Zach Bissett graduated from Roger Williams University with a BFA in Creative Writing. He is primarily a writer of short fiction.
Parks and Recreation ("Live Ammo" S4E19) returned from an extended hiatus last night. It was over a month ago we last saw Leslie (Amy Poehler) tangling with Buddy Wood (guest star Sean Hayes), and "Live Ammo" continues with Leslie's campaign in peril once again.
The show returns with a cold open in which Ann (Rashida Jones) informs an in-disguise Leslie that she is ready to say "I love you…to Tom's apartment." Specifically the dozens of ottomans, tons of soft blankets and a refrigerator constantly stocked with coconut water. "He's deeply in debt, but who cares?"
In "Live Ammo," we meet Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), who plays the City Council member Leslie is running to replace. He informs her that the Parks Department is facing a big budget cut, which Leslie obviously cannot stand for. It looks like Leslie is on course to team up with her Parks buddies and save the department once again, but the task proves a quick fix as the Councilman avows to make the budget cuts elsewhere.
Leslie is happy to have some weight to throw around in "Live Ammo," but Ben (Adam Scott) is hesitant. His caution proves warranted, as the budget cuts end up happening at the local animal shelter, turning Leslie's defense of her beloved Parks Department into a PR nightmare. The next morning, Ben wakes up to Leslie's "temporary solution," a house filled with thirty-two cats and dogs. And some pigs.
Meanwhile in "Live Ammo," April (Aubrey Plaza) covers for Leslie at the Parks Department, running a meeting which Leslie had advertised as a "non-stop thrill ride!" April is less than thrilled, and receives little help from Tom (Aziz Ansari), who's busy "bouncing business ideas off George Simmons on Twitter," ("What about a cologne that kills spiders?"). Unlike Leslie's campaign (which has been in the works a grand total of twenty episodes now), April is one of several Parks and Recreation characters who is at the beginning of their arc, and her taking on Leslie's responsibilities is only the tip of a very enjoyable iceberg.
Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) is a character who often refuses to change, but that doesn't mean his circumstances can't change themselves: In "Live Ammo," Chris (Rob Lowe) has made the decision to officially offer Ron the job of Assistant City Manager, which Ron relishes as opportunity to "go deeper into the belly of the beast" and "bring the machine down from the inside," basically reminding everyone that, despite his position, he is not a big fan of government. However, before the job is his, Ron must spend an afternoon meditating with Chris. Excellent.
While Leslie and Ben do damage control after Bobby Newport's (Paul Rudd) campaign manager (Kathryn Hahn) launches a series of "Leslie Knope - Dog Killer" commercials, April suggests a pet adoption day at one of the parks. Leslie describes the idea as being "cooler than N*Sync, Aerosmith and Nellie performing at the Super Bowl Halftime Show." Watching Andy (Chris Pratt) and Tom play with kittens, puppies and piglets is enjoyable enough, but seeing April do a gradual, believable 180 from where her character was as recently as the start of season four, proves to be the highlight of "Live Ammo."
The adoption day does not go as smoothly as hoped, with one dog being adopted and a stressed mother mistakenly believing the event is taking in unwanted pets, leaving the gang with more homeless animals than they began with. April loses her cool, proving once and for all she actually cares, and leaves. "Come on little sparkle, don't give up," Tom assures her later in the episode, and explains how Leslie showed Tom that government jobs are 98% frustration and stress, and 2% success. He reminds April of the one puppy they gave a home to, and April agrees to return to work.
Chris's meditation spot has "surprisingly good qi for Indiana," despite being located next door to a loud, aromatic Greek restaurant, which Chris admits is "not ideal." Ron chooses to stand for his meditation, and after several compliant hours, he informs Chris that he got nothing out of it. Chris seems unconcerned, explaining that Ron's acceptance of the invitation proves he can be flexible, and officially offers Ron the job. It turns out Chris himself might not have a job, as Bobby Newport winning the election means he would appoint his own City Planner and kick Chris to the curb. Chris seems aghast that anyone might fire him, and he and Ron turn to some fine whiskey for condolences.
"Live Ammo" ends with Leslie and Ben seemingly figure out the budget crisis, cutting some unnecessary salaries instead of the animal shelter, but it turns out Ann's job falls under the same category. Determined to save the shelter, the Parks budget and Ann's job, Leslie and Ben scramble with just a few hours remaining. In the end, she commits "political suicide" by forcing Bobby's campaign manager to commit Bobby's fortune to saving the shelter himself. It's good PR for him and allows Leslie to save everything she wants saved.
The best part of "Live Ammo" comes at the very end when Leslie references the upcoming debate between her and Bobby Newport the next week, where she promises to crush Bobby.
"Live Ammo" proves to be a subtly pivotal episode in the series. April not only cares about something government-related, but admits she is afraid to fail, and that fear is what causes her not to try anything. Ron moves further up on the government ladder despite his desire to do away with government completely and Chris continues to find Pawnee a place of harsh, existential self-examination.
These moves combined with a relatively interesting Leslie/campaign storyline make "Live Ammo" a solid episode. The key is that unlike previous weeks, the rest of the cast was allowed to operate in their own space. Even April, Andy and Tom, while running the adoption day as a favor to Leslie, have nothing to do with the campaign directly. It is further proof that a middling season four is not the sign of a decline in Parks and Rec quality, but the result of an overbearing, dragged out campaign storyline.
That said, the anticipation for next week's debate is high. Only three episodes remaining this season!
I give this week's episode of Parks and Recreation 3/5.
"I was incredible at naming drinks at the Snakehole Lounge…The Beeryonce Knowles -- just a regular beer, but we put it in a sexy ass mug. It pairs nicely with the Jay-Zima -- we bought a bunch of Zima when the factory shut down." Tom Haverford - "Live Ammo" S4E19