It was only a matter of time before Leslie butted heads with her new superior—that is to say, Ben—about something or another. It’s not because they don’t get along great, as after all they’re a super-cute couple who’s almost offensively perfect together, but simply because Leslie is driven by passion while Ben always takes a step back to look at situations rationally. This is also why they click so well, as these two elements do a great job of complementing each other, but it meant that clashing was inevitable, especially given that once again there’s a new power structure between them.
This conflict occurs at Pawnee’s relatively new Farmers Market, which Leslie helped create while acting as city councilwoman. She’s dismayed, though, to find scantily clad dancers shilling for chard, and she wants this stopped. Ben also finds this distasteful, but he’s not going to limit their free speech for his own taste. What was so strong about this storyline, aside of course from the wonderful chemistry between Leslie and Ben, was that there was no bad guy here. The chard peddler wasn’t just a dirty man, he was trying to earn a profit off a lousy vegetable and doing it the only way he knew how. Their solution was smart without demonizing that sort of opportunism, and in the end everyone won. It’ll be interesting to see whether the firewall returns in the future, as there will certainly be future clashes between Ben and Leslie so long as they’re working together, but it was great to see them solve their problems in a way that was both emotionally honest and physically cartoonish at the same time.
The Farmers Market part of the episode was actually my least favorite, though, not because it wasn’t good but because both B-stories were fantastic. Andy playing a kid’s birthday party (for the always sublime Billy Eichner, though I wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be having an allergic reaction at one point or what) made perfect sense, even if the setup for this was ludicrous. There wasn’t even much story here, except for Andy’s realization that he’s great with kids and that he should keep doing it even though it doesn’t help fulfill his dream of becoming a rock god. Oh, and that most of his songs have the word sex in them like 500 times. For the audience, though, it was a reminder of how entertaining Chris Pratt’s character is and how much we’d missed him for the first half of the season while he was off being a movie star.
Perhaps the most surprising part of “Farmers Market” was that even Ann and Chris’ story was excellent. For once, they weren’t stranded on their own; instead Ann notices the Parks Department’s monthly “Whine and Cheese” meeting and wants in. Only she has more than enough whines for the rest of the group combined, not to mention that hers aren’t very fun or problems that can be solved The issue is that she doesn’t feel like she can complain to Chris about these things because he’s so supportive and always wants to “fix” her problems. Only they can’t be fixed; all she wants is someone to commiserate with, which Chris gets pointed out to him by Donna, Tom and a rectangle-adorned Ron.
Moreso than usual, all three stories were barely linked, but each was so strong and entertaining it didn’t matter. Plus, they all featured a different type of humor, conflict and even locale, so we had a varied episode taking the cast in wildly different directions. In all, another excellent transitional episode leading up to Ann and Chris’ departure next week, one that did a good job of reminding us why we’ll be sorry to see them go, even if Parks has cleverly been preparing for their departure all season.