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TV Rewind: Felicity, “Party Lines” and “Running Mates”

14 Aug

Felicity, Episodes 2.18 & 2.19
“Party Lines” & “Running Mates”
Original Air Dates: Apr. 19 & 26, 2000

Felicity 2.18 Ben and FelicityEmma: Last time we discussed Felicity you posed the question of how Ben might win Felicity’s heart and once again I did not guess correctly. Nope I didn’t see “is super adorable with a kid after he has used his basketball therapy technique” as Ben’s way back in. Not that anything has happened beyond lingering stares and a whole lot of tension.

Before I get into the next classic teen TV trope of student council, I want to talk about Ben some more as he continues his quest to find out who the real Ben Covington is. Ben wisely stops listening to Sean and goes to see a professional, Dr Pavone. Here he does a career test – I have to say that any career-related meetings made me get super twitchy and my response was always a shoulder shrug as I thought writer sounded far too fanciful – and the results are all over the place, much like Ben. So the choices are stock broker, teacher, tour guide or a captain of a ship. I want to see Ben as a captain, but he of course picks the one with the best financial prospects. Plus this means we get to see him in a suit, but because this is the year 2000 it is super baggy and unflattering. Why so baggy?

Ben is of course doing the gesture thing without doing it; this is all inspired by Felicity (she makes him want to be better), but he doesn’t want to show that he’s doing it for her. Plus it’s a total bust as he ends up as a babysitter rather than learning anything about stocks as his boss is caught up in work and pretty much ignores his visiting son. Ben, as we know, has a complicated history with his own father, though it’s not like this dude is Ben’s dad level of bad, he’s just caught up in his shit. When Ben finds out that Steven quit piano a year ago, they ditch the planned recital and go play basketball instead, because of course.

There’s a montage and it’s clear that Ben should be teaching (so the test was kinda right) as he’s really great with motivating and encouraging this kid. That is until he busts his finger and conveniently the NYU health center is the nearest place to the basketball court. Greg is reluctant to help and I think it’s more his concern for his job, rather than jealousy but, eh, he’s still a jerk so this didn’t win him any points. Felicity is super enamoured by this new side of Ben and I really wanted them to kiss (after the kid was gone of course), but alas I think we’re going to have to wait a few more episodes for that. Especially as there is other DRAMA that has got in the way. Before I get to that, what did you think about Ben in this episode? Do we know who Ben Covington is better than we did before?

Felicity 2.18 basketballJulie: I loved the way Dr. Pavone said, “Captain of ship.” I don’t know why Ben didn’t jump at that one. Ship’s captain = adventure!

But, yeah, he should be teaching (or coaching). It’s kind of obvious, isn’t it? He’s been mooning about all season, crying over the loss of his swim team. He’s helped Julie through tough times. He supported Noel during the whole Ruby debacle. He’s a fixer. He’s the guy who’s had all the experiences and he can help other people get through their own issues. Of course, teaching isn’t just being good with kids. He needs to understand the subjects he’s teaching and know how to present them to a class. So, when ti comes down to the nitty gritty of actually instructing kids, I don’t know how much he’ll actually dig the profession. But maybe counselor is a better job for him, working at a boys and girls club, hashing things out on the basketball court. Because isn’t that truly what Ben does best?

I am feeling more Team Ben after these episodes. I still think he’s an immature guy playacting as a mature one. He’s done all these “things” in his life, but has never reflected on what any of it means or where he might be going. I love that he’s finally taking life seriously. I still don’t know if he “loves” Felicity or if he just loves the idea of Felicity. I think a big chunk of his infatuation with her has to do with the fact that he’s trying to grow up, and a relationship with someone like Felicity would be a step in the right direction. Also, Felicity has never shied away from telling people what to do, and I think Ben thinks he needs that. He loves when people tell him what to do (hence Sean and Dr. Pavone’s test).

But, because Felicity’s with Greg and busy with her own life, she isn’t really biting, is she? She’s pretty much been staying out of the “Fix Ben” business, which is good for everyone involved. It’s forcing Ben to  think about what he wants for himself. We’re starting to see his true colors. And if his true colors are those of a guy who is nice to kids and wants to help his friends, I like it.

