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Parks and Recreation – The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip-Off Classic Review: A Solid Episode Uses a Classic Setup

It’s like comparing apples and oranges!

Too cliché for you? Well, if the basket of apples from Pawnee Orchard and the basket of Swarovski crystal oranges doesn't tip you off, this episode deals with opposites.

Sitcoms have long taken advantage of the comedy gold that comes from pitting opposites against each other, and that’s part of the reason why I think this episode works so well. It’s far more interesting to watch conflict, and between Pawnee/Eagleton, Ann/April, and the grid/Ron, we get plenty of discord.

The crux of the episode sees the once-mighty Eagleton struggling to get out of debt due to poor money management, including using funds to fill public pools with bottled water and buying HBO for the whole town. It’s quite silly, but it’s very much in line with the way Eagleton has been portrayed throughout the series. (By the way, if you’ve never seen the aptly titled “Eagleton” episode from season three, I suggest you go do that right after you finish reading this review. It’s a good one!)

Pawnee and Eagleton have had a long-standing rivalry since the latter’s secession 200 years ago, and Leslie has never been one to mince words when it comes to her hatred of the neighboring town, despite the fact that she was born there. In short, Leslie thinks Eagleton sucks. It’s everything that Pawnee isn’t, from the aforementioned Swarovski crystal oranges worth $700,000 to their Michael Buble-serenaded brunches. And their city councilor, Leslie’s counterpart, is a woman who won Miss Indiana… while she was in office and pregnant! If that’s not grounds for immediate hatred, I don’t know what is.

Leslie’s attempts to joke at Eagleton’s expense are hilarious (her financial recovery slideshow, in particular, sends me into fits of laughter), but watching the good sportsmanship after the completely lopsided basketball game gives her an interesting solution to help Eagleton’s money woes: merge the two towns!

Mergers don’t always have to spell trouble—the merger between Dunder Mifflin’s Stamford and Scranton branches in The Office gave us the gem of “Lazy Scranton”—so I’m utterly optimistic that putting together the high-brow Eagletonians and the “greasy, denim-clad angels” of Pawnee will make for some fantastic comedy.

On a more serious note, how has it taken six seasons to get Kristen Bell on Parks and Rec? Well, better late than never, I say. And even though her character Ingrid de Forest is a bit one-note (I expect more oomph, especially if they mean her to be Eagleton’s version of Leslie), she gets a number of hilarious one-liners, including “Sure, let’s not have brunch… like animals.” Here’s to hoping the merger will give her more to work with when she’s expected to return later this season.

Off in Bloomington, Ann makes it her mission to get April excited about veterinary school orientation. Even though April never fails to mention her disdain for Ann, it’s actually touching to see Ann get all maternal with April, especially with her own baby coming. Plus, she nails the line: “We are going back there right now, young lady.”

However, I’m confused by April’s sudden change of heart (or should I say “gut feeling”) to not go to school. I thought that with Andy in the Marvel Universe London, it would be a great time to let April explore her other interests outside of the Parks Department, but now, I have no idea where the writers are trying to take her character. I hope to be pleasantly surprised, but for now I remain skeptical.

Of course, it’s very convenient that this road trip allows Ann to see all the things Bloomington has to offer—an organic baby boutique called Tots All, Folks, a bike sharing program, and a vegan Afghan restaurant—which sets up the move that Chris and Ann are expected to make mid-season. But I don’t want to talk about them leaving just yet. It’s too soon!

Instead, let’s talk about my favorite storyline of the episode: Ron’s desperate attempt to get off the grid. Ron is nothing if not adamant that he retains his right to privacy, and frankly, this all feels very relevant, especially with everyone worried about government spying and the like. Fittingly, he recruits two of the most grid-loving people in the office, Tom and Donna, to help him erase any and all traces of his existence. Although you should be weary of people who Ustream their walks to work and create Twitter hashtags like “questforcoffee,” I’m a huge fan of everything Donna does. More Donna!

Unsurprisingly, pairing Ron with Tom and Donna always makes for great comedy because their stances on life are so different, and it is especially hilarious when Tom reveals that he's been taking pictures of Ron all day for his Facebook album RonSwan: Getting’ Off the Grid. Ron’s fruitless attempts to erase the photos by yelling at the tablet and rubbing on it with his sleeve embody every millennial’s technologically unsavvy parents just then, and I love him for it.

Overall, this is just a fun episode that sets up a Pawnee-Eagleton merger which could have us comparing apples and oranges all season long.

Notes and Quotes

-- Leslie: “I’m not saying that Eagletonians are out of touch, but when you tell ‘em it’s time to change their oil, they ask, ‘Extra virgin or white truffle?’” Knope out!

-- Chris Trager does word math: ridiculous + donkey = ridonkulous.

-- Of course, you can count on Ben to come up with a nerdy nickname like “Butch Count-sidy and the Sum-dance Kid” for him and Chris. And that handshake is the best thing ever!

-- Ron: “Why is everyone else so bad at eating?” I have absolutely no doubt that Ron would make a killing on Man vs. Food. Eating 51 eggs in 20 minutes is insane! I’m dying to know on which other Pawnee restaurants Ron has made his mark.

-- For the NBA fans: Did you catch the brief cameo by the Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh as a high school basketball player from Eagleton? It’s not the first time this show has brought on a cager to guest star (see: Detlef Schrempf and Roy Hibbert), but Bosh’s taunt after dunking on a much smaller player (“And I’m better at French horn, too, Eric.”) is especially funny. Who knew he had a great sense of comedic timing?

-- Tom: “Eww, gross. It has buttons!” I feel your pain, Tom. Buttons on cell phones are so 2000.



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