Parks and Recreations’ Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) and April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) have become increasingly close, but will their relationship turn romantic?  Not if Andy’s ex Ann (Rashida Jones), who recently broke up with Mark (Paul Schneider), has anything to do with it, or so we thought.

Parks Department groupie Ann Perkins and city planner Mark Brendanawicz (above), played by Paul Schneider, had dated for the better part of this season, and Mark was all set to pop the question, at Leslie’s (show star Amy Poehler) urging, on national TV.  Well, not exactly.  It was the overnight shift on Pawnee’s local cable access channel’s telethon.  Even so, Mark, who had terribly misjudged their relationship, was all set to do it.  Just prior, Ann confided in best friend Leslie that something was missing in her relationship, and that she wanted to break it off with Mark, which she did.  After their break up, Ann turned her attention back to Andy, her ex.  He was an unemployed, self absorbed homeless person living in the pit when they split, but now has a job and buys people coffee–chiefly April, who has just turned 21.  April broke up with her gay boyfriend and his boyfriend because she pined for Andy, the lead singer of “Mouse Rat”, the band known by many names, with our favorite being “Just the Tip.”  Ann was heard complaining last week in season 2, episode 23, called “Master Plan”,  that she was the one who cleaned Andy up and made him a responsible person, and why should she let someone else have him?  We’ve seen Ann giving Andy lots of attention lately–the fun boyfriend with the rock star attitude–a deep contrast to Mark’s monotone and rye wit.

But then Ann got drunk–blackout drunk.  And after April’s 21st birthday party, she knew she’d hooked up with someone, but didn’t know who.  Enter new castmate Rob Lowe, the state auditor sent to crunch the Parks Department’s finances who is consumed by his healthy lifestyle, stopping periodically to do pull ups on a chin bar he’s installed at the Parks Department offices, and to eat gigantic multi-vitamins.  As Ann tries to figure out who she kissed, Rob Lowe’s character, as of now unnamed, sees Ann, and it’s obvious that he’s the one.  Fortuitous timing for April, because Ann seems smitten with the odd auditor–justice indeed, because as we see it, it has been April, not Ann, who has cleaned up rag tag Andy, and who has established a special rapport with him.  It is also much to April’s credit that Andy now stands on his feet, with help of course from Leslie, who saw to it that Andy would have a job.

Rob Lowe’s state auditor character is bound to be bad for Brendanawicz in more ways than one.  Last we saw Mark, he was hoping to reconcile with Ann, but Lowe’s character represents the much more dynamic romantic option, and we have a feeling he may fire Mark from the Parks Department as well.  Last week Lowe and his subordinate, Ben (Adam Scott, star of the acclaimed Party Down), mentioned to Leslie and Ron Swanson, played by the talented comedic actor Nick Offerman, that they would be cutting 35 to 40 % of the Parks Department budget.  We have also learned that Paul Schneider is leaving the cast of Parks and Recreation after this week’s season finale.

There might not be any love for Mark, but it does look like Leslie Knope is about to get some with Ben, the other new castmate.  Even our favorite pawnee player, Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari, below with Amy Poehler)–an Indian who changed his name from Darwish  Sabir, and who clings to the story that he is as American as apple pie, and that he hails from South Carolina, may be on the verge of making a love connection.  He got the bartender’s digits last week in the club he part owns with Andy and his ridiculous friend Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz). 

See the hilarious clip of Tom Haverford at the link below:

Should Tom finally hook up, it could pave the way for Ron Swanson to hook up with Wendy, Tom’s ex-wife, who he had secretly been in love with, even though they only got married so that Wendy (Jama Williamson), a Canadian, could remain in the country.  Wendy and Ron seem to have eyes for each other, but it is our belief that Ron, deep down, is in love with Leslie Knope, an interesting card to be played down the line.

Parks and Recreation has more of a cult than popular following, but for fans of the mockumentary format, the show has always been a real treat.  The casting is excellent.  We have especially high praise for Aziz Ansari, a rising comedian in his own right, and an excellent standup comic, for Chris Pratt, Nick Offerman, and Aubrey Plaza, also a fine young comic.  Ansari recently popped up on one of our other favorites, The Life and Times of Tim, as the voice of the pool hustler in “Nagging Blonde.”

The only castmate we were never thrilled with was Paul Schneider, the ultimate straight man.  But the producers must have felt the same, and hence his deletion from the cast going forward and the additions of Lowe and Scott.  Parks and Recreation has shown a willingness to bring in excellent comedic actors and funny people.  They have had big name guests such as Louis CK, Megan Mullally, Will Arnett (also Poehler’s husband), and John Larocquette, a cameo from Jay Johnston (The Sarah Silverman Program), in an episode in which the group goes camping and Tom shoots Ron Swanson in the head.   We expect to see many others as well.

Parks and Recreation has been renewed for a third season, and deservedly so.  But we may be a little disappointed with it unless we see some love matches pretty soon, beginning with Thursday’s season finale.

–Crack (