'Parks and Recreation': Best episode ever? Yeah, probably

rob-lowe-parks-and-rec-320.jpgThe season premiere of "Parks and Recreation" was funny, but it also had a lot of setup work to do -- reintroducing the characters, setting the stakes for the season, things like that.

Thursday's (Jan. 27) episode, though? Out-and-out hilarious from the word go. "The Flu" featured brilliant work from Amy Poehler and Rob Lowe playing sick, an outstanding teamup of Ron and Andy, Ann finally losing her cool with April (at work, no less!) and Ben finally realizing that there may be a method to Leslie's madness.

Leslie tries to power through a Chamber of Secrets Commerce meeting despite a 104-degree fever and, later, an oversized dose of flu medicine. Despite turning to the wall and saying to a poster, "Good evening, everyone. I'm Leslie Monster, and this is 'Nightline,'" she pretty much kills her presentation (up until the Q-and-A portion, at least), which leads Ben to compare her to Michael Jordan in the '97 NBA Finals and Kirk Gibson in the '88 World Series. It also sends him to Chris, who agrees that although another assignment has come from Indianapolis, maybe they should both stick around Pawnee for a while.

What made Poehler's flu-ridden performance so great was that she never went too big with it. Yes, Leslie at one point wore her pants as a scarf, and yes, she thought the floor and the wall switched places, but it was never so over the top that it became ridiculous.

Rob Lowe, on the other hand, did go a little big, but it was still awesome. Chris -- he of the 2.8 percent body fat and "My body is like a microchip" -- got hit especially hard by the bug, and Lowe played the misery to excellent effect. I didn't put a clock on it, but watching Chris exhort himself in the mirror to "Stop. Pooping!" caused at least a 45-second pause on the DVR until I could recover. This is probably going to become something that gets written here pretty much every week, but seeing Lowe unleashed like this is just a joy.

Other highlights from "The Flu":

- "Parks and Rec" hasn't paired Ron and Andy too often in its two-plus seasons, but their football-talking, burrito-eating ("You had me at Meat Tornado") day together produced a number of great little moments, like Andy's sheepish "This came out" when he yanked the drawer from April's desk and Ron's initial reluctance at Andy's suggestion of burritos for lunch ("I don't much go for ethnic food"). The best, though? Listen closely as they're running away after Andy flips over the car hood while running a pass pattern. The girlish laugh belongs to Ron, who yells out, "Andy, wait up!"

- Wonder of wonders: An episode that features Ann doing her job. Rashida Jones got to show a couple different shades to Ann, both in holding her anger at April in and, finally, letting it go the second her shift ended. The April-vs.-Ann antipathy is in character for both of them (especially April), but it's also something that could easily be overplayed. Having Ann vent -- and April kind of respect it -- is a good way to ensure it doesn't get too out of hand.

- So it turns out Tom's not just a slacking goof after all. Opening the Chamber of Commerce meeting by pimping ladies' night at the Snakehole Lounge might not have been the best way to go, but his midday shvitz also got a couple of big sponsors to buy into the Harvest Festival.

What did you think of the episode?
Photo/Video credit: NBC
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