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Season 3 of Parks and Recreation continued this week with an episode that had just about everything; some brilliant comedic scenes, a couple of endearing moments, and even a Bizzaro Pawnee. While it might not be an episode that's well remembered years from now (they can't all be), Eagleton still brought the funny like only Parks and Recreation can.
Choosing to use the cold open to setup one of the episode's two story-lines, versus just doing a one-off joke, they sacrificed some comedy. Ron's date of birth, which he worked so hard to keep hidden was discovered by his inability to pass up a free scoop of ice cream. Ron, being the epitome of all things manly, hates having his “friends” gathered around him, and his fear of what Leslie would do with the information comes to fruition as he's tortured with her plans for an extravagant party. Ron is always an excellent source of comedy and watching him angrily count the days to his inevitable birthday bash was no exception. The bristly attitude that never seems to soften for long was present, but what really provided the laughs was seeing Ron behave like a caged animal, becoming ever more fearful of what Leslie had planned for him ("Leslie has a lot of qualities I find horrifying, but the worst one by far is how thoughtful she can be"). An especially impressive feat for Leslie considering she was too preoccupied with the episode's other storyline to personally oversee his misery.
Leslie and the gang are forced to confront the neighboring town of Eagleton -a town so nice the air constantly smells of vanilla- when they construct a wall around their half of a park to keep the good people of Pawnee out (good at being crazy that is). This storyline served as the main focus of the episode and produced some hilarious moments. Not the least of which was the Pawnee public forum. The insane ramblings of the citizens (Where are my kids supposed to play? The rock quarry? There's rocks in there.) has continued to be one of the best ongoing jokes in the series and creates a wonderful, charming, yet highly disturbing atmosphere. I keep expecting the Log Lady from Twin Peaks to stand up with a complaint. Seeing how Eagleton's forums compared was a great touch as well, showing they don't just think they're better than Pawnee, they really are. I mean seriously, iPod Touches in their gift bags? Now that's class. And I loved Ben's facial reactions to the Eaglton citizens' comments. Another highlight was Parker Posey (she's great in the Christopher Guest films), putting up a stellar performance as Lindsay Carlisle Shay, an Eagleton snob who used to work with Leslie in the Pawnee Parks Department, and who happened to be Leslie's best friend. Her disdain for Pawnee and dismissive air were portrayed perfectly, even giving Ron's ex-wife Tammy a run for her money in cattiness.
If there's anything that's been souring Parks and Recreation lately it's Ann. Though they found more for her to do in this episode, she still seems to be at a standstill with any kind of character development, as she has for the last few episodes, only showing up so Leslie can bounce expository dialogue off her or so she can join in the antics. Which was always their thing, but Ann usually had something else going on that gave her another reason to visit the Parks Department or for the cameras to follow her outside of it. Ann and Leslie's friendship has carried Ann's involvement in the department past the proposed park storyline getting sidetracked by the government shutdown, but without that, or a boyfriend, Ann appears lost. Which worked for her character following the embarrassing breakup with Chris, but besides hooking up with random guys a few episodes back she isn't headed anywhere plot wise. Ann's relationships have always been a focus of the series, so her not being in one stands out. Granted I cannot complain about Ann and Leslie's back-and-forth, which has not suffered in the slightest, especially in their scene at the nicest prison on Earth. Ann's sarcasm and basic common sense is still no match for Leslie's unwavering enthusiasm and delusions of grandeur, and it still leads to big laughs. I also quite enjoyed her scene with Ron when he interrogated her on what Leslie might have planed for him, but again, it didn't advance her own story at all. I hope the writers can come up with more reasons for us to be interested in Ann, as it's about the only complaint I can lob at this incredible series.
final minutes gave us some of those warm, feel good moments the
series does so well. Unlike many of it's comedic competitors, P&R
manages to do touching moments that aren't diabetes inducing in their
sweetness. Which fits the show perfectly as it is about a group of
people that work together (in government of all places). They didn't
choose to be friends, for the most part anyway, so it's nice that
while they have those sentimental scenes, they're never over done. I
loved that if Ron were to plan a birthday party for himself it would
have been exactly what Leslie did; his favorite food, liquor,
entertainment, and no one to have to share it with. Her solution to
the problem with Eagleton also earned a truly non sarcastic, “Aww”
when she was able to connect with Lindsay again, and melt some of her
former friends iciness.
Though not as memorable as the big “event” episodes they've done this season or as laugh worthy as some others, this episode was both funny and genuine enough to continue Parks and Recreation’s tradition of putting out consistently good episodes week in and week out. And to leave the show's fans still wondering how long it will be until everyone else realizes how good it is.