Pssst! Hey, America! Yeah, the 20-plus million of you now watching Ashton Kutcher ham it up on Two and a Half Men. If you’re interested in a hilarious half hour of TV, take a minute to flip over a few channels and check out this Parks and Recreation show. You think Ashton parading around butt-naked is shocking? Wait ’til you see Ron Swanson’s naked upper lip! This week’s Men had a hot chick in a bikini and a $100,000 eco-friendly sports car? This week’s Parks not only had a hot chick being paid $100,000 (with full medical!) to just sit there, it had a chair with a roof! And let’s not forget Chris Traeger. That dude’s got the energy of, like, two and a half million men.
While we wait for America to come rushing over, four million Parks fans will continue to keep one of TV’s best-kept secrets to themselves. And “Ron and Tammys” was definitely another keeper. Thursday’s episode packed a panoply of punchlines while peeling back another layer of the great libertarian meat-eater-ologist Ron Swanson. The fortress of Swanson is rarely compromised; it takes a special force, like the sexual predator called Tammy Two, who transformed him into a cornrowed horn dog of a trainwreck. But what a clever idea to have this season’s nemesis — the ominously buttoned-up, frosty, Jedi-like ex-wife called Tammy One, who delivered him when he was born, taught him Sunday school, math, and driver’s ed — reduce him to the frightening opposite extreme: a cheerful, dorky, subservient public servant who was blissfully unaware that he was being scammed by a fake audit. (Good thing that was bogus, because most of his receipts were pieces of paper that read: “I bought supplies 2007,” which is a sure ticket to jail. Jail, Ron. Ron, Jail. Jail! Jail! Jail! ) Of course, just because the audit was phony doesn’t mean the danger wasn’t real: She was here to raid his stash (of gold) and shave off his ‘stache (of awesome). I’m not sure which violation of Ron is worse.
Tiny treats came in the form of April’s entrancement with Tammy One, and Andy’s gleeful reaction when Tammy One sniped at Ron, “Oh, are we playing a game where everyone says something stupid?” Initially dominated by Tammy One, Leslie gathered enough strength to confront the beast, only to discover that Tammy One was literally a gold digger, so she tried to cut a deal with the other devil: Tammy Two. Alas, Tammy Two had been scarred mentally — and physically — by Tammy One and was too scared to help. (Too bad. Would’ve been cool to see her face down Tammy One.) Then came a field trip to the home of Tammy Zero, Ron’s lightly deranged mother who favored shotguns over showers (Andy: “Oh my god, there’s a room full of just guns!”), and who was itching to bring little Ronald back home. The battle for his soul took place over a prairie drink-off, which involved the Swanson family mash liquor, a solvent so potent Ron had to issue three delightfully descriptive warnings. The stakes: If Tammy One won, she’d claim Ron; if Tammy Zero won, she’d claim Ron, and if Leslie won, Ron would stay where he belonged. With lightweight Leslie collapsing early (loved her troubled, drunken “What is that?” response to the little action figure in her hand), and her substitute April spitting and quitting, Ron would save himself by chugging the jug with an impressive cradle technique, sending Tammy Zero back to the compound and Tammy One back to Hades.
Speaking of hell, Ann became trapped in her own version when she tapped Chris to tape a PSA about diabetes (“Diabetes!”) prevention, and he took this simple task — like every other — way too seriously. The microchip wasn’t compromised; it was definitely overloaded, as he tried to bring his message to the massive masses (“’Fat equals splat, as in you’re dead.’ Is there something there?”) with Ann’s patience serving as collateral damage (“Let’s do one more, then five more, then 20 in a row”). But just as she questioned what she ever saw in him romantically, he became human again, explaining that he was only trying to be the best Chris Traeger that he could be, and thanking her profusely: “You really are an amazing human being.” That’s all the reminder that Ann needed. If it’s not going to work with Ann, I hope the show tosses him another love interest, so we can further explore his core — and his man-versus-machine make-up. On a sidenote of no purpose, I would totally buy a GPS device featuring the voice of Chris Traeger . (“You will drive precisely 500 yards ahead until you see a toll booth. You will decelerate gradually until you are literally at a complete stop. You will hand the attendant three crisp one-dollar bills….”)
While Ann navigated the antics of Chris, Ben found himself in similar raised-eyebrow mode with Tom, who was out to exploit his nerdy number-crunching skills. Preying on Ben’s desire to be his buddy, Tom pulled the friend card and asked him to look over some financial paperwork for Entertainment 720, which was less of a business and more of a corporate D-bag fantasy, complete with rainbow-swirled sculptures, disco balls, hot women perched in various nooks, monitors showing footage of boats, and most inexplicably, former Indiana Pacers forward Detlef Schrempf and current center Roy Hibbert playing one-on-one. (Given the looming NBA strike, though, Tom is onto something when he says that Hibbert “used to play for the Pacers — now he plays for Entertainment 720.”) In the great white room, we reconnected gloriously with Jean-Ralphio, who greeted Ben with a circus of words (transcribed below) that included a new name for Ben and a replacement name for that one. Our bewildered voice of reason ultimately couldn’t persuade them that printing money with their faces was not a sustainable business plan, and exited the premises without taking a free iPad. Only later did Tom mea culpa his way back to Ben, explaining that five out of five accountants supported Ben’s assessment. (Might’ve been fun to see Tom and Jean-Ralphio actually learn their lesson somehow, as opposed to having Tom just explain it in a sentence.) In a nearly touching moment, Tom gave him an iPad — not one of the free ones; one that he bought with his own money! That’s friendship right there, baby.
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