Parks and Recreation is no one’s idea of a plot-driven show, so when there’s a pivotal narrative point to be made, they may as well go all in. Ben and Leslie come clean to Chris about their relationship, hand in hand, and he responds by … ordering an immediate ethics trial to gauge the seriousness of their transgression. He’s not happy about this — the stress is driving him to overdose on herbal supplements — although, it’s pretty cool that bee-pollen paste makes his mouth feel like a spaceship.
Leslie remains stoic and forthcoming about the relationship, just like Sarah Nelson Quindell, who exposed her elbow outdoors and was summarily set adrift on an ice floe on Lake Michigan. Witness after witness corroborates Leslie’s testimony that she and Ben first hooked up after Little Sebastian’s memorial (as evidenced by her “Yayyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” e-mail and iMovie attachment to Ann) and that they did nothing illegal to cover up their relationship or violate any rule other than, you know, the one about them having a relationship to begin with. Tammy 2 — Ron can smell the sulfur coming off her cloven hooves — seems to be Chris’s rumored killer witness, but is quiet once reminded of the whole perjury thing. The actual killer witness turns out to be George, the maintenance worker in the park who saw them kiss, then was slipped a gift certificate to a spa in return for his discretion.
Is it ridiculous, not just that Chris would go this far to track down George in less than a day’s time, but that this entire trial would even happen? Of course. But it’s also very much within the bounds of his obsessive character, so we go with it — the show’s always known just where its plausibility line is and skates right up to it. Leslie knows this bribe is a fireable offense, to say nothing of her campaign, and is only spared because Ben takes full responsibility and resigns immediately, as dramatically recounted by court stenographer Ethel Beavers.
There are no B-plotlines — all the other characters are by Leslie’s side to testify, poorly, on her behalf or help her find loopholes in town statutes or text her every 30 seconds to say everything’s going to be okay. It’s the closest the show will ever come to a procedural and doesn’t stoop to ape that format beyond a lone Law & Order reference.
But a better comparison might be to The Wire (one of Parks’ showrunner Michael Schur’s favorites), and it’s one that probably isn’t made often, despite their similar attitudes toward the vagaries of civil service, but let it be said: Having a throwaway scene from a six-month-old episode pay off like this is clever whether it was planned that way from the outset or cooked up in the writers’ room a few weeks ago. Is it too much to ask to have Clay Davis be Leslie’s city council opponent?