'Parks and Recreation' recap: Herstory lessons

Parks-Rec-Beauty-Pageant_dlIt seems with each new episode of Parks and Recreation we’re getting that much closer to its perfect vision of itself. A better-developed character here, a smoother dialogue rhythm there — it’s a little like open-heart surgery watching this thing develop, seeing those incremental improvements made week to week. Disgusting! But also rewarding, as in last night’s episode, which gave us our most human Leslie Knope to date. Who’s ready to get schooled in recent HERstory?

The episode was titled “Beauty Pageant,” and that’s exactly what set the plot in motion: the annual Miss Pawnee Beauty Pageant, which Madeline Albright-worshiping Leslie was asked to judge. Believing the contest to be about “selecting a role model for the young women of Central Indiana,” Leslie was obviously in for a surprise when her fellow judges looked for…different criteria. Horndog Tom desperately wanted in on the festivities and decided to call in a favor (“If you don’t call in a favor to judge at women in bikinis and assign them numerical grades, then what do you call a favor in for?”) to join the panel. Leslie’s feminist ideals vs. Tom’s bra-size-guessing imperative? A classic dramatic set-up.

But wait! We haven’t mentioned officer Dave, who stopped by Leslie’s office to ask her out for coffee. Things looked good — “I…I like you,” Dave out and told her — until he misidentified a picture of Madeline Albright as Leslie’s grandma. THEN failed, albeit less explicitly, to know the names of the women on Leslie’s wall. After an awkward “we’ll figure it out” ending to the date-scheduling, Dave ambled out of her office. I think maybe this will come back to the theme of seeing beyond our initial perceptions, but we’ll find out later on!

Meanwhile, the three characters we still don’t quite know what to do with — Mark, Ann, and Andy — all figured into a subplot that saw Mark coming over to fix Ann’s shower/have dinner (“weirdest second date ever”), Ann discovering Andy’s pit camp, and Andy joining them inside when it started to rain. I like these characters, as I’m sure you do too, but we can feel the writers straining to include them in the flow of these episodes. Maybe Ann could become the official P&R department nurse? Or Andy could temp in the office? Both possibilities might render the show more, well, Office-like, but there’s a reason (one of them, anyway) that show works — its characters all occupy the same space. Until that happens on Parks, we’ll continue to have subplots like we saw tonight.

Back to Miss Pawnee! Having heard of the $600 prize earlier, April decided she could be “dumb for a few hours” and joined the pageant. Pulling off a killer modeling stance in her introduction — and telling the crowd she liked “people…places…and things!” — she looked like she might be able to pull it off. That is, until Trish took center stage. “I’ve been on YouTube. I love wearing bikinis at the beach…with everyone there. Are y’all having a good time?!” Armed with a barely-there outfit and…baton-twirling abilities (“she’s not even twirling!”), “the hot one” was the clear front-runner.

Leslie, whose intricate scorecard featured categories for “‘HERstory,’ ‘Je ne se quas,’ and the ‘Naomi Wolf factor’,” was not so impressed. More taken with Susan, the piano-playing Indiana U. student, she tried to get the other judges on her side. “What was your talent?” she asked Miss Pawnee 1994, a fellow judge. “I packed a suitcase.” After imploring them to select the best young woman they had seen…the crown still went to the hot one. Watching Miss Pawnee 2009 do shots with her 1994 counterpart just made Leslie’s night that much worse.

Silver lining — Officer Dave showed up to ask Leslie what the deal was with their date. He hadn’t heard from her. “It’s just that I’m busy, and–” she started before Dave laid it all out. “I’m not a guy that plays games. I like you. And I like coffee. If you want to get coffee, here’s my number.” He gruffly bumped into Trish on his way out…and Leslie finally saw what she had been missing before. Maybe he doesn’t know the names of her favorite female politicians. So what?! Like her girl Susan, the guy’s got inner beauty. At episode’s end, they arranged a Friday night dinner date.

