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Parks and Recreation – The Bubble

With only two episodes left this season, the Parks Department was seeing big changes as Chris shakes things up as City Manager. Meanwhile, Leslie and Ben are put in an awkward situation with Leslie's mom, which leads to some equally awkward laughs. Though the final two episodes of the season were labeled “Part 1 and 2,” there wasn't much crossover between them and “The Bubble” did fine standing on its own. Both storylines were well-written and provided equal amounts of humor, making for an enjoyable episode, if not a barn burner.

The laughs were coming right from the start in the cold open. Ann received her official welcome to City Hall from Leslie, as only Leslie would with a room jam-packed full of balloons. The best laugh coming from the reveal of Ann's new ill-tempered office-mate, Stewart (“Get these ****ing balloons out of here.”). Unfortunately, beyond another quick scene with Leslie after the credits, that would be the last we'd see of Ann in or out of City Hall. Despite the development to her character with the new job, it still seems like she is becoming less and less of a focus on the show, which is disappointing since Ann's always made an excellent “straight man” while adding plenty of comedy of her own. Even if it's not advancing her character, it would be nice if Ann could receive more screen time and preferably more interaction with characters other than Leslie, not that their scenes together aren't still generating laughs.

The comedy continued after the credits when Leslie and Ben bump into each other in the hallway (“I think at some point, you and I should probably make out with each other.”). Though the writers stretched a little in how they kept them apart Chris's rule against interoffice dating was a terribly convenient plot device now that they are together, they're making an adorably funny couple. Ben getting called in to meet Leslie's mom, Marlene (Pamela Reed), kicked off the main plot of the episode, which was good since Marlene is one of the better recurring characters in a show that has no bad ones. Ben and Leslie trying to hide their relationship so they could avoid trouble with Chris as well as to take advantage of “The Bubble,” that time period before their relationship becomes official, caused a few awkwardly funny moments between the two of them and Marlene. For instance, before the meeting even starts, Leslie trying to deny Marlene is her mother by claiming she is a Filipino woman was terrific, as was Marlene flirting with Ben after realizing he's not a pushover. Watching Leslie and Ben (especially Ben) squirm was a real treat; they both play flustered so well and their gawkiness just reiterates how right they are for each other. By the episode's end they are forced to pop their “bubble” and reveal their relationship to Marlene, but Ben manages to do it in a way that earns him her respect. Leslie and Ben attempting to keep their romance secret was one of the few plots that led into Part 2, and was providing laughs the whole time.

The rest of the Parks and Rec gang are dealing with Chris doing what a senior government employee does best: fixing things that aren't broken. As he begins changing job titles, it became clear Chris's new assignments would lead to some uproarious moments. Tom and Andy are forced to head to the fourth floor to digitize records the fourth floor being the weirdest place in the already extremely odd city of Pawnee. The callback to the second season episode featuring the fourth floor was a nice touch and it was good to see it's still every bit as strange as the last time we visited it. Vending machines that dispense Crystal Meth and a deranged man smashing coffee pots, that was just a small taste of the insanity that awaited them and it all added up to some fantastic comedy. Andy's enthusiastic reaction to his temporary promotion was another in a long line of classic Andy moments (“I wasn't super paying attention to what you just said, but I will give one hundred and ten percent!”). He's already got my vote for Administrative Assistant of the Year. Andy is the only one pleased with the changes, however, as Tom wasn't enjoying his fourth floor experience at all, especially after sinking so low as to even take grief from a couple of geriatric women.

April also wasn't immune to Chris's office alterations and ended up with a roaming Segway for a desk, which contrasted hilariously with her usually dark and somber personality. Donna's “spaceship keyboard” and Jerry's bumbling attempts at daily briefings were also worth a chuckle and it's nice when they can find little ways to bring out the characters' traits in only a passing scene. Even Ron, who had been happy to sit back and watch all of Chris's decisions fail miserably, is put out by having his private office turned into a waiting room while he's placed right in the center of the department, making it much more difficult to avoid...well, everyone, which is exactly what Ron would want. A Swanson always finds a way, though, and Ron's swiveling around in his chair to fend off a citizen's complaint was a hilarious image.

In the final moments Ron takes one for the team and convinces Chris to let everything else go back to normal if Ron will stick with the new desk for a week. Though our glimpses of Ron's softer side have become more frequent, they're still always done in a way that's believable coming from someone who likes to pretend he doesn't care about anyone but himself. A solid episode all the way through, there could have been some bigger laughs and definitely more Ann, and while it was the lesser of the two-part finale, it was by no means a disappointing episode.



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