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Parks and Recreation, “Soulmates” (3.10)

The HoosierMate profile of Tom N. Haverford, complete with dashing profile photo.

A review of the episode, written by Alan Yang and directed by Ken Whittingham, after the jump…

“… That’s my husband.” – April Ludgate

It would be hard to follow up on the adorable, hilarious treat that was “Fancy Party” (3.09), and you’d be right if you assumed that “Soulmates” wouldn’t quite measure up. However, despite being one of the weaker offerings this season, it was still a bit of fun that furthered the show’s main remaining plot arc, the Ben and Leslie potential romance, and had some very funny bits.

My favourite parts of “Soulmates” had very little to do with the title story at all, and moreso had to do with the B plot: Chris and Ron’s battle over the fate of the office burger. Particularly the use of Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) here. The show spent its time building him effectively as the kind of super-positive health guru last season, and in this season’s opening episodes, and that work is paying comedic dividends now that they’re having fun complicating that view of him. First off, they had his positivity fall apart spectacularly in “Flu Season” (3.02) when his super-sensitive body is destroyed by the flu. Then they paired Chris and April (Aubrey Plaza) together professionally, where we got to see his force-of-nature positivity actually work well for a friendship with the monotone, cynical teenager. Then, there was the bit where Ann didn’t realise he’d broken up with her because he is so nice and she is so attractive in “Indianapolis” (3.06), and the wonderful clash again of opposites when the disturbing morbid Orin came up against the sheer optimism of Chris.

And that work continues here, as we see that in addition to his ‘perfect’ body having limits, his endless positivity does, too. It only grows stronger in the face of opposing faces like Ron, April and Orin. What finally forces Chris Traeger to show cracks and somewhat lose his temper? The beautiful, friendly stupidity of our beloved Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt). Even though it was subtle, watching Chris lose his cool with Andy made me laugh far harder than the occasion would seem to merit, but the show has built his positivity to such great heights that it’s beautiful, and inevitable to see that it’s Andy’s good-natured childishness that brings out his sharper side.

And, of course, Ron and April in Grain’n Stuff. The vegan bacon moment was wonderful. And though you could argue that Ron’s manliness is verging on Gary Stu proportions, the thing that made it funny is that he and Chris are both the same level of super-awesome, and so it’s a battle of two Godzilla-type monsters of awesome. And I personally would have gone with Ron’s; the simple, awesome foods tend to run circles around the overly-fancy dishes, especially ones with any kind of aioli.

The stuff with Leslie and Tom is fun, as is the recurring joke about Leslie’s awful dating life, as well as her fun-to-watch admirer, sewage department head Joe (Kirk Fox). Aziz Ansari must have enjoyed the bits of Tom screwing with Leslie, and it was forgivable because as annoying as Tom is, it was all in good fun. Both of them knew he wasn’t being serious, so it felt like the kind of messing he would do to Leslie. And the bit about workplace dating gave us a bit of a step forward for Leslie, who is not only interested but actively fighting for her relationship with Ben, even though it hasn’t yet happened.

A fun episode. Not quite as good as some of the earlier episodes this season, particularly ones like “Flu Season” (3.02) or last week’s episode, but definitely a lot of fun.

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