All is fair in love and war when Leslie and Ben face off at a Model UN event 

By Dan Snierson
Updated November 11, 2011 at 08:30 AM EST
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Of the many reasons to sign on to “The Treaty,” let us start with Leslie Knope. Has our hypercapable yet rather modest deputy director opened an episode so confidently, so forcefully? After crowding the office with the flags of the United Nations’ 193 member states, she explained how attendance at the Model UN event at Pawnee Central High School had been low, and that if she didn’t make it awesome, it would be cancelled. Leslie then looked directly at us, and with a relax-I’ve-got-this smirk, she mock-fretted: “I wonder if I’m going to make it awesome.” (File that one under calm badassery, next to Ron Swanson’s five-word dismissal of a Lowe’s employee.) Moments later, an equally self-possessed Ben stepped up his game, telling the camera: “You know, I didn’t really do Model United Nations in high school, so– oh wait, I SUPER did!”

Welcome to the Model UN, bitch! (And the second Model UN-themed episode by an NBC comedy this fall! Whitney, the gauntlet has been thrown down, and the great nations of this planet dare you to pick it up!)

Our two ex-lovebirdnerds were flying high, ready to make geopolitical problem-solving their bitch, ignoring the fact that this alliance between Denmark (Leslie) and Peru (Ben) was unstable at its core. Just last week, Ben told Leslie that it pained him too much to spend time together, and although they semi-mended fences by the end of the episode, we realized that any friendship would need to be rebuilt very slowly. Yet here they were, chumming it up and exchanging an ill-fated bro shake as they plotted to fix the global food shortage crisis. “Leslie and I aren’t dating anymore, but we’re friends so it’s fun… It’s just fun,” Ben stammered hilariously. “It’s fun.. It’s… fun. It is fun.” (If only Ron weren’t philosophically opposed to super governments and were there to say: “Are you broken?”)

NEXT: How do you know about Camp David? After Leslie asked Ben to tread water while she participated in a photo-op for her city council run (yes, the very thing responsible for the end of her relationship with Ben), things turned for the worse. Ben cut her out of their treaty, and reiterated that they couldn’t be friends (“You can’t just chop up the aspects of a relationship into discreet parts and select the ones you want like a buffet”). Denmark responded by declaring war on Peru, which prompted Peru to lead a vote to condemn Denmark (complete with mic drop!), which prompted Denmark to bang her shoe like Khrushchev, announce that she no longer recognized the authority of this “international gang of thugs” and form a coalition of the willing with… Botswana and the moon! “Yeah! We got the freakin’ moon!” she taunted. “What are you going to do without tides, Peru?” (Yes, that line happened.)

Fed up with the juvenile behavior, the Security Council expelled Peru and Denmark, and Cassidy/France told the Pawnee Model UN legend hero/icon, Leslie, that she ruined her favorite club. (I guess Leslie didn’t make it awesome, after all.) Luckily, after an April and Andy intervention, she and Ben redeemed themselves by taking the kids to city council chambers and told them they’d get to host a statewide Model UN event. And Leslie drew up a new treaty with Ben: They would have a five-minute fun conversation every day. (Okay, it’s no Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, but it’s a START. See what I–forget it.) This episode found a new way to show that Leslie and Ben are a match made in geek heaven. And airing it on the heels of last week’s drama only ramped up the roller-coaster intensity. How long can Parks keeps these two apart before relationship fans start to revolt?

Let us take a moment to pass a resolution to honor Andy, who scored all night, first refusing Leslie’s offer to be Iceland (“The bad guys from Mighty Ducks 2? I don’t think so”) and then Japan (“The bad guys from Karate Kid 2? Even worse”) before requesting Germany (“They’ve never been the bad guys”), but settling for Finland and trading away its precious resources for lions and lions and lions, oh my! The rearranged-letters-of-Peru joke was a win, as was the Camp David gag. (BEN: “How do you know about Camp David?” ANDY: “How do you know about Camp David?”) April, meanwhile, played the roles of both South Africa and the moon, but mostly the moon. (Was April a secret nerd? Because she did speak perfect model UN.) And it was a neat little beat to see her provide some solidarity and comfort to Leslie by the lockers.

