Titles Ben and Leslie/Correspondents’ Lunch
Two-Sentence Summary In “Ben and Leslie,” the title characters get married after an evening that doesn’t exactly go according to plan. “Correspondents’ Lunch” features Ben and Leslie returning to work, with Ben beginning a new job as the head of a Sweetums-run charity and Leslie dealing with the fallout from her email being hacked by journalists.
Ben and Leslie: “In my time working for the state government, my job sent me to 46 cities in 11 years. I lived in villages with 8 people, farming communities, college towns…I was sent to every corner of Indiana. And then I came here and I realized that this whole time I was just wandering around everywhere…just looking for you.” (Ben’s vows to Leslie)
Correspondents’ Lunch: “I wish this office only had walls.” (Ron)
I’m still having trouble formulating coherent thoughts about this week’s Parks and Rec event. I watched “Ben and Leslie” six times in 36 hours (a new personal record for TV episodes), and I still cry just as hard every time. I honestly believe that was a perfect 30 minutes of television—it made me laugh, it made me cry, and, more than anything, it made me feel good. If Parks and Rec would have ended forever after that episode like it was originally believed, I would have been devastated but ultimately satisfied; it was that good.
But thank the television gods it didn’t end, and “Correspondents’ Lunch” proved that there are still moments of laughter, kindness, and character development to be found even after such a brilliant high point like “Ben and Leslie.” While the episode wasn’t as good as the one that came before it, it still held is own. It featured Amy Poehler doing impressions, Retta being flawless, and a hopeful turn of events for Andy as a character—of course it was good. I may still not be crazy about the seemingly random “Ann’s baby-daddy search” storyline, but I have been missing her sharing scenes with Chris. So I liked their interactions in this episode. It was an episode worthy of its place, sharing a night with what I now think is one of the best sitcom episodes—and the best wedding episode—of all time.
There were a million little things to love about “Ben and Leslie”—the callbacks to previous episodes, the joyful feeling that permeated the whole thing (but was kept from being too saccharine by Councilman Jamm’s antics), the acting by each member of this incredible ensemble, RON F—–G SWANSON…I could write a recap to rival Leslie’s first draft of her vows in its length if I wanted to list everything that made me happy about this episode.
Ultimately, the thing I loved most about “Ben and Leslie” was that it was an episode about love—the love between a man and a woman and between the two of them and the friends who have become their family. And it was about the love between a show and the audience that has come to adore it over five beautiful seasons.
I’ve said it so many times, but it bears repeating: There is nothing that makes me happier than watching an episode of Parks and Rec where the characters join together to help one of their own. So it should go without saying that I was incredibly moved by the fact that every character had their place in this wedding; even Jerry played a part and played it well. As Leslie is so fond of saying, “No one achieves anything alone.” That’s such an important theme when it comes to this show, and it came to its most beautiful realization here.
Another important theme that makes Parks and Rec such a groundbreaking show is feminists can love and be loved, too—without ever having to sacrifice their feminist streaks. This wedding was so incredible to me because it was a celebration of the fact that strong, independent, ambitious Leslie Knope never had to give up any of those traits in order to find her perfect man. Instead, she found a man who finds the very idea of her submitting to him in any way—including taking his last name—so ridiculous that he jokes about it. She found a man who believes his entire career with the state government was just wandering in the wilderness until he met her. She found a man who sacrificed so much in order for her to achieve her dreams and did it for no other reason than the fact that he loves her more than he’s ever loved any job. And Leslie doesn’t just take advantage of Ben’s support; she does the same for him.
For all of us romantic feminists out there, Leslie and Ben are a sign of hope that it can happen—there are men out there waiting to help us, support us, surprise us, and make us happy.
Instead of continuing to wax poetic about every minute detail that I loved about “Ben and Leslie,” I’m just going to make a list of my favorite things:
• The physical comedy perfection and synchronicity of Poehler and Adam Scott spending a good portion of the episode interacting back-to-back. (Especially, “There’s your butt!”)
• Andy jumping out of the city hall window.
• The return of Ethel Beavers, who is now April and Andy’s adopted grandma.
• The multiple nods to Aziz Ansari’s obsession with Hitch.
• Ron making the wedding rings out of a sconce from Ann’s wall (and using a waffle iron to make them).
• Bucky, the Li’l Sebastian impersonator. You know it’s going to be a great Parks and Rec episode when Li’l Sebastian returns from the grave.
• Jerry’s pronunciation of Game of Thrones.
• Chris giving Ben the letter from the statehouse that sent them to Pawnee. Scott and Rob Lowe hit this emotional beat perfectly. It was the first of many moments to make me cry.
• Leslie’s Tim Gunn impression making a comeback.
• Ann’s inspired decision to incorporate Leslie’s political ambitions—her other great love—into her wedding via her dress.
• The way Andy and Chris both stood up, ready to defend Leslie, when Jamm called her a “b-hole.”
• Everything about this scene. Leslie almost losing it when she talks about her dad. Ron being too overcome to do anything but nod. Poehler and Nick Offerman are always deserving of Emmy consideration, but after this scene it would just be cruel and/or stupid to deny them their recognition any longer.
• Have I mentioned Ron Swanson’s perfection in this episode? Because I’m about to again. His speech before the real wedding was the perfect way to create something deeply emotional because of how well we know a character. We understand how huge it is for Ron to open up at all to Leslie about how much she means to him, so when his voice breaks upon telling her, I’m sure I’m not the only one who was left sobbing.
• The fact that the wedding took place in the Parks Department offices, where Ben and Leslie met, in front of just the people closest to them.
• Retta’s voice!
• Champion walking down the aisle.
• The vows. I sob every time I watch them. I’m a sucker for montages, so I was a goner from the start. My personal favorite is the shot of the “Smallest Park” kiss when Leslie talks about Ben surprising her. I’m also slightly obsessed with how their voices get really soft during their vows; you can hear the warmth and the emotion.
• “I love you and I like you.” I said everything I could ever say about this line in my last post, so I’ll refrain from gushing too much. It’s one of my favorite lines in the history of my TV-watching life, so when they said it again I absolutely lost it.
• DJ Roomba
• The callback to Ben’s distaste for whiskey.
• “Close only counts in horse grenades….”
• Chris’s beautiful advice to Andy.
• JJ’s waffles!
• Ben and Leslie looking even happier in front of the wildflower mural now than they did during their first lunch in front of it so long ago.
• “5000 Candles in the Wind.” I’m not ashamed to admit that I sang along. The shots of whole cast singing together, looking so happy, are the perfect representation of what Parks and Rec is as a show.
“I love my husband. I love my job. I love my friends…even though they really can’t handle their booze.”
That’s it. That’s the whole show summed up in one mini monologue. It’s a show about a woman who loves a town, a career, a group of people, and a man with everything she has. Watching Leslie and Ben walk out of her office as husband and wife as Ron saluted them, I found myself moved beyond anything I was expecting. More than their vows, more than anything else in this beautiful episode, that last minute is so full of love that it floors me.
I think the only way to end this post is with the same picture I stared my recap of their engagement episode with. Thank you, Chris (via Ethel), for giving me the perfect way to react to this incredible moment of television: