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Parks and Recreation – Flu Season 2 Review: Misdirect Proves Successful

I thought I had outsmarted the Parks and Rec crew. The promo promising big news while showing Leslie vomiting in a trash bin couldn’t possibly mean she was pregnant, especially not so soon after Ann gave birth. It was a misdirect, pure and simple. Leslie had the flu, and it was going to be just another standard storyline featuring Leslie working through a silly illness to much success (see: the aptly titled “Flu Season” from season three). But in a sweet twist—reached in the most circuitous of ways—we find out that Ben and Leslie are expecting. How unexpected!

Parks and Recreation

The writers have done a splendid job of making Leslie and Ben a likable and down-to-earth couple—from their adorable courtship to their heartfelt wedding last season—and I’ve often complained before that I don’t get to see enough of their relationship on screen. But with how this episode unfurled, I appreciate that their moments together aren’t trite but are shown in a thoughtful way. This pregnancy feels like a natural progression for this couple—not just a ratings ploy, although I’m sure it doesn’t hurt to build it up during sweeps. Likewise, this throws an interesting wrench into Leslie’s Chicago job offer. Having a new job in a new city with a new baby seems like a lot, even for a superhuman like Leslie. And even if they won’t be able to go to Ben’s family cabin, can Leslie really resist raising her child in Pawnee? She does, after all, say that it’s an amazing place to start a family. Of course, there’s no question that Leslie’s baby will be BFFs with Ann’s baby. That’s already a given.

Parks and Recreation

Before the big reveal, Leslie and Andy partner up to secure a headliner for the Unity Concert. We’re introduced to Indiana’s sweetheart, a 17-year-old country singer named Chipp McCapp, who torments his dad for giving him turkey instead of ham and sings head-scratching lyrics, such as “I’ll bring the girls, you bring the beer, and the troops will bring the freedom.” Grammy-winning stuff, for sure! I wish I weren’t such a cheap laugh, but I ate all his mischievous antics up, mostly because I imagine many young stars nowadays—ahem, Justin Bieber—act just as bratty and yell to their parents/managers, “Your job’s not that hard. Just anticipate my needs!” I’m a bit sad that we might not see Chipp again—although I’m glad he got his comeuppance via pee contamination from Leslie’s hand—but of course, you can never count out any guest stars from coming back on Parks, as evidenced by Greg Pikitis’ surprise return last week.

Loveable oaf Andy got a few choice moments, too, particularly in his sweet scene with Leslie at the diner. Chris Pratt does a masterful job of playing up Andy’s childlike state of mind (his absolute joy at being told he can buy two candies at the pharmacy being a prime example), but when he actually sounds like a functioning adult—speaking of dealing with life’s crazy curves while motioning a baby bump—we’re immediately drawn back to reality when he admits that he had no idea Leslie was pregnant. He thought they were adding a dog to their family! I knew that heartfelt and highly perceptive speech was too good to be true. This episode is just full of misdirects! But it’s a clever turn to have Andy be the main reason for Land Ho’s reunion by appealing to lead singer Scott Tanner (played by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy) via his son’s love of Johnny Karate. Sure, Andy can be dim-witted and silly, but even when he doesn’t mean to, he has a way of charming people with his earnest and well-intentioned attitude.

Parks and Recreation

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the welcome return of Other Ron (as neither a hobo nor a ghost) during Ben’s blueberry wine-aided drunken stupor. Side note: Doesn’t blueberry wine sound delicious? I have no qualms about drinking alcohol from that portion of the color spectrum. As before, Ron’s distaste for his Eagleton counterpart is palpable, but I can’t help loving Other Ron’s granola, Earth Mother-loving vibe. That campfire scene, complete with check burning and spirit animal talk, was pure magic. Also, Ben is totally a baby snow owl. Spot on, Other Ron! Of course, falling in line with Ron’s continued role as an advisor of sorts, particularly for Leslie, it’s his admission of gaining some perspective after seeing his children at the end of a long day that spurs Ben to give his “let’s start a family” speech to Leslie at episode’s end. If those loving looks they exchanged are any indication, they’re going to be amazing parents.

Parks and Recreation

Meanwhile, Tom’s Bistro is going forward, full steam ahead, and Tom’s search for Pawnee’s best sommelier proves to be a great comedic platform for April—who’s bankrolled by Donna to participate in the wine tasting competition to exercise her two true passions of making fun of stupid people while getting drunk—and Craig. Some might find the latter’s incessant yelling grating, but I’m a huge fan of his manic delivery, especially with phrases like “I’ll bring it down a thousand notches if I have to!” Billy Eichner was born to make people uncomfortable, and if you haven’t seen his Billy on the Street gig on Fuse TV, you’re missing out. Ultimately, despite his propensity for screaming, Craig seems like a perfect fit for Tom’s Bistro, and I’m looking forward to their shenanigans almost as much as I’m looking forward to pregnant Leslie.

Notes and Quotes
– Leslie: “The tent is your home now, Larry. We already forwarded your mail.” You know it’s a good episode when there’s a quality Larry razz. Leslie spraying him with water to stay in the containment tent was just icing on the cake.
– Donna has mad respect for a good tie dimple.
– Tom: “He’s basically the Bruno Mars of Indiana amateur wine tasting.” I wish I knew what this meant.
– The “Mariah needs to sing tonight” stuff sounds like serious business.
– Chipp Monks (or Chipmunks?) just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as Beliebers.
– Craig: “There’s so much pumpkin it’s like a Charlie Brown Halloween Special!” Is he talking about wine or a Starbucks in November?
– I don’t know many French people, but it’s hilarious that they’re always shown saying “how you say” in movies and TV shows.
– What a fun sight gag to have Ben, Ron and Other Ron squeeze into the latter’s Smart car, which fittingly has a “CARMA” license plate and runs on vegetable oil and bat guano.
– I don’t know if I can trust a 99 cent pregnancy test called Womb! There It Is.

Rating
9.4

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