Parks and Recreation Recap: “Halloween Surprise”–Strawberry Jello Night

As for Ben and Leslie, trouble comes in the form of Jennifer Barkley, who wants to talk about what Ben’s doing next. “Oh, well, I was gonna get a chicken parm and watch Blade Runner.” Oh Ben. Jen isn’t talking about dinner. She’s talking about jobs. There might be a campaign opportunity in Florida. And so we find ourselves with teary Leslie, whom Ann cheers by convincing her to scare Tom. Naturally, they get Jerry instead, and he promptly farts up a storm while having a heart attack. (Leslie: “Ughh, so much stuff is happening right now!”) Only Jerry.

Dr. Deadpan is back to care for our fallen comrade, and despite Tom’s best efforts, he just won’t say “fart attack.” Leslie eventually obliges, at a yard sale/ auction she arranges to benefit Jerry. After a few struggles in the City Council, Leslie is in her element: organizing events and helping others. Ann, meanwhile, is trying to find her element, which is definitely not the same as her boyfriends’ elements.

Chris shows up to buy his own box and offers some solid encouragement in the process. “Maybe dating yourself might not be a bad idea. No more of these boxes. Start an Ann Perkins box.” Therapy has been good to him. He’s always so wistful with Ann, in a way that makes me think they might find their way back to each other, and I think I’d like that.

Still, I can’t help but notice that Tom gave Ann his “Baller Time” watch. Are we sure he didn’t really love her? I think he at least thought he did, but Tom won’t be ready for a relationship until he cares more about a woman than he does about his 1200-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets. The auction gives him a business idea: Rent-a-Swag. High-end clothes rentals for teens, tweens, and everything in betweens. This concerns me only because Jean-Ralphio is too tall to donate his clothes to tweens, and I need Jean-Ralphio to be a part of this.

Leslie’s auction is only a middling success, since grizzly Michael Trucco and McSexy-in-training lack the funds to buy a date with Ann. She shows up at Jerry’s hospital bed defeated. His future has been canceled and nothing can save him from a lifetime of chronic misery. All of his plans have been ruined. The heart attack is to Jerry what Florida is to Leslie (sounds about right). Jerry, with the wisest words he’s ever spoken:

“Leslie, you can’t actually plan your future. There’s no guarantees in this world. As long as the people I love are a part of my life, I will be just fine.”

Leslie knows what she has to do now. Skip out on strawberry Jello night (!), say goodbye to the house, and accept that Ben’s a part of her life no matter where he is. Meanwhile, in the land of the swamp-sharks, Ben and Jen are adrift on the Class Action. Which. Is. The perfect name for a smarmy lawyer’s boat. Their potential candidate made his reputation on “the classic Florida divorce. A guy cheats on his wife with Dan Marino’s masseuse, one day she cuts his junk off, throws it in the Everglades.” He then acknowledges that his state is “a little strange.”

We who are in Florida salute you.

Jen informs the candidate that “Governor Scott might be vulnerable,” and I’m so ready for a world where this show makes fun of Rick Scott. Ben is completely in the zone here, assuring Mr. Kurtzwilder that they have no intention of losing, and Jen sees how good he is at this. She tells him to think about his future, and we find ourselves now at the point where, for all the Morrises in the world, I must issue a giant SPOILER ALERT.

Because Leslie is saying goodbye to their dream house, and she’s got a Halloween surprise waiting for her.



He’s got the box. The box he used to give Leslie her Knope 2012 pin, to nobly break up with her for the sake of her career. The box she used to give him a Washington Monument figurine and set him free to pursue his goals in DC. This is the box that binds them. It’s the promise that they’ll always find their way back to each other, that they’ve found the balance between self-sacrifice and self-fulfillment in this relationship. Ben gives Leslie the permission to care for herself after always caring for others; Leslie gives Ben the permission to build a community for himself. They affirm each other as individuals. That’s why they work.

