Parks and Recreation "Leslie and Ben" / "Correspondents' Lunch" Review: I Love You and I Like You

By Nick Campbell

Feb 22, 2013

Parks and Recreation S05E14 / S05E15: "Leslie and Ben" / "Correspondents' Lunch"

What is it about weddings on this show that makes people want to spring them on their fellow man? April and Andy. Leslie and Ben. Ron and Tammy. Parks and Rec is obsessed with flashmob nuptials.

It's a core value of the show: In the midst of a culture of planning and counterplanning against a host of wild shenanigans, one of the most sacred events that can ever be planned is weighed against the urgency of love, and only spontaneity makes sense. Love is too important, and to be denied or to postpone that love is criminal. Not even Leslie Knope can forecast what her heart wants, and even though what can be assembled in the name of that honorable chemistry may be impossible in your real world when you try to play the home version, it's reasonable in Pawnee. That's why we love this show.

"Leslie and Ben" was an almost uncomfortable reminder of just how much we love it. Everything about it was winsome and sweet, choreographed to manipulate your invested senses. About the time we were seeing monochrome montages of Leslie and Ben's relationship and I struggled to fight off my robot tears, I started to recognize that feeling. This would've been a decent season finale. This would've been a decent series finale. Why is this happening so soon?

Let's not try to meditate on the unthinkable too long, but, if the show had ended after "Leslie and Ben," could you have made you peace with it? It had all the elements of a farewell: full-circle friendships (Chris giving Ben the mounted letter—awwwwwwww), emotional clips from the past, old characters returning to revel in a landmark event for the cast (DJ Roomba in the house!), Ron Swanson conveying his feelings. I mean, if The Office's series finale is half as good as this mid-season episode, I'll be happy. No, it'll have to be more than half as good. It'll have to be better. (The Office has a lot of making up to me to do.)

Parks and Rec even did its clips well. No need to add filler by creating an opus of darling Leslie and Ben moments. Leave that to the fans. Just give me a few tasteful moments and integrate them so they seem natural and not over-the-top. Nothing pleased me more than the star of that sequence being "I love you and I like you"; we didn't need Justin Vernon crooning over a myriad of clips so we could relive their lives over the course of three minutes. Not that I have anything against Bon Iver. I miss Chuck.

It was a sweet and perfect twenty minutes. Which is why the programming for the evening was so weird.

Immediately following the wedding episode was "Correspondents' Luch," a pretty rote installment that, because it followed "Leslie and Ben," felt terribly basic. Parks and Recreation likes to do "ripped from the headlines" kinds of stories that are kooky and that work because small towns imitating life in the outside world is funny, but sometimes they fall with a big, dull thud. "Correspondents' Lunch" was the thud-ly type.

The premise of the phone-hacking may have been dull, but Donna and Andy tried their hardest to lighten things up, even though Andy is in a pit of existential despair. I've enjoyed Donna becoming more a of a key player lately, and not remaining a Phyllis/Stanley character. She's not around just to toss in a quip or provide a reaction. I love that she set the trap. And Chris Pratt did what he's been doing for the entire length of the series, walking through a mechanical episode and dumping his pockets of bright comedy throughout. I almost wished the episode had played up his depression more. More of him lying on the ground. More of him muttering with a lack of confidence. I was almost looking for a stronger Oren joke. It's weird to see that character all sad and gloomy; why not enjoy it a little more?

"Correspondents' Lunch" wasn't an upsetting or vexing episode, just a plain and boring one. Tom's sequence at Ben's new job was fine but not necessarily very funny. That's been the story for Tom for a while now, though. Outside of his store and involvement with Jean Raphio, Haverford's been a stranger in a strange land, someone who lives outside of the chemistry everyone else seems to have. I really enjoyed the episodes where Ron tried to helped him out, where he had to become more responsible, but beyond that, I feel like Jerry has more affection from within the group. Maybe that's just a product of general aloofness in Tom's personality, since he believes himself to be different from everyone, but in a time when Donna is being better integrated, Tom is on the outside looking in.

What "Correspondents' Lunch" really suffered from, however, was airing in the shadow of the "Leslie and Ben" and the latter's saccharine season-finale-ness. Maybe that was why it was there in the first place, to demonstrate that the season/show is not over and that Parks and Rec will still be around to fill time when The Office needs it for the rest of the season. Even a bland episode of this show is better than whatever Community is doing right now. For my money, Parks and Rec is the only consistently shining star left on Thursday night.


