Season 1, Episodes 6 and 7: “Cheating” and “Drawing the Line, Part 1”
Original airdates: Nov. 3 & 10, 1998
Muskan: It is time to talk about how the artist formerly known as Brian Krakow has disappointed us verily.
I’ll momentarily set aside the topic of “Cheating” and dive straight into “Drawing the Line, Part 1,” an episode whose primary theme significantly overshadows the trivial issues Ben and Felicity encountered, particularly her extensive revision of his English paper.
Zach, the Pink Guy, raped Julie.
To begin with, I must acknowledge that the episode displayed a certain level of artistry in its writing.
The central plot revolves around Noel expressing his frustration to his fellow R.A. colleagues about Felicity constantly turning to him for advice regarding her issues with Ben. They advised him (or his fictional advisee friend) to “establish boundaries.”
A significant portion of this Noel-Felicity storyline was portrayed humorously, creating a deceptive impression that this episode would unfold with minimal adversity.
The major dramatic plotline centred on Elena’s necessity to change schools due to her scholarship falling through.
She had been enrolled in a private high school on a scholarship based on financial need, and she was determined not to face judgment in college for her economic background, just as she may or may not have experienced in high school.
This narrative gave rise to some heartwarming interactions between Elena and Blair, as well as between Felicity and, notably, Noel.
Noel confessed to his own upbringing as a financially disadvantaged individual from a large Irish-Catholic family. We’ll likely delve further into this topic later on.
Oh, and speaking of the Elena storyline, it also tied back into the “drawing the line” theme when Felicity, once again unable to resist interfering, went through Elena’s file folder in the admissions office.
Felicity has a penchant for overstepping her authority.
The Julie and Zach narrative appeared to be a charming, budding romance. They embodied the sweet couple just embarking on their journey of love, openly displaying affection in public and sharing moments of intimacy.
Zach even sought Julie’s help in composing music for his student film. Everything seemed to be progressing smoothly, and Zach appeared content to proceed at a pace that aligned with Julie’s preferences.
Until they both got drunk one night, and he decided he no longer wanted to take things slow.
We didn’t witness any of these events firsthand. Instead, we saw them returning home slightly intoxicated, stumbling into Julie’s dorm room while sharing kisses. Subsequently, we observed the aftermath from Felicity’s perspective.
When Felicity paid Julie a visit, she found her in a sour mood, requesting a sweater she had lent Felicity earlier. Felicity noticed Julie’s dishevelled bedsheets discarded in the trash can and inquired about what had occurred.
Julie then confided in her, revealing that Zach had become forceful and that she had firmly declined his advances.
I understand that this is a sensitive topic to discuss. On the one hand, Zach’s behaviour is unacceptable. There’s hardly any room for debate on that front. Julie clearly stated her refusal, and Zach’s aggressive reaction was inappropriate.
Julie understandably felt hurt the following day, and it’s important for Zach to face the consequences of his actions.
However, I’d like to approach this from the perspective of storytelling and television. This development caught us completely off guard, with no foreshadowing or hints (aside from Julie’s desire to take things slow in this particular episode).
We had dedicated four episodes to getting to know and appreciate Zach as a character, and then the writers hit us with this plot twist. As a TV viewer, I can’t help but feel frustrated. I genuinely liked Zach as a character and as a presence on the show.
He was the one male character we had spent substantial time with who wasn’t entangled in the Felicity drama, and it’s disheartening to see his character exit the show in this manner.
On that note, perhaps the very element of surprise in Zach’s coercive actions towards Julie serves a purpose. Just like Julie, none of us saw it coming. She had a sense of security in his presence, and then, suddenly, the situation took a shocking turn.
It’s undeniably a frightening and unsettling development. So, in that aspect, I suppose I have to acknowledge the writers for effectively conveying that sense of shock and fear.
Nonetheless, I still mourn the loss of Zach as a character, and I hope that sentiment is understandable.
Nirajan: Your perspective aligns perfectly with my thoughts, and the suddenness of it all is indeed a shocking experience for both Julie and us as the audience. Up until now, Zach has been portrayed as the kind, somewhat shy individual who may not have had much prior experience with relationships before college.
