Although it doesn’t get mentioned much these days thanks to his successful time as a campaign manager, both in Pawnee and Washington, D.C, we mustn’t forget Ben’s humble beginnings in Partridge, Minnesota, where he was elected mayor as the green age of 18. He might have been a popular vote, but he soon lost all respect once he bankrupted the town for his Ice Town concept. Parks and Recreation certainly hasn’t forgotten Ben’s past and as his and Leslie’s wedding draws closer we’ll be taking a bit of trip to explore his origins more intimately. And J.K. Simmons has been cast to help tell the story.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Simmons – a personal favorite of mine – was brought on to play the current mayor of Partridge, whom we will meet when Ben and Leslie take a road trip to visit his former home. Obviously, the reaction of the townspeople to Ben’s return is what will drive the plot of the episode. I imagine Ben will be hesitant to go back and it was likely Leslie who pushed to make this trip happen. But animosity is not what is waiting for Ben in Partridge. On the contrary, Simmons’ character is throwing a ceremony, offering Ben forgiveness for how he ruined the town.
“The Mayor is throwing a ceremony to say, ‘It’s okay, Ben. Everything’s fine now. Ice Town was 20 years ago,’” said executive producer Michael Schur. That’s all well and good, but I’d feel a little let down if there wasn’t some remaining hate toward Ben. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it came from the Mayor. Simmons is great at delivering lines in that perfect sarcastic way so you’re not quite sure what he’s really trying to say. But he can also be straightforward and gruff when it’s appropriate.
Simmons isn’t the only guest star we’ll be running in to in the episode. Annabeth Gish will pop in as Ben’s sister.