Felicity, Episodes 2.10 & 2.11
“Great Expectations” & “Help for the Lovelorn”
Original Air Dates: Jan. 16 & 23, 2000
Emma: It’s 2000! Yep Felicity is no longer in the ’90s and yet I think we’ll still be talking ’90s fashion as the previous decade tends to linger in the style stakes – Mad Men did this with ’50s looking threads when it begun and The Americans costuming looks far more ’70s at this point as they’re only in 1982 – so I can’t see Julie ditching her butterfly clips anytime soon.
So it’s a new year and a new term; last time we talked we both mentioned the lack of Ben/Felicity interactions this season and it’s like the writers heard us (or heard the people back in 1999) and there’s a whole lot of Ben and Felicity in “Great Expectations.” What easier way to have them reconnect than for their shifts at D&D to change?! It’s super contrived and yet it’s not at the same time. New York is big enough even if you do go to the same college to avoid each other, but it’s also just as easy to bring them back together with something as simple as a shift change. It’s adorable and cheesy when they mention that they haven’t worked together since the last millennium.
Both Ben and Felicity feel lost for different reasons – Ben has lost the one thing that gives him focus as the swimming program has been shut down and Felicity is out of sorts as her father has taken a temporary job at the university hospital that turns into a permanent position. Part of coming to a city so far away from home was to get away from her parents and so Felicity is of course perturbed by her father’s presence (which I can totally understand). Felicity doesn’t get in to a class that she really wanted and everything is out of sorts for her (even more so in the following episode which I can’t wait to talk about).
Ben’s a hard character to pin down as he is such a social chameleon; he can be whatever easy going guy you want him to be and this makes it difficult to tell when he is feeling something genuine. The 180 he does with his realization that Sean gives terrible advice feels a tad convenient, however as it’s Ben I also buy that it would take him this long to figure out what a bonehead decision he made at the start of the season. How do you feel about Ben’s renewed Felicity feelings?
The chemistry between Ben and Felicity crackles in a way that isn’t present with Noel; there is a familiarity and closeness between Noel and Felicity that makes them seem better suited as friends at this point even though there is sexual tension. The version of Felicity with Ben is a little more daring, she doesn’t think or analyse so much and is very much in the moment. A desire to rebel leads to swimming pool break in and I love that Ben is wearing less than Felicity during this scenario as she keeps her D&D t-shirt on. This could have been an excuse to get Keri Russell into some slinky underwear and yet they stay very true to who this character is in this moment. It also plays up to the breaking into a swimming pool TV trope that has been used on everything from The Sopranos (Lady Gaga was in this episode) to a recent episode of the amazing Playing House. What is it about TV and pool break ins?
What did you think of the whole Ben and Felicity of it all?
Julie: It’s not the new millennium yet, Ben! I thought for sure nerdy Felicity would correct him on that, but she didn’t.
I think you pinpointed my problem with Ben in this episode (really, I think I had problems with absolutely everyone in this episode). While I loved the shift change bringing them back together, his whole 180 from breaking up with Felicity to all of a sudden wondering if he made a mistake in breaking up with her seemed way too fast. Like you, I wonder if his social chameleonism keeps him from having/showing actual feelings, or at least making suspect all of the feelings he does have. I’m not sure who Ben really is or what he really wants. I’m not sure he knows those things either.
I just wish they had taken a little time with this Ben/Felicity thing. Even if the writers had just put off the “hey, Sean, you were wrong” conversation for a few episodes. It’s fine that they’re hanging out together (and breaking school rules), but it’s way too quick for Ben to suddenly want to be with Felicity again. I don’t buy it.
The pool break-in is such a prevalent TV trope (was Lady Gaga really in that ep? Might be time for a Sopranos rewatch. Good thing I’ve got nothing else to catch up on), but I can’t come up with any other examples right now off the top of my head. I think Felicity with Ben is sort of interesting, but I’m not sure I like what her being with him does to her. Yes, she’s more fun and daring, but is it because she wants to be those things or does she do it just to impress Ben? It seems like every time she’s with him, he just gets her into trouble (the cheating thing), and he always seems to show up at the most inopportune times (like when she’s in the process of making things better with Noel). I feel like Ben is one of those guys that you see your friend dating, and know she just can shake him. You know he’s bad for her, but she’s inexplicably (or explicably in the case of hot Ben) drawn to him.
That said, she’s a sophomore in college and if she wants to have fun with a trouble-making social chameleon, she should do that. Now is the time. Besides, Noel’s busy TA-ing Ruby’s class. Barf. What did you think of Noel and Ruby and how annoying Ruby was as one of Noel’s students?
Emma: This sudden interest in Felicity from Ben definitely feels like it’s a reaction to audience dissatisfaction, in that I’m sure there were Ben/Felicity fans who were very dissatisfied with the start of this season. Getting a couple together to have them split up pretty quickly is a standard teen TV action, but they don’t normally spend this much time apart. But yeah I wish the groundwork had occurred in the midst of all the Teri Polo shenanigans.
