By Julie Hammerle and Emma Fraser
Season 1, Episode 16 & 17: “Assassins” & “Happy Birthday”
Original airdates: Apr. 20 & Apr. 27, 1999
Emma: It’s messy old situation for Felicity and Noel after he left with Hannah and she ended up hooking up with Eli in the art room. And as the end of the episode suggested Felicity had sex with Eli.
My notes are full of AWKWARD, noooooooo and arrrrrghs. Especially as Noel spends the first part of the episode begging for forgiveness with Felicity practically running out of every room to avoid having to talk to him. He takes this as a sign that she’s still mad about the night before and he thinks a mix tape will help (oh Noel). The flowers are the point that breaks Felicity, but uh oh they’re actually from Eli (who I’ve decided is a Manic Pixie Dream Boy – he’s just too much of an ideal, plus the artist thang) and the whole thing is revealed. Noel is now the one who leaves the room.
I’m actually impressed with how the episode gives both Felicity and Noel the chance to vent again the other, with Noel not going full Ross. They’ve both done things they want to take back and it’s why it hurts so much.
I’ve got to start work but I thought I’d start things off. What did you think about how they handled this relationship mess?
Julie: Eli is so Manic Pixie Dream Boy. He’s super ideal. He’s tender. He sends flowers. He totally gets that Felicity and her boyfriend have hit a rough patch. There’s no drama with Eli. He’s just cool with whatever. On the one hand that feels really unrealistic. On the other hand, I kind of don’t care, because we no longer need Eli in the picture. If there had been more Eli drama, it would’ve been too much. And there was already so much to deal with in this episode.
Friends also went through my head while watching this episode. The two episodes are really kind of similar, except with the roles reversed. Felicity is the Ross and Noel is the Rachel. Only, on Felicity, Noel isn’t totally innocent, like Rachel was. He went to Hannah’s with the intention of seeing if there was a spark to reignite. There was kissing. There was boob touching. Noel, however, feels that he gets to take the higher road because, hey, at least he didn’t sleep with Hannah.They just kissed. Which then spins me off into another Friends moment: Joey saying, “That’s worse!…I don’t know, but it’s the same.”
Anyway. Enough Friends.
I love the messiness of this episode, the chaos.There’s hurt. There’s confusion. Noel gets drunk and tries to “pull an Eli” with Felicity. It’s sad and awful, but life goes on. This show is not going to just sit back and let them wallow for a while in plaid shirts and sweaters. While Noel and Felicity’s relationship is crumbling, they’re in the middle of this Assassin’s game, where someone could be lurking around every corner waiting to shoot them.
(And who won that Assassin’s game, by the way? Did Elena? Because she definitely ended up with her own name once she shot Meghan, right? That would make her invincible.)
What say you about the end of Felicinoel?
Emma: Yes! That Friends Joey quote is perfect because sometimes kissing can be just as intimate (like Joey I’m having a hard time formulating exactly why but it is). Noel has BIG history with Hannah and in the previous episode he couldn’t even say if he loved her or not. That uncertainty coupled with what happens doesn’t give Noel a get out of relationship jail free card and I wonder how he would have taken Felicity’s Eli dalliance if they had already slept together. I suspect he wouldn’t have been cracking out the champagne, but it wouldn’t have hit him so hard in the ol’ male pride. All he’s thinking now is why did she chose to sleep with this relative stranger as this big rite of passage rather than the guy she has been dating and known for a longer.
With Noel as he mentions it’s a lot to do with the Ben of it all and because Noel has access to all of this Ben stuff, it gives him an unfair upper hand when Felicity fucks up. He can be all ‘I waited for you when you were mooning over Ben so why couldn’t you give me the same?’ Well Noel one of these was a crush and the other was the former love, maybe still love of your life. There’s a big difference. And yeah it’s so messy as they both have cruel things they can say to the other and they both know they fucked up. I like that it’s not a simple case of he’s wrong, she’s right or vice versa. With Elena and Blair, Blair was always the bad guy and this time that simplicity doesn’t exist. It’s rare that a show does this, especially one involving teens/early twenties.
Even though we’re probably not meant to pick sides, I’m with Felicity all the way in this one because of how Noel acted in the previous episode. He totally has a right to be angry/upset (but hey easy on the magic eight ball), but in my mind what she did wasn’t wrong. Maybe misguided because she’s clearly upset and yet I like the idea that for once she didn’t analyse every little thing first, she just went on impulse. Felicity is the character who we are watching change and part of this is messing up, Keri Russell is devastating in the many pained facial expressions she gives throughout. Though my highlight might be her rage face when she shouts Richard, boy does he deserve it.
So the game of Assassin and while it’s meant to be nothing but good fun, Wikipedia informs me that not all colleges feel this way (for very obvious reasons). So they’re fuzzy on why they’re playing the game – so everyone can get to know each other, which seems kinda silly – and also on the winner. I figure it was Elena after Noel and Felicity refused to shoot each other (which yes awkward), yay Elena! And how badass does she look in the above screenshot?! The amount of mohair sweaters in this episode made me very happy.
