February 17th, 2015, 8:00 PM, NBC
In “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show”, Andy faces the final episode of the Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show with aplomb; and as we get a sample version of a full episode, we watch as many of Andy’s friends come to town to see it off. Leslie surprises Andy with a ‘this is your life’ segment, which leads to his knighting, a gig as an honorary policeman, a loose spider in the studio, the dunking of John Cena and some unexpected emotion from April.
In “Two Funerals”, the gang attends Walter Gunderson’s funeral. Everybody copes with moving on – Donna to the PNW, Garry into retirement, April and Andy and Leslie and Ben, as established last week, to Washington. In light of that, Andy and Donna help Ron adjust to the death of his barber Salvatore, which brings him face to face with his own mortality and his doppelganger Ron – and Donna’s hairdresser Typhoon; Ben and April court various candidates as interim mayoral prospects before April realizes Ben’s the perfect candidate – and Ben realizes that an even more perfect candidate’s right there in the room with them; and Leslie urges Tom to propose to Lucy and goes about helping him create the most perfect, swagtastic proposal possible via clever use of videography – but when Tom ultimately chickens out of his loud airport proposal plan, Leslie – and Jean Ralphio Saperstein –are left to kick him into gear.
“Emotion”: that’s this week’s watchword. Loaded up with goodbyes that never ever get soggy with tears even when the characters are shedding them, there’s so much going on that it feels a little overstuffed with twists that would otherwise play out over the course of a full season. The show had plenty of time to give us these moments spaced out over the course of the season – but after wasting time on the useless Gryzzl storyline and a feud between Leslie and Ron that led absolutely nowhere, in its penultimate two episodes Parks and Recreation nearly breaks itself in half as it tries to shoehorn in character cameos, plot developments and big character moments.
Yet these two slices of Pawnee are still good ones in spite of their flaws. The Johnny Karate episode is super-indulgent and only opens up logic loopholes (There’s no way, for instance, that Ben would be able to get away with portraying Professor Smart Brain for as long as he has and still be considered a serious congressional candidate, as anyone who followed pro wrestling entrepreneur Linda McMahon’s real-life bid for the senate can testify); it’s the sort of thing that only works as a major pay-off for years of viewership, but it also triumphs on two simple levels – those being Chris Pratt’s full commitment to Andy’s goofy silliness and as a tribute to the rock-solid structure of Andy and April’s marriage. On any other show this much meta would end up being tedious, but somehow on Parks it’s funny and charming, and the show’s earned so much goodwill that the end result is funny.
“Two Funerals”, however, suffers from so much overpacking and so many big decisions and choices and plot twists that nothing has time to settle in; we hurtle from Donna and Garry’s big announcements to the Gunderson funeral (where Bill Murray gives a quirky and yet completely wasted performance as the corpse in question) to Ron’s race to find another barber, Leslie’s cheerleading for Tom and Ben and April’s futile search for their temporary mayor. When Ben and Leslie trade phonecalls to catch up on plot developments at the foot of the show we all feel as exhausted as they sound. The less said about how badly the development of Tom and Lucy’s romance has been written, the better – the writers even tries to lampshade it tonight by having had Tom offscreen for three episodes , the equivalent of three weeks, to better take them from the ‘I love you’ to the ‘let’s get married’ stage.
Yet the episode pays off beautifully with a moment that’s been so long in the making that, once again, leaves one willing to let it coast by on goodwill and well-earned emotion. The result is two episodes that work decently, are funny, but leave the audience begging for a little quiet time afterwards.
- The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show is all about learning, music, animals, fireworks, water-skis, ice cream, pizza, ninjas, getting stronger, sharks versus bears and karate, according to Andy.
- In addition to his court show gig, Perd Hapley is also Andy’s MC for the JKSAMES.
- Andy’s Burt Macklin personality first appeared in season two’s “Greg Pikitis.”
- April Ludgate-Karate-Dwyer. Perfect.
- The gang’s jobs on Andy’s show: April has a pet corner where she shows off deadly and exotic animals, Ron is ‘Carpenter Ron’, Ben is ‘Professor Smart Brain’, Garry is Mailman Barry (As we saw in the episode 2017), and Leslie has a segment called ‘Try Something New With Leslie Knope.”
- Treat yourself by step-framing through that Johnny Karate Show disclaimer, it’s a hoot.
- The Wamapoke Casino, Paunch Burger, and Ron’s building company all have mockmercials during the episode.
- Duke Silver, Ron’s long-time saxman alter ego, makes another appearance.
- John Cena is a well-known pro wrestler, perhaps the Hulk Hogan of his generation, and a favorite with children – he’d actually be an excellent get for a show like Andy’s.
- Ben’s interim mayoral candidates: The Douche, Joan Calamezzo, Bobby Newport and Doctor Saperstein. Mona Lisa Saperstein is not under consideration, but she makes herself known anyway.
- We see Ron’s doppelganger, other Ron, for the first time since season five’s “Doppelgangers”. He’s portrayed by Sam Elliott.
- Ethel Beavers first appeared in “The Bubble” and last appeared as one of Leslie’s BFF prospects in “Galentine’s Day”.
- Ron’s beloved barber Salvatore was last seen in The Banquet.
- Next Week: After six years and thousands of laughs, Parks and Recreation takes its final bow with “One Last Ride”.
< li>Typhoon was last seen last season in “Gin it Up”.
Good but overstuffed, like a turduken on the Ludgate-Karate-Dwyer Thanksgiving table .