Parks and Recreation has been one of the most soft-hearted, optimistic shows on television since its second season. Events in the show do turn out for the best, and characters working their hardest almost always succeeds. That being said, it’s still largely a commentary on small-town government (and to a lesser extent all government), and its point-of-view on that subject is much bleaker. Were it not for Leslie Knope single-handedly kicking the city into shape, Pawnee would be in a significantly worse condition. To Parks, small-town government bureaucracy is broken, just not quite so far gone that it’s impossible to get good work done.
In the past this has usually been due to sheer incompetence, but this season Councilman Jamm has been the embodiment of selfish government. He wants to put a new Paunch Burger where Leslie, April and the rest of the Parks Department would like to put a new park and is willing to use any dirty tricks available to do so. In “Emergency Response” this takes the form of hijacking the city’s emergency response preparedness efforts in a last-ditch effort at getting his way. So Leslie and Chris are stuck pretending that Avian Flu has gotten out of control in Pawnee while the rest of the Parks Department is setting up a fundraiser to get $50,000 to make the park.
One of the primary themes of this season of Parks has been what happens when Leslie is no longer around. But fortunately for her, Ben is nearly as competent as she is and the rest of her department have, by now, learned to do their jobs with a decent level of competency too. Once she discovers Jamm is sabotaging the disaster preparedness simulation and leaves, Leslie expects to find the gala in shambles. Instead, it’s going off perfectly, as the department has grown able to fend for itself… well, at least so long as Ben is around to help.
In a third plot, Andy takes the Police Department entrance exam. He manages to get 100 percent on the written part of the exam, but he bombs the personality test because, well, it’s probably best if Andy Dwyer never gets a gun. The main revelation here is that Andy is, in his own weird way, brilliant. He just hasn’t found a way to channel that yet, though I doubt this is the last we’ll see of this.
The episode ended with a Valentine’s Day surprise, too. Realizing that they have all their friends, not to mention the greater part of Pawnee, alongside them, Ben asks Leslie if she wants to elope right then. The episode ends with her agreeing, and then we get a big “To be continued…”
Though not a particularly inspired episode of Parks, “Emergency Response” was elegantly structured around Leslie’s absence. This season has struggled with what to do about that problem, but here rather than cheating around it, the show embraced keeping her apart and showed the rest of the team at its best. Ron on TV was definitely the highlight, but as usual there was time to make sure every member of the cast contributed. It wasn’t as glorious as when Leslie pulled off the Harvest Festival, but as a counterpoint and celebration of the rest of the team coming together it was just as much a success.
•Anyone else rather surprised at the price of making a park?
•”Registering for your wedding is the most important moment of your life.”
•”All I want is to be married to you and to somehow get $50,000.” – Amen. That’s pretty much the American Dream right there.
•“Dammit, Jamm, I should’ve had animal control kill you.” I hope they bring back the frightening Animal Control guy in the future. He made those five seconds of screen-time really count.
•“I found one chair, got a lead on a second.”
•”Woodworking, novels about tall ships, meat.” – Ron Swanson’s hobbies.
•”Pawnee has been hit by a tornado-quake.” – A tacit acknowledgement that Pawnee’s government is run much like SimCity.
•”I’ve seen three movies in my life: Bridge on the River Kwai, Patton and Herbie: Fully Loaded.” – Really, I should just be quoting Ron’s entire monologue.