I also agree with you about the version of Felicity is with Ben and it’s pretty much her version of the “cool girl” (as with MPDG I also have some issues with this trope with how reductive it can be if used in the wrong way). She’s more reckless with Ben, but it’s the PG-13 kind and yet there are also consequences. I’m also wondering what kind of punishment they’re going to get and whether Felicity will have to turn to her father to bail her out, I hope not.
Felicity’s parents are getting a divorce and it’s all been relatively civil between the Porters the few times we’ve seen them together and it totally blindsides Felicity. It’s not really that surprising considering how wistful her mom was about Felicity’s new life and the things she’d missed out on by marrying young and it doesn’t sound like it’s ending because of anything painful. How did you feel about this storyline?
I have some TA questions as we don’t really have them over here , well at least not at my university – is it always an undergrad student? Do they get extra credit for doing this? So they kind of run seminars?
Also Ruby continues to be the worst and I would rather have watched Elena making those three legged frogs than the advice/argument between Noel and Ruby. They’re both trying to help each other out and instead they poke at their insecurities.
Oh and what do you think about Julie and skeezy Eric?
Julie: I was not surprised by Felicity’s parents’ separation. (And not just because I’ve already seen the show.) A lot of real-life marriages end once the kids go to college, so this seems like something that could definitely happen. Plus Felicity’s mom definitely looked wistful when seeing all the fun stuff Felicity was doing in college. Also, she had her daughter very young and probably didn’t get much time to screw around (pun intended) during her younger days. Also, she’s a stay-at-home mom who no longer has a purpose. Her baby has moved clear across the country. I expect her to show up with a 20-something tennis pro from Belgium any day now.
Kudos to Felicity’s mom, however, for doing things in the right order and splitting up with her husband before pursuing her hot, young thing (unlike Maggie).
I never really had a TA either, because I went to a small school and majored in subjects where the classes were manageable and didn’t really need TAs. I think they’re just helpers, for the most part. The only thing I can gather from Noel’s situation is that he’s not so much teaching the class, but running a weekly study session. I’m assuming he gets either money or credit for doing this. And we all know Noel needs the money.
I really could not stand watching Ruby with her finger eyes, non-verbally telling Noel to make eye-contact. As a former teacher, I totally would’ve called on her. She was begging for it. Ruby, you’re an idiot and I wish you’d just go away already.
Oh my god, poor Elena with those frogs. Give her something to do, please! #FreeElena
As far as Eric goes, we saw that coming a mile away, right? I mean, first of all, he’s a “big time” record producer who goes to open mic nights after getting random postcards in the mail? I don’t think so. Secondly, Julie has one song. One song. And it’s not that impressive. What did he see in her (other than her looks) that would make him want to sign her on the spot. I had to say it, but Sean is right all over the place. Eric is skeevy and Ben definitely should’ve broken up with Felicity. He’s not ready for her jelly.
I guess the only other thing I have to add about this episode is that I wish Sean would just tell Julie he loves her so that we can stop hearing about it.
Emma: Well if Noel keeps buying three differs types of Christmas present then he definitely does. I am however convinced that the ugly bracelet cost $15 tops.
The eye contact bit was super cringy and Noel’s reaction was not surprising at all. Also, Ruby, do the reading.
I’m sad for Julie that this dude was all about getting in her pants and yes she really does need new material. They also need to give Sean more to beside harping on about Smoothaise and Julie.
So it’s a new semester and Felicity is taking a different direction with some of their stories and none could be more different than the second episode “Help for the Lovelorn” or the Twilight Zone episode, as I’ve heard it referred to. I’ve been really excited about watching this episode and it didn’t disappoint.
But first I have to make an admission and it’s one that might make me look bad – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a full episode of The Twilight Zone… I know. Now I have seen all of Eerie, Indiana, which is not the same thing but it did play an important part of summer vacation TV watching. I’m not sure I’m making it better. Regardless of not having seen any Twilight Zones (still hanging my head in shame), I do know the basic set up and style of the original series and how much J.J. Abrams has been influenced by it. This episode feels like a pretty great love letter to both it and Rod Serling. Plus it lets Felicity and the other regulars do something different while addressing some of the same issues.
What I want to know is if you can remember how it was received when it first aired? Did they promote it as a very different episode before it aired or was it like ‘hey surprise we’re doing a genre episode?’
Julie: I, too, haven’t seen much of The Twilight Zone. I don’t remember how this episode was received back when it aired, but I do remember that I wasn’t a big fan the first time around. I liked it much better this time. I think I appreciated the conceit a little bit more. Maybe years of watching “theme episodes” and Community have helped me come to terms with the one-off gimmick hour.
Because Community has so artfully used these theme eps to further the plot, I do wish this episode had had more to do with what happened in “Great Expectations.” As it stands, the Twilight Zone episode has no bearing on anything and was basically just a way to sort of explain Meghan’s box. That was really the only “value” to the ep, as far as story goes. Oh, and this is the last we’ll hear of Janeanne Garofalo.
