Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 17: Partridge
– Posted by Sage
We’re back, finally! The world has been sans new Parks episodes for a few weeks, and it feels like AGES since we’ve had a Ben and Leslie-centric storyline. Wasn’t it satisfying to get in some QT with our favorite newlyweds this week?
In “Partridge,” Leslie accompanies Ben back to his hometown – the one he bankrupted as teen mayor – for a ceremony where he’ll finally receive the key to the city. Okay, first of all – we KNOW how embarrassed Ben still is about the Ice Town debacle. The snafu was what led him down the path of hopping from town to town, fixing finances and refusing to engage for fear of being counted on and screwing up again. Until Pawnee and Leslie. Without Leslie, Ben would never set foot back in Partridge, at least not without a disguise of some kind. I’m not saying that she twisted his arm, but that she gives him perspective. She reminds him constantly of everything he’s achieved and, more importantly, that she’s so proud of 18-year-old Ben for TRYING. It was when he first told Leslie about Ice Town that she started to see him as more than “Mean Ben”. Here was someone who cared so much about his town that he decided to give up his teen years – the time when we’re all the most selfish – to try to make it better. Leslie was powerless to resist a kindred public servant, especially one with that adorable of a butt.
…which is why she is INCENSED that the whole ceremony was just a ruse to get Benji into town so that they could make fun of him again, to his face. Parks is an idealistic show in a cynical world, and in this episode, cynicism got its ass handed to it. Complaining is easy. Sitting in a crowd or behind a computer and criticizing people who actually act is entirely without risk. We’re all guilty of it. The people of Partridge showed up to a civic event JUST because involved humiliating someone. Not many would describe Pawnee as a “classy” town, but Leslie’s right. She’ll sit in town meetings that last for hours, because what she hears is “people caring loudly” at her – people who show up to be a part of the future of their town, no matter how kooky their ideas might be. And Ben’s able to let it all go, because he’s got Leslie in his corner and a new home. But more importantly: BEN WYATT ON MORPHINE.
“You’re like a flower or no, like a snugbug.”
“We should just go for it, you know? LIFE.”
“Nah, I’m goody goody. You just do your thaaaang, baby smurf.”
Gold, all of it. I ship Morphine!Ben and Flu!Leslie hard.
So, we can’t change the past. All we can do is move on and do better and acknowledge all those times we dreamed/threatened about punching someone in the face.
Ron Ulysses Swanson is being sued by cartoon villain Councilman Jamm for the dental and emotional damage he did by throwing that haymaker at Leslie’s first wedding. He calls Tom, April, and Andy as character witnesses. Sweet, simple Andy is incapable of lying, even about his own shortcomings. But Tom and April (especially April) are evil geniuses, who do their duty to Ron by painting a picture of a sentimental vegetarian who’d never hurt a fly. The only truth in that is that Ron IS a big softy. He’s wanted to punch Jamm out for years, but the only thing that could drive him to ACTUALLY do it was Jamm threatening the happiness of his best friend. I know.
I referred to Jamm earlier as a cartoon villain, and here’s why. All of the other characters who have been obstacles to Leslie & Co. have been working for their own wants. Joan wants to famous. Lindsay Carlise-Shay wants to forget that she didn’t grow up in a privileged town like Eagleton. Bobby Newport just wants his dad to be proud of him. Sure, Jamm wants money. But he also wants to stick it to those meddling Parks kids, because he finds their camaraderie and decency so annoying. He’s getting a huge comeuppance at the end of this season and I can’t wait to see what it is.
Anyway: Ron, much like Dexter Morgan, has a code. Plenty of shows and commercials have lots to tell us about what it is to “be a man.” They’d have us believe it mostly means pretending to enjoy listening to your wife and doing anything you can to get a look at some yabbos. To Ron, it means eating animals and drinking old scotch, yes. But it also means playing fair, supporting your friends, and owning up to all of your words and actions. He even respects the guy who served him his papers. As Brad said about Max on Happy Endings last week in a meta-moment – “What a fresh character!” Tom and April come clean to the deposition, but still manage to come up with a scheme to Jamm Jamm and protect Ron. Sorry, Jamm. You’re not going to get between these guys.
- Much like Ben and Miles Davis, I feel like I didn’t give much shrift to Chris and Ann’s storyline in this recap. The compatibility test was a little trope-y, which the writers acknowledged by basically naming it as such. But the payoff was in the last Chris and Ann scene, where Rob Lowe delivered a speech to rival Chandler’s “She’s a mother without a baby” monologue: “You are caring and intelligent and reliable. And I am certain that you will lit-erally be the best mom.” THEY’RE A FAMILY. *sobs quietly*
- “This lawsuit is Chronicles of Riddick-ulous.”
- Loved seeing Annabeth “Agent Reyes” Gish and JK “Juno’s Dad” Simmons as Ben’s sister and the Mayor Stice, though they didn’t have too much to do. Hopefully at least Gish will be back to tell us more about when Ben first got to third base with a girl. My guess is 23.
- “It’s just, everytime you say that speech, I think about where you’ve been and where you’re going, and our future children, and America, and just, our history as a nation.”
- I know I’m a certified nutjob, but I can’t be the only one who felt a little twinge of joy noticing Ben’s wedding ring on his finger.
- No one adores Ben Wyatt more than Leslie Knope and ME, but really, it’s Judy Fucking Garland.
- Andy’s “truth bomb” and April’s reaction:
We’re in the season’s 7th inning stretch! By May, I’m hoping we’ll have a pregnant Ann Perkins and a sixth season renewal. And if we don’t, I’ll take all my NBC merch and throw it into the Hudson. No regrets.