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TV Rewind: Felicity, “Ben Was Here” and “The Aretha Theory”

28 Aug

Felicity, Episodes 2.20 & 2.21
“Ben Was Here” & “The Aretha Theory”
Original Air Dates: May 3 & 10, 2000

Felicity 2.21 projectionJulie: Yay yay yay yay yay.

I had more fun watching these two Felicity episodes than I have for all of season two. We’ve reached the final four episodes of sophomore year, and the show is firing on all cylinders.

What’s working?

Ben. In the latter half of the season, the show has become Ben’s show (as we’ve discussed). For a season and a half, he’s been a social chameleon, changing his personality to fit whichever girl he’s dating, floating through life, not really sure about what he wants to do or who he wants to be, taking the advice of anyone who has any advice to give him. Now he’s Ben of action.

I was a little nervous when Felicity said that he was only after her for the chase. Was she right? She might still be right. Ben has this pattern of going after her whenever she finds a new boyfriend.

But this time does feel different. I do think Ben broke up with her at the beginning of the season because he was scared and not because he really wanted to. I think everything he’s gone through to win her back has been genuine. I also think he’s not entering into this lightly. He knows what it means. He knows it means a potentially long-term relationship. And he’s no longer scared. Ben is all grown up. For the most part. At the very least, he’s getting there.

Fun. The other thing that’s totally working for me is how fun these two episodes were. That’s what college was, at least for me, fun. It wasn’t all serious conversations and protests and political campaigns. In fact, it was hardly any of that. College was parties and drinking and spending time with friends. Felicity, both the show and the girl, are starting to figure that out.

These two episodes brought everyone back together again, and living under one roof. There’s a leaky pipe in the dorm and Tracy has taken it upon himself to repaint Noel and Elena’s apartment. Both places uninhabitable, Sean has taken everyone into his apartment. Everyone, including Ruby and Meghan. They’re having game nights and going out to clubs with Meghan’s crew (and how much did you love Meghan in these episodes?). Fun is being had.

The Supporting Cast. There are so many things to talk about here, but I really want to give a shout out to those folks who are not Felicity, Ben, or Noel. Everyone is pulling their weight right now. I want to spend time with all of them, from Richard to Julie to Meghan to Javier. These episodes were written by the show’s creators, JJ Abrams and Matt Reeves, and it shows. They were having a good time playing in the Felicity sandbox again.

Did you have as much fun as I did?

Felicity 2.21 drinksEmma: The second half of this season has been pretty great and I definitely agree with you in regards to how much fun these two episodes are. We spoke in detail during the first half of the season about how detached the two groups were and this was to be expected after the whole big Felicity decision at the end of season 1 which not only put a wedge between Felicity and Julie, but also made it hard to have Ben and Noel in the same room. Despite any relationship awkwardness (which there is in droves) they have now reached a point where they can all sleep under the same roof and for that I am grateful.

It’s not like Ben and Noel were even friends in season 1 and the Felicity of it all made this look like an impossibility. Philosophy classes and unplanned pregnancies have brought them together, so much so that Noel gives Ben an “I’m sorry bro” look when Ben returns from his failed grand gesture. Everyone knows where Ben has been and this is also a pretty accurate representation of any big relationship moment during college as even when you think something is secret, if you’ve told one person then pretty much everyone in your friendship groups knows.

So the Ben mission is played for laughs at first as he hides behind cabs and bushes with Sean’s stolen cell phone. Of course Sean is waiting for a call about his film and so Sean is giving romantic advice (never listen to Sean) while dishing out answering the phone etiquette. When Ben makes his move while Greg pops out for firewood (Greg is THAT guy) Ben pops up and promptly gets told to get out of Felicity’s life for forever. It’s not the reaction he was expecting, though I can see why she’s not thrilled to see him and I’m glad he didn’t win her over this easily.

