Episode Title: "Citizen Knope"
Writer: Dave King
Director: Randall Einhorn
When someone defines themselves by their job in the way that Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) does, the worst thing anyone can do is to take that away from them. Following her two week suspension for having a relationship with Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), Leslie sneaks into the Parks department and tries to bring home some work to do. However, her superior, Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) catches her in the act and he has to literally chase her down to retrieve a thumbdrive.
It doesn't help that Leslie's political advisers, William (Johnny Sneed) and Elizabeth (Antonia Raftu) tell her to stay off the campaign trail until they learn what her poll numbers are post scandal. Most people would just take the two weeks off (with pay) and enjoy themselves. But then again, most people are not Leslie Knope.
Desperate to stay involved in city government, Leslie does a lot of PCP... or rather, she forms the Parks Committee of Pawnee; a citizens action committee designed to work from the outside and make Chris' life a living hell. To be fair, Chris kind of earned that by going on the ethics committee witchhunt last week that cost Ben his job. There's a very amusing moment in which Leslie gives Chris a Christmas gift (that he loves) and then she cheerfully condemns him to hell. Leslie even sends her minions to protest on Chris' jogging route.
But the bad news that Leslie can't avoid is that the scandal has damaged her political ambitions. After telling her that she is only polling at 1%, Leslie's campaign advisers quit on the spot and her quest for higher office seems to be dead in the water.
Similarly waylaid is Ben, who can't seem to stop mentioning that he "resigned in disgrace." In retrospect, Leslie and Ben made a huge mistake in coming clean with their relationship. Yes, they did it because they're good people, but it's also costing them the things in life that they wanted. At least Leslie has a job to go back to. But Ben has to hit the job market alone. He finds a nearly guaranteed job as an accountant for an accounting firm run by Barney Varmn (John Balma); who freakishly loves Ben's lame "cal-cu-lator!" jokes and seems to be among the contenders for the title of the most boring person alive.
However, Barney has far more humanity than local cologne king, Dennis Feinstein (Jason Mantoukas), who forces his current CFO to sit in on his interview with Ben while berating the hapless man. Amazingly enough, Ben gets strong and inspiring advice from Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz), former co-douche with Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) at the failed Entertainment 720 company. Quoting words of wisdom from the woman who gave him a "Brazilian," Jean-Ralphio urges Ben to follow his dreams instead of settling in for a new round of mediocrity in his life. Jean-Ralphio even had a point about Ben taking the boring job in a company made up entirely of accountants.
Not that it stopped Jean-Ralphio from taking the same job, which almost implies that he gave Ben the advice to open the way for himself. But Jean-Ralphio is so poorly socialized and under-qualified that he's fired before he even makes it to his desk.
Meanwhile, the lovely Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) fills in for Leslie since she can't come to work and give out her Christmas presents herself. It's easy to see why Leslie's friends and coworkers love her so much. It's not just the incredible gifts but the way she understands them so completely. April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) gets a painting of herself as a mighty Xena-like warrior who has just slaughtered the Black Eyed Peas; which was the most hysterical visual of the entire episode. The barbarian version of her husband, Andy (Chris Pratt) in the background was a great touch.
Among the beautifully thoughtful gifts, Jerry (Jim O'Heir) only gets socks... and Jerry hilariously loves them while stating that Leslie just "gets him." Even the great Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) almost sheds a tear of joy over his remote activated device that shuts the doors in his office.
Therefore, it's Ron who suggests that the office band together and get Leslie a gift to match her years of generosity. But while he suggests building a wooden scale model of the office and the employees, Ann cutes it up by amending it into a gingerbread version of the Parks department. It turns out that gingerbread may be the only thing Ron doesn't know how to use. Fortunately, Andy seems to know how to play with his food and he fills in admirably. Andy was also integral to two great gags this week: the scene in which April and Andy desperately scooped up Leslie's leftover pasta and the scene in which Andy nearly poisoned himself by eating the silver painted M&Ms from Donna (Retta).
At the same time, Leslie makes peace with Chris and apologizes for her actions. In turn, Chris gives her the greatest gift that he could by lifting her suspension a week early and saying "please come back to work."
However, it's Ron Swanson who helps deliver the ultimate gift. While presenting Leslie with the incredibly impressive gingerbread replica of the Parks department, Ron announces that the entire office will help Leslie run and win her campaign... except for Jerry, who was apparently left out of the discussions. But I'm sure that Jerry will be roped into doing something.
It's a genuinely great moment with a lot of heart, especially when Ron points out that Leslie has always put her life on hold to help those around her. Hence the love all the way around.
After some early stumbles this season, "Parks and Recreation" has really turned it around by making Leslie's ambitions worth supporting again and by giving the cast of characters something to rally around. "Parks and Recreation" and "Community" have made the 8PM to 9PM slot on Thursday nights a can't miss hour of comedy... that will now be broken up by NBC. And while "30 Rock" is certainly a worthy show, it seems like only a matter of time before NBC starts yanking shows like "Parks and Recreation" in favor of more "Whitney."
If you want to avert that future, support the truly funny shows on NBC. Leslie Knope and company deserve a long run, so keep telling your friends to watch this show and maybe we'll be able to watch the Pawnee gang for years to come.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.