Season 7, Episode 7: Donna and Joe
Posted by Sage
Weddings are always special on Parks. The couples are great and all, but the real secret weapon behind these event episodes is that these characters are just really freakin’ good at celebrating each other.
Donna has officially retired the Meagle Motto of “Use him, abuse him, lose him” and is making an honest man out of schoolteacher Joe. As was inevitable, her former Parks colleagues are embedded deeply in the nuptials. Craig is her wedding planner, which is making it somewhat difficult for him to avoid his trigger words (“Flowers, schedule, vow, bride, groom…”); Leslie is a bridesmaid whose main function is to continually tell Donna how beautiful and perfect she is; Tom, as was previously established, is the self-appointed Butler of Honor (and his big moment came with last week’s pre-wedding Treat Yo Self weekend); and April Ludgate may in fact be the best Maid of Honor who ever lived.
April’s appointment is both a strategic and an emotional one. She and Donna have developed a singular friendship. Neither of them gives a damn about what anyone thinks (except when they do, desperately) and because of their shared toughness, they have little trouble being vulnerable with each other. Within reason.
Beyond providing moral support and near-hugs, April is also playing the role of bouncer. No better or scarier wedding guest to keep the infamously difficult Meagles in line. She does such a fine job that Donna wonders aloud halfway through the reception what happened to all the drama she’s come to expect from her family. Answer: it’s in the kitchen with Burt Macklin and April the Terminator. The Ludgate-Dwyers have rounded up all the troublemaking relatives (including a contrite Ginuwine) in the kitchen for a talking to straight out of Full Metal Jacket. No one is ruining Donna’s special day. Not on April’s watch.
Seriously, can we just take a second to appreciate this serene wedding goddess? Donna is the picture of calm and generosity throughout. This is how a bride with a complete and unassailable sense of self does it. Not by sucking up all the attention in the room (except unintentionally – you saw how she was wearin’ that dress.), but by taking advantage of the opportunity of having everyone she loves in one room by letting them know what they mean to her. Even Jerry got his special Donna moment. And his coworkers of several decades will finally call him by his given name.
Anyway. It’s a good thing that Donna and Joe were keen to share the stage as there was a lot of side business going down. For Ben and Leslie, their newest life choice presents itself in the form of Jen Barkley, the political kingmaker and bossy boss bitch who has always had a soft spot for the Knope-Wyatts.
Leslie assumes that Jen wants to speak to her about running for office again; Leslie’s been keeping her at bay for years. But Jen’s Gryzzlpad tells a different story. And that story is all about Ben Wyatt for Congress. Jen does not bullshit and she has no time or use for flattery. If she thinks the run is viable, it’s viable. The question is, can their family handle it? Roz is already looking about 2.5 Go, Diego, Go!’s from sticking her head in the oven. We can’t lose Roz, guys. Roz must be protected.
Leslie’s dreams have evolved so much since we first met her. And they include so many more people now. From the moment Jen dangles that seat in front of Ben, Leslie is on board. She tries valiantly to appear neutral, but Leslie’s never been very good at the hiding of the feelings. (“Ben should be the royal archduke sultan emperor of all inhabitable lands on earth.”) She wants this for him because he’d be amazing at it and because the people she’s dedicated her life to serving deserve a Congressman (or woman) like Ben Wyatt. Maybe this run was something she thought she wanted for herself back in the day, but it’s not anymore. And not for a second does Leslie claim ownership of that long-abandoned goal. They’re really killing it at this marriage thing. Right, Ben?
Leslie gives Ben some decision making advice, which I absolutely plan on employing. On the day of Donna and Joe’s rehearsal dinner, he should act like he decided to run. On the day of the wedding, he should act like he didn’t. One will feel better, and then he’ll know what he really wants. By that logic, the kind of Congressman that Ben Wyatt will be is a drunk one. (Jen says this is not a dealbreaker.) He and Leslie accidentally get hammered while he fake-campaigns and tests his glad-handing skills on the Meagles. The culmination of their two-person rager is Ben’s heartfelt and boozy toast to the couple. (“Getting married is the bravest and most wonderful thing you can do…I’m Ben Wyatt and I very much approve this message!”) April stands ready to take Ben out, but the bride is happy to humor him.
Ben and Leslie wake up in the hotel with another one of their proportional, shared hangovers. They find that they at least had the wherewithal to change into their matching “Willy Wonk’s Policy Factory” shirts (Get Josh Lyman one of these IMMEDIATELY.) and that the campaign ad mock-up has been leaked. Seems that although 867-5309 Jenny didn’t receive any of their drunk dials the previous night, Jen did. Drunk Ben sounds remarkably with it when he lays out his priorities on her voicemail (another plus for a politician), and we know that Jen Barkley wastes no time.
I don’t know how I didn’t see this coming. Ben Wyatt has been plagued by his ill-fated stint as teen mayor for way too long. Leslie and his Pawnee family have taught him that he has nothing to prove to anyone; the people who really know him know that he’s so much more than Ice Town. But he’s smart and he works hard and he’s got a cute butt and great hair. Frankly, he’s a political dream. And in terms of holding public office, he’s a baby. Ice Town was another life. Ben has a long and storied career ahead of him and Leslie is so happy when she sees him realize it.
“Would I get married again? Oh, absolutely. If you don’t believe in love, what’s the point of living?” That was Ron Swanson way back in Season 2 in the episode where we met the second Tammy. He’s such an optimist in this arena, even though he’s had his ass kicked thoroughly in the past. Otherwise, Ron believes in doing things quietly – in having the dignity to keep your business to yourself and not to demand a bunch of pointless fanfare. But weddings are a different story. The “celebration of romantic love” is totally sacred to him, and that’s what complicates things for Tommy.
Ron is delighted to see Tom so happy and he can’t resist getting involved. (“Bully for you, son.”) But Lucy is a little freaked out by the secondhand knowledge that Tom would “marry [her] tomorrow.” Ron never has understood why humans don’t tell each other exactly what they mean at all times, so he’s not so good with the delicate dance of the early stage relationship. Tom demands that Ron “walk it back,” but Ron has a truth code to uphold. (“Though I suppose you could construe camoflage as a lie.”) At the wedding, he can see that his actions have tripped the couple up. So he gives them the only truth that matters: “There’s no shame in declaring how you feel to a person you cherish.” Tommy tells Lucy that he’s “all in.” And though she might not be ready to say that back to him, Lucy is pleased to hear it.
- “Legally, no more than 3 Meagles are allowed on an international flight together.”
- “Control yourselves, Gergiches!”
- “Don’t call me ‘man.'” “That’s what you took away from this?”
- Between this episode and the Magic Mike XXL trailer, Ginuwine is having the Best Week Ever.
- The suspension of disbelief I had to sustain to accept that Ann and Chris wouldn’t come to Pawnee for Donna’s wedding gave me headache.
- April’s Jim Halpert faces were on point the entire episode.
- “Knope, you’re a softie. But on the inside, you’re a straight up boss. April, you’re the exact opposite.”
- “Michelle, get the bouquet. You’re skating on very thin ice.”
- “One of my all time favorites: me.”
Five episodes left, my loves. What did you think of Donna’s epic nuptials? Let’s discuss in the comments.