Before we move on from the Noel and Felicity drama, what did you think of Eli’s “she’s just a girl” comment when Noel took his ill advised trip to the art studio?
Julie: Also, with Noel and Ben, Noel was with Hannah the whole time he was waiting for Felicity to figure out her feelings for Ben. Noel was not sitting there waiting around, he was keeping one girlfriend on the string while waiting for the other one to make up her mind. Maybe Noel needs to be single for a hot minute.
I am also squarely in Felicity’s camp. Noel pushed her toward Eli. He made her feel bad for being a naive virgin. He left to go off with his girlfriend without saying goodbye to Felicity. He knew he was in the wrong. Not that Felicity isn’t somewhat in the wrong, but for all she knew, Noel was doing the horizontal art room mamba with Hannah at the very same time. And, like you said, it was the first time Felicity had ever done anything without thinking, so good on you there, girl.
As far as the “she’s just a girl” comment goes, I don’t think it was as sinister as Noel makes it out to be. What was Eli supposed to say to this stranger asking about his painting? “Why yes, sir. That’s the lovely young woman I slept with a few nights ago. She’s in a rough place in her relationship, so it was probably a one-time thing, but I was respectful and sent her flowers.”
Also in this episode was some Ben and Julie stuff. He’s hanging out a lot with Lynn. She’s skulking around his apartment with Sean. The whole time I was thinking, “Julie, get your own life.” She’s becoming That Girlfriend, just waiting all night for her guy to show up. I don’t know what she’s even doing outside of her relationship with Ben. She needs to start sleeping back in the dorm is what she needs to do.
What do you think about Ben and Julie?
Emma: Ah yes Julie and it does feel like she’s becoming That Girlfriend. The problem with Ben and Julie is that while it all seems good on the surface, there doesn’t appear to be much of a spark between them. Ben’s real issue is that he can’t say no to Lynn and considering the gambling plot that starts in “Happy Birthday” I think Ben’s going to end up with more than just rent issues. He wins of course and this means he’s totally fucked for the future.
The Lynn/Ben relationship is a fascinating one because of how much influence Lynn has over Ben, part of it is because of Ben’s social chameleon actions that we’ve discussed in the past. Another aspect is that Lynn is older, he works in bar and goes to all the cool gigs. All while still being able to get up for swim practice. He’s quite laid back, but he’s also really pushy so I can see how he talks people into doing stuff that they might normally say no to. Plus he serves everyone booze so that’s another reason to keep him sweet.
One hilarious scene with Ben and Lynn is when he stops by Dean & DeLuca and Ben is finally wearing his hat, only for Lynn to gently mock him. The reason why I found this so funny is because Lynn is wearing a hat that is beyond awful. Even worse than that Joey Potter hat I hate so much.
Lynn is rather sweet when Julie and her birth mom (!) are having dinner at the bar as he explains how good Julie is when she is performing. This might be a good point to switch over to “Happy Birthday” unless you have anything else you want to add about “Assassins” – have you ever played it? I haven’t sadly.
There’s a lot to talk about with Julie in the second episode and I’m so glad to see her hanging out in her room with Elena and Felicity (more of this please, show). It all heads for awkward city when Noel barges in as they’re playing music too loud and Julie invites him to her party, which is at the dorm so he’ll be there regardless. And then Carol stops by and drops the big birth mother bombshell. Before I get too far ahead of myself what did you think of this revelation?
Julie: Oh, good call on Ben kowtowing to all of Lynn’s whims because of his social chameleonism. I just made up that word, I think. Lynn is an interesting influence in Ben’s life. I don’t think he’s a bad guy at all, but he’s definitely the kind of guy who doesn’t take life or anything seriously. He doesn’t worry about anything, which is fine while everything is going along swimmingly (pun intended).
I do wish they hadn’t brought in a gambling subplot. That’s one of those things that gets done to death and it always seems to end the same way — with the threat of broken fingers and then no one actually gets all that hurt anyway. Just one time I’d like to see the main character wind up with his knee caps bashed in or floating down the river. Not that I want to get rid of Ben or anything, it’s just that this storyline feels drama free to me. We know how it’s all going to go down.
I think we did play Assassins back in high school, at least I have vague memories of that. It was before all the school shootings and whatnot. I’m sure this game wouldn’t go over so well nowadays.
Switching over to “Happy Birthday,” ah, Carol. She’s kind of annoying, right? She’s full of lies. First she tells Julie that she’s not her birth mother. Now she is. And she doesn’t want Julie to have anything to do with her “real” family because of Reasons. And then those Reasons wind up being that Julie is also the daughter of Carol’s husband, with whom she has two “legitimate” children! The plot thickens (and the father was played by Bradley Whitford who, of course, was Jane Kaczmarek’s husband at the time, and who had not yet appeared on TV as Joshua Lyman, so that was a huge get for Felicity).
