Parks and Recreation Recap: The Parent Trap

Photo: NBC
Parks and Recreation
Episode Title
Ben's Parents
Editor’s Rating

As Ben and Leslie make the rounds spreading word of their engagement to their nearest and dearest, Sodapop reacts like so: “The joy that I’m feeling right now is profound and unmatched in the modern era.” To this I say: Sodapop, you speak for us all. I’m still so happy about these two crazy kids getting hitched, I may or may not be musicalizing it in my head right now ("uhhh-huh you know what it is benandleslie benandleslie benandleslie benandleslie"). Sodapop spent all of last night’s episode speaking for us all. But more on that later!

The Wyatt Riot
In a perfect world, all marriages would be variations on a theme, and that theme would be Coach and Tami Taylor. Alas, we live in a flawed universe, and it is in this less-than-ideal place where we meet Ben’s parents. Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt hate each other more than not-president Mittens hates 47 percent of Americans. (Too soon? Too late? I don’t even know anymore.)

Leslie’s finger might have a non-conflict diamond on it, but Ben’s parents are reportedly all-conflict exes. According to Ben, if there’s anything that can bring his parents together, it’s no one. But Leslie is a fence-mender extraordinaire with a secret weapon: the unity quilt. This blanket of bonding includes all our favorite Ben and/or Leslie images, like a waffle, Li'l Sebastian, the Smallest Park, and a tiny picture of Joe Biden’s face. (We break from your regularly scheduled recapping just now to remind you that Joe Biden will be on Parks and Rec next week. Watch the teaser. Get blinded by the Smile. It’s all happening.)

Despite Ben’s insistence that his parents cannot be in the same room, ever, Leslie throws an engagement party and invites all the Wyatts. (What happened to not steamrolling anymore? Wasn’t it her realization about steamrolling that led to my favorite moment in my favorite episode, the aforementioned Smallest Park? But I digress.)

We meet Ben’s mom, and I immediately have some questions:

Then Ben’s dad is introduced. He is a curmudgeon with a younger girlfriend (filed under: plot twists we’ve never seen before!) The girlfriend is (a) not invited and (b) April-level unimpressed. I was a little disappointed they didn’t have a scene together in which they could try to out-deadpan each other.

After many a failed effort at fighting and fleeing, plus some spontaneous amendments to the unity quilt and a pregnancy announcement, Ben and Leslie lay down the law: The Wyatts must attend the wedding. They will be seated far apart and forbidden from socializing with each other, but “you have to show up and tell us that you had a great time,” says Ben. This is exactly what it should say on the bottom of all wedding invitations.

The sadness of Sodapop
What I meant earlier about Sodapop is this: For the whole episode, he personifies exactly what we all know to be true about weddings and wedding foreplay (bridal showers, engagement parties, scrolling through the “how we met” section of the website, etc.). Unless you are already coupled and happy, these things have the power to make you miserable. Sure, an open bar and a hot bridal party/groomsman/bartender/valet guy?/I don’t know you guys, weddings can be rough/anyway do take the edge off, but nothing brings your own messy life into stark relief like watching two people really get their shit together.

Ann finds Sodapop sitting outside and crying. If the show is leading us to another crack at an Ann-and-Sodapop relationship — Annapop? SodaPerkins? — I hope it’s a more meaningful one this time around, enriched by Ann’s time spent “dating herself” and Sodapop’s crazy-intensive therapy sessions. Also, I wonder if there’s a law that says two people as attractive as Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe can’t be on the same show together and not be dating. If it does not exist yet, I am inventing it, and it shall be called Gorgeousness Gravity.

April, Andy, and Champion are dispatched by Ann to solve the Sodapop problem. The Dwyers barge in, and Sodapop kind of French kisses Champion, which is … uncomfortable for all of us, and I guess it's proof that the man-and-beast pairings Über-conservatives feared would result if we legalized gay marriage are already happening. In their effort to comfort Sodapop, April and Andy kill it with a balancing act, wherein Andy provides cheerful words as uppers and April counters each with her list of awful things: smallpox, botched surgery, snails crawling out of your mouth (repeat three times), snails crawling out of your butt, and the Dave Matthews Band.

Even though his friends make valiant efforts to rally his spirits, Sodapop spends the whole party being “happysad,” alternately sobbing and laughing and constantly needing to be consoled. The situation was a hot mix of emotions, insecurity, and alcohol. The scientific term for what Sodapop experienced is Prom.

Tom Haverford: Baller, shot caller
Tom’s pitching his company, Rent-a-Swag — it’s just Rent the Runway for middle-school guys, though Tom seems to think he invented the whole concept himself — to Ron Swanson, potential investor. Just when he’s ready to get serious and prepare for their meeting, Jean-Ralphio, partner in swag, Googles “Amanda Bynes sideboob.” Guys, what is it with the Amanda Bynes shout-outs lately? Modern Family had her starring in a fake Lifetime movie, and tonight she’s being Google-ogled by JR? Sigh.

Tom loves Jean-Ralphio. Look, we all love Jean-Ralphio. But everybody needs to duck and cover, because Tom Haverford is about to drop a truth bomb on the universe: “Sometimes you gotta work a little so you can ball a lot.” I cannot believe that such insightful words were uttered by someone who is not Donna. Jean-Ralphio gets fired, and Swanson, appreciative of Tom’s work ethic, signs on to back Rent-a-Swag with some of his stash of gold. Sorry, I’ve already said too much.

Speaking of my girl, there was barely any Donna for Donna Watch, which crushes me, but maybe I’m just spoiled after her epic run last week — actually, that’s how I feel about this episode in general. Sandwiched between the Best Proposal Ever and Leslie’s in-person introduction to the only person on her celebrity sex list (VPJB4EVA), “Ben’s Parents” felt solid but not spectacular.

I’d stay and write some more, but there’s only 30 bucks left on the meter, and I want to hard-core makeout in the back of this cab.