Parks and Recreation recap: 'Meet 'n' Greet'
It's Andy vs. Ben and Leslie vs. Tom in an ultimately sweet Halloween episode
Halloween in Pawnee – also known as Trick or Treat Yo Self – was a grab bag of sorts, with most of the goodies inside “Meet N Greet” turning out to be quite tasty: A sweet-filled moment here, a switcheroo there, and, of course, a genuine horror show (at least for Jerry). Let’s get those salty fingers scrolling down the screen and break down the fifth episode of this season.
It was bound to happen. Tom Haverford was headed for a fall: No douche who thinks he has it in the bag is going to get what he wants without a lot of T-Pain and suffering. As we remember, the cartoonish Tom suddenly became real, redeemable, and vulnerable when his green card marriage fell apart. And here again, as he came to terms with the fact that he’d run his dream media business, E720, into the ground, his humanity bubbled to the surface of the hot tub. (Holy crap was that a long limo.)
Of course, he went down kicking and scheming. At the beginning of the episode, he received bad news – bad enough to make the sadly-absent Jean-Ralphio weep on the other end of the phone line — but we were not privy to the blow: E720 was tripping a C11! (Chapter 11? Come on!) Instead of facing reality, though, Tom transformed Leslie’s meet-and-greet – her big opportunity to woo the business community as part of her campaign to run for city council – into an glammy, tone-deaf E720 infoseminarmercial, complete with Warholian diptychs of Tom hanging on the wall. (Did Mr. Business himself, Martin Kerston, of Kerston Rubber Nipples, look a little like Warhol but with worse hair? And, oh, how I reveled in the reveal of each Pawnee business owners, tiny captains of industry who ran Enormous Kenny’s Fried Dough Stand and Mobile Phone Emporium, Smooth Operator Bikini Waxes and Jeff’s Savings and Loan.)
After alienating everyone – the hotted-up E720 Mailing List Divas were the final straw – Tom was left to cool off in the mobile jacuzzi, where Leslie confronted/semi-drowned him before he poured his heart out about failing as a tycoon-in-training. (How soon until he gets his old job back? Or will he get new responsibilities?) Tom further redeemed himself not just by groveling to Martin — and bribing him with grooming implements — to give Leslie another shot, but by also using his skillz to make a heartfelt political ad that championed Leslie in all the right ways. (“The year was 1975. It was a time of trouble. Watergate, Vietnam. Peter Gabriel leaves Genesis. But then: A ray of hope. Leslie Barbara Knope…”) Tears streaming down her face, Leslie was typically lovable. Referencing film legend Mary Pickford, she smartly noted: “This thing we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down. Tom won’t be down for long.”
Tom wasn’t the only one down in this episode. If there were an LFMAO song to sum up Ben’s frame of mind in this episode, it might be called, “Party Pout is in the House Tonight.” Still reeling from the loss of his lovely Leslie, Ben returned to his apartment that he shares with April and Andy (for reasons that make for better comedy than logic), and he was accosted by a skeleton and the discovery that his roomies were planning a Halloween party. Without telling him. And so he would boycott his own party, bah-humbugging his way around the place, tending to printer/fax-based duties while everyone else celebrated. (The Best Use of a Costume goes to April, for what she did with Jerry’s Mr. Potato Head outfit — more on that later — while the scariest costume goes to Orin, who lurked as himself. It was a little disappointing not to see Tom in a costume, though you could argue that we pretty much get that every week.)
April, as a Biggest Loser-winning sumo wrestler, and Andy, as UFC legend Chuck Liddell, tag-team taunted Ben for a bit before Andy made it his mission to figure out what was bugging the party pooper. Raised by parents who dealt with their problems by hinting at them before winding up divorced, though, the emotionally constipated Ben wasn’t talking. So the emotionally stunted Andy employed his own family method of communication — wrestle it out — and dragged Ben around in a headlock, which he vowed not to release until Ben started spilling. (The Ben-Andy dynamic is not entirely dissimilar from the Ben-Tom dynamic — it’s lower-energy rationality versus amped-up absurdity, common sense versus nonsense — but it still finds its own delightful rhythms.) Only when Ben finally fought back and broke Andy’s nose did the blood and feelings flow. Ben had his carthasis in a batsuit two weeks ago; at the hospital, he unloaded a bit on Andy, telling him to respect his boundaries and not use his bedroom as a “common space.” Andy took it all well; in fact, he even referred to Ben as his brother and asked him for $5600 to pay for some Mouse Rat studio time.
