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Parks And Recreation: "The Practice Date"

Illustration for article titled Parks And Recreation: "The Practice Date"
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Forget Jim and Pam: This week is all about Leslie and Dave and the adorably awkward courtship ensuing. And, hey! No smugness here.

It actually seemed like this week's Parks & Rec took everything they were warming up to over the last few weeks, and hit them hard. I was enjoying learning a bit about the characters on the show, especially the quieter April, and tonight was like information gathering overload. The staffers in the Parks & Rec division, inspired by a Mark Sanford-style political scandal (this time with a foursome, in a cave), decide to learn as much about each other as possible, by playing a little game where they dig up dirt on each other. Whoever gets the juiciest secret, wins. Even Ron wants in, back from his week recovering from the funniest hernia ever.

Ron and Tom claim to have the littlest dirt, so therefore the reveals about them are the most monumental. Cocky, Tom starts things off by revealing that Ron has two ex-wives named Tammy (and one mom with that name), a "Jager secret" Tom wasn't supposed to share. Ron counters by fishing around Tom's wife, and discovers that, in fact, she's a green card marriage from Canada. I'm not quite sure if that means she's really just acting as Tom's friend, or if she eventually came around to be his girlfriend or something. But in any case, it results in one of the only genuine vulnerable moments from Tom, where he begs Ron not to tell anyone—a nice moment from a guy who rarely shows anything but cockiness.

Of course, it doesn't end there, because Tom is obsessed with winning no matter the cost. So with the help of Mark, he heads to a bar and discovers a) Ron moonlights as a saxophone player named Duke Silver who fronts a Duke Silver Trio, and b) he's a mega hit with the older ladies. Oh, and c) he has an album coming out called Memories Of Now. Much like Tom, we get a nice vulnerable moment from Ron—the pause of recognition that he hears Tom's voice, then the slow raise of the head to face the inevitable chastising.

It's a subtle moment from Nick Offerman, a stellar comic actor who last season was running circles around the rest of the cast. But tonight, I have to give mad props to Amy Poehler. She's gotten a lot of flak for her portrayal of Leslie Knope, but a lot of people last season smartly surmised that if given the chance, Poehler could bring a comic ease to the character. She wasn't getting her chance; Leslie was coming off as wooden and boring. Tonight, it seemed like Poehler was in her element—that is to say, demonstrating comfort in painfully awkward situations. Nervous about her date the next day with Dave (throwing her cell phone across the office when it rings, she's so wired), she enlists the help of Ann to loosen her up. Ann, always the practical one, takes her on practice dates and has Leslie call her Dave and everything. Leslie takes out conversation-topic notecards, speaks in a terrible street urchin British accent, and practices her laugh to nobody, eliciting plenty of stares from those around her.

Ann finally gets through by pretending the date's going terribly, antagonizing Leslie to no end, and the message sticks. Leslie just needs to calm down. So the two of them go off to get drunk and celebrate her newfound confidence in tomorrow's date. She's so confident, in fact, that she drunkenly stumbles over to Dave's place to tell him just how ready she is for tomorrow, then invites herself in. And talk about vulnerability; for a while there, with Leslie going on about her shirt and how great she was, I was getting nervous Dave would call the whole thing off.


But it seems he's a really decent guy, and finds even the most obnoxious of Leslie's quirks absolutely adorable. Which, of course, bodes well for Parks & Rec. It's nice to see Leslie—and Poehler—so darn happy.

Grade: A-

Stray observations:

  • The one thing I didn't like about tonight's episode was the strained decision that Mark had—to go over to Ann's house and tell her all his dirty little secrets, somehow inspired by the Sanford-like scandal. Ann took it all in stride, but it felt like a really forced moment from an episode that breezed through so naturally.
  • That, and no Andy.
  • "What if I talk about Darfur too much… or not enough? What if I don't bring up Darfur?"
  • "In my defense, it was my birthday. And I really, really wanted to do it."
  • Tom's wife was cute, but she's no Steffi Graf, eh?
  • Taliban robes!
  • "You make a better door than a…  guy… [mumbles incoherently]
  • "Should I wear a sexy hat?" "I don't know what that means." "You're helping already."
  • Poor, poor Jerry…