I always find it interesting when Parks and Recreation mirrors real life. In last week’s episode, the folks at Pawnee go through a lot of tsuris because of Leslie’s recall vote. Parks and Rec fans had to go without a new episode for almost a month, and NBC threw us a doozy.
In “Filibuster” writer Harris Wittels looks to the recent Supreme Court decision to gut the Voting Rights Act. Leslie’s knee-deep in her recall mess, but there’s a slight glimmer of hope: Eagleton has recently been absorbed by Pawnee in an effort to stave off the town’s bankruptcy and ramped unemployment. Because the merger idea was Leslie’s, she’s sure that lots of Eagletonians will vote in support of her during the recall.
Her arch nemesis Councilman Jamm is interested in depleting her base by disenfranchising Eagletonians. She stands up for her new townspeople, filibustering a hearing, while standing on roller skates (it’s Ben’s birthday, and he’s got a woman-on-skates fetish). There’s a nasty twist: the Eagletonians who are so grateful for Leslie’s efforts are putting forth their own candidate – Kirsten Bell’s Ingrid de Forest. Despite all this, Leslie pushes forward filibustering the hearing, thereby saving the Eagletonians right to vote.
The result of the filibuster makes way for the second episode “Recall Vote,” which has poor Leslie lose and lose badly. Instead of the razor-thin margin that Leslie and her supporters were expecting, her loss was catastrophic. Her self-confidence craters and she becomes depressed and despondent. She turns to drink and junk food, and almost gets a tattoo in a desolate state, but Ann swoops in at the last minute, sharing a letter Leslie wrote to herself in case she’d lose the recall.
I think it’s very brave of the folks behind Parks and Recreation to give Leslie such a bummer of a plot twist. Honestly, I thought Leslie would’ve prevailed – she worked so hard, and was so dedicated to the citizens of Pawnee, I just assumed that she’d be victorious.
But the risk paid off handsomely, as these two episodes are probably the best in what already is an excellent season. Leslie Knope’s been tested repeatedly throughout this season and it hasn’t been easy for our girl. She’s lost a bit of her mojo, despite her almost-bionic ability to be optimistic.
Viewers get to see Leslie at her best in the pair of the episodes – despite her loss. In “Filibuster” we see the virtuous Leslie who went into politics to help people. Despite it being disadvantageous for her political career, she pushes forward, fighting for the rights of the Eagletonians. Unfortunately, her idealism is what puts her in professional and political peril – because she refuses to “play ball” so to speak and wants to be honest all the time, which doesn’t always translate to a successful political career.
And despite Leslie’s pity party, she rallies and delivers a beautiful concession speech. Leslie’s Leslie to the very bitter end, and she pledges to use her last 30 days to make sure her last month will be busy and fruitful.
Aside from Leslie’s drama, there were other side stories that were charming as well. In “Filibuster” we get Ben’s birthday party – an early 90s birthday party, where Tom’s dressed up as Kriss Kross, Ann’s done up in Blossom drag and Donna looks like she mugged Salt N Pepa.
At the party, prodigious hunter Ron Swanson finds himself bested by a hunting video game and responds poorly. Ron and Donna bond over a real hunting trip in the middle of the night; it’s a wafer-thin subplot but we get some much-needed Donna time – Retta’s wonderful, but really needs more to do.
A much weightier subplot has Andy visiting for a night from London. He and April jump into a passionate reunion before he has to jet back to London – but before he does, he admits that he feels overwhelmed. And though April misses Andy, she pushes aside her selfish feelings and encourages him to leave. It’s a beautiful moment for Aubrey Plaza, and it’s fantastic that we’re getting to see deeper more emotional sides of April.
In “Recall Vote” Aisha Muharrar does a brilliant spoof of Gwenyth Paltrow’s Goop, by having Children’s Hospital‘s Erinn Hayes play Annabel Porter who has a trendsetting lifestyle Website, Bloosh, that features Ron’s homemade rocking chairs. They become a sensation and Ron becomes a minor Pawnee celebrity, and Tom jumps on board in hopes of having Rent-a-Swag beat its main competitor, Dr. Saperstein’s copycat store. The Bloosh endorsement doesn’t work out, but Tom proves to be a wiley businessman and manages to negotiate a decent deal with Sapterstein for a lucrative buyout.
None of these minor subplots compete with the main Leslie story and Poehler just kills it – she’s especially masterful when portraying Leslie at her most hopeless – while the drunk Leslie is funny, it’s the bitter Leslie that resonates because for too long we see her as being a hyperactive ball of sunshine and lollipops – and we forget that she’s a lovely human being underneath.
What’s also interesting about Leslie’s predicament is that it puts into question Leslie’s ability to hold public office – it’s not that she’s not capable or intelligent, but can a kind, decent woman who has such a vice-like grip on her morals survive the bloody world of politics? Maybe, but it’s clear that Leslie’s committment to bettering humankind won’t always go down so well with her voters.
Some random thoughts:
- For early Ben’s early 90s b-day bash, Chris is dressed in acid washed denim – awesome
- Another great bit – Leslie and Ben doing a synchronized bit on skates to R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”
- Taking a cue from Wendy Davis, Leslie’s filibustering is a sight to behold – especially because she does while on skates
- At Ben’s party, Ann finally asks the rhetorical question viewers have been asking – how does Tom get gorgeous hot women like Ann, his ex-wife, and his current love, Nadia the comely doctor from Doctors Without Borders?
- April’s lunch for Andy’s trip to the airport: bologna sandwiches with cookies instead of bread
- Leslie’s filibuster moment is crowned with a great moment when she has to use the “whiz palace” and does an adorable pee pee dance
- Because Ingrid de Forest will be taking over as city councilwoman, this might be mean more Kristen Bell – and that’s always a good thing.
- I love Ingrid’s pronunciation of “whaffles”
- I love Ann’s lecture to Leslie – it’s heartwarming with just the right amount of tough love. And how great was it that Leslie wrote herself a note before the results?
- I’ll miss Ann and each time she and Leslie have a “thing” I get sad because her departure is coming soon – I got a little sad when Leslie referred to Ann as a “poetic land mermaid” and said that her brain was almost as perfect as her face – no more Leslie’s girlcrush on Ann…
So, what did you think of this latest turn in the political saga of Leslie Knope? Was it something you expected? Where does Leslie go now?