'Parks and Recreation' recap: 'Donna and Joe'
Well, if there’s anything Mike Schur and his merry band of writers know how to do, it’s write a wedding episode bursting with heartfelt emotional beats—and jokes. Donna and Joe’s nuptials are the fourth marriage for the show (not counting Ron and Tammy’s fling, or those penguins Leslie married in season 2).
As in past wedding episodes, the interactions of the ensemble take as much screen time as the couple, but they bring it around for the big moment. Donna has grown from being one of the most enigmatic characters in early seasons (throwing out awesome asides in brief screen time), to one of the most purposely enigmatic and still three-dimensional characters. Donna Meagle’s defining trait is the mystery of her life, but she’s willing to give it up for love. The only downside is that we haven’t had as much time to invest in Joe as a character, but it’s a testament to Keegan-Michael Key’s charisma that their “I Do”s are still heartstring-twanging.
Multiple Meagle clans have descended on Pawnee for the festivities, and her family is, in Donna’s words, “a cold-blooded crew of judgmental grudge holders.” It’s up to Maid of Honor April to rein all 28 of them in and keep their inherent talent for drama from eclipsing the wedding. April and Andy separate them out by region (Andy: Key Largo and Denver, April: Berlin) and spend the rehearsal dinner putting out fires. Ground rules: No Levondrius, no Mallorca, no Yale-bragging, and Ginuwine needs to get it together.
But this is Donna Meagle, and a perfectly smooth wedding isn’t quite her style. (Or her family’s. Their last four Pictionary tournaments ended at the hospital.) April and Andy’s final gift to Donna and Joe is the surprise appearance of Donna’s younger brother Levondrius (Questlove), ready to reignite their microwave-based feud.
In Ben and Leslie news, we finally see the Knope-Wyatt triplets. And they’re wreaking adorable havoc. Rachel Dratch appears as Roz, the beleaguered regular babysitter who Leslie loves more than Ben. I think this might be a genuine feeling from Poehler’s life, considering her book Yes, Please features an entire chapter about how much she loves her nannies.
Ben and Leslie are hoping to get a night to spend some quality time together (“Maybe we make some more kids?” “Don’t even joke about that.”). Jen Barkley (Kathryn Hahn) shows up at their door to throw a wrench into their plans—she wants to oust the incumbent House representative from Pawnee’s distract. Surprise twist: She’s not interested in Leslie, but former Icetown clown Ben!
Ben, of course, wavers about whether he can actually pull this off. He spends the rehearsal dinner practicing schmoozing like a politician, which ends with him very drunk, giving an extremely sweet toast to the happy couple. This leads to another Parks and Recreation classic gambit: awkward drunk dancing. Even better than this is the fact that Leslie, who has been our ambitious political star for six seasons, is completely supportive of whatever Ben wants to do. She’s totally in his camp, encouraging him to run, to dance, to drink more wine.
They wake the next morning: Of course, Ben Wyatt’s drunk voicemails are highly explicit policy positions. And Barkley’s already released some teaser news about his possible run. An ambush by reporters after the ceremony proves that Ben can be candidate-material under pressure, and they are gung ho for the win. Guess this will be the arc for the next six episodes?
Meanwhile, Tom and Lucy are in a sitcom-standard forced relationship hurdles. Tom reveals to Ron that he really likes Lucy, feels she’s the one, even would marry her tomorrow. This would seem to be a fair person to reveal something like that to, because Ron Swanson is the foremost defender of privacy silence. And the hasty caveat he makes doesn’t really excuse his use as a plot engine (“something about a wedding” makes him nosy? He barely shared with his wife at his own wedding!). Of course, this escalates and Lucy and Tom get awkward—more awkward than their matching baby-blue-brocade ensembles—before finally coming to the resolution that, hey, Tom’s not creepy, he just really likes her. Could’ve got there faster guys.
Notes and Jokes
Jen Barkley’s disdainful appraisal of suburban family life is amazing. Particularly her “Whoa, what was that? That was huge!” in response to a kid running by. I’ve heard that same sentence said about subway rats.
The legend of Donna Meagle grows: Pearl Jam wrote Vitalogy about her.
Who hasn’t drunk-dialed 867-5309? (Millenials, probably.)
Donna Meagle has been the secret Jerry/Larry/Terry/Garry booster of this whole show. She wanted to bring him to Jerry Dinner. And here she gives him the gift of his actual name.
Watch those pocket opinions, Leslie. That way JNCO jeans lie.
This was a particularly stacked guest-stars episode. I counted Rachel Dratch, Ginuwine, Kathryn Hahn, Questlove, and Christie Brinkley. Plus outstanding work from the less-frequently-featured Billy Eichner.
Speaking of happy couples and guest stars, where’s Lucy Lawless (a.k.a. Diane, wife of Ron)?
Life in 2017
Not much here, except apparently our government is as dysfunctional as ever.