TV Diary | Parks And Recreation: “Bowling For Votes”
TV Diary | Parks And Recreation – Episode 4.13 – “Bowling For Votes” – Original Airdate: 1/26/12
Episode Grade: A-
Ah… the focus group. One of the staples of political (and corporate, for that matter) culture. Take your prospective voters, put them in a room, and watch them pick you apart. Knowing what we know about Leslie Knope from what Parks And Recreation’s run has shown us thus far, that she’d latch onto one negative comment from a campaign focus group – a man named Kyle’s judgment that “she isn’t someone I’d go bowling with” – and exert all of her energy into winning Kyle over rings 100% true to her character as we know it. OF COURSE she’d set up a bowling fundraiser solely because of Kyle’s comment, specifically invite that one naysayer personally, and then spend the rest of the night bowling with him to try to win him over. Most sitcoms would have Kyle end up being swayed to Leslie’s side by the end of the episode but that’s one of the things that makes Parks And Recreation special. Instead, after spending the entire evening with Kyle and pandering to his interests , Leslie attempts to secure his vote when he takes his leave of the event only to have him tell her that he’s still not voting for her. Leslie is nothing if not tenacious – we know that about the character beyond a shadow of a doubt – so obviously arguments ensue, things are said, and the situation devolves to the point where Leslie throws the fact that she lost on purpose in his face, which leads to another game only this time with a bet where the stakes are such that she gets his vote if she beats him, while she agrees to clean his house for a month if she loses. After winning that game and thanking him for his vote, he derisively responds, “Yeah… I’ll just write in ‘bitch.’” In retrospect, it’s probably not the smartest move on Kyle’s part since Ben is standing within earshot  and his comment earns Kyle a punch in the face… a punch that occurs right in front of a photographer. Because of course there would be a photographer right there at that instant. But – in yet another intelligent turn – Leslie is able to spin the situation into a positive during a press conference by pointing out that her boyfriend was standing up for her and that calling a woman that word is not acceptable, thus drawing skeptical voters to her side en masse for admiring her toughness in a difficult situation. It’s an example of a show knowing its characters inside and out and drawing on those well-constructed characters to create a story rather than simply piling gag upon gag upon gag as so many sitcoms are wont to do. But, then, Parks And Recreation isn’t just any sitcom.
 Not to mention throwing the game so that Kyle could win.
 And since the show’s already demonstrated that Ben is cool with sacrificing his job for Leslie, it’s doubtful he’d take someone calling her, as Leslie says, “The second-worst thing that you can call a woman,” laying down. And he decidedly does not take it laying down. Also, again… the show staying true to its characters.
*”Bowling For Votes’” B-story had some nice character moments as well with the other half of the cast running a cold-calling fundraiser for Leslie’s campaign. Just as Leslie focusing in on one man’s negative comment about her was a totally Leslie Knope thing to do, the telephone fundraiser showed that Parks And Recreation knows its supporting characters just as well. Chris making the distinction between his job as city manager and as a citizen supporting Leslie; Andy telling a caller, “I don’t think we’re really allowed to take more than $50”; Gerry asking why a caller would need his Social Security number and then giving it to the caller anyway; April making it her sole goal to take away Chris’s happiness when Gerry makes the event a competition to see who can bring in the most money. All funny and all great because we know who these people are. But perhaps the best moment? After Gerry’s daughter dumps Chris – taking him out of the competition and leaving the win for April – is April visiting Chris the next day in his office and offering him the competition’s prize (two passes to a local movie theater) while having purchased an extra pass so that Chris can have company by going with she and Andy, and THEN following that sweet gesture with a hug. It shows nice growth for the April character who, beyond that sardonic outer shell, is actually a good person likely in no small part because of her marriage to the stupid but incredibly decent Andy. Very nice work by all involved here.
*And then, there was the C-story that was the magnificence of Tom and Ron in bowling competition with one another. Ron, the serious bowler – someone who’s against any kind of spinning because, according to him, anything other than straight down the middle is figure skating – versus Tom, the guy who holds his bowling ball between his legs like a child and rolls with both hands. Ron’s reaction to Tom’s technique – “Son, people can SEE you!” – is brilliant and of course, Tom runs neck and neck with Ron the entire game until Ron “accidentally” pinches Tom’s finger between two balls on the ball return. Tom’s injury is hilarious, mostly because Tom is Tom and frustrated Ron is incredibly amusing Ron. Giving Tom the overall win and then using the tag to show Ron incognito at the bowling alley trying out Tom’s technique and rolling a perfect game was the icing on the cake.
*Adam Scott did a great job demonstrating Ben’s dorkiness and nervousness in describing the incident with Kyle to the police. The laser sounds he makes to the officer taking the report? The coup de grace.
*An unfortunate byproduct of the end of Chris’s relationship with the horribly named Millicent Gergich? I’m going to miss Jim O’Heir’s brilliant slow burns as Gerry anytime Chris inappropriately brought up anything about his daughter.
*Absolutely loved Aziz Ansari’s reading of the “OWWWW!! My finger was in there! I think it might be broken,” line. A highlight of the episode for sure.
*Ron: “This bowling alley has my favorite restaurant in Pawnee” Cut to the sign advertising hot dogs for $1.00 and hamburgers for $1.35.
*”I like her and I’d consider voting for her, but I once knew a Leslie and didn’t like her… Would she consider changing her name?”
*”Oh, I don’t know Gerry — it’s Sunday night, I’m making phone calls to strangers, and you’re in my house. My life couldn’t be worse.”
*”When I eat, it is the food that’s scared.”
*”Tom, I’m asking you as a man to stop this immediately.”
*”What the fuck.”
*”You are so down with strikes they should just call you Norma Rae.”
*”Are you a female bird?”
*”I’m a really good bowler. Ask Ron.” “Who’s Ron?”
*”When we write reports, we usually refrain from writing words like ‘jerk’ or ‘awesome.'”
*”My campaign manager and I made out a lot afterwards. (Pause) I probably shouldn’t have said that.”
*”KING KONG AIN’T GOT NUTHIN’ ON ME! Ow, my fingie still hurts.”
*As per usual, I’ve embedded the episode below via Hulu for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.