By Julie Hammerle and Emma Fraser
Season 1, Episodes 2 and 3: “The Last Stand” and “Hot Objects”
Original airdates: Oct. 6 & 13, 1998
Julie: Dear Emma,
(Imagine me typing that in my best “Dear Sally” voice.)
I think I’m starting to have President Fitzgerald Grant feelings about Ben.
I know the writers want us to like Ben. They want us to feel for him and his difficult home life. I think they want us to think that Ben is a nice guy who is just trying to be friends with this weird girl who followed him to college and stares to much.
But, no. I’m not buying it.
Ben is totally jerking Felicity around. If this were real life, I think Ben would’ve bailed on any semblance of friendship by this point. Felicity followed him to college. She read his essay. She sent him her essay. She invited him to a party in her dorm. She very obviously still has feelings for him. And he pretty obviously (and rationally) does not have feelings for her.
Yet he keeps hanging around.
The kind thing to do would be to just cut Felicity out of his life. So why does he keep sticking with her? 1) Is it to see Julie? It sounds like (according to Meghan, anyway) that he does just fine seeing Julie on the sly. 2) Is it to feed his ego? Possibly. He is an eighteen-year-old male human with mommy issues. 3) Is it because he’s actually really drawn to Felicity? I don’t know why, because she is kind of psycho when it comes to Ben. So I think all of this is just a combination of him trying to please everyone, while in effect wounding the slightly crazy girl who loves him.
Just go away, Ben. Just take some time and go away. Let Felicity be Felicity.
So, that’s my Ben screed about these two episodes. Do you have anything to add on the Ben front?
Emma: I agree with you that Ben would probably be avoiding Felicity by now as everything she has done up to this point borders on stalker – no matter how she dresses it up, she came to New York because of Ben. The only reason I can think that Ben hasn’t run a million miles away from her is that he is enjoying the attention of this cute introvert girl who made this huge life decision because of something he wrote in her yearbook. This is a powerful position he has been put in and by remaining in her sphere he continues to get an ego boost. It definitely feels like he is toying with her emotions.
Focusing on the second episode and the whole tape incident – which is up there with the Swingers voicemail scene for most cringe-worthy moment – it makes no sense for him to ask to sleep in her room after hearing that. I don’t think we hear her mention Ben’s name on the portion of tape that played to the room but it’s pretty obvious to all involved that Ben is who she is talking about, he can’t be that oblivious. Leaving his keys behind at drama class just seems like a terrible excuse and if he wants to get even more stalker vibes from Felicity he might get them when he wakes up to find her watching him sleeping.
Ben is adorable and charming – he has the perfect combination of an amazing smile and squinty eyes (see James Franco) but once you get beyond that things start to fall apart. Take his performance in his drama class (and I would be so afraid if Richie Aprile from The Sopranos was my teacher) which reveals more about Ben’s home life and it’s hard to believe anything he says thanks to his personal essay which was all a lie. We have seen him arguing with his mom on graduation day so there’s clearly tension at home and he explains how there’s always tension at home because he doesn’t get on with his father and this makes his mom cry a lot. While I do believe what he says is true, it doesn’t help that he essentially lifted the idea straight from Felicity, he seems incapable of forming an opinion of his own. I think this is meant to make us sympathize with Ben but instead it gave me another reason to pull a frowny face at his intentions and general behavior. We’re only on episode 3 and I’m already conflicted over the Ben of it all. Damn that smile – it’s kind of perfect how Felicity and her mom both swoon in the same way when Ben walks by in “The Last Stand.”
With Julie and Ben I think it’s completely unfortunate for Julie that she is caught up in this romantic drama and I do think she is trying to be a good friend to Felicity. When Felicity accuses her of lying at the party I can totally understand why Julie blows up at her as she is trying to the right thing and she has been caught by circumstance – Felicity after all told Julie that there was nothing going on between Ben and her making Ben fair game for Julie. Meghan twisting the knife pretty much makes her the worst roommate, but at least she is being honest with her.
