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

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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?

QUESTIONS:

– 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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