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Festive Rewind: Parks and Recreation “Citizen Knope”

11 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Elena as we take a trip to Pawnee, Indiana.

ParksandRecreation_GingerbreadHouseLike most Christmas-themed episodes, Parks and Recreation’s fourth season episode “Citizen Knope” introduces a potentially catastrophic setback for Leslie that ends up being solved by the love and support of her friends. While most of the episode strays from a typical holiday-themed plot, the narrative threads all have a sense of optimism and joy that characterizes the Christmas season.

In “Citizen Knope,” Leslie is dealing with the fallout of her and Ben’s affair. They’re officially a couple after the trial that aired all their relationship dirty laundry from season three, but there’s been some pretty huge fallout: Leslie is suspended from her Parks job, and Ben resigned in disgrace and starts looking for new employment. The episode follows the couple as they figure out the next step in their lives. For Ben, that means going on job interviews to be an accounting firm’s accountant, with a boss who laughs a little too hard at corny jokes, as well as trying his hand at some corporate finance with Pawnee’s cologne mogul, Dennis Feinstein. For Leslie, this means circumventing her suspension by forming a citizen action committee to petition the Parks and Recreation department for various community improvements.

In the Parks office, although Leslie is suspended, she gives her friends some extremely thoughtful Christmas gifts. Highlights include Tom’s gift, a tiny throne and a watch with an insert that reads “Baller Time!” because he wasn’t able to go to the Watch The Throne tour, and an oil painting for April, of her victoriously decapitating all the members of the Black Eyed Peas in a Xena-like outfit. The gang think of a present to give to Leslie that will even the gift-giving scale, and come up with making a gingerbread and candy model of the Parks office. After some mishaps with accidentally ingesting poisoned silver M&Ms and a lot of marshmallow models of the Parks employees, the gang creates something that Leslie will most definitely love.

April_BlackEyedPeas

Ben, after a disastrous job interview with Dennis Feinstein (who very much enjoys hunting people for sport), is about to take a job with the accounting firm when he fortuitously runs into Jean-Ralphio, who had just gotten a Brazilian wax from a woman named Kim. Like a puffy-haired Christmas angel, Jean-Ralphio encourages Ben to follow his passions. He wisely reiterates some advice he got from Kim: “She told me, ‘If you don’t love what you do, then why do it?’ Then she ripped the hair from my b-hole.” Jean-Ralphio gives Ben a different perspective on his current situation, and while he does so in the douchiest way possible, Jean-Ralphio saves Ben from a huge mistake. Jean-Ralphio is not the Christmas angel Ben deserved, but he’s definitely the one he needed at that moment.

As Leslie is working in her citizen action committee, she meets with her campaign managers to talk strategy after the trial, but soon discovers that because of the scandal involving Ben she has dropped to 1% in the polling numbers. Feeling defeated, Leslie goes back to the Parks office. She sees the gingerbread house that her friends made her as a present and is touched, but it’s what happens next that truly makes “Citizen Knope” a Christmas episode.

Ron presents Leslie with a small wooden model of her in the City Council chambers, and a banner unfurls from the ceiling behind him with the words “Knope 2012.” Ron tells Leslie that her dream of running for City Council is not dead, but through the compassion of her friends, it’s been revived. A true Christmas miracle. One by one each character offers Leslie help on her campaign: Andy’s the bodyguard, Tom is an image coach, Jerry is clueless to the whole endeavor. As each friend steps up and declares to Leslie that she is a person worth making sacrifices for, it cements the true meaning of Christmas: the importance of family, friends and love, a love that will put others before itself. Leslie’s choked, overwhelmed “thank you” was a beautiful moment from Amy Poehler, sweet and triumphant, all the more resonant now because she did win that City Council seat because of her friends.

The scene reminded me of the end of It’s A Wonderful Life, where the whole town gathered to help George with his bank loan. Each person in the town contributed what they could, because George had helped them so much throughout their lives. Leslie Knope is Parks and Recreations’ George. “Citizen Knope” began with Leslie’s generous outpouring of gifts, and ended with her friends giving her the best Christmas gift a person could have: hope.

Elena frequently live-tweets old episodes of Jeopardy and the rest of the television universe while biding her time until she heads to Spain to teach ESL. Follow her on Twitter at @ElenaIsAwesome and read her blog, http://lostsomewhereinnyc.blogspot.com, for more pop culture musings.

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