“I’m gonna make this really easy for you: It’s not you, it’s me. I’m not ready for a commitment. I just don’t like you anymore. I know it’s hard to hear that, but you’re boring and frankly you disgust me. Ugh.”
It might not sound like it out of context, but Ben delivered one of the most touching break-up speeches I’ve ever seen when he and Leslie were forced to call it quits last night. In Parks and Recreation‘s Season 4 premiere, Leslie made the decision to run for city council—something we all knew she couldn’t really turn down—and had to end things with her seemingly perfect boyfriend to avoid scandal. All this after he gave her an éclair. It was rough.
But it made sense for the characters, and it was necessary for the plot to move forward. I’d be surprised if Leslie and Ben didn’t make a go of it in the future, but for now, Leslie needs to focus on her political career. On a lesser series, I’m sure we would watch the happy couple sneak around with wacky hijinks ensuing. But Parks and Rec is an occasionally silly show grounded in reality. Of course Leslie and Ben had to break up—and of course it sucked. They’re adorable together, but the timing wasn’t right. That’s life.
The episode wasn’t just heartfelt, though—it was also seriously funny, one of the most consistent episodes of Parks and Rec in some time. Last season, I felt as though Rob Lowe’s Chris Traeger didn’t always fit in with the rest of the ensemble, but he was a welcome presence Thursday night. In fact, he delivered some of the episode’s best lines, including, “If I could go back in time and cut your eyeballs out, I would,” and “Your inbox is literally filled with penises.”
Okay, the penis pics subplot wasn’t high art, but it was hilarious—from Chris’ astute take on testicles to Ann’s shoving her phone across the table. It’s nice to see a show that can balance its stories: The absurdity of all the male politicians in Pawnee sending out nude pictures didn’t take away from the sincerity of the Leslie/Ben storyline. Yeah, I could have done without the overshare about Jerry’s junk, but I liked the interplay between low- and highbrow. See also: smart, subtle humor and physical comedy. Parks and Rec handles both with ease.
And the episode did a great job of setting up new storylines for this season, which seems like it will improve over last. I love the idea of Leslie running for office, and I’m so grateful Andy has a real job now. (Not that there’s any shame in shining shoes.) Tom and Jean-Ralphio are still running their business, whatever that means. Ron is being audited. Speaking of which, how great was Patricia Clarkson’s introduction as Tammy I? She’s been around for two minutes, and already got some great lines: “I’m here as a friend. Call it nostalgia, or guilt for all the times I tried to smother you in your sleep.”
If Episode 2 lives up to the promise of the premiere, we’re in for an awesome season, both in terms of story and humor. Everything was on point. But if you don’t agree with me, feel free to submit your complaints. My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.