Parks and Recreation
Episode 14: Leslie and Ben
Episode 15: Correspondent's Dinner
By: Carlos Uribe
Parks and Recreation is a show about Pawnee's parks and recreation department and a town councilwoman named Leslie Knope.
Leslie and Ben are in love. If a single person had any doubt about that then the episode Leslie and Ben should be able to convince them that they are. The episode picks up where the last one left off: Ben asking Leslie to marry him that very night instead of in three months. Leslie doesn't take a lot of convincing because it's what she wants to happen. There's a point at the end of the episode where she noted that there were a lot of signs that they should get married but they did it because they wanted to. This statement may not seem like much but it's so strong. There are so many fictional characters, and some real people, who would only rashly get married if the universe told them that it's time. It's nice to have signs but doing it because you want it is so much more powerful emotionally. They do get married in a really sweet scene at the city hall. It makes sense that's where they would really tie the knot. City hall isn't just a building where Leslie works but where she lives and breathes and which she loves. It is just so Leslie to get married there. Getting to that wedding is a little more complicated because there's multiple obstacles in their way. This doesn't really come as a surprise considering how they only have like two hours to prepare for it. It may be doable to throw a wedding last minute but there's going to be a lot of hurdles to jump through.
It should come as no surprise that everybody tries their best to make sure that this wedding happens. This is a group that genuinely likes each other. Leslie runs around the episode to make sure that everyone is doing their part. Ann is given a lot of responsibility but she feels like all the crazy things Leslie has had her do was to prepare her for this situation. Her primary concern in the episode is finishing Leslie's wedding dress. Tom is put in charge of officiating the wedding but he must give Jerry the actual duty of marrying them since it takes twenty-four hours for the license to arrive. Ron is in charge of walking Leslie down the aisle and he ends up making the rings when Ben and Chris can't find any. Donna is put in charge of finishing out the gala and transitioning the event into a wedding. They actually manage to pull it off but then the season's antagonist, Congressman Jamm, shows up and literally throws stink bombs into the reception. Ron punches him. He goes to jail. It looks like the wedding isn't going to happen but then Ron gets bailed out. The characters manage to throw together a second wedding at the city hall. Leslie and Ben basically did two things. It acted as a love letter to the couple that really shows that they really love and like each other. The second is that it proved this love by presenting enough obstacles to really prove that they want to get married now. It's fantastic in every level. In fact, it's so brilliant that it's tough to imagine that the next Parks and Recreation episode would be able to match it.
I like Leslie and Ben. It's a great wedding episode but I actually like Correspondent's Dinner better. It might be because it was actually funnier but it might be because all the plots worked well. The episode picks up right were Leslie and Ben had left off. The two newlyweds come back from their Hawaii honeymoon but they go their separate ways. Leslie has to attend a correspondent's dinner where she plans to roast the Pawnee Sun, a tabloid who has constantly drugged her name in the mud. She comes up with a great speech filled with funny jokes but is shocked when a journalist working for the tabloid steals all of them. Leslie tries her best to come up with new material but she can't. She bombs on stage. The first person to get blamed for this is Jerry but it's eventually revealed that the Pawnee Sun had actually hacked into Leslie's e-mail. Leslie gets back at the Sun by having Donna plant a fake e-mail in order to catch the Sun in the act. The reporter falls for it because she's never seen Star Wars. Leslie gets vindicated. It's a nice plot that explored Leslie's relationship with the media. Politics and the news have gone hand-in-hand for a while now but it's not always a beneficiary relationship. Leslie herself has tried to use the Pawnee Journal as a way to advance her own agenda. It makes sense that there would be a news source who is unfriendly to Leslie. The series even gets to make fun of how the News of the World hacked into a phone and got in trouble for it. Overall, it was a nice main plot that was really funny.
While Leslie is trying to beat her media nemesis, Andy has to deal with the crushing revelation that he didn't get accepted to become a cop. He spent most of Leslie and Ben being excited about his new job until he's told at the very end that he didn't get it. It isn't until Correspondent's Dinner that we see how much it hurt his ego. As April notes, he went from happy and sweaty to sad and sweaty. His depression dovetails into Ben's new job. Ben starts his new career running the Sweetums Foundation but gets an impossible task of having to pick between hundreds of charity. Since Leslie is busy dealing with the media, he can't rely on her. He calls Andy, April, and Tom for help. Tom only stays for the fancy food and wine while April decides to help because Andy needs a confidence boost. She's hoping that picking a charity would give Andy the sense that he mattered. This backfires when Chris picks a different charity but he does hire Andy as an assistant and consultant because he does have some good ideas. Is it disappointing that Andy doesn't get to be a cop? Yes but allowing him to work with Ben is a smart choice since it'll lead to some great scenes and so that the characters remain within a reasonable bubble. This allows the series to ensure that it doesn't get stretched too far based on where the characters currently are. The final plot that was present in both episodes is Ann finding her sperm donor: Chris. She realizes he's paternal and she wouldn't mind him being the father. It takes her a while to ask but she does by the end of the episode. We'll have to wait for the next one before we find out whether he'll do it or not.
Leslie and Ben was possibly the perfect wedding episode that the show could have done. It was funny, there was just the right amount of obstacles, and it was sweet. It was a brilliant episode. What's impressive is that Correspondent's Dinner managed to meet the bar. It was funnier with it's great exploration of media and politics as well as where to take Andy and Ben. I'm not as sold as Chris being Ann's sperm donor because 90210 has tired me out on donor drama that this could lead to but it could also be a good development. Overall, these two episodes were pretty excellent and they were both really funny.