‘Parks & Recreation’ Open Thread: Wilderness Showdown

This post contains spoilers through the Oct. 13 episode of Parks and Recreation.

Here’s the thing about Parks and Recreation: the show manages to be sweet without losing its ridiculous humor or becoming too schmaltzy. The situations may be surreal and over the top, but Leslie looking out for Ron while Tom and Donna decide to take Ben with them for a day of relaxation comes across as nice friendships that lend themselves to the ridiculous humor (like Ben crying to Tom and Donna’s horror).

When the episode started out with Ron leading the boys-only troop of Pawnee’s local version of the Boy Scouts, the Pawnee Rangers, I thought no good could come of this. We’ve seen how much of a wilderness man Ron is, so I figured his camping trips wouldn’t be anything like Leslie’s. And she of course had her own girls’ troop, the Pawnee Goddesses, which she had started when a girl was banned from joining the boys-only Rangers five years prior. And both groups were going camping together. Much to Ron’s displeasure, Leslie had constant activities for the girls and a full spread of international food. (His boys had cans of beans and nothing to do besides not get killed.) It’s really no surprise that one boy wanted to defect to the girls side, leading to Leslie’s mini-me Goddesses suggesting a public forum to debate about why they had a girls-only group. The girls pulled out Brown v. Board and separate education of the sexes while debating the separate clubs. The boys’ argument? “You get candy. I want candy.” Mutual love of puppies finally ended the debate, and the boys became Goddesses while Ron sat outside alone. “You were right, by the way — your group is better,” he told Leslie when she came out to check on him. But when they got back, Leslie put an ad in the paper for a new group — the Swansons, a tough group for those who hate video games. And dare I say Ron actually looked happy once those kids were happily following his orders to build a trench.

Meanwhile, it was Tom and Donna’s “Treat Yourself” day where they treat themselves to whatever they want. Donna noticed that Ben had been down — “He’s like a skinny little rubber band who needs a day off,” she tells Tom — so when they see him alone on a bench eating lunch, they bring him with them for their day of pampering. He can’t relax during his acupuncture treatment and only buys a pair of white socks before Tom figures out that Ben’s version of treating himself is very different than theirs. Ben’s version apparently includes buying a Batman suit. While still wearing the Batman costume, he explains to Tom and Donna later at the mall that he had been seeing someone but now it was over and he wasn’t sure what was keeping him in Pawnee. I hope what keeps him in the town is a new friendship with Tom because between this episode and Ben helping with Tom’s business Entertainment 720, I’m starting to like them together.

And then there was Jerry left alone in the office, who decides to get lunch with his daughter when Chris says he needs more rest. Once Chris meets Jerry’s gorgeous daughter, he joins them for lunch, which leads to Chris later explaining to Jerry how he will go about wooing his Jerry’s daughter. Jerry just tells Chris to go for it. However, judging from his shocked face at the end, I’m positive Jerry did not want Chris to give him as full of a recap of the date as he did.

All in all, I liked that this episode got away from just being about Leslie’s campaign for city council. I loved Ron’s explanation of how he just didn’t understand kids even though he’s the Rangers’ leader, and any episode that ends with Ben dressed in a Batman costume at home fixing the Internet is just going to make me laugh.