Parks and Recreation review – 5×01: ‘Ms. Knope Goes to Washington’

Courtesy of NBC

Someone’s been putting glitter in the detergent again, and that can only mean one thing: Parks and Recreation is back! And what a season premiere this episode is. Last season’s finale really shook up the world of Leslie and company with her election win and Ben and April’s move to D.C. And if this episode is any indication, those changes have given new life to the show.

Let’s dig in to this fantastic premiere…

Frankly, it’s surprising that it’s taken the series this long to set an episode in Washington D.C., but it’s well worth the wait. Now that the series has generated some buzz, it’s able to host a few political cameo appearances that are refreshingly non-partisan and sweet, especially John McCain’s brief moment spent comforting Leslie (Amy Poehler). It’s great to see Ben (Adam Scott) advancing in his career so quickly. And dare I say that he looked rather dashing as a congressional campaign worker?

More interesting, however, is what D.C. brings out in Leslie. I expected that Leslie would be appropriately awed and inspired by the nation’s capital, and she definitely is. But trust the writers to dig deeper and use this opportunity to address Leslie’s ambitions and insecurities. Leslie’s so positive and intelligent that it’s easy to forget that she, too, can feel jealous of her boyfriend’s success and feel embarrassed of her hometown when she’s among the Washington “elite.” Of course it is Leslie that we’re talking about, so she rightfully gets over her insecurities and turns her attention back to improving Pawnee in the end. But it’s a surprising glimpse at the darker (or in her case, less blindingly light) side of Leslie that sets this premiere apart.

It’s also a nice surprise that it’s Andy (Chris Pratt) that pulls Leslie out of her rut and reminds her that she’s “kick-ass Leslie Knope.” Leslie and Andy are one of my favorite pairings on this show. They’re both supportive people and always willing to help everyone else out, which is just pleasant to watch. But they’re also a fantastic comedy duo, as they are in the premiere’s cold open. I could watch the two of them tour the sights together for hours, with Leslie recounting America’s history as Andy tracking down national treasures from a piece of gum.

Courtesy of NBC

Ron’s (Nick Offerman) attempt at hosting Leslie’s annual end of the summer barbeque, or the “Funsplosion,” isn’t quite as successful. It’s a funny storyline for sure – that sight gag of Ron driving off with the gas grill still attached to the back and smoking almost makes the story worth it. And it’s a great set-up for more classic Chris/Ron interactions, like Chris (Rob Lowe) giving Ron a “feelings update.” It’s just not quite as memorable as the Parks Department’s outings usually are, especially since most of the characters are just hanging around, whining at Ron to feed them and not actually doing anything. It doesn’t help that a good chunk of the story is taken up by Anne (Rashida Jones) and Tom (Aziz Ansari) trying to hide their break-up despite no one ever caring about their relationship in the first place.

Other Considerations:

  • I hope that Ben’s campaign job in D.C. lasts for at least a few more weeks. While I miss seeing Ben and Leslie being ridiculously nerdy and sweet together, Ben’s relationship with April is so much fun and we haven’t seen much of it lately. Just the thought of the potential trouble April can get Ben into is exciting.
  • How is it even possible that Jerry (Jim O’Heir) makes peeing in the woods sound so pathetic? Yet when he announces that he’s just going to have to go in the trees, he manages to sound like a man just beaten down by the world.
  • In the world according to Andy, the Oval Office is named after the great Oval Redenbacher and the Washington Monument is just a “really cool penis.” What is it like to be in Andy’s head?

Your turn! What did you think of Leslie and Andy’s D.C. trip? Are you morning the loss of Anne and Tom? Sound off in the comments below!

Parks and Recreation airs on NBC on Thursdays at 9:30 EST.

One thought on “Parks and Recreation review – 5×01: ‘Ms. Knope Goes to Washington’

  1. Great recap. I thought the John McCain cameo was wonderful. It was definitely the scene that made me laugh the hardest in this episode. I didn’t love this premiere as much as I expected to – the stuff with Ron and everyone back in Pawnee wasn’t my favorite – but I’m just so glad to have Leslie back on my TV every week. She’s probably my favorite TV character of all time at this point. I wasn’t home to watch the premiere live since I work late nights at DISH during the week. I was really sad about it, but I would have been a lot sadder if I didn’t know my Hopper was going to record it for me. I turned it on as soon as I got home and everything was right in the world again.