Is it just me or was that episode rather light on laughs?
Sure, the concept of Leslie and Ben’s personal trouble causing a model war to break out at Pawnee’s model UN is funny enough in concept—with some effective barbs at the actual UN—but overall, this felt just like a retread of last week’s otherwise great episode when Leslie and Ben decided that they could remain friends after some awkward tension built up when they were forced to work together. This week, I guess, puts that decision to the test when Leslie invites Ben to help her run the model UN for Pawnee’s little Knopes and Bens (you know, dorks). Okay, so it’s not exactly a retread, but it’s definitely dwelling on some familiar territory.
Things seem to be going well at first, with Leslie trying to impress Ben with her flag collection, and Ben getting right into the spirit of things by helping kids forge trade agreements and treaties or… whatever the hell you do in model UNs. But trouble starts when Leslie gets dragged off by her campaign manager to do some photo ops. Ben doesn’t take to being shunned, so he shuts Leslie out of the kids' model UNing. Things escalate from there, and soon enough, Leslie—flustered by Ben saying that being friends isn't working out—uses her power as Denmark to declare war on Peru. I mean, Ben.
I was reading recently where a few people didn’t enjoy last week’s episode because it was the first time in a while that we saw Leslie act like a self-centered crazy person, a trait she favored early on but then sort of overcame in the past couple seasons. I disagree with that, I enjoy Leslie’s selfish crazy-streak (her threat of waving Ben's decapitated head around on a stick was probably the best moment last night), but while she’s crazy and selfish here to the nth degree, things feel kind of tepid. Parks is usually good for a solid belly laugh, and this week kind of just ambled along with a chuckle here or there. April declaring herself the Moon, Andy collecting lions, Gary from Gary—silly stuff. I know that Parks isn’t quite the joke delivery machine that something like Community is (for the record, I don't like Community very much), but things never really heated up like it could have I feel.
In any case, Leslie and Ben make peace at model Camp David and downgrade their agreement from last week to just five minutes a day, which, really, how depressing is that?
Oh hey, Tom’s back in the office too. After the fall of E-720, I wasn’t sure if the show would bring Tom back or have him keep chasing his wild dreams. Coming back feels like the easy option, kind of like hitting the reset button on the whole story line. It's hard to blame the writers though, having Tom spray cologne at Macy's for a couple weeks wouldn't exactly be uplifting. Still, it’s a little cheap to just have Ron hire him back after parading a litany of Pawnee idiots in for interviews for Tom’s old position, but… whatever. I was kind of hoping that the confidence he gained from his party last week would boost him into brighter places—which could still happen, but for now it seems like it’s back to status-quo.
Now for the rest. I’ve talked a bit about how the show doesn’t seem to know what to do with Ann anymore. She really only interacts well with Leslie, and because Leslie is too busy running for office and squabbling with Ben, the two of them don’t interact much anymore. So Ann has been kind of jumping around, hanging out with different characters to see what clicks. The person she’s matched up with the most is former flame Chris, who, frankly, I am growing rather tired of. His storyline with Jerry’s Hot Daughter never registered as much beyond just something for Chris to do. He and Ann are soul mates in this regard—I like both characters, but neither one of them seem to have a place in the show this season.
In any case, Chris is baffled that Jerry’s Hot Daughter has stopped returning his calls, so he turns to Ann Perkins for a bit of frank advice. When Ann sarcastically tells him to launch a full investigation, Ben does just that, roping a distraught Jerry (who wants to hear about their daughter’s love life?) and an enraptured Donna (Donna is never given much in this show, but she takes what she gets and runs with it. I love Donna) to figure it out. The problem? Well, Chris is kind of… clingy. He’s so forcefully cheery that it causes people to act differently. Most of these revelations come through Ann, who learned a lot about herself from dating Chris—namely an ability to be a bit more self-involved. Without that self-involvement, Chris’s charm and tendency to unwittingly force others to his way of life can cause you to forget yourself.
Huh, maybe Chris is more interesting than I thought.