It’s not easy capturing the spirit of something. Tonight, the Parks Department was tasked with coming up with a mural that expressed the spirit of Pawnee. Each character had a chance to put “a dog in the fight” whether they liked it or not. What ensued was an entirely forgettable episode of Parks and Recreation.

In all honesty, this felt like an episode of left over ideas and independent thoughts. I got the feeling the writers were just looking to give a glimpse of each character in the Parks office through their piece of art. They accomplished that, but to what end? Most of what came across was things we already knew. Leslie is overly nostalgic, Tom is a dope, Anne is simple, April is a freak, and Jerry is maligned. I get it. Sure there were moments where I laughed, but the jokes were almost retreads on the same theme: focus on characters for their most outstanding feature. It’s a problem The Office has run in to of late, and frankly it’s happening with Parks much too early.

At this point in the show’s run the writers should still be exploring the characters and their backgrounds. This happens on Parks and Recreation but with such a modicum of consistency that it becomes frustrating. This is a show with truly great characters, but they get bogged down in inanity to a frustrating point. “The Camel” was a perfect example of this.

Even the alternate storyline, Ron’s sexual pleasure in an Andy shoeshine, was more an opening bit than a multi-scene run. Granted, it was funny, especially Ron and Andy’s reactions, but it just wasn’t enough. The show got bogged down in ridiculous interpretations of ridiculous art bookended by ridiculous sexual tension. Parks has shown more than a few flashes of brilliance and was running hot coming into this episode, but “The Camel” fell well short of expectation.

Highlights and thoughts:

- One of the few high points was Mark’s all-knowing take on government art. This seems exactly the kind of thing Mark would be embarrassed about knowing. Seeing as how Mark actually understands the dullness of his life, I can see imagine him begrudgingly understanding how to win a civic mural contest.

- Poor, poor Jerry. I often find myself painting murinals.

- Did anyone else think the dialogue felt forced in tonight’s episode. Some scenes just seemed to drag.

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