This episode (and I adore the callback with the title) could easily have descended into angst and while Ben does a lot of moping, he’s also proactive pausing for s’mores and then joining in with the board games. Some of my fondest moments from college are those nights where we stayed in a played card games like Shithead (I played it so much and I can’t even remember the rules right now) and this really captured that experience. As you mention making the show fun again is part of why these episodes are so successful. This is a charming group of actors and characters; by creating a reason for them to stay under the same roof it showcases this.

Greg is not dispatched as quickly as I hoped and I honestly can’t see why he sticks around for as long as he did as it’s pretty apparent that this drama isn’t going to settle down. Maybe he just really wanted to punch Ben. I didn’t expect to see him again, but I did like the surprise Meghan twist and why she’s been mooning over him for all this time. The power of sandbox wedding ceremonies. Also how old is Greg meant to be?

I’m going to join you with praising the supporting characters (even Ruby, yep you read that right) as despite not having the strongest storylines (Elena) or cycling on previous experiences (Julie) they all feel like solid characters and this is down to both performance and the writing. It’s also good to see that both JJ Abrams and Matt Reeves (who I feel bad that I don’t mention as often) have injected some joy back into the show. More of this please.

Before I move onto the second episode and the amazing night out and Ben’s big gesture that worked, what did you think of the whole Sean/Julie smooch? I also have many thoughts on some of the fashion on display, well mostly whatever the hell Felicity was wearing to the club. Plus Javier making her wear his glasses.

Felicity 2.20 Javiers glassesJulie: Oh my GOD, Shithead. We used to play that as well, and I, too, have no idea what the rules were. I loved the game night scene on the show (though the montage with the angsty W.G. Snuffy music made it seem borderline boring). Also, Felicity playing some speed card game with Julie just illustrated to all of us what a dork she is. I’m never sure if it’s good acting on Keri Russell’s part, or if that’s just Keri’s own social awkwardness shining through.

The Sean and Julie kiss. I’m glad it finally happened. That whole thing needed to be resolved, and even though it really hasn’t been (Julie gave him a “maybe”), I’m pretty sure that “maybe” was a brushoff and Sean will be forced to move on.

In other Julie news, what kind of behind-the-scenes thing has been going on between her and Noel? It’s so weird. They went to the dance, obviously the writers were “trying them on,” and then she talks about how they’ve been spending a lot of time together and she’s pretty sure he’s over Ruby. I’m guessing this was all either A) in Julie’s head or B) a direction the writers thought they were going to go until they decided to let Ruby and Noel sleep together again WTF.

I’m not sure what happens after this, but it looks like Julie could have her heart broken again. Unless the whole Julie/Noel thing is dropped without comment, which seems likely. I mean, really, like we said last time, Noel and Julie can’t happen because it makes the group too incestuous to be believed.

The Meghan/Greg thing seemed a little far-fetched, but it gave us a nice Meghan character moment, so I’ll allow it. More Meghan, please!

Let’s talk about the fashion now. What in all holy hell was Felicity wearing. Was that a rose corduroy Texas tuxedo?

Felicity 2.21 drunk shoppingEmma: The choice of music in that scene was so bizarre and not the time to go angst. Speaking of music – I love Meghan’s Sarah McLachlan theory and how as Felicity’s roommate she has the inside knowledge. This a) sounds like something Felicity would do b) sounds like something Meghan would make up and c) is the best acknowledgment of a TV show soundtrack choice.

We got way more Meghan than we have previously done and I like how she didn’t feel out of place in this band of relationship fuck ups. I also think, despite how much she would protest the fact that she does indeed like this social circle and hanging out with these guys. At least more than the unseen Swane (who is a giant son of a bitch).

The jaw on the floor reaction to Sean kissing Julie was perfect, Ben just put his head in his hands and Noel pulled an “eek” face. I think you’re right about how Julie feels and I think she would know if she had romantic feelings. The “maybe” does come across as a cop out on Julie’s behalf, but I also understand why she doesn’t want to let him down. All round awkward.

Julie and Noel comes across as a writers’ room suggestion that they have instantly recanted, though there are crushes that are fleeting rather than Felicity style epics. Maybe this is one of those where you realize after a few days that nope this shouldn’t be a thing. Or you could be right and she’s headed for heartbreak again.