In this regard, he has starkly contrasted with the two characters involved in the Felicity love triangle.
Noel is genuinely sweet but harbors a secret girlfriend he’s been dating for two years, and Ben tends to engage in casual relationships with numerous girls, except for Felicity.
It seemed like Julie had discovered someone special, and like Julie, we were all lured into this deceptive sense of security.
Julie expressed her desire for a different kind of relationship with Zach, as she typically gravitates towards guys who ultimately prove to be detrimental to her.
In a previous episode, “Spooked,” she mentioned that she wasn’t accustomed to being treated like a genuine person, which initially made her hesitant about Zach, as he seemed like a genuinely decent guy.
However, it becomes painfully clear, both to Felicity and us as viewers, that Zach is not a good person at all. This scene is heart-wrenching as we quickly realize that he has assaulted her.
I understand that this character isn’t the same as Brian Krakow, but at times, it can be challenging to shake off these associations.
However, when a storyline like this unfolds, it becomes much simpler to distinguish between the two.
The writing and acting in this scene are exceptionally well-executed, and it’s painful because it feels incredibly true to life. We’re aware of the alarming statistics that reveal high rates of sexual assault on college campuses (as exemplified by recent news stories), making it crucial for a show like this to address such issues.
While I’m uncertain about the aftermath (I wanted to compose this without prior knowledge of what’s to come), I’m concerned that Julie might blame herself. We’ve observed how she speaks about herself in relation to guys, indicating that she struggles with self-worth in this area.
It’s essential to recognize that Julie is not at fault for what transpired; Zach is solely responsible. She had already halted any intimate moments the previous day and clearly voiced her refusal on this occasion as well.
The way Julie recounts the events of the previous night in a slow and measured manner is heart-wrenching, and it’s evident that she’s in a state of shock.
The detail about Zach rolling over and casually falling asleep afterward, as if nothing happened, is gut-wrenching and adds a raw and powerful layer to the scene.
Ugh, every aspect of this storyline is just awful, but I commend Abrams and Reeves for addressing something so deeply unsettling and genuine in this manner.
It’s the first time I’ve finished an episode of Felicity and felt instantly drained, and it didn’t come off as a contrived “Very Special Episode.”
It felt incredibly authentic. I also believe that not depicting the actual incident will likely result in a situation where it’s her word against his, which will leave me with a really uncomfortable feeling.
Sadly, this is often how these situations unfold. For the record, I am unequivocally on Julie’s side, with no doubts whatsoever.
It’s indeed challenging to transition from the intense topic we just discussed to some of the more trivial aspects of the episode. I’d like to briefly touch on the R.A. hangouts, which provided enjoyable interludes throughout the episode.
It appears that each of them has their own set of issues to contend with. Up to this point, Noel’s primary challenge has been ensuring that John Cho’s roommate doesn’t harm him (where is John Cho?) and resisting falling in love with Felicity (which he failed at).
However, after this episode, he’s going to be confronted with a very serious problem. There’s a roster of familiar faces like Taraji P. Henson and that guy who bears a resemblance to Landry, and they’re all aware of Noel’s crush.
The “friend” he keeps referring to is actually himself – this marks the second episode in a row where Noel discusses a hypothetical friend.
Nonetheless, it’s reassuring to see that he has a support network, especially considering the challenges he faces on a daily basis.
This seems like a suitable point to discuss Noel and Felicity, but instead, I’d like to focus on the scene involving Noel and Elena.
I’ve realized I’ve written quite a mini-essay, so I’ll pass the question to you: what were your thoughts on Noel’s significant speech to Elena? As Noel himself put it, “It’s a speech moment.”
Muskan: I’m aware that we’ll likely have more to discuss regarding Zach after the next episode, so I’ll proceed to another topic.
Additionally, I’d rather not reveal any spoilers. Besides, I’m not entirely certain if I recall the exact sequence of events.
I also want to delve into Noel and Elena. We concluded after watching the Halloween episode that we tend to appreciate Noel more when he’s not entangled with Felicity, and this notion remains valid in “Drawing the Line, Part 1.”
