‘Parks and Recreation’ Open Thread: Growing Up

This post contains spoilers through the March 1 episode of Parks and Recreation.

It’s always interesting to see how Leslie Knope does when she’s up against the various forces that hope to stymie her. If it’s Ken Hotate, she negotiates. If it’s her evil doppleganger in Eagleton, she overcompensates. But as we’re learning this season, cynicism is Leslie Knope’s Kryptonite. She doesn’t know how to handle it when it’s a disengaged creep who happens to dig bowling, and she doesn’t know how to deal with it in the slick, well-compensated package that is Jennifer, Bobby Newport’s new campaign manager.

And this is a great episode of television about the corrupting influence of national campaign infrastructures on lower-level politics. Jennifer is horrible, the kind of person who will wow Leslie by eating egg salad with Colin Powell; laugh along with her when Leslie explains “Do you know Joe Biden? He is on my celebrity sex list. Actually. He is my celebrity sex list.”; and then go on Ya Heard With Perd,the least-appropriate venue for a political shivving on the planet, and declare “She’s naive, she’s untested, and she’s an entrenched bureacrat who has the stink of big government all over her.” And Leslie is right, of course. Her ramp plan is better than Bobby-cum-Jennifer’s lift plan. She’s more connected to Pawnee in ways that count. And it’s awful that not being good at corrupted national-level jiujitsu could keep Leslie from beating a guy who doesn’t even care enough about Pawnee to stay in the race. It’s easy to decry money in politics, but much harder to explain why what it buys is inherently corrupting and damaging, and Parks and Recreation deserves more than the usual points for illustrating that tonight.

The second-tier story last night was also a nice step up from some earlier anemic writing. I appreciated that Ann had an actual role tonight, as the person who can translate between April and Ron, who have the cynical code cracked but can’t necessarily talk to each other directly or sincerely. Ron was in a real pickle here, explaining “Either we complete a government project, which is abhorrent to me. Or we bring another person into the department, which repulses me to my core.” And so it was nice to see Ann get a win, even if it’s one as minor as making Ron realize an obvious solution: facilitate April’s growing up and take advantage of the talent she tries so hard to disguise by giving her actual responsibility. To hear Ron tell April “I don’t like you wasting your brain,” warms my heart, and it makes it even better when April steps up. Her evolution is by far one of the most rewarding things about this season of the show. And it’s wonderful to see that Ron’s commitment to great mentoring isn’t limited to the woman who may have to leave him behind.