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TV Rewind: Felicity, “Revolutions” & “Docuventary II”

31 Jul

Felicity, Episodes 2.16 & 2.17
“Revolutions” & “Docuventary II”
Original Air Dates: Apr. 5 & 12, 2000

Felicity 2.16 FelicityEmma: The sexual health revolution continues on Felicity in yet another episode that feels incredibly progressive and depressingly timely considering it was shot in 2000 and it’s now 2014. Le sigh. First of all I’m going to talk about the positive aspects and that is how this show is interested in a variety of sexual health topics that have an impact on college age kids (not just college kids but as this is the setting of the show it’s good that they’re embracing these issues) like contraception and in this case the morning-after pill.

Felicity is still doing her community service at the health center and when she’s not mooning over creepy Greg or getting into fights with her father, Felicity gets to be pretty awesome. Okay the whole find an issue and then go to a protest about it is a big college TV trope – I did go to one protest at university about the increase in tuition fees so maybe I am a cliche, my university is pretty liberal so there were always protests for something – and of course the outcome is positive in that their demands are met. In reality Felicity would be getting called a slut a whole bunch and all I could think of was Sandra Fluke while watching this episode and how gross people were to her.

As the face of this protest, Felicity is perfect – middle class white woman and daughter of a doctor, she also happens to be pretty which is a bonus – but when Felicity gets on camera she falters and she can’t articulate why this is such an important cause. Ah yes the cause, I’ve neglected to mention this and what they are fighting for is to have the morning-after pill available in the health center for students. This makes all the sense to me. For bureaucracy’s sake, this is something that has been taken away from student health services, though, last year when Julie needed the morning-after pill the morning after Zach raped her, they still administered it. This is where the two stories merge in what I thought was a rather organic function; and after Julie’s recent encounter with skeezy A&R dude Eric, memories of Zach and that night have become all too fresh once again.

Julie is the one who speaks on camera about her experience and why it is vital for students to feel like their health center offers everything they need when dealing with the aftermath of a sexual encounter that could lead to an unwanted pregnancy, whether it is a split condom or rape. While I don’t want to see Julie tied to this story for forever, I’m glad they haven’t forgotten that it happened, as all too often a show will include a devastating story like this for it never to be mentioned ever again.

What did you think of the protest storyline? Did you ever go to a protest at college? Are you as impressed as I am at how Felicity deals with plots involving sexual health?

Felicity 2.16 JulieJulie: I never went to a protest. I feel like I’m missing out. Probably I should go back to college and right this wrong.

I’m also sad/not surprised that this was an issue in 2000 and it’s still an issue today. I’ve been watching a lot of Murphy Brown reruns and it’s almost (*almost*) humorous how little has changed in the interim. Women are still having to fight daily for (what I, and many others, consider to be) basic reproductive rights.

The whole protest itself was very Kumbaya. Everyone was happy and singing. No one got arrested. In the end, they wound up getting what they wanted. It was very sanitized and very perfect, right down to Felicity spearheading it, as you mentioned.

The one thing I loved most about this storyline was Felicity’s reaction to the girl needing the morning-after pill. The look on Felicity’s face was all, “This is so cool. I feel so cool that this girl is confiding in me about her sex life. I will do anything to help her because this is so cool and I am so grown up.” It was the perfect Felicity moment, combining her need to help/be a busy body with her need to feel more adult.

I was also proud of Julie for “standing in her truth.” (Can you tell I just got back from BlogHer?) And now that everyone knows about Julie and Zach, hopefully we’ll be able to move on and the writers will be able to give Julie a new storyline.

Happening at the same time as the protest, however, was the next stop on the Noel/Ben friendship train. What did you think of their bonding/fighting?

Felicity 2.16 BenEmma: I love how Ruby is all ‘bet you didn’t expect to see the pregnant chick get involved’ and they’re all shoulder shrug about it as if they hadn’t really considered that. Ruby somehow tries to make it all about her, even the morning-after pill.

