Now that Leslie and Ben are finally together forever, Parks and Recreation faces the challenge of giving us satisfying struggles for our power duo, and I think that "Citizen Knope" is so far covering that ground well. In last night's episode, we got to see Sad Ben make sense of his career plans and Leslie lose her campaign managers -- and while both plots where kind of predictable in their outings, their conclusions were unexpected yet sweet, while still managing to be believable and zany.
Can we compare Ben to The Office's Robert California for a hot minute? Both guys call out the ridiculous shenanigans of the wacky people around them, but Ben does so in a "Yes, and..." (improv lingo!) way that encourages silliness while grounding the show in reality, where California shuts everything down around him and makes people feel self-conscious by overpowering them with his superiority. While it wouldn't be fair to blame one (new, no less) character on the demise of the once-great Office, I think the writers missed the mark on California; were he to have some kind of vulnerable emotional center like Adam Scott radiates from Ben, James Spader might have had a fighting chance as turning out what had been a lagging few seasons.
And one more thing I want to add: We recently posted an excellent fan-made Game of Thrones and Parks & Rec crossover art on the here on the TWoP Tumblr, and I invite you to share your House in the comments below... and if we're all House Wyatt, so be it.
Okay, without further ado, let's grade everyone and all hope that the NBC 2012 lineup starts extremely early this year.
Ah, it's good to have Sad Human Disaster Ben back. I want him to be happy with Leslie while being a total socially awkward dork, but I want him to occasionally have strokes of extreme bad luck and depression, too -- and while that seems like way too much to ask for, the writers are pretty damn good at delivering it. I could listen to Ben talking about resigning in disgrace all day, and the "I love me a calzone" moment felt like a big hug to longtime fans. Here's my question for you, which I blame on the fact that I've been going conspiracy theory-crazy lately thanks to Homeland: Why didn't Ben go into the office party with Leslie? Is he currently at her apartment right now, decorating the hell out of it and planning to propose to her? What do you think?
Best Line of the Night: "Well, uh, calc-you-later." (Only made better by its reception.)
Continuing her tradition of being really good at giving gifts, Leslie was of course thoughtful, creative and whimsical for her office's Christmas presents -- she even went to far as to cover her bases by packing a Knope 2012 Menorah for her campaign manager Elizabeth (just in case). But as much as I liked everything about salgur and its practical uses, this wasn't Leslie's best performance -- though it wasn't last-milkeshake sip-level or anything, either.
Best Line of the Night: "Oh my god, I'm pregnant."
Words You May Have Missed on Leslie's Word Cloud: Jeggings, Smithsonian, Icetown, Baby Koalas, Daniel Craig, Hoosier, Eucalyptus, Wildflowers, Jerry McSteamy, Downton Abbey, Birdhouse, Taylor Swift, Biden, Gusto.
Swanson had plenty of opportunities to lose it and break down at the generosity of his coworkers, and I'm so glad he never lost it, because watching him desperately try not to cry was hilarious. I only wish I had a boss who gave me a crisp $20 bill every year.
Best Line of the Night: "Turns out, I cannot make a gingerbread house, which would bother me if I were an eight-year-old girl."
Kudos to April for her excellent Black Eyed Peas slayer wish, and for her marshmallow Ron. Andy, on the other hand, was underwhelming last night in his delivery (though I liked that he wanted someone to take a picture of him holding his Mouse Rat framed record, so that he could frame that). What are these two going to do when Ben inevitably moves out? Pay for their own pasta?
April's Best Line of the Night: [To Andy, re: marshmallow fluff] "Did you just scoop it out of the jar with your hand like a bear?"
Andy's Best Line of the Night: "I know a lot about candy. I play with it, I eat it, sometimes I play with it and eat it."
Sure, last night had all of your classic Tom moments, but without a true story arc, his character is getting a little stale. Loved his Watch the Throne theme gift and his word cloud, but the credit on those really go to Leslie.
Best Line of the Night: [On the question, "What kind of candy are you?"] "Obviously, chocolate, because I'm sweet, smooth and the ladies love me. Now, the question still remained: What kind of chocolate am I? Do I have a little gooey caramel center? Am I filled with little Rice Krispies? Maybe I'm white chocolate and I'm bucking all the stereotypes... ultimately, I decided to go with a little fuuudge. I didn't have time to make it into anything, and please don't eat it because it cost $55 an ounce."
Points go to Donna for her voluntary Transpo -- aka rides in her Benz -- services and her lethal silver M&M'S. I could probably listen to Retta list off luxurious gift descriptions every day and never get tired of it.
Best Line of the Night: "Personalized leopard-printed robe, pink feather cuffs, and on the back in rhinestones: 'You Can Get It.'"
Like I mentioned in Tom's blurb, the best moments of these two came strictly off of how fantastic Leslie is. Still, Chris and Ann did what they do best, which is providing support and being one level more important than the generic Pawnee citizens. I kind of want the two of them to fall in love and quietly get back together, but in a way that doesn't obstruct the action of the show... basically, I want their story to be exactly like that strange episode of Community where Abed delivered a baby in the background. Oh, and Ann gets a better grade than Chris because she resisted the urge to touch Leslie's pickles.
Chris' Best Line of the Night: "I am much faster than you... I have bumble-flex!"
Ann's Best Line of the Night: [To Andy] "Go throw up."
I'm giving up Jerry's spot tonight to our former Entertainment 720 business man... and his wise b-hole waxer, Kim (mention his name to her so he gets a referral discount!). Not only would Ben be lost without him, but Jean-Ralphio maybe holds the record for best first day of work ever shown on television.
Best Line of the Night: [On immediately getting fired, without missing a beat] "That makes sense... so I go out the same way I came in?"
Jerry's Line of the Night: Okay, I'm sneaking this one in. [Opening up Leslie's gift] "Oh, geez -- socks. She gets me."
Honorable mentions: The always welcome perfume guru Dennis Feinstein and dumb-dumb Eddie, whom I invite you to treat "like a person in another country you would pay $25,000 to hunt," and letter-writing PCP member Dianne, who cannot take a hint.
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