Parks and Recreation – Galentine’s Day Review: Great Character-Driven Episode
I can’t hate the fact that Leslie loves too much and too hard. I mean, when has she ever done anything half-assed in her life? And showing that Carrie Mathison-inspired web of information on the wall in the cold open—with a fun wink to Showtime, the network that broadcasts Homeland
, and its potential merits as a conversation topic over infinity scarves—gave a fun (if somewhat terrifying) visual of how crazy Leslie can get with her passions. Her latest project: finding a replacement for her long distance BFF, pregnant manta ray Ann Perkins, by throwing a Galentine's Day brunch.
Once described by Leslie as "Lilith Fair minus the angst and plus frittatas,” Galentine's Day is a magical affair. We first saw the holiday during the second season in an episode of the same name. (Side note: How often do shows use identical episode titles? It’s probably not the first time, but it makes me curious.) Leslie plies the attendants with food and incredibly touching personal gifts, so it seemed fitting to use the made-up holiday to suss out a potential new bestie. As a plot device, the Galentine's Day brunch was an inspired opportunity to gather the hilarious women on this show together in one room, from the crotchety, pill popping Ethel Beavers to the always amazing Donna, who seriously needs an entire episode dedicated to her adventures. Actually, I just want, no, need, more information on that long con she pulled on 90s R&B crooner Keith Sweat.
But as much as I adore Donna, Shauna Malwae-Tweep gets the Galentine's Day MVP award. Shauna has been “tweeping up appearances” on Parks and Rec
as Pawnee Journal
’s intrepid reporter
since season one, but we learn more about her pretty yet fragile existence than we ever wanted to know. Alison Becker plays Shauna—Leslie’s winner by default when it’s revealed that she has been keeping friendship rankings in her notebook during brunch—with just enough pathos that it’s funny instead of sad, especially when she reveals that she’s tan because of a trip to Rome she took alone…because her boyfriend went back to his wife. Ooh, child. Still, I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: This show has some of the best recurring characters on TV. Whether they’re on screen often or only show up once a season, they do so much to color the world of Parks and Rec
It’s also hard not to see the obvious parallels between Shauna and Ann, from their good looks to their penchant for making terrible life decisions—namely when it comes to romance. Leslie calls Ann a “real fixer-upper” when they met, so it stands to reason that Shauna could probably benefit from Leslie’s influence, too. But maybe we can reevaluate her friendship ranking after she has paid a much-needed visit to Chris's therapist, Dr. Nygard.
All week, I kept reading that there would be a surprise in this episode. Low and behold, it was the appearance of special guest star Rashida Jones—her first since leaving the show. Since it’s natural that we’d want an update when Ann gave birth, it didn’t feel at all forced, which was much appreciated. Nothing ruins the flow of a show more than a shoehorned guest star. That said, Leslie and Ann’s best friendship is indeed a special one, and it's lovely that they reunited during such a significant life moment—the birth of little Oliver Perkins-Traeger. Plus, how could you not love Ann’s voicemail assuring Leslie that she’s not in a Liam Neeson/Taken
situation or their passionate disagreement about Friday Night Lights
? And while it's true that no one can match Ann’s “ethnic hybrid energy,” whatever that means, that’s the thing. No one has to replace Ann. People can have friends both near and far, and Leslie’s blessed enough to have both Ann and her Pawnee friends, Donna and April, who will continue to love her in spite of her craziness. We should all be so lucky to have friends who give us stuffed bunnies that may or may not be the Zodiac Killer.
This episode succeeds largely through the strengths of its character groupings, from the aforementioned ladies who brunch to the delightful triumvirate of Ben, Tom and Larry. They’re tasked with the brunt of the Unity Concert preparations, but aside from the laughs due to the goofy tent business names, I loved this storyline solely because of Larry. Larry has long been the show’s punching bag, but he has his moments—including finding out about Harvey’s shady dealings, which makes renting fairly priced tents for the concert possible. So, yes, I might have cheered while Ben delivered his Dead Poets Society
-esque monologue with the requisite “O captain! My captain!” to express how much he likes Larry.
We got a bit of the Ben/Larry dynamic in “Anniversaries,” so this seemed almost like a retread of that plot, but instead of just witnessing the charming, capable side of Larry, Ben does something about his admiration, much to everyone’s embarrassment. Seriously, that last scene was absolute comedy gold. But hey, even though Larry might toot at inopportune times, at least he doesn’t think there’s a guy or a robot living inside the ATM that slides out the money.
Oh, Andy. You silly, silly man-child. Although, I will say that the exploration of Ron’s fatherhood as a surrogate father to Andy is a great way to sidestep not having Diane or the baby in every episode. Plus, it’s an excuse for Chris Pratt to let loose—whether he’s tossing a copy of Highlights
in the aquarium or knocking a tooth out at the park. He does so well with physical comedy, but no scene made me laugh more than when Ron swatted at the box of peanut brittle in Andy’s hands. The kicker? When he asks if Ron did it because of the calories.
Notes and Quotes
- Andy: “Shotgun! I call shotgun. Where are we going? Doesn’t matter. Shotgun. Shotgun on all rides for the rest of the day. For the rest of my life. In any car! Haha!” I’m not too well-versed in the laws of shotgun, but that’s probably not allowed.
- I’m not sure who handles casting on this show, but it must be a lot easier when the cast is connected to some seriously funny people. Case in point: Aziz Ansari’s Human Giant
pal, Rob Huebel. I can’t believe that it took six seasons to get him on Parks
, but his appearance is a welcome one, if only for the way he uses the word “buttface."
- Other potential tent business names: Downtent Abbey, I Got 99 Problems But a Tent Ain’t One, Tent Things I Hate About You.
- Leslie: “What’s the 411, little mama?” I’m still trying to find a way to fit this into casual conversation.
- I don’t even want to know why April decided to pour salt into her purse.
- Donna’s portrayer, the awesomely witty Retta, actually loves to live tweet about Scandal
. Just a case of art imitating life.
- Tom needs to write a book about his business theories. I need to know more about his straightforward deal fedora. It’s so effortlessly stylish.
- Rob Lowe’s absence was explained with an entirely believable reason—Chris was asked to help another pregnant woman down the hall. Well, of course he was.
- Ann is crazy. There’s no way Riggins is better than Saracen.
- A believable return for Rashida Jones's Ann.
- Ben sticking up for Larry with an impassioned speech.
- The dynamic between Ron and Andy.
- Fake Ann. She’s the worst.
- Sweaty Roger’s Pants Tent.