I also think Ben pushing Felicity to run for student council (which, this whole storyline has me SMH) is a bit of a role reversal. Felicity has always been the one to support Ben, to tell him to go for it. Now he’s returning the favor. And thank goodness, because we would’ve missed out on all the campaign speeches and chicanery.

Any other thoughts on Ben? And what did you think about Felicity’s deciding to run for president of the school?

Felicity 2.18 MeghanEmma: One of my chief complaints about the first half of the season was how divided it was with Felicity/Noel/Elena on one side with Ben/Julie/Sean existing in another space and I’m so happy with how organically both groups now share stories. Part of this has been the focus on Ben and now that he is friends with Noel it’s made it a lot easier for the writers to mix up the groupings. With Ben especially and as we have seen in how much we have talked about him recently they have really found his footing and while it’s  still ambiguous in terms of who he is (which makes sense because he doesn’t even know) I’m really enjoying this meditation on the guy who had everything at high school and is now a big ball of confusion.

Normally with the high school stud it’s all about the burnout after they leave with the classic case being Tim Riggins from FNL, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen TV deal with it in this manner. Maybe because high school shows that venture into college don’t have a character like this (I’m thinking The OCBuffyGossip Girl) and so this feels very fresh. I guess I’m just very excited about the quandary that is Ben Covington.

I also think you’re right when it comes to Ben and Felicity; there is an attraction of course, but he’s definitely into the idea of this love and how she makes him feel. Like I said before I definitely want to see them kiss and when they were on their breaking and entering mission I was sure it was going to happen – hiding in a confined space normally leads to these kinds of shenanigans, but alas – and now Ben has fucked up his chance for now by being impulsive and outing Greg’s coke past.

Ah yes the election storyline and like you this had me shaking my head. Okay so I’ve never run for any kind of council or president and while I remember election stuff going on on campus I was never part of it of anyone’s campaign. But hey TV loves a campaign arc as they can use it as a backdrop to work through all the issues.

Greg of course wants to be president and he wants Felicity to be his campaign manager, which considering how passionate she is actually makes sense, plus I feel like there’s a slightly skeezy motive behind this. The problem is that Felicity disagrees with almost everything on Greg’s platform and it’s actually Leila (the girl who kickstarted the morning after pill protest) who’s campaign she’s all for. Now this is where it made me feel uncomfortable as Leila had a panic attack before her speech and she asked Felicity to save the day and I wish that if Felicity was going to run it wasn’t so she could take over from a WOC. It smacks a little of the white woman coming to save the day again and it feels like they did this just for the visual gags in the speech. What did you think about this moment?

Everyone, but Greg wants Felicity to run and so of course she decides to and Greg comes crawling back because he loves the feisty side of Felicity (it’s that pattern again). The second episode is all about dirty politics – shows also love using this as an analogy of what’s going on – and how far people are willing to go to win. Richard is pretty much the best in both these episodes and I wanted to point that out before throwing back to you. Also random observation, but it feels like the only character who is allowed to call anyone a dick is Ben, including about himself “she thinks I’m a dick.”

Felicity 2.18 free pizzaJulie: You’re right that Ben is sort of a novelty when it comes to teen TV. He hasn’t had a moment of complete collapse. While he was popular in high school, he didn’t seem like much of a golden boy (unlike Tim Riggins, who at least had football). Ben, I’m assuming, despite the swimming and running, kind of coasted through high school, and now he needs to figure out what else is out there. Oddly, Steve Sanders comes to mind. He was a bit more sinister and less serious than Ben, but kind of the same idea. He was the cool guy, but he was never the star athlete, nor was he a great student.

I basically liked nothing about the campaign plot. Except Richard. If I were running for school president, I’d run on the platform of “more Richard.” I ran for student council once in high school (lost) and basically paid no attention thereafter. I don’t remember anything about college elections. I don’t even know if we had college elections. I do know that if we did, the members of the council certainly did not wield the amount of power Richard, et. al. are banking on.

