After last week’s stellar episode, which promised to kick the season into high gear, it was disappointing to see Parks and Recreation revert back to its regular season-4 formula, along with all the flaws that entails. “Lucky” was a largely laughless half-hour, relying on some significant contrivances to hold itself together.

“Lucky” saw Leslie preparing for an interview Buddy Wood, an Indianapolis morning show host (played by Sean Hayes, somehow managing to be even more irritating than he was on Will & Grace). Wood cancelled the interview at the last minute, due to a factory explosion in the state capital, leaving Leslie with a free night to go out drinking with her buddies, Ann and Tom. However, at the last minute, Buddy uncancelled the interview, forcing Leslie to fake sobriety while Buddy grilled her on her affair with Ben.

Here’s where things fell apart. Let’s set aside the fact that the host of a local morning show from another city would never waste time interviewing candidates in an insignificant city council race in a small town like Pawnee. (In terms of straining credulity, this is approaching The Killing’s Seattle mayoral race.) Instead, let’s focus on how absolutely moronic and contrived it was for Leslie to accept to be interviewed while drunk. How hard would it have been to tell the truth to Ben about her state of inebriation, leaving Ben to call off the interview? Yes, people exhibit bad judgment when drunk, but as the scene at the bar played out, it seemed like Leslie was more scared of being scolded by Ben than of making a fool of herself on television.

Then, the plot descended further into wackiness, with the entire gang taking a hot tub limo (which never really justified its presence) to Indianapolis in order to beg Buddy not to air the tape. It turned out that one of the airport workers had purposely stolen the tape in order to prevent another embarrassment for Leslie’s campaign. I appreciated the message at the core of this plot: Leslie has done so much for the townsfolk of Pawnee over the years that they’re willing to help her in any way they can. The message worked because we’ve seen the kind of work that Leslie has done, with the Harvest Festival or the Pawnee Rangers, for example. However, on a purely episodic level, it was yet another instance of Leslie exhibiting poor judgment with respect to her campaign, but somehow getting rewarded for it. It’s something that we’ve seen too much of this season, and it needs to stop.

The B-plot involved April introducing Chris to Andy’s very attractive college professor in order to cheer Chris up. I really love what the show has done with April this season, allowing her to show some empathy for the people in her life while still maintaining her surly façade. I also feel that Chris fits better into the show this season, with his loneliness humanizing him in a way that stories about his childhood disease couldn’t last season. That being said, this plot wasn’t all that interesting; it was deadly obvious that Linda and Ron would end up sleeping together. In fact, this is one of the rare occasions on which I wish that the show had opted to drag the love triangle out for a couple more episodes. With Ron just telling Chris that he had slept with Linda, any opportunity for drama was extinguished, all for the sake of a toothless, sweet resolution. Also, Andy was written about five shades too dumb throughout this entire plot, but that’s par for the course for this season by now.

Throughout the episode, we saw glimpses of the Ann/Tom relationship, but it still isn’t working for me on the whole. The moments in this episode when they were just goofing off with each other and making jokes played quite nicely, but then, Tom would stop to give a talking head about how long it had been since he and Ann had last “broken up,” and the nasty undercurrent beneath the relationship would be revealed. Whatever relationship Ann and Tom have, it simply doesn’t fit with the rest of the show’s sunny, positive vibe.

By far the best thing about this episode was the Donna/Jerry subplot, in which Jerry blithely stuffed campaign envelopes like an automaton, oblivious to how much time he spent at the task. His “aw shucks” reaction to finding out that he had screwed up the entire thing got a big laugh out of me, and Donna’s reactions were priceless throughout.

Overall, “Lucky” was a lacklustre episode of Parks and Recreation, though not totally without merit. I like what the show has been doing with April and Chris, and the A-plot’s underlying message about Leslie’s devotion to her town resonated with me as a long-time viewer of the show. But seen as an episode in and of itself, “Lucky” left quite a bit to be desired.