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RECAP: Parks and Recreation: ‘Camping’

March 25, 2011

The Harvest Festival has come and gone (about 16 episodes earlier than I thought), and Leslie’s getting the kudos she deserves…until the city manager Paul suffers a heart attack during her recognition ceremony and collapses with a death grip on her right mammary. Nice. (And the headline “Knope Grope Is Last Hope” is the icing on the booby.)

Before he does, though, he tenders some eagerness toward what Leslie’s next big idea will be, which leads Leslie to call a mandatory work/brainstorming retreat for the parks department, a fancy name for camping in one of Pawnee’s starry-night-sky-infested parks. Naturally, the rest of the office is reluctant (I do love how Leslie seems to be the only person in her department who actually enjoys the parks): Ron would prefer to skip the get-together and go camping by himself (presumably at some private campground); Tom would prefer to bask in the pervading effulgence of SkyMall; and Jerry just brings bad luck by scaring all the fish (and misidentifies “rappers” as “rappists”). The only one who shares Leslie’s gung-ho-i-ness is Andy, who sees it as an opportunity to build a love-tent for himself and April (not too bad of an idea, had he not chosen the wrong campsite to pitch it).

Paul being out of commission also brings back Chris to temporarily fill in for city manager, making Ann Perkins uncomfortable and unable to make a condiment-themed witticism in his presence.

The trip doesn’t go quite as well as planned, as no one has any good ideas, most of all Leslie, who’s filled with lots of small ideas but is blanking on one big good one. None of the others help because they all expect Leslie to do their jobs for them, which in turn makes her more insecure. Back at the campfire (“And when she looked in the back of car…even though it was her own private property…she would be forced to take it in…FOR A STATE INSPECTION!” I don’t know what’s better: Ron’s idea of a campfire horror story or Donna’s reaction), Chris makes an appearance right as Leslie fesses up to her block. Ann distracts him and everyone else decides to call it quits and head home…until they discover that Tom’s been using the car battery to power “Thunderdome” (the name for his swingin’ bachelor tent).

At Jerry’s suggestion, the gang heads to a nearby bed and breakfast run by a creepy old cat woman (who serves “German” muffins?). Leslie (and the rest save April and Andy, who finally catches up with everyone) goes from bad to worse, and Ron swoops in to save the day by locking her in one of the many cat-filled rooms, insisting she get some sleep. She does and shows up at the office the next morning fresh as a daisy and brimming with new ideas. And the creepy cat lady dies.

In all, kind of lackluster. I like the idea (and need to stop using that word) of seeing Leslie display some weakness, but for all the potential that situation seemed to have, it didn’t really go anywhere. In fact, the entire cast seemed underused this week: Ron had a few good moments but was mostly used to advance the plot; Andy and April’s relationship had no new developments; Ben just existed; and do we really need to rehash the whole Chris/Ann Perkins thing? Tom’s concept of “camping” was a nice touch, and it’s good to see the underused Donna get some more screentime, but the standout has got to be Jerry, who, in addition to unsolicitatingly talking about his daughter’s sex life, cracked me up in the stinger—Jim O’Heir clearly takes the gold for funny cat-petting. A bit short on recaps this week, as I’m still cranking away at SXSW reviews, rest assured I’ll be back to y old cranky self next week.


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