While we’re on the subject of boys: do you think Noel is being too needy?
Julie: Good lord, Felicity stares a lot. I mean, I know that’s probably because the director told her to, but geez. She stares at Ben. She stares at her professor. She just stares. I love you, Felicity, but get a grip, girl.
I’m kind of mad at everyone on this show right now. Ben is jerking Felicity around (though I will say that I’m glad that he doesn’t seem to want to parlay his success in acting class into a shiny new theatre major). Felicity is being weird. And Noel is definitely way too needy.
This show is tricky. They cast two foxy gentlemen in the lead male roles, so I think we (women) are predisposed to like them, but they each have definite flaws.
Noel needs to tone it down. He’s busting into the girls’ bathroom to talk to Felicity (Bathroom scene!) He’s getting her every kind of Estonian chocolate Yuri can find. He’s fawning over her in a spaghetti strapped dress (which she promptly covered with a cardigan). Make yourself less available, Noel. It might make Felicity like you better.
Also, regarding the party in the dorm. What the what? What dorm has a party like that? Were they actually drinking? In the hallway? With their RA in attendance? I’m going to assume that what they were actually drinking was some Estonian soda and not alcohol. That would’ve been too much of a stretch, even for fictional college.
Also, also, mix tapes. Remember mix tapes? They were the best.
Emma: Felicity stares as much as Jordan Catalano leans.
I think because it’s the early days in the life of the show everyone is at their most extreme, but I really hope they dial it back with Noel’s neediness. No matter how much I appreciate a good bathroom scene, it’s not a good way to get a girl to like you by going all in like this. Noel attempts to play it cool with Felicity but fails miserably and he’s just into her a little bit too much right now. Noel does provide a lot of the humor in both of these episodes with his interactions with everyone else who lives in this dorm from John Cho’s (very legitimate sounding) fear that his roommate is going to murder him to the guy who REALLY wants a live band at the party.
One thing that combines needy Noel with hilarious Noel is when he inadvertently calls Felicity’s parents overbearing when they are standing in the room. This is an obvious but effective moment of awkward and only adds to the list of reasons why they will want her to come home. Noel is the one who instigated this meet-and-greet and it’s WAY too early to be wanting to meet the parents Noel as you should probably be dating before this happens. Oh, and the fire alarm that goes off would be more realistic if it was at 3 am; we constantly had fire alarms going off in our building and we later found out that this one guy thought it was hilarious to set it off in the small hours of the morning because LOL. This is terrible health and safety behavior but because we lived on the third floor we would yell out the window asking people who were outside if there was a fire, the answer was always no so we stayed inside. Oh and one time I slept through it, which was crazy considering how loud it was and that I hadn’t been drinking that night.
Back to Noel, I think my favorite scene with him is when Julie comes to talk about her Ben dilemma in “Hot Objects” as he’s all ‘So everyone is into Ben then” and at least he doesn’t pull a dick move and use this information to score points with Felicity. That and the scene with the Estonians as they tell him he needs a beeper as a) this is so unbelievably 90s and b) I’m picturing Dennis Duffy as their beeper supplier.
To the party and I was going to ask if this was fairly representative of college life as most of the college parties on TV/film are at frat houses. The pre-first college party ritual seems more accurate and I remember how nervous I was before I went to my first college house party. I love what Felicity is wearing as she ditches the huge sweaters for the first time and she mixes sexy with comfy as she sticks on her Cons and a cardigan. Mix tapes were the best but this sure does show the perils of recording all your thoughts and feelings like this. I guess the equivalent now would be accidentally playing a voice memo on your iPhone/iPod if it is on shuffle – I know they did this in the zombie Halloween episode of Community.
As we’re still on the second of our two episodes what did you think of Felicity’s interactions with her super prickly professor? My guess is that he’s going to grow to love her and she’ll be his favorite student, it will just take a while to get there.