As far as the ickiness, yeah. Greg is all kinds of no (oh, and good call on him liking her again because of her feistiness). I don’t know if he had an actual angle in courting Felicity as his campaign manager, but it felt contrived somehow. And Felicity taking over for Leila was really unfortunate. Why couldn’t Felicity have just figured out she wanted to run on her own? Or why couldn’t she have jumped ship and just joined Leila’s campaign instead of Greg’s? Have a spine, woman. Know what you want. She’s worse than Ben sometimes in the flightiness department. One day she’s an art major. Then she’s back to medicine. Next she’s heading her boyfriend’s campaign, then she’s running on her own (stolen) platform. At least Ben’s honest about the fact that he has no idea what he wants.

Ben writing “Dick” on the poster was fabulous. “Dick” is a word that should be used more frequently on television.

I suppose we should talk about the Sadie Hawkins dance and (what?) are they trying to put Julie and Noel together? Is that really happening or are the writers just “trying it out?”

Felicity 2.19 poster graffitiEmma: I am having so much fun talking about Ben in this manner and to be honest I didn’t expect there to be this much depth to him; they’ve done a really good job of fleshing him out beyond that super cute smile. If only he wasn’t so impulsive with the Greg info and in turn driving Felicity away. Ben’s not done though and he heads to Grand Central (obligatory Broad City gif dancing moment) to pursue her and it was the hardest thing to not stick on the next episode to see just what he is going to do. Felicity has of course only gone on this weekend trip as a reaction to Ben’s deception – Ben once again went to Sean for advice, because he never learns and Sean flip flopped with what Ben should do – and had previously told Greg that a weekend away was far too soon (what it is it with these older dudes wanting to do the big step stuff after a month together, eager beavers or what). As a way to punish Ben she changes her mind and Greg goes along with this sudden change even though he knows Ben is the reason, way to sell yourself short dude. This is not going to end with a weekend of happiness. As you mention Felicity can be just as flighty as Ben and this is the embodiment of that.

Meghan has the best reaction to all of this as it “makes he wanna puke” and after she wore a straw boater hat for Greg and everything.

Do Sadie Hawkins dances happen at college? This felt like an excuse to have a dance and create some awkwardness between the couplings and to set up whatever the Noel/Julie stuff is. I like Noel and Julie as friends and while I’m not opposed to something romantic happening it does feel a little incestuous with this group and that Felicity and Julie have swapped guys. The advice Julie gives with regards to Ruby is solid, though once again it feels like she is being defined by something dramatic that happened in her life; her storylines tend to focus on the rape or her adoption and I want more from her and for her. It does get a little flirty between them in both this episode and the next one and yeah, it’s a bit out of the blue. They even have a moment on that stairwell where big moments happen and that indicates to me that this is something they are trying out, which is fine.

I’m glad that there is no kind of jealousy at the moment between Ben and Noel regarding Felicity as they both help out with her campaign and I keep expecting there to be passive-aggressive comments that never come. I hope this continues, but when the inevitable happens I suspect this friendliness might not be so forthcoming.

Elena gets her own story! It’s tied to Tracy as their back and forth continues with something I didn’t expect to get in the way. What did you make of Tracy’s revelation?

Also I’m writing this while listening to a Felicity playlist on Spotify – there is lots of lady angst.

Felicity 2.19 Ben and NoelJulie: I don’t think we had any Sadie Hawkins dances in college, or high school, come to think of it. I love the addition of Tracy to the group, and I think they, yes, definitely need more guys. The whole man-swapping thing is starting to reek of 90210. There can be other guys besides Noel, Julie.

Honestly, I have no idea if they even let the Noel/Julie pairing go beyond the dance. I’m remembering vaguely what happens in Season 3 (we’ll get there soon!), and I just don’t think it’s feasible that Felicity would dick over Julie not once, but twice, in the guy department. Spoiler. Alert.

I really do love Ben and Noel together. They have great chemistry and Shonda Rhimes should definitely consider bringing Scott Speedman on as a Scandal regular. He needs work! Obviously the writers are on a FeliciBen trajectory now; and, I think, because of Ruby and because of Noel and Ben just generally getting along, he won’t have as big an issue with Ben and Felicity finally hooking up. The Noel/Felicity friendship ship is steady and on course.

