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October 8, 2015

'Parks and Recreation' Season 3, Episode 7 Recap

by Joel Keller, posted Mar 18th 2011 12:30AM
'Parks and Recreation' - 'Harvest Festival'['Parks and Recreation' - 'Harvest Festival']

Judging by the promotion that has preceded this episode -- including the "director's cut" clips that my colleague Mo Ryan posted this morning -- both NBC and the producers of 'Parks and Recreation' know that 'Harvest Festival' is a high point in the show's third season, if only because the show has been building to this point since the season began.

But also they knew that it was one of the best episodes of the season. In a way, it's a little funnier than 'Ron & Tammy Part 2' because everyone gets a chance to shine in this one, with big laughs in every story line.

Oh, and then there's Li'l Sebastian. He's a mini-horse. And, boy is he special ... for some reason.

Tonight's episode demonstrated why this show has become NBC's best comedy, and why it deserves its pickup for a fourth season, despite its mediocre ratings: Anyone in the very strong ensemble can not only carry the comedy but carry the story in general. And there's a troupe of secondary characters that brighten the story anytime we see them.

Episodes that revolve around a big event are always a good way to weave together the story threads that have been going all season long, even if it's only for a moment or two. We've got the slowly burgeoning romance between Leslie and Ben, fueled by his admiration for her non-stop work ethic and positivity. Then you see Ann -- in one of Rashida Jones' funniest performances -- continuing to spiral after being so nicely dumped by Chris, the spiral being a pink hair streak, $700 of candles from Antrhopologie, and a make-out session with a mook. We see the continued creepy flirtation between Tom and Joan Callamezzo, with the grody promise by Tom that after her socks get knocked off by the festival, he'll give her a foot rub "to completion."

But the festival, supported by Andy saying "Awesome sauce!" to April after she said she loved him, was the big story. And what was funny about it was how it combined the funny small-townness of a place like Pawnee and the realities of being in city government.

"There are two things I know about white people: They love Matchbox 20, and they're terrified of curses," said Ken Hotate of the Wamapoke tribe. He knows that he's going to have to play hardball to get the carnival shooting range off his tribe's burial ground. And a "curse" is that hardball. What's great about the curse is that, while Ben is completely rational about it, Leslie buys into it: "No, we behave rationally and believe we're in charge of our own destinies. Come on," she says to Ben sarcastically after he asks her if she believes in the curse.

We also know that, for the festival to go off without a hitch, Leslie knows what she needs to do. If Hotate is the only one that has a generator that will be powerful enough to run the carnival, she not only knows how to negotiate the casino magnate's cooperation, despite the earlier dispute, and placate the town and their near-tabloid press on the whole curse thing. "Doobie ... doobie ... do," indeed.

Of course, there's also the fascination with Li'l Sebastian. "He's not a pony, Ben! He's a mini-horse! There's a big difference!" says Tom after Ben asks what's so special about the little guy. This is a horse that even makes Ron go giddy, something that usually is only accomplished by a big steak or a stack of bacon. So when he went missing, the panic that set in in everyone's face was palpable. And Tom trying to blame Jerry for it was funny because a) Tom is just that kind of weasel and b) it's so easy to blame Jerry for everything.

Meanwhile, the warming of April continues. Witnessing Aubrey Plaza smile is like seeing a whale on a whale-watching cruise: rare and worth the stress and waiting. Now that the will they/won't they part of it is over, it's really sweet seeing the two of them together, mainly because they're such opposites.

Where the two stories came together, on the Ferris wheel as they tried to find Sebastian from on high, showed us, though, the Power of the Mustache, which I think is going to be a regular feature in these reviews. "April, he loves you too. Stop being a child. Tom, you're clearly at fault here; blaming Jerry won't save you. Jerry, we know you were shotgunning funnel cakes instead of watching Li'l Sebastian. So everyone apologize to everyone else!" Just when you think he's not paying attention, the Power of the Mustache rears its head and surprises you every time.

More fun stuff:

-- The stuff about Ben thinking he's a jinx was a little underdeveloped, but consistent with his character. It was heartening for Leslie to tell him that the festival was as much his doing as hers. And the "Here, dummy!" "curse"-breaking by Hotate was pretty funny. It felt like Hotate was channeling Fred Sanford for a second.

-- I love that Ben just gave up and pretended to get the love for Li'l Sebastian, then Adam Scott gives one of his patented "What the f--k?" looks into the camera during Ben's side interview.

-- I didn't know you could give a horse Glucotrol.

-- The writers could have gone for a more updated reference in Hotate's quote about white people, substituting in "Maroon 5" or "Arcade Fire" for "Matchbox 20." But the older reference actually made it funnier (Oh, and I'm not equating Arcade Fire with Maroon 5. They're just two bands that us pale folk seem to really like).

-- "Crap on a spatula!"

-- How did a local Pawnee station afford a Taiwanese animation of Hotate's meeting with Leslie? Those guys at Next Media aren't expensive, but they ain't cheap, either.

-- "Wow. That is a shockingly huge mini-horse erection."

-- Two fun Andy moments: He volunteers to climb to the top of the Ferris wheel to look for Lil' Sebastian. Then he says to April: "What if Lil' Sebastian is on this Ferris wheel?"

-- "I awesome sauce Andy."

'Parks and Recreation' airs Thursdays at 9:30PM ET on NBC.

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Watch the full extended cut of the episode here:

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I was really afraid that this episode was going to be a big letdown. With all the build up, it had huge expectations, and it was written after the 30 episode season 2/3 blend that had such momentum. I was afraid the momentum would have been lost since this was written months later.

This is my favorite episode of the show yet. Joan Callamezo's 9-10 scale and her "find splattered paint and crying babies" line at the end of the first act. The atrocities map. The tribe chief and his rituals. Anne's new red hair. Tom and Jerry. Sebastian. Ron. And of course, the fact that at the end, Leslie succeeded. The Parks department had a victory. That's what makes this show so great, it's upbeat, positive, and based on the character's success.

I'm so glad that this show is getting a fourth season.

March 18 2011 at 8:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to HurricaneKid's comment

Tom and Jerry! Why didn't I get that until now?

March 18 2011 at 5:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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