parks and rec jerrys painting 'Parks and Recreation': Leslie Knope, warrior princessHow do you follow the departure of one of the biggest TV comedy stars of the past decade? With topless women and pregnant babies.

“Parks and Recreation” did that Thursday (April 28) after Steve Carell’s goodbye on “The Office.” “Jerry’s Painting” was maybe not the best episode the show has done this season (a subpar B-story kept it a notch below some others), but it was, yet again, a very solid half-hour of comedy. The show’s batting average this season is remarkably high.

“Jerry’s Painting” centered on a community art show in Pawnee, and Renaissance man Jerry submits his rendition of a mythical scene … with Leslie as the powerful (and topless) female centaur. That’s not as funny as Jerry giving the cherub in the piece Tom’s face, but it’s Pawnee, and that means people are going to be ticked off.

Leslie, however, isn’t one of them. After being taken aback that Jerry subconsciously used her face to represent a strong woman, she’s flattered — especially because she was feeling down about Ben — and then empowered (“What can’t that centaur woman do?” Leslie ponders. “Besides ride an escalator and drive a car”). So much, in fact, that she starts ordering repairmen around and wearing accessories in her hair.

Until, once again, paragon of uptightness Marcia Langman (Darlene Hunt, who — fun fact — also created “The Big C”) enters and demands that Jerry’s painting be destroyed. Chris just doesn’t want to offend and kicks it along to the city arts commission (“hippies who love art, and sometimes weed,” as Leslie describes them). But — surprise — they’re not down with the nude either and side with Marcia. Leslie, of course, steals the painting, then bait-and-switches Marcia into thinking Jerry’s repainted the centaur as male, when in fact she’s keeping the original.

(It was also nice that, aside from Tom’s bitterness at being painted as a chubby baby, Jerry isn’t the whipping boy in this episode. It’s his work, but it becomes Leslie’s cause. He’s just kind of along for the ride.)

But while Leslie vs. Darlene worked again and Leslie’s encounter with the porn star on “Ya Heard? with Perd” was brilliant, the B-story with Ben moving in with Andy and April didn’t really fly.

We already knew Andy was that much of a goof, it’s a little hard to buy April’s fear of being a boring adult as a reason to eat turkey chili off a Frisbee with a shared fork. Maybe her husband’s cluelessness is rubbing off on her, but I would have figured April to be a little less tolerant of living like a squatter (and also know how to open a checking account). I’ll take the payoff of Ben being pelted with a marshmallow gun any day, but this was a case where the journey didn’t really live up to the destination.

And as for the continuing, Chris-imposed obstacle to Leslie and Ben finally getting together already? Still not thrilled. Part of me wants to believe that the writers are just goofing around with us, saying “Yeah, we know they’re going to end up together too, but we’re waiting till sweeps.” The other part of me just wants it to happen, like, now. Ben and Leslie trying to hide a budding romance from Chris feels like it has as much comic potential as keeping them apart does.

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

Posted by:Rick Porter