Is there any facet of Leslie Knope’s personality that isn’t just the greatest darn thing? In the focus group that opens the episode, Leslie confesses to feeling a lot of feelings, which, in retrospect, is a teensy bit of foreshadowing that Leslie is going to be all over the place in “Bowling for Votes.” The catalyst for Leslie’s feelings this week is a random Pawnee dude who says he wouldn’t vote for Leslie because she’s not the kind of person you could take bowling. Which is not the kind of thing a person says about Leslie Knope. Twelve hours later she has assembled a dossier of the guy’s entire life, including his bowling average (“according to the most recent data”), his favorite TV shows, and his favorite snacks.
Leslie, of course, hosts a full-on bowling night for her campaign, the sole purpose of which is to win over her one naysayer, and also do some relaxed standing positions. She woos him with beer and wings — which she obviously had delivered specially for him since the bowling alley snack bar only serves hot dogs and hamburgers — and then loses to him on purpose. He still says he wouldn’t vote for her. So she thrashes him in a second game, talking all kinds of Knope-flavored smack and moon walking right past him. Finally, he drunkenly calls her a bitch, and Ben “the Batman” Wyatt flies in there and coldclocks the guy. So much for his vote.
The B and C stories are also brilliant this week. Jerry cobbles together a fundraising call bank for Team Knope, which I’ll talk about in a second. And at Rock N’ Roll Lanes, Ann joins Tom and Ron for a game of bowling that ends in shame and disaster for everyone. Ron’s bowling ball is solid black and he always bowls right down the middle, “no hook, no spin, no fuss. Anything more and this becomes figure skating.” Tom shows up “ready to bowl so hard,” and ends up getting his fingie smashed after some granny-style bowling shenanigans that nearly cause Ron to have a stroke. (“Son, people can see you.”) Luckily, Beautiful Ann — pardon me, “girl“ — is on hand to keep them from killing themselves or each other.
You’ve got to know by now that Knights In Shining Armor make me want to vomit, but for some reason, Ben jumping in to defend Leslie’s honor was the most adorable thing. Maybe because Ben seemed so shocked and then in so much pain, like he’d actually broken his hand on that guy’s face. Or maybe because everyone knows Leslie can take care of herself. Or maybe because she is just as likely to deck a full-grown man on Ben’s behalf. Or maybe because, despite his general shepherding, Leslie’s still the one driving her campaign. Or maybe because Ben is the guy who knows and loves Leslie so much he notices when she’s punishing herself with a limited amount of whipped cream on her waffles. I don’t exactly why, but what normally would have pissed me off made me swoon a little bit. Leslie is no less powerful just because her boyfriend got in a bowling alley brawl for her.
I’ll be they totally role play Batman and Vicki Vale all the time. Ben gets to do the whole vigilante crusader thing and Leslie can make up all the newspaper headlines she wants.
FEELINGS, FEELINGS, FEELINGS
In addition to the swooning, I mostly just felt a deep sense of affection for the entire cast during “Bowling for Votes.” I mentioned a couple of weeks ago how fun it is to see the writers write specifically for these actors now that they’ve inhabited their characters, and this week is a perfect example of that. In the first season, this script could never have been written, but knowing Tom and Ron and April and Donna and Andy like we do now, it’s really satisfying to see them each get a moment that is so in character. Of course Donna would hook-up over the phone while trying to raise money, of course Tom would have a Louis Vuitton bowling bag, of course Ron’s favorite restaurant would be the bowling alley snack bar, of course April would want to destroy Chris’ happiness, and of course Andy can’t stand to be in a room taut with the promise of confrontation. It’s all just so them; and I’m crazy about those guys.
Also, Champion was back! So that gets a grand feeling of: HURRAH!
Last week I said I was ready to see April get up to some standalone April-sized hijinks without teaming up with Andy, and this week I got my wish. First she sets out to crush Chris at fundraising, just to shut him up for ten seconds, and then she realizes she actually likes Chris, so when Jerry’s daughter breaks up with him, she gives him her well-earned movie tickets — and an extra one she bought herself, so she and Chris and Andy can all go out together. Every one of her phone bank calls were gems, from “By the way, [demonic voice] I’m calling from inside your house!” to “No, mira, mira, mira, mira, mira. Es like whateva you want. Ten dolla’ don’t matta.’” Also, I always knew she was a wizard. You want to say Slytherin, don’t you? But she’s such a secret Gryffindor.
KNOPE WE CAN
Amy Poehler really ought to submit this episode for the Emmys.
What did you think of “Bowling for Votes”?