I read the Noel/Ruby stuff slightly differently in that I thought they only slept in the same bed and spooned. This I got from Noel’s head shake when Sean intimated shenanigans – also I know it’s your house Sean, but I’m not sure you know Noel well enough to ask if he just slept with his pregnant ex – I might be interpreting this wrong though. Whatever happened, this is also a very complicated situation especially now that the baby daddy is on the scene (sadly not Tom Cruise).

Moving on to fashion and the only excuse for Felicity’s outfit is that she either borrowed something from Julie (she has a terrible track record) or she packed in a hurry. I can’t believe that even in 2000 this would be considered a good choice. I love that Felicity approached Meghan in her usual “if you don’t ask” style and Meghan relented. And I love a good getting ready montage. Plus it’s worth saying again that Amanda Foreman has an incredible face, something they always highlight when they do a close up on her putting on makeup.

The goth punk club was pure TV nightclub cliche and I half expected Sydney Bristow to pop up in the background on a mission as these were a frequent location on Alias. TV can’t quite get nightclubs right and it’s hard to recreate the sweaty, drunk atmosphere and this was a valiant attempt I guess. Niggles aside, girls night out was super fun with the funny color cocktails and podium dancing – this felt like another where does Felicity end and Keri begin moment – they need to do more of these kinds of moments. Plus Marshall from Alias and Meghan’s future TV husband! I got a very big kick out of that.

One accurate drunk night out observation is the desire for snacks and I’m happy Felicity chose this ritual over leaving with Ben. So often they do these ‘can’t talk about guys’ nights out on shows only for at least one lady to leave with her love interest. Not Felicity! Even if she does end up drunk dialing Ben (on a pay phone!) and leaving a regretful voicemail.

What did you thinking about their night out?

felicity 2.21 getting readyJulie: I kind of like the Noel and Julie thing just for the fact that it shows the peripheral characters have lives going on outside of what Felicity (and we) can see. We know every minute detail of who’s dating who, who’s getting engaged, who’s a virgin, it’s neat (in an Abed delivering that baby kind of way) to think that the characters have lives going on outside the TV screen.

Though, I’m sure that’s not what the writers had in mind when they shoehorned this into the story. Or maybe they did. If so, kudos.

With Noel and Ruby, I thought Noel was shaking his head in a “Don’t ask” way, which I took to mean he regretted whatever happened between him and Ruby (again, we might never know the answer, which is frustrating, but also realistic). I’m thinking this is just a bit of a rebound (the two of them never got to say a real goodbye to their romantic relationship), and it won’t last. Especially because Wade (who is kind of a low-rent Noel-looking guy) is back in the picture, whatever that means.

Nightclub time. I think every TV show ever goes to the exact same nightclub. I do have to say that I googled “Bonsai Demon,” and it doesn’t exist. It’s probably gross anyway, since I’m sure it contains Midori.

Meghan looked absolutely stunning in these episodes. It all makes me shake my fist at the fact that Amanda Foreman doesn’t have a more successful acting career. She’s gorgeous and she’s talented. Matthew Weiner, call her for the final season of Mad Men.

The bathroom getting-ready stuff transported me right back to college. I loved those days of getting ready in the same bathroom, borrowing stuff from your roommates, giving one another makeup advice.

I so loved the going out stuff. I loved the girl time of it. My friends and I used to travel to this all-boys school once in a while (where only unspeakable things happened), and I remember us making a pact to look out for each other, that if one of us was about to make a bad decision, we were supposed to go up to the girl and tell her, “No, bitch. No.” I don’t remember if that ever worked.

I hope this is going to usher in an era of the girls hanging out more.

Also, Kevin Weisman as Earl. Earl! Whose name is Earl?

I wish they had done a Meghan spinoff after Felicity ended. What is her life?

Felicity 2.21 Felicity and MeghanEmma: “All of Felicity’s hair went away and so did Sarah.”

