Parks and Recreation Recap: “Leslie and Ben”–Just Looking For You

“I promised myself I was not going to cry tonight, and I’ve already broken that promise five times.”—Chris Traeger

Leslie and Ben got married last month, you guys. They did it. Those crazy kids finally did it. In the 26 days since Leslie Knope symbolically disappeared and became Leslie Wyatt, or Councilwoman Mrs. Ben Wyatt tied the knot, I’ve moved into a new apartment, job hunted, job interviewed, job found, and spent far too many hours on the phone with our cable provider (BECAUSE TV IS IMPORTANT). But I’ve also made time to flail my way around this episode with absolutely no composure whatsoever. It’s been my night light. I can’t try to talk about it like it’s normal, because Leslie and Ben are not normal. They’re extraordinary. And they had an extraordinary wedding.

And these are the five* times I cried about it.

*give or take a hundred

Cry #1: Chris gives Ben the letter from the State House telling them they’d been assigned to Pawnee.

ben chris hug

Remember when Chris and Ben first marched through the Parks Department doors? Ben was there to mess with Leslie’s Master Plan. So she messed with his. He taught her how to put her feet on the ground and make the tough decisions. She taught him how to build a concert, a Harvest Festival, and a real community. Eight weeks in Pawnee turned into three years, and Ben met Leslie, but he wasn’t the only one who found a home there. Chris did too.

It’s so important that Chris included himself in there. He found his place in Pawnee right along with Ben. This is a show about finding a home in people, and for Chris Traeger to be single, relatively content with his singleness, and still confident that he’s surrounded by a community of caring friends—that’s huge. It’s good of him to celebrate that, and to celebrate his friendship with Ben, because they came into this town as coworkers whose job consisted mostly of canceling each other out, and now they’re adorably mismatched besties who look out for each other in this cold cruel world of deceptively arduous claymaysh videos.

ben wyatt claymaysh

Cry #2: Leslie and Ron, Ron and Leslie.

Councilman Jamm is a means to an end. He’s a plot device. He’s a big annoying kid (I actually feel like every Jamm scene would be ten times better if Jamm were Pikitis, but Pikitis is TOO GOOD FOR THIS NONSENSE). When Jamm sabotages the gala-turned-wedding, I feel nothing. But when Ron steps in to defend Leslie and Ben on their big night, I feel everything.

I love it when things get real between Ron and Leslie. They respect each other completely; she sees the warmth behind his gruffness, and he sees that her relentless energy is backed by genuine care for those around her. Their scene in the jail is easily one of the finest they’ve ever shared together. I love how calm Leslie is, shooting Ron down every time he tries to insist that the wedding should go on without him:

“Ron, listen to me very carefully. I lost my father when I was ten, I don’t have any brothers, and Ken Burns never wrote me back. So I am not getting married without you there to walk me down the aisle. End of discussion.”

It’s the perfect thing to say. It’s firm and decisive with exactly the right Leslie Knope mix of vulnerability and forcefulness. This is how you tell Ron Swanson that you love him. So thanks for not responding, Ken Burns.

ron loves leslie

Look at his face and tell me you’re not feeling the love.

Ron gets a chance to return the favor on the first floor of City Hall, in the company of some well-lit informational flyers. He’s never willingly been there later than 5:04 PM, but he’s there now, and he knows that her wedding lies beyond that door before she does. So before he walks her down the aisle, he does what any good father figure would do—he tells her that she’s wonderful, she means a lot to him, and she looks very beautiful. And HIS VOICE CRACKS. EMMYS EVERYWHERE.

Leslie catches on to the plan at exactly the right moment: after he offers his arm but not before she’s called him a weirdo.

Next page: This song, which is for Li’l Sebastian, is for you.

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