This won’t be a surprise I’m sure, but I adore the Ben and Noel storyline that starts with philosophy studying and ends with an ultimate hangover – as someone with a philosophy degree I am very familiar with this course of events. Except I’ve never had a fist fight in the middle. So it all starts with a Ben complaining to Felicity about philosophy class (also been there) and Felicity suggests that Ben ask Noel for help. Ben is reluctant until he answers a question kinda incorrectly in class and then he’s all “lets go get sandwiches and talk about old white dudes.”

Studying leads to sharing of course; and Ben, without realizing it, gives Noel more reasons to dislike him as he mentions how easy he had it in high school with grades, sports, and girls (neglecting to mention the abortion story that led to this friendship). They start drinking beer and Ben does the most adorable smile that reminds me of Mark from Empire Records and I’m smitten.

They get super drunk on tiny cans of beer and when Ben throws a full one at Noel’s head (ouch), Ben says he can even the score with a punch. Noel doesn’t want to at first even though this is one of his dreams come true and it ends up in a full on trashing the front room fight. This drunken debauched night leads to a shameful morning after and neither of them wants to say they lost. By the looks of your faces and what I’m guessing your breath smells like boys, both of you did. In true bro style they seem ok with each other, and a gross hangover cure is Ben’s way of saying sorry. They switch from Jerry Springer to the news and get a shock when they see Felicity. I half expected them to turn up at the health center but I’m glad they didn’t, this confused and broken response is so much better. I love how confused they are.

What did you think of the boys studying together? And how do you feel about the emotional blackmail of getting Felicity’s dad to try and stop the protest?

Felicity 2.16 hungoverJulie: The look everyone gives Ruby reminds me of this. They’re all, “Just leave already, Ruby. We hate you.”

I think Noel and Ben need a morning-after pill for their relationship. There was a lot of sheepishness in that room post fight. I think this is exactly what they needed for their relationship to grow. They had to get all of the residual anger out of the way. Noel being jealous of Ben. Ben being…why is Ben so mad at Noel again? What right does Ben have to be mad at Noel? I don’t know. I guess Ben is just feeling inadequate (having answered that question wrong/having no idea what he wants to do with his life), so he takes it out on Noel, who has his ish together and is getting paid to basically play professor all semester.

That beer to the head looked painful, though, man. Ben deserved a punch to the face.

So, back to the protest. Of course Mr. Porter shows up, and of course he’s back to being a doctor and a now a teacher at the university. All of his problems are solved! Anxiety and depression are gone! It’s a TV miracle. Thanks, TV, for treating mental illness with such sensitivity and gravitas!

I’m pretty sure they did this just to give Felicity a reason to question her actions, just to add a little drama. Because all her dad does is serve to remind her that she was only at the clinic in the first place because she was in trouble, that being involved in this protest could get her into more trouble — possibly expelled and shipped back to Palo Alto oh noes.

It doesn’t work, and Felicity is, of course, all, “Shut up, dad, and go back to your empty apartment.”

This episode also pushes Greg and Felicity closer together, especially in the mouth area. What do you think about Greglicity as a couple and how bad do you feel for Meghan?

Felicity 2.16 TVEmma: The social chameleon qualities of Ben is something we have discussed a lot in the past and it’s something I’ve been thinking about with regards to his friendship with Noel as he tries to become a man that he thinks Felicity would want to be with. Ben mentioned recently that there’s nothing in his life that he gets too excited about (except swimming) and his new academic interest is all part of the Felicity ploy and while I command his self-improvement plan it comes across as inauthentic as he’s doing this to impress a girl. As Ben mentions to Noel he’s never had to work at anything prior to college and now he’s finding out that the world beyond high school isn’t so easy to coast through. By attaching himself to Noel in this manner he is tying himself to someone who Felicity has been involved with and I wonder if he is trying to become more attractive to Felicity by molding himself on a former boyfriend. The thing is that Felicity chose Ben over Noel and what he should be doing is thinking about why and also how he fucked it up in the first place.

