Parks and Recreation recap: The Trial of Leslie Knope
Leslie stands trial for her relationship with Ben
Wow. That was a curveball. That was deep. I’ll be thinking all week about that ending: Jerry’s real name is…. Gary?
Oh, oh, right — you’re talking about Ben and Leslie. Indeed, the lengths to which Ben went this week to be with Leslie (AND to allow her to keep her permanent record relatively unblemished) was an unabashedly noble romantic gesture, and one that further cemented these two star-crossed civil servants as one of prime time’s most endearing will-they-or-won’t-they couples in recent memory. He had sacrificed for her before, ending their relationship so she could run for office. And here was again, sacrificing his job, so they could be together and she could still run for office. (On couches across America, women poke their half-attentive husbands and ask, ‘Would you do that for me? Why aren’t you more like Ben?) His selfless act and their end-of-episode reunion could have melted even the most frozen of whores, and it delivered an emotional payoff to a different kind of Parks episode (one that contained no B- and C-plots). Let’s re-open the official record and recap the action from “The Trial of Leslie Knope.” Ethel, are you ready?
From the moment the episode opened on Leslie and Ben holding hands in Chris’ office, we knew these two were ready to fight for their right to kiss each other on their respective mouths. Chris was shocked by their relationship revelation – not just because Ben usually prefers tall brunettes – and said he’d be launching an investigation into their wrongdoing by holding an ethics trial on Monday morning. Leave it to Leslie to arrive in council chambers at 3 a.m. to, you know, get a feel for the room. Ben showed up just a few hours later to give her a good-luck Lil’ Sebastian doll that he had made at the toy store (they don’t already make them?). He reassured her he’d be just outside the room, behind that portrait of “that wrinkled, hideous monster” Old Stoneface, whose damaged visage shall haunt my dreams tonight. (Sidebar: Parks has done a fine job counterbalancing sweet with sass in the Ben-Leslie story; I’m hopeful that they will continue to walk a fine line of awwww without falling into a pile of gooey sap.) Chris then showed up, vitamins and assorted home remedies in tow, and told Leslie that this trial filled him with so much sadness, he received two B12 shots from his herbalist (assuming he had to travel back to Indianapolis for that?), ate “an unreasonable amount” of St. John’s Wort, and had bee pollen paste rubbed on his gums, causing his mouth to “feel like a spaceship.” (!)
As the trial started, Leslie knew that history loomed large over her, in the form of 19th century elbow-exposing martyr Sarah Nelson Quindle. But our current-day Quindle wasn’t willing to serve herself up as a human popsicle; she was fighting this. Leslie admitted to violating Chris’s rule by engaging in a relationship with Ben – and one filled with adorable nicknames and amazing back rubs — but she insisted that they’d done nothing unethical or illegal. Still, Chris brought the high heat, challenging her on when their relationship began, announcing a roster of 14 witnesses. Things got tense as he told her that he believed she began the relationship with Ben earlier than she claimed, that she received special treatment, and that she may be guilty of bribery.
Next: April holds herself in contempt of court
And so began an amusing sequence of witnesses testifying, starting with Ann. While we didn’t get to see Chris cross-examine his ex, we were treated to Leslie instructing Ann to open her email inbox, where an email entitled “Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (someone double-check my 18 Y’s and 44 exclamation points) contained an adorably painful iMovie that proved that Leslie didn’t hook up with Ben until the day after they got back from Indianapolis, where Chris had sent them to bid on the Little League World Series. Point, Knope. On Tom’s cross, Chris tried to show that Leslie had a pattern of hooking up with coworkers, citing the “passionate yet tender kiss” he witnessed her plant on Tom (cue: the online dating episode “Soulmates”), but Tom quickly explained that it was a jokey liplock. Point, Knope. Next up was April, who went down a Janet Snakehole wormhole, shouting in an old-school Southern voice (“I don’t know why Leslie Knope’s on trial! Ethel Beavers did it! Beavers did it! I will hold myself in contempt of the court!”). Then came Andy, who wound up confessing to an unrelated spaghetti-in-the-laptop crime before objecting to himself, which was figuratively sustained.
Chris soldiered on, producing a receipt from a Pawnee hotel that Leslie submitted for reimbursement. Donna stood by Leslie, affirming that the room was being used for business purposes, as they were dressed in unsexy khakis and button-down shirts. (“Your basic white people clothes.”) “The only thing that was ravaged were these federal grant proposals that Donna had dropped off earlier,” Leslie quipped, before trying to slam it home: “And by the way, we got the gramps…. grants. God, uhhh, that was gonna be such an awesome moment.” Surely Leslie’s honor would’ve been defended by Ron, a man so freaked by the invasive powers of internet pop-up ads and Google Earth, he tossed his computer into a dumpster. But after emitting a series of weird noises to prevent stenographer Ethel Beavers from hearing Leslie attempt to enter his address into the official record, he fled the scene, having detected the scent of ex-wife Tammy 2. (“I can smell the sulfur coming off her cloven hooves.”) Ah, this was Chris’ “killer witness.” (Megan Mullally’s cameo was all too brief, though, as Chris reminded her mid-lie that he’d fire her if she committed perjury, so she bailed.) Another point for Knope.
