A Timely Episode: Parks & Recreation

Parks & Recreation: “Flu Season” (Season 3, Episode 2)


Ladies and Gentlemen, Quantum Leap‘s Scott Bakula

While Hillary Clinton’s mini-collapse may have come at an inopportune time, the media crush to paint this as yet another flaw, or even weakness, of the Democratic candidate — you know, the one who is currently polling slightly ahead of the Racist Creature from the Orange Lagoon — is at best missing the mark, and at worst, pretty darn sexist. Mrs. Clinton while faced with an illness that, frankly, would have had me sobbing under the covers in a Benadryl haze, forged ahead on a regimen of campaigning that would exhaust some marathoners, because that’s what she does.

Leslie Knope may have set the template for her hero’s (yes, no -ine needed) motoring through the pain in the Parks & Recreation early third season episode “Flu Season.” In it, the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana, is slowed by a flu outbreak as half the characters wind up in various wards of St. Joseph Hospital ministered to by nurse Ann Perkins. Leslie is smack dab in the middle of trying to save her city with the return of its once-proud Harvest Festival when she starts to feel the first pangs that something is off internally. However, a woman on a mission, Leslie denies every obvious flu symptom, even when it’s clear her sickness is much worse than Andy Dwyer’s online diagnosis of “network connectivity problems.”

Even when actual professional Ann deduces her all-too-real flu due to Leslie’s disorientation (“I have to speak to the Chamber of Secrets…Commerce”) and 104 degree temperature, Knope won’t allow that to deter her from her task to save Pawnee. In the episode’s climactic scene, Leslie wanders onto the site of a debate, her mental state captured in the fever pitch of germ-laden reverie. After an impassioned plea to an on-site poster, Ben Wyatt is ready to take her podium. However, that was never going to happen. As Ben confesses to the camera after witnessing her: “That was amazing. That was a flu-ridden Michael Jordan at the ’97 NBA FInals. That was Kirk Gibson hobbling up to the plate and hitting a homer off of Dennis Eckersley. That was… that was Leslie Knope.”


It’s the moment which confirms the spark which before then was just a shippers’ dream, that Ben indeed had a bit of a crush on Leslie. Indeed, you can mark it as the turning point for all three of the show’s enduring love relationships as Andy woos April in her sickbed and Ann sees Chris Traeger in a moment of weakness. All the show had to do was get rid of that damn Brendanawicz and the program’s inherent goodness shone through

And it truly is a momentous episode, possibly its best. It also has Ron Swanson bonding with Andy, the line “you are a non-stop good idea machine,” Ben bringing Leslie her favorite waffles AND his homemade chicken soup, and so many other reasons why it’s worth watching on a whim. However, we’re recommending watching it this week because it’s a call for perspective.

We never consider Leslie Knope weak for having been felled by a virus, but strong for having the mettle to power through. Hillary Clinton may be playing on a different scale, but there’s no greater television equivalent than the indomitable Ms. Knope. Hillary was giving powerful speeches on a national scale while wracked with pneumonia — and, yes, we know some people’s claimed concern is her secrecy, and if it were a chronic disease, sure, but it’s not, and she was trying to push through. And while many people over 65 (or even under) would be out for a month with pneumonia, Hillary is already heading back on the path tomorrow. That’s impressive. That’s Curt Schilling coming out to pitch in the playoffs with a bloody sock. That’s Willis Reed emerging from the tunnel. That’s…that’s Hillary Clinton.


You can watch the “Flu Season” episode of Parks & Recreation on Hulu.


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