I’m all for this awkward friendship and how they are united in their dislike for Greg, well Noel didn’t mind Greg until Ben tells Noel that he thinks Felicity is dating Greg and that he has been arrested in the past for coke. They really are a splendid brain trust.

Felicity kissing Greg was not a surprise at all as was Meghan’s “I’m going to kill her reaction.” I just wish Felicity wasn’t into dudes who are older in a super skeezy way. It might be because it feels tied to daddy issues (and I am so done with the Felicity father plots and his convenient depression and getting over said issue) or because these guys are kind of the worst. Yes, she needs way more than Ben or Noel, but I’d actually like to see more single time Felicity where she isn’t defined by the dudes in her life and just hang out with Elena and Julie. This season has had some of that and yet not nearly enough especially as Ruby has been present for some of this (that clip is so accurate).

I was surprised by how up-front with his skeeze Greg was when he told Felicity that she got the job because he thinks she is hot stuff and this sets off a moral quandary for Felicity. She goes to see Dr. Pavone who once again tells her to get over herself and while I get the sentiment that dudes get stuff all the time because of their gender, I also don’t think she is right when she tells Felicity to just take the job and shut up. Felicity is more than capable of doing this job so it isn’t like she is horribly unqualified and yet it still doesn’t sit right with me in the same way it doesn’t sit right with Felicity. Felicity comes up with her own solution and everyone wins – well except the dude who didn’t realize he wasn’t getting paid for a volunteer position – and she carries on dating her boss. There are some serious ethical issues with this place of employment and they definitely need to watch all of the sexual harassment training videos.

Before I move onto other questions of ethics with Ben and his snooping I want to see how you feel about the Felicity and Greg relationship now they are dating. And what did you think about the return of Sean’s documentary?

Felicity 2.17 BenJulie: You’ve got it all figured out there regarding Ben and his desire to impress Felicity. That is some Dr. Pavone stuff you’re spilling right there. Ben is totally molding himself into Noel, which, as you mentioned, is kind of dumb, considering that Felicity did choose Ben over Noel and Ben was the dude that dumped her on a whim (Sean’s whim).

I do love that, in theory, Ben is trying to improve himself. I just hope that one day he chooses to improve himself for his own self and not to win the affections of some girl. He can certainly learn a lot from Noel, if he chooses to, because Noel has always been very self-assured, even if he does get moony about girls and even if he was a big old dork in high school.

As far as Felicity goes, I think it was ballsy of Dr. Pavone (or the writers, really) to let someone take the stance of, yeah, life isn’t fair. Most of the time the chips won’t fall your way, so when they do, stop complaining about it and just be glad and ride it out. We generally hold our TV protagonists to a higher moral level, especially Felicity, so it’s kind of nice to see someone challenging her to lean in and take what’s hers, even if Alexis Arquette* might get caught in the crossfire. *Emma – That’s who that was!

And by taking what’s hers, I don’t mean Greg. Because Greg is dumb. Kind of hot, but dumb. And he’s even less hot now that he’s gotten his hair cut and looks like a low-rent Bill Rancic.

And then there’s Ben and his snooping, which, didn’t we have this storyline already?

Felicity 2.17 Meghan stareEmma: Likability is a big trend or rather being an unlikeable character is something that’s got a whole lot of blogging inches of late particularly when it comes to a woman with unlikeable traits. Felicity is of course an inherently likeable character and as you mention it’s good to see her being challenged in this way. I do love how she tries to get the volunteer to quit by coming up with a gruesome story only to admit her exaggeration as she can’t quite follow through with a deception, but hey she tried.

That haircut is the worst. Does this show ever learn (I still haven’t forgiven the Ben haircut from the end of last season).

Ben’s snooping is something we have seen him do very recently, but I figure this is meant to be more of a grand gesture as it’s exactly what she did to him at the start of S1 so when she calls him out on it he can point out how similar they are. Felicity is incredibly dumb in this scene as she mentions how she did it because she was in love with him and the dramatic long pause doesn’t clue her in to how he feels.

