Parks and Recreation” returned this week to catch up viewers on Ben and Leslie's very contrasted lives away from the office. Leslie looks sharper than ever in her campaign superwoman pantsuit, while Ben sits at home eating generic cereal out of the box and making clay figures. Clearly, he's doing well.
Ben has decided to “explore his hobbies” after he resigned from his government job, and his life as an unemployed schlub is nothing short of hilarious. We aren't laughing at Ben, per se, because he is essentially living like a typical college student during the weekend. The best part of Ben's abundance of free time is his calzone-baking — a reference to his love of calzones from previous episodes this season.
When Chris stops by to check up on him, he introduces his former boss to his idea for an Italian fast food restaurant (isn't that essentially Fazoli's?) with a low-calorie option. Low-cal calzones, if you will. “Pizza is your grandfather's calzone,” Ben says. “(A calzone is) portable, delicious food that is its own container.”
Ben goes on to show off his handmade clay businessman figure that, coincidentally or not, shares his likeness (prior to the wildly outgrown David Lynch hair and face scruff he has grown, anyway).
“I'm the furthest thing from depressed. Do you think a depressed person could make this? NO,” he explains about the doll.
He then tries to play a claymation film hilariously titled “Requiem for a Tuesday” that ends up being only about three seconds long. He says he emailed it to Leslie and described as “the next 'Avatar.'” Not quite, Ben, but thanks for inducing a slew of hearty laughs.
On the opposite end of things, Leslie is hard at work on her City Council campaign, but she faces a few laugh-worthy misfortunes along the way. After failing to score a basketball court for a rally of sorts, she and the rest of the Parks office are forced to present to the town on an ice rink.
Tom rolls out a red carpet that only stretched about a quarter of the way across the ice, so the crew awkwardly shuffles along the rest of the way trying to find their balance.
In a slapstick display of hilarious physical comedy, everyone is sliding all over the place, April and Andy's new three-legged dog pees on Ron and Leslie is hoisted up on a platform after much struggle and waddling about. After an uncomfortably disastrous speech and finally a return home, Leslie rightly asks Ben to be her new campaign manager. Crises (hopefully) averted.
The best parts of the episode lie in the clever subtleties. When Leslie speaks to the townspeople in the ice arena, the sign behind her was either missing sections or blown up incorrectly, and all that could be seen was the top half of her head and the letters “LE” stretched above her.
Also hilarious were Tom's custom loafers with red carpet insoles — “Everywhere I go I'm walking on a red carpet” — and Ben's old Letters to Cleo T-shirt (You may remember this band from the 1990s or the movie “10 Things I Hate About You”) from, presumably, his teenage years.
There was not enough Ron, Donna and Tom banter for my liking, but the episode's physical comedy and awkward misfortune were certainly funny, and it was a fantastic look into Ben's life outside of the office. Oh, and the repeated “Get On Your Feet” booming over the loudspeaker every time Leslie and the gang fell on the ice was a classically embarrassing moment. The awkward essence of what we love about “Parks and Recreation” shone in this episode, and the series seems to be getting better and better as it goes on.