Just one of the many amazing Meghan quotes I could use and if Matt Weiner continues to cast from teen shows of the’90s then yep Amanda Foreman should be included. That or we can add her to our #SpeedmanOnScandal campaign. The thing with Meghan is that she could easily come across as cartoony and yet they manage to avoid that, part of this is definitely Foreman’s performance.

Ah yes, I can see why you interpreted the Noel head shake differently. Basically, Sean is a bit too forward in asking. I don’t think Ruby is long for this show in part because of Wade and also because they need to get the triangle back in shape. Ok, they don’t need to do this but I’m guessing the Team Noel fans were pretty antsy at this point with the developments.

Speaking of which after much yelling at the screen (from me) Ben and Felicity finally smooched after multiple bumps in the road. Ben of course heard Felicity’s post Aretha theory drunk voicemail and it looked like it was dunzo for good. First I love how this conversation with Meghan captures the grand life affirming declarations you make when you’re drunk and how Meghan and Felicity have reached BFF status in this moment. I’m sure the snark will return, but they will always have this night.

When Felicity took off to find Ben I might have written GO TO THE BASKETBALL COURT (yes in all caps) and I was wrong! Ben instead looked inward as to when Felicity stopped trusting him and realized it was the night he stood her up in Bryant Park. In cute grand gesture moments he found the Charlie Chaplin movie they were meant to see the night and the episode ends with them watching The Gold Rush on the side of a building. It’s adorable and super romantic. After a quick a Google search in 2014 you can watch it on YouTube, so Ben wouldn’t have it so hard I finding a copy now. I like the year 2000 version of this story more.

Where do they go from here? I would be more than thrilled if the last two episodes is relatively angst free for Ben and Felicity, save the drama for season 3. What do you want to see now they are together?

Felicity 2.21 drunk felicityJulie: Obviously you know that Noel comes back into play for Felicity, and I wonder now if that’s not some kind of writer fatigue (or just not knowing where to go with things). They’ve now put Felicity and Ben back together, Noel and Felicity are doing well as “just friends,” and all seems peachy keen. But you know it can’t stay that way. They could bring in a new guy, but you know they won’t. It has to be Noel and Felicity or Felicity and Ben. That’s as far as this show can see.

(Also, they’ve had a very poor track record for bringing in new guys for her thus far.)

I’m trying to watch this show as much for the friendships as for the love interests, kind of like I did with MSCL. They seem to be finally getting there with the girls, and I think Meghan is the reason. She is the exact kind of person Felicity needs in college. Felicity and Elena are too similar (at least school-wise). Julie’s too much of a bore, and for all her love life drama, seems pretty tame. Meghan is the one to bring Felicity out of her shell and into adulthood.

For the next few episodes, I hope they echo these two. I hope we get to spend more time with the friends having fun and being college students. I want the writers to try pairing up new people. That’s when the magic starts.

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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4 Responses to “TV Rewind: Felicity, “Ben Was Here” and “The Aretha Theory””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Out of the Box: Look of the Week | TV Ate My Wardrobe - September 5, 2014

    […] coupled with a more playful side of Russell that you might expect from the actress who once played Felicity. The bold red lip color (Urban Decay 24/7 lip liner “69” is the product in question, […]

  2. Happy Galentine’s Day! 5 Dream TV Lady Friendship Celebrations | TV Ate My Wardrobe - February 13, 2015

    […] with the ladies on Felicity. Plus a side order of post club snacks and making sure Felicity never wears this outfit ever again to round off the […]

  3. TV Rewind: Felicity, “Felicity Interrupted” & “Back to the Future” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - June 18, 2015

    […] one of my favorites and I’m sure you know which one I’m going to say – yep the double red denim. The dream! Speaking of red and the super sexy dress she wore at the start of season 2 is a […]

  4. TV Rewind: Gilmore Girls, Season 1, Episodes 12-15 | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 17, 2016

    […] that dress is far better than your red pants/red jacket combo – also made me think of that Felicity outfit horror) and then making a big old fuss about making dinner ended with a bit of a whimper […]

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