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Parks and Recreation Recap: I Love You and I Like You

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Leslie and Ben" Episode 513 -- Pictured: (l-r) Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt, Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope

Many moons ago, when Ben popped the question to Leslie, our dear heroine hit pause mid-proposal, saying, “I need to remember every little thing about how perfect my life is at this exact moment.” That is how I feel about this episode. I want to remember every little thing about how perfect it was. Because it was so, so perfect.

In the spirit of the Knope-Wyatt nuptials, I am taking these two separate episodes — each with their own strengths and weaknesses (JK: There were zero weaknesses in the wedding episode) — and recapping them as one.

We pick up right where we left off: Ben and Leslie deciding if they should turn the gala into their wedding. I really appreciate how Leslie brings up the logistical issues, like that their families aren’t there (so much for that unity quilt), they’ve already booked a venue, and they just ordered 200 white-chocolate top hats.

These are legitimate reasons to hold off on saying “I do.” Oh, reason. How cute of you to make a cameo! But because this is the WEDDING episode, reason gets crushed by romance. “Doesn’t it feel right today?” asks Ben. It feels the rightest, Ben! Let’s do this.

Ben and Leslie spin around back-to-back like two kids who just heard “Dr. Pepper” in a game of Coke and Pepsi (bad luck for the groom and bride to see each other, uh duhh), and Ben announces his one request: He wants Leslie to take his last name. “It’s important to me symbolically that Leslie Knope disappears.”

Kidding! He is totally kidding because feminism and love go together like the Falcon and the Turtle Dove.

To the office, a.k.a. wedding headquarters. Ann is in charge of the dress — “I was thinking the sensuality of Eleanor Roosevelt combined with the animal magnetism of Leslie Stahl” — Chris is getting rings, the Dwyers are finding marriage licenses, Donna and Jerry are overseeing the gala while Tom gets insta-Internet-ordained, and, most important, Ron is walking Leslie down the aisle. I may or may not have squealed when I heard Leslie ask Ron to do that. It was a cool squeal, though. Like a teacup-pig squeal. Honest.

As far as Leslie’s concerned, it’s all systems go for the wedding. But what we’re dealing with here is true love, which as you know is not the smoothest-running thing in the world. The wannabe newlyweds have more problems than Jay-Z: Leslie’s dress isn’t ready, the marriage license needs to be signed by someone from city government, Tom’s minister certification won’t clear for 24 hours, and, while nipple rings abound, finger rings prove more difficult, nay, impossible, to find.

Our lovebirds stand outside, dejected. Leslie sighs. “Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.”

But then … it is snowing and Leslie sees what she believes to be THE GHOST OF LI’L SEBASTIAN! Sure, it’s just a professional look-alike for the gala whose real name is Bucky, but that is not the point! The point is that this whole scene looks like a snow globe, which reminds me of the Snow Globe Museum from the Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt Leslie made for Ben in “Operation Ann.”

“This is a sign,” says Leslie. “We’re going to do this! We’re going to pull this wedding off.”

What do we learn from this? One, there’s always time for Tim Gunn voice. Two, the rest of the wedding episode will be a heartstring-yanking retrospective of Ben and Leslie’s relationship, starting with April and Andy having Ethel Beavers sign the marriage license. This is the same Ethel Beavers who, in “The Trial of Leslie Knope,” read Leslie’s court statement to Ben: “I, Leslie Knope, love Ben Wyatt. I love him with all of my heart.”

Chris gives Ben the best wedding present ever: The letter from the Indiana State House that assigned these dapper gents to Pawnee in 2010 for an eight-week-only stint. Aww, you guys! Because Ben and Chris are so fully integrated into the Parks and Rec universe, I sometimes forget that they were outsiders (pun intended!) who arrived at City Hall knowing only each other. This beautiful bonding moment was a lovely reminder.

Ann scrounges together all of Leslie’s important documents to make the skirt of her wedding dress; this, like the Princess Leia costume Liz Lemon wore to get hitched on 30 Rock, stays true to Leslie’s character without abandoning the idea of a wedding dress altogether. Nicely done, team.

