I've come to realize that my favorite Parks and Recreation episodes are the ones that are cartoonish in plot but realistic when it comes to the characters -- last year's "Pawnee Rangers" sticks out to me for doing just that, while last week's "Ms. Knope Goes to Washington" was disappointing because the Leslie-Ben plot was all too accurate while Ron's character was a caricature. Or, I don't know, maybe I just really enjoyed last night's "Soda Tax" because of clever writing and great acting. Either way.
I love when Parks & Rec gets a little topical, and for those of you not living in New York City, I can assure you that you cannot throw a 64-ounce Coke in this city without hitting someone who wants to discuss Bloomberg's soda ban. The way that this episode tackled it, as well as Ben's new managerial role and Andy's fitness training, made me feel like I was watching a live-action episode of The Simpsons, Seasons 3 through 7 quality. Instead of getting political about the real-life issue, the writers obviously had a lot of fun and the show in general felt back in its groove. Phew! I would have preferred an episode like this to start the season, but I'm glad that it at least came sooner rather than later.
Okay, let's grade everyone!
Leslie and Ann: B+
I really appreciate the episodes where Leslie and Ann are simply just being supportive and wonderful to each other -- it allows for the funniest BFF moments later on, and shows rather than tells. That said, aside from Leslie eating a ton of sugar while Ann is grossed out at everyone, Leslie and Ann weren't their funniest last night... probably because they weren't drunk. Also, when Amy Poehler looks sad, I get sad, because I am that much of a fangirl. (She was even sadder on Louie last night, if you can believe it!).
Leslie's Best Line of the Night: "Gentlemen, it appears that I have fallen ill. Mayhaps I suggest that we might have a recess? [Pukes] Can we take a recess?"
Ann's Best Line of the Night: "We're not taxing anyone's genitals."
I'm definitely being generous on this grade, but I am just really happy that Ron was a well-rounded person last night. He was helpful and sweet to Leslie without it being too adorable for its own good, and he didn't even mention meat! Again, showing not telling did wonders for his character. And how much did you love the callback to the automatic door-closer that Leslie got for Ron for Christmas?
Best Line of the Night: "If you need to boot again, trash can's on your right."
Andy, Chris and Tom: A
It's gotten to the point that when Andy is onscreen, I need to actively make sure I'm not drinking or eating anything, because he will cause me to do a spit-take. Even the photo of him donning a bandana as underwear in the opening made me crack up. Then adding him "already being able" to squeeze his butt muscles and his celebration for being "minimum champion" and setting a record for running a lap in "43" -- perfection. Chris's callback to his rare blood disorder as a baby was welcomed, and I'm glad that after two seasons of showing us how lonely Chris is, he's finally going to go to therapy. And Tom was actually normal and self-aware while being funny! Honestly, it's mostly just great to laugh when I know I also have nothing... the silent killer.
Andy's Best Line of the Night: "I'm never gonna be a cop. I'm gonna have to be a robber."
Chris's Best Line of the Night: "Andy, I'm proud of you. Not because of what you did, which was terrible, but because of what I'm going to able to get you to do. I guess I'm proud of me."
Tom's Best Line of the Night: "Anything is possiiiiblllleeee!" (Click here if you missed the reference.)
Ben and April: A+
April's relationship with the men in her life is one of the best parts of this show -- not only since these kinds of platonic friendships that are vaguely father-daughter are so rarely shown on TV, but mainly because Aubrey Plaza works so well with freakin' everyone. Ben's interns thinking that he was April's father was brilliant... really, everything about Ben was amazing last night. He genuinely made me feel awkward with his 'za break and ultimate Frisbee sesh (m'dudes). I've got two questions, though: What is with this writing staff's obsession with fonts, and when is the NBC store going to start selling Champion dolls?
Ben's Best Line of the Night: After an extended and especially awkward rendition of Rob Schneider's "Richmeister" Saturday Night Live bit, obviously defeated: "Oh, it's a... it's from 40 years ago, never mind."
April's Best Line of the Night: "Sorry, dad." (By the way, I hope we see more of April's drawing skills.)
Jerry and Donna: B
You already know what I'm going to say about the lack of them, but Jerry restoring Leslie's faith in herself by supergluing his fingers together made me very happy.
Jerry's Best Line of the Night: "Jeez, do you guys know how to dissolves superglue?"
Donna's Best Line of the Night: On going to the community college to work out: "Yeah, that's too far."
Honorable mentions: First of all, props to commenter DC Barstow last week for pointing out that Jerry's threat to pee in the park was a callback to a comment about public urination from way back in Season 2. Shout outs are also in order for the former local Sue's Salad, which was replaced by Slop Trough, sadly. Then, a round of applause for the casting director who hired Ben's well-connected intern Ellis (Pete Ploszek), because I both knew his role and hated him instantly. Also, Evil Kathryn Pinewood and her Li'l Swallow cup size, Ethel Beavers, and the guy who wanted to tax racism and women's vaginas, plus his posse.
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