Two-Sentence Summary Ben’s elaborate wedding anniversary plans fall apart when Leslie spends the day before their anniversary (the day of Ben’s big surprise) trying smooth over the Pawnee-Eagleton merger, so he spends a romantic day with Jerry/Larry instead. Meanwhile, April struggles with being Donna’s boss, and Ron tries his hand at his own version of Internet reviews.
Favorite Line “Dear frozen yogurt: You are the celery of the dessert world. Be ice cream or be nothing. Zero stars.” (Ron)
My Thoughts Every time Parks and Recreation goes on a brief hiatus, I survive without it. But as soon as it returns, I wonder how I managed without its weekly dose of genuine laughter and positivity in my life. In terms of television shows that simply make me feel good when I watch them, nothing holds a candle to Parks and Rec. Some may argue that the show is losing steam as it gets older (and I will admit to being one of those people on occasion), but then an episode like “Anniversaries” reminds me of how much fun I can still have watching Parks and Rec.
If I were making of list of reasons why “Anniversaries” was such a strong episode, its use of Ben Wyatt would be at the top. I always love episodes that focus on all of Ben’s gloriously nerdy quirks, and this episode put them in the spotlight once again. I can’t adequately express how much I love the way Ben’s nerdy qualities feel real. Ben is passionate about the media he invests in—he cares about the new Star Wars sequel so much that he needs a massage to release the tension he carries around from thinking about it; he watched Enchanted multiple times simply because he enjoyed it. There’s something so endearing about Ben’s enthusiasm and the way Adam Scott plays it. It never becomes a caricature of nerdy people; it’s never about making fun of people like Ben. It’s one of the reasons Leslie loves him so much—he’s just as passionate about the things he enjoys as she is.
Ben’s storyline was also such a joy to watch because it was one of the few times a character on this show has been genuinely nice to Jerry for more than just a few minutes. (I just can’t call him Larry.) It may have been by default, but the fact that Ben let Jerry accompany him on all of his excursions was the kind of inclusive gesture I’d expect from Ben Wyatt. They seemed to have fun together, and it was such a nice change of pace to see Jerry having fun with another character besides his own family. I’ve said for a while that the insults towards Jerry were becoming a little too mean-spirited for my taste, and this storyline was a good remedy for that.
For an episode centered around Ben and Leslie’s wedding anniversary, they didn’t interact much, but what we got was golden. I really enjoyed Ben’s determination to out-gift Leslie, and I almost thought he’d succeeded (because can anything top an Enchanted-themed carriage ride with Ben dressed up as Prince Edward?). But Leslie stole the show again with her replica Iron Throne. I’m pretty sure I made Ben’s “stupid face” when the surprise was revealed—as a fellow Game of Thrones fanatic, I can’t imagine a cooler gift. The only thing better than the gift itself was Ben’s roleplaying with it. I’m not sure I believe that Leslie thinks there are starships in Westeros, but that joke at the end of the episode was worth it.
Ultimately, both Ben and Leslie’s gifts for each other revealed an important fact about their marriage: These two people really know one another, and they like making each other happy. From Ben’s elaborate day to Leslie’s perfect gift, it was clear that both characters take pride and find joy in making the other smile. They like to celebrate each other’s passions and interests whether they understand them or not. There’s no greater marriage on television than the one between these two characters, and their first anniversary was a perfect time to remind us of that fact.
Contrasting Ben and Leslie’s marriage, we were presented the unhappy union between the two residents from Pawnee and Eagleton. This storyline was probably my least favorite in the episode, but it was still a better use of Leslie than a lot of her stories have been this season. I liked that it was about Leslie being aggressively optimistic and looking for a way to unite the two towns instead of painting her as one-dimensionally aggressive like she has been throughout much of this season. It was a little strange to return to problems with the merger so long after it happened, but it did feel odd that things seemed to be going along without any problems on that front. Maybe it was an afterthought by the writers, but it made for an entertaining episode.
I think the unity concert was a great idea, and I really liked that Leslie brought people together to brainstorm (including Craig because who doesn’t love Craig?) but didn’t come up with the idea herself. Tom and April’s spearheading of the effort reflected their growing maturity and Leslie’s realization of it. It was a nice way to tie in their character growth and have Leslie respond to it in a more positive way than she’s responded to it in the past. Amy Poehler plays Leslie’s over-the-top emotional reactions so well, and her speechless crying in that scene was no exception.
April’s growing sense of maturity and responsibility was the focus of the final storyline in “Anniversaries” as well. First of all, can we just take a moment to appreciate how cute the dog was that she picked out for Ron? Moving on to the actual plot of this storyline, I liked that April didn’t respond in the right way at first. She’s still young, and she’s still learning—and she’s still April. Anonymously commenting on Yelp about Donna was something she would believably do. But, as is expected with this show, we got to see April grow and take another step in her character development. And, of course, she did it with Ron’s help.
Ron Swanson was a font of perfection in “Anniversaries.” His reviews of everything from frozen yogurt and vegans to Canada all belong in the Ron Swanson Quote Hall of Fame (which is something that really should exist). The fact that he typed them on his typewriter made them even better. And his commentary on anonymous Internet trolls something I’d like to share with the world: “If you believe in something, you sign your name to it.” Agreed, Ron Swanson.
There will be no anonymous trolling for me about this episode. I laughed really hard on multiple occasions, I smiled for the entire 30 minutes, and I didn’t even miss Ann and Chris until I realized later they were gone. If “Anniversaries” is a sign of where post-Ann/Chris Parks and Rec is headed, I feel more confident in the show than I have in a long time.