Every once a while, an episode of television so completely knocks it out of the park that I almost don’t want to write a review. “Born & Raised” was so stellar from top to bottom that I’m not sure this write-up is going to do the episode justice. But I’m going to try anyway, and I’ll offer some more specific thoughts about the episode after the jump.

Weirdly enough, I’m going to start this review with two teeny complaints, just to get them out of the way. Firstly, I found it strange that everyone in the parks department was working on Leslie’s campaign instead of working on parks-related things. Secondly, I’m not sure that the show knows quite what to do with Ann anymore, but at least her subplot in this episode was very, very funny.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get to what I loved about this episode. In short, it was funny. So very funny. The jokes came fast and furious tonight, with Pawnee public radio, Gotcha! dancers, April claiming she got her haircut in prison, and Nick referring to Chris as Steve, among other gems. (I debated making a giant list of all the stuff that made me laugh, but that wouldn’t be much of a review, now would it?)

That being said, “Born & Raised” wasn’t just a joke-fest. What sold me on this episode was its attention to detail. Whoever gets to design the props for Parks and Recreation must be having a blast, first with the painting of Leslie as a centaur in “Jerry’s Painting,” and now with all the paintings of Joan Callamezzo in various states of undress. Throwaway sight gags like that are one of the things that make the show so fun to watch. “Born & Raised” also featured the return of Andy’s Burt Macklin alter ego, and in a surprising nod to continuity, the writers remembered that they’d “killed” him back in “The Fight.” So kudos to them for remembering that.

And kudos to them for crafting three plots that all worked masterfully. The Ann/April/Ron and Tom/Ben/Joan subplots existed mainly to generate laughs, and both succeeded in that regard. I wasn’t too sold on Leslie’s “birther” plot at first, as it seemed to be a parody of the Obama “birther” situation that was too on the nose, but once it was revealed that Leslie was actually born in Eagleton, everything fell into place. What followed was a surprisingly sweet story about Leslie trying not only to make amends for her first campaign gaffe, but also to hold onto her identity as a proud Pawneean.

I don’t have much else to say about this episode, or, to put it more accurately, I don’t have anything else to say about it that it couldn’t say better itself. “Born & Raised” was top-notch comedy from start to finish, and it’s probably my second favourite episode of Parks and Recreation to date, only behind season 2’s “Christmas Scandal.” If the rest of the season manages to be even half this good, we’re in for a heck of a ride.

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