Parks and Recreation "Ben's Parents" Review: Family Matters

By Michael Svoboda

Nov 09, 2012

Parks and Recreation S05E06: "Ben's Parents"

When you choose a mate, you are essentially choosing your teammate for life. Or at the very least you can hope it's for life. On Parks and Recreation Ben has selected Leslie to be that teammate and Leslie has picked Ben. They are a match made in TV heaven. And as much fun as it was to challenge them by keeping them apart (as it was with the other “couples” on the show), at some point Ben and Leslie needed to come back together and join forces once more as the super-smart-good-hearted-small-town-politcal-genius-duo we fell in love with last season. However, no relationship goes untested, and this week a mountain rose up in front of them that they had to scale together: Ben’s parents.

Leslie took the opportunity of their engagement party to invite Ben’s cranky, mean, selfish, strange, and not very parental divorced parents. Ben doth protested, but Leslie knew this was a chasm they needed to cross together. Enter a pure Leslie solution: a Family Unity Quilt. One of the reasons I have loved Parks and Recreation for four and a half seasons now is that it's got a wonderfully skewed “folksy” quality. And the Unity Quilt is a great example of the endearing, but rarely schmaltzy, facet of the show that makes it so damn good. The quilt didn’t quite work as intended, even with the tiny Joe Biden head representing the “other” sexiest man in politics (who will be guest-starring next week!). But Leslie’s efforts to continually unite instead of divide are why we love her.

Ben’s parents were a team divided. His mother was single and not loving it. His father (Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks, showing off his talent for being both hilarious and terrifying) was now dating a very young woman with a demeanor similar to April's (but more spiteful and selfish). Ben alone could never unite the two. But Ben and Leslie, as a team, made a molehill of the mountain, and proved again that they were a team to be reckoned with.

And they weren't the only couple/team being brought back together...

April and Andy were also back together, kind of for the first time since we didn't see much of them in "Halloween Surprise." They were finally in the same town, finally in the same room, and as a bonus there was Champion, the cutest three-legged canine child-surrogate EVER—so it would seem I got my wish to have all the Pawneeans back in Pawnee. However, the tables had definitely turned in our fair city, as Chris became the depressed one and April and Andy needed to bring him out of his funk with a lovely/strange happy/sad word-association game that culminated in a hilarious punchline: What is both happy and sad? Dave Matthews Band! And in the end we saw that April and Andy make just as good a team as Ben and Leslie, in their own oddball way.

But what about a team that wasn't working? For this, we had the heralded return of Jean-Ralphio, Tom’s NSLP (Non Sexual Life Partner) and former business parter in the amazing failure known as Entertainment 720. Back in action, Jean-Ralphio was ready to assist Tom with his new, actually feasible idea: Rent-a-Swag. As per usual, they needed an investor, and once we learned that Ron Swanson had an enormous amount of gold somewhere, he became their target. But then Tom arrived at the disappointing truth that Jean-Ralphio is just no good at actual business, as he prefers to spend most of his time clubbing or googling pictures of Amanda Bynes' side-boob. It was a watershed moment for our young Tom Haverford, who grew up a bit last night, and Ron recognized this, giving him the gold, and what he truly needed: confidence grounded in character, not swagger.

We cannot choose our family, they are who they are, and we just have to work with it. But we can choose our teammates. And Leslie and Ben have chosen well, overcoming a huge hurdle together in winning a battle in the “war of the Wyatts.” As for me, I've chosen Parks and Recreation as my comedy teammate. Sure, relationships ebb and flow, but right now, I am in love. Are you?


– Was Jean-Ralphio's return everything you dreamed it would be?

– Do you think that Ann and Chris will get back together?

– Will Leslie be a bride-zilla?

– What square would you include on your Pawnee Unity Quilt?

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  • TypeB Nov 13, 2012

    When April said Dave Matthews Band again, I was hoping Andy would say "don't you mean Neutral Milk Hotel".

  • daniXaline Nov 12, 2012

    Red Vines. What the hell can't they do?

  • j7k8 Nov 12, 2012

    This was a great episode. I love Parks because it is so just so happy and positive. Jonathan Banks was fantastic and I hope he comes back because I miss Breaking Bad. I really wish they could have dropped a Breaking Bad reference somewhere, but I will take what I can get. I can't wait for Leslie to meet Joe Biden. That has hilarious written all over it.