So, okay, what did I like about the Twilight Zone episode this time around (because I honestly did enjoy it, story issues aside)? First of all, everyone looked good. Keri Russel and Amanda Foreman have the perfect faces for ’60s period nonsense. Maybe they can unearth Foreman from wherever she’s been hiding since Alias and put her in the final few episodes of Mad Men (or Masters of Sex, really). Also, yeah, I think they did do a good job of touching on the theme of being lovelorn (giving things a little Eternal Sunshine flavor), but only in regards to Felicity, Noel, and Julie. Ben and Elena (of course) had very little do do here.
What did you think of the episode overall?
Emma: Overall I thought it was really fun, despite not really moving the plot forward as there’s still the same love triangle (quandrangle if you include Julie) discussion. In fact that’s the premise really as Felicity gets into this situation as she signs up for a treatment that will help with her ex boyfriend dilemmas. As you mention Community was so good at using the gimmick episode to further the story and while this isn’t as successful as it pretty much underlines what we already know I did enjoy the overall effort.
It’s also an example of where Felicity’s new do suits the time period as I can’t really picture her mass of curls suiting the time period as well and Keri Russell looks super adorable in this era (it’s something they’re touched on in early flashbacks in The Americans when they first arrive to the US). I am so on board Amanda Forman in either Masters of Sex or Mad Men – Matt Weiner has a thing for actresses from ’90s teen shows so this would be all kinds of perfect. I love Meghan teasing at the start and how her “you’ll find out soon enough” to the “what’s in the box?” question was suitably menacing. Also isn’t the answer always Gwyneth Paltrow’s head (spoiler I guess)? Oh and because the look of this episode is so good I’m using screengrabs from this episode alone as there are too many good ones to cut out.
Farewell, Sally! And what a great episode for the final VO from her with no blathering about John or some lame life lesson. I wish they’d used Janeanne Garofalo better and the Dear Sally setup definitely works better with just Felicity’s side. Having the tape recorder appear was pretty fun and I like how they mixed in some aspects from the present with the overall context of the past.
It is very Eternal Sunshine-like and it’s just like Felicity, even in this alt-verse to resist against the easy path if it means losing the ability to love and feel. I mean I think most would do this, but Felicity is all about thinking and feeling so this extreme goes against everything that she is.
The creepy factor is high and suspense is high; it’s disorientating for both the viewer and Felicity alike because this isn’t the world we’re used to. There are elements of horror like the waking corpse, giant needles and forced operations that would be more at home on a show like Buffy than this one. Even the final sequence when Felicity wakes up alone at first in the box is disturbing as they’re all trapped together in box with no exits. A group of exes (and Elena) in close proximity is terrifying enough.
There is tension between Ben and Noel with old resentments rearing their ugly heads. At the start of the episode they’re perfectly cordial to each other and it reminded me of that brief time in S1 when they didn’t despise each other. I miss that. They’re glad Julie doesn’t have her guitar, I am too. Elena is pretty level-headed and while her presence didn’t make much sense in the context of broken down relationships, I am glad that she was there.
I love the different credits and as we saw with the various different themed Fringe credits, J.J. Abrams enjoys mixing things up. Is this the first sign that he was already feeling a bit bored of doing a college show with no overall mystery?
Julie: I think it’s OK to spoil Seven these days. That movie came out (holy shit, I’m old) almost twenty years ago. I need a moment to lie down.
That’s an interesting theory about J.J.’s boredom. Alias started in 2001, so I’m sure he was already laying the groundwork for that show at this point. Also, I think it must be hard to keep a show like this going. Obviously they’ve set up that Noel and Ben are the great loves of Felicity’s life. There are only so many ways you can keep getting them together and breaking them apart. And it’s only sophomore year!
That said, there are so many other great characters on this show that they are underusing. I want to see Sean, Elena, or Meghan get the arcs they deserve.
I’m looking forward to seeing the screen grabs. There were so many lovely shots in this episode. The lighting was beautiful.
Emma: There is definitely a lot that can be done with the supporting characters other than some of the thinly drawn plots they’ve been given this season and Elena hasn’t really had much to do since Professor skeeze last season and that was resolved off screen over their summer break. It’s easy I’m sure to get caught up in the central trio and it is named Felicity so of course she will feature heavily (and I wouldn’t want her to get sidelined), but Elena is getting a short shrift this season.
It’s funny as I thought there would be a ton to talk about with this very different episode and yet there’s probably less to say beyond the aesthetics – and yeah the lighting is very strong – as it’s not going to come into play for the rest of the story. Remember that time we were in a box. Actually one other thing I did want to mention from a technical point is the human tower as Felicity crawled up everyone, of course they are lying down and they’ve just changed the camera angle but I appreciate J.J. Abrams’ dedication to using these old tricks. For all his lens flare shenanigans he does have a habit of using the old classics and that’s why I’m looking forward to his Star Wars.
Julie Hammerle is, according to Klout, an expert in the areas of both Morgan Freeman and glasses. Her writing can be found at chicagonow.com/hammervision and you can holler at her on Twitter as well.