The moment we’ve all been waiting for is here. It’s time for the Pawnee Harvest Festival! Seven days of celebration, cotton candy, and…miniature ponies? The most surprising thing about the Festival’s reality was not that it would be pulled off (we knew it had to) or that it would run into complications (the show must go on!), but that the biggest plot points would revolve around a two-foot horse and an ancient Indian tribe.
We find our crew in the final stages of planning the Harvest Festival, and everything seems to be going swimmingly. The Festival is being held on several acres, there’s a whole set of carnival rides, and even a corn maze! The local media has even come out to chronicle the success in Pawnee. Leslie, well aware that the department’s jobs hinge on a successful Harvest Festival, has pulled out all the stops. She even brought local celebrity L’il Sebastian into town. Sebastian, a miniature pony that has been a Pawnee legend for a quarter century, incites uncontrollable glee in every resident. That is, except for sourpuss transplant Ben. He just doesn’t get what’s so special about a small horse!
A few weeks ago, Parks and Recreation attempted to take a swing at Ben’s backstory by having him do a media blitz around the town. Notably, he had a complete meltdown on Pawnee Today with journo-hag Joan Calamezzo. However, I was much cooler on that episode than tonight’s. By dealing with Ben’s history and combining him and Joan in the same disastrous media situation, I found this edition of Wyatt v. Calamezzo more entertaining and illuminating for Ben. Haunted by his failure in Minnesota, he feels responsible when informed that the Festival is being held upon sacred Indian battle grounds. Waiting for the inevitable chaos, weeks of success come crashing down on Ben, and the fallout is more satisfyingly on display here.
The “curse” of the tribe, whose history includes being slaughtered by Pawnee colonists (doing no favors to the town’s built-up past), threatens to sink the whole ship, and Joan– up until now a reluctant praiser of the Parks Department’s efforts– smells a story. To add to this, Jerry’s penchant for funnel cakes has resulted in L’il Sebastian escaping into the corn maze. In the chaos is probably the funniest scene this season since the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness: a Taiwanese CG recreation of the meeting between the chief and Leslie, resulting in the “curse” demonizing Ms. Knope. All the media attention at the misfortune causes a power outage, and Leslie must beg the Indian chief for a new generator.
Meanwhile, during the power outage, Ron comes in and provides one of those great character moments where he diffuses tension between Tom and Jerry (no relation to the cat and mouse) and a lover’s spat between April and Andy. All of them are trapped on a ferris wheel as the power cuts off, though at that height Jerry is able to atone as he locates the horse of legend.
By the end of the episode, the chieftain performs his anti-curse ritual, all is well, and the Harvest Festival is a success. Ben still doesn’t get what’s so great about Sebastian, but by buying into the local hysteria he learns to be a part of the gang and find what these people already know: that it’s the little moments in life that count. The culmination of the season so far, this episode showcases everything that’s great about Parks: building up the town’s history, playing off the already-rich culture, and providing a rallying point for the gang. One can only wonder where we go from here, with the definitive arc of season 3 wrapped up, but as long as the writers don’t lose the corn stalks in the maze, we should be golden.
As a bonus, NBC’s website has a bunch of Harvest Festival related bonus content, so check it out here!
Article by Mark Ziemer