This week's episode brings together two characters in a way that's unabashedly sentimental but still works
One of the most difficult things about being a weekly TV critic is admitting when you were wrong. In my review of "Camping," the previous episode of Parks and Recreation, I complained that the show's romantic relationships—particularly the relationship between April and Andy—had begun to grow stale. This week's episode, "Fancy Party," was almost entirely built around the show's romantic relationships—particularly the relationship between April and Andy. And it couldn't have been better.
By now, the romance between April and Andy is so central to Parks and Recreation that it's easy to forget how unexpected it was when it first began. Of course, it almost didn't happen at all; Chris Pratt was only a guest star in the first season Parks and Recreation, and it was only due to Pratt's immensely likable performance that the decision was made to bring Andy back as a series regular for season two. Even after that, there were no plans whatsoever to develop a romance between April and Andy—until writers noticed, and decided to pursue, the surprising, untapped chemistry between Pratt and Aubrey Plaza in season two's "Hunting Trip."
"Fancy Party" does a terrific job of showing how far both characters have come since those early, awkward encounters. Andy's still a goofy shoeshine boy, but he's not the emotionally-stunted man-child he used to be; as his speech at the altar shows, Andy's love for April has changed him for the better. And the perpetually-sarcastic April has some rare, heartfelt words for Leslie at the reception: "I'm really glad you're here. I think you're awesome, and I love you." Very few sitcoms can get away with truly unabashed sentimentality, but Parks and Recreation has more than earned it.
It would have been enough to deliver a poignant April-Andy wedding—and the episode certainly delivers on that front—but "Fancy Party" also impresses with a first-rate Leslie plotline. Parks and Recreation has been teasing a romantic relationship between Leslie and Ben since the moment Ben was introduced, but "Fancy Party" takes things to a new level by playing Leslie and Ben's relationship against April and Andy's.
Leslie Knope is the kind of person whose idea of living on the edge is drinking whole milk instead of skim. Her life is so carefully scheduled that it's not surprising when she balks upon hearing that April and Andy are getting married on a whim. (My initial reaction was essentially the same, and I suspect that I'm not alone.) But as the episode goes on, Leslie realizes that whatever the consequences may be, a silly, impromptu wedding in Burly's living room is perfect for April and Andy. And she's right.
And if those crazy kids can make it work, why can't Leslie and Ben? Leslie may tend to play it safe, but somewhere inside her is the woman who was willing to risk the entire parks department on a Hail Mary revival of the Harvest Festival. And similarly, buried deep down in Ben is that crazy teenaged kid who blew his hometown's entire budget on a hockey rink (a project that Andy would inevitably deem "awesome sauce"). As Parks and Recreation crawls closer and closer to the inevitable Ben-Leslie romance, it's sweet to see them beginning to take their own shy equivalent of the Andy-April risk: expressing a desire to be near one another.
In the end, "Fancy Party" was an episode for the fans. Jean-Ralphio gave Tom pointers on the perfect Vince Vaughn-inspired 'Best Man' speech (and really, is there any other kind?). April shared a charmingly awkward first dance with her surrogate father figure, Ron. Mouserat played a killer set at the reception.
And Ben decided to stay in Pawnee.
April and Andy are young, and naïve, and foolish—and they're perfect for each other. Maybe Leslie and Ben will realize the same. As with all things in life, Ron Swanson puts it best:
"Who's to say what works? You find somebody you like, and you roll the dice."
Wise Words from Andy Dwyer: "Seriously, life is short. So I think you should just do what makes you happy."
Pawnee History: The Reggie Wayne jersey that Andy wears throughout the wedding was the "perfect Christmas gift" that April gave him in season 2's "Christmas Scandal."