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Parks and Recreation was back Thursday night for its second episode of Season 5, and we can start to feel the separation between the characters. It’s worth wondering if plans are to soon reunite everybody in Pawnee, because the show’s title is “Parks and Recreation” and not “Washington D.C. Spinoff.” Ben and April have their own chunk of the show, Leslie and Ann have another, and Andy and Chris have the sub-plot. “Soda Tax” is still a very good episode with plenty of laughs, it’s just that with any great TV show, our expectations aren’t often lowered–only raised.

The episodes kicks off with Ben and April sifting through care package 1 of 12 from the overbearingly thoughtful Leslie, who is back in Pawnee working on idea number 2, implementing a tax on hilariously unhealthy sugary foods and drinks. Exhibit A: An enormous container of sugar that the average child consumes every month in soda. Exhibit B: A drink cup (container? barrel?) so large it would have to be strapped into a car’s passenger seat for safe travel. Influenced by the real-life issue in New York City, Leslie channels Mayor Michael Bloomberg for her first big job as city councilwoman. And just as in real-life, the idea is widely opposed. Representing the Pawnee Restaurant Association, Kathryn Pinewood defends fast food chain Paunch Burger’s “children’s size” (pictured above), saying “It’s roughly the size of a two-year-old child, if the child were liquefied” She is akin to the other comedically-altered oppositions of Leslie we’ve seen in past seasons.

When we finally see Leslie in action, it seems like a familiar set-up. Leslie is overwhelmed by the public outcry against her idea, and she is having a rough time. Her last resort is a British accent–maybe they’ll listen now–but she ditches the accent to ask for a recess while vomiting into a garbage can. Politics is hard.

Andy has taken on a task of his own–physical training to become a cop. In worse shape than Chris Pratt‘s physicality would imply, Andy adopts a post-workout routine that includes stripping down to his boxers right on the track. His love for April and the desire to provide for is a clear and admirable motivation for Andy, and it simultaneously reveals that Chris has no motivation for his fitness. He explains as he did when we first met him, that he stays healthy because of the rare blood disorder he had as a child. But this time, he’s not as chipper in justifying it. Chris isn’t very Chris anymore. He has no one in his life to run for. A doctor visit confirms his worst fear: he’s suffering from “nothing. The silent killer.”

Down in Washington, D.C. Adam Scott convinces anyone who didn’t know it already: He is comedically brilliant. First discovering that none of his employees respect him, because they are college-aged interns who don’t respect anyone but the important government people they’re connected to, then realizing that he’s the one who has to play suck-up instead. Funny how that works out. So cue Mr. Scott for perfectly misguided brown-nosing. Have you heard of anyone *not* being won over with pizza and ultimate frisebee? Ben takes 20 years off of his age in a desperate attempt to get his employees to not only respect him, but also like him.

The reason we should hope Ben and April being in Washington is temporary is not only to see them back in Pawnee, but also to give Tom, Jerry, Donna, and Ron more to do. Last week’s episode was practically The Ron Swanson Show compared to this week. The first scene of Episode 2 features Ron with a burger with probably 7,000 calories. He loves meat, nothing new here. Despite being “regulars”, Jerry and Donna are anything but. Limited to only two or three lines (plus Donna’s priceless reactions in the background), the separation of the characters is not healthy for the ensemble.

Best Moments:

Leslie: (on Paunch Burger’s drink containers) “Most people call it a gallon. But they call it a regular.” ; “What did you put in this sugar it’s so good.”

Andy: “I have to run 2 miles in under 25 minutes? That’s a typo right, that’s humanly impossible.” ; “I’m never gonna be a cop. I’m gonna have to be a robber.”

Ann: “We’re not taxing anyone’s genitals.”

Ben: “Someone please tell me we Kodaked that moment!”; “Grab some ‘za, brah”

Bottom line: Despite not being as focused and guided as its season premiere, Parks and Rec still delivered the jokes that we come to expect.

I will be recapping each new episode of Parks and Recreation, as well as The Office this fall. Please follow @MattBenincasa and @ScreenInvasion on Twitter!

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The Author

Matt Benincasa

Matt Benincasa

Matt is an actor and writer from NYC, attending Fordham University with a Major in Communications and Minor in Theatre.