Rashida Jones is a fantastic comedic actor, and Ann is an indelible part of Parks and Recreation, but it’s for reasons very unlike many other cast members. Tom, Ron, Andy, Chris, Donna—all of these characters know who they are. They have very human doubts and worries, but they’re also well-defined, and on a lesser show they would’ve become caricatures by now. But Ann isn’t like them because she’s remained a cipher, an everywoman in Parks and Recreation’s strange carnival. The show largely began with her introduction as an outsider looking through the looking glass and into Pawnee’s city government, and while she befriended the rest of the cast, she hasn’t lost her ordinariness.
The show’s commentary on this has been that every time she dates another man she adopts his interests. It was entertaining when Parks finally realized this, but it hasn’t done much to define who Ann, who remains uncertain of who she is and what she really wants to be doing. Once informed of this fact, she decided she should stop dating for a while in order to find herself, and this has led her to “Ann’s Decision”: that she wants to have a baby, whether or not she does so alone.
Ann and her best friend Leslie head to a sperm bank to find out the process, and Leslie convinces Ann to vet the donors in order to find one she likes. This leads to three hilarious interviews, including one with the local radio shock jock The Douche. Leslie tells The Douche what Ann’s doing and he harrasses her over the air, so Leslie confronts him during his show to stop, eventually landing in a kiddie pool full of jello. By the end of the episode, Ann decides she should give the process a little more thought but still has this idea in her mind.
Ann’s not the only woman who’s been having an identity crisis this season, as April has been left wondering how she should act with Leslie now gone from the Parks Department. Her model for a successful politician is Leslie, so she appropriates her hero’s clothes and demeanor for a meeting about her proposed park, and it goes absolutely terribly, which is to say it’s another wonderful depiction of Pawnee’s insane residents. Andy sabotages her for the next meeting, though, and without any of Leslie’s accoutrements she’s forced to moderate the meeting in her own personality. The crowd responds positively to her hostile honesty and it goes over much better.
And apart from these two stories, the guys spend the episode reeling from food poisoning they contracted from mini-calzones. It’s a small story, only there to keep Ben and Leslie’s wedding in everyone’s minds, but is so wonderfully funny that it overshadows everything else. The physical comedy here was some of the best the show’s ever done.
All three storylines worked, and it was one of those episodes of Parks where no time is wasted. Like many of the show’s best episodes, it highlighted an aspect of the show that’s particularly weak, and by exploring it not only made a good episode but strengthened the entire show. Ann is still uncertain, but she’s a little bit less of a cipher at the end of the “Ann’s Problem..” She’ll never be one of the show’s oversized personalities, but giving her these sort of doubts about her own life means that she’s every bit as well-defined.
•”Part of a dead animal, dealer’s choice.” – Ron’s method of ordering food.
•”You’ve accidentally given me the food that my food eats.”
•I really like Ann’s initially unpretentious method of choosing sperm, even if the show means it to illustrate how little thought she’s put into her decision.
•”I don’t know who Anne Taylor is but I hate her and I want to kill her.”
•Fleetwood Mac Sex Pants > Fleetwood Mac as a band name.
•”I have voided more than Tom’s body weight in the last 12 hours alone. He might have disappeared off the face of the earth.”
•Ben spinning to the phone was the best part of the episode. It may very well be the best part of the season.
•”It smells like some vomit took a dump in here.”
•“I’m with that pervert.”
•”I have driven Ann straight into the belly of the douche.”
•Jean Ralphio in a nutshell: “Definitely guilty.”
•”Tell me how much it’s going to cost me, and don’t use numbers.” – There has never been a more Pawnean sentence than this one.
•”The Knope way involves a lot of uterine cartoons.”