So about half way through the episode, I thought to myself about the title of the episode (Halloween Surprise), and I wondered what the surprise was going to be. Jerry’s fart attack (which, for me, Leslie calling it a fart attack in a completely normal tone at a fundraising event encapsulates what I love about this show in it’s sincere absurdity) didn’t seem like a surprising enough event, so it made sense to me that something bigger (the proposal and engagement) was going to happen. I am really happy that they show did not drag out the potential of the engagement. They didn’t even bring it up in the episode until Ben showed up at the house that will become the Knope/Wyatt household. Besides the fact that the proposal was the perfect Parks and Rec mixture of sentimentality and goofiness, it was also a real surprise to me. Did you see it coming? I actually did think about Leslie non-married status as a potential problem for her larger political career goals (most politicians are married and it just seems like you are supposed to be. Maybe this explains it best.) But, I didn’t think that we would have an engagement so suddenly. But, like Jerry said, you can’t control everything so sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy the strawberry jello.
Putting the surprise engagement to the side, did the side stories seem a little disjointed to you? Maybe it was the addition of the Florida story that was fun, but ultimately a red herring, or maybe it was that I wanted to see more from Death Canoe, but I felt like this episode was pretty scattered. Ron’s storyline was the most solidified side story, but the others felt weak. Chris is still experiencing an emotional crisis of sorts (am I right to assume that his Halloween costume/biggest fear was “getting older?” That was a really funny soft punchline for me). Andy’s tagging along with Ron was funny, but definitely not new territory (however, I could probably watch Chris Pratt do physical comedy for the whole episode and not get bored). I thought Donna’s live tweeting had potential, but it felt weak after last week’s great twitter jokes with Tom. Not to mention how brief Rent-a-swag felt.
I’m not saying that this episode was not as good because it was scattered, but it did feel like we just had to check in with characters while the Leslie/Ben story progressed (Ron’s story did progress as well).
What did you think? Also, do you think Ben is staying in Pawnee? Or was this Ben declaring that he would always be with Leslie even if he needs to go to Florida to help a “gator eats penis” lawyer become governor? Looking forward to your thoughts.
Excuse me, I just have to file a quick report,
One thing I liked about “Halloween Surprise” was the way the various subplots, however slight some of them may have been, tied into the episode’s running theme of ::adopts Ferris Bueller-style English teacher voice:: characters considering and/or making plans for the future. Nearly every regular character (with the exception of April, who’s busy being April, and Donna, who’s live-tweeting this dumbass conversation) made a deliberate effort to look ahead and move forward, and what resulted was a snapshot of the different Parks Department employees and other dubiously connected folks (here’s looking at you, Ann) at potential turning points in their lives. Here’s a quick rundown:
- After Ann and Leslie accidentally induce a mild fart attack, Jerry vows to look to his health in order to spend “at least 30 more years”* with Gayle and his daughters.
- Ron ventures into brave new territory by actively apologizing to Diane and making an effort with her daughters (what kid doesn’t want to learn how to saw?).
- Andy prepares for his upcoming Police Academy exam by honing his observational skills (“Case closed. Candy, please.”)
- Ann attempts to put her past boyfriend baggage behind her by literally selling off past boyfriend baggage. I’m curious to see where Ann’s arc takes her this season, as her desire for self-definition seems like an acknowledgment on the writers’ part that Ann has largely been defined by her relationships: with Leslie, but also Andy, Mark, Chris, and even Tom.
- Acting upon the advice of his therapist, Chris dresses up as his greatest fear — aging! — for Halloween (OK, this one’s a little weak).
- Tom impulsively comes up with his latest business venture, a “teens, tweens, and everything in between” clothing rental service called Rent-A-Swag. For better or worse, this is by far the best entrepreneurial idea Tom’s ever had (R.I.P., Entertainment 7wenty), and I’ll expect we’ll be hearing a lot more from this storyline.
- Leslie picks out the house she wants to move into with Ben and attempts to help secure Jerry’s future with the “Jerry’s Kids’ Dad” auction and junk sale.
- Ben is offered a job running a gubernatorial candidate’s campaign in Florida, a decision he agonizes over before rushing to Pawnee to propose to Leslie.
*While actor Jim O’Heir is 50 years old, the character of Jerry Gergich is about 65.
I don’t think I expected a proposal at this point in the story, but it fits perfectly with Parks and Recreation’s endearing habit of letting its relationships develop naturally and without too many artificial obstacles. There wasn’t any doubt that Leslie and Ben were meant for each other after two seasons’ worth of sweet, goofy romance — in a lot of ways, their pivotal moment came last season when Leslie risked sacrificing her career to resume and disclose her relationship with Ben — but the bait and switch with Ben’s job offer infused their engagement with a lot of joy. As written by Mike Schur and performed by Amy Poehler and Adam Scott, the proposal scene itself was pretty much perfect, a great example of how funny and touching Poehler and Scott can be playing overcome with emotion and simply reacting, respectively.
While Donna’s live tweeting was a little weak, there’s a lot to be said for an episode that gave us Jerry’s classically-Jerry heart attack, Death Canoe 4: Murder at Blood Lake, and the redneck gladiator-looking gentleman who wants to get Thai food with Ann in between belly flops and hits of nitrous.
Until next time, try not to eat farts for lunch.
Notes, quotes and observations:
- According to Andy, the good candy will be gone by 7
- You know about Jabba the Hutt, right?
- Like all houses in the world, Leslie and Ben’s new place has no trampoline room
- Ann’s phone has some impressive subwoofers
- I’m not sure if Ben’s returning to Pawnee for good or pursuing the job in Florda, although the proposal would seem to indicate the former.
- If this is the last time we see Jennifer Barkley, I’d like to salute her total lack of enthusiasm for anything but winning.
- Lucy Lawless hasn’t had a whole lot to do as Diane, but I did love her referring to herself as “Princess Mommy”. It also makes sense that Ron would date Xena, Warrior Princess.
- “Get your foot out the water, dumbass — it’s Blood Lake!”
- Leslie calls alligators “swamp sharks”
- Leslie auctions off a copy of Perd Hapley’s autobiography, The Thing About Me Is, I’m Perd Hapley
- “One evening with the most beautiful woman in the world!”
- “I’m sorry, Jerry, but your future has been canceled.”
- “Trick or treat.” “…It’s November 8th?”