Parks & Rec Review: “The Trial of Leslie Knope”

Hi, I am Burner and I will literally be your guide through the ins and outs of a great little show about an odd little town in Indiana on Stew Over.

Last night’s episode “The Trial of Leslie Knope” addresses the fallout of Ben and Leslie’s Smallest-Park-in-Indiana inspired decision to officially become a couple. Rob Lowe’s preternaturally cheerful and fit city manager Chris Trager has been forced by his own dedication to good government to bring Leslie and Ben before an ethics board to determine if any improprieties have been committed as a result of their on-again off-again relationship. Chris seems bizarrely upbeat about this hearing while at the same time bemoaning how sad it makes him. This begins to make more sense when we find out he has gone overboard in his homeopathic attempts to fight off the stress involved in bringing up his two favorite government employees on ethics charges. Two B-12 shots, an unreasonable amount of St John’s wort, and a face smeared with bee pollen have him in full manic mode.

As the hearing commences Leslie fully admits to her relationship with Ben and repeatedly insists that her only crime is “breaking Chris’s No Dating Rule” which is all well and good until Chris points out that not being allowed to date your boss is a rule in almost all government, put in place to prevent corruption and fraud. Chris brings witness after witness to investigate whether Leslie and Chris have broken any rules as a result of their relationship. One witness after another Leslie proves she has done nothing wrong (That hotel room really was being used as an office testifies Donna, who has “wrecked [her] share of hotel rooms”).

Chris even brings in Ron’s ex-wife Tammy Two (Megan Mullally) as his “killer witness.” Ron (Nick Offerman), of course, knows she’s in the building before she even sets foot in the council chambers, “She’s here,” he says, “Tammy Two. I can smell the sulfur on her cloven hooves.” Leslie scoffs at the idea that Tammy has anything on her, until she remembers that Tammy (a mortal enemy not only for her cruelty to Ron but also her high place among the fascist book jockeys at the library) is an unpredictable sociopath who could do or say almost anything. Indeed it looks as though Tammy might unload all sort of bad news for Leslie until Chris reminds her that lying in the hearing would get her fired and likely brought up on charges, after which she quickly folds like a house of cards and flees the hearing all together. I never watched Will and Grace, but Mullally is great fun on Parks and Rec even in this kind of quick appearance. It must be nice for the show to be able to tap Nick Offerman’s wife whenever they need too.

Not everything goes well for Leslie though. Her decision to use April and Andy as character witnesses predictably backfires as Andy remains clueless and April takes the opportunity to bring back her overly dramatic Janet Snakehole personae (“I hold myself in contempt of court!”). Things turn truly bad for Leslie though, when the maintenance worker she and Ben bribed at Lil Sebastian’s (Pawnee’s much beloved tiny horse) memorial service with a spa gift certificate (“My wife said my skin was luminous”) to keep their relationship a secret, takes the stand. Unprepared Leslie calls for a 55 day recess and is granted 30 minutes.

During the recess Leslie gathers the Parks and Rec staff around her to try to find a loop hole in the stacks of old books housing Pawnee’s municipal codes. While they discover that Pawnee had banned every sexual position but missionary, then a year later banned missionary, and that black people still aren’t allowed to walk on the city sidewalks, they don’t find anything to help Leslie. In the end it is Ron, ever the voice of Virtue and Doing What’s Right, who tells Leslie that a good person (i.e. her) admits to what they’ve done and faces the consequences.

Thus Leslie returns to the hearing to face her punishment, only to find that she will receive just a slap on the wrist, a two week suspension, with pay. She will not be fired for bribing a city worker. It seems that while she was trying to wriggle free from the charges, Ben went ahead and fell on his sword, taking the blame for the bribery and the cover up and resigning his position as Assistant City Manager. After breaking the news to Leslie, Chris has the stenographer read back the minutes of the meeting, where Ben admits that his love of Leslie is so strong that it’s worth losing his job over. (This also leads to the stenographer reading aloud Chris’s reaction to Ben’s admission of love “’That was beautiful! I’m LIT-t’rally crying and jumping” *crying noise* *crying noise*”)

All in all “The Trial of Leslie Knope” was an excellent outing from Parks and Rec that moved the Ben and Leslie plot forward and avoided any annoying artificial hurdles to keep the lovers apart. However, what this hearing and its fall out will mean for Leslie’s city council run remains to be seen. As does what Ben’s role on the show will be now that he is no longer part of city government. Next week we get the “fall finale”, I hope you’ll join me here to talk about it.

And now in a feature ripped off from the AV Club and Alan Sepinwall, the bullet points:

  • Leslie introduces us to two more of Pawnee’s fantastic paintings, both portraits. One fellow, known as “Old Stone Face” for his steely demeanor and because of the quarry accident where his face was blown off and another of the townswoman who was set adrift on Lake Michigan “like a human popsicle” for showing her elbow. 
  • I recently read that Louie CK will be back in the spring as Leslie’s old flame Officer Dave. Can’t wait. 
  • This is my first TV recap ever, so please keep coming back I’m sure they’ll get better. 
  • There’s been some debate around these parts about Community and P&R and which is the better show. Personally I agree with the theory that says Community can hit higher highs but that Parks maintains a higher quality week to week. What does that mean, in terms of “which is better?” I say it’s a tie, they both average out to pretty damn great.
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