Even with the plotline centered around Donna’s wedding, the season seven midpoint of Parks and Recreation was action-packed for more than just the Meagles. Jen Barkley shows up and goads Ben into running for Congress. Tom and Lucy take a leap, even after Ron inadvertently screws it up. We finally get a good look at Leslie and Ben’s kids, with Rachel Dratch (!!!) as their overwhelmed nanny, Roz. It’s revealed that Jerry/Larry/Terry is actually named Gary (please say this marks the end of this joke). Questlove shows up as Donna’s estranged baby brother, Levondrius, and smashes a vintage microwave on the dance floor, giving Donna the touch of drama she craved for her wedding. Truly, “Donna and Joe” had it all.
Also, a ton of fun stuff went down: Ben and Leslie got wasted, April got bossy, and Ginuwine got teary (unsurprisingly, the last two are related). So much happened this week, which made the jokes really pop. Ben and Leslie should get drunk, dance to “It Takes Two,” and publicly describe marriage as a “sexy roommate” situation every episode. Ginuwine should be a regular. I guess it’s too late for that now, huh?
The crew has marching orders heading into Donna’s wedding, which they’re taking seriously as to avoid the Meagle wrath. Apparently this runs in the family, so April is tasked with keeping them in line. Her method for dealing with troublemakers is so effective, I have to wonder if she might be able to translate the skill into some kind of career as an intervention counselor? Adult daycare center owner? I don’t know, but girl made Ginuwine weep.
Tom, naturally playing the role of wedding butler, escalates his duties to the height of swag. He buys matching outfits for himself and Lucy, mentioning to Ron that he could see himself marrying her as he shows off the looks. Ron does something uncharacteristic at this point, which was the main flaw I found in this episode: he gets involved in someone else’s personal life.
Ron has clearly changed over the years, softening his edges amidst the time-jump and in the years just before. But it stilly seems odd that he would tell Lucy what Tom said. The out-of-character move was set up when Ron reveals his love of weddings, offering up an explanation that should go down in the Ron Swanson quotebook: “Say what you will about organized religion; those bastards knew how to construct an edifice.” Tommy Fresh, in his own clumsy way, finally manages to convey his message to Lucy: he’s all in, and so is she. Looks like Tom’s storyline is wrapping up nicely.
Amidst total kiddie chaos, Jen Barkley shows up and gives Ben a small bit of his manhood back. I love that Ben and Leslie just assumed Jen would be there to convince Leslie to run for public office, but she refuses to take no from Ben. Leslie tries to stay out of it, but like the good person and partner she is, she so wants Ben to put Icetown behind him for good and run for the local rep seat. Ben tries it on for size at Donna’s rehearsal dinner, and as it turns out, schmoozy politician is a good look on him. What a relief, considering Jen leaks news of his campaign the next day. (I love Ben’s explanation when he calls Leslie out on her impartiality over this decision: “You have opinions about pockets!”)
Overall, I was a little sad to see the focus off Donna, even on her wedding day. Perhaps that’s how she maintains her mystery, like the fact that the Pearl Jam album Vitalogy was written about her (which Joe mentions in his vows, god bless him). Or perhaps this midseason episode was the perfect time to set the show’s final bits of action into motion. Either way, “Donna and Joe” was one of season seven’s best, biggest, and funniest episodes so far — and that’s saying a lot, as the season has rarely disappointed yet.