Saturday, November 19, 2011

Parks and Recreation builds the "Smallest Park"

     On this week's episode of NBC's Parks and Recreation, Ben (Adam Scott) tells Leslie (Amy Poehler) that their current project, building Indiana's "Smallest Park," will be their last working together. This is because, after their break up, it is too hard for Ben to spend time with Leslie, even in a professional capacity. Leslie rebels, stirring controversy among Pawnee's residents, and when that doesn't work, lying to create some just so she can continue spending time with him. Of course, Ben sees through this, and vows to just quit. Ann (Rashida Jones) helps Leslie to see that she needs to consider Ben's feelings, too, not just her own. Leslie talks to Ben sincerely, and the two decide to restart their relationship.

     The drama of Ben and Leslie has many ups and downs. Leslie and Ben are very much in love, which is a major reason why Ben decides to settle in Pawnee, rather than continue his habit of traveling around Indiana for work. Leslie, however, ends things so she can run for office, as Ben is technically her boss, and their affair constitutes a breach of ethics. It isn't hard to see why Leslie might choose her career over a guy, given her long history of working towards the goal of public office. But it's still sad. In "Smallest Park," Leslie changes her mind, showing she values Ben more than any job.

     What will that mean for Leslie's campaign? Will she be force to abandon it? One might think a small town like Parks and Recreation's Pawnee wouldn't object to such an innocent relationship, where no favors are traded. Yet, the residents are shown to argue over inane details in many previous episode, and so it seems likely that choosing Ben could very likely cost Leslie her race. Where will she go from there, though? If her political life is ruined, can she find fulfillment in her personal arena? Will she resent Ben for costing her her dreams? Might this decision be, despite the best of intentions, a mistake?

     One solution may be for Ben to quit his job. Yes, he has already sacrificed for Leslie by moving to Pawnee. But if he truly loves her, he will know she cannot be whole without her public service career. Surely, Chris (Rob Lowe) could find Ben another position within the city government that will not present a conflict of interest for Leslie? Sure, Leslie should make sacrifices for Ben, too, but not giving up her lifelong ambition.

     While this is going on, Chris tasks Tom (Aziz Ansari) and Jerry (Jim O'Heir) with redesigning the Parks and Recreation department logo. Tom, predictably, goes overboard, wanting to do much more than change a simple font. Jerry, on the other hand, is content with his position, and simply wants to do as asked. In the end, Tom is inspired by Jerry, something very unexpected, to go with a special "limited edition" retro look, complete with merchandise. It's actually a fair compromise, and one that goes over well. Could this be the beginning of a more regular partnership for Tom and Jerry? They could learn much from each other, as Tom needs to be realistic, and perhaps Jerry could have a bit more fire under his bottom.

     Finally, Ron (Nick Offerman) and April (Aubrey Plaza) help Andy (Chris Pratt) audit college courses, searching for one he should take. April thinks Andy should take something easy, which mirrors her outlook on life, while Ron is in favor of Andy bettering himself, reflecting his own worldview, to some extent. Despite a few missteps, as Andy doesn't really understand the names of some of the classes, he finds one he likes. Unfortunately, he cannot afford the class. But Ron is willing to pay, inspired and moved by Andy's enthusiasm. Andy is nothing like Ron, but for some reason the two connect fairly well. It may be interesting to see how this develops, going forward, and if Ron ends up helping to spark loftier ambitions in Andy.

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