Ben and Leslie clash over her campaign's first ad while Ron tries to avoid a friendship with Chris.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Campaign Ad"

Writer: Alan Yang

Director: Dean Holland

In this week's "Parks and Recreation," we met the face of evil in Pawnee.

Well… evil might be too strong of a word. Maybe Paul Rudd's Bobby Newport is simply the face of entitled ambivalence. The heretofore never-seen Bobby Newport is the front runner for city council in the the election that Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) is so desperate to win. Bobby is so clueless that he thinks that he's running unopposed. And considering that his family employs half of Pawnee in its candy empire, Bobby might as well be unopposed.

With Bobby polling at 70% and Leslie still at around 1% (What?! No bump for the Pistol Pete endorsement?), Leslie's boyfriend and newly appointed campaign manager Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) has an idea: run an attack ad against Bobby.  And it wouldn't be hard, since Bobby's campaign is basically built upon the idea that people should just give him the job and he likes dogs. Oh yeah, and his dad was friends with John Cougar Mellencamp.

It's a brilliant idea, but because Leslie is a political idealist, she's horrified at the prospect of going negative. She tries to avoid directly expressing her disapproval by pawning the rejection off on Donna (Retta) and then the lovely Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones). However, Ben knows Leslie well enough by now that he gets her to admit that she doesn't want to run an attack ad. It would be an affront to the ten year old girl who still lives within her.

Sympathetic to her feelings but realistic about her chances, Ben suggests that they make two ads and use the best advertisement for a rare TV slot. Ben takes  Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) and Jerry Gergich (Jim O'Heir) while Leslie takes Ann and Donna. Of course, Tom tries to take positions on both sides of the argument just so he can be on the winner's side. He'd probably vote for Bobby and Leslie if he could get away with it.

During the ad planning, Ben, Tom and Jerry hilariously compete to see who can do the best negative campaign voice before Ben tells Jerry that he's wasting their time. Poor Jerry… But if Ben wasn't putting down Jerry then he wouldn't be fully accepted into the tribe at this point. Meanwhile, Leslie's ad is relentlessly positive even as Bobby's face is plastered all over town and into her footage at the most inopportune moments.

Leslie's final ad is somewhat amateurish, as she forgets to even say which office she's running for and she has an inexplicably long list of things that she's in favor of, some of which you can read in the picture above. In short, it's a disaster. 

On the other hand, Ben's attack ad is so concise and sharp that Ann actually responds to it as if it was speaking directly to her. And when Ann (along with everybody else) sides with Ben's ad, Leslie breaks off their friendship and then quickly takes back the statement. I don't recall if Leslie always had a habit of saying hurtful things towards Ann and then immediately recanting them. But I've definitely noticed it happening more often this season.

"Parks and Recreation" has put its audience into an unusual position. We want Leslie to win the election and to see Bobby put in his place, but we're also rooting against Leslie's political ideals. She can't be that idealistic ten year old girl forever. And if this is a taste of the conflict to come between Ben and Leslie, then their relationship may not survive this campaign one way or the other.

As it is, Leslie literally tackles Ben before he can deliver the ad to the TV station and her campaign ends up being out of the money and the advertising slot. It's a crushing blow, but at least it gets Ben and Leslie talking to each other on a more reasonable level again.

Their solution is novel. They cut together a new ad featuring the political commercial that Leslie made when she was ten and they contrast it to Bobby's own advertisement, which makes him look like a fool. Unamused, Bobby summons Leslie and Ben to a meeting and he reveals what a child he truly is. Bobby tells Leslie to drop out of the race… for no other reason than he wants her to. He's not malicious about it or even calculating. Bobby just doesn't understand why he isn't being handed this new job in the same way he got everything in life. He even invites Leslie and Ben to his victory party with a real magician if they'll just back off. Naturally, they decline and they have to like their chances against him.

The kicker is that Bobby asks about using the girl from Leslie's ad for his own advertisement and he doesn't understand that Leslie didn't magically de-age herself for the commercial. This guy shouldn't be debating Leslie, he should be debating Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt)!

Speaking of everyone's favorite good natured fool, Andy and his wife, April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) are forced to ask Ann for medical help after Andy injures himself… by sneezing his head into a wall while trying to hang up a gold record that Leslie gave him. It's still funny how April won't let go of her hatred towards Ann and she asks for help in the rudest possible way. Fortunately for them, Ann is a good person and she gives her another chance to ask nicely before referring them to a real doctor and explaining that they have medical insurance.

There's also a great moment where Andy boasts that he never had car insurance and Ann is horrified that she once lived with him (and of course, she was once in love with him). April and Andy proceed to use all of the medical treatments available to them for many problems that they've left untreated for years. After a few misadventures with some doctors who don't quite know what to make of the couple, Andy and April are introduced to the cruel world of co-payments. That's right! Even when you have medical insurance, the companies still find a way to make you pay.

April and Andy try to run out on the bill, only for Andy to break his nose by running up against an ambulance. Oh Andy… don't ever change.

The third plotline revolved around the great Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) fighting off the unwanted social affections of Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe). It starts off innocently enough with Chris inviting Ron to a meeting where he needs someone to tell another city employee that his project has been terminated. For Ron, it's a rare treat to put his anti-government ideology into action. And it works perfectly for Chris too. If you recall Chris' first appearances at the end of season 2, he would always run away and leave Ben behind to deliver the bad news.

In short, Chris never wants to be the bad guy. And in Ron, he may have found a new Robin for his government Batman. The problem is that now Chris wants to spend time with Ron and the automatic door closer can't shut in time for Ron to keep Chris out of his office. And Chris only laughs at Ron's semi-polite refusal for lunch before finding himself at a restaurant and wondering if he was drugged. 

When Ron finally tries to pawn off another city worker as Chris' potential new friend, Chris reveals that he's not looking to be Ron's social companion. But he is thinking of giving Ron the  assistant city manager's position that Ben used to have. That could potentially make Leslie the new head of the Parks department if she loses her political campaign.

"Campaign Ad" was a fun stop on the road towards the city council election that potentially moved some of the show's players around. Bobby Newport may not be the most formidable opponent, but Leslie's victory is by no means assured. So it should be an interesting ride ahead.

Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.