Even though he frequently discusses Felicity in his numerous R.A. meetings (I’m not entirely sure how often R.A.s meet, probably once a week, I think; I’ll need to confirm with John, who used to be an R.A.), Noel’s demeanor during these meetings is both amusing and endearing.
He manages to set aside his somber, puppy-dog-eyed persona at the door. Moreover, when he visits Elena to discuss financial aid, he demonstrates thoughtfulness and sincerity.
This reaffirms his role as the dorm floor counselor, a position that holds significant meaning for him beyond just resolving his residents’ problems; he genuinely needs the income it provides.
I absolutely adored this brief exchange, partly because I’m fascinated by the idea of college as a fresh start, a place where you can reinvent yourself entirely. Elena didn’t want to be defined as the impoverished African-American girl who lived with her father.
She arrived at school with a chic appearance, embodying a new persona. The only indication we had that she might not come from a wealthy background was her aspiration to win one of the free fridges, although even then, I perceived it as more about her desire to achieve victory, typical of Elena.
Noel is somewhat similar in that regard. He’s charming, dresses well, and possesses his own computer (a true luxury for a college student back in 1998, unlike you young folks with your iPads and Macbook Airs).
In our era, we had to vie for the use of the only two functioning computers in the lab, which also had a printer that was often out of ink.
And, mind you, we had to trek a grueling two-mile journey uphill both ways through the snow just to reach that computer lab. You youngsters have it remarkably easy nowadays.
Now, back to Noel. He hails from a large family without much extra money to spare. Noel has resorted to taking out loans and applying for scholarships, a choice that will have him paying for college well into his thirties.
But he’s completely fine with that because he’s determined to earn that degree. Elena, on the other hand, initially resists the idea of accepting financial assistance, not wanting the stigma of depending on a handout to define her.
However, her perspective shifts when she encounters a woman offering a scholarship specifically tailored for a black girl from a single-parent family in the tri-state area pursuing a career in medicine, likely named Elena.
It’s the most tailor-made scholarship imaginable as if it were designed with Elena in mind. Ultimately, she accepts it and finds contentment in her decision.
This ensures that we get to keep Elena as part of the story for some time to come.
We should probably move on to Noel and Felicity next, but what did you think about Elena’s storyline?
Nirajan: The Elena storyline presented a truly compelling take on a subject that could easily have been handled in a heavy-handed manner.
It brings to mind an appearance by Kerry Washington on Real Time with Bill Maher last year, where she discussed affirmative action—a topic I apologize for bringing up, but Washington’s insights were, as expected, outstanding.
She emphasized how not everyone begins on a level playing field and argued that affirmative action should encompass factors beyond race, including socioeconomic status, gender, religion, and more.
I can empathize with why Elena wants to attend NYU based on her own abilities, and I wholeheartedly agree with your point about reinvention; she’s determined not to experience the same hardships she faced in high school.
Elena doesn’t wish to rely on additional assistance based on her gender, race, or financial circumstances, but sometimes that extra support is necessary. Personally, I understand that if my tuition hadn’t been covered, I would have found it incredibly challenging to pursue higher education.
While I’ve managed to pay off my graduate loan, my undergraduate one continues to accumulate interest.
Perception is a curious thing, and it’s natural for us to make quick judgments. Knowing that Elena hails from a single-parent family has led me to speculate that her mother may be deceased.
I’ve drawn this conclusion based on her father’s reluctance to let his kids out on Halloween and Elena’s apparent hesitance to let people get too close to her. Clearly, I’m quite an adept detective.
Noel demonstrates why Felicity keeps seeking his advice by the way he handles Elena’s situation. He doesn’t explicitly tell her to accept the scholarship, but by sharing his own personal circumstances, he conveys that initial impressions can be misleading.
Although Noel is a white preppy boy, even if he isn’t from a wealthy background, he acknowledges that he can’t fully comprehend exactly what Elena is going through. All he can offer is his own perspective.
Perhaps Noel will strike it rich with NoelCrane.com (yes, that website really exists), and I find it amusing that in 1998, the concept of someone having a website was considered quite bewildering.
