It’s a tough juggling act for an episode to deal with multiple plot lines in a satisfying way, and while Parks and Recreation can usually pull it off, I think that “Indianapolis” fell a little short in that regard. Its various subplots were disjointed, and overall, it had a very paint-by-numbers feel, as if someone had handed the writers a template and said, “This is how you write a Parks and Recreation episode.” The result was an installment that was fun and interesting, but also a little weak.

Right off the bat, let me say that I enjoyed “Indianapolis.” If it were possible, I’d write a lot more praise for it, but doing so would be equivalent to listing a bunch of jokes, many of which have slipped my mind by now. (Hey, I don’t remember everything, okay?) However, I would like to mention a couple of things. Firstly, I really enjoyed seeing the return of Ann and Leslie’s friendship. We’ve seen Ann stick up for Leslie numerous times over the course of the series, so it was nice to see Leslie reciprocate. Secondly, Andy and April’s “Robin Hood” plot line was fluffy but amusing. It worries me a little that the show might be turning them into Jim and Pam – imitating The Office is almost never a good idea – but for now, they’re fine, and I enjoyed seeing their various attempts to get free food and booze at the Snakehole.

Now, let’s launch into the criticism, shall we? Like I mentioned in the introduction, the subplots in this episode felt disjointed. I can understand why the Indianapolis stories were separate from what was going on at the Snakehole lounge. However, April, Andy, Tom, Ben, and Donna were all at the club. There was no reason not to allow the “Robin Hood” subplot and the fragrance subplot to intersect. As for the Indianapolis stories, I think that the subplot about Chris’s potential infidelity unfolded too predictably. Of course Leslie would be wrong about Chris cheating and Chris would have a good reason to possess a pink razor and shower cap. Moreover, it relied on one of my least favourite storytelling devices: the inter-episode break-up.1 It made no sense to have a break-up between two major characters happen off-screen without even hinting to it. All of this felt totally disconnected from whatever the hell was happening with Ron Swanson. I felt as if his freak-out over the lack of steak existed solely to give Nick Offerman something to do in this episode; his subplot felt forced.

“Indianapolis” also followed a paint-by-numbers approach. Standard Jerry joke. Check. Ron obsessing over meat. Check. Leslie listing off a bunch of things in multiple takes. Check. These are all things that the show has done before, and while they’re funny on their own, when the show puts them all in the same episode, they start to feel too familiar.

Overall, I liked “Indianapolis,” but it also left me feeling a little cold. I’m not sure that the show got enough mileage out of the Chris/Ann relationship before ending it, and the show should do a better job of integrating its various subplots. I definitely wouldn’t characterize “Indianapolis” as a dud, but it stuck out as below par on a series that is consistently excellent.

 

1 I actually don’t mind the within-episode-off-screen break-up, but an inter-episode break-up that also happens off-screen always feels like a cop-out. (Just for fun, count the number of hyphens in the preceding sentence.)

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