Episode Title: "Born & Raised"
Writer: Norm Hiscock
Director: Dean Holland
There are times when media tie-in books actually fit perfectly into the context of a series. For the last four seasons, ABC's "Castle" has mastered the art of selling novels supposedly written by its lead character. And now Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) is making the leap to print with a book called "Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America."
After watching Leslie assemble gigantic scrapbooks in seemingly no time for meaningless meetings, it's no surprise that she found time to pen a book. And with her new pride and joy in hand, Leslie hands out autographed copies to everyone in the Parks department. But while she gives April ( Aubrey Plaza) a seven page inscription, poor Jerry (Jim O'Heir) receives a simple "get well soon" message. When Jerry protests that he's not sick, Leslie insists that there must be something wrong with him.
With her appearance on Joan Callamezzo's (Mo Collins) talk show, Leslie hopes to boost her sales and her burgeoning political career. But Tom (Aziz Ansari) tips Leslie off that Joan is rumored to have found an inaccuracy within the book and she plans to expose Leslie on live TV. Leslie scrambles to put everyone on proofreading duty and she even sends Jerry across the state to re-interview everyone she spoke with for the book.
Yet it's still not enough when Joan exposes Leslie's error… because according to her, Leslie wasn't actually born in Pawnee. Soon enough, a minor issue at best suddenly has the people of Pawnee turning on Leslie as if she was some sort of foreign interloper secretly brought into town as a native resident years ago before her eventual rise to power. Or is that a crackpot theory about President Obama? It's hard to tell these days.
Chris (Rob Lowe) and Andy (Chris Pratt) accompany Leslie as she tries to get her birth certificate and put the issue to rest. And along the way, Andy revives his FBI Agent, Bert Macklin persona. He proceeds to overreact to threats, clumsily leap over the records counter and somehow come up with the actual birth certificate. Andy is such a big goof that it's almost impossible not laugh at him. Somebody write a Bert Macklin spinoff, now!
Unfortunately, the birth certificate only confirms Leslie's worst fears: she was actually born in Eagleton, the next town over and Pawnee's long time rival. For someone who has identified herself so strongly with the town of Pawnee, this is a devastating blow for Leslie. Worse, it's become a full blown campaign issue.
Tom and Ben (Adam Scott) take Joan to lunch as a way of doing damage control for Leslie and ensuring that Joan gives Leslie's book the seal of approval that she needs. Tom even continues his constant flirtation with Joan until he realizes that she is getting divorced… which means that he may have to actually go through with sleeping with her. He tries to use Ben to kill the mood with nerd talk, but Ben's "Star Trek" conversation only leads Joan to desire BOTH OF THEM.
Fortunately, Joan can't hold her liquor and they get her back to her home without incident. But Ben and Tom do get to see Joan's hilariously vain shrine to herself. She's clearly a woman who loves herself above all others.
Chris is actually useful this week, even though he loved the song from Leslie's humiliation on television and his flirtations couldn't melt the Eagleton clerk who tried to bar their access to Leslie's birth certificate. But Chris gave Leslie the idea for her big comeback speech by pointing out how ingrained within the town Leslie has been for her entire life. Sure, she thoughtlessly humiliates one of her old classmates on Joan's sets with an embarrassing story on live TV; but Leslie would only know all of that if she was a true daughter of Pawnee. And thus, her fortunes are reversed and the badly hung over Joan gives her the coveted endorsement.
In the subplot, Ann (Rashida Jones) tries to strike up a conversation with April and Ron (Nick Offerman), who barely tolerate her presence. It's not that Ann is a bad person or particularly annoying, it's just that April and Ron don't really like other people. That may explain a lot about their strange surrogate father/daughter relationship. Ron even beams with pride when April intentionally gets his name wrong after he explained it was his one of his techniques to keep people at a distance.
Ann's story wasn't as engaging as Leslie's story or Tom and Ben's great escape, but she's still a fun character to watch. She even learns the secret to engaging Ron and April is to bring a bloody and gross story from the hospital to share. Because everyone loves that.
In the end, things go back to normal… and Jerry runs into the office after missing his daughter's birthday for his fool's errand. But he's so on top of his task that Leslie can't bring herself to stop him before he races back out to continue his trek across the state. That's actually the closest she's come to being nice to him for a while.
All in all, this was a solid if not spectacular episode of "Parks and Recreation." But it's still easily one of the funniest sitcoms on TV.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.