This week’s first episode of Parks and Rec is not, actually, an episode of Parks and Rec. It’s the final showing of Andy Dwyer’s masterpiece, the last appearance of the role he was born to play: Johnny Karate, the hyperactive kids’ show host we never knew our childhood was missing. The episode has no real plot beyond paying tribute to Andy. It is, however, one of the more visually interesting episodes Parks has pulled off recently, with shades of Community‘s many genre drag moments and even the lo-fi public access feel of Tim & Eric, albeit much more kid friendly.
Every member of the Parks gang has a part to play. Donna is the policewoman who tells Burt Macklin the president’s called six times. April is the deadpan host of “Loose Animal in the Studio.” Carpenter Ron is not contractually obligated to answer any questions. Ben is Professor Smart-Brain until he’s silenced by the Boring Buzzer. Gary is Mailman (and ninja target practice) Barry. Leslie is the surprise guest host who gifts Andy a day planner. And Donna shows up once again to sing a smooth jazz cover of “Kung Fu Fighting” as John Cena shows up with Johnny Karate’s missing guitar.
It’s a sweet tribute to Andy’s character, and a reminder that Chris Pratt could always have a backup career as a Steve from Blues Clues Junior if the action star thing doesn’t work out. But the best part of Parks and Rec making its own show is Parks and Rec writing its own commercials. “Verizon Exxon Chipotle: Proud to be one of America’s eight companies!” “How many calories does [a Paunchburger] have? Shut up!” The Wamapoke, “slowly taking our money back from white people one quarter at a time!”
No discussion of “Two Funerals” can start without this brief interlude: BILL MURRAY!!!!!!!! You guys. Bill Murray. Mayor Gunderson is BILL MURRAY. And he’s been exploring every nook and cranny of Ethel’s body for the last 46 years. I literally screamed at my television.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I have to say that Tom’s plot this season has felt the most rushed and least natural, and never more so than when Leslie pressures him into proposing to a girl he’s only been (re-)dating for a few weeks. It’s a nice excuse to bring Jean-Ralphio back into the fold—”Why are you like this?” “PILLS, BABY!”—but the whole engagement feels off. We’re not especially invested in Lucy’s character; she did just get out of a long-term relationship; and the subplot feels like something the writers came up with to keep Tom busy after he achieved his actual goal of succeeding in small business.
Ron’s plot line this week is far more enjoyable. The three most important people in a man’s life, an instant classic Swanson-ism goes, are his butcher, his barber, and his lover. Salvatore, Swanson’s barber, passes away this week, and it cuts off one of the most intimate relationships in Ron’s life: sitting silently in a chair once a month. Ron doesn’t believe in tipping, so he leaves $10 at the man’s casket and collects $2 change from his wife. Then Donna, who’s moving to Seattle for some reason, introduces Ron to her hairstylist, and they instantly bond over their hatred of Europeans and bicycles. It’s what makes Ron both a fantasy and an excellent character: he’s old-fashioned masculinity, minus all the ugliness.
Meanwhile, Bill Murray Gunderson’s passing leaves Ben with the unenviable task of finding a new mayor. Bobby Newport is going to space, and Joan Callamezzo insists she’s 27, so April suggests Ben make up for Icetown and serve out the two month interim term just to prove he can. Ben declines and gives the post instead to Gary, who’s about to retire, and Leslie gets the new beginning she’s been looking for all episode: an inauguration, complete with emergency banner, Roman soldiers, and a hot air balloon to cut off Gary’s speech. It’s perfect.