NEXT: Meet Gary from Gary, Indiana! Speaking of rare softening-ups in the name of a cheer-up, Ron tried to give Tom his old administrative job back, after spotting the former E720 spraying cologne samples at Macy’s. Tom passed, so Ron interviewed a series of amusingly unqualified candidates to fill the post, hoping that Tom would be so disturbed by these misfits that he’d return, if only to protect his legacy. Not surprisingly, Tom was none too impressed with hitchhiker/ex-con Courtney (fired in 1968 for making a pass at an “ethnic woman”), Gary from Gary, Indiana (this space left blank because he’s so damn dull), and slow-but-shifty Keith (who is “still not totally sure what I’m applying for, but if you ask me, I think it went pretty well”).

And even though Ron kissed Tom’s rear — noting that he was “competent enough to keep bosses off my back but selfish enough to slow down all the work” — Tom didn’t bite. After all, this dope shark doesn’t swim backward. Ron was finally forced to confront him about his unsavory Macy’s gig, and to make it look like Tom didn’t come crawling back after chasing a failed dream, Ron even agreed to beg Tom to resume his old gig in front of Chris & co. Of course, Tom took it one step too far — “Ron, this is embarrassing, even for you. I’m not coming back. Peace out, my dudes.” Behold Ron, stiffly speed-walking after him and physically returning him to the room, where Tom now begged Ron for his job back. When Ron allowed a tiny smile to form under his ‘stache, we felt that everything was in its right place again. And when Tom tried to pull off an overgrand entrance in the final scene, we knew it was.

Finally, the Chris-Ann story put a more human face on the Traeger microchip, though it didn’t offer as many laughs as the other two stories. Chris manufactured a relationship problem with Jerry’s “surprisingly hot” daughter Millicent – she hadn’t returned his last two phone calls after their fourth date – and then tried to solve it by launching an investigation and assembling an inappropriate think tank (Ann, his ex! Donna, who just wanted to savor any sexy detail from his love life! Jerry, Millicent’s dad, who didn’t want any part in this! ) Still, Donna gave some good advice (“You gotta dangle the carrot, literally and metaphorically”) as did Ann, who told him to back off a bit and let Millicent be Millicent. In a rather incisive deconstruction of their failed relationship, she explained how he transformed her into a female version of himself and then grew tired of it because he was, in essence, dating himself. That’s incredibly tough to do — almost like Denmark and Peru being close allies in the current geopolitical conditions.

ADDITIONAL LINES OF MERIT

“And teach kids that not only is government good but there should be a worldwide supergovernment? I’d rather sand down my toenails.” –Ron, when asked if he wanted to be part of Model UN

“Security Council, we need you to lead us or billions of people will starve to death. But most importantly, have fun!”–Leslie

“Friendship is better, because friends — they help you move, they drive you to the airport. Boyfriends just… love you and marry you.”–Leslie

“In my four years here I revolutionized the position of administrator and made this place cool. I was the first person to abbreviate Parks and Recreation department. First it was Parks and Recreation, then Parks and Rec. Then P&R, then I lengthened just a little bit to… Tommy’s Place.” –Tom

“I just traded Finland’s military to Kenya for 50 lions. That’s pretty good, right?” –Andy

“I’m back! Or as they say in Denmark: ‘I’m back.’ Most people speak English.”–Leslie

“A fact is not an anecdote, Gary. Here’s an anecdote. Today I met the most boring man in the world. His name was Gary.”–Tom

“Food schmood. This is war! God, it’s time for you to nut up, Switzerland.” –Leslie

“The only thing I will be waving is your decapitated head on a stick in front of your weeping mother!” –Leslie to Ben, when he told her to wave a white flag.

“I just want to say… that I thought it was really cool how everything fell apart in there.” –April to Leslie

“Jogging is the worst, Chris! I mean, I know it keeps you healthy but god, at what cost!” –Ann

“What? Macy’s? That wasn’t me. There’s a Macy’s in town? Where’s the Macy’s in town? I hear they have an amazing cologne sample guy.” –Tom

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