Felicity should go hang out with Richard as he too does not see to be able to read the very obvious signs as why Ben gets all silent and mad looking when Greg and Felicity is brought up. The inclusion of Richard with Sean’s project is fun and while I was worried this entire eepisode was going to be from a video camera perspective again they switched between the two formats this time (Blair Witch even gets a shout out). Richard is all comic relief and while Ben spends most of this episode pining the various community service positions were also really fun. Working at campus security in that uniform is hilarious as is the hairnet he has to wear after his attempts to not wear a hat at D&D.

This also provides a link to Noel’s missing tests and while I’m not sure what the overall point is of this it is fun to see Scott Foley in full meltdown mode.

Is the Docuventary going to be an annual episode I wonder and can they top the Dear Sally cut in this episode?

Felicity 2.17 RichardJulie: More on Felicity’s likability. I think she’s a ’90s likable female character, but would it be the same today? I mean, I think I would like her, but would “kids today” think she’s an overly-serious buzzkill/prude? That makes me sad. There are not a lot of serious, studious, driven young female characters on television today. The first one that comes to mind for me is Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. How sad is that?

Richard is another thing that’s completely working for me in this episode. For some reason he and Sean have teamed up. I’m not sure how or why that happened. Had they ever been in a room together before this? He was Noel’s buddy, but now he’s with Sean. And I like it. They’re two misguided entrepreneurial nerds, and they make a lot of sense together.

I think this might actually be the last Docuventary, but maybe not. I totally loved the Sally shoutout.

I guess the big questions going into the end of the season are these — Who is Ben Covington? And how can he win back Felicity?

Felicity 2.17 Julie hat

Emma: I honestly find Ben so fascinating as he’s such a big ball of contradictions – he was the guy with the best life at high school, but he also had a super shitty home life and then when he came to college he wasn’t the big hot shot he was and he’s pretty average at a whole lot. He’s a bro who on the surface is the usually stereotype and yet he’s so much more. And this is why I still have no idea who a Ben Covington is or what move he’s going to make to win the girl. He’s too insecure to go big gesture or honest confession and I kinda think Sean’s documentary might be the way Felicity finds out, but that feels like something they’ve done before. And how will this impact his new friendship with Noel when they eventually get together?

Your point about Felicity probably being seen as a prude today reminds me of something Keri Russell mentions during the THR roundtable when she’s asked about the controversial haircut and how social media would explode if it occurred today “You think a haircut’s going to beat out blow jobs? That’s so tame compared to what’s going on now.” And I think she’s right, as are you. It’s mighty depressing that that’s the only example you can think of (I’m struggling to think of one). The funny thing is that she’s not a prude and neither is this show tame when it comes to sex, it’s just not all extremes and feels way more relatable.

The Sally moment cracked me up and it made this whole sequel worth it as was Richard’s involvement a bonus. They instantly made Sean more likeable thanks to this pairing and I love how increasingly pissed off Ben gets when being film. He starts off mad and he gets progressively worse. Just think of the millions Sean and Richard might make.

I also can’t not mention the latest of Julie’s terrible fashion choices and that hat should be shredded and then burned. Bad hat.

Oh and I love Elena’s story about the ‘Elena’ doctor’s name badge she had made special to help during the times she doubts herself and yeah she only reveals this because Tracy made up a story, but it’s rather sweet.

Felicity 2.17 Tracy and ElenaJulie: First of all, we definitely need to write an academic paper on Ben Covington. He is the popular guy from high school, the guy who peaked, but he’s also not content with that. He’s lost his swimming. He’s lost his identity. He has this kind of awkward and dorky girl following him around, and he finds her intriguing, because she sees something in him beyond the cute smile. I think there’s hope for Ben Covington. He just has to keep working on himself.

This show does guys really well, which makes sense because it was created by two guys. The male characters all feel very whole to me. They’re developing, they have distinct personalities. I wish the female characters were a little more well-rounded. Elena is the driven one. Julie is the basket case. Ruby just sucks. Only when Meghan comes around does it seem like anyone has any fun. I want the girls to have fun. Real fun. The kind of fun that ends in a night of video games, beer, and bloodshed.

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.

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