Parks and Recreation recap: Born & Braised
Leslie becomes embroiled in a controversy when her book is published
There are hundreds of ways that Leslie Knope has expressed her affection for Pawnee over the last few seasons, so having the woman who figuratively wrote the book on it literally writing the book on it was a logical punchline. Luckily, this idea, introduced in season 3’s “Time Capsule,” also made for a highly fertile and fun episode this season. (And a neat real-life promotional tie-in.) “Born & Raised” brought us some highbrow (public radio) and some low blows (Gotcha!), as well as a little action (Bert Macklin), suspense (where was Leslie born?), and “romance” (Tom as Joan’s chew toy; waffles as Americana). Also of note: Game finally recognized game! (Was that a hint that we might see Tom and Chris work the ladies together soon? Because that should totally happen.)
The episode opened with a delightful hit of Dan Castellaneta — a.k.a. the voice of Homer Simpson, a.k.a. Rusty’s crusty prof on Greek. One could say that his Derry Murbles, the placid-voiced substitute host on Wamapoke County Public Radio’s Thoughts for your Thoughts, was there to
pontificate to interview Leslie about her book, but should one? Maybe he just didn’t want to introduce that terrible song from the lesbian Afro-Norwegian funk duo, Nefertiti’s Fjord. Back in the office, Leslie proudly passed out signed books to the staff, setting up every character with a big laugh. April was disturbed by Leslie’s seven-page inscription to her, but you-know-who’s was worse. Jerry: “Okay, mine just says, ‘Get well soon.’” Leslie: “Aren’t you sick?” Unnerved Jerry: “No.” Insistent Leslie: “Something’s off.” But one thing was missing from Leslie’s triumph: The literal literary stamp of approval from Joan Callamezzo’s book club, a guarantee to big sales, as evidenced by The Time Traveler’s Optometrist. Tom, whom Leslie hired to secure the sticker, told her that someone was claiming the book contained a factual inaccuracy. Impossible, scoffed Leslie. This was her fly in the lab, if she were Walter White. So she enlisted the help of her staff to find the mistake — not that there was one — and cruelly dispatched Jerry to a bunch of other cities to fact-check every out-of-towner’s interview. Chris did his re-reading in the time it took me to type this sentence.
Joan’s interview of Leslie on Pawnee Today tilted their passive-aggressive relationship toward aggressive in all the right ways: Mo Collins’ Joan taunted her by waving the sticker around the tome but not actually affixing it (which would “legally” make it a JC Book Club selection). Then she gave Leslie real sticker shock by announcing that they had heard that Leslie wasn’t born in Pawnee. Author, immigrant Leslie Knope doth protested, but our loyal government employee was branded with a Gotcha! stamp and further humiliated by four Gotcha! dancers gyrating to a theme song (“Joan gotcha!/Betcha thought ya’d get away/with a buncha caca/didn’tcha?”) that tickled Chris and triggered memories of an underrated ’80s Gotcha-based tune.
As playfully barbed as Joan-Leslie encounters always are, Joan-Tom meetings are even saucier, and this episode dumped some lighter fluid on their slow-burn flirtation. His plan was to spray himself 30-plus times with cologne and charm her into giving up that sticker, but when she told him at lunch about her impending divorce, he realized he was in severe cougar-mauling danger. After Joan used a chilling sexualized peacock metaphor, called him “an adorable hunk of caramel,” and excused herself to powder body parts untold and untoward, Tom begged Ben to talk nerd to her to get this bird back in her cage. (His articulate objection to his nerd classification gave Tom an easy comedy lay-up: “Yes, that’s perfect. Just like that. Be incredibly boring.” The Ben-Tom douche-on-geek dynamic just works, doesn’t it?) Alas, Ben’s Star Trek soliloquy would be no match for Joan’s liquor intake, and she slurred her desire to BLEEEEEEEEEEP the hell out of both of them. The angel (Ben) tried to run, but the devil (Tom) persuaded him to help get this woman home safely. (Her home was hardly a safe zone, with zebra-print bedding and sultry, overwrought portraits of herself on the walls.)
NEXT: The return of FBI agent Bert Macklin!
