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Parks and Recreation, “Fancy Party” (3.09)

Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza) share an excited look.

A review of the excellent episode, written by Katie Dippold and directed by Michael Trim, after the jump…

“We’ve been dating for almost a month, so we’ve decided we wanted to do something special.” – April Ludgate

That was awesome.

Chris and April was a couple nobody expected, including the writers. Andy was considered a one-season-and-out recurring character, and April was a minor part of the cast at best. And perhaps, if they had cast anyone but Chris Pratt and Aubrey Plaza, who are so unbelievably good in these roles, they might have stayed that way. But both nailed their roles so much, Plaza became Ron Swanson’s assistant and a key part of the group, and Pratt became a series regular and one of the show’s best sources of comedy. And their unexpected chemistry followed the same path: the writers discovered it in season two, and without it seeming at all strange, the two are now married.

Yes. Married.

Now, I could say a whole lot about that: how marriage has changed intrinsically from its first intended purpose, and how social freedom has made it almost meaningless… but it’s not, really, when you find two people who really love one another. Andy and April didn’t get married because they needed to, or because everyone else wanted them to, but because they wanted it. They wanted to be married. And this episode was a love letter to why they work.

“Well, it’s kind of like a really funny story. We were hanging out, and suddenly, I was like, ‘What if we got married tomorrow?’, and she was like…”
“…’Fine.'”

Those words could easily be read in a completely different way without seeing Pratt and Plaza in the scene. Because these two are crazy about one another, what could be read as Andy dismissing the importance of marriage is just Andy’s ability to ignore social norms (or be completely oblivious to them) and go for it. And we’ve all noticed April’s dry attitude is mostly attitude, and even she can’t hide the glee when she re-enacts her ‘bored’ response. It’s a really great scene, because it encapsulates why it shouldn’t work… and why it does. These two are crazy about each other.

The vows were… amazing, both in how they summed up each character without being too on the nose, and how Pratt and Plaza played them. Funny, touching, and a great summing-up of why these characters work. If these two have gotten enough buzz from Parks and Recreations ratings increase this year and get a chance to put an episode on the table to be judged, this one would be a stellar choice for either. They are centre stage and they nail it.

But of course, this wasn’t just the April and Andy show. In fact, the show did something great here: it used the April and Andy issue as a way to slowly start addressing the Leslie and Ben relationship they’ve been building towards. And, between her dancing about the Ben of it all, and dealing with the April/Andy issue (which I’d argue are, if not the same issue for her, deeply interwtined), Amy Poehler got the chance to do some great work tonight.

Between her wild array of expressions when told about the ‘secret wedding’, her attempts to essentially be April’s mother (“You can’t just get a condo.”), her desparate attempt to get Ann to stop the wedding, and getting some more horrific Leslie Knope dating stories, Amy Poehler really nailed it. Her scenes with Adam Scott were nicely choreographed, too: you can tell that there’s this secret they’re both keeping from one another, and its the same secret for both of them, and that’s why, for example, Leslie suggests a pros and cons list and them shakes Ben’s hand. Neither one wants to make the first move. And so she freaks out about April and Andy moving too fast; sure, she is worried for them, but there’s also this choice weighing over her that she doesn’t want to even see: Do I ask Ben to stay because I want him to stay? Can I take the leap of faith that, if he stays, it will be worth it; that something will happen; that it won’t implode and hurt even worse that the married Civil War Reenactor debacle did?

“Two boneheads whom I love dearly are about to sacrifice their future because they haven’t thought this thing through.”

What, exactly, are April and Andy sacrificing? This statement seems to be talking, not about April and Andy at all: she’s worried about Ben, and throwing away those ’12 years at the State department’ she made sure to point out earlier. and that is why this show is great – it can give us a hilarious episode, a sweet wedding, and character psychology that makes sense even with characters silly enough to provide comedy.  And it works.

And this doesn’t even outline some of the best stuff – Donna and her Mercedes, Ben and Orrin (and the reverse, just-as-funny, Chris and Orrin), Donna’s rules to dating, Tom getting best-man blocked at every turn. And Ron Swanson, everything Ron Swanson does here – the ex-wife effigies, the dentist trick (teasers lately have had a lot of Ron pulling a mischevious trick on the office), the cake scene (probably one of my top 5 Ron moments), and his last scene with Leslie. This entire cast works, and each one got a great moment here. Since Community has shifted into a hit-or-miss show comedically, Parks and Recreation has re-taken the spot as my favourite comedy on television. I’m gutted we only get 16 episodes this season.

Awesome.

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