'Parks and Recreation' Season 3, Episode 2 Recap
by Joel Keller, posted Jan 27th 2011 10:30PM
['Parks and Recreation': 'The Flu']
Usually, shaking up a show's formula so early in a season isn't a great idea, especially when a show hasn't been around for awhile. Thankfully, though, a fun episode like 'The Flu' was written by the 'Parks and Rec' staff when they thought they'd be back in September instead of January. Had they written the episode knowing it would be delayed, we would have seen more of a reestablishment of what had gone on all those months ago. Instead, we go full bore into comedy, as a flu epidemic sweeps through Pawnee like a snowstorm through the Northeast.
The best part about this epidemic is that it helped us get to know Ben and Chris a little better. We found out that, in Chris' case, the finely-tuned optimism machine can be disrupted, and in a big way. And with Ben, we found out that he's not quite as cynical and beaten down as originally thought, especially when it comes to marveling at the governmental wonder that is Leslie Knope.
Amy Poehler is the center of this show for a reason, and we saw that reason in full force tonight. Playing Leslie with the flu takes a bit of a delicate balance; we need to see that she's delirious, but she still needs to give off the vibe that she's in complete control.
Poehler could have so easily gone over the top with Leslie's hallucinations and desire to wear her jeans as a scarf. But she plays it more subtly than that. When she wobbles around outside the Chamber of Commerce meeting, thinking that the wall and the floor switched, she does so in a fashion that makes you think that it's really happening.
But as funny as Leslie was pushing off her sickness as "allergies," while her staff quarantines her in her office, how her illness affected Ben was more impressive. You and I knew what kind of dynamo Leslie was, that she'd be able to get it together right in time for her presentation about the Harvest Festival. In fact, if you were a sports fan, the image of Michael Jordan playing through the flu during the NBA finals was likely running through your mind before Ben even mentioned it.
It was fun, though, to see Leslie -- and to a lesser extent, Tom -- operate through a newcomer's eyes. As I said last week, Ben was a guy who at one time believed in local government, but 15 years of bailing out insolvent towns has beaten him down. But in that time, he's never met someone who's embraced local government like Leslie, and seeing her in action is giving him hope. Heck, even Tom's schmoozing with some old guys at Spawnee was oddly effective.
Watching Chris talk obsessively about how he's got 2.8 percent body fat and that his body is like a microchip gave him the flaws that Ann needed to really get into him. "This floor is my friend," he tells Ann during one of his more vulnerable moments. "Nothing like a complete physical breakdown to make a guy seem less intimidating. I love the flu!"
The day was a busy one for Ann, between watching Chris break down, threatening to strap down Leslie and getting streams of hate from April. I know April's got that magical combination of being "both aggressively mean and apathetic" that Ron loves, but she's got to take Andy off the hook. Even Ann is telling her that her kissing Andy was not his fault, but she still wants to hold a grudge. Then again, seeing April torture Ann by saying a janitor could do her job and tossing her blankets on the floor was fun to watch.
Andy as secretary was quite the revelation for Ron, though. He knew Andy would be ineffective, but the more calls he dropped, the better he became to Ron. And who wouldn't love a guy who introduces you to the wonder that is the "Meat Tornado?"
More fun stuff:
• Only Ron Swanson can get away with grilling indoors.
• Andy to Leslie: "I typed your symptoms into this thing up here and it says you have 'Network Connectivity Problems.' "
• Ron is an old softie, isn't he? He brings April "lipstick and magazines ... women's stuff" when she's in the hospital, then he tells Andy that April is sick, even when he didn't want to get involved. And then there are his misty water-colored memories: "I once worked with a guy for three years and never learned his name. Best friend I ever had. We still don't talk sometimes."
• Funny that Leslie could only keep it together for so long. As soon as the questions came out, she told a guy half his face was swirly. Then there was this to Tom: "Was I wearing a tiara when I came in here? Because if you happen upon it, have Lady Pennyface retrieve it and send it post-hence."
• Chris may break down hard, but he bounces back quickly. He leaves the hospital and runs "a light 15k. I missed yesterday."
• Leslie really loves waffles, doesn't she? She doesn't even eat them with a fork; just wolfs them down with the air of quiet desperation (or in this case, it might be that she's liking Ben). Even Ben's chicken soup is no match for the lure of the waffle.
• How long will Chris and Ben keep extending their stay in Pawnee? As long as both Adam Scott and Rob Lowe are kicking butt in their new roles, that's when.
'Parks and Recreation' airs Thursdays at 9:30PM ET on NBC.
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Watch the full episode here: