Parks & Rec got a bit high concept with “Doppelgangers” by bringing in everyone’s counterpart from Eagleton into the department and the results worked to varying success.
Ron vs Ron
Seeming like a match made in heaven, Ron Swanson is paired up with Ron Dunn (a fantastically cast Sam Elliot) and while the duo's start is promising, their battle quickly goes where you expect. The moment of camaraderie between the two was a highlight of the episode, “Is that your last name or are you telling me you're finished talking?" "Both," but when it becomes clear Eagleton Ron is just a liberal vegan we don’t get much else out of it. I think I would have preferred two similar Ron’s with Elliot giving up on government in a blaze of glory Swanson could appreciate. There are a couple good lines, and Elliot is as good as you would expect, but this doppelganger felt like a miss.
Tom vs. E.R.I.C.
The idea behind Tom competing against a computer program is a funny joke and luckily they don’t try to stretch it too thin. Tom faking how awful “Eric” is had a couple decent gags, but Leslie was too wrapped up with Anne’s news (more on that later) to give us or anyone in the office a reason to care.
April vs. Tynnyfer.
Again we have the writing playing April really cruel and over the top for the second week in a row, but getting to see Aubrey Plaza do something different is almost always a highlight. While I think they might have given April one too many scenes as the ditzy girl, June Diane Raphael is fantastic as the rebranded Tynnyfer.. Raphael gets the line of the night, "I've had so much rejuvenation I don't know if a baby could get out of there,” and she was the most consistently funny of the doppelgangers throughout the night.
Donna vs. Craig
Donna is asked to just sit back and react to Craig and I am not quite sure how I feel about him. Billy Eichner plays the part and he is just a little too loud and over the top and I am a bit worried he is the only new Parks employee not sent home. I would have much rather seen him bond with Donna than be an obnoxious loudmouth the whole episode, but it seems like this isn’t the last we have seen of Craig. Will he replace the departing Anne and Chris? I don’t know how I feel about that.
Evelyn vs. Anne vs. Leslie
This is less of a battle and more of a potential replacement as Anne uses this opportunity to step down from her position as Rashida Jones plans to move on from the show. Leslie, obviously, does not take this well and Poehler gets to have a lot of fun shunning the Pawnee Parks Department as she desperately embraces the new one. Sure the story hits some familiar beats, Ron talks her down after an over the top reaction, but Poehler makes it work and really shines in the episode. Getting a couple of great one liners and more or less throwing the episode on her back, Poehler might have saved a second episode in a row of being mediocre. I do wonder if Melinda Y. Cohen might be sticking around as well on the show as Evelyn.
Chris & Ben (Partners!)
Mostly together because they have no doppelgangers, the episode gets a number of solid laughs out of Chris and Ben as they stroll down memory lane. Serving as a balance to the Leslie and Anne plot, Chris and Ben remember the old days and send well wishes for their futures, but this no nonsense Ben with the budget is the one I want to see more of. Confidence makes Ben’s geekiness even funnier and Scott plays kind of a dick really well. More of this Ben please.
One other note before wrapping up, this show is really missing Chris Pratt. Always one of my favorite characters, losing Andy is quickly starting to seem like a huge hit to the show. The lovable loser was not only hilarious and endearing, but he also brought a fantastic sense physical humor that always kept you on your toes. With Pratt, anything might happen when he is in a scene and I think the show is hurting without his energy and spontaneity.
A solid episode of Parks & Rec is a step up from last week, but that wasn’t that hard of an achievement. Forced to write characters off and missing one of their strongest assets seems to be hampering the writing staff over in Pawnee right now, but hopefully they can turn it around here and recapture that magic the show had in its premiere.
-"We no longer burn widows for learning arithmetic."
-"Someone named Tynnyfer."
-Poor Jerry and his name is Larry is on the board.
-"I wanted to be a Spanish man named Terrance.”
-"She's the worst person I've ever met, I want to travel the world with her."
-Poehler grumbles; more please.
-"What is on your foot sir."
-"Same goes for chickens."
-"I no longer like Ron."
-"You've developed some accent from that town you might move to."
-"Shut your kind of pretty mouth and have a mustard cookie."