It was bound to happen sooner or later, but finally we've got a Parks & Rec episode that, while entertaining enough on its own, lives entirely in the world of past and future episodes. We glimpse the gung-ho season one Leslie that we only see when there's something big on the line related to the parks department. Meanwhile, there's groundwork being laid that would signify the end of not only Ann and Mark's relationship, but April and Andy's non-lationship up until this point. "Summer Catalog" simultaneously represents the bureaucracy love letter this show used to be, and the intertwining of the characters (or the opposite) that is yet to come. It's a necessary episode in the Parks & Rec universe, but kudos to the showrunners for having some fun with it. Am I right, Justin?
Leslie is putting together the summer catalog, and decides to unite the four living former parks department heads for a picnic and inspiration. And wow, does she ever find the three most depressing, angry people—and Ron Swanson. They hate each other, and women, with a fire reserved for the town pedophile; and even he only gets away with a cool-looking photo and a dinner with Jerry. It was one thing when Leslie was up against Ron Swanson before they were buds, but it's astonishing she gets anything done given how bitter it seems every single Pawnee government official is. Once again, though, Ron Swanson steps in to console Leslie, taking her to eat breakfast food for dinner at a place where they're both regulars and have a "usual" they can order off the menu, suggesting it's the little things that keep both of them chugging along. It's nice that at least Leslie has chosen to surround herself with supportive people, even if those people get really upset when they haven't eaten anything for a while and hungrily sprint towards any sign of food. Optimism in Pawnee is a rare commodity, and we've got a lot of it in our little world.
I came to realize tonight that I like Andy so much for precisely that reason. He's well-intentioned optimism incarnate, eager to leave the shoe stand if it means a day in the park throwing food around with his best bud in the world, April. Once again their flirtation was sickly sweet, and more than a little sad on April's behalf; the way her eyes lit up when Andy asked her to get a drink both warmed my heart and depressed me the hell up. She must be so frustrated with Andy, how he refuses to see her as a viable person to date. Is it on purpose? Probably not, but I am starting to get the feeling that Andy has let the thought cross his mind, and is now trying desperately to convince himself that it's not a good idea. He certainly was eager to get out of there when April gets carded at the bar and has to articulate the fact that she's only 20 years old. Sure, he asked her out in the first place, but I can understand how he must feel. It's hopefully no surprise to Andy that April is so young, and I can relate to the timid testing of the waters people do when they know something isn't a good idea, but they really want to do it anyways. But when confronted with the age difference and her overt eagerness to make things right at another bar, he bolts. It's sad, but understandable. But sad.
Speaking of, I wonder what was up with Ann today. She and Mark celebrate their six month anniversary with a gift exchange and a quick smooch in front of a sleeping hospital patient, then Mark tells the camera that things are going really well. Then later, Tom tricks the two of them into coming to the office together so he can snap their photo and use it for the summer catalog. They take a ton of photos, including some "artsy" shots, and yet Ann just isn't happy. She literally cannot smile during the whole shoot. She blames it on being tired after her hospital shift, but Mark is quick to ask, "Is everything okay?" Suddenly the lighthearted ribbing of Ann's inability to smile turns into a questioning of the whole relationship. It was sudden, but not totally unexpected I guess, given how tepid Ann has been whenever she describes Mark (and given the fact that Paul Schneider is probably leaving the show). Uh oh, Pawnee. Can we avoid some heartbreak in the coming weeks? I'm trying to be optimistic.
- Tom makes out like a bandit tonight with the best lines. "An animal on the head, a manimal in the bed." Also, I loved how he sips whiskey Mad Men style while delivering his cover shoot pitch.
- "Made love to the pooch."
- "It's like the boy version of softball."
- Seriously, I want some bacon and a waffle, stat.