The Parks and Recreation crew set themselves up for wild comparison when they titled this one “Flu Season Two,” but while this episode has just as much importance as season three’s “Flu Season,” it’s got much less actual flu.
At first glance, “Flu Season 2” is a pretty average episode on the whole. It’s funny, sure, but it does that at the expense of making Ben’s anger at his parents have any real significance. Don’t get me wrong, Adam Scott sells the hell out of that last scene with Amy Poehler, admitting that he’s angry because he wanted to take his kids- their kids- to the lake house that his parents have just sold. But the plot was set up, primarily, for Ben getting neurotically wasted about the issue, not realizing that he’s angry because he feels cheated out of the memories that he and his kids could have had in a place that meant so much to him when he was younger.
That being said, Ben getting drunk on blueberry wine while Ron chaperoned was hilarious. And the best parts of the episode came from Sam Elliott’s surprise return as Ron’s doppelganger, the two Rons both giving Ben advice. (One more reluctantly than the other.) It wasn’t until after the episode had finished and I revisited the original “Flu Season,” that I realized just what bit this was recreating: Ron reluctantly advising someone through a hard time, just like he did for Andy, when he and April were still just on the horizon. And so at the end of “Flu Season Two,” Ron gives Ben a thought that ends up meaning the most: when you have a family to go home to, all of your problems can be put into perspective.
And that’s what Ben realizes he wants: a family. Just like in the original, Pawnee’s flu season forces Ben to become conscious of a few things. Back all those years ago it was the idea that Leslie Knope mattered, Ben telling Chris that they should get an extension to stay in Pawnee. And now it’s the fact that he wants a family with Leslie. Not in a few years when things are more settled, but now. The thought was brought up in season five for the two, but now it’s being explored because Leslie doesn’t have the flu like she thought, but is instead pregnant.
So while she and Andy try to sort out Chipp McCapp (Bo Burnham) as their lead act in the Pawnee Unity concert (spoilers: they don’t, because he’s the worst), Tom takes the rest of the department (and Ben, obviously) to a winery so that he can find a new sommelier for his bistro. April and Craig enter into the contest to become certified, April because she wants to get drunk and make fun of stupid people, and Craig because, as it turns out, he wants Tom’s job on offer. (And he gets it, after proving that he can tone down the psycho enough to serve people without too much judgement.)
“Flu Season 2” is a solid venture, but I suppose I was disappointed because “Flu Season,” is one of Parks’ best episodes, and expectations had been made. But “Flu Season Two” isn’t trying to be the original and great “Flu Season”, but instead a clear sequel. And that title is just a marker for the important things that correlate between the two episodes, the title allowing viewers to recognize the new episode for the same, great changes that its predecessor made before it.
The episode ends simply, with Leslie telling Ben that he’ll be happy with her news then, if he wants to start their family– and that’s all that it needs. Both “Flu Seasons” were and are episodes that mark the beginnings of changes- for Leslie, yes, but most obviously for Ben..
“Flu Season 2” seems pretty innocuous at first, but just like the original did in season three, Ben and Leslie’s lives have been irrevocably changed this episode. Parks consistently slips the big moments right into the middle of the small ones, just like life, and I’ll always appreciate it for that.
- Tom quote of the week: “He’s basically the Bruno Mars of Indiana wine testing!”
- Newly-pregnant Leslie on the phone to a drunken Ben: “Hey, it’s your me. It’s wife.”
- Ben to Ron about, uh, Ron: “You know this hobo?
- Two Rons and one drunk Ben make for a great campfire crew: “There, there baby snow owl, you’re safe now.”
- Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy also made an appearance this episode, as the leader of yet another fake-band in Indianna. It was a busy episode, and that’s why we only really see the beginning of Leslie and Ben’s response to their new family member.
- (I don’t know what this pregnancy means for Leslie’s career decision, but I’m excited to see. Also, I need to see Leslie telling Ann about this news. Need to, Mike Schur. Need to.)