So, I have to say that Leslie Knope’s (Amy Poehler) probably the most kick-ass character on television today. With all due respect to Amanda Marcotte who feels she has been marginalized by her writers, I find her to be quite amazing. The Valentine’s Day episode is an excellent example of Parks and Recreation at its best: there are some amazing heart-tugging moments along with some cringe-inducing instances of discomfort.
In “Operation Ann” Leslie is using her bionic ability to focus on a project to find her best gal pal, Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), a man. While corralling her Parks Department coworkers in pairing Ann with a suitable beau, she’s plotted an absurdly complicated scavenger hunt for her boyfriend Ben (Adam Scott). Because it’s Leslie’s scavenger hunt, it’s ridiculously complex with esoteric clues which leave Ben confused. He calls on Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) to help out with unraveling the hints. Not to be outdone by his employees, Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe), turns up the crazy, undone by his recent breakup. Just like with every other aspect of his life, he throws in every fiber of his being into being depressed.
What’s great about “Operation Ann” is that every character gets to shine, including Ann. As great as the writers are on this show, they still don’t know what to do with Ann. As the straight man of the bunch, all too often, all Ann had to do was react to the crazy shenanigans of the others. There was some hope last season when she was given a job in city hall with the public health department – I mean, really, it was getting a little weird that Ann hardly ever went to work and hung around at the parks department so much. Also the ill-fated romance she had with Chris brought out some much-needed neuroses in the all-too-stable Ann, but she still too often comes off as a bit blah which is a shame because when she given stuff to do, Jones is actually a very funny comedienne, holding her own against proven pros like Poehler, Offerman or Aziz Ansari who plays the wannabe-lothario, Tom Halverford.
The parks department throws a Valentine’s Day dance and Leslie, Tom and April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) all pitch in and bring men for Ann, like she’s some kind of female sultan. As is always the case with Parks and Recreation, none of the men are suitable – even the normal ones have some weird or off-putting feature, which leaves Ann cold.
DJ’ing for the dance is the morose Chris who is spinning the tunes – but instead of Lady Gaga or Nicki Minaj he’s playing mind-numblingly depressing music like Buddhist monk throat-singing, whale calls and droning, John Cage-style noise. Of course, Chris is known throughout the fictional Indiana hamlet of Pawnee as the epitome of joy.
So I don’t want to give away the ending, but it’s a bit crazy – during the dance, Chris and Ann share a sad and simple wave across the dance floor. After lying to Leslie that she’s going home to watch TV, Ann sneaks away for a secret date. The mystery is who is Ann meeting? It’s a great ending that results in some fun laughs.
The fourth season is dominated by Leslie’s city council campaign, and it results in some fun episodes that gives viewers a great chance to see her try to realize her dreams of being Pawnee’s answer to Hillary Clinton. Still, “Operation Ann” gives us a nice break from Leslie’s political goals and highlights the relationships of the characters.
There are some hilarious moments:
-April hates Ann less now – and Leslie actually accuses April of being a good person.
-When Leslie and Ben discover who Ann’s date is, her scream is awesome. She actually screams.
-Ron’s feigned reluctance at joining in with Ben’s scavenger hunt, quickly turns into glee – I love when Ron’s terse and blustery, but I love it even more when he’s smiling and excited.
-Leslie gives Ben a cryptotext – that’s pretty cool…What’s even cooler, Andy knows what a cryptotext is.
-Andy’s clever enough not to break a glass case with a crowbar when looking for one of Leslie’s clue – but he’s not smart enough to not crash the crowbar on top of the case as he dashes to Ben with a clue.
-The return of Galentine’s Day – and Leslie’s gift to Ann of a throwpillow with her face crocheted on it.
-The much-visited memorial of legendary Pawnee pony, Lil’ Sebastian.