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TV Diary | Parks And Recreation: “Operation Ann”

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TV Diary | Parks And Recreation – Episode 4.14 – “Operation Ann” – Original Airdate: 2/2/12

Episode Grade: B

Parks And Recreation has long had an Ann problem. Don’t get me wrong – Rashida Jones is a talented, talented actress and I’d watch her in almost anything. Whatever the problem with the way Ann’s been drawn, it’s not Jones’s fault. With that said, if there’s been one character throughout the run of the show [1] who the writers have had trouble pinning down, it’s Ann Perkins. Going from concerned citizen/Andy’s girlfriend to becoming Leslie’s best friend and sounding board to a failed relationship with Rob Lowe’s Chris to being shoehorned into a job in the Parks Department as a way of explaining why a nurse was always at City Hall, Ann has been rudderless for most of the show’s run. As such, she’s become the character that Parks And Recreation’s writers test things out on to see if they’re going to stick and in “Operation Ann” they’ve played an interesting gambit with her – romantically pairing Ann with the id of the show, Aziz Ansari’s Tom Haverford. One could argue that the seeds for such an unlikely coupling have been sown in previous years as Tom’s never been particularly shy about his interest in Ann but following up on his interest in this manner had to have been the most unlikely of possibilities. However, after seeing how “Operation Ann” played out I’m going to reserve judgment for now on the development because, surprising as it most certainly was, there were a lot of notes that did ring true to the characters as we know them. Much of the episode was based around Leslie’s attempts to find Ann a date for Valentine’s Day, including setting up a speed-dating session at a City Hall couples event and tasking all Parks Department personnel with finding potential suitors for Ms. Perkins which admittedly did lead to more than a few laughs [2] but, more than that, allowed for an angle that made sense within the show’s universe and that also provided yet more growth for one of the show’s characters. First, the angle. “Operation Ann” did manage to set up the Ann/Tom rendezvous organically with some genuine conflict from Leslie beyond Leslie simply being Leslie. After all of Leslie’s attempts to match Ann up failed, Ann begged out of the event claiming exhaustion in saying that she just wanted to head home but Leslie follows her out into the parking lot and sees Ann primping herself in her car, presumably because she has other plans. This angers Leslie because she thinks that the reason Ann lied to her was because she was meeting someone that Ann knows she shouldn’t be seeing, which leads Leslie to jump to the conclusion that she’s meeting with and attempting to rekindle her relationship with Chris. Obviously, this bothers Leslie because of the consequences of her relationship with Ben and Chris’s seeming hypocrisy, so she enlists Ben to help her tail Ann instead of enjoying their Valentine’s Day dinner together [3]. Once they arrive at the restaurant and watch Ann through a window, they’re both shocked to see that Ann is spending time not with Chris but with Tom, and they’re even more shocked when they find out that the date was facilitated by April, marking the second consecutive episode where the sardonic April selflessly helped another castmember. When Leslie doubts her sincerity, April tells her that she saw Tom and Ann having fun at the event and pushed them together because Tom was the only man that made Ann smile that entire night. I really like this new shading of April and it should be interesting to see where Parks And Recreation takes her newfound maturity. It should also prove just as fun to see where the Ann/Tom relationship is headed and, although it may seem unlikely for these two characters to get together, Mike Schur and his writing staff have earned the benefit of the doubt here. If nothing else, it should be a fascinating experiment.

[1] Outside of Paul Schneider’s boring and now-departed Mark Brendanawicz character.
[2] Random guy after sitting down with Ann: “You didn’t tell me she was beautiful. Well… not as beautiful as my sister but you know the law.”
[3] Ben: “Screw romantic dinners. Let’s go rub it in their face.” Leslie: “I love you so much.”

*”Operation Ann’s” B-story had its moments but ultimately has to be put into the “miss” category. Leslie creates an elaborate scavenger hunt for Ben to complete that’s meant to reveal the location of their Valentine’s Day dinner and Andy and – inexplicably – Ron enthusiastically help him with his search. While the fact that the normally staid Ron would be so gung-ho about puzzle-solving was somewhat incongruously amusing, it just didn’t land as well as one might hope other than watching Ron’s giddiness make him oblivious to the fact that The Bulge was, in fact, a gay bar. Beyond that… not much to see here.
*On the other hand, Chris’s depression over his breakup with Millicent Gurgich – love how he almost always refers to her by her complete name – was a new look for the character and one that, frankly, I hope we see more of. Because it’s damn funny. Watching Chris serve as the world’s most depressing DJ was a kick. Anything that includes the following exchange is A-OK in my book: “Can we change up the music? It kind of sounds like the end of a movie about a monk who killed himself.” “It is.”
*Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall in his review of “Operation Ann” broached the possibility that Parks And Recreation could be planting the seeds of a potential April/Andy breakup between her newfound maturity and his… being Andy. Not sure that I’d be on board with that since their relationship is one of my favorite things about the show but it’s worth filing the possibility away at least.
*Nice Party Down reunion between Adam Scott and Martin Starr as an April-esque clerk at Pawnee’s snow globe museum. If the show decided to make Starr a recurring player I’d have exactly zero problems with that.
*I’m always a fan of continuity so I liked that Leslie’s made-up Galentine’s Day holiday made a re-appearance here.
*However, minus points for using LMFAO’s musical STD “Party Rock Anthem.” Why have you forsaken me, Parks And Rec?
*Leslie’s idea of attractive men: Ryan Gosling, Joe Biden, Sam Waterston.
*OF COURSE Jerry would fall for Tom’s “Does she have a little Indian in her?” joke while Leslie spots it a mile away.
*Yachter Otter seems like a perfectly reasonable Leslie dream as does Ben’s decision to have a stuffed animal of said animal made for Leslie.
*Jerry’s ad on Craigslist for a date for Ann: “Man seeking man for night of casual fun.” It ends pretty much like you think it does.
*”Consider this alternate plan. We’ll have a drink, get to know each other, whatever. And then we’ll go back to my place and snuggle up like little bunnnnies.” Great Aziz Ansari line reading.
*”I have several men in rotation. One’s waiting for me out in the car.”
*”It’s really hard to say ‘congrats’ without sounding sarcastic.”
*”You beautiful spinster. I will find you love.” “Did you say something?” “Nothing. I love you.”
*”Millicent Gurgich has literally torn my heart from my chest and replaced it with a thick slab of sadness.”
*”I know what things are.”
*”April hates Valentine’s Day. And brunch. And outside. And smiling.”
*”Did you try ‘fuck’?”
*”I hate riddles and other such nonsense. I want that stated for the record.”
*”Where to begin. I’m an amateur juggler.” “No, stop. You shouldn’t have begun there.
*”Can I just look at your car keys for a second? I just need to see something on your car keys.”
*As per usual, I’ve embedded the episode below via Hulu for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.