A Parks and Recreation Special
Posted by Sage
First of all, let me just say how delighted I am to be writing a Parks and Rec recap in 2020. But stranger things have certainly happened this year: up is down, left is right – as Tom wonders, “Isn’t it weird time has no meaning anymore?” True, life hasn’t changed much at the Newport family’s fox hunting estate (They’re so fast!) or even at Ron and Diane Swanson’s remote cabin (“I’ve been practicing social distancing since I was four years old.”), but the rest of us are certainly feeling it. And with our own daily existences as surreal as they are these days, it’s legitimately comforting to check in (and be checked on) by these characters.
This virtual reunion felt like a great big hug.
As you probably remember, the Parks and Rec series finale ended with a great big time jump, so we already know that the former employees of the Pawnee Parks Department get through quarantine just fine, and even get Leslie elected president. (The thought of someone like Leslie leading us through this period of uncertainty makes me want to weep. Imagine the committees. The public programs. The brilliant, capable, and kind people she’d have in her administration. The moment she heard a warning from an expert, Leslie would have sprung into action to fight the virus, cutting her regular four hours of sleep down to maybe 20 minutes, because it’s her JOB. I can’t keep talking about this, I’m making myself upset.)
We know what becomes of these characters, so there aren’t many narrative surprises waiting for us. Everyone is handling self-isolation the way you imagine they would: April is reveling in the chaos; Andy’s locked himself in the shed; Ron is living off the land; Tom is pretending he’s still living the fabulous life; Donna’s taking care of her man; Ann is volunteering as a nurse; Chris is donating his living body to science; and Garry still doesn’t know how to work anything. Leslie, as ever, is trying to keep all of them together. Because as high as she climbs up the ladder, these are still her people.
It’s Ben she’s most concerned about at first. The congressman is going stir crazy, stuck in the house and home-schooling their kids. (Chris is also taking on the brunt of the childcare responsibilities in his home. We stan two progressive beta husbands!) Acknowledging the fact that unemployed Ben Wyatt became a meme in the very earliest days of quarantine, the special sees him revisiting his two most terrible ideas (besides a restaurant that only serves calzones, of course): the Cones of Dunshire and his clay-maish. They’re each a cry for help on their own. Together, they make an air horn. And Ben realizes, after reading back over his nonsensical script, that he needs to make more time to take care of himself.
He’s not wrong, but who’s to say that ridiculous, go-nowhere creative pursuits aren’t one way to do that? At least Ben has a project!
He’s certainly doing a lot better than Jean-Ralphio, who’s puttering around the empty house he bought with another personal injury settlement and getting banned from Cameo ~~for doing his videos naaaaaked~~. Tom, call your boy! He needs you!
And Joan Calamezzo (JOAN! I’m actually amazed she’s still alive.) has slipped into a new delusion. She’s gamely making an effort to put on her talk show from home (Joan on Joan FOR Joan), but she’s even drunker than usual and seems to believe that her doll collection has become a sentient audience. Yet, she remains strangely intuitive, correctly ID-ing Ben as Leslie’s “house boy,” which he only weakly argues against.
Perd is thriving, using his platform to help Ben and Leslie get the word out about staying safe, focusing on mental health, and supporting communities with donations of time or money. His producers are certainly on top of it, flashing a chryon disputing that the virus can be karate-chopped, as a still shed-bound Johnny Karate suggests that it can. Maybe. Hopefully.
And I would expect nothing less of Jeremy Jamm and Dennis Feinstein than to use the pandemic to their own advantage, the potentially lethal consequences of their business ventures be damned. (See also: Tammy 2, who’s gone feral and sees this as her opportunity to bed and murder Ron, like a praying mantis. Best of luck to the wolves.) Look at photos from any anti-lockdown protest and tell me that Miracle Cure wouldn’t sell if it were real.
This special doesn’t do much to further the story. They already told the one they wanted to tell, after all. But it does give us one more instance of Leslie taking on too much emotional labor and her friends offering to share the burden. The premise of the whole thing is that Leslie has put a daily phone tree into place, so they can all check on each other consecutively. But what she wants more than anything, Ron knows, is for them to all be together again. So he and April arrange a group call that ends in mass singalong of Andy’s tribute to Lil’ Sebastian. Does it make sense thematically? Not at all. But it reminds them (well, besides Ben, who still doesn’t get it) of old times and the things that they did.
Anyway, a little nostalgia never hurt anyone – especially when the alternative is crushing loneliness and despair.
Random Thoughts and B-Stories:
- Every invention Tom listed sounded like a targeted Instagram ad that’s crossed my path. A real missed opportunity not to make him a purveyor of junk your parents buy on the internet.
- Knowing everything we know now about Chris Pratt, I find it offensive that he’s still so. hot.
- I have a lot of thoughts about Adam Scott keeping Ben’s Letters to Cleo shirt and none of them are publishable.
- Chris’s blood type is just positive!
- Joan thinks an EGOT is being banned from all four ceremonies.
- “I think her intention was to join us in our martial bed.”
- A new Ann Perkins compliment! She’s “smart and beautiful, like a desert fox.”
- Of course Donna has achieved Gold Status on Gryzzl.
- Bobby Newport is still such a Leslie fan! A pure, idiot soul.
- I missed Tom’s cackle.
- Ron still takes off his hat when Lil’ Sebastian is mentioned. Show some DAMN RESPECT.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY, this special was created not just to make us smile for 23 measly minutes of our sad lives, but also to raise money for the hungry and food-insecure. You can go to www.FeedingAmerica.org/ParksandRec up through May 21 to donate to this particular fund, though you can obviously give to the organization any time.
Featured Image Source: NBC/Hulu