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Ben Wyatt often acts as the voice of reason on a show with plenty of quirky and seemingly unstable characters, but he’s got a lot lurking underneath that geeky, Star Wars-loving exterior. This episode, which sees Ben go back to his hometown of Partridge, Minnesota, 20 years after his doomed mayoral stint, could have played with the awkwardness of coming back to a city that still harbors ill feelings about the ice clown who ruined their town.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to see Ben interact with the townspeople. Instead, it becomes all about Leslie sticking up for her new husband when things go awry. A wonderful feature of Leslie’s personality is her stalwart loyalty to the people she loves, defending them with every fiber of her being, but it was a missed opportunity to feature Ben sticking it to the people who were crazy enough to elect an 18-year-old mayor. He’s made something of himself, you jerks!
Ben’s checkered past has been mentioned in “Media Blitz” and “Harvest Festival,” but this is the first time he’s been back to face the people affected by his two-month mayoralty. Under the guise of a ceremony to receive the key to the city, he’s welcomed home as a gesture of goodwill. Or so he thinks. Those wounds run deep, and 20 years isn’t nearly long enough to get over the dismal 30% unemployment rate and the bankrupt winter sports complex that was Ice Town. Unfortunately, we don’t hear Ben’s tear-inducing speech or get much of a sense of what the town’s like, aside from its mean-spirited sense of humor, which is a shame, especially when the awesome J.K. Simmons plays their kooky mayor. And come on, a town with Fred the Sled as their mascot needs to be shown much more than it was! I could have lived without the Chris and Ann scenes in favor of more Partridge, to be honest.
Thankfully, we get some interaction with Ben’s family, specifically his younger sister Stephanie. I shouldn’t be shocked that Leslie busts out a “Questions for Stephanie” binder (side note: Leslie must get her binders in bulk, right?), but it’s sweet that the two women get along, despite intimately probing questions, such as “Who were Ben’s high school girlfriends, and what base do you think they got to?” That’s exactly the thing I’d ask my new sister-in-law! As for Stephanie, we get a small glimpse of what life has been like as the sibling of Partridge’s most reviled mayor. That’s to say, she runs away when someone mentions her connection to Ben during the shamefest masquerading as a key ceremony. Can’t blame the woman, but it is funny to imagine her walking around town for the past 20 years with sunglasses and a baseball cap so as to not draw any attention to herself as Ben’s sister.
But alas, if this episode gave us anything worthwhile, it’s goofy Ben. Because goofy Ben is the best Ben, whether he’s writhing in pain, believing he’s going to have twins on the bathroom floor because he’s passing a kidney stone, or when he’s doped up on morphine, tearfully recalling his fondness for watching The Price is Right when he was home sick, saying hilarious phrases like, “You just do your thing, baby smurf,” or feeding a bronze eagle. I’d love to see more of this Ben, please. It’s such a refreshing change of pace from his usual, no nonsense attitude.
So going back home probably wasn’t exactly what Ben imagined, but how many of us ever feel very comfortable when we’re in our hometowns? And I can bet no one else was a teenaged mayor who drove their town into the ground so what’s our excuse? At least he can leave with the comfort of knowing he isn't the same boy that left Partridge all those years ago.
Back in Pawnee, Ron gets served with a subpoena for that little incident with Jamm at the wedding. Frankly, Jamm deserved that punch in the face for acting like a jerk because he didn’t get that Paunch Burger, but the law’s the law, right? I didn’t care much for this plot, mostly because I’ve never been huge fan of Jamm. I find his presence grating and his catchphrases unfunny, but I think it’s hilarious that the law firm representing him, Gately, Wayne, Kittenplan, and Troeltsch, also represents Jean-Ralphio, who received $60,000 for getting too scared in a haunted house. Don’t you just love the US judicial system? Of course, Jamm gets what’s coming to him when April, Tom, and Andy use his own lies against him, and they save Ron from having to fork over his pounds of gold and palladium. Yes, you just got jammed, Jamm.
As for the aforementioned Ann and Chris storyline? The less I mention about it, the better. Suffice it to say that we find out they’re not compatible (not new information since that’s the reason why their romantic relationship didn’t work out), but hey, the only thing they need to know is that they’ll both love their child and see to it that it has a good life. Aw, how sweet. So can we stop talking about it and just get on with the baby making?
Notes & Quotes
-- The way people get served subpoenas is fascinating, and Ronald Ulysses Swanson is no exception. He laughs giddily at the mention of a free dinner at St. Elmo Steakhouse, grabbing the envelope from the messenger, but despite the fact that he’s dismayed at being served, he says, “I don’t like you, but I respect the effort.”
-- April: “That guy is the worst. We should sue Jamm’s parents for spawning a human turdburger.” Only April could say turdburger and make it sound like a completely legitimate diss.
-- Tom: “Why are you doing this, Jamm? This lawsuit is Chronicles of Riddick-ulous.”
-- Another Tom bomb: “I was like Mark Z in the Social N.” I wonder if the other cast members get jealous at all of the amazing lines Aziz Ansari gets to say.
-- Other notable Partridge residents? Judy Garland (“She lived here for a while!”) and Lee Janzen (“He’s a golfer. He’s pretty good.”)
-- Ann’s doctor: “Ok, I’m sorry, are you guys complete strangers? Is this one of those Craigslist father situations?” It’s absolutely hilarious that Ann and Chris are only 54% compatible while Donna and Chris are 81% compatible and Jerry and Ann are 84% compatible. Thanks a lot, internet!
-- Ron hates lying. He also hates skim milk because it’s water lying about being milk.