Aziz Ansari, Parks and Recreation
Credit: Chris Haston/NBC
Premieres: Thursday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. on NBC Stars: Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari What to expect: Leslie (Poehler) heads to…

Irony alert: By and large, the employees of Pawnee’s Parks and Recreation department actually kind of hate the great outdoors. April feels like she can’t breathe when the air is too fresh; Tom needs creature comforts like a soft-serve machine and DJ Roomba (DJ Roomba!) just to survive; Ben doesn’t even know that the floor is called the ground when it’s outside. (Though wait, is Ben technically an employee of the Parks department yet? Better not think about that one too hard.) So when Leslie forces our favorite government drones to leave the cozy confines of City Hall for a local camping ground, nobody’s happy but her. Luckily, their misery makes for some excellent comedy.

At least they have a good reason to go on a retreat. Last episode’s Harvest Festival was more successful than anyone could have imagined—as City Manager Paul Iaresco informs us, over 80,000 people attended it. Does Pawnee even have 80,000 residents? Regardless, that means Leslie and company now have some serious dough to inject back into their town. The problem is that despite having filled at least 49 binders with ideas for small projects, Knope can’t think of something big to do with the money. (Leslie, despairing that she’ll never do anything great again, imagines what people will say about her: “What happened to her? What was her name? Kim? Anyway, she’s stupid and she’s dead now.”) She persuades her coworkers to trek into the woods with her so that they can brainstorm, free from the distractions of modern life. (Was Ron’s hunting lodge occupied, do you think?) Cue a shot of Tom’s tricked-out campsite, complete with the finest goofy gadgets SkyMall has to offer.

But alas, Tom’s been powering his appliances with the van’s battery, meaning that when everyone wants to throw in the towel and go home, they can’t. The group then treks to The Quiet Corn, a creepy B&B run by a woman who immediately enters the pantheon of brilliant Parks and Rec supporting characters: Elsa Clack. Elsa, who gives off a serious Mrs. Bates vibe, likes her guests to be awake between 5:30 and 6:15 AM, her rooms to be filled with cats, and her muffins to be German. Ben informs us that she’s dead now during the episode’s coda, which is really a shame; I would have loved to see her interact with other Pawnee kooks like Bird Man.

In the end, of course, Ron helps Leslie overcome her mental block, and she pulls out several brilliant ideas for ways the department could use the money. Sure, he does that by forcing her to sleep seven full hours (twice as long as she normally sleeps!) in a closet lined with kitties, but that’s a small price to pay for our heroine getting her groove back. Once again, all is well… well, for everyone except Paul the City Manager. While praising Leslie, Paul has had a massive heart attack — prompting the government to ask Chris Traeger to come and fill in while the fallen manager recovers. (Welcome home, Rob Lowe!) Looks like Ann might have a tough row to hoe for the next few episodes. Which is great, since flustered Ann might be the best Ann. Example: “I’d love to catch up.” “Me too! Ketchup and mustard!” “So delightful! I relish your wit.” “I salsa… your… face.”

And that wasn’t the only highlight from tonight:

– This was a great episode for Jerry, between the way he called Tom’s favorite musicians “rap-ists,” the way he skeeved Ron out with a monologue about his personal life (he wants to lead a teen abstinence workshop; “That might be incredibly effective,” Ron deadpans), and the way he was clearly having a ball at The Quiet Corn. I bet on weekends, he drives up to Elsa’s B&B with a duffel full of mystery novels.

– Donna, too, had plenty of great moments. Her idea for what to do with the money: build a luxury dog park. “Poodles only. No pooping.” (So a flu-ridden Chris wouldn’t be allowed to visit.) While at The Quiet Corn, she’s also spotted reading a book called Your Erogenous Zones — maybe so she’ll be prepared when she meets Robert Pattinson?

– The headline the Pawnee Sun uses for their story about Paul grabbing Leslie’s boob as he keels over: “KNOPE GROPE IS LAST HOPE!”

– Unlike his employees, Ron loves going camping. He especially enjoys fishing, because it relaxes him: “It’s like yoga, except I still get to kill something.”

– April, grossed out by nature: “There’s a brook somewhere that won’t stop babbling!”

– Leslie’s so strapped for ideas that she turns to her dream journal for inspiration. Once, she dreamed she married ALF, and they were pretty happy together.

– Manic Leslie, trying to inspire the others: “All night work! All night work!”

– Even though I saw the joke coming from a mile away, I still really enjoyed seeing Ann not realize that Chris was letting her down easy… again.

– Andy treks through the woods for hours before he finally finds April at the B&B. He arrives with romantic flower petals and champagne… though he “had to drink most of it to survive.”

– “Stick a German muffin in it.”

What were your favorite moments from tonight’s episode of Parks and Rec?

Episode Recaps

Premieres: Thursday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. on NBC Stars: Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari What to expect: Leslie (Poehler) heads to…
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