amy poehler parks rec 320 'Parks and Recreation': After the harvestAny episode of “Parks and Recreation” that features the return of DJ Roomba is going to be an episode that finds a warm spot in my heart. Fortunately, it had a lot else going for it as well.

If it wasn’t as start-to-finish great as “Harvest Festival,” well, that’s OK. “Camping” had to do several things — re-incorporate Chris into Pawnee, give Leslie and Co. something to do after the festival and essentially, set the path for the remainder of the season — and it did them well.

The harvest festival went so well that the local paper even used the headline “Harvest Best-ival” that Leslie kept suggesting (it’s framed behind her desk in one scene). But Leslie being Leslie, she’s already put it behind her and is now thinking — OK, freaking out — about the next big project. Why not just build the park in the former pit? Ann wonders. (Hey, remember when “Parks and Recreation” was a show about Leslie trying to build a park?) Because it’s got to generate revenue, and (in her mind) top the last thing, or else she’s no good.

So hey, let’s go camping! Leslie gathers the entire department for a staff retreat, and while it doesn’t really accomplish anything, it allows for a lot of good comedy, including April’s hatred of nature (“This brook won’t stop babbling … shut up!”), Donna’s idea for a luxury dog park (“Poodles only. No pooping”) and Tom’s ridiculous tent, aka “Thunderdome” (furnished entirely by SkyMall — except for DJ Roomba, of course — and headed back to SkyMall as soon as Tom gets back home).

And, maybe it was listening to Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” at a creepy B&B all night, or the seven hours of sleep (twice what she usually gets), but darn if Leslie doesn’t come through with a laundry list of new ideas by the next day.

The camping trip also gave us a bit of movement in the Ben-Leslie relationship. She feels comfortable enough with him now to let him see how weirded out she is about the next thing, and he tells her she’ll pull it out — “or you wouldn’t be Leslie Knope.” Nice little moment, even if the sunset was caused by all the pollution.

The other big development was the return of Chris to Pawnee, brought about by the city manager’s heart attack/breast-groping as he commends Leslie for her harvest fest work. He’ll be interim city manager, and if that’s a bit of a stretch, it’s good enough for us, if only for the fantastic dynamic Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones have developed. The ongoing humiliation of Ann Perkins continued tonight with her once again misreading Chris’ perpetually upbeat demeanor and thinking that a reassuring hand pat is a signal to kiss him. As he puts it, “Oh no … no.” (Ann, afterward: “I have to move, right? Yeah, I have to leave the country.”)

Was this the most laugh-out-loud funny episode of “Parks and Rec” this season? Probably not. But if this is what qualifies as a (slightly) down episode for the show, then that’s the sign of a comedy that’s hitting for a very high average.

Other notes on “Camping”:

  • Make you a deal: If you don’t bring up Jerry talking about his daughter being sexually active and teaching an abstinence seminar ever again, neither will we.
  • Did you notice the little figure Ron was carving? We’d be willing to bet a decent sum of money that Nick Offerman did that himself. We refer you once more to the Offerman Woodshop.
  • We would also like to know what a German muffin is. Anyone?
  • Ben’s episode-closing line about the harpsichord-playing, cat-loving B&B owner — “Yeah, she died like 20 minutes after that” — probably shouldn’t be all that funny. But Adam Scott‘s completely matter-of-fact delivery made it quite funny.

What did you think of “Parks and Rec” this week?

Posted by:Rick Porter