I was a little surprised by Tracy’s virginity revelation the first time around. But when I think about it, most of my friends were still virgins when they got to college (by sophomore year? not so much). This show (and most teen shows) treat teen virginity as something sort of freakish, but I don’t think that holds up in reality. It will be interesting to see how Elena deals with this, though, because she’s all about “being the ball.”

What did you think about Tracy? And why didn’t anyone ask Sean to the dance?

Felicity 2.18 Julie and NoelEmma: Sadie Hawkins is definitely one of those things that in my head only exists on TV.

More guys would benefit the show, especially ones of the of the non-skeeze variety. Particularly for Julie. I like Tracy too and the energy he brings. The banter is fun and he gels well with the group.

It’s funny because while I know there will be Felicity/Noel shenanigans down the road (in the same way I knew she would get together with Ben at some point) it’s hard to picture that at the moment as the friends thing is working so well. And you’re right, I can’t see them doing that to Julie again. Widen your scope, show.

Yes, yes, yes to the Scandal idea. Maybe we should start a letter writing campaign. He could be an old college buddy of Jake’s, no backstory needed. The next two movies Scott Speedman has coming out are horror movies, come back to TV (still sad Last Resort got canceled). Also Noel goes to a dark place when they start discussing breaking and entering which felt very Jake on Scandal (fishing hookers out of the Hudson). All this spy talk also gave me all the Alias feelings. I do love how many people on Felicity have gone on to play spies in other shows.

The Tracy revelation was a surprise in that the typical virgin on TV doesn’t tend to look or act like Tracy, though this is of course a stereotype and not representative of reality. You’re right it is always treated like something bizarre and I liked the way he owned it. Elena has always been sexually confident (which I think is cool and I’m glad she’s never been painted as a harlot), she knows who she is and what she likes and her reaction/subsequent decision isn’t surprising especially after she made an issue of Felicity’s maybe hang ups. Going forward I am intrigued to see where this goes and I understand why this is asking for one commitment too many from Elena. That friends smooch suggests there is a lot more to come.

If only Richard and Sean could go to the dance together, although I guess Sean doesn’t technically go there (he’s like that girl in Mean Girls, note this is my first a Mean Girls reference in some time). Sean is still making his movie and he is trying to engineer a Ben/Felicity reunion. He’s going to be so pissed when he realizes that Ben’s gone to make a big declaration without the cameras present. What do you think Ben is going to do when he gets to Rhinebeck (upon googling I found this and it does seem like a fancy weekend away choice)?

Felicity 2.18 Tracy and ElenaJulie: How does poor college student Greg afford a place like that? Is he selling drugs? Embezzling from the clinic? There has to be something sinister going on here. Since I don’t remember, I’m going to guess that Ben shows up in Rhinebeck, catches Greg in the act of some bad deed, tells Felicity about it, and she blows him off because he’s just jealous of Greg.

I feel like Scott Speedman could find a really good home somewhere on TV. I’d love for it to be Scandal, but really he’d fit in anywhere. I don’t know why actors still think it’s more “prestigious” to make the move to film. TV is doing waaaay better stuff than movies these days. (Witness: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Would you really rather have that on your resume than Mad Men?)

I also found it very hard not to put on the next episode. I want to know what happens! (Even though I should already know what happens, considering I’ve seen it before. Old age.) I think probably the most important thing on the Felicity Season 2 docket is to figure out a way to get rid of Ruby. Down with Ruby!

Felicity 2.19 Ben, Felicity and SeanEmma: Yeah the magical amount of money some characters have takes me out of a show sometimes, I get suspension of disbelief but sometimes it is truly ridiculous.

One thing I’ve found with pretty much every roundtable is the discussion of better roles on TV over film and not just for women. I guess it helps that there are so many platforms now with network, cable, Netflix plus long form and mini-series. The options are endless whereas in film it’s big studio movie or indie and both of those come with potential failure now. Casting directors you need Scott Speedman in your life.

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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