Last night’s excellent episode of Parks and Recreation, “Galentine’s Day,” takes three storylines that have been playing out in the background during this season and pushes them to the forefront in spectacular fashion. Leslie’s attempts to find a new best friend in Pawnee after Ann’s departure, Ben’s growing respect for and friendship with Larry, and Ron’s new life as a father all get their deserved time and focus in “Galentine’s Day” and are incredibly heartfelt, honest, and, most important, hilarious storylines.
The A-plot of the episode is Leslie’s search for the new Ann culminates in the titular Galentine’s Day brunch, where she attempts to rank all of the women there to see who will be her replacement best friend, not realizing the error of her ways until she visits Ann (Rashida Jones, billed as a special guest star), who has just given birth to her son. Parks and Recreation was always great at showing that the most important reason why Leslie and Ann were friends was not what they had in common (as we see that Ann’s a Riggins girl while Leslie’s all about Saracen in their awesome Friday Night Lights debate) but how much they cared for one another. As Ann tells Leslie, she can’t simply jot down people’s favorite TV shows or whether or not they have a Jacuzzi and hope that she will find someone compatible. She needs to find that inner compassion and understanding that she saw within Ann, and Donna and April are two people who possess that. They care just as much for Leslie as Ann does, but they just have different ways of showing it.
There will never be a replacement for Ann, but as Parks and Recreation makes clear, that’s okay. Leslie already has two perfectly awesome friends here; she just needs to learn how to embrace their differences and realize that the only commonality that they need to share is how much they respect and care for each other.
While Leslie is wrapped up in a more personal story this week, Parks and Recreation leaves Ben with the government plot, which actually turns out to be both a hilarious back and forth between Ben, Tom, and guest star Rob Heubel (who attempts to rip of the parks department as they plan to purchase a tent for the Unity Concert) and also a further exploration of the budding friendship between Ben and Larry. We first saw the bond between the two of them beginning to be formed in “Anniversaries,” but Ben’s compassion and respect for Larry reaches new heights tonight, as the episode ends with him standing on a chair in the middle of the parks department, giving a Dead Poets’ Society-inspired speech to everyone about how he and Larry are friends and that he deserves more kindness and respect. And while there’s so much heart and power in what Ben says, Parks and Recreation has enough sense to make sure things don’t get too schmaltzy, as Ben’s empowering words are completely offset by Larry’s perfectly timed fall and fart.
I love that Parks and Recreation is finally addressing the mean-spiritedness of the parks department with regards to Larry, and Ben is the best character to explore this idea. He’s never been one to follow the typical behavior of Pawnee’s citizens (he never understood the sensation that was Lil’ Sebastian, remember?), so it would make sense that he wouldn’t exactly be a major fan of piling insults on Larry like everyone has always done. I really hope that Parks and Recreation continues to show us Ben and Larry’s developing friendship, because it’s a funny and refreshing dynamic for the series to play with.
Finally, the Ron/Andy subplot of last night’s Parks and Recreation should have not worked because of how incredibly stupid the series has made Andy, to the point where he’s not a believable functioning adult, let alone husband to April. However, the chemistry and rapport between Nick Offerman and Chris Pratt (not to mention the always endearing kindness and compassion that Pratt’s performance always brings to Andy’s character) made up for any issues I might have had with the Parks and Rec writing team.
This story acted as a nice reminder of how much change has been brought to Ron Swanson’s world this season with his marriage to Diane and the birth of their son, not to mention being a stepfather to Diane’s two daughters from her previous marriage. However, instead of fearing this change and running away from it, Ron has not only embraced his new family life but bettered himself with it. His phone call to Diane near the end of the episode, asking her if she wants him to pick up some ice cream for her and the girls, isn’t the rough, rugged Ron Swanson that we all know and love. No, instead, it’s a better, more developed, and happier Ron, a man who not only loves his bacon, his quiet, and his scotch but also, most importantly, his family.
– This episode was amazing from the start. Ben says that he’d be willing to talk with Leslie about Sandra Bullock’s skirt length when she can’t talk to Ann. Leslie’s perfect response: “No, no babe you can’t. You would just embarrass yourself.”
– It was so great having Rashida Jones back. It’s only been a few episodes but I have missed the warmth and heart that she brings to Parks and Recreation as Ann.
– One of the single funniest moments of the episode: Ron slapping the peanut brittle out of Andy’s hands before taking him back to the dentist, and Andy thinking the reason behind it was because of calories.
– Leslie and Ann’s Friday Night Lights discussion was so, so perfect. Made me want to fire up Netflix and rewatch the entire series again.
– “There is no quiet anymore. There is only Doc MacStuffins.”
– “It will be a women’s only marathon bonding session filled with tons of whipped cream. Side note: do not Google that phrase.”
– Man , I’m still on a high from how good this episode was. It might have been the funniest episode of Parks and Recreation this season.
What did everyone else think of last night’s episode of Parks and Recreation?
[Photo via Danny Feld/NBC]