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Parks and Recreation – Doppelgangers Review: A Promising Premise Lacks Growth

For all of its potential—bringing together two diametrically opposed cities and their respective city workers—this episode isn't able to, in the immortal words of Tim Gunn, “make it work.” At least not completely. And I really want it to, especially given the set-up we were promised last week.

Granted, I don't hate this episode like Ron hates his Eagleton counterpart, who I’ll refer to as “Other Ron,” when he discovered his freegan-vegan (yes, this is actually a thing!), sandal-loving, yoga-practicing ways. As with most Parks and Rec episodes, I enjoy a lot of the humor, but if there’s one thing that stands out to earn the brunt of my ire, it’s Leslie. Leslie, who, incidentally, is missing her Eagleton doppelganger, Ingrid, this week. (Coincidence? I think not.)

Episodes often become problematic when Leslie morphs into the bad guy, or dare I say it, someone unlikable. And I’m not just talking about her turn as the “Merger Czar.” (“Those who cross the czar feel the wrath of the czar!”) I love Leslie—for her earnestness, fierce loyalty and commitment to all things Pawnee—but when she finds out that Ann might be leaving the “greatest town in the world” to move to a “garbage city full of jerks,” she turns into a complete mess, spewing phrases like “volcanically hot betrayal” and “dying turd flower,” while trying to get people to sign legally binding friendship contracts. Although her gumption is admirable in dealings with city business, it often becomes tiresome when directed toward her friends and co-workers. It’s one thing when she’s smacking Jamm around during a council meeting, but it’s another when she explodes because Ann might want to live in another city.  

And here’s the thing: We’ve seen all of this before. Leslie will overreact and become unreasonable, and Ron, in all his infinite wisdom, will eventually talk her off the ledge. I’m not saying it’s an overwrought exercise, but we should expect some character growth from Leslie six seasons in, especially when it comes to the relationships in her life. Ann has been her best friend through thick and thin, so how could Leslie even think a change in geography could change everything they’ve been through?

In the end, after all the sugar mustard unity cookies are gone (most likely thrown in the trash because sugary mustard sounds disgusting), we’re left with a glimmer of hope that Leslie might actually be able to work through losing her best friend to another city—maybe Bloomington or somewhere in Michigan—like a proper adult. Perhaps she should take some notes on her husband’s calm reaction after hearing about the potential move from Chris: "That makes me kind of sad, but also incredibly happy for you and Ann." It’s hard to fault Leslie for being so passionate about everything in her life, but it might be nice to see her handle her personal issues in a relatable way.

What does work, and incredibly well, I might add? Well, considering this episode is called “Doppelgangers,” I’m happy to report that all the employees from Eagleton’s Park Department are just as loony as the ones in Pawnee. And, in the case of Craig, even crazier.

I already mentioned Ron and Ron above, but my favorite bumbling duo award goes to April and Tynnyfer (played by the always awesome June Diane Raphael). I mean, how can you not love someone who rebrands herself and says things like, “Xanax o’clock”? I also love when April commits to anything, even if it is going full Valley girl whenever she talks to Tynny. And of course, the ultimate payoff after a day of mani/pedis and saying words like “craze-mazing”: April basically tells Tynny to break into Dwyane Wade’s house in Miami. If the writers/producers know what's good for them, they'll spin off Tynny’s adventures into a webisode series.

And oh, Craig. He’s full on nuts (and taking a medication called “caring too much”), but in the best way possible. He certainly knows how to get the job done—I pity whoever was on the other end of that phone call—and presumably has a wicked sense of style, although I do wonder what a tribute to the founders of Motown looks like in gazebo form. But along with uttering my favorite line of the episode (“My DVR is 13 months pregnant with episodes of Scandal.”), he and Donna bond over a mutual hatred of Scandal’s First Lady, Mellie, and I could not love that any more 'cause Scandal is one of my favorites, too. I wouldn’t mind seeing Craig in future episodes, especially if it means more interaction with Donna.

It’s a long road ahead toward building the “New Pawnee,” but here’s to hoping we’ll have more episodes that are able to reconcile Leslie’s hardnosed business acumen with her acting like a normal human being—especially since Ann’s days in Pawnee are numbered.

Notes and Quotes

-- “It is horse-dancing, madam.” Alonzo has one line, but boy, does he make it count.

-- “I’m leaving Pawnee… not!” That’s a Borat joke, if I’ve ever heard one.

-- Leslie: “How can you not have an extreme reaction about a dress like that? It just doesn’t make any sense.” Oh, the Angelina Jolie leg dress. How can anyone ever top that?

-- Other Ron: “Giving into hate is like drinking saltwater. The thirst only grows worse.”

Ron: “Leslie, remove this man before I commit an act of violence against him.”

-- What is Lou Gehrig’s other disease?

-- Your name is now Larry Gengurch. God bless you, Jerry! Er, Gary.

-- It’s somehow fitting that Tom’s doppelganger is a computer program named E.R.I.C., especially given how technologically savvy he is. Even better, he one-ups his counterpart by talking “mad trash” until he gets what he wants.

-- I wish I didn’t have to see Joe Biden on a horse shirtless 'cause that’s something you can’t unsee.



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