Last week’s episode of Parks and Recreation, in which Ben finally proposed to Leslie, set the bar pretty high — some might say impossibly high — so last night the writers stepped up and let loose with some top-shelf material. We met Ben’s sparring, divorced, insufferable parents (played by Glenne Headly and Jonathan Banks) and watched Chris have a total, happy-sad mental breakdown (“It’s like a perfect storm of emotions!”). The team even brought back the scene-stealer (and arguably the show’s most consistently funny character) Jean-Ralphio, Tom’s flamboyant cad of a business partner. With so many memorable moments, it’s hard to narrow down the episode’s highlights… but here goes.
5. Ron’s investment in gold
It’s always a treat to learn more about Ron’s industrious, ultra-masculine childhood. When Tom and Jean-Ralphio approach him to invest in their clothing rental start-up, Rent-a-Swag, he proudly, albeit reluctantly, reveals the secret to his financial security: “Ever since I got a job at the age of 9, I have been putting all my money into gold, which is currently at an all-time high. So I have a certain amount of money… I’ve said too much.”
4. Stuff Ben’s parents like
Ben spends the first third of the episode describing his parents the way you and I would describe a natural disaster, warnings which turn out to be correct when they show up and almost ruin the engagement party. But the real standout is when he tries to prep Leslie on some conversation topics: “They’re white people from Minnesota, so hockey, skiing, fishing, sailing, and after a few drinks, put on a Prince album. Don’t mention the Green Bay Packers or the state of Iowa.”
3. The Unity Quilt
It wouldn’t be right to talk about last night’s episode without mentioning the Unity Quilt. As Leslie describes it, “Of all my metaphorical art projects, this is the coziest.” The Unity Quilt (replete with a small print of Leslie’s perennial celebrity crush, Joe Biden) became a running gag throughout the episode, primarily because Leslie is convinced that it will bring Ben’s parents together. She cites her track record as proof:
Leslie — “Ben, on three separate occasions I have used a quilt to mend fences. In 9th grade, a quilt ended an argument between my two best friends. And a quilt settled the Donna-Jerry parking lot feud of 2006.”
Ben — “What was the third time?
Leslie — “Right f—in’ now.”
As far as I’m concerned, everything that comes out of Jean-Ralphio’s mouth is comic genius. Here are just a few examples from last night:
On free-association: “Business partner now and forever. Hold up — Forever 21, 21 gun salute, Salute Your Shorts, Kaboosh! I just free associated all over the moo-stache.”
Pitching an investment to Ron:
Jean-Ralphio: “Anyway, I have an amazing investment idea for you: condoms with pictures on them.”
Jean-Ralphio: “Good, smart. I think you made the right decision.”
And finally, the virtuosic recap of a night out on the town:
“Tommy T! You just missed the craziest of crazies. Clubs, girls, dancing, naked, Mom!? argument, police, fleeing the scene, hiding in a dumpster, crashing on your couch for a week because technically I’m ho-omeless — hey mustache — I’ma hit the couch, you know where I be.”
1. Standoff: Ron Swanson vs. Steve Wyatt
It’s short, subtle, and so understated you might miss it — Ron and Steve return to the buffet at the same time, only to find that there is just one bacon-wrapped shrimp left. What follows is a ludicrous contest of iron wills and furrowed brows. Not a word is spoken, and the scene ends without further mention, but it’s such a well-placed moment that it deserves the top honor.
Honorable Mention: Marlene Griggs-Knope on settling arguments
Leslie’s mother makes a brief appearance, and her sole line contains the kind of homespun wisdom that only a parent can muster:
“Oh, like any married couple, honey, your father and I fought occasionally. Sometimes he won the argument, sometimes I won, but usually we forgot what we were arguing about and just had sex. Anyway, the important thing is that we always ended up on the same team. And in the same bed.”
‘Parks and Recreation’: Amy Poehler, Adam Scott and Mike Schur on last night’s twist