April 17th, 2014, 8:30 PM, NBC
Ben and Leslie head to Doctor Sapperstein’s office for Leslie’s first ultrasound, and the results send them both scrambling to obey his orders to keep calm – a nearly impossible task, as the same week they end up hosting a charity auction to fund the Unity concert that’s attended by every skinflint and eccentric in Pawnee. It all ends with a panicking Ben and an eerily calm Leslie, who must hash out a plan for their growing future. Meanwhile, Ron and Donna swap favors: she’ll help craft costumes for his stepdaughter’s class play if he’ll keep her ex-boyfriend Joe away from her while she’s on school property. But the man turns out to be so nice that Ron confronts Donna over her true motivation for avoiding the man. Elsewhere, Andy struggles under the burden of knowing Leslie and Ben’s pregnancy news, which frazzles him and short circuits his ability to schedule his life properly. In the process of helping him, April gets a tantalizing hint as to what he’s hiding (a note on his arm instructing him not to tell the secret in bold letters). April’s desperate to find out what the secret is, forcing Andy to lie about Larry’s health and a solicitous April to cater to Larry’s needs out of guilt.
It’s hard to discuss what bugs me about this week’s Parks without revealing a big spoiler. Let’s just say that the show has issues with excess at the moment, even though it seems rather ‘Leslie’ that everything’s happening to an extreme. Ben’s reaction is perfectly outsized in response to the plot (some nice acting by Adam Scott this week and last has made the entire ludicrous situation move comfortably into slapsticky ridiculousness, so the plot all comes off as good fun as long as you don’t think about it too closely).
”One in 8,000” is a surprisingly mixed bag from the Parks team.
One of the bigger problems is Craig Middlesbrook; flailing about, reacting in extreme to everything, his presence is so over the top that it distracts from the humor of the scene. A little goes a long way with him, but he’s been featured more and more heavily lately, and he’s something of a downer. His final scene is an irritatingly sour down note.
On the other hand, the secret gem of the episode is Donna and Ron’s subplot. Ron’s moved comfortably into his role as group dad once again as he tries to be a responsible stepfather and satisfy his own curiosity about Joe, and this episode finally acknowledges how much he’s changed and grown since meeting and falling in love with Diane. He may still be an anti-government curmudgeon who likes silence and privacy, but he also actually cares about his friends and his family, and wants them to find happiness.
As for the Andy and April subplot, I still hate the Larry-related abuse the story continues to slip into the general plotline and – in such a sunshine world as Pawnee – remains troublesome. The cat-and-mouse game between Andy and April at least relies more heavily upon the character’s chemistry, with Larry acting as a temporary roadblock between April and her goal.
“One in 8,000” is a surprisingly mixed bag from the Parks team. While chunks of it are beautifully written and thought out, larger moments grate. Can an episode be disappointing and delightful all in the same moment? Yep. This one is.
- Councilman Jamm stops by just to try to destroy Leslie’s auction. Cause he’s that kind of guy.
- Aziz Ansari’s Tom Haverford does not appear in this episode.
- Andy performs once again as Johnny Karate, his children’s party entertainer persona.
- Henry Winkler returns as Mona Lisa and Jean Ralphio’s OBGYN dad.
- April is currently catfishing Anthony Keids from the RHCP.
- Leslie’s planning on singing with a Sacajawea hologram during the unity concert.
- Tammy Two once had Ron declared legally dead so she could seduce the coroner.
- Ben on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ oeuvre: “covering everything from the culture of Southern California to drug use in Southern California…”
- Herman, the wife-beater wearing tough who often appears in crowd scenes, makes an appearance.
- Next week: In this year’s season finale, Tom’s restaurant opens, Ben and Leslie meet up with Chris at the National Parks conference in San Francisco which helps Leslie make a decision about the Chicago offer, and Ron bumps into Tammy Two again in “Moving Up.”