March 20th, 2014, 8:30 PM, NBC
Missing Ann, Leslie throws a Galentines’ Day brunch to figure out which of her lady associates will be her new Pawnee best friend. Meanwhile, Ben, Larry and Tom go on a road trip to scout tent vendors and are confronted by the outrageous prices and demands of their supplier - and Ben and Larry find themselves struggling awkwardly toward friendship, and Ron’s attempt at temporarily escaping fatherhood is thwarted when Andy injures himself while they are out scouting vendors of their own, forcing him back into dad mode.
“Cute as a button” describes much of Parks and Rec’s run, and button-cute is just what this episode is. Filled with confessions, births, happy parenthood and reaffirmations of friendly commitment, it sings with love and affection for its characters. And the lynchpin of the entire ballet of cuteness is definitely Leslie Knope.
Whether trying her darndest to get a new best friend or cuddling her one and only best friend post-giving birth, Leslie’s a whirlwind of excitement, hope and angst this episode. She carries a neediness that’s incandescent - and here’s the great rub – as lonely as she is, she has to be funny, too. That takes deft acting, and Amy Poehler pulls it off in spades, making Leslie even more likable as she does childish and even a bit nasty things. Interestingly, what should be a moment of goodbye for Leslie and Ann turns into a renewal of their friendship via stuffed animals and tiny babies – the hospital bed discussion of Friday Night Lights illustrates why Leslie and Ann’s friendship is so important to the show, and why caustic April and trendy Donna both have their places in Leslie’s life but cannot quite usurp Ann’s status.
The Leslie plot may contain the miracle of life – but the Ben/Larry/Tom plot is what contains a REAL miracle; somebody FINALLY acknowledges Larry’s worth. And it’s about time – his status as the show’s general buttmonkey has been one blemish on the show’s otherwise uncheckered reputation. Larry is the nicest guy and the joke is that his pleasant demeanor is what makes him so irritating –something that doesn’t actually translate well for the viewer. Having nerdy, likeable loser Ben be his friend is fitting; of all of the characters, Ben’s most likely to understand Larry’s POV. Everything else within the storyline – even Tom’s typically silly/savvy negotiating skills- are immaterial to this major breakthrough in writing. Too bad they still insist upon having the rest of the office inexplicably disrespect Larry.
And what’s to be said about Andy and Ron’s storyline, other than it’s simply cute? Andy’s perhaps written a little bit too childishly this time out, but somehow it works, and somehow paternalistic Ron is even funnier than curmudgeonly paranoid government worker Ron.
“Galentine’s Day” is tender yet funny, delicious yet ridiculous – it has its rough points, but mostly it works and has a magical sense of tenderness, time and place. It’s flaws exist but are fairly minor. It’s a wonderful episode that’s worth more than a second look.
- Apparently whenever Ben and Leslie try to talk, they end up doing it. How does their marriage manage to be spicy and cute at the same time?
- Donna’s latest podcast du jour: “Jaleel or No Deal”, where Jaleel White reviews old Deal or No Deal episodes.
- Leslie’s summation of her friends’ virtues and flaws: Donna- “Confident, worldly, we go way back”; April – “Vivid imagination, young and vibrant”; Shawna Mullway-Tweeth – “Pretty, fragile, makes terrible life decisions – a real fixer-upper, but look, it’s not like Ann was doing so hot when I met her”; Ethel Beavers – “A bit of a dark horse – old and crotchety, but probably wise” and Evelyn - “Fake Ann.”.
- And yes, Galentine’s Day was back on February 13th. The show is at least clever enough to acknowledge its messy scheduling.
- Leslie’s favorite TV Show is Friday Night Lights; Donna’s is Scandal. April just likes playing recordings of Russian traffic accidents to children’s music played at the wrong RPM.
- In this episode Ann gives birth to a son, Oliver.
- Next week: Parks and Rec is preempted for an airing of Hollywood Game Night.