'Parks and Recreation': 'Twilight', Time Capsules, and David Lee Roth

ParksRec_timecapsule_post.jpg

NBC

This week's episode of Parks and Recreation diverts from the ongoing Harvest Festival plotline for another project: the burial of a time capsule containing items that represent present-day "life in Pawnee."

For Leslie—who loves Pawnee with an almost manic passion—it's a dream project. As she rattles off a series of increasingly pathetic former town slogans for inclusion ("Pawnee: the Paris of America... Pawnee: the Akron of Southwest Indiana..."), her enthusiasm never wavers. Clearly, there's no one in the world better equipped to document and commemorate the town for the future.

But what exactly is the essence of Pawnee, anyway? As each member of the parks department submits the item that they believe represents "life in Pawnee," Kelly (guest star Will Forte) enters the scene. Like countless preteen girls around the world (though less like most other middle-aged men), Kelly is a Twilight fanatic—and he won't rest until Leslie agrees to include Twilight in the time capsule. When Leslie rejects the idea, Kelly handcuffs himself to a pipe in Leslie's office and refuses to leave until she changes her mind.

Kelly's protest leads to some funny scenes (including a hilarious, impromptu Twilight book club with Tom and Donna), but it doesn't last long. After a little Internet detective work, Leslie figures out that Kelly's real plan is to impress his estranged preteen daughter—a Twilight fanatic—with his stunt. It's a flimsy motivation, and one that doesn't make that much sense (is there a preteen on the planet who would be anything but mortified to find her middle school buzzing with gossip about her father's Twilight-based sit-in?). When caught, Kelly offers to give up the protest, but Leslie is sympathetic enough to his situation to call a town hall meeting for public input on the time capsule issue.

"Time Capsule" also marks the end of Tom's short-lived relationship with Lucy, which began at the end of Parks and Recreation's last season. Initially, Tom decides to take the Entourage approach to the breakup: "When you're the guy, you can just tell people she's crazy." But Tom gets in touch with his gentler side after Kelly gives him a copy of Twilight to drown his sorrows with.

In the hands of a lesser actor, Tom—who's vain, insecure, and obsessed with all the worst aspects of popular culture—would be obnoxious. But Aziz Ansari consistently manages to find both the humor and pathos of the character. It's hilarious when Tom initiates a misguided, Twilight-laden conversation with Lucy about their breakup late in the episode ("Is it because I'm not cool enough, like the normal kids compared to the vampires? Is it an Edward-Bella-Jacob type situation, where you like me but there's someone else you like more?"). But his confusion and his pain are real, too; it's clear that, whatever his posturing, he genuinely cared for Lucy, and it's impossible not to feel for him.

Back at town hall, the meeting goes predictably, hilariously awry. One organization objects to Twilight's inclusion because it's anti-Christian; another objects because it's pro-Christian. Other citizens demand their own submissions: baseball cards, a hardcover copy of Crazy from the Heat: the David Lee Roth Story, and the remains of Turnip—the greatest cat ever. In a desperate attempt to please everyone (and a coyly satirical example of government bloat), Leslie proposes burying as many time capsules as necessary to include everything the town wants.

Of course, it's not enough; the citizens immediately begin to argue about whose things belong in which capsule. After talking to Ben, Leslie finally finds the answer to the problem by returning to the capsule's original purpose: depicting life in Pawnee. The meeting ends with the final, satisfying decision to bury just a single item—the video of the town hall meeting, which shows the future exactly what Pawnee was like, warts and all. Nothing could be more accurate, or more appropriate.

Pawnee History:
Marcia Langman, the Twilight-hating representative of the Society for Family Stability Foundation, first challenged the parks department in the second season's premiere, after Leslie inadvertently married two male penguins.

Wise Words from Andy Dwyer:
On how to rock out: "I got two microphones, a four-track recorder, and every bass tab to Dave Matthews ever!"

Presented by

Scott Meslow is entertainment editor at TheWeek.com.

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