Episode Title: "Go Big or Go Home"
Writer: Alan Yang
Director: Dean Holland
After a long time off, "Parks and Rec" is finally back, with Rob Lowe and Adam Scott promoted to regulars as Chris Traeger and Ben Wyatt, respectively. And oddly enough, it was Lowe’s turn as Chris that really defined this episode. Chris seems to have a tic of saying nearly everyone’s full name when he talks to them, but "Ann Perkins" seems to have become not only his favorite name to repeat, but also his way of saying "good." And this episode was definitely, "Ann Perkins."
The main story saw Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) goad her friend Ann (Rashida Jones) into finally going on a date with Chris as a ruse to get him to give the Parks program more money. However, she ends up really liking Chris for his earnest positivity. There was a great moment when Chris explained why he’s so positive that actually made him really relatable. Basically, he overcame a terminal medical condition as a baby and sees his continuing health and life as a blessing. And suddenly, his sunny disposition doesn’t seem so weird.
But it’s not like the guy is perfect. I love the way he constantly avoids being the villain by forcing Ben to give out all the bad news. Even at Chris and Ann’s date, Ben is inadvertently the villain for leading Leslie to expose the true purpose behind the dinner, which crushed Chris. And it made Leslie look pretty bad too. However, Ann’s apology to Chris and his immediate forgiveness was really well done. It gave the comedy some unexpected heart.
The earliest part of the episode dealt with Leslie "getting the band back together" after three months of an enforced government shutdown. Tom’s (Aziz Ansari) stint in a Lady Footlocker was the funniest offseason job for the crew, but the way Leslie threw Jerry’s (Jim O’Heir) painting in the lake was hilarious. There must be something going on with Jerry that we never see on the show, because everyone is always an a**hole to him. It’s funny, but mystifying.
For this week’s side story, the rest of the crew formed a youth basketball team with Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) as opposing coaches on the only two teams. These two could probably handle their own spinoff together, judging from their wildly different coaching styles. The Swanson Pyramid of Greatness was an instant classic. And let’s just say that Andy handles his kids with less discipline than a kindergarten recess.
It was disappointing that Tom’s new girlfriend Lucy (Natalie Morales) didn’t get much to do, nor did Tom’s ex-wife, Wendy (Jama Williamson) who’s mysteriously dating Ron. But Tom really shined in his scenes as an out-of-control referee who took out his frustrations on Ron with phantom foul calls. That’s going to be a really fun rivalry between them.
However, I’m less enthused about yet another roadblock between Andy and April (Aubrey Plaza). That relationship is overdue to get started. But it was hilarious when April explained to her foreign boyfriend that Andy’s attempts to ask her out were really about his dream of becoming a woman… which her boyfriend encouraged!
It’s good to have "Parks and Rec" back. Now if only "Outsourced" would go away…
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.