Premieres: Thursday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. on NBC Stars: Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari What to expect: Leslie (Poehler) heads to…

Image Credit: Chris Haston/NBCWhen we first met Ben Wyatt in Parks and Rec‘s second season, he was a serious, straightforward pragmatist — a fitting foil for both his overly exuberant boss and the wackier characters crowding Pawnee’s City Hall. But as Season 3 progresses, Ben is transforming from the ultimate straight man into a guy who can’t help letting his freak flag fly. Maybe there’s something in the water in southwest Indiana.

I, for one, welcome Ben’s metamorphosis (as well as our new computer overlord). It’s great to see Adam Scott stretch a little; before this season and especially before tonight, Ben’s defining characteristics — dry wit and low-grade depression — made him awfully similar to Henry, the apathetic waiter Scott played to perfection in the late, lamented Party Down. But in “Media Blitz,” Ben’s unflappable exterior broke down completely as we learned that the guy just can’t give an interview to save his life — especially when people insist on asking him about his ill-fated stint as the boy mayor of Partridge, Minnesota. (Thankfully, Ben’s social ineptitude has been hinted at before, so this storyline didn’t come out of nowhere.) As Leslie doggedly tried to get the word out about her upcoming Harvest Festival, Ben’s stammering, sweating, and crazed outbursts foiled her at every turn. Poor Perd Hapley had no idea what he was getting himself into. (“Look! Who hasn’t had gay thoughts?! …Is there a bird in here?”)

Things came to a head, as these things generally do, on Pawnee Today. Once again, Ben was put in the spotlight against his will, and once again, he was on the verge of a total meltdown. This time, though — maybe because Leslie proved that she believes in him? — he managed to assure the good people of Pawnee that he’s good at what he does, without going catatonic or delivering a psychotic monologue. Did anyone else’s heart melt just a little bit at the proud smile that crept across Leslie’s face when Ben found his voice?

And speaking of couples… April! And Andy! Are finally together! I’m glad that the whole “April tortures Andy” plot line is (apparently) done for good, since it was getting harder and harder to keep liking her as a character when she acted so awfully. Then again, at least April isn’t as bad as her sister Natalie, who sees nothing wrong with nearly getting Andy arrested just for kicks. There was also a fairly boring C-plot about Ann and Chris which was basically an extension of last episode — she wants to move to Indianapolis with him, he still hasn’t asked her to. Near the end of the half-hour, it seems like Ann might get her wish. Eh… wake me up when something actually happens.

Other episode highlights:

– When Ron starts to think about all the words he knows, these are the ones that first spring to mind: “Rectangle! America! Megaphone! Monday! Butthole!”

– Crazy Ira and The Douche are the most perfectly-named small-town shock jocks ever created. Also: Hello, Matt Besser and Nick Kroll! You can stay as long as you want.

– “Two words: Space farts!”

– Does AltaVista even still exist as a search engine? Well, whaddaya know, it does!

– “So, how do you like Pawnee?” “There are a lot of cars. Not too many… trucks and stuff… but uh, you know.”

– “We are colleagues with benefits. We are colleagues who benefit from the fact that we’re also friends.” No one else can wedge her foot quite as firmly into her mouth as Leslie Knope.

– Tom shops at Brooks Brothers Boys. Of course.

– Ron’s surprisingly modern photography philosophy: “It’s art. Anything is anything.”

– “Sorry for steppin’ on you, floor.”

– Sweet, simple Andy, who is way too honest for his own good, cheerfully tells a police officer that his van is stolen and that his license is, “like, crazy expired.”

– “More like Turd Crapley!”

What were your favorite scenes from “Media Blitz”?

Episode Recaps

Premieres: Thursday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. on NBC Stars: Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari What to expect: Leslie (Poehler) heads to…
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