Parks and Recreation: Under the Bus

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?

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