Parks and Recreation
Season 6, Episode 11: New Beginnings
Season 6, Episode 12: Farmer’s Market
– Posted by Sage
Well, sorry for freaking everybody out, I guess. I’ve been commenting all season about how these episodes feel like the lead up to a series finale and then Parks goes and gets itself a seventh season order. Try as it might to replace “fringe” shows like Parks and Community with
brainless broad comedy, NBC has failed spectacularly. Thus, we’ve got at least another year to spend in Pawnee and hopefully the first half of the great Greendale prophecy will be fulfilled. #sixseasonsandamovie, let us pray.
“New Beginnings” was a return to early series form in a lot of ways, as newly unseated Leslie insisted on interviewing with Ron for her old job. It wasn’t made explicitly clear in “Second Chunce” that she would be reclaiming the Deputy Director gig, so it felt good to see Les-Kno leading a good ol’ fashioned conference room meeting, even if she’s missed out on some inside jokes since she’s been running interference between Jamm and total world domination. Her little ducklings have grown and though, like a “classic border collie,” Leslie seeks to regain the control she once wielded over the department, she must accept the decisions of the Spirit Dog Committee and move on.
Her first test in letting go lies with Tom Haverford, Pawnee’s new Business Liaison. Tom’s hit the ground running and has solicited a juice company to take over the Lafayette Park Stand being vacated by a retiring Hot Stu and his hot stews. As he prepares his presentation for committee, Leslie repeatedly tries to force her “Project Preparedness Super System” binder into his hands and add “a classic ‘Ha-Ha-Hmmm.'” When he resists swapping out his own strategy for Leslie’s – she knows because the elk hair remains intact – she takes it upon herself to “protect” him from failure by talking Stu into keeping the hot meat juice flowing. Stew flutes, please.
Tom’s strategy, by the way, is “Step one: Chill out a while. Step two: Get up there and rip it.” The casualness of it strikes fear into the heart of Leslie, but the truth is that Tom HAS done his homework. He’s researched companies to find the right fit. He’s already courted and confirmed his top choice. He’s even selected personalized lemonade flavors to woo each member of the committee, because it’s the future. And while Leslie’s still having painful flashbacks to Tom’s top soil laser light show, Ron tells her what she both does and doesn’t want to hear. “You’ve been gone for a long time, Leslie. Tom’s changed….At some point you’re gonna have to trust him to do his job.” It’s not easy for her to do that. Leslie’s always played a big sister to Tom and has a special affection for him as his protector and cheerleader. So you’ll forgive me if I got a little verklempt when she stepped aside and encouraged him to “rip it.”
While Leslie readjusts to her old job, Ben is trying to find himself as Pawnee’s new City Manager. With Chris’s move looming, Ben struggles to be both the Ben AND the Chris of their city improvement tag team. Thus we find him holding open office hours, plying his employees with illegal, unpasteurized cheese from France while distributing a new City Hall-wide Facebook ban. April, Andy, and Donna take it upon themselves to teach Ben a little lesson about relaxing into his gig. And we get to revisit one of my absolute favorite running jokes of this series: Ben’s crippling fear of law enforcement. Having Ben arrested and questioned for harboring illegal dairy products (“I surrender!”) was genius on the part of his tormentors, and did things to Adam Scott’s hair for which I’ll be eternally grateful. After all this time, Ben still isn’t sure where he stands with this people, and this stunt confuses him even further. How to respond? “If you want people to like you,” Andy aka Government Jr. says, “you have to play along.”
And when he retaliates, it’s textbook Ben Wyatt, Human Disaster. It’s been too long since we’ve seen Ben fall spectacularly apart and, as usual, Adam Scott kills it. Andy tells the girls to be gentle and play along, for Ben’s sake. Ben is jittery (“Okay, here we go to the parking lot now.”), having realized that he WAY overshot the playful prank bullseye and basically arranged to fake his own death on government property. The caps go off in the hallway, everyone gets covered in blood, and it’s everything April’s ever wanted. Ben wants so badly to be in with these people that he still doesn’t understand that he already is. He can’t play dirty like the rest of them, but it’s enough for them that he just tries to get on that level. He SAYS he’s looking for Urethra Franklin-style respect, but we know he just wants his weird friends to think he’s cool. “We didn’t prank you because we don’t respect you,” Donna tells her boss. “We did it because we love you.” Don’t look at me.
“Farmer’s Market” starts to explore the new working dynamic between Pawnee power couple Leslie and Ben, again in an employee-boss relationship. So far so good for everyone except helpless bystander Ron, as it looks like this new structure simply entails much flirting over government documents. (“Such good work, I think I’m in love with you.” “STAMP THE DAMN FORM.”) They’re already celebrating how they’re owning this living/working together thing, which is obviously foreshadowing of a serious impasse. Let’s just let them have this moment.
