I Feel Strongly: My Top 10 Parks and Recreation Episodes

By the time this posts, I will be on my way to visit Katie! She was the person to introduce me to the show and I quickly fell in love with it. So today, in honor of my Leslie, I want to take the opportunity to talk about my favorite episodes of Parks and Recreation.

Freddy Spaghetti (2×24) This is the episode that Ron makes it clear that there is no possible world in which the Parks department will run without Leslie. When Chris wants to reassign her, Ron stops him saying that no one else is losing a Leslie because no one else had her to begin with. It’s a beautiful example of the affection Ron has for Leslie, despite their differing philosophies on government work. It is also one of many episodes where Leslie pulls off something wonderful for the town even when everything is working against her. And for the first time, Ben gets to see her passion in action. He’s still largely the slightly cranky guy that wants to shut down Pawnee at this point, but we get glimpses that he could be so much more as a character.

Flu Season (3×02) Welcome to the episode that Ben Wyatt fell for Leslie Knope and it was beautiful. Nothing, not even a terrible case of the flu and extra flu medication, could stop Leslie Knope from saving her beloved Parks department. She pulled off her presentation perfectly because that’s what she needed to do and in that moment, Ben fell in love with her drive and passion. His face during his post-speech talking-head segment said it all. He was amazed at what this woman was capable of and he wanted to know her more. So he brought her waffles and homemade chicken soup (which was of course ignored in favor of the waffles) when he told her that she got all the sponsors she needed and acting like an adorable dork who didn’t entirely know what to say to her. On top of the greatness that is Leslie and Ben, this is also a hilarious episode. Leslie on flu medications is fantastic, Andy’s talk with April at her bedside is hilarious, and while not one of my favorite lines, Chris’s “Stop pooping” line has become a classic.

Soulmates (3×10) This is the first appearance of Leslie and Ben being adorable in front of the mural and also the episode that makes it very clear these two are made for each other. As we learn early in the episode, the wildflower mural is a place that’s very special to Leslie. So when Ben suggests meeting in front of that same mural to eat their hamburgers together, everything is perfect. This episode also features a classic Chris vs. Ron showdown, which is always fun to watch.

Road Trip (3×14) If you haven’t already gotten this impression, the story of Leslie and Ben falling in love was really well done. This episode once again represents another step in their story. Leslie and Ben go petition to have a tournament held in Pawnee and Ben passionately defends the town. They then go to dinner and Ben uses Pawnee as a cover to talk about how he feels about Leslie, which couldn’t be any more perfect of a comparison because so much of Leslie is represented by the way she feels about Pawnee. In an equally great side story, Ann is the best, most unhelpful friend ever in this episode. Technically, Ben and Leslie can’t date because of their positions. But Ann loves the idea of them together and knows how crazy Leslie is for Ben and so proceeds to push them toward each other. Whether she is suggesting that Leslie ask Ben about his penis, sneaking in Marvin Gaye on Leslie’s terrible roadtrip playlist, or cheering when Leslie says that she wants to make out with Ben’s face, Ann is terrible at keeping them apart but amazing at wanting her friend’s happiness. And as further evidence of Ben Wyatt’s greatness, having Leslie make a wish on her lost eyelash stole my heart because I do the same thing.

Pawnee Rangers (4×04) The infamous Treat Yo Self episode! Also featuring puppy parties and Ron struggling to relate to kids who wanted to have fun camping. In the secondary-turned-main plot of the episode, Tom and Donna celebrate their annual Treat Yo Self day and invite Ben along after noticing that he is sad. Tom and Donna spend their day getting pampered and buying clothes that they like but don’t necessarily need. When this wasn’t working to cheer Ben up, Donna encouraged him to think of something he wanted but didn’t need and he ends up with a Batman costume. I love the idea of Treat Yo Self day and I love that it was Donna who pushed Ben to find his own way to celebrate. It’s a pairing that doesn’t interact often but it really should. Leslie’s story is about acceptance and inclusion, which the girls she’s teaching remind her of when she wants to exclude the guys. It’s a good story for Leslie because it features her mentoring the girls of Pawnee which I’ll always love but it also features her being a good friend to Ron after he was bothered by his Rangers’ lack of interest in his way of doing things.

Citizen Knope (4×10) Leslie Knope is a gift-giving champion. She shares my belief that gifts should reflect their recipient and the effort she puts into making sure each person’s gift is perfect for them warms my heart. But she isn’t wrong when she says that she got her ass kicked this year. Her friends gave her the two best presents they could have – a gingerbread house of the Parks department and a new campaign staff. The end of this episode will make me cry and smile every time I watch as each of her friends tells her how they plan to help her win the City Council election. Leslie Knope would do anything for her friends and every bit of that affection is reciprocated by them. They managed to overwhelm her and that doesn’t happen often, making this moment all the more special.

The Debate (4×20) The source of the quote “If I seem too passionate, it’s because I care. If I come on strong, it’s because I feel strongly.” With those words (and a few others), Leslie Knope both beat Bobby Newport in the debate for City Councilman and summed up who she is. Leslie’s passion has always been one of her most defining features and one of the things that made me love her. She feels things in a big way and doesn’t apologize for that. Her skill comes from her love for the job and Pawnee and that’s inspiring. That level of passion and dedication is something that should be celebrated and rewarded and it’s great to see a show so enthusiastically embrace it.

Win, Lose, or Draw (4×22) This was a fantastic end to a fantastic arc. It was nice to see Leslie’s passion for local government be recognized. I also loved seeing her support Ben’s dreams as much as he has always supported hers because that’s what you do in a partnership. Both people need to get the chance to succeed and reach their goals, even if it means a sacrifice on the part of the other. Reusing the “Knope 2012” box was a great callback to Ben’s support as well. This episode also has some great moments between Ron and both Leslie and Ben, which are always nice to see.

