Parks and Recreation: Donna & Joe, Review

Parks and Recreation sets up its final run of episodes tonight. Find out where the show is headed by reading our review.

Tonight’s episode of Parks and Recreation is the only half-hour new episode of the season, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of value. To the contrary: after last episode closed the book on the Leslie vs. Ron, National Parks Department vs. Gryzzl storyline, many were left wondering just which direction the show would move in for its final string of episodes. However, Parks and Rec wasted little time answering that question by having D.C. big-shot Jen Barkley (Kathryn Hahn) blow back into Pawnee to ask a certain someone to run for the House of Representatives.

If you assumed the offer would be for Leslie, well, she did too, but actually Barkley wants her old colleague Ben to consider running. After Ben stood up to Gryzzl on television, and with Ben’s economic background, Jen thinks he’d be the perfect candidate to run against a lazy, dimwitted incumbent.

Having the offer go to Ben and not Leslie is a brilliant move by the show’s writers. Leslie has had plenty of character defining storylines as the show’s lead, but after getting her dream job, the perfect husband, three children, and all while getting to stay in the town she loves, how much higher could Leslie’s character arc go? Ben deserves to have a moment in the spotlight, a chance to put all of his Ice Town failings to rest and step out of a supporting role. He may have got a small, redemptive political moment against Gryzzl last week, but now we’ll get to see Ben’s character arc come full circle. His response to bloodthirsty reporters at the end of the episode proves that he’s completely game.

As much as I was happy to see Ben get a moment in the spotlight, I’m pretty disappointed that Donna didn’t have more screen time in an episode titled “Donna and Joe.” Retta and Keegan-Michael Key as Joe were completely underutilized in their wedding episode, save for a couple of juicy lines, but then Retta always gets a few in there, doesn’t she? Having April as Donna’s made of honor tasked with keeping the dysfunctional Meagle clan under-control seemed ripe with comedic potential but only fostered a few noteworthy moments. At least we finally met Donna’s oft mentioned brother Levondrious, played by Questlove in a bit of inspired casting, so I guess I can’t complain that much.

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Another fantastic guest star was Rachel Dratch as Ben and Leslie’s nanny. After being regulated to an off-screen presence, the triplets finally appeared this episode. Previously, I took issue with how the triplets never appeared in person. It seemed too convienent that we never had to see Leslie and Ben in parent mode, that we only got to hear them complain about being parents. So I welcomed the sight of the triplets, only then to see them go back to off-screen terrors that torture Dratch. Of course, Dratch plays exasperated like no one else, so the moments shine. While she was on-screen, I spent most of the time wondering how this was her first appearance on the show alongside her old SNL cohort and hoping that it won’t be the last we see of her.

Though slightly disappointing given the potential amazingness of a more Donna-filled wedding episode, Parks and Rec found an interesting way to spend its final hours tonight. Now the show just needs to find one final thing for Leslie to do. I know Paul Rudd is set to return as Bobby Newport, so perhaps a final clash with the Newport family? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.

The Best of The Rest

  • Tom and Ron’s storyline was a little goofy tonight. Tom makes some hyperbolic comments about how smitten he is with Lucy, which Ron then tells Lucy. Of course, Lucy thinks Tom may be moving too fast so the pair have to backpedal and retract their statements. Of course, it all ends well for Tom. 
  • The Meagle family is so dysfunctional, no more than three are allowed on an international flight.
  • “Ben should be the royal archduke sultan empire of all inhabitable earth.” – Leslie 
  • April screaming at Donna’s cousin Ginuwine is pure gold. 
  • Ron never lies, though “I suppose you could consider camouflage a lie.”
  • “I feel condifent.” – Drunk Ben
  • Drunk Leslie called 8675309 100 times. Drunk Ben and Leslie are the best.
  • Donna makes the astute observation that Leslie is a softy on the outside and a boss on the inside and that April is the opposite. 
  • Donna’s best moment comes when she lays into her former best-friend Michelle. Vicious stuff. 
  • Joe tells us that Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy is about Donna 
  • Jerry finally becomes Gary, which is actually his real name. This is the sort of touching moment that could have been saved for the finale. 


3.5 out of 5