‘Parks and Recreation’ Open Thread: Dog Murder

This post contains spoilers through the April 19 episode of Parks and Recreation.

I thought this was not the strongest episode of Parks and Recreation, which laid out good themes this season but has been somewhat stagnant about pursuing them. But it is does feature perhaps the single best instance of synchronicity between television programming and the political process in the animal shelter A story, while also advancing an important issue Leslie will have to deal with if she is elected to City Council.

Leslie, forgetting that she’s running to represent all of Pawnee, goes into the budgeting process determined to fight for her department. She wins, bullying a tired Bradley Whitford into saving her from an 8 percent cut. The problem is, the money comes out of the animal shelter where Champion lived before Andy and April adopted him. And that subsequent cut gives Jennifer a chance to beat both the charges that Mitt Romney abused his dog by crating it for a long drive, and that Barack Obama committed the sin of eating dog in Indonesia as a six-year-old, by going on local television and declaring that “I’m not saying that Leslie Knope is a dog-murderer, per se. But it does raise some questions. Like is she a dog-murderer?”

When she tries to solve that problem, Leslie ends up getting Ann’s job cut (though since she’s still dating Tom Haverford, that is the least of her problems). And the shelter gives April, last seen cutting off attendees at a meeting Leslie was supposed to be running with a sour “All respect, Mr. Hamster Penis,” a chance to pursue something she turns out to care a lot about: finding homes for abandoned animals. She enlists Donna to write up resumes for them—”A lot of these dogs have rescued people from burning buildings,” Donna explains. “This one helped Ray Charles around.” It doesn’t entirely work, but watching April chase down a woman who tries to abandon her cats with the adoption drive is worth it.

The C plot, in which Chris insists that Ron spend a day with him doing yoga and meditating to make sure they’d be compatible if Ron is promoted to deputy city manager, is totally slight—”There’s a hot, spinning cone of meat in the Greek restaurant next door. I don’t know what it is, but I’d like to eat the whole thing,” is wonderful, but old territory. But it illustrates something important. It would be good for this show if Leslie won the race in part to shake everyone out of their own roles. Ann’s new job in City Hall has mostly served to bring her into closer proximity to the rest of the cast, not give her new things to do. Tom’s move away from the Parks Department was a failure both for him personally and creatively for the show. Donna and Jerry could use more to do other than be joke-generators. And April and Andy are clearly growing up and should be given roles to grow into. Parks and Recreation doesn’t need a reboot, but it could use new material for basic plots. And I want to finally get to know Councilman Hauser.