Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 5: Halloween Surprise, Director’s Cut
– Posted by Sage
Every day of our lives, we all make sacrifices to get us to where we know we need to be. Most of them are so tiny, we hardly notice them. We forgo an hour of extra sleep to make it to the gym. We’re nice to people we don’t particularly care for, because we want them to treat us well. This episode of Parks was about sacrifices that are not so tiny and the moment when we decide to give up things we want for the things we want more. Ron trades in his treasured peace and quiet for a real shot with Diane and her family. Ann gives up the comfort she finds in dependency to live a fuller life on her own. And Ben and Leslie…well, I’ll get to them.
Ron is still seeing single mom Diane (Lucy Lawless). She’s, like, the perfect Ron Swanson girlfriend: pretty, chill, and maybe secretly a warrior princess. She stops by the Parks department with her two adorable, wound-up daughters to invite Ron to come trick-or-treating with them. Andy can’t think of a better way to spend an evening, so he begs an invite too and demands that they go at primo candy time.
All is going relatively well on Halloween night, until Diane is called away on a “Vice-Principal Emergency,” leaving Ron and aspiring officer Dwyer alone with two little princesses. And one of their tiaras breaks. Fact of life: Sisters who are this close in age have to have THE EXACT SAME THINGS. If there isn’t two of everything, there will be no end to the tantrums. Problem-solver Ron knows how to fix this though – he breaks the other tiara. Now no one has one! Equality restored. Commence conniption. Even cool Diane gets a little riled when her crying children are returned to her. Ron doesn’t know how to apologize or doesn’t think he needs to. He’s almost ready to accept the end of something promising, just because the presence of her kids will complicate his life. April sees straight through the stoic Swanson face (“Oh my god, you are so sad.”) and suggests he make an effort to smooth things over. He shows up to Diane’s house with make-nice gifts (flowers, candy, grout cleaner), confesses his obvious unfamiliarity with tiny humans, and promises to work on it. Then he offers to teach them how to saw.
Now, on to the Surprise portion of “Halloween Surprise.” Spoilers beyond the cut. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
BEN AND LESLIE ARE ENGAGED. MY BEAUTIFUL OTP IS GOING TO GET MARRIED AND HAVE A MILLION BABIES!
The Ben Wyatt we met in Season 2 was a government drone broken down by years of slashing budgets and delivering bad news. Sure, he did it well. But the towns he brought back from the brink of ruin were nothing more to him than series of numbers on pieces of paper. Season 2 Ben Wyatt was coasting until Leslie charged him to be a part of the community he was so eager to write off and forget. “Help us build something.”
I’ve read some speculation that Ben would return to Pawnee disillusioned by DC. But despite his run-ins with creepy, Robo-Congressmen and fratty interns, Ben Wyatt is built for that city. The scene with aspiring Florida mayor Kurtzwilder is so important to this episode. When Ben tells him that they are “not in the business of losing campaigns,” Adam Scott embodies the fire and confidence that his character has found in this role. He’s great at his job and knows it.
As Kim said to me on Friday morning, “I’m glad they allowed Leslie to be sad about this.” Of course, she supports him all the way. Of course, she knows they’re not going to break up. They’ve handled the distance beautifully, but enough is enough. Leslie’s ready for him to come back home. We love it when Leslie is super-human in her commitment to her job and her friends, but her vulnerability is what makes her a classic character. It’s no blow to feminism to miss your boyfriend. As usual, Amy Poehler nails it. When she sits at Jerry’s hospital bed side and asks him how he can be so at peace after his heart (fart) attack, we see Leslie feel lucky to have Ben; devastated to be putting off their next step; and guilty for feeling that way. It’s masterful.
If Ben had failed in DC, his return to Leslie wouldn’t have been the deliberate choice that it was. He would not have had to commit to a certain prioritization of his life in one scale-tipping moment. Did you notice that the engagement ring was in the same box he and Leslie used to present each other with the first Knope 2012 button and a model Washington Monument, respectively? Each of them have, at some point, sacrificed their own happiness to push the other to a new adventure that they could not stand to see him or her turn down. Both of those selfless acts strengthened Ben and Leslie’s relationship, even while keeping them physically apart. It’s so fitting that that box resurfaces for the proposal. The box says, “I’m all in.” “I’m behind you.” “I believe in you.” Ben has bet on Leslie; and Leslie has bet on Ben. This time, they’re both betting on Beslie. And I think this one’s gonna pay off.
Random thoughts/B Stories:
- Finally, Donna gets some serious screentime! Her Twitter subplot is clearly inspired by Retta’s own feed, where she’s often hilariously live-tweeting The Vampire Diaries and Buffy. And seriously Morris (hi, Joe Mande!), the spoiler alert statute is up on 25-year-old horror movies.
- Leslie and Ann’s impromptu dance party made my heart happy.
- I am possibly re-shipping Chris and Ann. Their conversation at the rummage sale was sweet and sincere. Rob Lowe always plays his scenes with Rashida Jones with a twinge of regret that is just lovely. Also, both characters are on a parallel path of self-discovery, with Chris facing his fears and the start of the Ann Perkins box. I wouldn’t be surprised if that brings them together again.
- Jennifer’s reaction to April taking rather abrupt leave: “That’s an exit! Gone but never forgotten.”
- Andy is a master of observation. “Tree, leaves, night, sky, hand, Andy’s hand. *fart noise* What else you got?”
- Tom’s new business, Rent-a-Swag, might actually work. For his sake, I hope he doesn’t invite Jean-Ralphio in on it. For my sake, I hope he does.
And that’s it for this week. Just give me a minute, guys. I need to remember every little thing about how perfect Parks and Recreation is right now, at this exact moment.
Okay, I’m good.