Maybe I’m biased, but Amy Poehler gets cuter and cuter each episode (something about those devilish eyebrows); Jerry gets more pathetic; and Ron is more and more of a badass.
First off, this may be my favorite cold open so far—though it’s in close competition with the one where Leslie goes up the dreaded fourth floor of Pawnee’s City Hall (“POPCORN?”)—it’s nice to see the twistedly playful side of Ron and even nicer to see that he’s almost aware of how the rest of the parks department perceives him.
He almost fooled me, too, but then my Ron Sense is calibrated enough (or at least more than Tom’s) to figure out that even he wouldn’t perform an impromptu tooth removal in the middle of a meeting.
The episode lives up to that open as well; it keeps the humor coming but also injects some character development that ranks right up there with the best of The Office’s second season: Ben’s crush on Leslie is getting more overt; Donna’s finally getting more face-time; the writers deliver a great moment from Chris; and, oh, April and Andy get married.
The “fancy party” is, indeed, April and Andy’s wedding, though they don’t reveal it until about 20 minutes before the ceremony, well after everyone’s showed up and brought whatever April and Andy requested they bring (even Jerry, who sports a wholly appropriate Charlie-Brown “party” shirt).
Leslie’s in a tizzy because she (I suspect correctly) thinks the two are too young and too early in their relationship to get hitched. Who can blame her? No one else in Pawnee has had any success with relationships: Ann and Andy, Ann and Mark, Ann and Chris, Leslie and Mark, Leslie and anyone, Tom and Wendy, Ron and Wendy, Ron and Tammy, Ron and Tammy, Ron and Tammy (forgot about that third one)—Pawnee’s not the best place to cultivate a family, but then April and Andy are the only couple who seem to work, but while they (and even Ben and Leslie, who’d be very cute together) may enjoy some bliss for now, I’m wondering how long it’ll take before one of them ends up burning the other in effigy—which is another great Ron moment.
The B plot works very well, too, thanks to the wonderfully talented Retta Sirleaf and her lusty Donna, who helps desperate Ann Perkins get through a singles meet-up (Tip 1: Scribble your name on the tag so they’ll have to work to read it). Parks still hasn’t figured out what to do with Ann; she works well as the only sane person in Pawnee, but when the story revolves around her, it slows the episode down. Here she plays straight to Donna, and it’s a delight.
I was also glad to see Chris counter April’s creepy-downer-goth friend with his blinding optimism. Chris is another character I’ve been down on before, and even though he’s still a one-joke character, he was used to nice effect.
And then there’s Ben and Leslie. Despite her vast competence in everything else, Leslie ain’t picking up Ben’s signals, and when he tries to get a read on her feelings toward him by asking if she thinks he should stay in Pawnee, it’s sweet, cute, and funny. And Ben really is coming around—he’s a recycling of Scott’s Henry from Party Down, but who cares? Starting out as a basic fish-out-of-water character, he’s now getting sucked in to the vortex of Pawnee’s obliviousness. When he responds to a casual put-down of Tom’s with a dead-serious “I didn’t care for Peter Jackson’s [Lord of the Rings] interpretation,” I’m all in.
“Fancy Party” doesn’t settle on any one character and keeps Parks’ exquisite cast in rapid rotation. I’m a bit disappointed because I wanted more, and that’s precisely how it should be.