  • Gold_Ruby Nov 12, 2012

    I love the unity quilt! And I love it even more how Leslie included a little Game of Thrones patch for Ben's (and our) geeky heart. They're just perfect together.

  • thorthorsen Nov 11, 2012

    Leslie and Ben are so great together. Usually with TV couples it gets boring real quick once they are together, but Parks and Recreation keeps finding ways to make it interesting and above all, funny!

  • cacay21 Nov 12, 2012

    Right on. Ben and Leslie are the best couple in comedy!. Ross and Rachel might've had that epic love story and a dramatic ending, they were such a dud season two, when they were together. Ben and Leslie is more like Chandler and Monica, you didn't expect them to be together, but when they did, it pains you to see them apart. Normally I'd wait for a couple to break-up for more interesting plot, and to have a super memorable make-up-getting-back-together-moment. Let's just hope they wouldn't add another one of those moment, for the smallest-park scene was just so touching, Amy Poehler deserves an Emmy for that.

    There had been very few TV couple that are so great together you feel sad when they're not.

    Gabby and Carlos (Desperate Housewives)

    Chandler and Monica (Friends)

    Piper and Leo (Charmed)

    Charlotte & Harry (SATC)

    (I would like to say Buffy and Angel, but there is Spike and I just love)

    hmm... can't think of anyone else...

    Though we might love a lot of TV couples, you just get bored and ye just ask for conflict to make them interesting again. (Or they've a really great love triangle with another lovable character)

    Ross & Rachel

    JD & Elliot

    Nanny Fran & Mr.Shefield

    Carrie Bradshaw & Mr.Big

  • cacay21 Apr 12, 2013

    Gabby and Carlos (made me sad when they got divorced)
    Chandler and Monica (inseparable)
    Piper and Leo (made me hate Dan though he's a good guy, and a cute one too)
    Charlotte and Harry (got one of the best make-up and proposal scene ever)
    I would like to say the same thing with Buffy and Angel, I want them together but when Spike is in the picture I want him and Buffy too. BUt oh no no with Riley.
    I got one more Patrick and Sally (Coupling - Original version)

  • sunnysfunny Nov 11, 2012

    I haven't really put much thought into his return. He did give a nice shout out to Salute Your Shorts!

    I would like them to get back together!

    She'll be crazy but not psycho.

    My square would have a roomba, breakfast foods, the mouse rat logo, etc!

  • IsisIsabella Nov 11, 2012

    1) I don't particularly like him. I understand some people find him funny, and he's always great for comic relief, but he's not really my thing. I did like the fact that Ron stabbed him. Plus, Tom's showing some character development, great!

    2) I was kinda rooting for them from the start (I don't remember why) and I still am! Hope they will get back together, Chris can stop whining and Ann can stop searching for herself.

    3) I really -really -really hope so.

    4) Parks and Rec. Just that.

    You guuuuuys...Who won the piece of shrimp? Ron or papa Ben?

  • TeddyBearZA Nov 11, 2012

    I have never had Twizzlers or Red Vines, not sure if you even get them in South Africa? I will investigate.....

  • SarahHagen2 Nov 11, 2012

    Jean-Ralphio is a one-dimensional character, but always hilarious when paired with Tom- however, it was nice to see Tom realize that he's not a good businessman.

    Not sure about Ann and Chris, the writers are keeping it ambiguous at this point, but there is potential. First Chris needs to get out of the whiny, crying box and finish his therapy and Ann not be such a chameleon after 'dating' herself.

    Leslie will be a 'positive bride-zilla.' Demanding but in a 'love you so much, so glad you're doing this for me, but now do it this way, plz thx, great luv u!"

    My Pawnee unity quilt would have a recorder square, cuz seriously was looking through the house last night and found 6 recorders, as in the 3rd grade music class squeaky, annoying flute! And like all family quirks, thought it was awesome.

  • JustinJohnson9 Nov 10, 2012

    Man, I love this show and this episode demonstrates why. Everybody shined in it, even Ann, which is saying a lot given she's probably the only completely sane character on this show. Didn't really have a standout favorite part since there were just so many funny moments and lines!!!

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