Synopsis: Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) head to D.C. on official business and to see their significant others Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) and April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), who are working on a Congressional campaign. Meanwhile, back in Pawnee, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) must throw a Parks Department Appreciation Party in Leslie’s stead, while Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) strive to keep their relationship status a secret from the rest of the department.
Review: Parks and Recreation has had quite an off-season. With The Office heading into it’s final season, and critical darlings (but little-watched shows) like Parks and Community not sure if they were going to get renewed, the show ended on such a high note last season (Leslie winning a cliff-hanger of a city council election) because of it’s uncertain status, it was a bit inevitable that the Season Five premiere would be a bit underwhelming.
That’s not to say tonight’s episode wasn’t good, because it was, it’s just to say that there were no unresolved questions to answer as the season began (unlike the starts of seasons three and four), and that we know these characters so well at this point.
Leslie and Andy’s trip to Washington was predictably fraught with anguish because Ben was so busy managing his campaign and Leslie was unable to secure a meeting with a river clean-up board, that Leslie spiraled into self doubt about the powerful and beautiful women Ben worked around (“Why are they all so tall; it’s like a cross between C-SPAN and Neiman Marcus.”) Andy’s take on D.C though, proved to be the best part of the episode; Andy on Smithsonian trains: “This is the one from Back To The Future 3, right?.” Also, some U.S. Senators showed up in cameos, namely Olympia Snow, Barbara Boxer, and one John McCain.
Back in Pawnee Ron has to plan and execute a staff appreciation barbecue and is finally glad he can excise all of Leslie’s fun (yet to him frivolous) ideas like costumes and musicals from the program. He just wants to cook meat; (Ron: “and no f**king vegetables”). Ron ends up ruining the party of course, because he’s too manly. Wait, what? I’ve never seen Ron as a selfish character; set in his ways, yes, but not selfish. That’s all he ways in tonight’s episode. He still had great lines; “Which one of you kids wants to help me bleed this pig? And then you can blow his bladder up later for some kind of toy”, but just ignoring the whims and wishes of his co-workers to that scale is out of charterer.
The Ann/Tom pairing also seems to be running out of steam. Last season, they teased it out for almost half a season, but now, with seemingly no seriousness to it succeeding at all, it has become a un-funny joke. Would they really live together for three months just so Tom could win a $1,000? Be done with it Parks if you are not going to weave any genuine affection between Ann and Tom; you know the strength of your show?
The show will get better as the season progresses. Tonight’s episode had many funny lines, but the story felt rote and forgettable; not every episode will be like this. All we need is Ron back to form, Ann/Tom to go somewhere meaningful, and more April causing chaos (she was in tonight’s episode for about 30 seconds). I know you can do it Parks; we’ll be seeing you next Thursday.