Chris and Ben are both extremes of Leslie’s personality—Chris being her unflappable zeal and Ben her insecurities, particularly regarding the acceptance of others—and that’s a good enough starting point, but, as I’ve said way too many times when I couldn’t think of anything else to write, they need to develop into their own characters. Fortunately I think they’re starting to explore the possibilities of Ben, last week being a delightful lambasting of his Pawnee PR ignorance, but Lowe’s Chris still isn’t quite there, and I’m not sure if he’ll ever get a chance to be.
The core plot revolves around Leslie and Ron heading up to Indianapolis to receive a commendation for reviving Harvest Festival, but that’s quickly dismissed once it becomes clear that Ron’s sole incentive for going is to visit his favorite steakhouse, and Leslie gets sidetracked into spying on Chris, now back home in Indianapolis, when Ann Perkins suspects he’s cheating on her.
I love it when Leslie and Ron are put in light opposition to each other, but placing Chris in the crossfire seemed doomed to fail because his character is so upbeat that he’d deflect the spitwads. So the humor falls back on Poehler and Offerman, in particular a scene pitting Chris’s ultra-healthy views on diet squarely against Ron’s aggressively meat-oriented tastes.
Pitting any character with Ron is pretty much bunting it because Nick Offerman can serve up the funny in any situation—just watch his hilarious body language when Chris mentions he’s firing up the grill [and bonus points for noticing that Ron’s drinking whiskey in a wine glass] or upon discovering that Chris’s idea of “grilling” involves Portobello mushrooms—but it comes from Ron, not Chris. Try as they might, I don’t think there’s a way to make Chris work. Then again, His break-up with Ann worked like a gem. So I don’t know.
Leslie playing spy, on the other hand, was a delight made all the better by her conflicting sense of fair play and loyalty to a friend (“What? That lying bastard! Wait, do you have any proof?”). I’m not sure how she does it, but Poehler has a knack for taking a character who should be completely obnoxious on paper and making her endearing. Time and again she finds a balance between irritating cheeriness with the mundane and adorable naïveté (who else would deliver the line, “If we take a slight detour, we can see Indiana’s second-largest rocking chair” as though it were a seduction?).
Tom’s storyline started off with a brilliant concept: micro-brew men’s perfumes (isn’t that cologne?) and offered up some great lines (“Dennis Feinstein’s ether-based perfume ‘Knockout’ was named one of Maxim’s top perfumes for tricking someone into sex”; “His real name is Dante Piero, but he changed it to Dennis Feinstein, ‘cuz that’s more exotic to Pawnee”), but took a different direction and ended up as a bonding session between Tom and Ben. And as much as I harp on Chris, I’m glad to see Ben coming along so nicely—“It smells like *bleep*” was a good capper to Tom’s perfume, pouring it all over Feinstein’s car was even better, and ending with Ben puking in the parking lot was a deft way to end it.
Bringing up the rear is Andy and April’s wager as to who can score the most free drinks, food, and toiletries from the Snakehole. April’s devilish way of using her gender was right on point and a solid interlude between the other two storylines.
Storywise the episode’s a labyrinth, but it’s superb on one-liners. I counted at least three times the camera just stayed on a character and let them deliver their schtick, but the best moments were the subtle throwaways:
“The steak: Ribeye. The whiskey: Lagavulin 16. The woman next to me: a bitch.”
“I will be deep into my bath by then.” Really, Jerry?
Did they really make a Jessica Fletcher reference? Well done, Parks and Rec
“My landlady asked me to a screening of Hope Floats in the lobby.”
Ron’s mustache-grooming habits are disgusting and logical.
“What happened to the steaks in there when they closed? Do you think they were eaten?”
Sideboob” is a perfume? Nice.
“I got these from a waiter, I told him I had a pork deficiency.”