Parks and Recreation: “Bailout” (Episode 5.16)

TV Reviews Parks and Recreation
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Parks and Recreation: “Bailout” (Episode 5.16)

Because Parks and Recreation’s characters are so fun to watch, it can be easy to forget that one of the show’s central conflicts has always been about what government should be. Leslie’s activism is to a certain extent a sort of contemporary socialism, believing that government can make everyone’s lives better if it’s only exerted in the correct way. Ron, though, has always been pure libertarian, and all forms of government, even when they are obviously for the better, go against his “we should all live in a cabin in the woods” belief system. They’re hyperbolic, sure, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used to address issues in an interesting manner.

The main story for “Bailout” concerns Leslie’s attempt to turn a failing video store into a landmark and thereby help out its failing business with public funds. However, after attending the screening where its owner, played by Jason Schwartzman in a surprisingly understated performance, announces it will be closing, it’s immediately obvious that the place is closing because it’s a terrible business. It’s essentially the home video collection of its proprietor and has no general audience movies.

This puts Leslie and Ron in conflict with each other, and the first result of this is that they both get what they want. Kind of. The video store becomes a pornography vendor because that’s what earns the most money, while Ron gets… well, he gets to watch Leslie’s plan backfire, not to mention a porno made about the entire affair. Unlike our own government, they manage to reach a compromise and the episode ends with a public screening series to be hosted by Schwartzman while, presumably, the porno store is no longer being helped by the government. I guess. Actually, what happens to it isn’t shown, so maybe it’ll stick around after all? Like many episodes of Parks, it’s about compromise as the key to a functioning government, and feels if anything too timely and relevant.

Elsewhere, we had Chris act as a father toward Tom, who spent the episode with Jean Ralphio’s twin sister as an employee/paramour. This helped Chris decide to donate his sperm to Ann. That being said, he seems to believe he’ll really be raising the child, which doesn’t necessarily mean Ann plans to have him involved. Ann herself spent the episode forcing April to be her best friend in exchange for a recommendation to get into veterinary school. These stories were both pretty typically fun and also had the bonus of pairing together some Parks characters who rarely interact. Maybe it was a bit too obvious about that part of things, but they were both still great and didn’t feel forced despite the storytelling cogs clearly in view.

As exciting as the election and marriage plots have been, episodes like “Bailout” are really the core of Parks, and it’s good to see that the show still has interest in returning to these sorts of things. Even better is that after all the strange issues like this that have come up in Pawnee, Parks can still do a small civic story without repeating itself. Post-wedding, the question has been what would Parks do next. Well, the same thing it always did: pose governmental morality plays with a goofy cast of characters and lead them to clever results. Its ability to still pull these off so well shows Parks is in no threat of becoming stale.

Stray observations:
•“I could do Shoah” – I should always use that as a threat. Also: that’s a rare and expensive DVD to own.
•You know, I still kinda prefer Perd Hapley to Leonard Maltin.
•If they don’t carry cartoons, they deserve to go out of business. Of all the comments Schwartzman makes that don’t make sense, this is the most egregious. Also: I can clearly see Tuck Everlasting up on the wall.
•I know it’s not an original observation, but I wholeheartedly agree with Leslie about slam poems.
•Eventually the film critic/DVD collector in me got frustrated about those jokes. It’s far more difficult and expensive to get a playable version of Tarkovsky films without English subtitles.
•“Socialist hellscape.”
•No, you can’t just watch Rashomon for free online legally. OK, I’ll shut up about this stuff already.
•Wow, Jean-Ralphio’s sister can sing like auto-tune.
•I always smile whenever one of Parks’ colorful townsfolk makes a follow-up appearance.
•“Of course I do, everyone knows this song, it’s amazing.” – I assume I wasn’t the only one singing along with them.