PARKS AND RECREATION: “Gryzzlbox” / “Save J.J.’s”

It’s the triumphant return of “Treat Yo’ Self,” and Pawnee’s totally chill tech giant makes a huge mistake.

Who will win? I don’t know — which is what makes this a court show!

–Judge Perd (NOT A JUDGE)

I don’t want to bury the lede, after an hour that saw the primary arc of this half-season — Leslie’s battle with Gryzzl for the Newport land — wrap up nicely, but The Perdples Court made me laugh so hard I nearly had to pause my DVR. The erstwhile TV anchor has long been my favorite minor Pawneean, so any episode that gives him something to do — like play a fake TV judge who loses his “judge hammer,” er, gavel, the sardonic graphics person corrects — is a winner in my book. Tap tap tap!

Anyway, back to the main point: Leslie has won! And it only took six episodes! After one of her patented 11th-hour brain waves, she and her team (including Ron, though they don’t quite have the high-fives down yet) have successfully pitched Gryzzl on restoring Pawnee’s seediest part of town (which they can do much more cheaply than building their new facility on untouched land), and donating those all-important acres to the National Park Service. It’s a massive victory for Team Knope, and throws the remaining four hours of Parks (sniff) into uncertainty: what is left to do? Tom’s going to hook up with Lucy sooner rather than later, now that she’s available; April’s still trying to figure out her life’s purpose, though she gets a surprising pep talk from Craig; even Donna is getting married and throwing the most baller wedding of all time (thanks for the cameo, Keegan-Michael Key!) — so what will Mike Schur and company have in store? Even the ungrateful citizens of Pawnee allied with Leslie this week (“We’re not against you on this! We’re not against you on this!”)

For Leslie’s part, she never would have had the opportunity to pull off her dream of a national park if Gryzzl hadn’t been blatantly data-mining their local users: reading emails and texts, tracking movements, and sending creepily personal and specific packages by drone. It’s a massive invasion of privacy, which Gryzzl tries to lampshade through their usual Silicon Valley dude-bro-speak — their slogan, after all, is Google’s taken to the nth degree: “Wouldn’t it be tight if everyone was chill to each other?” But Donna and even Ron are ultimately fed up to the point of jumping to Leslie’s side in an effort to bring the lingo-slinging corporation down. Parks has really been nailing their endings lately, but I’m hard-pressed to name many that are better than Ron on Leslie & Ben’s doorstep, thunder booming overhead, as he holds the charred remains of the Gryzzl drone he shot out of the sky. They should have never sent a gift box to his wood-chopping son. (Though it should be noted that the payoff 30 minutes later doesn’t live up to this, because what could?)

At first, it looks like they don’t have any recourse at all — the only reason Gryzzl’s data mining is even legal is because they slipped an amendment into their city contract while Ben was distracted with Star Wars Episode VII. This feels like “Ice Town” all over again to Ben, but he makes a surprisingly confident (given his sweaty history) plea on Perd Hapley’s courtroom show: “It’s not illegal, but it’s definitely not chill.” Will these bozos do the right thing?

No, of course they won’t. Not yet, anyway. Gryzzl simply ups their bid on the land to a cool $125 million, which the Newports are happy to accept, and Leslie is crushed once again. All that snooping around “under cover” at their headquarters, and for what? Everything she loves about Pawnee is slowly changing — someone asked her if she wanted kale(!) in her milkshake, and even J.J.’s Diner, her longstanding bastion of waffles and sugar, is being forced to shut down. But when Leslie finds out that the diner’s landlord is the odious perfume magnate Dennis Feinstein, she cannot stand idly by. (Neither can Ron: “I can’t think of anything more noble to go to war over than bacon and eggs.”) Time for a good old-fashioned public rally — nope, hang on, that doesn’t work either. That just gets Leslie and her friends covered in cologne that smells like wet dog. Not even Johnny Karate’s older, more serious, strangely sexy brother, Jonathan Karate, can make Feinstein — easily Pawnee’s most despicable resident — see reason. And, as often appears to be the case, all seems lost.

