Full disclosure: This episode was spoiled for me, so the whole time I watched "Halloween Surprise," I just wanted to get to the engagement already. It's frustrating, because this was supposed to be special. It was going to be my big night and it was completely ruined. Humph.
In any event, Ben and Leslie are engaged, y'all! I'm hoping this season has thus far been subdued so that the next 17 installments can be crazy wedding-planning episodes that make "Harvest Festival" look like an episode of Whitney. Even if they're not, Ben and April are back with their loved ones (though never even had one drunken weird hug, sigh) (Kidding!), Tom's got an actual good business idea ahead, Andy's real close to joining the police academy, Ann has a handsome potential new suitor, Ron's got a giiiiirlfriend and Chris has mentioned plans of becoming a life coach -- not bad. I think that "Halloween Surprise" could have been funnier and would have benefited if it had been an hour long so that there was time to fit in more jokes, but based on the rhythm of Parks and Recreation, I really do feel like it's the last episode of set-up and the beginning of an amazing run of episodes. Am I being too optimistic? Maybe. On the bright side, this episode was more like a trampoline room than a scary nightmare hoarder's nest. Now, let's get to it:
Leslie and Ben: N/A
Since I went into this episode knowing what was going to happen (Me? Bitter?), I don't think I can give a fair grade to the engagement storyline tonight. I loved the actual proposal because of course, especially given the intimacy we got to see between Ben and Leslie. Parks & Rec usually leaves those ultra-personal moments behind closed doors (unless they happen in front of other characters, like in "The Trial of Leslie Knope"), so seeing Lesliben in this private and romantic scene felt really very candid, if not a tiny bit strange. Did I think about how it is sad that Amy Poehler is getting a divorce in real life while her fictional character gets to have this beautiful engagement on her show? Pshh, writing that would make me sound like some kind of crazy fangirl, heh heh. Now please, give me a second, because I need to remember this moment and every little thing about how perfect Amy is at this exact moment.
Leslie's Best Line of the Night: "The Pawnee Municipal Employee Healthcare Plan is kind of crappy. One time I sprained my wrist, and our insurance claimed that having a wrist was a preexisting condition."
Ben's Best Line of the Night: "I am deeply, ridiculously in love with you and above everything else I wanna be with you forever. So Leslie Knope, will..."
Another Season 5 episode, another job well done by the writers in giving Ann something to do. I'm not sure what's coming exactly, but I did like that aforementioned handsome stranger, her light-flickering dance party in Leslie's (gorgeous) new house and her adorable Olympic gymnast Halloween costume.
Best Line of the Night: "Recently, Leslie pointed out that sometimes when I date someone, I kind of adopt that person's personality. The evidence is fairly damning: Chris Traeger, exercise phase; Andy Dwyer, my grunge phase; Tom Haverford, my needless shopping phase... also my credit card debt phase -- [Holds up robe with AP monogrammed initials] Ann Perkins."
Ron, Andy and April: B+
I'm so glad that April is back in Pawnee (after making one hell on an exit in D.C.), but I do wish we got to see more of her and Andy's reunion, and more of Ron and Diane's chemistry. The Vice Principal emergency with kids pooping on the soccer field was great, as were Andy's police observations. What really bumped this trio's grade, though, was the adorable apology saw Ron brought for the kids and the great callback to Ron's one Halloween costume. And if you didn't pay attention to the way he said "Trick or treat?" in the last closing bit, I highly suggest going back and watching it.
Ron's Best Line of the Night: "I like Diane, but I'm not sure if I'm ready for a whole family. If the kids ever wanted to come to my place, I'd have to talk a whole week off work just to undo the alarms and trip wires."
Andy's Best Line of the Night: "I'm applying to the Police Academy soon, and the manual says I have to work on my observation skills, so: Tree. Leaves. Night. Sky. Hand. Andy's hand. [Farting noise] What else you've got?"
April's Best Line of the Night: [On how much Andy should sell an old hat for] "I don't know, eight cents." [Upon hearing Andy wore it the first time he heard Pearl Jam's Vitalogy] "Oh, $900."
Tom and Jerry: B+
Hey, all of those gags where Tom spontaneously comes up with business ideas and brand news finally paid off! I like where Rent-A-Swag is going (especially if it includes Jean-Ralphio!) and hope to see Jerry turn his life around after his tragic heart attack. Another great moment you might have missed: When Leslie was at the auction, she did refer to Jerry's "fart attack" and not heart attack.
Tom's Best Line of the Night: "I just want to hear the doctor say that Jerry had a 'fart attack.' Is that too much to ask?"
Jerry's Best Line of the Night: "Want to stick around? Watch some of my stories with me? Tonight's Strawberry Jell-O Night!"
Donna and Chris: A-
It's a known Internet fact that Retta has an amazing Twitter account, where she recaps TV shows from Girls to The Good Wife to Game of Thrones, so Donna livetweeting Death Canoe 4: Murder at Blood Lake was a fun fan shout out while being a nice side plot. Unfortunately, I don't think Parks & Rec has historically had a good record with Halloween episodes (see last season's "Meet N Greet"), so quietly doing costumes as part of the episode was a smart move -- especially since it meant we got to see Chris dressed as his greatest fear, which was just an older version of himself.
Donna's Best Line of the Night: "Read my Twitter feed. I livetweeted the first three this morning in preparation. In the fifth one, the canoe is actually the hero -- it's a crazy twist!"
Chris's Best Line of the Night: "It's just a piece of paper, and he only made for me after I specifically asked for it while crying loudly... it sure meant a lot to receive."
Honorable mentions: I hope this isn't the last we see of the very talented Jennifer Barkley, though she did prevent Ben from an evening of chicken parm and Blade Runner and second-handedly introduced the headline "Gator Eats Penis" into our lives. And of course, credit to all of those who made the Jerry's Kid's Dad charity drive successful: Ron's $500.00 GOOD TABLE, The Thing About Me Is I'm Perd Hapley, Mayor Gunderson's dog Rufus and his adorable signature, fellow spoilerphobe Moris (fun fact: he's played by Joe Mande, author of blog-turned-book Look at This F*cking Hipster) and the man in the tank top with tattoos who bid $900 on Ann, whose date night plans include taking the lady out to watch him do belly flops in the mud pit, then get Thai food and a tank of Nitrous and see what happens.
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