Parks and Recreation: Under the Bus

By Michael Svoboda

May 04, 2012

Parks and Recreation S04E21: "Bus Tour"

“Failing up” seems to be a good way to describe most of the characters on Parks and Rec: Ron strives to never work, April aids in Ron’s striving, Andy thinks he’s made it because he no longer lives in a literal hole in the ground, Tom suffers through his job in the Pawnee government as a stepping stone to some greater entrepreneurial destination (i.e. alcoholic yogurt!?), Jerry is, well, Jerry, etc. Leslie is our consistent exception—yes, she flubs things, most episodes wouldn’t have a A-story if she didn’t, but her ability to turn it around, do the right thing, and come out on top, is the satisfying cherry on each episode. Last night, we learned that candidate Leslie is not gaffe-proof. Actually, many might call her a gaffe-magnet. As part of the show’s continuing campaign 2012 storyline we saw Leslie bob and weave (or trip and stumble?) her way out of another jam. She called a dead guy a jerk. A dead guy who was a jerk. Ipso facto, she essentially told the truth, only the truth looked bad coming out of her mouth. Especially when followed by T-shirt cannons and cheerleaders dancing to Gloria Estefan. Oops. But like any good political machine, the KNOPE 2012 campaign went into full-on spin mode.

The whole group reconvened in the S.S. Knope to figure out what to do, with Chris riding alongside the bus on his bike. Can we talk about Chris Traeger for a second, please? Although I generally enjoy his antics, at times it feels like he is a character cut and pasted from another show. And most of his jokes fell very flat for me this week—the exception being when April telling him why his life doesn’t suck, but then, that was an April run. I’m just saying, if there were to be an anyone run over by a car while biking to work on this show...

Meanwhile, my smile widened at the return of Andy’s alter ego, Burt Macklin: FBI. A pie had been thrown; Jerry was hit... but why? Burt was on the case. Awesome code names were handed out: “Been There Done That” (Ann), “If I Had To Pick A Dude” (Chris), “One Time In A Dream” (Donna). A slow-mo re-enactment of the pie colliding with Jerry’s face (hilariously) showcased Burt’s investigative skills. It made me think, why is it funny when a pie hits someone in the face? Why has this gag survived years and years of comedy? Are we laughing to cover up the sadness that stems from knowing all that delicious pie goodness will never be eaten? I’m just happy it was Jerry who got the pie. Jerry is our fool. Our boob. If a pie hits Jerry in the woods, and no one is there to see it, does it make a splat? But I digress...

I’ve found that the best shows always hold a mirror to society. Just yesterday I heard a sound byte in which Michele Bachmann soundly endorsed Mitt Romney, then it was stated that earlier this year, during the heat of the primaries, she had said resoundingly that Romney could never beat Obama in the election. Gaffe or mind-change? Or just politics as usual? I say the latter. And Leslie had to bridge that same gap. After attempting some tricks, Leslie finally took Ann Perkins’ advice and decided to just apologize to the dead guy’s son, her glassy-eyed rival, Bobby Newport. And in true Parks and Rec fashion, Leslie “failed up” brilliantly.

But have no doubt, election fatigue was clear and present in Pawnee. Everyone is tired of the campaign, another real-world mirror they played well. You heard it at least three times during the episode, “This campaign is over.” And I for one am happy to see it ending. The S.S. Knope was literally driving around in circles. Time to steer that ship into port and get back to work, people, there are parks to be parked and recreation to be... recreated.

High point: A tie! April saying: “Umm... Dark places are awesome.” And Burt Macklin’s “suspect board” of Jerry’s face and a pie.

Low point: All things Chris Traeger.

Talking Points:

1. Who's ready for characters to stop mugging to the cameras?! I know this is mockumentary style comedy, but every time a character gave the fourth wall a face, I winced a little.

2. Did anyone else have the revelation that KNOPE 2012 looks a lot like KONY 2012?

3. If next week's season finale were like the season finale of so many other shows and “someone... will... die!” Who would you hypothetically choose to kill off?

4. Do you think Leslie's going to win the election?

  • Comments (14)
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  • mad-pac May 05, 2012

    Answering your question, I think Chris and Andy are the lost likely to be killed in the present storyline because they have no direct involvement with it. Let's hope that changes next season and they, once again, develop their own purposeful stories like they did in the past.

