We’re fairly deep into Season Four territory by this point, but a thought crossed my mind that hadn’t ever crossed my mind before- What if Leslie actually wins the election?
On the one hand, it’d be a joyful, cathartic moment to cap off the season. Both the writers and the actors on Parks and Rec are so good at slyly building to an intense emotional moment amongst all the laughs that, frankly, win or lose, the finale this season is sure to be a biggie.
But what if Leslie wins it? Are we going to start having to divide her time between the Parks Dept and the City Council? Will they all at least be in the same building? Will she get new staff, or will everybody in the Parks Dept start pulling double shifts for continuity’s sake?
I honestly have no idea.
But really, no matter what happens in the end I’m not worried. Parks and Rec has proven time and again that it’s one of the smartest shows on TV and I don’t see any reason not to trust it at this point. So with that out of the way, let’s dive into “Campaign Ad.”
We’ve got three basic plot threads here. First, Leslie and Ben argue over how to run her campaign now that the staggeringly wealthy and charming man-boy Bobby Newport (the always-likable Paul Rudd) has entered the race and has immediately become the frontrunner. Second, Chris attempts to start spending more quality time with Ron, much to Ron’s displeasure. And finally, April and Andy, having suddenly become aware of the concept of insurance, visit every kind of doctor society has to offer.
What’s so impressive about “Campaign Ad” is that each of these stories employs a specific and unique style of humor (with Leslie and Ben we get a constant barrage of little jokes hidden in the campaign ads, with Chris and Ron we get two very strong characters bouncing off of each other, and with April and Andy we get lighthearted slapstick) and each one hits an equally unique emotional point at the end (Leslie and Ben coming to a compromise, Ron realizing that Chris’s attention wasn’t about friendship but instead a possible promotion, and April and Andy sweetly tending to each other’s wounds outside the hospital). It’s a testament to this show’s strength that it can weave in and out of so many different styles and ideas and still leave us with a cohesive and brain-explodingly funny piece of television.
But the focus of the episode is Leslie and Ben, so allow me to dive in just a little bit more. “Campaign Ad” introduces a new face to the world of Pawnee- Bobby Newport, Leslie’s political rival, heir to the Sweetums candy fortune and a man spoiled to the point where he’s barely a functioning human being. Bobby’s addition to the show is a wonderful thing- first of all, he’s a funny character and Paul Rudd instantly fits in with the regular cast here (I can’t wait to see Bobby’s unflinchingly positive stupidity meet Chris’s unflinchingly positive intelligence). But, more importantly, Bobby allows the city council election storyline to grow in a number of new ways.
Before “Campaign Ad,” Leslie was running against a sea of nameless, faceless potential candidates, but by creating one major candidate and making it him vs. Leslie, the conflict becomes infinitely more personal. Leslie’s not just running for City Council anymore. She’s running against someone she doesn’t like. Someone she wants to defeat.
And not only is that more personal, but it’s also a big step for her character. Just look at the changes we get in this episode alone- first she’s a positive-only candidate, but in learning how poorly the too-positive stuff is received, she finally compromises with Ben and finds a more negative route that she’s ok with. Plus, if that wasn’t enough, after meeting with Newport, Leslie’s at the point where she’s ready to start actually fighting for this campaign.
And did you notice, that by the end of the episode, you really, really, really wanted to see Leslie kick Bobby’s ass? I mean that politically, of course, but still- that feeling’s there because the conflict between the two of them keeps getting more and more personal.If the fourth season continues on in this vein, we’re gonna get one hum-dinger of a finale.
Oh and one final note: Ron suddenly being in the restaurant without realizing how he got there was screamingly funny in the most perfect way imaginable. Thank you, Parks and Rec. Thank you so much.