• Parks and Recreation recap: “Camping”

    Parks and Recreation

    People of the urban landscape, let’s get rustic! Pack your dream journals and mechanical head massagers, because we are going camping with Leslie Knope and the rest of the Pawnee Parks Department.

    City Manager Paul has called a press conference to officially declare the Harvest Festival a triumph, singling out Leslie for her hard work and officially proclaiming that he can’t wait to see what she does next. She approaches the podium to say a few words and City Manager Paul faints (or spasms, or has a stroke–whatever happens, he’s going down) and tries to steady himself by grabbing hold of Leslie’s be-blowsed right breast. After the hubbub dies down, Leslie reveals that that was “the second most awkward way” a man has ever grabbed her breast. Oh, Les, I feel you. Whoops! I just inadvertently felt you up. Or something.

    Anyway, it’s time for a patented Leslie Knope pep talk/proposal/informal meeting. The whole gang is going on a camping trip together! At 6:45 the next morning. To think of The Next Big Parks Department Idea to Prevent a Sophomore Slump. Because, as Les so succinctly puts it, you only have one chance to make a second impression.

    The gang is obviously displeased with the prospect of a mandatory work retreat. April requests and is immediately denied a “pass.” Ron offers an alternate plan: just tell him what to do and he’ll go fishing alone. No. Tom presents a rock-scaling scenario in which he may have to grab on to Leslie’s breast for support–something dubbed the “Knope Grope” by the screamer of a headline in the Pawnee Sun. (For the record, Leslie does not explicitly shoot down Tom’s request for permission to fondle her. Perhaps that long-awaited Leslie-Tom make-out session is imminent and the Moonlighting-esque sexual tension will explode in a sweet collective release?)

    Someone who is definitely keen to make out is our sweet (and not-employed-by-the-Parks-Department-so-is-not-invited) Andy. He tells April she’s the coolest chick ever, proclaims his love for the great outdoors, then cooks up a plan to meet her in the woods later. She agrees, as meeting up with Andy will distract her from her intense hatred of stars.

    Chris (the perkyperkyperky Rob Lowe) has taken over for City Manager Paul while he recovers from an octuple-bypass. He can’t wait to see what Leslie’s Next Big Idea is, either. And when he runs into Ann (who nearly passes out from awkwardness, turning nearly as deeply fuchsia as her breakup hair-streak), he asks her for coffee to catch up. Ketchup. Mustard. Relish. I salsa your face. Cringing yet? After hearing about how hideously that went, Leslie invites Ann to come camping with the team.

    Good morning, campers in all shades of plaid and Northface! The retreat schedule is divided equally between work and play. The until-now-almost-silent Ron Swanson declares that his love for fishing has blossomed in part because it’s “like yoga, except I still get to kill something.” Two characters I couldn’t care less about, Jerry and Ben, erect a tent. Tom is high rolling in his SkyMall-furnished outdoor palace that he calls “The Thunderdome.” It’s outfitted with a super-comfortable inflatable dog couch, a soft-serve ice cream machine, entertainment center, and–drum roll, please–DJ Roomba! What what!

    A pigtailed Leslie demands Big Ideas from her gang. Ron, hoping to get fishing, suggests returning all the Harvest Fest money to the citizens, which works out to 83 cents per household, before postage. Next? Tom proposes the construction of the Pawnee Ampitheatre so the town can entice Lil Wayne, Drake, and Jay-Z to perform. It’ll only cost about 300 million clams. Next! Donna proposes a luxury dog park. Poodles only. No pooping.

    Andy calls April. She entreaties him to come find her–the brook won’t stop babbling and the fresh air is making it hard for her to breathe. Andy, pacing the outdoor love nest he’s created (you know, heart-shaped balloons, champagne, April’s name spelled out in rose petals), says he’ll pack up and come find her. At this, she rolls her eyes and snaps her gum, which we can only take as indications that she is positively buoyant.