Julie: We constantly had middle of the night fire alarms. My freshman year roommate wore a TON of makeup during the day; so whenever we’d have to go downstairs at 3 AM, she looked like an extra from The Walking Dead.
As far as Noel goes, I wish he had some edge to him, some tiny bit of danger. Ben, at this point, is all danger and downside. Noel is just a wet blanket. But he is funny, so there’s that. I think his line to John Cho’s roommate (“I’ve got to be honest. I wish you were a little more convincing”) was my favorite of the two episodes. And I love all the stuff with him and the Estonians. And with Julie. Basically, I love everything Noel does when he’s not with Felicity.
And I really, really love the idea of Dennis Duffy acting as the Estonians’ beeper guy.
I guess we did have a yearly residence hall party, now that I think of it. There was no alcohol (sanctioned, anyway), but there was karaoke. My friend Ann and I sang an “Endless Love” duet. Because that’s how we rolled in ’99.
The teacher thing was so painful. I want to identify with Felicity, but sometimes it’s so difficult. She’s such a goober. I guess it makes sense that she’d want to get on her college professor’s good side. Her best friend in the whole world is her former French tutor.
I also want to point out that Tom from Cougar Town was in these episodes as well. I love seeing “famous” actors pop up in these shows.
Emma: Spotting more “famous” actors is also a favorite game of mine and John Cho and Richie Aprile aside I enjoyed seeing Ivana Milicevic (who I used to get mixed up with Lake Bell).
This third episode had many levels of cringe from the party to Noel’s general Felicity worshipping and yeah the stuff with her Professor is brutal because he really doesn’t give a shit about the same things Felicity does. It feels more brutal because of the high esteem she already holds him in and when she explains the reason why to Ben she is a super cute nerd. The moment in the convenience store (after Felicity has stood in front of a wall of Ben and Jerry’s) was the least awkward of all their encounters but considering what Felicity has just been through it would have been hard to top the embarrassing factor.
So while we’ve discussed Ben and Noel across both episodes, I want to discuss Felicity and her parents in “The Last Stand.” We got a glimpse of how Felicity’s huge decision has impacted her relationship with her parents and this was a follow-up from that as they spend the episode trying to convince Felicity to come home.
Considering J.J. Abrams and the daddy issue plots that flow through his work it’s not surprising to see this at play here. It’s actually Felicity’s interactions with her mom that I found the most interesting and it’s also what led to my first Felicity related misty eyes. Her mother explaining why she was so prickly to her daughter over this choice and the discussion about their Tuesday dinner ritual just broke me. It’s that whole generational divide that I can see with my mum (though she didn’t have me or my sister that young) and I thought it was really well handled. Early in the episode I wrote in my notes that Felicity’s parents are the worst and by the end this opinion had been reversed. Yay character development!
What did you think of this parental plot?
Julie: I definitely watched that episode thinking, “Forever Young Adult thinks Patty Chase is the worst? How about those Porters?” I actually found myself tuning out a bit during the parent stuff. I just wanted them to be gone already. While I feel for Felicity’s mom, her dad is still kind of a jerk. These two are helicopter parents who need to figure out who they are outside of their daughter.
They need to let Felicity be Felicity. That’s the second time I typed that in this conversation. I guess I really mean it.
But now they’ve gone back to Palo Alto and we can start getting to the good stuff, like playing Boggle in the next episode.
Do you have anything to add?
Emma: The only other thing I wanted to mention is how this show is perfectly depicting the dumb shit that you talk about a college like it’s the most meaningful profound thing that has ever been said. Not that this doesn’t happen before or after college but there’s just more of it in this setting like Felicity talking about how we’re all snowflakes or Astrid discussing where Q should come in the alphabet. It’s little moments like this that make me roll my eyes and then remember that I had equally ridiculous discussions.
Oh, and Patty Chase 4EVA!