix everything was a nice moment for his character and his relationship with Ann. Their relationship has developed into this genuinely sweet little entity, and it further proves that Parks and Rec writes a variety of stable, functional relationships better than any other show on TV.
Speaking of stable relationships, my favorite storyline in this episode belonged to April and Andy. I liked that it took a concept introduced in Season Two’s “Freddy Spaghetti” and followed through on it all these years later: What would Andy be like as a children’s party performer? It turns out the answer is: pretty awesome. Chris Pratt is so fun to watch with kids, so it shouldn’t have surprised me that his performances as Johnny Karate would make me smile. And any storyline that balances Craig’s ferocious energy with April’s deadpan delivery is going to be a winner in my book.
My favorite thing about this storyline, though, was the way April once again showed that the apathy that used to be associated with her character has no place in her relationship with her husband. She’s always helped him find and chase his dreams, and now she did it again. I loved watching her watch him perform—it reminded me of Ben watching Leslie give speeches. In an episode where I felt a surprising lack of warmth from Leslie, I found a surprising abundance of warmth in April’s role as her husband’s biggest supporter.
I don’t want it to seem like I didn’t enjoy this episode. I loved Ron’s fascination with his “rectangle,” Chris referring to nipples as “boob hats,” Ben comparing arguing with Leslie to arguing with the sun, and Mouse Rat’s disastrous rehearsal. I just felt like something was off, and I keep coming back to the way Leslie has been written for much of this season: I will always love her, but I haven’t liked her a lot lately.
Totally agree with your thoughts, Katie. Something’s felt a little off about this season and I think you named what it is. It’s not that the show hasn’t been good lately, it just hasn’t been as good as we know it can be. I’m excited/sad for next week, because at least Ann and Leslie will have scenes together, but it kind of feels like too little too late.
Thanks for the comment, Becca!
“It’s not that the show hasn’t been good lately, it just hasn’t been as good as we know it can be.” – That’s exactly how I feel. I’m still enjoying the show, but I know it can be better. And that’s what’s been disappointing me this season so far (besides the awesome season premiere).
I’m with you, lady. I don’t think Leslie needs to be on the right side of every argument, but I like when there’s a genuine emotional undercurrent to her selfishness–last week really resonated with me as she tried to reassert herself in the department, and I understood her need to feel needed and successful, so I didn’t mind. But this week there wasn’t any real reason for her to get so upset. I know that she wants the Farmer’s Market to go well because it’s one of the only legacies she left behind on the Council, but they didn’t talk about that, so it mostly just felt like Leslie being unfair with Ben and freaking out about chard. Definitely my least favorite storyline of the night.
And YES, this season has dropped the ball on the Ann/Leslie friendship. I will sob this week, but I feel like I should have been sobbing for weeks now, and I haven’t been given that opportunity. LET ME CRY, WRITERS.
I loved Andy’s story, though. I’m so happy that he’s back and that he might have found his calling!!
(And I hope your shoulder feels better!)
Thanks, my dear! The shoulder is feeling a lot better, so hopefully I’ll be all healed soon!
And I’m so glad I’m not the only one who saw a big difference between Leslie’s actions last week and this week. Her actions this week felt devoid of any real emotion beyond a petty desire to have her way, and that’s not a typical motivation for Leslie Knope—no matter how outlandish her actions.
“I will sob this week, but I feel like I should have been sobbing for weeks now, and I haven’t been given that opportunity. LET ME CRY, WRITERS.” – This is EXACTLY how I feel. I’ve wanted to feel an emotional connection to Ann’s departure for months, and I still don’t really feel it. I’m sure I will on Thursday, but I wanted to feel that sense of painful anticipation already (because I am apparently a masochist).
I totally understand where you’re coming from with regard to Leslie, but I’m giving the writers the benefit of the doubt and trust that they know what they’re doing. I truly believe that they’re purposely writing her this way as a result of everything going on in her life. She’s lost her dream job and her best friend is moving away. She has absolutely no control over either of these things and to make up for that, she’s trying to take control of everything else, even if it means steamrolling her husband and friends. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part, but I think we’ll get different kinds of stories for Leslie after next week’s episode.
As for Leslie and Ann, I have two different theories. The first is that the writers are keeping them apart because they have a big emotional farewell episode planned and think that’ll have a greater impact by not having them repeatedly talk about the move and how much they’re going to miss each other in the episodes leading up to it. Thinking back to last season, the writers did something similar before Leslie and Ben’s wedding. After the engagement, despite having the bachelor/bachelorette parties episode, Leslie and Ben actually interacted very little for a stretch and had no scenes together at all some weeks. So it was a lot more emotional and heartwarming when they gave us that beautiful wedding episode. My other theory is that Leslie is purposely avoiding Ann because she doesn’t want to have to deal with her feelings over Ann leaving. (In the episode where Chris shares their plans, Leslie says she’s in deep denial.) Sometimes people try to deal with things by not dealing with them. Guess we’ll see. I’m hoping for a solid goodbye episode and that we’ll get some great stories later in the season.
Your optimism just gave me so much hope for the next episode and what’s to come for these characters. Thank you so much for spreading the positivity and for backing it up with some very good reasoning!
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I actually found myself laughing hysterically at this episode. More so than I have in a long time. But I do agree that Leslie has been off lately. Ever since she lost the recall her character has been in a rut, and I would really love to see her come out of it. I feel like she is a broken record at this point. Every episode she starts out overreacting and being selfish and then she sees the errors in her ways and comes through in the end. And then it starts all over again the next episode. There is this thing called “character development”, but it requires the character to actually learn from their experiences and move forward, not just act the same way every episode, which is what I have been seeing. And there is absolutely no reason why Leslie and Ann should not be together in any of these recent episodes, and both characters are suffering for it.
But Leslie/Ann frustration aside, this was the best comedic episode in awhile. “Im super chill all the time!” And I had no idea a farmers market and leafy greens could be comedic gold. “Lets get a chard on”. And I died at the Pawnee resident thinking cauliflower was “dead” broccoli.
I agree with you about this being the best comedic episode in a long time. I laughed so hard at most of the farmers market stuff and I will never stop loving Ron and his rectangle.
I have to second your comment about character development. The thing I always loved about this show was that it was a sitcom with drama-level amounts of character development. This season feels like the character development is more plot development than anything else—new jobs, new phases of life, etc. I liked it better when the development was on a smaller and more character-driven scale. Leslie used to be someone who grew with every episode, but now I feel like she’s regressing in some ways to a character who is less complex than she once was.
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