parks-and-recreation-bus-tour.JPGAfter the great heights “Parks and Recreation” reached last week with “The Debate,” the follow-up was maybe inevitably due for a letdown. “Bus Tour,” the final episode before the season-capping election, wasn’t quite that good.

Considering that “The Debate” is probably going on our best comedy episodes list at the end of the year, though, that’s hardly a putdown for Thursday’s (May 3) episode. The show had to put the election back in doubt at least a little if we’re to believe there’s a chance Leslie might not win, and her press-conference gaffe about Bobby Newport’s late father, and Jen’s subsequent exploitation of it, does just that.

It was just how we got there, with the reporter’s “I meant how do you feel about him dying” and then the slapsticky disaster with the bus at the Newport mansion, that didn’t quite work. (The equally silly stuff with Andy-as-Bert-Macklin investigating the pie incident, though? Fantastic — but Andy’s baseline is pretty silly, so we expect that from him.)

Setup aside, though, “Parks and Rec” continues to do an excellent job of skewering the kind of silly stuff that dominates news cycles in national politics. If a candidate for national office broke the unspoken rule not to speak ill of the dead (even if the dead was a jerk, as the elder Newport apparently was), you absolutely know that it would dominate cable news for days on end; this episode just played it out over a few hours.

(Side note: Where has Leslie’s newspaper reporter nemesis Shauna Malwae-Tweep been during the campaign? We haven’t seen her since “End of the World” earlier this season.)

As it did last week, though, the show declines to paint Bobby Newport as someone who we can actively dislike. He’s way, way far from the brightest bulb, but the scenes between him and Leslie as they talk about his dad’s death had real feeling behind them. Bobby’s too clueless not to know he shouldn’t tell the press and public that Leslie helped him get through the grieving process, but it also feels like a pretty genuine gesture on his part — and now that his dad is dead, presumably the threat to move Sweetums to Mexico is too. Maybe he wouldn’t be the worst city councillor after all.

The best out-and-out comedy moments lived in the C-story of “Bus Tour.” As we mentioned, pretty much every moment of Andy’s investigation into who hit Jerry with a pie — turns out it was Sewage Joe, who’s still carrying a grudge against Ben — was gold. The B-story, meanwhile, served to show just how devoted Leslie’s parks department colleagues are to her.

(As for Chris needing to stay in constant motion so he doesn’t dwell on his sadness over Ann rejecting him, well, as much as we enjoy Chris and the go-for-broke way Rob Lowe plays him, it wasn’t the best use of him. We’re glad that both he and Jen got something out of it in the end, though.)

We know Ron has a stash of gold buried on his property, but even so, offering Burt Hummel Mike O’Malley $10,000 to rent the fleet of vans is still a pretty big gesture. Bigger still, though, was Donna wrecking her beloved Benz to close the deal.

Next week’s season finale could end with Leslie winning or losing the election — the show shot two endings. Either way, though, it’s going into the finale having really found a groove in its final arc. We’re hoping NBC sees fit to punch “Parks and Rec’s” ticket for another season.

What did you think of “Bus Tour”?

Posted by:Rick Porter