Parks and Recreation, Season 7, Episodes 3-4, “William Henry Harrison”/”Leslie and Ron”
January 20th, 2015, 8:00 PM, NBC
The past collides with the future in this week’s Parks installment. In “William Henry Harrison”, Leslie tries to strengthen her case for the Newport land parcel to be turned into a park via opening the floor to Pawnee’s Citizens – much to her everlasting eventual regret. She eventually moves in desperation toward a historian who thinks he can prove that Pawnee’s own President William Henry Harrison once maintained a hunting lodge on the parcel…only to discover that there’s nothing left of the lodge but a couple of stones, and when a search for further evidence of Harrison’s time in Pawnee is further frustrated by hours spent in the town’s bare bones Harrison museum, she zeros in on his only living relative, Zach Harrison, a milquetoast type whom Andy knows from summer camp. Meanwhile, Ron, Donna and Tom are told to bring in a local celebrity as a minority owner for the Gryzzl proposal and decide to target Pawnee’s answer to Ina Garten, Annabel Porter, whom Ron still loathes; Ben and Terry bounce between Ron and Leslie’s camps spilling secrets as they try to get an important document signed and notarized; and Andy tries to help April on her continuing quest to find a new profession.
In “Leslie and Ron” the battling former friends try to see eye to eye after their friends lock them together in Leslie’s old office overnight. Leslie tries to wring an apology from Ron for the Morning Star deal, but it turns out Ron left the Parks department for reasons completely unknown, and she puts her nose to the grindstone to find out what he’s hiding.
Now that we’re fully settled into the future, Parks manages to pull out of its rehash spiral and gives us something more in stride with the show’s usual gestalt. Leslie’s breakneck trip through Pawnee’s loser-laden history and her endless frustration with the people around her was perfect, and far more in stride with the ups and downs of canon past. There’s a decent amount of fun to be had in the general plot, though I would have appreciated more of Ron and Annabel Porter’s interaction to drive home how much working with Gryzzl is costing him spiritually. But then again Ron’s inclusion in this storyline only draws a big red neon arrow on how uncomfortable it is to have him sandwiched into the Gryzzl vs Pawnee storyline; the two sides provide a clear battle between the past and the present, and it’s odd to see Ron acting as a spearhead for modernity. The story really would be better if it were Tom and Donna versus the Parks department; they’d be just the right types of personalities to fall for the shallow, flashy, consumerist message Gryzzl represents.
There’s something I didn’t note last week: Leslie’s hatred for Ron is total lack of professionalism. Even Jeremy Jamm, who provoked torrents of pouting and childlike rage doesn’t get the pouting and ridiculous attitude and underhanded dealing she serves Ron. It’s annoyingly immature and only sort of in-character for Leslie – who tends to be sharp-eyed and steel-nosed when up against adversity versus completely unprofessional. Which is why “Ron and Leslie” is so valuable an episode; once we finally get an explanation for the Morning Star deal, and once we hear Leslie’s reason for her intense anger it all finally makes sense – but it also makes Leslie look incredibly childish and immature and unable to let go of the past…so basically, very in character for Leslie, and putting forth the right combination of sentimentality, humor and character behavior. Ron’s reasons, too, are surprisingly heart-tugging. This is why ” Leslie and Ron” is a perfect, stand-out episode of the show and should have been what they were striving for three episodes ago. It’s almost fortunate we’re getting these last episodes of Parks in chunks, because four weeks of the Leslie versus Ron stuff would have been unbearable. With one strong episode and one decent episode, this is already a step up from last week’s work.
- “Hold on to your straws, everybody, ‘cause Mama’s goin’ grasping!”
- Gryzzl could not be a bigger take-off on Google’s office and professional policies if they tried.
- April pulled the alarm for the fire department so many times it was disconnected and turned into a sprinkler.
- The only celebrities Ron recognizes are Gary Knox Bennett, the designer of the 16 penny nail cabinet, and Magnus, a 5 by 5 bull elk who escaped his gun.
- In 2017 there’s a Pulitzer Prize for the best Top Ten listicle. Also Morgan Freeman and Shailene Woodley are in a feud and Jack Sparrow is now a character in the Game of Thrones series.
- Poor Gary’s going to die and nobody’s going to notice it, are they?
- List of locally famous names created by Ron, Tom and Donna for the Gryzzl deal: Annabel Porter, Derry Murbles, Crazy Ira and the Douche, Perd Hapley, Pistol Pete, Dennis Feinstein, Lil Sebastian Lookalike, August Clementine, Trish Ianetta, and Tom himself.
- Annabel Porter first appeared in season six’s “Recall Vote”, frustrating Ron’s desire to sell his handmade furniture.
- April only likes dogs, sleeping late, and weird birthmarks. Andy adds on playing with dogs, sex with him and staring contests.
- Seriously, what happened to Leslie and Ben’s triplets? She doesn’t even look pregnant in the flashbacks where she should be.
- Craig Middlebrooks is the head of the Parks department , having taken Leslie’s old job. He’s also studying yoga now.
- Next Week: Ben and Leslie try to shut down a Gryzzl-related mass privacy invasion into the lives of the citizens of Pawnee, Tom tries to help Andy with Johnny Karate-related contract negotiations, April gives a pep talk to the new interns, Tom gives Donna a special pre-wedding gift and Leslie organizes a rally to keep J.J’s Diner open in “Gryzzlbox” and “Save J.J.’s.”
Spreading the difference between the just-okay "William Henry Harrison" and the excellent "Leslie and Ron," Parks earns an 89 from me this week; a reward for beautiful writing in the latter and funny jokes in the former, and a marked improvement from last week.