The episode opens, as the others have, with Leslie outdoors with some children. But this time, to digress from the other episodes, they are on a pre-teen nature hike (it used to be a teen nature hike, but they changed the name after a girl got pregnant, confesses Knope), where she unwittingly eats a poisonous plant for no apparent reason, and as her tongue begins to swell, the credits kick in. Welcome to Pawnee!
After the credits, we’re in Leslie’s office as she informs Ann that she’s invited a reporter from the Pawnee Journal (Pawnee’s version of the New York Post, Leslie tells us) to come and do a story about the pit. Knope then reveals that this is all part of her (stupid) strategy to facilitate that park being built, in this case by building steam for it by involving the press. She then coaches her team to “Stay on message” (it is numbers 1 and 2 of her hard and fast interview rules) during the interview, before her meeting ends and she awkwardly asks Mark out for a coffee (while he is drinking a coffee). She takes him to J.J.’s Diner, “The unofficial meeting place of Pawnee’s political elite” (they should put that on the sign), to ask him 30 typed out questions about how she should go about being interviewed, at which point he calls her insane, and she refutes this claim by laughing like a crazy person for an uncomfortable length of time, while her voiceover treats viewers to the fact that when she and Mark made love, so long ago, it was “very intense.”
Next thing we know, Leslie is introducing herself to the press member, Shanna Molway-Tweep, and showing her the patently offensive murals in the hallways of Indians being murdered. Then she introduces the reporter around the office to Ron and Tom, and the subplot of Ron beating Tom handily at Scrabble is introduced, to be addressed further later. As Leslie introduces her team in the meeting room, she calls Ann and Andy heroes, while describing Tom as “smooth like milk chocolate,” which he even calls out as weird and uncomfortable before she powers through into the story of the pit.
After Leslie cannot calm her nerves about the story, she is asked to leave the room temporarily while the rest of the subcommittee are interviewed. Andy reveals that he was blackout drunk, walking home from band practice (for his band Threeskin, formerly Fourskin, before the loss of their bass player) when he spied what he thought to be a toaster in the pit. As he went in after it, he fell and broke both of his legs. In the ensuing fight with Ann during the interview (she had not known he was blackout drunk at the time of his accident), he calls her out for drinking while taking birth control pills, and the interview is hastily halted. Knope struggles to find a diversion, and does so in Mark (after sending him 15 texts), as he walks the reporter out of the office, his arm around her waist.
While this is going on, Ron takes time to tell Tom, once again, that he is terrible at Scrabble. Even worse than his ex-wife, who he continues (directly into the camera) is named “Tammy Swanson, and she’s a serious bitch.”
Leslie meets Shawna at the pit the next morning for an interview, and Shawna is dropped off by Mark, wearing the same clothing as yesterday, and unprepared for the interview. Knope is confused, wondering if they perhaps live near one another, until the realization visibly hits her, and we can see the pain in her eyes. It is a momentary glimpse of humanity, and it is very, very sad. Leslie then goes on the offensive, going from cagey, ambiguous mumbling to self-deprecating to outright rude, until she ditches out of the interview to visit Ann and confide in her, while Andy yells unencouraging things at them from the couch (“I bet he didn’t use a condom!”).
Meanwhile back at the office, April plays a few Scrabble words on Tom’s computer, in a game against Ron, until he reveals to her that he was letting Ron win, and calls her a dumbass. Shortly after, Leslie arrives to chastise Mark for having sex with the reporter, especially because Shawna was “so skanky.” He calls her a huge dork and resigns from her subcommittee. Knope then calls Shawna and explains her strange behavior during her interview at the pit by saying she had food poisoning from an old burrito, and invites her to J.J.’s diner to finish the story. At the diner, Shawna reads Leslie a quote, from Mark (that he thought was off the record, it being implemented more as pillow-talk on his part) that the “park is never, ever, ever, ever going to happen,” and she is visibly hurt, again.
Ann comes in and talks to Mark, in an attempt to fix the damage, and Mark shows his first hints of fallibility, previously being one of the beacons of the show (along with Ann), when he reveals that he though his damaging comments were made off the record, without any knowledge of what the term meant. He then continues his bad streak when, after asking Shawna to pull his quotes, he denies being in a relationship with her, and then dopily can’t understand why Ann is horrified at his idiocy.
Tom and Ron’s story comes to a close as Ron, after having his ass sufficiently kissed by brown-noser Tom, reveals that he knows Tom lets him win, but likes him as a person, so he doesn’t draw attention to his lies. Tom is unmotivated, not a team player, never wants to go the extra mile; in short, he is Ron’s ideal of a government employee.
Mark goes to Leslie and apologizes for his involvement with the reporter, and denies his doubt in the park, and Leslie reinstates him in her subcommittee. The story comes out, chock full of disparaging remarks about Andy being drunk, Ann using the pill, and Knope being an idiot, but overall Leslie considers it a success, for some reason. Overall, the episode gave Leslie and Mark lots of room to grow as characters, which was a refreshing change from their hastily drawn two-dimensional personalities in previous episodes. And, more importantly, Andy got to talk more, which is essential to a good episode. Overall, a strong entry for Parks and Recreation.
Recap by Evan Stewart