Parks and Recreation, “Jerry’s Painting” (3.11)

A segment of Jerry's showing Tom Haverford as a cherub.

A review of the artful episode of the NBC comedy, written by Norm Hiscock and directed by Dean Hollad

“There were many kinds of Greek goddesses. Some were lovers, some were warriors… and some were tricksters!” – Leslie Knope.

That was a lot of fun.

Leslie Knope is often the sole champion of local government, so this recent Leslie/Ben arc isn’t just a complication in her would-be romance: its a chance to have Leslie consistently fighting for her own values against government regulation. First for the right to date co-workers, and now butting heads with Chris over his refusal to fight for the painting. Normally, Leslie is the only one who cares enough to fight, so she gets what she wants; finally, there’s someone within government who cares about various issues, and has the authority to make things difficult for our heroine. That’s added a nice new dynamic to the last few episodes. Setting the relentlessness of Leslie Knope against that same quality in Chris Traeger makes Leslie even more focused on getting what she wants, while threatening to break Chris’ cool.

And in the end, Leslie wins in a way that is acceptable: she follows the rules of government policy (no offending people with publicly-displayed nipples), makes right-wing crazy Marsha look like a fool, soothes an enemy of the painting by having the second painting give Tom a great compliment, and gets to keep the first painting for herself. Now, if anyone discovers her bait-and-switch, it will be a non-issue by the time it comes to light. Giving Leslie a strong foe, in turn, made her a stronger and more impressive fighter for what she believes in, which I enjoyed.

This really was an episode of two streams; rather than using the extra time to toss in a third plot, it makes sure to play out every element of its two chosen stories: Leslie fighting to save the painting, and Ben working to turn April and Andy into real adults. That serviced most of the cast, giving everyone a moment or two – in addition to the many comic beats it gave Amy Poehler and Adam Scott, as they reacted to the crazy world around them, we got Chris trying to remain not-angry, Tom’s horror at the painting and subsequent scene with the porn star, Andy pledging to not let he and April become “boring adults”, Ron Swanson giving another non-speech (a recall to his great one from “The Banquet” (1.05) introducing Leslie’s mother)… It was a fun party for most of the cast. Rashida Jones got somewhat left behind, but with an ensemble cast this big, that’s bound to happen.

I also really liked the April, Andy and Ben plot because it was character-centric in a fun way. April and Andy’s dynamic has always been that his childlike enthusiasm charms her, and her deadpan humour makes him happy, so their reactions here make perfect sense. She likes Andy because he’s not like everything else, the boring world that gave her that signature viewpoint. It also allowed Chris Pratt to give another romantic Andy monologue, and after how he nailed this one and his vows from the wedding, I have to say they’re not going to get old very fast.

So! Better than last week’s, possibly on par with the wedding episode. This was a Thursday-night treat. This season is shaping up to be, if not on par with the fantastic season two, a worthy successor.


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