Parks and Recreation’s last season was almost perfect. It was one brilliant episode after another matching top-notch writing with outstanding ensemble acting. As it opens season five, the question facing the show is whether or not it can sustain that high level of excellence. With Leslie Knope having won a seat on the Pawnee City Council, it’s primed for new fun, which begins by sending her and Andy on a visit to Washington D.C.

The Players:

  • Director: Dean Holland
  • Writers: Aisha Muharrar
  • Cast: Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Nick Offerman, Adam Scott, Aziz Ansari, Jim O’Heir, Retta, Aubrey Plaza, Rob Lowe, and Chris Pratt

Episode Title: “Ms. Knope Goes to Washington”

Leslie and Andy visit Ben and April at their new jobs in Washington, D.C. Ron throws a rather blah barbeque for the staff, featuring lots of meat and no vegetables.

The Good:

  • Ron Swanson!: How wise of the producers to open season five with a healthy dose of Ron F@#k!ng Swanson. Already, “Meet your meat” is one of the best Ron quotes ever. There were numerous moments in the premiere that Ron Swanson just owned. Big high-fives to Nick Offerman!
  • Andy: Plenty of funny dialogue for Chris Pratt’s character to rattle off. The nod to the film National Treasure was good, as was his comment about ‘free pants.’ The Back to the Future III train part in the museum was good.
  • Pawnee: The ‘many Pawnees’ joke that popped up a few times in the episode was funny. Leslie’s diss of Pawnee, Missouri was also quite good.
  • Leslie: “Kick-ass Leslie”, as nicknamed by Andy, is having a life hiccup at the moment. The election excitement is a memory, and her boyfriend is off doin’ work(!)  in D.C. surrounded by tall, smart babes. The storyline wasn’t a home-run, but it sets the tone for newly-elected Leslie.
  • Chris: Rob Lowe and his perfect hair continues to keep Chris Traeger funny and upbeat. The raisins/nature’s candy moment at the park can be listed with great confidence as an episode highlight.
  • City Council: It’s a reason to leave the house. The babe at the party had a great part in the episode with her comments to Leslie about her grandmother being on the city council.
  • Rashida Jones: Looked pretty. Here’s hoping Ann Perkins has a great season!
  • A Permit: Really, we should all have a permit like Ron’s that says: “I can do what I want!”
  • Best Line: Too many to list, so let’s go with Ron Swanson introducing the pig: “This is your dinner, his name is Tom.”

The Bad:

  • Tom/Ann: Awful together, even when they’re faking it! So glad the Tom/Ann experiment has come to a close. The break-up and aftermath was handled humorously, but still – just seeing them together pretending to be a couple brought back the angst from last season when they actually were trying this couple thing out.
  • Politicians: For the most part, all politicians are evil slime. Having one show up on a TV sitcom moves the needle zilch. At least the producers used politicians from both sides of the political aisle to avoid partisan bickering.

Overall:

“… everything is as if we never said goodbye…”

The beat goes on for Parks and Recreation. The new episode shines, both in the writing and acting. The storyline that sends new councilwoman Knope off to Washington, D.C. with Andy to see Ben and April is pretty good, but the storyline featuring Ron Swanson and hardcore barbequing is very good. The fine-tuned comedic rhythms of last season continues unabated on Parks and Rec as it returns triumphantly from summer hiatus. And to think there was even the slightest thought by NBC of not bringing the show back. For shame!

Rating: 8/10

Parks and Recreation airs on NBC at 9:30 pm (ET/PT) on Thursday nights.

What did you think of tonight’s episode?