Is there a bad episode of Parks? There just isn’t. To be honest, I was a little worried by the major plot arc of this season, Leslie’s run for city council. I was worried it would take away from the other characters, that it would cause Leslie to regress to somewhat, that the tone of the show would shift. Clearly, I should have known better. This season has refused to back down in any way, and I love it.
“Campaign Ad” is just what it sounds like – as Leslie’s campaign begins to really get underway with her new team, she meets her opponent Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd) for the first time and realizes she needs to have a campaign ad to battle him. The ad will air during the “Super Bowl of Pawnee,” a local championship game. After hiring Ben as her campaign manager, they disagree over what kind of ad to run, so they split everyone into two teams and create two ads. Leslie’s team, with Donna and Ann, makes an adorable ad that shows everything Leslie is “pro” (literally, a giant list runs up the side – see the video below), and Ben’s team, with Jerry and Tom, makes an attack ad against Bobby. As much as Leslie hates it, Ben’s ad wins the group vote. They take this to the local station, but somehow it doesn’t air (and they can’t get their money back). Regrouping, they wind up combining forces and making a fantastic ad featuring a video of Leslie as a ten-year-old, talking about how she wants to improve Pawnee. No, really – they have a video of Leslie Knope, age 10, talking about how she wants to improve the town she’s growing up in. They post it online and it has a decent amount of views, but Ben is concerned that no press has called them yet. However, at that moment they receive a call from the Newport team, and Bobby asks them to quit the campaign. When she says no, he asks if he can win, but let her do all of the work. Of course, they refuse, and Leslie knows she’s got an edge now that she’s intimidated Bobby.
In minor plotlines, we have April and Andy going to the hospital to see a man about a potential concussion, and they wind up catching up on years’ worth of doctors’ appointments and procedures. When the bill, even with insurance, comes to $500, the pair tries to “dine and dash” and Andy runs out the door and straight into an ambulance (true to form on all counts). Then we have Ron and Chris (Ron must have gotten the short straw on running the office that day, since I think he would have put his foot down and made a great, straightforward ad). Chris comes to Ron, asking him to be the negative partner in telling government workers that their programs are getting cut, and Ron agrees, harkening back to the “Slash it, slash it!” days of the budget cuts. However, Ron starts to suspect that Chris wants to be his friend, and after the subject is finally broached, we realize that Chris was auditioning Ron to be promoted to assistant city manager, Ben’s old job. Looks like things could be shaking up in the Pawnee Parks department later this season!
After last season, we’re all familiar with Leslie the Steamroller. This Leslie keeps going no matter what, without regard to her friends’ reactions and usually even their feelings. Since Leslie’s campaign really geared up in the past few episodes, I’ve wondered if Leslie would keep it under control or, you know, do as steamrollers do and smash everything and everyone in their way. When she picked Ann as her campaign manager and proceeded to basically be her own campaign manager, I got worried. After the quit/fire of Ann and the assumption that Ben would take over because he needs a job, I got even more worried. I want Leslie to be her beautiful, independent self, but I was worried that she would get ahead of herself and push him away. However, Ben seems to be back to his old tricks and, as always, they seem like a match made in the heart of nerdtastic bureaucracy.
I would be sorely remiss, though, if we didn’t talk about the brilliance that is Paul Rudd as Bobby Newport, a member of the flannel-clad, dog-hugging, Pawnee-owning class of Newports. From “Should I sign that to ‘Nesnie’ or ‘Ms. Lope’?”, Rudd was everything I expected, and more. This show has a history of fantastic guest stars, and Rudd’s character’s personality falls in line with the “Going through life thinking they hit a triple” attitude that the Newports have historically carried on the show. I’m pretty sure at this point we’re just hiring Paul Rudd to act like himself, which made Bobby one of the goofier Newports we’ve met. I am slightly bummed that he’s Leslie’s opponent if only because that probably means we won’t get any great moments with Adam Scott, who’s one of Rudd’s real life best friends (I know).
One of the major plot points here was finding a good campaign ad for Leslie (hence the title, I guess). First, we should say a sad farewell to Leslie’s original ad, which did not name her as a City Council candidate but did have an incredibly long list of all of the things she supports, including “one park ranger for every 10,000 raccoons, unionizing ice cream trucks, get Europe out of debt, find Gabe the Toucan, prosecuting former PTA president Linda Trifle, free cake when it’s your birthday,” and “sell candy in government buildings to pay down the debt.” You really should click through – there are about a million, and while a lot are silly, a lot of them are legitimate campaign concerns. I’m wiping away a tear of pride. Knope 2012, y’all.
However, if you thought I was proud of Leslie in her pro-list, that was nothing compared to my pride in her actual campaign ad. One thing I love about Leslie is that no matter how good her own ideas are, she always (eventually) recognizes that team effort is the best effort. Even though her original idea was great, it wasn’t effective, and her team helped her realize that and create the most effective ad. This ad completely wipes the floor with anything Bobby Newport came up with, and at the end he came to her and asked her to quit, fully knowing he was out of his league. As is everyone who runs against Leslie Knope.
Now, I hate to set aside a fantastic April and Andy Becoming Adults plot, so we’ll talk about it a little. I really am kind of bummed that it was put with this campaign because it really was brilliant and so true to the characters. Since they’re the two most unpredictable characters on the show, I feel like it must be hard to make sure you’re on the mark with them. However, Andy’s attempted dine and dash? April’s comment that they would be all doctored up for about ten years? They’ve taken these two characters so far from where they were in season one, and yet kept them exactly the same in how they deal with challenges.
I don’t know why you’re reading this recap if you don’t watch this show, but if you are and you’re considering watching this episode for Paul Rudd or whatever, you need to see it just for the minute or so where Ben, Tom and Jerry are testing out their scary attack ad voices. I was cackling, people. Cackling. It was perfect.
So, uh, another perfect episode of Parks? Yep. What was your favorite part?