NOTES


– "The Falcon is entering." "The Turtle Dove acknowledges." There are reasons why Leslie and Ben are perfect for each other. That moment is one of them.

– Can you believe it's been three years since Rob Lowe and Adam Scott joined the cast? Chris blew me away when he said that while delivering such an incredibly sweet present. I still have trouble remembering Parks and Rec is in Season 5. But mostly because I forget that Season 1 existed. We try to forget the bad things.

– Another suggestion of finality in "Leslie and Ben" was the come-uppance against Councilman Jamm. Ron Swanson literally delivering the knockout punch (with seemingly such little effort—fitting) to conclude Jamm's loss, of both the park space and his season arc, was the kind of tied-up loose end we'd expect for a last episode. Christmas come early, I guess.

– "I love you and I like you." The perfectly twee way to end vows. For a couple I had so much trouble getting on board with at the beginning of their relationship, I'm surprised by how dedicated I am to their marriage. I wouldn't say that their drama was on par with Jim and Pam's or Chuck and Sarah's or Casey and Dana's but the show still made this relationship troubled enough to feel like we've been on a journey to get to where we are.

– "I wish this office only had walls." Ron says that and you don't even question how he would get in and out. Obviously he would power saw his way in every day and patch the drywall. It'd be a fairly simple entrance for anyone who carries a power saw and tubs of spackle with them wherever they go.

– Redneck Ambulance is an awful charity. I know they weren't trying to sell that one to the audience so Andy's music charity would shine that much brighter but it was upsetting to watch that one get picked initially. The music charity sounds like one I would want to work for and I have zero musical talent. Every time I play an instrument, someone else in the world loses his or her rhythm. But he sold me.

– Why does no one deliver me fancy lunches on carts? I'm in the wrong business.

– I absolutely believe Nick Offerman made those rings. And the use of the waffle-maker was a nice touch.

  • Comments (21)
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  • JustinJohnson9 Feb 24, 2013

    Sorry, but I enjoyed both episodes. The wedding episode was the better one, but still both were very enjoyable. I loved how the wedding spontaneously came together, and the ending was beautiful. Correspondents lunch only suffered from being behind "Leslie and Ben". That's it! It was still a great episode to me. Putting Jerry in the corner, Donna playing that reporter, Tom being...Tom, it was just so hilarious!!! Look, these characters are simply funny people, no matter what the situation is. Following a better episode didn't diminish their talent in the slightest, or the show as well. To me, this show is just simply amazing.

  • SarahHagen2 Feb 23, 2013

    What about Anne and Chris? The whole 'have my baby' subplot? Will they make another go of it with this couple, or are we going to be postmodern, families are defined differently now... blah, blah. If marriage is such a core value of this show, is this just a quirky way of getting there? I dunno, I don't think Chris will say no, since nothing else is happening with his character at the mo, but at the same time this baby obsession out of nowhere seems weird for Anne. I guess since Ben and Leslie are married now they have to create some drama somewhere.

  • NicholasCampb Feb 24, 2013

    I'm not sure that marriage is a core value to the show as much as the power of love in all of its beautiful and occasionally poisonous varieties (like Ron and Tammy hate that sometimes turns into lust-fueled madness). Ann's desire to have a baby might be a back-door way of inviting Chris back into her life for another crack at a relationship (especially since we've been reminded of Chris's development through therapy so often lately). Will there be something rekindled there? Dunno. It depends on whether the show has the balls to let Ann have a baby on her own.

  • SarahHagen2 Feb 24, 2013

    Yeah, we're not necessarily rooting for Ann and Chris like with Ben and Leslie, so it could go different ways at this point. As weird as Ann and Tom were together, they were hilarious. It'd be nice to have another couple around like April and Andy where you don't quite get their relationship but love how quirky it is, I don't think Ann and Chris would be that couple.

  • Kids_Table Feb 23, 2013

    I'm surprised no one's mentioned it yet, so I will. I was reminded (in a good way) of Scott's proposal on The Office. The surprise, the candles, the ceremony taking place in an office with all the coworkers/friends gathered around.