Ben’s been thinking about his future. And he’s not thinking about chicken parm. He’s not thinking about a job. He’s thinking about Leslie.

The look on her face when she sees that ring says everything about how happy he makes her. She’s so sure of him.

Ben: I am deeply, ridiculously in love with you. And above everything else I want to be with you forever. So Leslie Knope, will …
Leslie: Wait. Wait. OK? I need to remember this. Give me a second.

Amy Poehler is too good for the Emmys. That being said, if she doesn’t win next year, who’s down for an angry letter-writing campaign?

Ben: OK. … Leslie Knope …
Leslie: No, no, no. Hold on. I need another second, please. I need to remember every little thing about how perfect my life is at this exact moment.

When Leslie bought the house, she needed a dance party to make the moment big. Now all she needs is to stop and take it all in. A pre-made perfect moment.

Ben looks at her like, Yes, this is the woman I’ve chosen to love.

And he gives her another second. He doesn’t need it, but he gives it to her, even looking around with that dorky nod that says, “Yep, this is pretty good. This’ll do.”

Finally, she’s ready. So ready, in fact, that she just can’t wait any longer.

Ben: Leslie will you–
Leslie: Yes!
Ben: Marry me?
Leslie: Oh, yeah!

I love the empty house. The future waiting for them. How eager she is. How happy he is. All of it. This is a perfect proposal—true to the characters, true to where they are in their lives, and surprising as can be. We’re in episode five. Proposals are the stuff of sweeps weeks, season premieres, and season finales, but life isn’t structured like a TV season. I’m so ready to see how that box plays into their lives moving forward. Ben and Leslie will keep giving each other what they need to be happy, but really, they already have it.

Halloween snaps:

I think Tom dressed as a ghost just so he could say “boo” even more than usual.

“Jerry’s Kids’ Dad.” He can’t even get his own benefit named after him.

Donna’s live-tweeting thrills me to no end:

  • “Uh-oh. It’s the DEATH CANOE.”
  • “Get your foot out the water, dumbass! It’s Blood Lake!”
  • “I’m live-tweeting this dumbass conversation.”

“Three out of four married couples have met each other at spontaneous auctions.”

“What are you gonna do to her?” “I don’t know. My cousin’s got a kickass mud pit in his yard. She could watch me do belly flops. Then maybe we could get some Thai food, take a nitrous, see what happens.”

“In the fifth one, the canoe’s actually the hero.”

“I just wanna hear the doctor say that Jerry had a fart attack—is that too much to ask?!”

No, Tom. It’s not too much to ask. So what did everyone think? I know this recap’s a little late (I was on vacation), but even a week later, I can’t stop thinking about this episode. What will a Ben-Leslie wedding look like? Can Lucy Lawless stay forever? What will go in the Ann Perkins box? And can Parks please just make fun of Rick Scott anyway?


  1. This was the perfect recap! I loved everything you said about Ron and Diane because I am crazily invested in them (and just Diane on her own) already too. She has such a quiet strength, and I love how much she clearly loves her daughters while still maintaing her own identity beyond being just a mom, too.

    And I will certainly join in your angry letter-writing campaign if Amy Poehler doesn’t win an Emmy next year. She is beyond flawless at this point.

    1. Right?! I can’t stop thinking about that episode where Ron wins the Female Empowerment Award and everyone gets into a discussion of how pointless awards are, “but they’d be less pointless if they went to the right people.” YES.

      And Diane is straight-up never allowed to leave this show.

  2. I have to confess I had only watched this show once or twice before Lucy Lawless came on the scene. It actually is a very good show. And, being a huge Lucy fan, I ,too, hope she becomes a permanent fixture. Of course, the fact that she was cast as a “Princess” conjured up images of a Princess of a different persuasion to this die-hard Xenite; one of the “Warrior” variety involving leathers, swords, and chakrams instead of sparkles, boas, and tiaras. But the pink and fluff fit Diane perfectly; and so does Motherhood and Ron Swanson!

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