The main storyline for “Women in Garbage” is so close to a stereotypical Parks and Recreation plot that it almost hits the point of self-parody. It doesn’t, of course, but it’s easy to see how it could’ve gone down that road. Essentially Leslie finds out that not enough women are working in Pawnee’s government, and after learning that it’s particularly misogynistic in the trash department decides to prove that women can do just as good a job as men at picking up garbage. She and April spend the rest of the episode either picking up trash or being frustrated at failing to pick up a huge metal freezer.
Leslie’s feminist politics have always been part of what makes the show so admirable. Politically speaking, Parks wants to be responsible, and part of that has always been actively pursuing feminism, not just having a strong female role model. That being said, we’ve had the show pursue essentially this same storyline many times before. The metaphor that Leslie is proud to pick up trash so long as it proves a point is strong, but the rest of the story is pat. I’m glad April was there, too, because we really needed someone to have their own mini-plot along the way to keep it from becoming completely stale. I love the show, and it can make practically anything, including this storyline, highly entertaining—but let’s not kid ourselves here, this was a reheated plot.
Chris also follows along and tries to figure out what his relationship with the news reporter may be, and largely fails. It also adds to the garbage story, and by the end becomes the more interesting part, but still isn’t terribly interesting. I’m sure we’ll see more about this later, but for now it’s just something on the side.
Unfortunately the episode’s other storylines weren’t terribly strong either, though they both had their moments. Tom wants to learn how to play basketball so he has an idea what his clients at Rent-a-Swag are even talking about (a sly way to show that the business is booming). He goes with Andy and Ben to learn how to play, where he soon learns how bad he is by being schooled by children. The storyline is extremely slight and is pretty obviously just an excuse to give Chris Pratt a new place to improvise some terrific physical comedy. As much fun as that always is, there isn’t really an arc; it’s just some goofy events that happen.
In the episode’s most strangely exciting story, Ron and Anne babysit for Diane’s children for two days while she’s gone. Ron’s not really good with them, so on day two, when he’s had his fill, he has Anne take over and she lets them play with her medical supplies bag. She leaves the room for a second and they lock it, so Anne and Ron can only watch in horror as the pair cuts their own hair. Ron thinks this will end his relationship with Diane, but she just shrugs and says that’s what kids do.
The stories don’t come together, nor do they have to, but the sheer diffusion, repetition, and aimlessness of the episode meant it was a bit of a letdown. Parks still fired off jokes with its usual accuracy, but the foundation wasn’t really there. An enjoyable enough episode, for sure, but one that had any real urgency. It was fun, as always, to hang around with its characters, but that’s about it.
•”There’s a woman right next to you. Oh sorry, that’s just a very beautiful man.”
•“If I were 300 years older, councilman.”
•Good lord, were the Do No Harm banners on the bottom of the screen annoying. That guy was creepy and seemed to take up a third of the screen.
•Adam Scott’s goggles. That is all.
•“We have some sterotypes to overcome” “And some privacy to violate!”
•”This can really only go poorly.”
•“Let’s cut off our toes!” – That’s the point where you do throw the copies through the window.
•“Are you a ghost?”
•In a weird point that countered the show’s usual progressive aim… did the Middle-Eastern guy really have to talk in weird animal-analogy terms?
•”Once Zoey put Ivy in the dryer.”
•”Thanks, tiny reporter.”