Season 1, Episode 12 & 13: “Todd Mulcahy, Parts 1 & 2”
Original airdates: Feb. 9 & Feb. 16, 1999
Emma: You were concerned that you had over hyped this two parter and there’s no need to worry because I thought it was wonderful and it addressed one aspect if the story that I figured they had dropped. In the pilot it’s revealed that not only is Felicity gifted academically, she’s also a budding artist and going to NYU means she can maybe pursue both interests. Todd Mulchay is a friend from summer camp who she almost kissed and he’s the one friend from her past (other than Sally) that we now know about. See it turns out the Todd gets her and he thinks she might get him too, all he wants is one kiss to see if there is a spark there – is he a Disney movie in disguise?
Simple right? Well first of all Felicity has a boyfriend and that boyfriend is understandably not a fan of Todd’s quest. Like Noel, at first I thought that Todd came across as desperate and skeezy and he didn’t even have to fix my PhotoShop to change my mind as there is something very likeable about this character even if the kiss idea is ridiculous and he comes on way too strong. I also love that so many of Noel’s problems (aside from Richard, more on him later) stem from his iMac.
I’m going to skip to the end of part 1, not because I don’t want to talk about the rest of this episode (I do) but the end is what spurs on Felicity’s crisis of confidence and one that makes me think of the fig tree passage in The Bell Jar – you’ll have to excuse me for being the cliche that I am as this is my favorite book. The figs on the tree represent all the options at hand, there’s a fig for a husband and children, another for a career as a poet, one for being a professor and so on. By choosing one fig she’s rejecting all the others and essentially this is a pre-“Can I have it all?” passage, just think of all the think pieces this would have generated if the ’60s was like now. Felicity is facing a fig tree of sorts and it’s Todd’s accident that has her questioning the medical degree fig, while exploring the art fig.
Moving on from figs and Todd’s accident is the most J.J. thing this show has done so far. The scene would have been a whole lot more shocking if I didn’t see it coming a mile off, this isn’t the shows fault it’s just since this first aired there has been many getting hit by bus moments – off the top of my head Final Destination, Mean Girls and yes J.J.’s very own Lost (though he might have moved on by then) spring to mind. I mean he still gets hit and it raised a woah reaction from me, mostly because I thought he would be dead for sure.
Before I write an essay on the subject I will hand it over to you and ask did these episodes hold up for you?
Julie: My favorite shocking “person gets hit by vehicle” moment is and will always be Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black. It’s crazy and awesome. And that movie gets too much shit.
I was definitely worried that I had overhyped “Todd Mulcahy, Parts 1 & 2,” but while rewatching I just think both episodes are done so well and hit so many of the right Felicity-flavored notes. They’re funny and cute and poignant and thoughtful. It’s probably no coincidence that these episodes were both written and directed by J.J. Abrams. They feel like a J.J. Abrams joint. The episodes are well-paced and have a terrific arc.
I love your comparison to The Bell Jar. The whole time I was almost shouting at the screen, “Be both, Felicity! Choose both!” And then she does, and it’s great, because she’s a freshman in college and she should be exploring her options. I knew so many people back in school who tried several different things before settling on a major (or choosing an area of study in grad school). I know a violinist who became a lawyer. And my husband was a theater major who became a…lawyer. Maybe everyone just becomes lawyers.
It’s interesting that both Todd and Felicity were going through quarter-life crises. Well, Felicity was going through one and she didn’t even know it yet. Todd had to point it out. His crisis involved his romantic life and whether or not the girl he was planning to marry is really the right woman for him. He never actually spells that out (especially because we don’t even know she exists until nearly the end of the second episode), but it’s implied. I worry for Todd and his fiancee. I get the picture he’s not truly ready to settle down, even if she is (she seems fully on-board). I hope he either realizes that she’s enough for him or decides to let her go before they get married, otherwise I expect to see Todd Mulcahy the divorcee in the eventual Felicity reunion show.
Felicity’s crisis is more about herself and how she’s been doing her father’s bidding for her entire life. She’s trying to figure out who and what she wants to be. And the hard to watch part in all of this was that Noel took it personally when she spent the night drawing and painting in the art room. It’s not always about you, Noel! Thankfully, he figured that out and offered to show Felicity how to use Photoshop on his new iMac, now that Todd Mulcahy has gotten it all working.
By the way, I loved how everyone in the episode developed a quick and intense attachment to Todd. He makes great chicken. He used to party with Ben. He pierces noses and fixes computers. The guy is just the best. Viva, Todd Mulcahy!
I thought all of the peripheral characters were really on their game in these episodes, particularly Javier, Richard, Meghan, and Sean. That’s what J.J. Abrams dialogue will do for you. What did you think of the comic relief?
Emma: There’s a tendency to panic over what we’re going to be in our grown up lives and people react to this panic in a variety of ways – there are those like Elena who have it all figured out and have their plan that they want to stick to which is why it’s so important for her to get a place in this seminar group. For Felicity she starts to hesitate and as you said choosing both is an option, my only fear for her is that she’s already balancing so much. If anyone can handle two jobs and two academic passions it’s Felicity. Oh and spending time with her friends/Noel. Yep that’s a lot.
