The last couple episodes of “The Office” have been warm and sweet and for the most part very enjoyable as the show leads up to Steve Carell’s departure. They’re also kind of getting upstaged by the “Parks and Recreation” episodes that follow them.
“Parks and Rec” had one of its out-and-out funniest episodes of the season in “Soulmates,” with a great showcase for Aziz Ansari as Tom turned up the annoying meter to a very high level, Chris fell victim to the power of Ron Swanson and Ann has a new guy in every scene in which she appears. “The Office” was fun Thursday, but I laughed harder at “Soulmates.”
The long and varied history of Leslie Knope romantic misadventures has been a reliable vein of comedy almost from day one, but we haven’t seen too many of them play out before our eyes. Until, that is, Leslie signs up at Hoosiermate.com (which NBC has turned into a real site) and discovers that her most compatible, soulmate-level match is … Tom?
Believe it: Once he finds out what’s going on, Tom N. Haverford (“the ‘N’ is for ‘nerd'”) proceeds to put on a display of jerkwaddery unlike any you’ve ever seen. Somehow, though — maybe because it’s really pretty harmless — Ansari plays it in such a way that he never becomes annoying to the viewers, whether he’s talking about apps and ‘serts or describing in greater-than-necessary detail Leslie’s attempt to shut him the hell up with a kiss. It’s the best sustained bit of comedy he’s had in a long time, and watching Leslie’s mounting dismay/frustration/horror was equally good.
The reaction that Tom’s amorous attention toward his new “boo” brought out in Ben was also quite amusing, but the fact that his hesitance to accept Leslie’s offer of dinner came from Chris’ no-dating policy is a little tougher to take. Before Chris caught Leslie kissing Tom, I was assuming that Ben was either A) being Ben, or B) had some personal no-office-relationship rule because of something in his own past. Now it just feels like Ben and Leslie have a somewhat arbitrary obstacle between them.
In the B-story, if there wasn’t much doubt that Ron would triumph over Chris in their burger battle, the details of it were spot-on: Andy’s childlike (as in 4-year-old) wonder at all the exotic produce (dragonfruit, kiwano melon, peaches) at the Grain ‘n’ Simple, Ron’s utter disdain for that store and everything in it, the sketchy, half-empty look of Ron’s favored Food ‘n’ Stuff (“equidistant from my home and office”) and Jerry calling out Kyle (side note: Is this the first time we’ve seen Kyle away from the shoeshine stand?) for using the word “umami.”
It also featured what may be the first real hint of a dark cloud hanging over Chris — not from his lovingly prepared, impeccably cooked turkey burger lost to Ron’s meat on a bun, but from Andy’s relentless goofiness at the grocery.
A couple other notes from “Soulmates”:
- Other than Leslie’s (understandable) curiosity about the situation, the show wisely didn’t make much over Ann being with three different guys in as many (or maybe even fewer) days. The joke pretty well spoke for itself.
- Joe the sewage department guy might want to work on his pickup lines. A suggestion: Lose the phrase “toilet party.”
- Leslie has an ingenious solution for shutting Tom up when he gets to be too much: Have a woman kiss him. So far, it seems to work quite well.
What did you think of “Parks and Rec” this week?