We've seen plenty of Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope this season, so it's fitting that the most recent episode — "Donna & Joe" — concentrated largely on the other characters. In the process, we were able to see just how much everyone has come since Season One.
"Donna & Joe" had the two titular characters preparing for a wedding. It was the show's fourth union shown onscreen, a feat that a series with less heart would never be able to pull off. Surprisingly it was the most tasteful and traditional (Ron got hitched in City Hall, Ben and Leslie tied the knot in a tent, and April and Andy just had a house party). We also learned that Pearl Jam's Vitalogy was written about the bride because she's a true baller.
April was Donna's Maid of Honor, working tirelessly to keep everything running smoothly. We got a look into the Meagle family too, a rough crew by Donna's account (the last three family Pictionary tournaments ended at the hospital). Much like April has grown from a minor, three-line character, Aubrey Plaza has become a plot-carrying member of the show. She's been a joy to watch in her other non Parks roles, and that will only get better.
Tom and Lucy's relationship is progressing, but Ron accidentally dropped a bomb on Lucy, relaying that Tom would marry her "tomorrow." This puts them in a weird funk until Ron comes back with some signature wisdom: "There's no shame in declaring how you feel to a person you cherish." Tom's dedication to Lucy is a big deal because it's more about actually loving her than not being alone this time. Although we'll miss the crazy entrepreneur whose own dream is to have a fragrance, this Tom is just fine.
Political strategist Jen Barkley, who helped Bobby Newport run against Leslie in Season Four, showed up to suggest that Ben run for the House of Representatives, in a surprise turn of events. Ben has finally proven himself a capable candidate for office, erasing the stigma of his 18-year-old mayor self who failed miserably behind Ice Town. Ben uses alcohol to loosen up while he practices schmoozing strangers. This comes to a climax when he gives an epic speech and breaks into a hilarious dance (below).
In his drunken state, Ben actually called Jen and agreed to run (Leslie called "867-5309" a hundred times). Leslie surprisingly put her support behind him, not coming off at all jealous. This is perhaps the biggest transformation of all, considering how politically driven Leslie is. Ben cited his experience in Pawnee's government and home life with three triplets "fixing problems" as the perfect resume for Congress.
The guests were masterfully written into the show. Rachel Dratch played a nanny in charge of keeping the triplets in order, which proved to be difficult ("All three of them just bumped into each other and broke everything you own"). Ginuwine returned as Donna's cousin, and he gets scolded by April and consoled by Andy all in one scene. The surprise of the ep was Questlove as Donna's long-lost brother LaVondrius. The two apparently feuded over a microwave and popcorn, but Donna was thankful to have some family drama at her reception.
Perhaps the best moment, and true Parks fans are bound to agree, occurred when Donna gives Jerry/Larry/Terry a name tag with his actual name — Garry. April laughs and uses it as a joke, which already happened before, but the gang must have forgot. For the first time in 30 years, his co-workers will call him by his real name.
"Oh boy, I'm blessed," he said. Yes you are, Garry. Yes you are.
ANDY DWYER'S BEST QUOTE:
"The Meagles are weird. The words they say sound passive, but seem aggressive. I feel like there should be a term for that like nicey-meany."