Parks and Recreation: "Dave Returns" (4.15)

TV Reviews Parks and Recreation
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<em>Parks and Recreation</em>: "Dave Returns" (4.15)

The return of Louis C.K.’s character Dave helps Parks and Recreaction’s world feel more real, more cohesive and continuous in a way that I’ve been writing a lot about for the past few weeks. It’s always nice when a character who left a show returns, even if their reason for doing so is kind of obvious and played out. Dave is back in Pawnee to apply for chief of police when the old chief is retiring. At the same time, Leslie and Ben are visiting the chief in the hope of obtaining his endorsement. That they run into each other, though, is really the show’s bad excuse for having Leslie decide if she still has feelings for Dave or if she’s truly committed to Ben. In typical sitcom fashion, she invites Dave along to her date with Ben, creating an incredibly awkward situation for everyone.

This dinner takes up much of the rest of the episode, but because of Dave, this sequence’s tone is very different from what we usually see in Parks and Recreation. C.K. always plays Dave in a way that slows down episodes. His humor isn’t as frantic as the rest of the show’s, where some characters’ lines bounce back and forth almost as fast as on Newsradio or 30 Rock. Dave’s humor is more subtle, and while it’s not quite like what C.K. likes to do on his own show, it’s undeniable that putting him there has an effect of changing the usual Parks and Recreation dynamic. I really like Dave, and while I don’t think that this is a terribly strong story for him to be in, it’s still pretty good, particularly because of Ben’s fear of cops. The situation borders on cliche, but the acting here is good enough to save the storyline.

What stole the episode, though, was the far less serious half, in which Andy brings the rest of the cast to a recording studio in order to record a theme he wrote for Leslie. The staff are terrible at singing, Chris in particular, so much of the plot is just their various failures until at the last second a certain Duke Silver is able to save the recording. Suffice to say, anytime we see more of the Duke, it’s a good thing.

While at this recording, we also have Tom and Ann bickering about their non-relationship. They had one date, but to Tom it’s a huge thing while Ann doesn’t want anyone to know about it, both because it’s not a relationship yet and because Tom can be pretty embarrassing. He screws things up with her repeatedly, but his persistence wins out and by the end of the evening she agrees to stay with him if he’ll just stop being so annoying for one moment. Which, it’s hard not to suspect, is Tom’s usual method of staying in a relationship.

What I liked in particular about “Dave Returns” is the way these two halves of the episode juxtaposed perfectly. The ridiculousness of a plotline centered around Andy works best when you’re cross-cutting with something more honest and thoughtful, which is the type of humor Louis C.K. does great these days. It’s unfortunate that it’s one of the few plots on Parks and Recreation that feels like it could’ve been pulled from plenty of other shows, but even for a show this good that’s going to happen occasionally. Neither story was a particular favorite of mine, but together they meshed very well to make a cohesive episode stronger than either half on its own.

Stray observations:
•Winnie the Boo is my favorite.
•Anyone else want an entirely Duke Silver-centered episode?
•I like that you can pinpoint the very moment Chris Traeger had the third or so actual feeling in his entire life.
•“You look like I could use your company.”
•Tom in one sentence: “I don’t want to brag, but I have a ton of experience with women being mad at me.”
•After how calm and rational Leslie acted for the entire episode, her comment about getting drunk was a very nice touch, keeping her character human.