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<i>Parks and Recreation</i>: Who Made the Comedy Grade Last Night?

Any Parks and Recreation episode that features the return of Pawnee's finest news personality, Perd Hapley, a water balloon fight in the Parks office that ends with Andy kamikaze-ballooning Chris, a guest star turn by comedy legend Carl Reiner as Ned Jones (the "grand-godfather" of the town's senior voter block) and the introduction of Kathryn Hahn as a new nemesis for Leslie -- a Washington-seasoned political operative named Jennifer Barkley who is now heading up the Bobby Newman campaign -- gets an instant A from us.

"Campaign Shake-Up" was another terrific outing from a series that almost never produces a bad episode... at least since Season 1, anyway. Things have been chugging along so well for the Knope campaign recently that a roadblock was inevitably on the horizon and Jennifer immediately proves herself to be a sizeable obstacle to their victory, out-thinking and out-maneuvering Leslie and Ben in every possible way. She's like the Joker to their Dynamic Duo, right down to her creepy smile. And while it's always nice to see Leslie happy, putting her (and Ben) on the defensive always yields great comedy. Just as hilarious was the B-plot revealing the way Pawnee's citizens prefer to consume their H20 from the town's water fountains. Reminds us to never visit that bustling Indiana city without filling up our Sigg bottles beforehand.

Leslie and Ben: A
It's rare to see both Leslie and Ben both so completely flummoxed by a challenge -- usually one or both of them is able to think of a unique, effective way to confront a problem head-on. But they've never solved a problem like Jennifer Barkley, who greets Leslie like a long-lost friend, treats her to waffles and even dispenses free campaign advice... and then when the cameras are on, shows exactly why she's worth the $250,000 the Newport family is paying her to win Bobby his City Council seat. Ben in particular is completely dispirited after going a few rounds with Jennifer, while Leslie is just baffled by her competitor's desire to win a race she openly admits to caring nothing about. Get used to that kind of attitude, Leslie -- you'll see it again and again when you make the leap to Washington.
Leslie Best Line of the Night: "[Joe Biden] is on my celebrity sex list. Well... he is my celebrity sex list."
Ben's Best Line of the Night: "Do you wish I were taller? What's going on?"

Ron and April: A
As much as we love Ben and Leslie, no relationship on Parks and Rec makes us happier than the totally platonic mentor/apprentice situation that Ron and April have got going on. It's been terrific to watch Ron mold April in his image, yet also knowing when to encourage her to spread her wings and actually try to succeed at something, like he did last night when he made her Leslie's back-up rather than bringing in an outside hire. Unless we're mistaken, that smile on April's lips was totally genuine.
Ron's Best Line of the Night: "This is a rare example of where wasting a full day of work is a bad thing."
April's Best Line of the Night: "I don't wanna do things. I wanna not do things. Just like you taught me."

Tom and Ann: B-
We're still very uncertain about this whole Tom/Ann road the writers are venturing down, so it was kind of nice that their screentime was kept to a minimum last night. Instead, Ann busied herself trying to solve Pawnee's water fountain problem, while Tom did what he always did: avoiding as much actual work as possible.
Tom's Best Line of the Night: "Everything I'm wearing is suede!"
Ann's Best Line of the Night: "Why are we on this bench? This is weird."

Chris, Jerry, Donna and Andy: B+
The rest of the Parks staff stayed office-bound "helping" (or, to be more accurate, hindering) Ann in her assignment, while Chris occasionally wandered in and out to keep Ron updated on the search for a new Deputy Director. So not the strongest showcase for any of them individually, but together they continue to be the best utility team of any comedy show around.
Chris's Best Line of the Night: "I've found five candidates I'd like to hire and two I'd like to be lifelong friends with."
Jerry's Best Line of the Night: Not a line, but that look of disappointment on Jerry's face after Andy figures out how to beat his water fountain solution was priceless.
Donna's Best Line of the Night: "I think Ben's already filling the Leslie void."
Andy's Best Line of the Night: "Ha ha! I did it!"

Perd, Ned and Jennifer: A-
What is there left to say about Perd Hapley at this point? He's just awesome and needs his own newsmagazine show on CNN, stat. (That's one surefire way for the network to revive its ratings.) We also enjoyed Ned's cheerfully horrific story about his brother Leslie, who lost a third of his body in a motorcycle accident. But Jennifer was easily the night's most dynamic guest star and we're happy to hear that Hahn will be sticking around for a while to keep Leslie and Ben on their toes.
Perd's Best Line of the Night: "I don't know where she went the first time."
Ned's Best Line of the Night: "He's fine now. Much shorter, but a good-looking young flat man."
Jennifer's Best Line of the Night: "If you love chess, which I do, but you don't have anybody to play against, which I don't, then sometimes you've just gotta play yourself."

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