NEXT: Jerry becomes one sad potato
If the party drove Andy and Ben apart, it would bring Ron and Ann together. Ron, who never gave A&A a wedding present because such gifts are “nothing more than kindling on the divorce bonfire,” was so disappointed to find the newlyweds living in run-down squalor – SHOCKWIRE! If you take a shower and you touch the wire… YOU DIE! — he resolved to fix it up on the spot. After discovering their tool box was actually a plastic bag containing a scissor half, Sonic the Hedgehog cartridge and jellybean-filled flashlight, he headed off to Lowe’s, where one of the most glorious, succinct Swansonian dispatchings would occur: When a friendly employee approached him, Ron calmly cut him off with a simple “I know more than you,” before rolling on with his cart in his pirate outfit. (What’s the over/under on the number of days it will take before the first person posts a YouTube video of a reenactment of that scene with an unsuspecting Lowe’s employee? Three?) Ron returned to the party and recruited bean bag/eggplant Ann as his assistant, giving her another bond-with-Ron story; she slowly earned his respect by throwing herself into their home improvement projects. (The show’s writers have shown themselves as fairly adept at finding creative ways to shoehorn Ann in, but they must be starting to break a sweat at this point.)
In the other party sideplot, Sherlock Traeger was asked by Jerry why he didn’t bring his daughter – and Chris’ new girlfriend — Millicent to the party. When Chris explained that he didn’t want Jerry to feel uncomfortable seeing him out at night with Millicent, Jerry responded that he didn’t mind. The scene that this begat was gold: As Jerry haplessly watched Chris and Millicent dirty dancing, April unvelcro’d Jerry’s Mr. Potato smile and reapplied it upside down in a sadsack frown. April got that laugh — and the last one: As the pleased-with-himself Sherlock Traeger exited the party triumphantly with Millicent, informing Jerry of his sexual intentions that evening (is Chris quirky or just plain jerky?), he realized that he had lost his keys. Turns out, April had boosted them and dumped them in the trash. Trick and treat. I’m pretty sure there’s a whole episode awaiting us in which we’ll find out what else April has been swiping from people over the last few seasons. I just hope they’re not blood orphans.
TEN LINES OF MERIT
“No, no, it’s fine. Why should you guys tell me you were going to have an enormous party? I didn’t tell you I was going to be quietly working in my room.” –Ben to April and Andy
“I know I should be chasing your vote, but I stand behind my decision to avoid salad and other disgusting things and I think I have a lot of support in the community for that.” –Leslie to Tonya, who runs Sue’s Salad (Runner up: “When in doubt, in Pawnee, slam salad.” –Leslie)
“Most people would probably say the deets. I say the tails. Just one example of innnovation.” –Tom to Martin Kerston
“Look, I don’t like to throw around the word butthead too often. If you call everybody a butthead, then it kind of loses its impact. But I can say without hesitation that Tom is being a real dick.” –Leslie
“He’s going as lame.” –April, about Ben’s lack of Halloween costume
“I grew up with five brothers and we fought using the Dwyer Method, which was yelling, wrestling, crying, followed by lots of hugs… and then more wrestling, but the fun kind, and then crying when the fun kind of wrestling got out of hand.” –Andy
“Where we gonna get Albacore tuna with crispy onion at this hour?” –Tom to Leslie, after she says they need comfort food
“Tom Haverford is a selfish, unctuous, sleazy self-promoting… good-hearted, secretly kind and wonderful, tiny little person.” –Leslie
“Jerry, I have decided to take your daughter home, and we may be having intercourse.” –Chris
And one more time:
“I know more than you.” –Ron to Lowe’s employee
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Parks and Recreation