Ah, Season Two, when everything just started to click. Of course, it gets so much better when Mark leaves at the end of the season, but how much the show improved during the season premier is just fascinating. I had a hard time pinpointing which one could be my favorite, but I just had to pick “Practice Date.”
Recap time: Councilman Dexhart has his first sex scandal on the show, which leads Mark to suggest a game where the parks crew tries to find the most dirt on the others. Garry* is the only one reluctant to play, which of course means he finds out that he’s actually adopted. Tom is told by Mark about Duke Silver, Ron’s musical alter ego, after Ron discovers Tom’s marriage to Wendy was for green card purposes only (she’s from Canada). Meanwhile, Leslie is incredibly nervous about her first date with police officer, Dave (Louis CK before everyone knew about his shitty behavior), so Ann takes her on a practice date to 1) evaluate her and 2) do some psychological therapy to get over her fears. Leslie gets drunk and embarrasses herself by going to Dave’s house and trying to impress him with the fact she knew what a bathroom was called. They do end up scheduling a second date, though, so yay.
First, Leslie’s everything was hilarious, and I identified with her so freaking much in this episode. I’ve never had a guy put his hand in my mouth, but I’ve had my fair share of terrible first dates. And people I’m attracted to tend to make me very nervous, so I babble and use my arms a lot. Last year, I was kind of flirting with someone and had to text my roommate with “I DO NOT KNOW WHAT I’M DOING” as I sat there emotionally paralyzed. It was … great.
Second, I found myself extremely attracted to Nick Offerman here:
Maybe it’s the hat, maybe it’s the saxophone, maybe it’s his smooth, deep voice or the chill demeanor … who knows. I sure don’t. But I love Ron’s Duke Silver persona; it really fleshes Ron out in ways we hadn’t seen before. He’s a very private individual, even prompting Diane to say several seasons later that his response to everything was to go live in a cave. While he’s not ashamed of his musical talents, he has no desire to broadcast it everywhere, in contrast to Tom and Donna’s approach to being forever on The Grid. I’ll get more into Ron in his supplemental post, but this episode really did cement my love for his character.
Third, the random things the characters find out about each other is pure gold.
- Donna donated money to David Duke’s presidential campaign because he promised to lower taxes.
- Despite him making fun of Ben for liking Star Wars in later seasons, Tom went as a Jedi for Halloween one year.
- April ran a riding lawn mower through a Nordstrom’s (she actually revealed this information herself, but that’s April for you).
- Garry was hit by a fire engine and got plastic surgery because of it.
Not surprisingly, nothing was really discovered about Mark, which just makes me wonder if the writers found him as bland as I do. When he confessed to Ann about a few of his skeletons, I was like, “Dude, you were young. Everybody smokes pot at some point.” I know I rag on Mark a lot, but ugh. I really hate that guy.
Runners Up: “Hunting Trip” (a very close second – seriously, this almost got chosen over “Practice Date”), “Freddy Spaghetti,” “94 Meetings,” and “Ron and Tammy”
* How on earth nobody found out that his name wasn’t really Jerry is beyond me.