One aspect of Alias that always stood out (other than the disguises of course) is how detailed the world of the show was – so all the supporting characters felt like fully realized people, not just props in Sydney’s world to act as an obstacle or a support system. The same is true of Felicity and as you mentioned J.J. Abrams is really great at comic dialogue. The Javier/Ben interactions are hilarious (I have a feeling Ben’s never going to wear that hat) and his reaction to Javier’s ‘Do I look fat?’ question is priceless as he looks so conflicted. And yes Javier he does look good in short shorts. Meghan is as blunt as ever and she takes so much joy in Noel’s discomfort and of course her nose gets infected which is all kinds of funny. And we learn that you should never lend Meghan boots.
Richard takes his Noel blackmail up a notch and sets up a satellite in his room so he can smoke cigars with his buddies and watch boxing. He also starts a hand modelling agency because why not. Now I’m still fuzzy on whether Noel and Felicity are allowed to fraternize or if it’s just frowned upon, regardless Richard is pushing Noel as far as he can and an exasperated Noel is pretty funny, moat versions of him are. The fake breakup at the end is really adorable as is the smooch even if it negates the fake break up. I don’t know how I’m going to take it when there’s actual dramaz between this pair. I mean there was a minor disagreement in these episodes as Noel worries about Felicity spiraling and not sharing, with her pushing back that she doesn’t always have to spill her soul to him. It feels like this could be a point of contention in the future.
This is the most I’ve liked Sean so far and it made me laugh so much that he was stocking up his disposable camera machine in the maternity ward – until camera phones I can actually seeing this being a lucrative business. His cereal idea, not so much. I don’t know if it’s because he’s lonely (oh hey the other two roommates have moved out) but he didn’t have to help Ben out with the rent money dealt, but he does and so he gets bonus points for that. Ben’s dad continues to rank high on the scale of J.J. Abrams bad dad collective of which there are many throughout his many shows. Why cut him off if your so happy he’s not at home Mr. Covington? It does lead to Ben getting the job and this in turn leads to my favorite scene – Ben and Noel bonding over a mocha.
Before I get into that I was wondering what you think about Noel and Felicity, are the early cracks starting to show? And are Ben and Noel going to be new coffee besties?
Julie: I think fully-realized peripheral characters are a great mainstay of all of J.J.’s work. He’s great at figuring out exactly what we need/want to know about each character and illustrating through snippets of dialogue just how rich their lives are off screen (i.e. Meghan with Bridget and the boots). He gives us just enough to leave us wanting more. And in the process he creates this rich universe of characters that he can draw upon in the future if need be. Parks & Rec is also great at this.
I’m still kind of fuzzy on the RA fraternization stuff as well. I’m guessing it’s outlawed, since Noel seems so terrified at the prospect of being found out, but it does make for good comic relief to see how much Richard is allowed to get away with. He’s a treasure, and I’m glad the show has let him develop as a character. I’d like to see more John Cho, too, but I don’t remember if that happens or not.
The Ben being cut off thing is kind of ridiculous and manufactured, but since it brought us all those scenes with Ben and Javier, I’ll allow it. (And, yes, Ben making a mocha for Noel was fantastic. I love those two bromancing together. Women be crazy!)
I think this episode was meant to show us that Noel and Felicity don’t have the perfect relationship, that it won’t all be smooth sailing. He’s kind of needy, isn’t he? He was very concerned when Ben took the job at Dean & Deluca. And then he’s worried about her mindset when she starts pursing art again. The basket case Felicity he met in the beginning of the year is branching out, and I think that scares Noel. For her part, Felicity came to this school a naive girl who had had very few life experiences. I think she’s just getting started in exploring what the world has to offer her. Though Noel is showing his support through letting her use his computer, she may wind up needing to branch out.
Emma: I think you’re right about Noel and I really hope he doesn’t turn into Ross from Season 3 of Friends as no wants to watch the crazy jealous guy. This is what I was half expecting with Noel and Todd so I’m glad he fell under Todd’s spell too. With Ben it’s a lot more complicated and I think there’s always going to be an inferiority complex here; Ben is the reason Felicity came to New York after all.
Speaking of which I really loved the scene where Felicity went to see Ben about her stalkerish actions with her choice of college. It’s a lighthearted scene and one where you can see that Ben genuinely cares for the crazy girl who followed him to college, he’s really been pretty chill about the whole thing and I’m glad they can joke about it even if Felicity is clearly mortified by her actions. I’ve had similar conversations with guy friends who I crushed on and am still friends with them. It’s never not awkward, but it’s also good to laugh at these moments.
Noel wants to know what Felicity was like in high school and this is when the Ben mocha magic happens, but Ben didn’t really know Felicity in high school – did anyone? – and so it doesn’t help Noel out all that much and yet it still gives us a fantastic scene in the process.
