Episode Title: "The Comeback Kid"
Writer: Mike Scully
Director: Tucker Gates
When we last left "Parks and Recreation," Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) had her dreams of political office briefly dashed because of her very public affair with Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott); which caused Ben to lose his job and Leslie to lose her fancy political advisers, William (Johnny Sneed) and Elizabeth (Antonia Raftu).
But in response, the lovely Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and the great Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) rallied Leslie's friends around her and they vowed to help her continue her campaign in a rousing display of camaraderie.
Unfortunately for Leslie, the help of her friends is better in theory than in action. "The Comeback Kid" shows the newly revamped Team Knope in action… and it isn't pretty. Almost all of Leslie's friends have good hearts and they genuinely want to help her. But some of them — including Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) and Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) — are kind of moronic at best. To be sure, they are well meaning idiots. However, they tend to screw up on an epic scale.
Thus everything that could go wrong does go wrong for the officially relaunched campaign of Leslie Knope. April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) books a local sports arena for the announcement without making sure that it hasn't been temporarily converted into a hockey rink, Tom becomes obsessed with finding a red carpet for the event, Ron decides to build the stage himself and Andy… plays with the horn of the truck so many times that it gets the group pulled over by a police officer who isn't amused by Ron's hilariously condescending attitude towards him.
Meanwhile, Leslie and her new campaign manager, Ann are busy trying to get an endorsement from Pistol Pete Desillio; a former high school basketball star who is still famous for his game winning slam dunk despite his desire to put basketball behind him and move on with his life. Pete doesn't even like to be called "Pistol." There's also a strange passive aggressive streak from Leslie towards Ann this week, as Leslie constantly says a lot of mean or thoughtless things to her best friend; including the implication that she's insulted that Ann wouldn't resort to sexual favors on Pete moments after Leslie insisted that Ann not do that!
Jones got to work in some very funny facial expressions as Ann helplessly listened to Pete go on and on about his personal problems and struggles. By the end, Ann seems to know his life chapter and verse, although her only feelings towards him seem to be pity. By the time everyone reunites at the sports arena, it's clear that the event is going to be a disaster. Only Jerry (Jim O'Heir) came through on his end by ensuring that at least a hundred people were in the stands waiting for Leslie's announcement. So of course everyone shouts at Jerry for doing his job. Jerry just can't win.
Despite some harsh words for Jerry, the family dynamic of Leslie and her friends was strongly at play in this scene. More than anyone else, Leslie knows that this P.R. disaster will finish off her political aspirations, but she bravely tries to take the brunt of the public shame herself and spare her team the humiliation. But it's Ron and Ann who rally everyone again to stand by Leslie… as they slip and slide towards the stage in the middle of the ice. There's some great slapstick in that scene too.
When Leslie delivers a rare bomb of a speech, the day is briefly saved by Pistol Pete; who overcomes his reluctance to embrace his past by appearing in his old high school jersey as he publicly endorses Leslie. And the crowd eats it up. They really love this guy. I think it was Ben Wyatt who once said that the people of Pawnee were crazy, but they were crazy people that cared about their city government. Clearly that goes for faded high school sports stars as well.
And then Pistol Pete goes for his signature slam dunk on the ice and he badly injures himself in the process. That was a little dark, but it was still funny.
At the same time that this is happening, Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) is trying to help Ben overcome his debilitating depression. Chris is basically Ben's best friend and his greatest enemy. On one hand, Chris clearly cares about Ben's welfare, but he also led the ethics witch hunt that tarnished Leslie's political campaign and cost Ben his job.
Ben doesn't seem to be handling the adversity of his new situation well, as Chris finds Ben obsessed with making low calorie calzones and poorly made stop-motion animated sequences. Chris usually isn't that sharp in personal situations, but he seems to know enough to grin and nod at Ben's fantastically bad ideas until he finally gets through to him and makes Ben admit to his depression.
Bringing both stories back together, Leslie realizes that she and her friends have no idea how to run a campaign and they run to the one person they know who does: Ben. This gives Ben a new purpose (over Chris' objections) and it reenergizes Leslie's spirits. Her campaign announcement may have been inept, but more people were probably talking about Pistol Pete's fall than about her problems.
In the tag, Leslie and Ann visit the injured Pete in the hospital and they profusely apologize for his humiliation. He asks Ann out for dinner, but she turns him down flat and claims that she's married! Wow… I would have thought that Ann would have at least taken the guy to dinner because she felt sorry for him. But maybe listening to Pete unload about his personal life just made her recoil from him. Poor Pete…
I almost forgot to mention the newest member of Leslie's group: Champion, a three legged dog that April and Andy rescued. Ben gets one of the best lines of the night when he asked them how many legs the dog had before they found him. And although Ben is obviously smarter than April and Andy, they show an ability to manipulate him by making the alternative of keeping Champion a death sentence for the mutt at the pound. Plus, any dog willing to risk urinating on Ron Swanson is too brave for that kind of demise.
Another comedic highlight came when Ron berated Tom until he meekly sat in April's lap for the truck ride. Ron seems to be the only guy who can ever get Tom in line, if only temporarily.
While "The Comeback Kid" wasn't quite as strong as some of the fall episodes of this show, it still had all of the great qualities that make me love "Parks and Recreation." Without "Community" on Thursdays, this is the best comedy on NBC.
Enjoy it while you can.
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.