Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Parks and Recreation, Season 4 Episode 5 – "Meet 'N' Greet"

First off, is anyone out there really mourning the end of the Entertainment 720 subplot? Pretty much the sole thing I was excited about going into this story was the promise of more Jean-Ralphio, which was to some extent delivered on, but, as Ben Schwartz has been cast as a regular in another series, my dream of Parks and Recreation and Jean-Ralphio was not to be. It's not that I object to shows changing, but it can try one's patience when said changes obviously aren't going to last, especially when they feel as intrusive and generally grating as Entertainment 720 did in this episode.

But I'm just getting that one bit of negativity out first thing, because, E720 aside, this episode was a lot of fun and had more than its share of laughs (and even that story made me laugh sufficiently hard with the not-anonymous confessional from "Mark Zuckerberg"). April and Andy in particular were on fire from the opening seconds. April was largely just hanging on the side making quips rather than being directly involved in the action, but she was part of the episode's single funniest moment (as usual, detailed below), so it's all good. Ben and Andy's feud was a bit of a Lord of the Rings film trilogy situation (that is to say, the middle was the weakest part), with Andy's initial attack on Ben in Ben's room being hilarious and the "We're brothers" payoff making it all worthwhile, but the all-night headlock did get just a little soggy before it was done.

As for the rest of the Halloween party, this episode really got me thinking about the interesting role Chris Traeger plays in the ensemble. There's no doubt: he's the peppiest, most friendly, positive, optimistic person on the show (not an easy title to claim with Knope in the mix). He literally loves everyone. But he has, at the same time, filled the antagonist role from the second he stepped into Pawnee, first as the cut man there to slash City Hall's budget to ribbons, then as the obstacle standing in the path of Leslie and Ben, and now as Jerry's (unwitting and benevolent) antagonizer via Mr. Gergich's lithe, willing daughter.

Now, Jerry's despair is always hilarious to witness, and I approve of it wholeheartedly. But I also hope there's a confrontation coming, because Jerry has been bottling up the rage for years now, and I see no better story opportunity to finally let some of it loose.

And this week in "Ann's Place In This Ensemble Is Awkward and Loosely Defined," we have her teaming up with Ron Swanson to put the hammer – the hammer of home maintenance, that is – to April, Andy, and Ben's rotting house. It becomes more difficult by the week to deny Ann's status as Mark Brendanawicz 2.0, but this story wasn't without its solid laughs, particularly Ron's reading of "Sonic and Hedgehog" and his stoic confirmation that if you touch the shock wire above Andy's shower, you do, indeed, die.

While I had my problems with Entertainment 720, I did like the parts of Leslie and Tom's story that less directly involved Tom's floundering startup. They may have reached just a little too hard for the heartwarming beat at the end with her crying over Tom's campaign video (although even that moment wasn't without humor), but there was something very believable, sympathetic, and humorously cringe-inducing about her denying credit for the Harvest Festival that was her baby from the word go.

It's also interesting to note that "Meet 'N' Greet" continues this season's pattern of switching off election and non-election plots for Leslie each episode, which is a format that is definitely working and keeps this season moving without making the election stuff ever get stale. Well, I don't want to say ever, but not yet anyway.

Funniest Moment: For pure schadenfreude goodness, the only real choice is the look on Jerry's face as his daughter and Chris dry hump on the dance floor, perfectly punctuated by April correcting his stick-on smile.

Final Grade: B

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