Meanwhile Ben has his own relationship issues to figure out as he plays supportive boyfriend even though Julie working with the woman she thinks is her mother is crazy pants. I get why he doesn’t discourage Julie from doing what she’s doing but at the same time this deception is huge. It turns out that Carol isn’t her mother and this crushes Julie because shed really become attached to the idea. I have no idea how something like this would feel (no matter how many times my sister joked that I was adopted when I was a kid) and it’s one big can of worms. So the guy Julie hired either lied on purpose which makes him a piece of shit who takes advantage of those who are vulnerable emotionally or he’s just terrible at his job. Either way it’s rough seeing Julie getting knocked down once again.
Someone else gets knocked down in this episode and that’s Blair, before we move onto him what did you think of Felicity’s chat with Ben and Julie’s not birth mom story?
Julie: Oh my goodness the Julie storyline. It’s just so painful to watch. Like you, I give Ben a lot of credit for just being the supportive boyfriend in this situation. I don’t think I would’ve been able to keep my mouth shut. The way she went about this was crazy. How did she ever think it was going to end well? I guess we’ll see where this disappointment takes Julie in the next few episodes, how she deals with it. It’s interesting how disconnected her story is from Felicity’s at this point. It’s actually weird to see them in scenes together discussing life and all that’s going on. I have a hard time believing that they’re really still friends, and still hanging out. Each girl seems too caught up in her own life, and Felicity has been hanging around a lot more with Elena.
Speaking of Elena, she finally kicked Blair to the curb. I don’t think there’s too much more to say about it, but I’m guessing that Blair’s infidelity will make Elena that much harder and more stoic. She seemed pretty happy at the end of the episode, though, having just made it into Prince Humperdink’s seminar (along with Felicity). Everything’s coming up everybody!
What did you think about Elena, Blair, and her return to being the super focused girl we’ve always known?
Emma: I pretty much watched the Julie story through the gaps in my fingers like it was a horror movie or something. It’s sad that she’s drifted from Felicity but as we discussed last time their priorities have changed and they shouldn’t remain BFFs just out of sheer force of will. It’s funny how you become friends at college and who you remain friends with – it’s no grand statement to know that it’s all down to chance with who you’re in a dorm with or end up sitting next to in class. Sometimes these friendships fizzle and it’s for no other reason just than you drift apart. The difference with college is it’s not as dramatic as it was back in high school, it’s not going to be a Sharon/Angela MSCL situation because the ties aren’t as strong.
Blair deserved the hostile reception and public humiliation, while I think it’s story convenience that he cheated I’m glad Elena has rejected his attempts to reconcile. I hope this doesn’t lead to a permanent mistrusting Elena and I do think as you suggest that she’s going to throw herself into her studies. I’m so glad she got on that course because I was really worried that Felicity would and Elena would get a rejection. That would have really been awful.
The discussion about hating hospitals – as Ben so astutely points out “for every obvious reason” – leads back to both Elena and Felicity about their chosen or maybe chosen career. Out of everyone Elena would be the person you might expect to hate hospitals considering how much time she spent in them when her mother was ill but it had the opposite effect and it’s the care her mother received that prompted her desire to get into medicine. Noel also has a hospital story and like all of his stories it’s awkward, not he kissed his mom level of awkward but still enough for Ben to find it hysterical.
Is there anything else that stood out to you?
Julie: I want Felicity’s khaki maxi skirt. I just do. No apologies.
So true about how friendships in college either just work or fizzle out. I don’t remember there being a lot of drama ever with my college friends (a far, far cry from high school), but maybe I just happened to pick the right ones. They remain, whether or not we’ve stayed super close over the years, some of my favorite people on the planet.
And I love the notion of how random it all is. Julie and Felicity became friends simply because they happened to sit next to each other in one of their first classes. I got to know one of my best friends at school because she happened to room with one of the first people I met in college. I don’t know if we would’ve met otherwise. Except we did end up in some Latin classes together, so maybe…Romance languages bring people together.
I really did feel bad for Noel when Ben started laughing about his tree story. Maybe I took it more seriously because my brother-in-law nearly died after my husband pushed him out of a tree (A branch got stuck in his neck, right near his jugular. John told him, “Don’t tell mom”). I just kept picturing that scene while Noel was talking, and it seemed more serious to me. I wouldn’t have laughed, Noel!
Up until now, we’ve seen a very young, very impressionable Felicity. I think we’re about to head into a period of Felicity being more proactive, more self-involved. Changes are afoot!
Julie Hammerle is, according to Klout, an expert in the areas of both Morgan Freeman and glasses. Her writing can be found atchicagonow.com/hammervision and you can holler at her on Twitter as well.
Emma Fraser wanted to be Angela Chase when she grew up, but is sadly not a CIA Agent now. Her writing can be found at TV Ate My Wardrobeand you will find her on both Twitter and Tumblr.