So that was episode three. What’d you guys think? How many more until we see the fully-realized Parks and Recreation we know this cast and crew is capable of?

Comments (24 total) Add your comment
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  • Holly

    Love the show. The “I packed a suitcase” line killed me.

    • Cara H

      This show is NOT funny, a clear reipoff of its sire the Office, which in turn was not funny to begin with – only funny shows on tv (not cable) are 30 rock, Big Bang Theory…….I miss the days of Cheers (the early seasons anyway), All in the Family, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons….all shows where the people seemed genuine and all had loveable losers AND you could laugh instead of chuckle which is the best that can be said for most shows today

      • Rachel

        If you’re siding with BBT over Parks & Rec and The Office, you’ve clearly got your priorities skewed/

      • Chris

        You should watch TV Land. Or just go to 30 years ago. Clearly those were better days for you..

  • Alan

    This show is getting better every week! Unfortunately the ratings are super super low, and I think P&R may get cancelled. That would be a huge shame because I’m really loving this show this season!!

  • hmm

    yeah, it seems like it’s getting closer to hitting it’s stride. i make a point to watch it every week now. happy to see that they throw in props from real indiana businesses (upland brewing company!), but it definitely doesn’t feel like it takes place in indiana most of the time (i lived there most of my life.) btw, i think they said Susan went to Indiana State, not ‘indiana u’… these are two very different schools. nice recap!

  • sjb

    i love this show…i agree, i ets better every week. andy is soooo creepy, but i love it. tom kills me…and i LOVE louis ck–hope he stays awhile. (and ps, look at the picture above…looks like tom has long hair. LOVE IT.)

  • melissa

    I agree that this season has been much better than last, so far. Hopefully it will stick around!

  • ImStillToni

    So Dave didn’t recognize Madeline Albright (me neither lmao). The fact that Dave went online to look up the women Leslie had in her office pictures and rambled their names off to her also made Leslie realize he’s not all that bad. Great season, each ep gets better & better, but am I the only one who thinks Andy reminds me of Roy from the Office?

    • Rachel

      Me too! They look so similar.

  • couchgrouch

    shows take awhile to hit their stride. that’s not big news. However Parks and Rec was way better than the painfully bad ep of the Office last night. if the Office doesn’t pick up it might be time to let it die with dignity before it becomes The X-Files, the Simpsons or CSI.

  • Season

    Is Tom still supposed to be married or did they change that? I don’t see his wife appreciating him giving random women the keys to their house. And that picture makes it look like he has a mullet. lol

    • SaneN85

      He’s still wearing a ring, so I assume he’s still married.

  • Clem

    Leslie didn’t change her mind about Dave because she saw “inner beauty” it was because he couldn’t have cared less about Trish while Leslie had just watched every man in the room drool all over her.

  • marymary

    Loved the episode, one thing that bugged me however is how “the hot one” said “you’all” – I have spent my whole life in the midwest and that is not how people talk here! Definitely more of a southern thing.

  • DEX

    Loved the episode. My only disappointment was the “I packed a suitcase” line, which is lifted straight from the classic 1975 beauty pageant send-up “SMILE”. (Rent it now!! Hilarious!) Rip-off or homage?

  • JT

    30 ROCK went through these same growing pains before it hit its stride. The cast of PARKS (unlike COMMUNITY) clearly has the chops to create an A-level show and set of characters. I’ll stay tuned.

  • Chris

    Does it look like Tom Has a Mullet in that pic?

  • kim in kentucky

    gotta admit – after the first season, wasn’t sure I would watch the second (if it had been cancelled, I would have not been upset) — but this season, its coming along nicely —- maybe because they got rid of the pit story???

  • Darrin

    I like this show, but can someone tell me why this show, Community, Vampire Diaries, and at least 5 reality shows have TV Watch/Recaps, but there’s nothing for that terrific FlashForward which begs for further analysis? Seriously, EW?? Vampire Diaries gets one before this? What’s Doc Jensen up to? He could probably have some fun with FF until Lost gets back, get him on the case.

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