As annoying as Carol was, though, I thought Julie was just as annoying (apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and all that). Just expecting Carol to cram her into her “real” life was kind of asking a lot. Of course, Carol was the one who brought it upon herself by showing up at the dorm in the first place, but really. I think Julie is finally realizing what she really hoped to gain from this relationship and finds it frustrating that Carol is not willing to give it to her. I’m glad she did get on the phone with the parents who raised her, they seem lovely and she should remember that. They wanted her. They molded her.
Speaking of parents, we got a glimpse at the Rotundis, Meghan’s parents. And it was glorious! Before we move into that territory, what do you have to say about Julie and Carol and Josh Lyman?
Emma: I let out an audible groan as soon as the gambling story popped up and while I hope it’s not going to be a predictable mess for Ben, I’m not holding my breath. Also that guitar is very nice Ben, but don’t spend your winnings all at once. Or claim that your dad suddenly remembered he had a son and sent you some cash, if I was Julie that would have set off alarm bells.
Having only recently watched The West Wing, my Josh Lyman crush is still pretty fresh so that casting was very much appreciated. Nicely done using the Jane Kaczmarek (I had to Google for spelling) connection. So yeah the whole Carol and Julie relationship is all over the place and Carol’s a pretty good actor as I totally bought it when she told Julie originally that she wasn’t her mother. I can also see why she would be back to tell the truth even though it could cause a whole host of problems.
This is another case of neither person being explicitly right or wrong – of course Julie wants to get to know her birth mom and her family (even more so when she learns the identity Of her father) and for Carol she wants a relationship with her daughter, but she doesn’t want to throw a grenade into her family life. It’s pretty much a giant clusterfuck, though it’s better than the scenario I came up with when I was trying to figure out what Carol was hiding. I was worried that Julie was the product of rape and I’m SO glad I was wrong with that one. This version is way more preferable. That phone call is very important and her parents do seem like they’re really great.
Ahhhhhh, the Meghan story is the such alternate story to all the heavy dramaz and every outfit is perfection. We also got the return of Meghan’s box and I love that J.J.’s box obsession on screen starts like this. I love that Felicity took this opportunity to mess with Meghan especially after their jello blow up in the cafeteria in the last episode – oh ever since that AMAZING Kroll Show take on Felicity it’s all I can think of whenever they’re getting food. Felicity not taking shit from people is one of the best character developments on this show and I want to see more of this. Felicity’s not a total bitch and she comes up with a reason to get out of dinner, much to Meghan’s relief, Felicity can see that she’s already going through enough. Oh and Meghan gives her the last clean cup at the party so maybe a slight friendship is blossoming, I’m probably reaching.
The other main story is Noel maybe quitting his RA job and moving lot, but first what did you think of the whole Meghan hilarity?
Julie: Oh, the guitar thing was such a dumb mistake. Don’t buy your new-ish girlfriend such a lavish gift immediately after telling her you’ve been cut off by your father. Though it is such an 18-year-old problem. I’ve got money! Where should I spend it?!?
I, sitting here as the person who’s already seen the show, was never shocked that Carol came back into the picture. Why cast Jane Kaczmarek (who looks just like Julie) if she’s not the mother? However, I never even considered that Julie might be the result of a rape, which would’ve been an interesting twist, considering what happened to Julie earlier this season.
I’m all about Meghan. More Meghan! Actually, more Amanda Foreman in things. I’m surprised that she doesn’t pop up in more stuff. She’s great. I love this mutual respect developing between Felicity and Meghan, who are so totally different, yet seem to work well as roommates. Meghan’s never there, and Felicity really respects Meghan’s stuff. I totally would’ve looked in the box by now. Maybe that’s why my freshman roommate moved out at the end of first semester?
The almost-quitting-the-RA-job thing is just dumb. Like Noel, who has spoken often about his lack of dollars, would give up free room and board just to make things less awkward between him and his short-term girlfriend. I’m sorry, but no. It takes a lot to get the RA job (there are interviews and classes and it’s kind of a big honor and a big deal), and this is such a knee-jerk reaction that I can’t even almost buy it. Stop wasting our time, Noel, with your things that will never happen and start showing us more pictures of you wrapped in a towel.
Emma: Yeah the Noel story is so silly, but I can also are why he would think that leaving was a good idea considering how much they see each other, including the awkward lift ride. At least he also found out how much he means to those that pester him all the time.
Elena’s guy scum reaction isn’t surprising as Felicity is her BFF now and she had a shitty time with Blair so she’s transferring her animosity onto him. I’m glad that Felicity pointed out that it’s nothing like Blair because it really isn’t the same at all. Oh and when Felicity talked to Noel he didn’t take the Ross Geller approach, but he copped to his part in it all. I’m so proud of you Noel. Plus yeah whip out that towel.
Elena also calls Felicity the ‘queen of sweaters’ which is a nickname I wouldn’t mind having. Plus she really is.
I don’t think I have much more to add, except I’m pretty excited about the return of The Americans even if I get Keri Russell character whiplash.