Another week, another solid Parks and Recreation episode (this surely goes without saying, but there it is anyway). They’ve really been pushing two very interesting angles recently, and “Operation Ann” dovetailed the ‘Leslie is obsessive and stubbornly overzealous, causing difficulties for those she focuses on, and for those who are trying to get her to calm down and encourage her to expend energy wisely during her campaign’ and the ‘April is becoming more mature in the way she deals with affection, gradually shifting from a snarky, frustrated teen into a caring and observant friend’ rather nicely. I dare any long-time Parks fan not to feel proud of April as she reaches out to a heartbroken Chris, offering friendship and an open ear; almost as heart-warming as watching Leslie stand-up and announce her candidacy.
Prompted by Ann’s slightly sad comment at Leslie’s annual ‘Galentine’s Day’’ gathering, she (predictably) launches a full-scale operation (seriously, when do these people work?!) to find Ann, her “beautiful spinster” friend, a date. After a presentation on the perfect qualities of a prospective date—which, weirdly, included pictures of Ryan Gosling (naturally) and Joe Biden and Sam Waterson—she tasks the department with each bringing a suitor to the Valentine’s Day dance. It’s a complete disaster, with April (who doesn’t like Ann, in case you’d forgotten) daring to bring creepy vampire boy Oren, who Leslie seems to hate irrationally “You brought Oren? Ann is not some weird morose mummy, offence intended Oren. Let this be a wake-up call about the way you present yourself to the world.” Eventually April gets over herself, and sets Ann up with Tom after seeing them interact, though she refuses to accept Leslie’s kind comments afterward. Tom’s ‘performance’ during the date and Ann’s irritation was a wonderful contrast to the other couples on the show that work, in part, because they’re honest and skip the posturing. Perhaps listening to a freshly-dumped Chris and his depressing music— Tom tells him it sounds like “music from the end of a movie about a monk who killed himself”—frazzled April’s brain, but she seems far more secure in her relationship with Andy and herself, such that she’s able to give freely and thoughtfully without ‘risking’ her place or identity in this community.
What’s more likely (and evident), however, is that Andy’s all-consuming enthusiasm and (naïve) courage is rubbing off on her, which can only be a good thing if it increases the possibility of pointless but fun exercises like Leslie’s cryptex scavenger hunt (‘gift’) that Ben pulls Andy and Ron into. This—‘pulls’—suggests some resistance, whereas in reality both are excited and engaged, even if Andy’s methods are largely ineffective—his contributions mainly consisting of empting a whipped cream can and smashing a stuffed animal display. Watching Andy and Ron come at the challenge from different angles with equal vigour (they both immediately suggest ‘fuck’ as the password, in two moments that remind you Parks is more than capable of surprising after all this time) was wonderfully entertaining and proved to be a very effective B-story to the more sentimental ‘find Ann a date’ task. And we got a cameo from Adam Scott’s Party Down co-star Martin Starr (as someone who works in…a snow globe museum?), and a gleefully giggly Ron Effing Swanson being checked-out at The Bulge, before not-so-subtly asking Leslie to create a hunt for his birthday—“I love riddles” “I do want that, please do that for me”—while he shyly fondles a door.
-Ryan Gosling, Joe Biden and Sam Waterson. Somebody has to explain that one, because I am very confused.
-Heartbroken Chris was sad and hilarious, giving Rob Lowe some great material. His inability to be enthusiastic—really, did you think he was capable of going a whole conversation without saying “literally”? because I certainly didn’t—and hide his hurt is a refreshing and interesting new side, much like Chris during his “the microchip is corrupted” flu-caused breakdown. Also ““Millicent Gergich has literally torn my heart from my body and replaced it with a thick slab of sadness. I may never smile again.” “Cool, so I found a DJ for the dance…”
-Ben: you love Italian men?
Leslie: not as much as…I w…Scottish? White? Whatever you are.
- So messed up: “Cornfield Slaughter. Lament. Of the Buffalo. Needless Slaughter. Slaughter Gone Wrong. It’s Raining Blood, and Death Everywhere.”
-Two particularly awesome gags: Oren’s creepy hands slowly crawling back under the table, and Andy’s completely oblivious “nothing yet!” as horrified patrons have their meals smothered in whipped cream (which later ends up all over Andy’s face, naturally).