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TV Review: Parks and Recreation – “Harvest Festival”

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It is finally here! So far this season, much of the action on NBC’s Parks and Recreation has been geared towards prepping for the Harvest Festival. It is a be all, end all event that could save or kill the Pawnee Parks Department, so the stakes are high. I am not surprised at all that Leslie (Amy Poehler) is able to pull off the event with much success, as if she hadn’t, the show would have a hard time continuing; the show’s just been renewed for a third season. However, that does not take away the delight to be had at such a fun episode.

Shortly before the festival is to open, a local Native American approaches Leslie, asking her to move the event, since it is on the site of a sacred battle. As Leslie reveals, almost all of Pawnee is the site of sacred events to this tribe, so she refuses. He curses the event. As things begin to go wrong, egged on by Joan (Mo Collins), who is always looking for disaster, it appears the curse might be true. But with Leslie’s sheer pluck and determination, she is able to right things once more, repairing her relationship with the Indian, who lifts the curse, and she earns praises for a job well done.

The plot with the curse is a shining example of Pawnee’s unique character. While we generally only get to witness the Parks Department, the village itself has a specific, odd character that is often referenced. While it is a bit over the top for reality, anyone from a smallish, Midwestern area can relate to the attitudes and behavior of the locals. Parks and Recreation has managed to really capture this spirit, and it is a testament to the show that a lot of the bizarre going ons actually feel realistic.

In a similar vein, and equal to the curse plot, is the story of a tiny horse named Sebastian that Leslie brings to the festival. Sebastian was at the previous festival many years ago, and while getting fairly old, is on hand for the recent event. Ben (Adam Scott) is the voice of the audience, wondering just what fascination this small equestrian holds over the local residents, who are also worshipful. Yet, he goes along with it to win Leslie’s affection.

Since the show dumped its old ‘everyman’ at the end of last season, Ben is a necessary, and superior, replacement. Instead of just tolerating the others, as Mark (Paul Schneider) did, having been around them for awhile, Ben is trying to fit in and build a life in Pawnee. Through him, we viewers can relate to wanting to be accepted by this group of lovable people. Scott handles the part with finesse and authenticity. His slowly building connection with Leslie is just bonus.

It never occurred to me before, though they have had multiple bits together, that the names of two Parks Department workers, Tom (Aziz Ansari) and Jerry (Jim O’Heir), match those of a certain feuding animated feline and rodent. In this episode, Tom loses Sebastian and blames Jerry. Now that I get the name joke, I especially can’t wait for more capers between the unlikely pair. While it is always fun to blame Jerry for everything (LOVE the scene where Tom gets his friends chanting “Jerry’s fault!”), it is also nice to see Ron (Nick Offerman) call Tom out on it this time. Even a scapegoat can get his feelings hurt.

This week, April (Aubrey Plaza) confesses her love to Andy (Chris Pratt), though instead of returning the words, he yells “Awesome sauce!” and tries to high-five her. These two are absolutely perfect for each other. While April does spend much of the episode frustrated with Andy, it is obvious that he does love her. He’s just a clueless goof, not realizing why she is upset. As soon as his mistake is pointed out to him, he is quick to let her know he feels the same way, and April instantly forgives him. Since they are still new in their relationship, it is understandable that April doesn’t realize Andy is just being dense. Once she does, her acceptance of him is just as immediate as his desire to make her happy. Wonderful.

Then there’s Ann (Rashida Jones), struggling to get over being dumped by Chris (Rob Lowe, MIA this week). Poor Ann is such a sweet, pretty girl. It’s surprising that she has been so unlucky in love. First Andy, then Mark, now Chris doesn’t work out for her. Donna (Retta) encourages Ann to hookup with a Guido to try to forget Chris, which is out of character for Ann, but she needscomfort, so she goes for it. When will Ann find true love? I personally am rooting for a reunion with Chris, since they both have more heart than any other characters on pretty much any show. I guess, after only about ten episodes since Chris first appeared, it’s still way too soon for a happy ending.

I wouldn’t say this is one of the funniest episodes the series has produced, but there is enough emotional weight in it to keep viewers satisfied. I really like the twists and developments, and it is a good example of how the writing has become tight and polished. If you tuned out during the uneven first season, it’s time to give Parks and Recreation another chance.

Parks and Recreation airs Thursday nights at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com