PARKS AND RECREATION 4.09 ‘The Trial of Leslie Knope’

Chris leads an ethics committe witch-hunt against Leslie and Ben, imperiling their careers in the process.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "The Trial of Leslie Knope"

Writers: Dan Goor & Michael Schur

Director: Dean Holland

When last we checked in with the citizens of Pawnee, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) finally realized that she was putting her campaign for public office ahead of her own heart, so she asked Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) if he wanted to rekindle their relationship. He responded with a passionate kiss. This week on "Parks and Recreation," the newly reunited couple decided to come clean with their boss, Chris (Rob Lowe).

Unfortunately, that turns out to have been a horrible idea. As in almost as bad as everything Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) came up with to run Entertainment 720 into the ground.

Even though Chris professes his love and affection for both Leslie and Ben, he comes at them with an ethics investigation so vicious that Leslie is taken aback. By her own admission, Leslie was expecting a light reprimand and a slap on the wrist. What she got was a full blown trial in which Chris accused her of lying about the beginning of the relationship and receiving special treatment from Chris. All fairly serious charges for Leslie, especially considering her political campaign and the fact that Ben wasn't able to stand by her side while awaiting his own ethics trial.

Donna (Retta) actually goes to bat for Leslie and shoots down one of Chris' claims that Leslie and Ben used a government booked hotel for a hook up. And the lovely Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) produces an e-mail from the date Leslie specified with a cheesy home movie montage of Leslie celebrating her new relationship with Ben.

However, most of Leslie's other friends let her down during their testimony. April (Aubrey Plaza) accuses the court stenographer, Ethel Beavers of being responsible for… something and Andy (Chris Pratt) mistakenly believes he's there to answer for accidentally taking a government laptop home… and spilling Spaghettios on it. Even the great Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) fails Leslie, first by resisting her attempts to put his home address on public record and then by running out of the court when he senses the presence of his second evil ex-wife, Tammy (Megan Mullally).

Tammy is Chris' star witness and she claims to have damning evidence against Leslie and Ben. But as soon as Chris reminds Tammy that he'll fire her if she perjures herself, she immediately backs down and admits that she has no such evidence. Leslie is in the clear until Chris produces one last witness… George Williams, a maintenance worker whom Leslie and Ben once bribed with a gift certificate to forget that he saw them kissing.

Finally tagged for something that she actually did, Leslie scrambled for a solution and grasped at straws during a recess. The entire day, Leslie stared at the misshapen visage of Old Stoneface while thinking that Ben was on the other side of the wall. But Ben turned up missing in her moment of need. In her last minutes before the trial resumed, Ron proved once again that "Swanson knows best."

As Ron explains it, a good person is someone who owns up to doing something bad. And that's Leslie Knope in a nutshell. Finally ready to accept her punishment, Leslie stops fighting the process and steels herself for her dismissal. Instead, Leslie is suspended for two weeks with pay.

But there's a catch. Ben took a private meeting with the ethics committee and took full responsibility for the affair and he offered to resign effective immediately. Chris apologized to Leslie for being so overzealous in his attempt to prevent fraud in the government. He even told Leslie that she's the first woman he's met who is worthy of being Ben's girlfriend. Chris even tells Leslie to read the transcript from Ben's private meeting.

As read by Ethel, Leslie learns that after losing his job, Ben said that it was worth it because he loved Leslie and now he didn't have to hide it. Chris was so moved that he cried and folded into Ben's arms. But the damage is done.

Leslie is also very moved by the gesture, and she answers it by dragging Ethel with her to Ben's home so that Ethel can read Leslie's on-the-record declaration of love for Chris… before the cranky old woman demands a ride to her home. It leads to a kiss that's almost as epic as the one that Ben and Leslie shared in the previous episode.

"The Trial of Leslie Knope" broke the usual format by leaving all of the other side plots out of the story. The only exception was the teaser scene in which Ron realized that computers could invade his privacy and that Google Earth had photographed his home. There was also an amusing scene from the trial that was shown at the end, in which Jerry (Jim O'Heir) reveals that his legal first name is "Gary," he's just never bothered to correct anyone since his first boss made the mistake years ago. Naturally, Leslie can't let this go and she hates both of his names. More hilariously, Leslie's initial reaction was to berate Jerry for not getting his own name right.

Kicking Ben out of the local government has potential, but it could have just have easily written Ben out of the story altogether. When Leslie wasn't acting like a crazy person (or crazier person), it was fun to watch her work magic alongside Ben. This is the same problem the show had with Tom when he left the Parks department to form Entertainment 720. How do you keep Ben involved with the main plot of the show if he no longer works in the government? And will this scandal follow Ben around like "Ice Town" has haunted his entire life? Pawnee is a small town and I suspect the citizens love a good scandal to complain about.

The upside is that I feel invested in Leslie and Ben as a couple again and I want to see what's next. In that regard, the episode was very effective. It was also one of the better episodes this year. Sometimes there's magic on NBC during the first hour of its Thursday night comedy block.

But it would be better if more people actually watched "Parks and Recreation" and "Community." If people don't support the great shows, then all NBC has for us is more "Whitney," and that's not a world I want to live in.

Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.