‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Leslie and Ben; Correspondents’ Lunch”
Tonight's episode of 'Parks and Recreation' is the magical hour we've been waiting for all season as Ben and Leslie walk down the aisle and prove that love is still very much alive and well. There is hope for all of us!
Ben and Leslie are getting married, you guys, but their road to the last-minute altar is still paved with some speed bumps -- they need rings, a marriage license, an officiant, and Leslie needs a finished dress, but the biggest problem comes in the form of one of TV's greatest villains: Councilman Jamm. So while Ron makes rings from Ann's sconce, Ann finishes Leslie's dress, April and Andy get the marriage license from their new adopted grandma Ethel Beavers (yes!), and Jerry and Tom try to figure out the officiant part, Jamm is, well, jamming everything up with his drunken antics.
The first portion of this special hour-long event focuses entirely on the wedding, leaving little room for criticism since it's not so much a traditional episode, but one that's built entirely for fan service. Leslie's dress, made of newspaper clippings from her career highlights is one for the ages, and I guarantee we'll be able to buy replicas on Etsy in like, two weeks. Lil' Sebastian (sort of) makes an appearance, as does DJ Roomba, but nothing can compete with Leslie and Ben finally exchanging vows in city hall, which is the best part of the episode -- the second best part is when I watched Ron Swanson punch Councilman Jamm in the TEETH.
When Ron finally gets out of jail, the gang surprise Leslie with an intimate wedding at city hall and it's everything Leslie (and I, and the rest of you) ever hoped or dreamed. Ben and Leslie exchanging personal sentiments and vows was magnificent, and I'm pretty sure I took a bath in my own tears tonight.
The second portion of the episode revolves around two crises: Leslie's e-mail account has been hacked by a local tabloid reporter, while Andy is in a severe depression following the failure of his police admissions test. Between the two major stories, we've got Ann, who's decided she'd like Chris to be her sperm donor, which seems like such an obvious choice -- so obvious perhaps, that no one anticipated it from the outset, perhaps because Chris seems too perfect.
But back to Leslie, who planned a corny yet winning roast speech for the correspondents' dinner, only to have all of her jokes stolen by the tabloid's lead reporter. Jerry is immediately suspected of losing his copy of Leslie's script and sent to the corner to think about what he's done, without dessert. Watching Jerry sadly turn away a tray of desserts from his time-out corner is an instantly classic Jerry moment, and as much as I sometimes feel as though the show beats him down a little too harshly, his frowny face is hilariously rewarding and totally worth it.
Ben goes to work at his new job leading the Sweetums charity division, where he's pampered daily with an endless stream of luxury foods and services -- perfect for Tom, who, along with Andy and April, is called in to help Ben choose his first big charity. These scenes perhaps lean a little too heavy on Tom's addiction to the finer things, while the brighter spots lie in things like the hideous nude painting of his boss' deceased, elderly husband, or April going outside of her comfort zone because someone needs her. In the end, Ben, like the police captain, realizes that Andy is something of a secret genius -- or at least he's smart in his own way -- and hires him to be his part-time assistant at the foundation.
And poor, sweet Ann gets Chris to at least consider the possibility of being her sperm donor, an issue that could easily lead to the pair of them hooking up once again, which could be either the best thing or worst thing for Ann. The show never seems to know what to do with her unless her life is revolving around boyfriends or ex-boyfriends or figuring her boy-stuff out, so seeing her on this maternal pursuit has been refreshing. If she hooks up with Chris again, it would at least put an end to the show constantly trying to pair her off, but if they don't hook up again, that'd be even better.
The second half of this week's two-parter gets right back to basics, confronting our characters with conflicts that are easily resolved: Ann might have a donor, Donna helps Leslie catch the hacker reporter in the act, and Ben gives Andy a job he'll actually be good at, and one that will likely be more rewarding both financially and emotionally than his previous endeavors.