‘Parks and Recreation’ recap: “Second Chunce”

It’s great to write this recap this week because Amy Poehler (finally) won a well-deserved Golden Globe.

I finally got my Parks and Rec fix after a lengthy break. In last week’s episode “Second Chunce” Leslie’s last as city councilwoman brings out the worst instincts in the woman. As expected, she’s not exactly thrilled about giving up the seat to vanquishing opponent, Ingrid de Forest (guest star Kristen Bell). Andy’s back from London and suffering from some serious jet lag. Tom is finalizing the sale of Rent-a-Swag, and figuring out what to do with his life. And Chris and Ann find out their baby’s sex.

What “Second Chunce” does is show us just how much Leslie has tied up her identity with her job. Facing the prospect of not working is a bone-chilling fear, despite her wonderful husband Ben and a group of awesome besties. So when city councilman Dexhart is mired in yet another sex scandal, Leslie sees this as an opportunity to run for his seat. As with other Parks and Rec episodes throughout its six seasons, this episode also takes some mild swipes from the news – Dexhart’s affair has a certain whiff of Anthony Weiner.

Anyways, despite her loved ones’ protests, Leslie starts a desperate last-minute campaign. When Ben offers some reasonable protests, she slams them down, forgetting just how hard it was to run the last time – and how much time and energy her loved ones donated. Again, this is selfish Leslie, so she just assumes that her friends will gladly jump back and help even if they all huge life events going on in their lives, as well. When Ben asks if all the work is worth it, Leslie snaps back, “Anything is worth me getting back on city council.” So Leslie starts an impromptu political campaign: and that’s where the title of the episode – “Second Chunce” comes from – because it’s done on the fly, Leslie has cut and pasted a bunch of different banners for her campaign, making them look like ransom notes.

And Ben is trying to figure out how to make Leslie feel better, looking for the “perfect gift” and settles on Jennifer Barkley (an always welcomed Kathryn Han). Unlike the gang at the Parks Department, Jennifer couldn’t give a flying fig if she hurts Leslie’s feeling, and advises her that she’d be wasting her time running for city council. She implants the ideas of congress or the senate. With a lot on her mind, she holds a press conference, and drops a bombshell: she has no plans. Instead, she announces that after her final day on the city council, she and her husband are going to JJ’s for waffles and then post-waffle making out.

Meanwhile, Tom is holding an American Idol-like series of auditions for new business ideas. They’re all terrible. The list of bad ideas was cute and offered some laughs – including sad sack Larry who sneezes all over his machine that generates clean renewable energy. The Tom subplot is interesting because his life story has become as intriguing and compelling as Leslie’s – if Parks and Rec ever ends, I see Aziz Ansari getting a show spun off just for himself (I’d love a Tom spin-off).

Speaking of spin-offs, it feels like Ann and Chris have their own domestic sitcom as well – a Pawnee version of Mad About You, except about as half as interesting. Both Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones are talented, funny comedians, but they’re saddled with some really trite and boring story lines. In “Second Chunce” the couple finds out the sex of the baby: a little baby boy. Their impending departure is starting to drag a bit – and I’m a little miffed that we’re not getting any Leslie/Ann time. I get it – Leslie has to figure out how to stand on her own two feet without the support of her soul mate (let’s make it clear – Ben is a great husband, but Ann’s truly Leslie’s soul mate).

Amy Poehler wrote “Second Chunce” with show creator Michael Schur. I really enjoyed this episode because it handled the transition for Leslie gracefully – it’s a curious direction the show is taking – it’s only about half way through the season, and it feels like the recall should’ve been the finale – what will the show do with Leslie now?

Some random stray thoughts:

  • When the gang gives terrible ideas to Tom, April strikes gold with “macaroni and poison.”
  • April and Andy are reunited from his temporary gig in London – there’s something wonderful about seeing April spray with a garden hose in their living room.
  • Even though I found the Ann/Chris subplot kinda dull, her ordering from Domino’s while they’re eating at a restaurant is pretty awesome.
  • I love that the episode ends in Paris (I’m wondering if the folks shot the end of the episode at the same time they were shooting the London episode).
  • Ben, being Ben, has his mind blown by the bridge from Inception, even though, as Leslie points out, the Eiffel Tower is right behind them.
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