Parks and Recreation tackles Feminism and the Great Outdoors

Gather ‘round wee Swanson wannabes of Pawnee: Big Ron and Brother Nature want to take you on a thrilling journey into the Great Outdoors to learn how not to be killed or die. You’ll get lukewarm beans. Just remember: Be a Man.

Ron Swanson, naturally, is the troop leader of the Pawnee Rangers, a Parks Department program for young men. And young men only. So, naturally, Leslie Knope started her own troop called the Pawnee Goddesses. They wear purple vests and get badges for best hair and were created after a girl who wanted to be a Ranger was outright denied based only on her gender. The Goddesses also have Troop Beverly Hills-esque pink tees, complete with fencepost font (WANT). And because our Leslie loves nothing more than a little friendly (read: vicious) competition, both troops are headed to the woods for a little troop-off, Ron and Andy (Brother Nature) heading up the Rangers camp, Leslie, April and Ann leading the Goddesses.

The Pawnee Rangers receive a gift: a swath of canvas and a cardboard box out of which they must construct a shelter. The Goddesses, meanwhile, craft in their fabulous cabin, casting “Gertrude” steins. Always hapless Ann Perkins chucks her mangled-looking hay doll into the fire, while cool babysitter April causes a frenzy when she reveals her masterpiece: a pen-on-flesh drawing of a pioneer girl watching her grandmother getting trampled by a buffalo. It’s a big hit.

Back at the office, Ben, Donna, Jerry, and Chris hold down the fort. Ben’s pushing paperwork with Donna and Jerry. He’s bunged about his breakup with Leslie, and it’s showing in his work–so much so, that Donna asks if Game of Thrones was cancelled. (Of course it wasn’t. It’s a crossover hit.)

Tom arrives to work wearing his special disco-ball blazer…because it is Treat Yo’ Self Day! He and Donna have their spa appointment and shopping plans and custom cupcakes, but Donna throws a wrench into the proceedings by suggesting that they invite Ben along to try and cheer him up. Tom recoils, but relents when they see Ben eating soup from a take-out container alone on a park bench in an obvious cry for help. They kidnap him, toss his soup across the parking lot, and proceed to the spa.

Chris approaches Jerry looking for everyone. He realizes that everyone’s in the woods and avoids having to small talk with Jerry by talking about rat tumors. Jerry mentions that he’s going to lunch with his daughter Millicent, and Chris decides to join after he meets her and is stunned by her blonde good looks. Over lunch, Chris and Millicent bond over biking for charity. Love for Chris at last! And, as a byproduct, for Jerry, too!

At the troop-off. the Goddesses feast on homemade bulgogi (one of the offerings in the world cuisine buffet they’ve assembled) in full view of the Pawnee Rangers, who are eating beans out of cans. The Goddesses have a full day of activities planned; Ron says the only activity the Rangers have planned is not getting killed.

Later that day, one of the Rangers defects (claiming he’s bored by all the bean-eating) and asks to join the Goddesses. Leslie, drunk on victory, awards herself a badge (“Prettiest Eyes” – she’s always wanted it). Leslie sends the wayward Ranger away, but one of the precocious Goddesses, Lauren, asks if that isn’t just what happened when the Goddesses were formed, effectively spoiling Leslie’s gloat. Lauren calls for a public forum to discuss this hot-button issue. Leslie’s dream has become a nightmare: she’s created a troop of little Leslie Knopes, but they are a pain in her ass.

At the public forum, Ron holds the wooden spoon of truth aloft and makes his opening statement: “This public forum, like all public forums, is a waste of time.” The Goddesses take the floor, articulating their well-thought-out ideas. But Leslie is distracted by the one Ranger kid who says something about candy. Then the whole thing is derailed by a puppy delivery!

At the spa, Ben is lounging with Tom and Donna. They are robed. Ben’s made uncomfortable by both the harp music and Donna’s facial acupuncture, and nearly has a full-blown panic attack when the needles are placed gently into his face (he’s soothed only by Tom naming things that calm Ben, for example, accounting). Then the trio hits the Eagleton Mall for a shopping binge. Donna shows Ben just how one is supposed to Treat One’s Self by purchasing a useless, expensive crystal beetle brooch. Ben finally gets in on the act by purchasing an authentic Batman costume. He’s so unused to treating himself, he breaks down in tears, instantly horrifying Donna and Tom. He opens up about his broken heart (but doesn’t mention Leslie by name). To make him feel better, Tom points out a bunch of Eagleton chickenheads running around the mall. Fish in the sea, man! Treat Yo’ Self!

Leslie, heart melted by puppies and candy, relents and allows the Rangers into the Goddesses. During the swearing-in ceremony, she spies Ron sitting alone outside on a log fiddling with the fire. Ron’s bummed about the mass defection. Leslie tries to give him a pep-talk, but nothing can penetrate Ron’s dismay over the newfangled development that kids are more interested in fun than in basic survival. He declares that the Goddesses are better, then walks off into the ominous night.

Back at the office on Monday, Ron finds a gaggle of boys and girls in his office pledging to become “Swansons,” a brand-new, badass, co-ed troop created by Leslie for Ron. Those two.

Watch the full episode here.

[Note: Um, I’m nominating Adam Scott for the next Batman, okay? He looks fiiiiiiine in that costume. Maybe it’ll make an appearance in next week’s close-to-Halloween-so-possibly-Halloween-themed episode? Please make it so.]

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 and follow her on Twitter: @ithardlymatt3rs

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