His final witness? George Williams from Public Works. “He’s just a maintenance worker, NASCAR enthusiast, I believe, and oh, interesting tidbit: I once bribed him to keep my relationship with Ben private,” Leslie nervously told the camera. We gulped through the commercial break and then watched some footage from the season 3 finale (including the producer’s cut), which showed George spotting them kissing, and being paid off with a $50 spa gift certificate that rejuvenated his face. Damn, this witness was damning. After failing to prove that he was sight-impaired, a panicked Leslie requested a 55-day recess. The committee granted her 30 minutes, which she and her crew used to pore over Pawnee law books in search of an obscure statute that might save her. (If only the speed-reading Chris were on their side!) Ron relayed his findings: In 1856, the council banned all sexual positions but missionary before banning that one as well two years later. Even more chilling, Donna discovered that black people still can’t legally use city sidewalks. Bad Pawnee!
Which transitions us nicely into that entrancing mural “Bad Pawnee, Good Pawnee,” which depicted the town’s glorious moments on one side, the inglorious on the other. Gazing at it, Leslie glumly told Ron that she was on the bad side. Fortunately, it was that time in the episode when Ron can put down his human-deflector shields briefly and dispensed some sage advice: “You know what makes a good person good? When a good person does something bad, they own up to it.” Leslie called off the loophole search and apologized to her team for letting them down. (“Bribing someone to hide a sexcapade? I’m proud to call you a friend,” declared Tom.) She returned to chambers to accepted her punishment: Suspended for 2 weeks with pay. RECORD SCRATCH. Only two weeks? Why me no fired? Chris explained that Ben met with the committee privately, assumed full responsibility for everything, and resigned. Chris also told her that he was doing his job of protecting the government from corruption; and not only was she was an excellent government employee but “the only person I’ve ever met who’s worthy of being Ben’s girlfriend.” (Touching stuff, Chris, but if you felt that way, did you need to go after her that hard in the trial?) Before leaving, he told her to check out the transcript from his meeting with Ben, which proved to be a clever device to unspool this part of the love story.
Next: Ethel needs a ride home
CHRIS: Was all of this, all of the sneaking around, the scandal, losing your job, was it worth it?
BEN: “Yes… it was…”
“…because I love Leslie,” picked up Ethel, quoting Ben in a monotone drone. “I want to be with her and I don’t want to hide the way I feel about her anymore. So yeah, it was worth it, because I’m in love with Leslie Knope. Chris Traeger: ‘That was beautiful. I’m literally crying and jumping.’ Crying noise. Crying noise. Nose blow.’” (Chris sobbing in Ben’s arms? A half-step too far for me.)
Leslie tracked Ben down in the snowy night air, and returned the favor. Ethel stepped out of Leslie’s car and read page 132 of the official testimony: “Leslie Knope: ‘Let the record state that I, Leslie Knope, love Ben Wyatt. I love him with all of my heart.’ Did you get that?’ Ethel Beavers: ‘Yes, I got it.’” Ben and Leslie kissed perfectly while Ethel piped up: ‘Can I get a ride home? It’s freezing.” (Sweet and sass, right?)
All of this sets up some intriguing possibilities. What will Ben do now for work? Open a sci-fi collectibles shop? Take an accounting job in Eagleton, which could put him in competitive conflict with Leslie? Work on her campaign? How will their indiscretion affect her campaign? Did Ron not wipe his hard drive before tossing the computer in the trash?
Let’s end this recap where it began, with the show’s final moment: When Leslie asked Jerry to state his name for the record, he identified himself as Gary Gergich. (“Oh, God, Jerry, you can’t even get your own name right.”) Turns out, the previous director of the Parks department botched his name! And called him Jerry instead of Gary! And Jerry, er, Gary, “just didn’t think” he should correct him!!! Oh, that was almost as rich of a reveal as the big penis discovery earlier this season, in the opposite direction! To make up for this one, his wife is going to have to be really hot.
Okay, your turn to type stuff. What’s your verdict on “The Trial of Leslie Knope”?
ADDITIONAL LINES OF MERIT
“Marcus Everett Langley was Pawnee’s greatest lawyer at the turn of century. His nickname was Old Stoneface because of his steely demeanor… and because he got in an accident at the rock quarry and dynamite blew up his face.” –Leslie
“Sarah Nelson Quindle exposed her elbow outdoors which was a class A felony. Although she felt the law unjust, she acknowledged that she had broken it and she nobly accepted her punishment: to be set adrift on Lake Michigan like a human Popsicle.” –Leslie
“I broke one rule and I will accept a slap on the wrist. But when you sit back and let your relationship be destroyed, you go down as history as a frozen whore. I’m fighting!” –Leslie
“Did Tom Ford turn around the house of Gucci?” –Tom to Chris, when asked if Leslie was a good employee
“No, that’d be like dating my older sister’s elderly aunt!” –Tom to Chris, when asked if he’d had further romantic contact with Leslie
“Tammy 2 is your killer witness? Please! You’re going to have to do better th—Actually, she is a terrifying sociopath who could say or do anything. Pretty good killer witness.” –Leslie
“’Any woman caught laughing is a witch.’ That’s true. –April, quoting from an old Pawnee law book
“Your actions wounded me to my core. Which is not easy since the bulk of my workouts are focused on core strengthening.” –Chris to Leslie
“Gary Gergich. Jerry Gergich. Gary Gergich. Jerry. Gary. God, they’re both horrible. But Jerry’s better. I’m going to call you Jerry. Okay, Jerry, do you remember a time — I’m sorry, I can’t get over the Gary-Jerry thing.” –Leslie
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