Two Parties (5×10) This episode nicely summarizes the show. It’s a show about good people doing good things for each other and that’s made perfectly clear in the combined bachelor parties for Ben, Tom, Andy, Ron, and Jerry. Each party fit the person perfectly and I love Chris so much for doing so much to make it work. He was the only one who had never been married but he still got so much enjoyment out of celebrating with his friends and that’s what a true friend does. The bachelorette party wasn’t nearly as strong of a story but it was still very Leslie. Who else would have Abraham Lincoln dance for them at their bachelorette party? The night didn’t turn out they way they planned, but she still spent it with the women she’s closest with and that’s what really counts.

Leslie and Ben (5×14) This is a beautiful episode of TV. I love the impromptu wedding and the way everyone worked together to make it a reality. I love the dress Ann made for Leslie. It was beautiful and was perfect for her in the way that it could only be because it was made by Ann. It was a day of love, not just between Leslie and Ben, but between them and all of their friends. Everybody contributed in their own way to make the day special and it made for a very emotional episode of television. It may not have been a traditional wedding but there couldn’t have been a better one for this beautiful couple.

The Cones of Dunshire (6×09) This isn’t the best episode of season 6 (for me, that would be Moving Up) but it’s still my favorite of the season and it’s all Ben Wyatt’s fault. I love Ben about as much as the guy at the accounting firm he is destined to never work at for longer than a day so it makes me happy to watch characters be so enthusiastic about him. They got him calzones and loved everything he said and then he left again, of course, because that job just is not meant to be. Plus, it doesn’t get much nerdier than Ben inventing Cones of Dunshire and he’s always at his best in those moments.

For Parks and Rec fans, what are your favorite episodes? If you’re not a fan, what are some of your favorite episodes of a favorite comedy?


2 thoughts on “I Feel Strongly: My Top 10 Parks and Recreation Episodes

  1. This is literally the perfect way for me to pass time waiting for you to get here! 😉

    I am thankful for Parks and Rec for a thousand different reasons—it is fearless in its optimism, it values friendship and kindness over cynical and sarcastic humor, and it gave me the female character I relate to the most and am inspired by like none other. But most of all, I am thankful that it strengthened my friendship with you to the point where everyone knows who I’m talking about when I say “my Ann” or “my beautiful tropical fish.”

    This list made me smile because it was like reading my own Top 10. In fact, I only have three different choices on my list. 😉

    Flu Season: This episode was the same for me as it was for Ben Wyatt—it was when I fell in love. The ensemble work in this one is brilliant—from “stop pooping” and “network connectivity problems” to Tom misting himself with hand sanitizer while wearing a motorcycle helmet. But this episode belonged to Amy Poehler. She was nothing short of brilliant, and if I were making a list of her best moments in terms of sheer comedic force, this whole episode would probably be at the top. Also, I can’t watch that last scene with Leslie looking at a lovestruck Ben over her waffle without smiling so big my face starts to hurt.

    Soulmates: First of all, this episode made me fall in love with Aziz Ansari. His monologue about “apps and zerts” is one I quote from almost daily. This episode was also when I went from really enjoying Parks and Rec to obsessing over it, and it’s all because of that damn mural. There was something so breathtakingly REAL about Leslie and Ben’s relationship in this episode. When Ben asked Leslie to meet him at the mural, it felt like watching two real people starting to fall in love, and it set the groundwork for their whole relationship in its genuine sense of happiness.

    Road Trip: You perfectly outlined all the reasons this episode is so special. I think I re-watched that kiss about 150 times the week after the episode aired, and I still want to happy cry every time Ben starts talking about the town’s blonde hair. Also, Robe Lowe’s enthusiastic air banjo playing never fails to crack me up.

    The Trial of Leslie Knope: This is a quintessential “no one achieves anything alone” episode of Parks and Rec. And the way both Poehler and Adam Scott have their characters wordlessly react to being told they’re loved (in the most in-character way imaginable) still makes me cry.

    Citizen Knope: The ending of this episode is my favorite ending to any TV episode ever. It stopped me in my tracks with the force of my emotional response to it, and I will always remember how blindingly happy that episode made me feel. It’s become traditional Christmastime viewing in my house.

    The Debate: This is my favorite episode of Parks and Rec ever. It means the world to me for several reasons. First, it gave us the brilliance of Chris Pratt’s movie re-enactments. Second, it introduced us to “I love you and I like you” (aka the defining phrase for what I want in a future marriage). And finally, it gave us Leslie’s closing remarks—a speech I can recite from memory in its entirety because it’s some of the most wonderful TV writing I have ever witnessed, and it spoke to who I am on a level that no other TV moment has ever reached.

    Win, Lose, or Draw: As you said, this was the perfect conclusion to a great arc. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me feel so proud to call this show a favorite of mine. And that moment with Leslie in the voting booth is still one of Poehler’s finest.

    Two Parties: Parks and Rec features such strong female friendships, and this was one of the first times we got to see just how strong the male friendships on this show were, too. This episode is a perfect example of just how much thought these writers put into their supporting characters.

    Leslie and Ben: This is my happy place. Whenever I am really sad or stressed or anxious, I watch this episode and get lost in its overwhelming happiness. It’s everything I love about Parks and Rec crammed into 30 minutes of television, and what a perfect 30 minutes they are.

    Ann and Chris: I still have trouble thinking about this episode without crying. It was warm and genuinely emotional, and it was the perfect way to honor a friendship that was so important on so many levels—for the show, for TV in general, and for me personally.

    1. Apparently I can’t count because I only have two different choices than your list. Can you tell my brain has other things it wants to focus on today? 😉

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