The evil stench of chard (“celery with B.O.”) starts to stink up their contented little kingdom. A visit to the town farmer’s market, Leslie’s brainchild and the most unlikely of successes in pleasantly plump Pawnee, turns into a standoff when Leslie gets a load of Nolan Del Mornch and his Chardbodies show. Sex sells vegetables, and the Chard Guy is moving his crap product the only way he knows how – with hot people twerking in leaf green hot pants. Leslie’s horrified and assumes that Ben will join her in immediately shutting the raw food burlesque down. But Ben knows that, as City Manager, he has to do his due diligence and check to see what the vendor rules allow. And Chardbodies might be saving lives here, people.
Knowing how tenacious (to put it mildly) Leslie is, Ben institutes a home/work “firewall” to keep some kind of peace. For god’s sake, can’t Harrison Ford movie night remain sacred? By the time they pull into their City Hall parking spot the next morning, Leslie is practically bursting at the seams with vegetable puns and plans to win Ben over to her side. Ben loves Leslie for her dogged determination – for her overnight Farmer’s Market manuals and “Leslie is right” homemade approval pens. But after trying everything from reasoning with her to avoiding her, it ends with Leslie and Ben standing up to their knees in a fountain, getting real.
It’s not constant flirting and ass compliments that are going to keep Beslie in synch at the office. It’s respect and communication. Even though Leslie is “SUPER CHILL ALL THE TIME,” as we know. Compromise occurs with the invention of “Farmer’s Market: After Dark” where Nolan can ruffle all the feathers that he must. (“Sure.”)
In Ron’s office, the Finer Things Club has been reincarnated as the Whine and Cheese Club, a meeting wherein the Parks department airs their grievances, like Kyle stealing Larry’s parking space, over a classy spread while Ron zens out to Willie Nelson. Aggressively pregnant Ann finds out the club and takes it over with her litany of expectant mom complaints. Chris is just being too helpful and positive. He can’t listen to her vent without coming up with a list of possible solutions, and it’s driving Ann completely insane.
I’m putting cautiously high hopes on next week’s sendoff for Chris and Ann, because they’ve really gotten the story shaft over the last few episodes. I can’t remember the last time Ann talked about something other than her food cravings. It’s not that I can’t appreciate a woman’s need for 50 burritos, but this is why babies and pregnancies don’t do any favors for character momentum. Anyway, Donna flips out over her weekly therapy session being co-opted and the group protects their territory by giving Chris the best advice a man can ever receive. The correct response to any complaint isn’t a Kernsten’s nipple kit, it’s a “Damn. That sucks.” I’ve never been a pregnant whale with feet or anything, but even I know that’s all we want to hear. Chris gets it, and Ann now feels heard. Even better news? Ron can now take his not-caring to the streets.
Billy Eichner is back this week as total nutball Craig. And he’s got a proposition for MouseRat, since the clown they hired for his nephew’s birthday party got shingles. Andy signs the band up to play by misrepresenting the gig and suggesting Dave Grohl might be there. (“He might be anywhere.”) Burly and the guys ditch, so Andy’s left to play “Sex Bears” solo to Craig’s nephew, his entire class, and Erica, the most popular girl in his grade. (“You’re an angel and we’re thrilled you’re here.”) He wigs out, possibly because he has no songs BUT “Sex Bears” prepared. And so does Craig.
But if Andy was ever made for any job, it’s this one. He doesn’t even have to access his inner child, as his outer child is pretty prominent. Soon Johnny Karate and his Magical Guitar Stick are thrilling the kids with tunes about stinky feet and picking your nose and, in this totally brilliant deleted scene, the plot of the Jean Claude Van Damme movie, Sudden Death.
From cop-in-training to non-profit administrator to kids’ birthday performer, Andy’s had a lot of careers this year. And though he’s always imagined himself a rock star, it might be time to find a new dream. “You just had fun in there and made $150. Who cares what you were supposed to be?” And that’s the wisdom of Mrs. April Karate.
- “Can I get a what what?” “What?” “What?” “Thank you.”
- I didn’t cover Chris and Ann’s engagement story line in “New Beginnings” because I LIT-ERALLY have nothing to say about it except that I was bored and that I wish someone would write for these characters.
- “Are you in a cult? Can I join?”
- “I mean, I can barely sit idly by and watch good things happen.”
- I appreciate Connie Cabbages’s willingness to get into the game. “Connie, no. Put those away.”
- I miss Kyle.
- I don’t know, guys. I feel like Ben Wyatt would be more likely to write an essay deriding Crystal Skull as a blight on the Indiana Jones canon rather than renting it for movie night. He’s a high-standards geek.
- “Boob hats.”
- “What is the meaning of this, nurse?”
- “There’s just been like a long, slow fart stream coming out of me since we started talking…this morning.” I’m never having babies.
- “This town is full of lunatics.”
How do you feel about having Leslie back in the Parks department? Leave your thoughts and/or celebrate season 7 in the comments!