If the first episode was mostly drunk gags with a shred of story, the second episode dives full-on into the Ben-Leslie (Beslie? Len? Lesjamin?) morass and sets up Chris as maybe a little bit more of a stooge than we’ve seen before. Leslie has decided that she needs to avoid spending any close one-on-one time with Ben, lest she jeopardize both their jobs, which is why it’s so perfect that Chris sends them to Indianapolis together to lobby for a baseball tournament. Ann helps Leslie prepare for a decidedly unsexy car ride by making a mixtape of whale noises and something called “Banjo Boogie Bonanza.”
Tom — clearly having learned his lesson about using his government position to launch absurd entrepreneurial ideas — has April, Andy, Jerry, and Donna be test contestants for his Newlywed Game knockoff, Know Ya Boo. While Jerry and Donna seem to know each other’s smush preferences like a married couple, the actual married couple is flailing. Andy is devastated to learn that April has it bad for Jeff Mangum, and what follows is not just a brief mention, but an honest-to-God, pertinent-to-the-plot discussion of the merits of Neutral Milk Hotel, a genuine underground cultural watershed moment not seen on an NBC sitcom since Judge Harry Stone sentenced that kid for shoplifting the Double Nickels on the Dime cassette, or the time Theo Huxtable briefly joined Bad Brains, or when Henry Rollins guest-starred on the second episode of The Paul Reiser Show.
Ben wins over the bigwigs in Indianapolis with a moving speech about how great a community Pawnee is, as Leslie stands next to him basically melting. They go to dinner to celebrate the successful presentation, and Ben lays out his crush there, sending Leslie running to call Ann to talk her down. But she decides she’s going to make out with his face anyway, Chris or no Chris, and returns to the table to find Chris. Who then insists they stay at his place rather than drive back or stay at the romantic hotel. Here’s where the character’s eccentricity gets the better of things: Quirky is fine, but his obliviousness to Ben and Leslie’s situation just seems off. Or maybe this is just another case of a show hitting so many perfect notes that the slightest deviation seems off-key. After all, the town’s cutest ER nurse took a publicist job in City Hall just to be around her pals, so as depictions of government employees at work go, this doesn’t have to be The Fog of War.
But all ends well, as things must end in Pawnee, because that’s just what feels right. April goes to Ann for advice about Andy and proves her allegiance to Mouse Rat by singing with the other three band members in the City Hall courtyard. And Leslie gets a note to come to Chris’s office, only to find that Ben has summoned her there, and he kisses her, and admit it: You made a little noise with your throat when that happened. And that’s all right.