    Ben offers a lame idea and Tom calls him White Urkel and implores him to go back to Indianapolis. I second both of those sentiments. Leslie defends him, then yells at everyone for having crappy ideas. She storms off with Ann, to whom she admits in confidence that she has no real ideas. Leslie’s screwed. She busts out her Dream Journal (that she brought in case she needed inspiration), from which Ann reads: “I married ALF and we’re pretty happy.” I’ll say it again: Leslie’s screwed.

    Andy, balloons tied to his backpack, guitar in hand, wants April to walk in circles to triangulate the phone call she makes in desperation to get away from the retreat. April hangs up.

    Ron Swanson and Jerry are wearing waders. They are fishing. Jerry is talking about his 16-year-old daughter’s lack of virginity, and reminisces about his own deflowering at the age of 24. Ron suggests they think in silence about Big Ideas.

    White Urkel approaches Tom who is getting a mechanized head massage from a Sky Mall gizmo. He asks Tom if he’d like to bounce some ideas off of each other, to which Tom replies in his particular, wonderful way, “how ‘bout I bounce on over to my dog couch and watch a little Season 6 of Top Chef?” Then he offers White Urkel some fondue.

    Leslie rescues White Urkel from The Thunderdome and they chat under a breathtaking sunset created by the pollution from the Sweetums factory. He quells her doubts about not being able to follow up the success of Harvest Fest, and calls her “the Energizer bunny of city government.” She eats it up. Now if only Les was flirting with Tom instead of White Urkel.

    Ron is telling scary stories ‘round the campfire with punchlines like, “and even though it was her own private property, she would be forced to take it in…for a state inspection!” Chris scares the shit out of all of them as he emerges from the dark wearing rave-worthy reflectors on his “nighttime jog” outfit. Ann seizes the opportunity to catch up with him. Mustard.

    Andy update: still lost in the woods. Balloons have popped.

    Leslie admits to everyone that she has no Big Idea and that they are screwed. Her suggestion? No one sleeps until they come up with something. April, Donna, and Ron lead the exodus from the campsite. They wanna go home. But the car won’t start because The Thunderdome has used up all the power, ruining Tom’s TiVo-ing of Cupcake Wars.

    Leslie is thrilled that they are now stuck there so they can work all night! But Jerry thwarts her by mentioning a nearby B&B. At The Quiet Corn, breakfast is served between 5:30 and 6:45 am and includes the delicacy known as the German muffin. Tom declares it “the exact opposite of SkyMall.”

    April says it’s lamer than outside. But then she hears Andy pulling a full-on Lloyd Dobler singing an original song he wrote about his adventures trying to find her. He set up his romantic camping experience on the lawn of The Quiet Corn. They make out.

    At a nearby rustic diner, Ann and Chris conduct a misunderstanding-laden “talk,” that ends with Chris having to spell out that he doesn’t want to get back together. Ann’s fuchsia streak pulses with shame. She decides to leave the country.

    Ron, trying to escape the cat-hair smell in his room, finds Leslie listening to “Steal My Sunshine” by LEN, a one-hit wonder like her. Ron tells a still-idea-less Leslie that he is not idea-less, and asks her to come with him. She agrees, and Ron locks her in the bathroom so she can shut her brain down and stop thinking about work. She bangs on the window, alerting The Quiet Corn’s proprietress. Ron tells her to stick a German muffin in it.

    Back at City Hall the next day, Ron whittles. Leslie busts in wearing a blanky, bursting with ideas that she had to write down (after sleeping 7 hours, twice as much as usual) on a doily because Ron left her with no paper.

    Watch out, Pawnee: Leslie Knope is back!

    Check out the full episode here.

    Megan Gilbert

    Megan Gilbert is a Brooklyn-based writer, making her a mystical unicorn. She has written for the New York Press, Paste Magazine blog, Blush Media, Underwater New York. She writes ad copy for Gawker Media, holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Sarah Lawrence College, and is working on a novel starring a mystical unicorn (jk). Read her work at ithardlymatters.com and follow her on Twitter: @ithardlymatt3rs

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