Well, buddy, I’ve got some good news for you.
Leslie’s beatific smile at the episode’s end is my favorite moment of what, despite a heartwarming plot development, is far from my favorite half-hour of the season. Maybe it’s just because flu season isn’t quite flu season in Pawnee without Rob Lowe, illness-stricken, staring in the mirror, and commanding himself: “Stop. Pooping.” Or maybe it’s because, unlike so many of Parks’s other delightful, unexpected events — Ron and Diane’s speedy-quick office wedding; Andy and April’s “fancy party”; Ben’s proposal — there wasn’t anything all that surprising about this surprise. As soon as Leslie made a dash for that trash can, it was obvious what was happening.
After all, women on TV only puke when they’re pregnant; this is one of the Inviolable Rules of Television Health and Science, as I have previously explained.
Ben’s lake-house setup wasn’t exactly the most subtle plotting, either. It took him until the end of the day to have an epiphany about why he was so angry at his parents for selling the lake house? Seriously? Ben’s a grown man! How could he not know what he was “really” upset about? And that he would spell it out so explicitly to Leslie the second he walked through the door after she hasn’t been able to reach him by phone all day, and that this would happen immediately after Ron lays it on thicker than his mustache by saying “seeing the kids at the end of the day really puts things in perspective”? It all felt uncharacteristically heavy-handed for the usually graceful, sweet touch I’ve come to expect from Parks.
Still, plenty to enjoy in an episode that involves April pretended to be a sommelier, a fake teen country star, and drunk Ben. Onward to the positive! (Pregnancy-test pun!)
Larry has the flu, because of course he does, and the Parks Department has quarantined him. “Can’t I just work from home?” “The tent is your home now, Larry!” says Leslie. “We’ve already forwarded your mail.” I can get behind this. Quarantine is harsh, but effective. Germs are real, people! Leslie won’t high-five Andy because of germs. A lady after my own cautious, Purell-applying heart.
Leslie and Andy want Chipp McCap to headline the Unity Concert. His fans are called Chipmunks — but not because of the animal, no, that would be too simple — and his hit song is “Beautiful Like My Mom (Support the Troops).” This parody of pandering patriotic country music is the greatest: “She’s just a mom from Old South Bend. Get home safe boys, and thank you for protecting our freedom.” But Chipp bails and Land Ho refuses to get back together, so Leslie and Andy have to take a road trip to convince Chipp, in person, to change his mind. (Does any of this actually make sense if we are to believe, in the world of the show, that Chipp is super-famous? Or at least super-country-famous? Is there any way he would make himself accessible, face-to-face, with the head of the Pawnee Parks Department? Everything I know about the country music industry I learned from watching Nashville so, your guess is as good as mine.)
It’s en route to Chipp’s that Leslie finds out she’s pregnant, because some wannabe Ann at the pharmacy (brown bangs do not a beautiful land mermaid make!) tells Leslie that her symptoms do not, in fact, lend themselves to “the Mariah needs to sing tonight stuff.” Leslie tries to call Ben about “nothing,” but he is a drunken wreck who drops his phone in a puddle.
They meet Chipp, who turns out to be this FrankenBieber from below the Mason-Dixon who likes to yell at his dad for no reason: “Maybe I should just let MOM be my manager! Your job’s not that hard, okay? Just anticipate my needs!” Then he shoots his dad with a paintball gun. Oh yeah, and he can’t make the Unity Concert because he needs a haircut. Leslie doesn’t need Chipp, and besides, PAWNEE IS A GREAT PLACE TO RAISE A FAMILY. When Leslie and Andy go out, Andy gives her this beautiful speech that — again with the not-so-subtle-setups — is ostensibly because he knows she’s pregnant but is really because he thinks she’s getting a dog. But it is a beautiful speech so, here you go: “You know, Leslie, sometimes life throws us crazy curves. And yes, this moment may be the biggest curve [petting-a-dog hand gesture] you’ve ever had to deal with. But just because your family is getting bigger does not mean you can’t handle it. You and Ben can handle anything.”
This leads to my biggest laugh of the night: Andy and Leslie go to the home of Scott Tanner (played by Wilco lead singer Jeff Tweedy) to see if he’ll get Land Ho back together for the Unity Concert. It’s time for a Hail Mary! Leslie asks, “How are we going to convince this guy to reunite Land Ho?” Andy’s reply: “Same way I got a perfect score on my SATs: broken Scantron machine.” Cue the unsuccessful unfurling of the Unity Concert Poster!
As it turns out, Scott’s kid is a huge Johnny Karate fan. Andy plays a little “Karate Chop Master,” which is kind of difficult to catch actually, so maybe just listen for a few more bars, and it’s clear that he and Leslie have this thing under control. Well, Leslie’s stomach is trying to murder her. But the concert is under control.
It looks like Tom’s Bistro is still a thing, and I’m still not seeing it as the most natural/believable/even enjoyable use of Tom’s talents, interests, or humor, but anyway, it is happening, and on the bright side, we get this jaunt to wine country where all of Indiana’s wine sommeliers are competing. Xander, who looks a little American Psycho-lite and, according to Tom, is “basically the Bruno Mars of Indiana amateur wine-tasting,” is the guy Tom has his eye on. As you may have anticipated, Xander gets scooped up by a fancier restaurant that can afford to pay him $250,000 a year. After a brief audition process wherein Craig tries to prove he can keep from having explosive, vitriolic outbursts, Tom offers Craig the job. Meanwhile, April will have a glass of your most expensive red wine mixed with a glass of your cheapest white wine, served in a dog bowl. Silly straws all around.
Also, I concede, commenters who complained about Craig: I hear you now, and I hear Craig, because it is impossible not to hear Craig, because he is a human caps-lock key.
The best part of this whole adventure is that Donna pays for April to get certified and pretend to be a sommelier so April can make fun of stupid people while getting drunk — her two passions! “I’m getting hints of dried robin’s blood, old, dirty cashews, and just a hint of a robot’s bathwater.” “This comes from your mother’s butt.” “You know in the movies when the cops show up and find lipstick on a wine glass next to a dead body? This is that wine.” And the No. 1 thing April says about wine, in her fake acceptance speech for her non-victory: “I think we can agree that all wine tastes the same, and if you spend more than $5 on wine, you are very stupid.”
As for Ben, he can’t believe that his parents sold the family lake-house without telling him, and Ron is forced to listen — “Sounds private, no need to discuss it with me!”— all while throwing back an outrageous amount of blueberry wine. At first, Ron declines: “I don’t drink alcohol from that portion of the color spectrum.” But once he sees the alcohol content, he changes his mind. Ben gets hammered and Ron walks him home, only to run into Other Ron, Ron’s doppelgänger from the Eagleton Parks Department. I really do love drunk Ben, especially with his blue teeth and pratfalls over fences, but I have about as much tolerance for Other Ron as Ron Swanson does. And did Ben need to throw that check into the fire? Whatever, at least we got to see him howl/sing at the moon.
To end on the happiest of notes: a baby for Ben and Leslie! What do you all think? What will this mean for the move to Chicago? How many binders can Leslie make about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting between now and the season finale?
Let’s throw a party for these crazy kids. I’ll bring the girls and you bring the beer, and the troops will bring the freedom.