The flu takes out most of Pawnee and Ben tries to keep a nearly incapacitated Leslie from humiliating herself during a pivotal meeting.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell


Episode Title: "Flu Season"

Writer: Norm Hiscock

Director: Wendey Stanzler

Bird flu… or some kind of flu hits Pawnee hard and the multiple fevers helped keep "Park and Rec’s" hot streak alive this week. In the main story, the previously mentioned outbreak takes out April (Aubrey Plaza), Chris (Rob Lowe) and Leslie (Amy Poehler) ahead of an important meeting at the Chamber of Commerce (or the "Chamber of Secrets" as the increasingly delirious Leslie calls it). Ben (Adam Scott) promises to fill in for her, but against all doctor’s orders, Leslie breaks out of the hospital and hijacks the presentation.

However, instead of falling on her face, Leslie not only delivers an amazing speech that galvanizes the local businesses, she also wins Ben’s admiration. In an aside, he compares her speech to Michael Jordan and Kirk Gibson’s heroics… moments before she goes back to crazy town and introduces him to the crowd as Scott Bakula from "Quantum Leap." But it’s a great transformative moment for Ben, who not only seems to be falling for Leslie, I think he’s falling in love with the town itself. Adam Scott’s been able to keep his character moving forward in the relatively few episodes he’s appeared in so far, but it’s working. The only thing I don’t like about him is that he stares at the camera and bugs out his eyes a little too often.

The two subplots this week are gold. In the first, the wildly anti-government Ron (Nick Offerman) finds his bro-mate in Andy (Chris Pratt) through their shared love of meat and ineptitude. Ron’s comments about their time together are very revealing in that he views all of his co-workers as women… even the men. He also goes out of his way to prevent any emotional attachment to his co-workers and describes the best friend he ever had at work as someone he never spoke to or learned his name. But he has so much fun with Andy that he actually breaks down and lets him know that April is hospitalized.

Last week’s episode showed some great comedic chemistry between Ron and Andy as youth league coaches, but they actually seem better suited as partners in the office. The "Meat Tornado" was their best gag (and worthy of last season’s "The Swanson") and their impromptu game of football was also a fun sequence.

The other subplot featured Ann dealing with her feelings of inadequacy towards Chris, which were alleviated when she saw him devastated by the flu. But in that regard, Ann’s kind of a nut… She tells the camera crew that she doesn’t see any imperfection in Chris. Um… hello? He’s clearly crazy. Mind you, it’s a highly functioning and endearing form of craziness, but still. Rob Lowe is phenomenal on this show. He’s the guy you least expect a comedic performance from and yet when he commands himself to "Stop pooping!," it’s a classic.

Less classic is the smaller story with April giving Ann all kinds of sh** at the hospital, but it was amusing when April freaked out about Ann potentially smothering her. There was some small movement on the Andy front when she reacted to his visit with a smile, but it still feels like the writers are dragging that story out.

At the end of the episode, there’s some indication that Chris and Ben are going to be leaving town soon, even though they both clearly make excuses to stay to pursue April and Leslie, respectively. I assumed that when both Lowe and Scott were promoted to regulars that it meant they’d be staying at least through the season. And they still might. But they’ve both brought so much life to the show that it’s hard to picture "Parks and Recreation" without them.

I hadn’t realized how much I missed "Parks and Rec" until the last two weeks. It’s been a highlight of NBC’s comedy block, which is amazing given how good at least 3 of those other five shows are.

Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.