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Parks and Recreation Review: "Halloween Surprise" (Episode 5.5)

October 26, 2012  |  2:06pm
<em>Parks and Recreation</em> Review: "Halloween Surprise" (Episode 5.5)

The end of last night’s Parks and Recreation is going to be all that anyone who watched the show wants to hear about, so I’ll begin with it. As this season has puttered along thus far, we’ve had Ben in Washington and Leslie in Pawnee. Both of them have hated this, but Ben is pretty good at working as a campaign manager and it was only temporary. Now the campaign’s come to a close and he has to choose whether to continue working as a campaign manager, traveling all around the country to do a job he’s good at and enjoys, or return to Pawnee with Leslie.

The Ben who first showed up several seasons ago wouldn’t have made this choice, and it’s a tribute to how much Pawnee and Leslie in particular have changed him. His emotionally scarring stint as child mayor screwed Ben up, and since then he’s been making all of his decisions with his head. And in effect, that’s the choice that’s set up here. Fortunately, after several seasons of growth he makes the right decision and is willing to forego his campaign career to be with Leslie. This was perfectly acted and directed and written, and I bet you anything that this was the most re-watched moment of television this past week.

This material overwhelmed the rest of the episode, but even if the last few minutes were inserted into next week’s, “Halloween Surprise” would’ve been excellent. The episode’s other heartfelt plot was excellent, despite the questionable judgment on the part of Diane (Lucy Lawless) who left her children with Ron and Andy. The rigid moral code Ron lives by makes it particularly difficult to admit when he makes a wrong choice, because so long as he doesn’t violate it he refuses to say that what he did was in fact wrong. But he’s not dealing with himself here; he’s dealing with someone else and her children, and so his reasons don’t apply. I’m not sure if it shows he’s grown that he eventually apologized—we’ve always known he has a big heart—but it still shows a commitment to following his heart more than his head, mirroring Ben’s larger decision.

And while these big, emotional stories made up a lot of “Halloween Surprise,” what’s great is that they don’t overwhelm it. In a lot of ways, this is one of Parks and Recreations’ goofier episodes. There’s Jerry’s Fart Attack, which was, well…. it was there, alright; the screening of Death Canoe 4; Tom’s newly created teen/tween(/everything in between) clothing rental business and even Perd Hapley’s book The Thing About Me Is I’m Perd Hapley. Despite featuring several big plotlines, the show managed to have plenty of time for all of these small jokes and details.

This wasn’t my absolute favorite episode of Parks and Recreation, but I’m sure that plenty of fans would already disagree with me. Once again the show has pulled off a major change without losing its core and made an important episode really feel like it earned its emotional resonance.

Stray observations:
•”She is a sharp, confident young women. Her children are loud.”
•”In the fifth one, the canoe’s actually the hero.”
•”I just want to hear the doctor say that Jerry had a fart attack, is that too much to ask?” – I’m sure a lot of people were also disappointed by myriad of fart jokes, but that’s what makes the show great, too. That it can have real emotional moments and also a string of fart jokes just minutes apart is why it’s the best comedy on TV.
•And at least Amy said it in front of a large crowd.
•Perhaps Rent-a-Swag will be a success? One can only hope.
•Ron clearly had very fond memories of his own childhood spent sawing.

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