Leslie’s successful last-ditch plan — to save J.J.’s, and the scummiest area of Pawnee, and the park land — is a microcosm of what makes her brilliant at her job. Leslie has saved Pawnee a dozen times over, and almost never gotten the appreciation she deserved. Here she rallies the community, leverages PR (Gryzzl is really hurting after the privacy debacle), and pulls off a masterful coup in only five days time. Surely someone important at the federal level is bound to notice. Surely that’s where this is all headed.

parks-and-recreation-save-jj_article_story_largeElsewhere, other characters were busy, too. Upon hearing that Andy only makes a measly $100 a week for producing and starring in his Johnny Karate series, Tom names himself Andy’ s agent and negotiates with the local TV exec (Dax Shepard) to get Andy a raise and the rights to his character. Parks has wobbled quite a bit in its history on just how capable Andy Dwyer is as a human being — some episodes, it doesn’t even seem like he should legally be allowed to drive — but they’ve hit on something here, taking advantage of Chris Pratt’s newly chiseled physique, that ultimately makes Andy a stronger character. Not only is he creative and great with kids, there’s a maturity in his interactions with April and his friends. He still says dumb stuff (in the second episode this week he was quite obsessed with blimps), but we’ve reached a point where we no longer expect him to get himself into trouble, but help get others out.

Tom, meanwhile, I’m worried might be regressing. He’s always been a little bit of a cartoon, but even with the in-show explanations for 2017’s outlandish “Treat Yo’ Self” Extravaganza, it’s hard to understand just how his Bistro is doing that well, with Tommy who he is. But I can overlook any narrative cheating if it means a blissful sequence like he and Donna’s trip to Beverly Hills, where you can visit Usher’s house, get your elbows bedazzled, and eat seafood that once belonged to a celebrity (Josh Groban will show up to eat his own sushi, because why not?) And it even leads to a rarer moment, in Donna’s sincere advice to Tom to follow his heart re: Lucy, which pays off at episode’s end.

All of these characters really care about each other: it may be uncool, but there’s not a dishonest bone in Parks and Rec’s body. I’ll take that over the cynicism of its cable brethren any day. When April recognizes at the end of “Gryzzlbox” that she’s really been lucky to have her job in the Parks department, and goes out of her way to collect a new crop of interns, it’s sweet — but it’s funny because of what Aubrey Plaza puts into her line readings, and the feelings we’ve built up for her over the past seven years. When Ron and Leslie connect on a hug at the end of “Save J.J.’s” (as Ron moans “I do not approve of this”), you’d have to be made of stone not to feel like you were getting hugged, too.

Odds and Ends:

  • “The robots have come for us! I made fun of your sci-fi novel, but it came true!”
  • Craig — who has been nicely decrescendoed this week — is seeing Chris Traeger’s old therapist, Dr. Richard Nygard. He also seems to be a fan of Alias?
  • Ron Indelibly, I : “Is Star Wars the one with the wizard boy?”
  • April’s quest to destroy her fresh-faced interns (particularly Mork, er, Matt) was exceptionally funny. And terrifying, to see the bored, death-obsessed teenager in Season 1 become a bored, death-obsessed adult and actual boss of people. But I appreciated that finding a kindred spirit in Jen didn’t cause her to reevaluate her outlook, but double-down on it: “Go do something fun, like trying to control birds with your mind, or posting internet comments as ‘Michael Jackson’s Ghost.'”
  • Was that the bassist from Mouse Rat as the bad guy on the Johnny Karate show? Also: Dax Shepherd’s exec discovered Selena Gomez. No, a different Selena Gomez.
  • Ron Indelibly, II: “Even the name on my steakhouse card is fake. It’s Les. Les Vegetables.”
  • Gryzzl’s new breakthrough: Vibe, which uses your camera phone (whether you’re actually using it or not) to sense your mood…and, whatever the result, direct you to the nearest Starbucks. God help us in the future.
  • “Today is about one thing: Things!”
  • That’s Simpsons writer Mike Scully as the dude with the movie star pigs, a gag that was used just enough to make me want more. Or at least to browse a website.
  • Ron Indelibly, III: “Please do not approach me on the street and attempt to talk to me. Our similarities end with this issue.”
  • Those tiny ninja children were ADORABLE. Just adorable. More of them, please.
  • IN THE YEAR 2017…A tablet that converts into a skateboard! Jaden Smith in Hitch 2: Son of the Hitch! LeBron James is back with the Miami Heat! Bruce Willis hooked up with Christina Aguilera?!

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