Meanwhile, Leslie’s reading at a bookstore was a disaster, as the angry crowd demanded the truth about her birthplace, prompting Andy’s amusing alter ego, FBI agent Bert Macklin, to hastily escort her out of the room. (No sign of Janet Snakehole, sadly.) Leslie’s political advisors informed her that this Obama-like birther controversy could harm her city council aspirations: 68 percent of the town thought she was lying, and 13 percent were freaked by her Michele-Bachmann-turned-to-overdrive eyes. A trip to the County Records Office in dreadfully upscale Eagleton followed, where she learned it would take 3 to 8 weeks to get a copy of her birth certificate. Even Chris, sporting better hair than the previous two weeks, couldn’t cut through the red tape with his baby blues. But when the microchip fails, the Macklin sails. Chris Pratt’s Andy was in fine spastic form as he flew over the desk, taking the computer with him (undoubtedly causing network co-necktivity problems); he procured the birth certificate and some dude’s briefcase by accident, which he returned with a hearty hucking. Leslie then read the ugly truth: She was born in (gag) Eagleton!
While all of this was unfolding, an okay B-plot featured Ann trying to bond with a closed-off Ron and April (whose wonderfully understated father-daughter relationship embodies the “What is understood need not be discussed” concept). Alas, her attempts yielded only that Ron’s desert-island item would be “silence” (or maybe a homemade woodwind instrument), and that April’s favorite character on Sex and The City is Alf. But the next morning, when she shared a bloody, vomit-y story about a weird patient who tried to cut his hand out of a Pringles can, they came alive with questions (Ron: “What kind of blade did he use?”). Yes, Ann got her casual, AMICABLE conversation, but Ron got her back by referring to her as “Jenny.”
Let’s finish with the main story: Leslie’s Eagleton roots were confirmed by her mom, who explained that Pawnee’s hospital was overrun with raccoons at the time. Should Leslie keep the voters at bay, as she was advised by Ron, or tell the truth, as Chris suggested? “Where you’re born is a piece of trivia,” Chris noted. “Where you’re from — that’s what makes who you are.” The choice was obvious: Blame Jerry. No, no, it was time to come clean. And so author, liar Leslie Knope returned to Pawnee Today to reminisce about the slippery-when-wet Nipple Hill, embarrass a Pawnee-born crew member she grew up with, and remark: “You can’t choose where you were born, but you can choose where you live.” But her winning speech came later in her office. Channeling her best NPR personality, she read from her book: “Every town claims its diner’s waffles are the best in the world, but somewhere in some town, there really are the best waffles in the world. So delicious and rich and golden brown that anyone who tasted them would decide never to leave that town. Somewhere those waffles exist. Why can’t it be here?” That’s not a tear running down my face; it’s maple syrup. Leslie’s book got a sticker from Joan — along with the Gotcha! stamp – and Jerry returned from his fact-checking travels (oh, forgot about that!), buoyed by a sense of purpose, even though he missed his daughter’s birthday. Instead of telling him the problem was solved, Leslie sent him back out on the road. (One step too far?) “He just seemed so happy,” she told Donna. Don’t worry, Jer will get his revenge one day. He’s just saving it for the book.
10 LINES OF MERIT FROM “BORN AND RAISED”
• “Support for Pawnee Community radio comes from the Wendell G. and Muriel Fathright Korbelman Foundation and Sweetum Cares, a nonprofit group that puts umbrella hats on homeless people when it rains.” –Public radio announcer
• “Usually I only read nautical novels and my own personal manifestos, but I’m proud to make this exception.” –Ron to Leslie, about her book
• “I’m a speed reader. I can read over 3,000 words a minute with total comprehension. One time I read all of Siddhartha at a traffic stop.” –Chris
• “At the risk of bragging, one of the things I’m best at is riding coattails. Behind every successful man is me, smiling and taking partial credit.” –Tom
• “Yeah, actually in here it says that Pawnee is great, but in reality it’s terrible.” –April to Ron, when he asks her if she found any factual errors in Leslie’s book
• “When Leslie’s in trouble, there is only one man for the job: Bert Macklin, FBI. You though I was dead. (chuckles) So did the President…’s enemies.” –Andy, turning into his alter-ego
• “Is she gonna powder her vagina?” –Ben to Tom, after Joan stumbles away from the table to “powder my nose amongst other things”
• “Why? It seems to be going the usual amount of gross.” –Ben to Tom, after Tom asks him to help handle Joan
• “Eagleton is the land of rich snobby jerks. There’s a whole chapter about it in my book. I could write a second book about Eagleton and how stupid it is. And I’d call it Eagleton: The Land of Rich Snobby Jerks.” –Leslie
• “Ann was getting a little chummy. When people get too chummy with me, I like to call them by the wrong name to let them know I don’t really care about them.” –Ron, explaining why he called Ann “Jenny”
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Parks and Recreation