Before we start, I believe I might have been a little hard on last week’s episode. That episode was sweet, it was funny, but yes, also unexpected. Applause should be given to the writers for playing that plot point down this week, even to the point of nearly glazing over it. To recall the immortal words of Tina Turner, what does love have to do with it? In the world of Parks and Recreation, it would seem love has everything to do with story.
For the second week in a row, the main storyline has to do with inter-office relationships, but this time in a much more masterful way that seeks to bring the endless tatter of “will they or won’t they” to a head. You see, Leslie finally summons the courage to ask budget robot Ben out for a date, yet runs into a system malfunction as he showers her with compliments before awkwardly exiting stage right.
The solution? After a desperate conversation with Ann, she suggests that Leslie try online dating. What’s great about this is that Indiana apparently has its own dating site for the hopelessly Midwestern, Hoosiermate.com. Destined to fail by writing her own profile, she gets Ann to turn such sexy statements as “Yellow hair female likes organizing her planner and enjoys viewing a painting of flowers” into something less dorky. Like a sign from the heavens, a 98% match shows up, and that person is…Tom Haverford?
Tom N. Haverford’s favorite movie is books, and he calls eye cream companies complaining of poor scented products. Against her better judgement and sanity, she agrees to go on a date to see what the worst that could happen is, thus exploring one of the last character pairings in the Parks Department. What’s next? Jerry and Ann? (Actually, let’s not go there.) During their lunch, Leslie admits amongst a sea of awkward exchanges her reasoning behind the gesture, and Tom takes the whole thing as far as it can go– all the way back to the office. After a tiff, Leslie kisses our short Indian playa’ to shut him up, but unfortunately Chris walks by at the wrong time.
Speaking of Chris, the side story this week was just as strong, if not funnier, than the dating bit. Being the resident health nut in Pawnee, Chris decides to tackle the town’s massive obesity problem by instituting an “organic food only” policy in government. Incensed about the possibility of losing the only thing he cares about, Ron takes the red meat and challenges Chris to a burger cook-off (while misunderstanding what the hell a turkey burger is.)
The gang’s visit to Chris’ favorite store, Grain and Simple, proves to be the best test of character. Ron treats the visit like a trip to the zoo, observing the hipster patrons like zoo animals filling up on nature’s gifts. Andy, wholly convinced that food gives you energy, goes along with Chris to discover the wonders of food dispensers and fruit. The two share their favorite foods and we all discover that putting Skittles between Starbursts is a brilliant snacking invention.
His newly betrothed shares her apathy with Ron, and follows him around to cause pain and suffering to the store. Fresh off the sting of vegetable loaf from last week, Ron Freakin’ Swanson shows an employee what he really thinks of meat-less bacon: “No one should ever have to eat this stuff” he rips as he pines for the simpler deals of Food n’ Stuff.
The strength of a show is what they can do with their characters, because without good ones the jokes fall flat. This episode was a great exploration of that fact. By pairing off characters who shouldn’t go together as they venture into the unknown adventures outside the Parks world, the dialogue was on fire. Throughout the episode, it was great to see a revolving door of men that Ann was engaging with. We even got to meet someone who even poor Jerry can make fun of!
The episode ends with a meaty bit that has as sugary sweet a resolution as Andy’s Mouth Surprise. Chris nearly suspending Leslie for her actions with Tom leads to the reveal that Ben was awkward because he wanted to ask an office mate out. In spite of the cap on inter-govermental romance, the episode ends with Ben and Leslie sharing a moment in front of her favorite wildflower mural. Aww.
(And yes, in case you’re wondering, Ron’s burgers won the fight. Turkey indeed can never beat cow. Now that’s a half-hour I can’t find a beef with.)