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TV Review: Parks and Recreation – “The Bubble”

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NBC presented two back to back episodes of Parks and Recreation this Thursday to end the season. While they were presented as two parts, they were actually stand alone episodes that had little to do with each other. This review is only about the first half hour, “The Bubble.”

In “The Bubble,” Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Ben (Adam Scott) try to enjoy their secret relationship, but it is complicated when Ben meets Leslie’s mother, Marlene (Pamela Reed, United States of Tara). At first, Marlene does not like Ben at all, thinking he is too much of a push over. After Leslie coaches Ben, he not only reverses Marlene’s impression, but actually attracts her advances. At the same time, Chris (Rob Lowe) drastically reorganizes the parks department, giving everyone a lot more responsibility.

Ben and Leslie cannot keep sneaking around forever. While it may be exciting to them now, it could seriously hurt both of their careers. While Chris mostly appears nice in previous episodes, he proves he can easily put business first when necessary in “The Bubble.” As such, they cannot expect leniency when Chris finds out about the two of them, and eventually, he will find out.

That being said, the story with Marlene is very funny. Leslie and her mother are far more alike than either will admit, and by Leslie coaching Ben, he becomes more attractive to both women. Leslie and her mother have been shown to clash, but they do care about each other, and Marlene shows real love when she approves of Leslie’s relationship. Ben earns her respect, and as far as Leslie’s family is concerned, the two are free to have a future.

Chris clearly has just been waiting all of this time to settle in before making the big changes. In “The Bubble,” the waiting is over. Chris is hired by Pawnee to do a job, so it is hard to blame him for trying to make the parks department more efficient. He manages to remain a likeable character while affirming he is not a new friend, but actually in charge of the others.

Tom (Aziz Ansari) and Andy’s (Chris Pratt) foray onto the fourth floor is hilarious, and not just for the jokes. The two have completely different outlooks on life, and that is highlighted as they venture into a scary situation. Tom’s normally easy charm deserts him when taken out of his element, but Andy’s optimism perseveres. While sometimes the two seem somewhat similar, they are now exposed to not be at all.

Jerry (Jim O’Heir) and April (Aubrey Plaza) also have very different reactions to being given more responsibility. While Jerry cracks under pressure, April is still able to slack off and enjoy her job. She is a good assistant for Ron (Nick Offerman) for a reason, and that shines through as she zooms around on her portable work station, not worrying about any of the stuff she should be doing. While Jerry changes, April doesn’t. This also highlights Andy and April’s compatibility, since they both can roll with the punches without too much stress.

Finally, Ron is the one who shows some real heart, something hinted at more and more recently, despite his gruff exterior. Knowing his department is unhappy with Chris’s new procedures, Ron willingly self-sacrifices for the others. He endures misery to protect his staff, exhibiting real loyalty. Ron may only care about a few people, but the employees in his department qualify as those few.

Parks and Recreation has been given a fourth season and will return in the fall to 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