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Parks and Recreation Review: "Two Parties" (Episode 5.10)

January 18, 2013  |  2:14pm
<em>Parks and Recreation</em> Review: "Two Parties" (Episode 5.10)

One of the things Parks and Recreation does best is take large events and walk incrementally through the many small steps that led to them. The show has relentless energy that always needs to move forward, but it moves at the speed of bureaucracy. That’s true not just for the show’s political stories, either; it’s just as much the case with our favorite Pawneeans’ personal lives. Featuring something like a bachelor party is not unique for television (pretty much any show with an excuse to feature one, will), but Parks and Recreation is capable of making anything that occurs, from a wedding to a new park opening, feel far more momentous.

This week took a step forward in both of the season’s main storylines, though joining the two made for a slightly odd episode. “Two Parties” split into, unsurprisingly, the bachelor and bachelorette parties. After setting up that Leslie’s will be fun while Ben’s will be dull, the show quickly does a twist where the bachelors have the party of their lives while Leslie ends up digging in the dirt, trying to salvage her park project from the latest nefarious scheme by the nefarious Councilman Jamm.

Another trait that’s become part of Parks and Recreations’ identity is that the show really knows how to have a good time. And when half the episode is going to be one of its amazing parties and the other is largely an ordinary episode, we pretty much know which one’s going to be more memorable. So the party half tended to dominate while the cuts to Leslie’s dead-in-the-water bachelorette party, until the end of the show, seemed to drag and be based on a series of slightly contrived choices. And wow, what a bachelor party, or rather five bachelor parties, one for each one of the show’s husbands who never got to have one. Combining them all into one incredible evening—where even Jerry got his moment—made for some wonderful spectacle and it was fun just to watch everyone enjoy themselves. But also because it was Parks, the fun served a purpose, illustrating Chris’ growth, that he may be willing to accept himself and with this accept another human being as a partner.

Meanwhile, councilman Jamm decides to just, well, steal the park and says Leslie can’t do anything about this—which is frankly ridiculous, so the story didn’t start off well. Fortunately, it ends on a much better note, because anytime Ken Hotate and the Wamapoke Native Americans enter the show, Parks writers seem to suddenly do their best work. The confrontation at the end of the episode, where Ken toys with Jamm while also solving Leslie’s problem, made a tepid storyline end well.

The other thing about dragging every long story arc through so many steps means that some parts of Parks are predictable. We pretty much knew Ben and Leslie would have an episode about their bachelor parties already. However, because the foundation is so solid, the show always takes each point in radically different directions. You can see the overall story shape coming from far away, but the what the show does right is revel in the extraordinary details of the journey. Those details are strange and funny and heartwarming because so are the show’s characters, and that’s where Parks always finds its humor.

Stray observations:
•”Our slots are downright filthy.”
•“Start drooling, fatties.” – Every business seems to know that Pawneeans respond to the lowest common denominator of advertising.
•Ben’s bachelor party (as in, at the house playing Settlers) is suspiciously similar to how I’d like to have mine, one day…
•“Son, there’s no wrong way to consume alcohol.” – Ron Swanson at his finest. Soon followed by “This is the wrong way to consume alcohol.”
•For being a small, ridiculous town, Pawnee has an amazing club scene.
•So who were all the random women at Leslie’s bachelorette party supposed to be?
•I enjoy Ben’s attempts at theorizing how Jerry’s marriage happened.
•Also loved the way the ice cream guy correctly called Jerry “Gerry.”
•I’m with Tom and his “oh, this is where they play the games.”
•Benji’s Cool Time Summer Jamz Mix mix was still playing in the car!
•St. Elmo’s Steak House, with Rob Lowe inside. Da-amn.
•Why would even Jerry want to be related to Gingrich?
•”He really plays white people like a fiddle—it’s amazing to watch.” – So true.
•“Is that a threat.” “Why, yes… I thought that was obvious.”
•“Is that really news?” – No. The correct answer was no.

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