Things are looking swell UNTIL Councilman Jamm shows up. He’s got a megaphone in one hand, a flask in the other, and the orthodontist’s version of Ryan Gosling’s jacket from Drive on his back. He literally boos as Leslie walks down the aisle. “Here comes the boo! All dressed in boo!” In context, this is horrible. However just as a sidebar, Jamm’s jam is potentially a fun substitute for “Here Comes the Bride” if you happen to refer to your partner as “Boo.” Anyway, like any mature, fully functioning adult would do, Jamm handles the situation by dropping stink bombs on Ben and Leslie’s wedding.

I am outraged! I am appalled! I am — holy effing smokes, Ron is PUNCHING JAMM IN THE FACE. April speaks for us all, tossing rice in the air and cheering, “Yay! Best wedding ever!”

Jamm and Ron go to jail without passing Go or collecting $200. Ron tells Leslie to just go on and get married without him. I’m just going to put her response here in full: “I lost my father when I was 10. I don’t have any brothers. And Ken Burns never wrote me back. I’m not getting married without you there to walk me down the aisle. End of discussion.”

!!!!!!! More teacup-pig noises!!

That Ben and Leslie ultimately get married at the Parks department, surrounded only by their co-workers, was not exactly what I would call a big surprise. And yet! It still made me happy. Probably helped that Donna (a classically trained musician in real life) was singing as Champion hobbled down the aisle ahead of Leslie and Ron.

Ben recites his vows over a reel of Ben and Leslie’s Greatest Hits; anyone who thinks putting images in black and white doesn’t make them look more meaningful obviously hasn’t spent enough time playing around with their Instagram filters. And if your heart didn’t swell like Jamm’s recently busted lip when Ben said, “I was just wandering around, everywhere, looking for you,” I’m 99 percent sure you don’t have a heart at all.

Leslie’s turn! “The first draft of my vows, which I wrote the day after we got engaged, clocked in at around 70 pages.” Never change, Leslie. “The things that you have done for me to help me, support me, surprise me, to make me happy, go above and beyond what any person deserves. You’re all I need. I love you and I like you.”

Tears! So many tears! Water water everywhere! I feel like Alice in Wonderland. I could go scuba diving in my apartment right now. You get the idea. You may now kiss the — [interrupted by the kiss].

Now, all is not perfect in Pawnee. Andy feels like a failure. Ann still needs a sperm donor (although she thinks Chris has paternity potential). But D.J. Roomba is wearing a bow tie, the wedding cake is actually waffles, and Ron molded the rings from a sconce he ripped out of Ann’s wall. Not bad, kids. Not bad at all.

In “Correspondents Dinner,” we get the following important developments, jokes:

  • Ben and Leslie bring the just-right gifts for everyone back from their Hawaii honeymoon. Jerry gets headphones, peanuts, and the Skymall catalogue.
  • April’s fake interest in Honolulu City Hall makes me hope someone writes a new Mean Girls just for Aubrey Plaza.
  • The e-mail hacking by the Pawnee Sun plot didn’t quite work for me, possibly because the gang spent so much time convinced Jerry’d misplaced his script while Kim was lurking around, like Neville losing the Gryffindor passwords when Sirius Black was on the loose. In related news, Jerry is the Neville of Pawnee.
  • Ron: “They can’t hack into a typewriter. That’s all I have to say.” Leslie: “Can it, Unabomber. This is an emergency.” Umm, what is Leslie’s fixation on the Unabomber?
  • “Ann, you’re too beautiful to be funny. It’s not your fault. You’ve never had to compensate for anything.” —Leslie
  • Ann asks Chris to be her baby-daddy. Also, Ben starts his job as president of the Sweetums Foundation and hires Andy as an assistant/idea man. Also, also, Chris’s spirit animal is a jaguar.

Come kvell over this blessed union with me @jessicagolds (#MrandMrsKnope, obviously). Oh and by the way, I stole all the marriage licenses. I don’t want anyone else to get married; it’ll make it less special for Ben and Leslie.

Photo: Tyler Golden/NBC