  • Kids_Table Feb 23, 2013

    Fav part: Ron making the rings. I waited all episode for that, and during the ceremony began to fear the moment would never come.
    Least fav part: The revelation at the jailhouse that Jamm was drunk. I had no idea. That was some seriously poor drunk-acting.

  • pcsjunior002 Feb 23, 2013

    Quick thing: Casey and Dana, was that a "Sports Night" reference? Because if so: AWESOME.

  • JT_Kirk Feb 23, 2013

    I am not a fan of this show, I generally watch it only when friends want me to. We watched these 2 episodes last night, and as a non-fan the Leslie and Ben episode had a lot of inside stuff I didn't get but it still worked well enough. At the very least, I could have seen this as a season or mid-season finale, and the stuff with Ron smelting the sconce and patching the hole was cute and felt like a nod to Popular Science magazine's Theodore Gray (except there's no way that sconce was actually jewelry-quality metal).

    The following episode was just what you said, a rote installment that missed its major beats and took the air out of the previous moment. It should have aired weeks after the marriage episode at the very least. The only aspect that hit for me was that Andy was FINALLY plausible.

    Rural ambulances are very important, don't underestimate their value. They're far cheaper than airlifting and far easier to manage.

  • NicholasCampb Feb 24, 2013

    Don't try to assume what kind of materials Ann has in her place. Maybe she uses the money she's saved over the years on her property value living next to a giant pit to invest in top-quality sconces.

    If you weren't an Andy fan, I can see how the second episode would help you like him more. He had a range of emotion and, in Ben's office, was in the top 2 of people that seemed like well-rounded characters. I don't know what they're doing with Tom lately.

    I might have been a little hyperbolic about the Rural Ambulance and that was probably due to the bias they placed on Andy's pick, making his more sentimental with his connection to the program and the fact that he needed a win. Even my robot brain gets swayed sometimes. Smiley face emoticon.

  • JT_Kirk Feb 24, 2013

    Nice try, I see through your trap! A quality sconce wouldn't be made primarily of sconce material in the modern age, it'd be finely plated but still primarily not jewelry material. PLOT HOLE! RUINED THE EPISODE! Or, you know, whatever, it's all good.

    Andy has always felt to me like a very over-the-top character, there are underpinnings of a real character once in a while but most of the time he's a cartoonish man-child that makes no worthwhile decisions whatsoever. Tom though, I hear ya, he was cardboard selfish man where he usually has something to contribute underneath.

    Well, maybe Ben hiring Andy and cutting the frivolous stuff out of their budget will make room for the music program. In real life though, there are tough choices to make.

  • dandelion5R Feb 23, 2013

    Enjoyed your review! However, I disagree about the charities. The music one might sound buzzier but there's a huge problem with lack of medical services in rural areas. Life-saving services trumps musical appreciation. Ben was right to pick it.

  • NicholasCampb Feb 24, 2013

    After reading your and JT_Kirk's comments, I realize I might have been a little hyperbolic about the Redneck Ambulance. I'm just too much of a city slicker, I suppose.

  • Gilda Feb 23, 2013

    Loved Leslie and Ben. The wedding episode was funny and very enjoyable. But I do agree that the episode that followed was really boring and wasn;t really funny at all.
    Also you would think Diane would at least be with Ron in the wedding episode. And the only thing that would make the wedding episode better would be a cameo appearence of Jean Ralphio

  • NicholasCampb Feb 24, 2013

    That's a good point. One could justify it by everything happening so quickly but, if you think too much about it, there probably could've been time to call Diane and invite her out. But, then again, Diane has mentioned how she feels threatened by Leslie, even though she has been with Ben for Ron and Diane's entire relationship. It was probably less character-motivated and more avoiding having to budget Lucy Lawless for another episode and/or work around her schedule. They're probably hoping you'd forget.

  • MissMunchkin Feb 23, 2013

    Amazing first episode! Ahhh, so cute. The only reason why I started to watch Parks & Rec was because Adam Scott joined the cast, and I just love Ben more with every new episode!

    Also, I personally loved both ending skits for the two episodes. First, Ron making the wedding rings out of literally nothing. And then, Andy going in for a bear hug with Ben while Ben cowers like a schoolboy who thinks he's about to get beat up. Classic.

  • Big_Pecks Feb 22, 2013

    With 30 Rock done and Community sucking this season, Parks and Rec has become my favourite comedy. Especially this season. It's always funny and I love the citizens of Pawnee in general.

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