Recap: Parks and Recreation 4×16 – “Sweet Sixteen”

For Jerry’s Leap Day birthday, the Parks Department (but mostly Leslie) plans a special surprise at Donna’s vacation home. Drunkenness, fighting couples, and incoherent singing ensue.

Jerry’s birthday would not generally be cause for celebration in Pawnee, but Ron’s quips that Leslie is overstretching her bounds in terms of work make Leslie only want to work harder and throw Jerry a birthday he won’t forget. A Jerry-centered episode is always one to celebrate, because the classic one-liners and burns thrown in his direction are our guilty pleasure. We don’t want to laugh at Jerry, but admit it, we’re all secretly waiting for another joke at his expense.

Leslie and Ron catch Jerry in a private moment.

It’s always wonderful when Parks points out the incredibly endearing quality of Leslie Knope: her dedication. Although caught between her campaign and her current government job, Leslie seems determined to put all her effort into both activities. Despite Ron’s persistent pleas for Leslie to take a sabbatical from the Parks Dept., she is undeterred and soldiers on, multitasking her way through the day and attempting to prove Ron wrong. However, this becomes impossible when many of Leslie’s tasks from both jobs demand her full attention and she seems to be pulled in two different directions.

I unabashedly enjoy Ron and Leslie’s relationship on the show because it is, in the truest sense, a genuine friendship. They respect and value each other so highly that they know what is in the other’s best interest, and are willing to speak up and provide veritable advice to guide each other on the right path. Episode writer Norm Hiscock did a beautiful job depicting their relationship and as usual, Ron seems to know Leslie inside and out.

I think part of what’s so endearing about Ron Swanson is that he has these genuine moments where his true emotions come out. Much like April’s character, Ron’s was written such that he seemed indifferent to almost everything. A sort of “Let me eat my steak in peace” kind of guy, with a blasé attitude toward everyone and everything around him. But sometimes, this facade “falls through the cracks,” as Ron himself so lovingly put it. The writers have made it so that Ron is just intangible enough that we can enjoy him as a caricature, but also concrete enough that we identify with him on more than one occasion.

Chris and Andy have a nice story on the side involving Andy and April’s dog, Champion. When Chris takes care of the dog for a few days, he gets Champion to exercise, eat healthy foods, and basically become a canine version of Chris Traeger. Upon being returned to his owner, it is clear that Andy feels a bit inadequate about his inactive lifestyle and the effect this has on his inability to be a good dog owner. Although Andy’s problem is quickly resolved when Champion proves his loyalty to his owner, Chris faces a much more prominent issue. He realizes after taking care of Champion that he has become a bit lonely ever since Millicent broke up with him.

There is definitely more of a touch of sensitivity to Chris this season. He has no doubt become more tangible and the writers have humanized him in such a way that we feel some sympathy for his situation. It seems unclear where Chris’s storyline is headed, however, so we’ll have to wait and see what direction the writers decide to take with his character.

The other side story featured Tom, Ann, and April and some interesting relationship issues. As Tom begins to realize that Ann is indifferent to almost everything he loves, he questions their new relationship and goes to April for advice. Ann, who is similarly annoyed with Tom’s persistent questions about what she likes and dislikes, complains to April as well. And April, stuck in the middle of it all, pulls out a handy dandy bottle of alcohol and gets as drunk as possible to drown out the fighting.

Now, I am a major advocate for Tom and Ann. In fact, I was over the moon when the Valentine’s episode aired and we first found out that “Tann” (or “Haverkins” if you are so incline) would be a thing. I think their contrasting views on almost everything play really well off each other. Ann could be great for Tom’s inflated ego and she could definitely help ground him a bit. She can bring out the side of him that we rarely see; the caring, honest side that is hidden under his desire for approval. When the two got together, I imagined this would be the general progression of their relationship. I figured that we’d slowly begin to see the down-to-earth version of Tom who, consequently, would bring out the best in Ann as well. But I have to say, this has not been the case. At least not yet. It seems that the writers are continuing and even escalating Tom’s ego to the point where it becomes unattractive and frankly, just plain annoying. I love Tom and he is a gem of a character, but it seems in the past two episodes, he has been putting on an extra facade that just does not play well with his—or Ann’s—character. While I was initially very on board with the idea of Tom and Ann, I just don’t like the way they are playing with the characters. It’s turning me off to the relationship, which saddens me quite a bit.

On a happier note, these were some stray moments that merit recognition, even though they happened in passing:

  • Andy asking Leslie for her “Herbie Hancock.”
  • Who’s Ginuwine?
  • Ben Wyatt’s bedhead. Enough said.
  • Ron is in a committed relationship with eggs. I mean, let’s just call it right now.
  • That last moment when Andy told April he let Chris borrow Champion whenever he wanted. April did something so touching by reaching out for his hand and looking at him lovingly. She said it all with that gesture, and I won’t lie when I say that I got a bit emotional over the moment.

All images are property of NBC.

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About Neda

Lover of food, feminism, and television. I walk the fine line between devoted fan and crazy person.

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