Parks and Recreation: Dave Returns

Ah, the joys of college life- so many papers, so many sleepless nights, so few moments to actually write things for my blog. But now I end my infernal silence. Now the world shall hear my voice ring loud and true, from the lowest valley to the highest peak.

In short, I’m writing a review of Parks & Rec.

I’m not really sure what I expected from Louis CK’s return to Pawnee. On the one hand, when two comedy juggernauts like CK and the collective cast of Parks & Rec combine their formidable powers, we’re sure to get something great. But I wasn’t drooling all over myself in anticipation like I usually do right before an episode of Parks & Rec starts up. It’s odd. Maybe I was just was anxious that a comedic mash-up of this magnitude wouldn’t live up to my high expectations. Maybe it’s because there wasn’t a new episode last week and secretly, I resented the show for making me spend Thursday nights with my friends and family instead of in front of the TV. We’ll never know.

What I do know, however, is that Dave Returns was pretty terrific (for the most part). Whether it was due to CK’s presence or the overwhelming talent of the writing staff (or maybe both, who knows), Dave Returns was an episode that strayed way out of this show’s normal wheelhouse (fast-paced, character-driven comedy) and into the cringing, awkward realms of The (UK) Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm. There’s nothing in Dave Returns that quite reaches that horrible, “I can’t keep watching this, please make it stop” level of discomfort that the cringe comedy greats can accomplish, but it’s a significant departure from what this show normally does and it still feels like a natural extension of Parks & Rec’s easygoing tone.

Let’s start with the main story here: Dave’s return. You know. Like in the title. The story itself is no great shakes- Leslie needs the endorsement of the Pawnee chief of police, and while courting him she runs into her old flame, Dave. Leslie invites Dave along for a friendly dinner with her and Ben, and things get considerably more uncomfortable once Dave reveals he’s still in love with Leslie and spends the date jockeying for her unrequited affections.

This kind of thing is a pretty standard sitcom plot, but it’s really just there to give us the awkward-off of the century: the neurotically nerdy Adam Scott vs the bizarrely straightforward Louis CK. CK’s the one really driving the story here, and his constant, unfiltered attempts to get some time alone with Leslie made the whole situation uncomfortable in the best way possible. At times I felt like things got a little too ridiculous (was Dave’s awkwardness ever really this bad? I thought he was just weirdly straightforward), but the way things come to a head, with Ben making the obvious decision to call Leslie once he’s cuffed to the urinal and Dave realizing the error of his ways, felt very sweet and natural. Plus, Ben acting like an overly polite ass in front of cops is never not funny, and Dave Returns provides plenty of that.

The episode’s other two stories also gave us a number of cringeworthy moments. Chris’s garbled rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and nearly every word out of Tom’s mouth offered up heaping helpings of embarrassment, but some of what we saw in the recording studio never really clicked for me.

Mostly the stuff with Tom. I thought, from the way last week’s episode ended, that Tom and Ann were more or less finished- when she says “yeah, this was a mistake,” I just assumed that was it for their relationship altogether.

That, apparently, was not the case. I think I can believe an Ann/Tom coupling (I will christen them… Tann), but not if the only thing keeping them together is Tom’s dogged determination. When Tom’s with a girl who’s specifically into his particular brand of swagger- sure, I’ll buy that. Like Lucy, back in seasons two and three. But we’ve seen four seasons of Tom hitting on Ann and Ann not buying into it at all. I’m still a little skeptical about this whole thing.

Otherwise, though, Dave Returns is a winner and receives a solid two thumbs up.

I’m sorry to criticize, Parks & Rec. It hurts me. It really does. Deep down in the cold, icy chamber where my heart should be.

But I criticize because I love. It’s always been love.

And it always will be.


12 responses to “Parks and Recreation: Dave Returns

  1. I think you’re right about CK being a little bit more weirdly-straightforward/crazy in this episode than he used to be, but I still loved him. I’m just going to put it down to him being incredibly uncomfortable and nervous about his intentions with Leslie, since by the end of the episode he seemed to have calmed down a bit.

  2. It was great to see Louis C.K. back on Parks & Rec. I would like to see him featured more often, though I’m not sure how they could do that given Ben/Leslie’s relationship. Fun episode!

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