11:31am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Parks and Recreation' Boss Mike Schur on Ben and Leslie's Sweet Surprise
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's Parks and Recreation episode, "Halloween Surprise."]
Call it the "awwww" heard all around Pawnee.
During Thursday's "Halloween Surprise" episode of NBC's Parks and Recreation, Ben (Adam Scott) stunned his longtime girlfriend Leslie (Amy Poehler) when he not only returned home from Washington, D.C., early, but did so with a ring in hand.
In a scene that's worthy of a big-screen romantic comedy, an emotional Leslie says yes to the marriage proposal (after taking a long, hilarious moment to take it all in) and the Pawnee political couple officially became engaged.
"We knew when Ben was done with his arc [in Washington] that he would end up proposing," showrunner Mike Schur told reporters during a conference call Friday, noting that the writing was on the wall for the character, who realizes that the robotic politician he's campaigning for paled in comparison to Leslie.
"We knew he was going to get an opportunity to keep going with that job … and then it became an issue of what causes a guy whose career is moving in this cool direction to come back to tiny Pawnee, Ind., and there's only one thing that would do that and that's Leslie," he said. "We decided to shape the episode around him deciding Leslie is my priority and everything else is in second place."
While the series doesn't typically telegraph where its going, Schur said the union will feel like "everybody's engagement," with the lovable staff of the Parks Department each reacting and being included in different ways vs. Leslie turning into a bridezilla.
"The whole idea of her character is she'll walk to the ends of the Earth for her friends but she's not a person who will make it all about her," he said, noting that he finds the term misogynistic. "Bridezilla implies it's a person who's self-centered and wants to make everything about her."
Mum on whether or not there will be a wedding this season, Schur said that the moment Scott showed up in Pawnee and the writers picked up on the chemistry between Ben and Leslie, the series changed from its initial focus of having the local politician date a series of men (played by Louis C.K., Justin Theroux and Paul Schneider) and learn more about who she is in the process.
"We realized their two characters were very good for each other and so we threw out that plan and followed what made sense, which was that they were soul mates," he said. "For that reason, I don't think that them getting married or getting engaged changes that much about the way the show is, it's just official now and we get to do stories about them planning a wedding and intertwining their lives officially and what that means for them and how it affects other people."
Up first for the couple: Leslie will get a peek into Ben's family life when she meets his parents (played by Glenne Headly and Jonathan Banks). "It's a high-stress party combined with relatives, which is a bad mix," Pohler previewed. Added Schur: "We wanted to put Leslie and Ben and Ben's parents, who hate each other, and Ben's father's girlfriend in a pressure cooker and leave them there to simmer for 20 minutes."
As for the future of the critical darling but ratings underperformer, Schur said the writers have a "go-for-broke" attitude when it comes to storytelling and doesn't think about whether or not Parks will live on for a sixth season.
"We learned a long time ago that we shouldn't take anything for granted," he said. "For that reason, our motto has just been to go for broke; tell every story you want to tell, don't worry about what comes next. Tell the stories you want to tell in the order you want to tell them and damn the torpedoes."
What do you think of Ben and Leslie's engagement? Hit the comments with your thoughts and rewatch Ben's proposal and a tour of the Parks Department, below. Parks and Recreation airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.