Even in 2017, small town folk protest the anti-privacy practices of big data companies.
After last week’s excellent two-hander between Ron and Leslie, patching up their relationship and discovering the joys of late-night whiskey binges, I was a little worried that this episode might disappoint. I was wrong. Reuniting Leslie and Ron as friends seems to have righted the show’s ship—this week was Parks in excellent comedy form, even if the plots only moved forward incrementally.
In 2017 Pawnee, Gryzzl is the Amazon/Facebook/Twitter/Google super-internet-nightmare of our dreams. And they have a drone program, delivering the titular hyper-personalized Gryzzlboxes to residents of Pawnee. Donna brings it to Leslie’s attention that the contents of these gifts could only be determined by Gryzzl data-mining their texts, emails, and Gryzzl-based communications. This is confirmed when Leslie opens her box and discovers a book of poems by Joe Biden and a poster of Supreme Court justices sipping the Friends milkshakes. (Honestly, this isn’t a great example of the intrusiveness of data-mining, because even a casual acquaintance of Leslie Knope would know her fondness for Diamond Joe and the Supremes.) Ben notes that this behavior was expressly forbidden in the original contract Gryzzl signed. What a handy tool this might be for forcing them to give up their bid for the Newport land.
The Knope-Wyatt group convene a public forum and find that, shockingly, the town is in agreement with them that the data-mining is unacceptable. The Gryzzlboxes have been wreaking havoc with Pawneeans, revealing blotchy genitals, toy collections, and fondness for reading to the general public. Who’s not on board with this privacy crusade? Shockingly, Ron Swanson. Despite his dedication to protecting his and Diane’s son’s privacy (to the point of showing a picture of him “at a recent moment in his life” to Leslie and Ben and then promptly destroying it), he doesn’t particularly care how Gryzzl conducts their business.
The next plan is to infiltrate Gryzzl’s headquarters and find proof that they’ve been illegally pulling info. Leslie and Ben dress up in, frankly, pretty on point hipsters costumes (thick black glasses, beret, man-cardigan, fedora, pretending to be an architect) and get Gryzzl veep Roscoe Santangelo (Jorma Taccone) to show them around. He openly admits to strip-mining info (as well as trying to push Starbucks on people) before skating off on a Gryzzlpad.
So they take the debate to the people—or rather, the Perdple. One of the many hats Perd Hapley wears is that of the Pawnee Judge Judy. Just before they go forward to argue their case before the honorable Judge Perd (not a judge), Ron drops a truly shocking fact: Gryzzl slipped in a clause allowing them to troll for info in a recent contract negotiation, knowing Ben was distracted by the premiere of Star Wars: Episode 7. Ben, convinced that this is another Icetown, interrupts the mock trial to give an earnest speech about the nature of privacy and what it means when tech companies bury their intentions in an attempt to maintain a facade of cool. It’s a surprisingly straightforward and serious moment in a fairly absurd half hour.
The episode wraps up with Leslie and Ben commiserating over the latest deadlock. This isn’t the next Icetown, but it’s still a tough road forward for the National Parks if Gryzzl’s not doing anything illegal. Cue the appearance of Ron Swanson bearing a mangled drone, shot from the sky when it tried to bring a box of presents to his son (who, as you might remember, is avowedly unplugged). This breach is one too far for our favorite curmudgeon. Crackles of ominous thunder! The gang’s getting back together, and they’re ready to face off with Gryzzl and bring them down.
This week April’s storyline actually gets a more substantial arc around it. Her crisis about her professional life is a legitimate and theoretically interesting plot that has been underserved thus far in the season, relegated to extremely thin B- and C-plots. She’s still a sideline in this episode, but her interactions with the interns and Craig at least have an actual arc, and lead to realizations and steps forward. Discouraging her doppelgänger from interning is expected, and there’s no news to Craig’s assertion that she’s done well and learned from the best, but her work to rally a whole host of eager interns was a nice way to display April’s occasional gestures toward feelings and usefulness. Also, Craig’s listing of things that are great in this world is a gift. Victor Garber is indeed excellent.
Meanwhile, the other half of the Ludgate-Dwyer clan is negotiating a contract with the TV station that shows Johnny Karate. Andy, despite doing literally everything for the show, only gets $100 a week, and the station wants the rights to Johnny Karate. Since Lucy is out of town visiting her boyfriend, Tom needs a distraction. What better than acting as Andy’s agent—taking 10 percent and doing minimal work. An ideal Haverford fit. However, station bigwig Hank Muntak (Dax Shepard) has six Lower Great Lakes Emmys and discovered the other Selena Gomez. He’s not about to let Andy and Tom take him for a ride. However, when Tom breaks down into tears in his office, he’s more than willing to hand over the rights in order to avoid uncomfortable emotional scenes. Lucy returns, freshly broken up with her boyfriend, and everything’s looking good for the Haverford empire.
Notes and Jokes:
What did I say about Leslie’s crazy conspiracy-wall game? It’s next level!
Between Johnny Karate’s puppy army, the PAWS shirt, and Craig’s fondness for “unlikely animal friend pairings,” this recapper suspects this episode was written expressly to pander to her.
Justices left off the Friends poster: Kagan, Scalia, and Alito.
The writers are killing it with book titles. Tonight’s gem: Biden the Rails: 1001 Poems Inspired by My Travels Through Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
Les. Les Vegetables. The worst spy ever.
All trials should end with “Tap, tap, tap. Case ended.”
I’m pretty sure someone wrote this episode just because they came up with “Hamuel L. Jackson, star of Pork Fiction” and “Tom Selloink.”
Dr. Richard Nygaard is still helping the compulsive souls of Pawnee.
Life in 2017: The next Star Wars is opening on 12/18/2015. Buy your tickets now! Nicki Minaj threw shade at Jesse Eisenberg at the BAFTAs. This can only mean Nicki’s campaigning for the O in her EGOT, right?