  • mad-pac May 05, 2012

    The present storyline, the election, is bringing part of the cast to wonderfully work together, except for two formerly important characters. First, I have to say I can't stand Any in the last episodes. He simply has nothing real to do anymore. In the debate he spent the whole thing making movie impersonations, and now, pressing pies against Jerry's face. A formerly endearing character has been reduced to a buffoon with his own collection of random antics with no part of the main story. It's as if a brilliant comedy like Parks and Recreation needed a comedy relief character. However the public seems to enjoy the clown that does forced things to be funny, puts on his own show of side gags, and tries to steal the spotlight. I may chalk that up to popular American humor, I guess, and perhaps due to a cultural difference I'll never get that.

    Another previously important character is Chris. He had no room in this episode except act as an overactive gofer for the group. It's a pity because the writers could have come up with much more creative ways to fit Chris into Leslie's election efforts. It seems they only bothered with a few characters, intentionally leaving Andy and Chris out. I wonder why.

    One more thing. Renting vans, an entire customized bus with Leslie's face all over. Sounds like a bit too much for a local, small town city council election. Who's paying for all that? Where do Leslie's funds magically come from? It seems somebody is paying a lot just to finance what, in the end, is just Leslie's personal political carrier ambition.

    Still, great episode, but I'll be glad when this storyline is over. By the way, when will Leslie make do to her promise and turn that empty lot behind Ann's house into a park???? I've been waiting for that since season 1.

  • pcsjunior002 May 05, 2012

    High Point: Burt Maklin's code names and Ben saying "Thank God" to his thankfully benign code name.

    Low Point: The obvious and unnecessary sex between Chris and Bobby's campaign manager at the end. That said, I generally like Chris Traeger and thought his stuff this episode was pretty neat.

    1. Get used to it. Or not. Whatever.

    2. Don't know what KONY 2012 is. But Knope 2012 is awesome.

    3. I don't want to kill off anyone. But if it had to be someone... Bobby Newport, after winning the election.

    4. Probably not. Just because I like the show to stay in the Parks Dept. But that's me.

  • movieblogger May 05, 2012

    I get people asking if I support the KONY 2012 movement every time I wear my KNOPE 2012 buttons.

  • herropreez14 May 05, 2012

    what do you mean like other finales? what show finales have killed off character, havent only like 2 shows aired finales so far, and 1 of them was the biggest loser and im pretty sure they wouldnt kill any1 off that show.

  • aknu May 05, 2012

    I definitely wouldn't mind if they slowly faded out the "talking to camera" parts, and focused strictly on the rest

  • JustinJohnson9 May 05, 2012

    I definitely disagree with you on Chris. I still think he's hilarious - especially the parts where he tried to keep himself busy. It was hilarious to see him ride alongside the bus, go out for sandwiches, etc. LOL!!

    I loved everything about this episode, including Leslie turning a big negative into a positive at the end. Great show!

  • patsully May 05, 2012

    I much prefer Chris Traeger to Anne Perkins... they've been struggling to figure out what to do with her for a few seasons. I guess she'll just date someone new soon?

  • etong87 May 05, 2012

    Shes already dated Chris and Tom. Who else is left for Anne to date?

  • aknu May 05, 2012

    Sewage Joe

  • wearegetgetgo May 05, 2012


  • Dudekotka May 05, 2012

    I'm actually the opposite of you, I hated Andy's plot this episode, it just felt overly silly. Normally, he's somewhere at the top of my favorites for each episode, but I found the Pie thing really pointless. Meanwhile, I'm still enjoying Chris, I think he fits in very well in the Pawnee universe, and he makes me laugh.

    Other than that, this episode made me like Bobby Newport a lot more, I'm actually starting to root for him a bit.

  • Janter23 May 05, 2012

    I noticed the mugging for the camera a lot more last night, so maybe they can tone it down a bit. The talking heads do enough anyway.

    The KONY thing never crossed my mind. And as for who to kill off, Sewage Joe.

    I honestly don't know about the election next week. I really want Leslie to win but what about her working with the Parks department? It's all so complicated.

  • Jimmy_Fishkin May 05, 2012

    1. The mugging never really bugs me...

    2. Nope (or Knope...)

    3. In the ultimate Jerry diss, just have his character not be in the whole season, make no mention of it....then at the end of the last episode, have someone ask, "where the hell is Jerry?" - cut to his tombstone...

    4. No - because winning is the obvious conclusion, plus if Bobby Newport wins, hopefully we'll have more guest spots from Paul Rudd.