Title Ben’s Parents
Two-Sentence Summary Ben and Leslie’s engagement party—and Leslie’s homemade unity quilt—are almost ruined by the open hostility between Ben’s long-divorced parents. Meanwhile, Chris’s emotional state goes into a tailspin after the engagement announcement, and Tom starts to wonder if Jean-Ralphio is a good choice for a business partner if he wants Ron to invest in Rent-a-Swag.
Favorite Line “Ann, you are such a good friend. You are a beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful muskox. Thank you, ox, for keeping this ship afloat.” (Leslie)
My Thoughts For as much as I loved last week’s episode (and will be watching Ben’s proposal on a continuous YouTube loop for the rest of my life), I think this was my favorite Parks and Rec episode of the season so far. Every single character had at least one strong moment, and the guest stars were fantastic, as is usually the case with this show. “Ben’s Parents” had all of my favorite things about Parks and Rec wrapped up in one fantastic half-hour: an abundance of Ben/Leslie love, Leslie being her wonderfully determined self, interactions between all of my favorite characters, Champion, Jean-Ralphio, lots of Tom Haverford, and amazing guest star appearances.
The side plots in this week’s episode were especially strong. I don’t know why, but I laughed embarrassingly hard at almost everything that came out of Chris’s mouth from the beginning of the episode until the end. I especially loved April and Andy’s tactics for balancing his emotions (the “Dave Matthews Band” exchange was a standout moment in an episode filled with them). Champion licking Chris’s tears was another great touch, and kudos to Rob Lowe for not breaking character at all while it was happening.
Tom’s storyline was also a very strong one. I don’t know if I’ve admitted this here yet, but Tom is—besides Leslie and Ben—my favorite character on Parks and Rec. I love absolutely everything about him, and just when I thought I couldn’t love him more, this episode happened. His initial Rent-a-Swag pitch to April and Andy was classic Tom; I loved that little bit of Entertainment 720 style reappearing (along with Jean-Ralphio). However, I also was happy to see Tom grow up in a major way by the end of this episode. The real Tom Haverford underneath all of the flashy bravado has always intrigued me, so I appreciated such a big focus on his character development this week. That’s something I really love about Parks and Rec; every character develops and has their own stories to tell.
The main plot reminded me what a dream team Ben and Leslie really are together. These two are such a perfect match. Ben’s pessimism about the party was hilarious (“Well, if there’s anyone who can bring my parents together, it’s… no one!”), and I love the way Leslie’s determined optimism pushed back against that. Leslie is never one to take no for an answer in any aspect of her life; if she wants something to happen, she makes it happen through sheer force of will and hard work. That’s something Ben needs, and something I love that he appreciates about her. There was something surprisingly sweet and very surprisingly hot about the way Ben was so obviously hot and bothered in the face of Leslie’s indomitable will. He wants her the most when she’s being nothing but her slightly pushy, passionate, stubbornly hopeful self, and that’s such a great thing to see. Ben loves Leslie for everything that she is as a person, and theirs is probably the healthiest, most realistic love story I’ve ever seen on TV.
There were a lot of great details that made the Leslie/Ben plot even more fantastic: the fact that they announced their engagement in front of the wildflower mural; the detail that went into the unity quilt (the Game of Thrones reference, the smallest park square, the Joe Biden picture, etc.); Ben once again talking about Star Trek at the party; the fact that all Leslie needed for running away were brownies, four bottles of wine, and Ben; and the enthusiastic make-outs in the back of the cab. (I don’t know why, but I love the way Amy Poehler as Leslie says “make out.”)
What really made the engagement party plot work, though, were the guest actors. Any appearance by Leslie’s mom is fun, and Ben’s parents were comedy gold. I was blown away by the perfect casting of Jonathan Banks as Ben’s dad. He was just terrifying enough to be hilarious. His serious, intimidating, “We’re a Twizzlers family,” was one of my favorite moments in the entire episode, as was his stare-down with Ron over the last shrimp.
It’s no secret that I love Leslie Knope, and this episode featured two moments that made me beam with pride for the way the other characters on the show love her, too. When the entire parks department threateningly told Ben not to hurt Leslie, I found my eyes getting misty while I laughed, which is a reaction this show excels at bringing out. They’re such a great little family, and seeing them all so protective of Leslie was both beautiful and hilarious.
I also loved seeing Ben stand up to his parents and defend Leslie’s unity quilt. Ben has a big fear of letting down authority figures, so it was a big deal to see him stand up to his parents in order to defend his fiancée. That speaks a lot to both his love for Leslie and the effect she’s had on him as a person.
This was an incredibly strong episode. It made me laugh, and it moved me in a genuine, realistic way. Nothing on TV right now makes me happier than a great episode of Parks and Rec. Now, if only I could speed up time to get to next week’s episode.