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Parks and Recreation – Bailout Review: Mona Lisa Smile

We’re fully immersed in the minutia of small town government life with the framing story of a government bailout for the struggling Pawnee Videodome, but even though I didn’t care for the episode as a whole, it had a lot of great little moments that made me chuckle, from Chris’s extended flour as baby metaphor to anything that came out of Mona Lisa’s mouth to the adorable friendship (or something like it) between Ann and April.

Admittedly, I know little about how bailouts work so this plot just made me shrug with disinterest, especially since it doesn’t allow for much character development, aside from giving Leslie another chance to meddle despite Ron’s distaste for government interfering with business. Still, even with Ron’s warnings, Leslie argues that the video store provides the community with cultural value and the store is saved by the historical society. But with its obscure films (sadly, Tears of My Blowhole is not a real documentary) and even more obscure snacks (Japanese slime candy and Bulgarian wheat balls sound so appetizing), the Videodome feels hilariously out of place in Pawnee.

Portlandia, maybe? So it’s unsurprising that the store’s owner, Dennis (guest star Jason Schwartzman), uses the money to expand the only profitable part of his business – the adult video section! The Videodome is now called XXX Adult DVD Emporium and is filled with plenty of eager customers. Ron can only laugh that glorious laugh of his when he realizes he was right. But the ultimate payoff for this entire plot? We get that hilarious tag at the end of the episode featuring a scene from Too Big to Nail, the story of the Pawnee bailout featuring Dong Swanson and Pawnee’s number one (and only?) porn star Brandi Maxxxx as Leslie. “This is not how it happened,” the real Leslie declares.

The other big storyline this week involves Chris’ continued waffling over being Ann’s sperm donor. He wants to make his dad-cision soon, but darn his paralyzing fear of affecting any living thing negatively! I thought he was working on that in therapy, but in any case, in a stroke of semi-genius, Chris and Ben agree that he should treat Tom like the sack of flour that he is – or, well, Chris should try to parent Tom like high school students are tasked to take care of a sack of flour or an egg. (Side note: I’m so glad my school never had us do that strange project. Do they even still do that now?) He sees the perfect opportunity to dispense fatherly wisdom when Tom starts having problems with his Rent-A-Swag employee, Mona Lisa, who is inconveniently also Jean Ralphio’s twin sister. Oh, nepotism. Jenny Slate, of SNL F-bomb notoriety, plays the role with absolute hilarity.

I love her incessant need to tell every guy whether he’s hit worthy or not. Sorry, Jerry. You get a hard pass. I also love that she scares Tom because he once saw her punch a police horse in the face. Frankly, everything out of her mouth is comedy gold – and should be embroidered on a t-shirt. The Sapersteins are my new favorite thing, and we need more of their nuttiness in future episodes. Ultimately, Chris tells Tom to stand up for himself, and he agrees that Mona Lisa needs a stern talking to. Of course, she’s a crazy person and immediately gets turned on by Tom’s newfound courage. Chris feels like he failed Tom, and we get this incredible quote: “If Tom were a bag of flour, that flour would never grow up to be a happy, well-adjusted loaf of bread, much less a bran muffin, which is the highest honor that flour can achieve.” Wrong, Chris. Flour’s highest honor is red velvet cupcakes. But I digress.

That eventually leads to a heartwarming moment between Chris and Tom, and Chris realizes parenting is all about the small victories. He finds Ann, greets her with a happy “Ann Perkins!” and tells her he’s in – not literally, you sickos. But honestly, I can’t imagine what will happen with these two now that they’re both on board for a baby. I always thought they could give their relationship another go, but I’m not nearly progressive enough to understand how having a baby with a friend who also happens to be an ex-boyfriend works. I wonder if either of them still have romantic feelings for each other because that would certainly throw a wrench into things.

Ann and April also spend some quality time together in this episode, and I’m a huge fan of Anpril. More, please! We’ve gotten inklings of April’s increased interest in animals, especially after she headed the adoption drive, and between then and now, she has decided to apply to veterinary school. Despite her weird quirks, she’s a lot like Ron in that she likes very few things, but will put her all into whatever she’s passionate about. Despite her disdain for Ann, she asks for a letter of recommendation, which Ann turns into an opportunity to force April to hang out with her for the week. Fracking for friendship!

We get fun, at least for Ann, trips to the nail salon, matching Heidi braids, and discussions about perfect men (yes, I think we all like Michael Fassbender’s “sense of humor”) and which Sex in the City character they’re most like (April’s a scary Charlotte). Admittedly, Ann always tries way too hard to get April to like her even though April continues to pour honey in her purse, but their friendship is quite charming, especially when Ann confesses her situation with Chris and April drops her guard, finally giving in and singing along with Ann to “Time After Time.” To make the scene even better, Donna joins in their singing. Of course, to keep up appearances, April runs off in a huff, calling out that this never happened, but I like that they’re developing a friendship between these two, especially now that Leslie has Ben and the city council to deal with.

All in all, this episode had a lot of quote-worthy moments, but more importantly, we finally get Chris’s answer to Ann’s baby daddy question. Chris’s neuroses and pregnant Ann should surely contribute to some epic storylines in the episodes to come.

Notes & Quotes

-- That obnoxious bespectacled guy with the smartphone spoke the truth. You can buy anything on the internet, including movies and comically large syringes.

-- Straight from Lights, Camera, Perd: E.T. is just not believable and gets 1 ½ stars. Wait, an alien with a glowing finger isn’t believable?

-- Leslie: “Anything can be a slam poem, if you say it like this.” Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t quite translate in print so go watch the episode if you haven’t already!

-- Tom: “If she murders me, tell Jean Ralphio to clear my browser history.” I have a feeling a lot of people would want their browser histories cleared.

-- Ron’s presence at the city council meeting completely throws Leslie for a loop, and she hilariously asks him if he’s lost or hurt.

-- April’s perfect guy? Yao Ming’s torso, Napoleon’s brain, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame’s hunchback. Sexy!

-- “All right. Party time.” I know Ron’s appetite shouldn’t faze me anymore, but I’m still totally impressed that he can finish that party platter of deli meat for 12 in 4 minutes, sans garnishes, of course. Who needs that stuff?

-- Jerry: “I’m sorry guys. No one ever lets me talk this long. I just got lost.” Oh, Jerry. I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again: never change.

-- Bad puns from Chris: “Your uter-you and my uter-me are now a uter-us.”

-- Did you notice the City of Pornee sign in the Too Big to Nail clip?



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