Is it weird that Parks and Recreation offers up an episode on the flu season a few days after I recover from being sick myself? It seemed like every major character was coming down with something tonight, so much so that I felt I needed to arm myself with a Windex bottle full of hand sanitizer. (Thanks for the idea, Tom Haverford!)
Just in time for the depths of winter, it seems Pawnee has been struck with a bad strain of the flu. April is the first casualty, bedridden in Pawnee’s only hospital with Ann, whom she still hates for the love triangle disaster with Andy in the season two finale. To enact her revenge, April gets trigger happy with the nurse call button, eventually pushing Ann to the edge. In a rant apologizing for her actions, Ann ends up impressing April and bringing a bit of resolution to her part in the drama.
What wasn’t sick, however, was how funny tonight’s episode was. There were a lot of good pairings in the wake of Flupocalypse. April and Ann, Andy and Ron, and Leslie’s furthering bond with Ben in their bad-cop-good-grief routine. In the main storyline of the evening, the flu has spread to the Parks Department, specifically everyone’s favorite deputy, and the crew is trying to quarantine her in her office. The slow descent into madness via an insanely high fever leads to some of the most quotable lines of the night from Ms. Knope. (In a false start to a speech late in the episode: “My name is Leslie Monster, and this is Dateline.”)
Ben and Chris stop in the office, and Leslie’s disease sends Chris into a fit of panic. “My body is like a microchip. A grain of sand can shut it down”. Sure enough, he catches the flu bug and the seemingly unstoppable übermensch is taken down to the sick wing of the only hospital in the town. This leads to a hilarious chink in Chris’ armor as his body shuts down from a lack of fluids and exercise. It also leads Ann to find him more endearing, setting up the inevitable romance of the season.
With Leslie and Chris out of commission, it’s up to Ron Freakin’ Swanson to man the station back at Pawnee City Hall. As April is out for the day, Ron finds the only person apathetic enough to serve as his secretary: Andy. This offer to hang out with Ron and learn the finer points of grilling indoors and perhaps the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness is enough to tear our hapless shoe shiner from his new crazy straw construction. These scenes were a nice bonding moment for Ron, who always seems like an outcast in the touchy-feely Parks environment, and for Andy, whose only main job in the series has been to complicate the drama.
All of this mismatch in the face of danger gels in between the first major serial plot of the season: the planning for the Pawnee Harvest Festival. Step one is to gather enough businesses to make the event viable. Which brings us to the real chicken soup for the soul: Never underestimate the power of a good speech. This was an episode about the flu’s impact on the supporting cast, but the episode was really Leslie’s showcase. The flu can cause Leslie to confuse the floor and the wall, to introduce herself to a painting on the wall, and wear a pair of jeans, but nothing, not even a 104.1-degree temperature, can deter Leslie from her destiny. Despite the aforementioned delirium, the minute Leslie Knope had to convince those eighty businesses to sign on to the Festival, she was good as new. Leslie’s performance so impressed Ben that he and Chris decide to stick around for a little while longer, and Ben even cooks Leslie some of his homemade chicken soup. Awww.
Throughout the series, Leslie’s character has shown her devotion to, and passion for, her job. In numerous occasions, her unbridled enthusiasm has carried the day. When boiled down, it seems one of the main themes of the show has been passion: Leslie’s passion for the Parks Department, the love triangle’s passion for each other, Ron’s passion for meat and himself, even Chris’ passion for freakish peak physical condition. It makes the interactions more enjoyable, and mirrors what I can only imagine is the passion for the show behind the scenes. The jokes are firing on all cylinders, and the show is so enjoyable for it that not even mass viral chaos can bring it down.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I see the wall and floor switching places.
Article by Mark Ziemer