Not for Noel, though; he seems to have it all figured out. By the way, why does Noel type with his keyboard on his lap? Maybe he had his heart set on a laptop but could only afford a desktop.
Speaking of computers, I didn’t acquire one until my third year of college, so I completely understand the struggle of hunting for an available computer in the computer lab when everyone has essays due.
Getting one in my final year was an absolute game-changer. Pen drives were also becoming more common at that time; I received one with my laptop.
However, my university had just two printers throughout the entire campus that accepted pen drives, so the waiting game continued, albeit in a different form.
Now, let’s talk about Noel and Felicity. Initially, I wondered if that kiss episode had ever occurred, as it’s not explicitly mentioned as an event in either of these episodes.
However, Hannah finally gets a mention when Felicity wakes Noel up in the middle of the night to confront him about his comment regarding Ben.
Noel has informed Felicity that he no longer wishes to listen to her problems related to Ben – and currently, she has quite a few – and I can understand his perspective.
Not because he has romantic feelings for her, but because it seems like she doesn’t discuss ANYTHING else.
Muskan: In Noel’s defense, I primarily use a laptop myself, but when I’m on the desktop, I tend to place the keyboard on my lap. Noel Crane: He’s just like us.
During my freshman year, my roommate (whom I’ve mentioned previously and with whom I had nothing in common) did have her own computer.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much access to it, so I frequently found myself heading to the computer lab in the union building at odd hours or opting for unconventional workspaces like the music building or the basement of the liberal arts building.
I had to get creative with my study spots, which led to some memorable moments.
Ah, pen drives. I acquired my first one during my senior year when I was enrolled in a screenwriting class. Fond memories, indeed. However, I still had to write that screenplay in the midst of a crowded computer lab.
You’re absolutely right; Felicity’s incessant focus on Ben is wearing thin, and Noel is entirely justified in setting boundaries on that topic. Perhaps one of her girlfriends needs to give her a reality check.
This might indeed be the perfect time to shift our focus back to “Cheating” and Felicity’s significant interference.
What on earth was Felicity thinking? She and Ben were collaborating on their English homework, and she even offered to print his paper (further evidence of the limited computer resources in the late ’90s).
Then, inexplicably, she altered his paper to help him achieve a higher grade. As a result, Ben was accused of not having written the paper himself, even though he had initially done the work, and for some unknown reason, he was unwilling to expose Felicity’s foolish actions.
Seriously, what’s her deal? She needs to put a stop to this and find something else to occupy her mind besides Ben.
She’s become completely fixated, and I’m relieved that Ben has finally wisened up and cut her out of his life.
As for my own cheating story, well, I must admit that I’ve always been a staunch advocate of academic integrity, so I don’t have any tales of cheating to share.
I firmly believe in the importance of earning one’s achievements honestly and with integrity.
Nirajan: Oh, the Felicity incident with Ben’s essay had me shouting at the screen too. It’s one of those “What were you thinking?” moments.
Now, my own plagiarism story might sound quite dramatic as well and could have potentially derailed my entire degree.
In my second year, I hadn’t achieved the best grades, so in my final year, I needed to attain a 2:1 in all my classes to secure an overall 2:1 (we might have different grading systems here).
Also, if you want to pursue postgraduate studies, a 2:1 or higher is typically required.
For one of my units, which was an advanced philosophy class covering complex topics, I wrote an essay that heavily relied on the lecture notes from that advanced class.
My professor assumed that I had plagiarized and awarded me a dismal 30%. If that grade had stood, it would have seriously impacted my overall grade.
I decided to speak with the professor who taught the course, and he gave me a much less formal version of the lecture Ben received.
In a 15-minute meeting, he raised my grade to 65% (the required 2:1). The frustrating part was that at the beginning of the class, the professor had asked who had taken the advanced class, so he was aware of the students with broader knowledge.
On the bright side, I went on to earn 75% on the exam (classified as a first), answering a question on a similar topic.
So, in the end, it worked out, but that professor can still “suck it.” This incident occurred almost a decade ago, but I might still harbor a bit of bitterness. Like Ben, I didn’t cheat, but I probably shed a lot more tears than he did.
Thanks for sharing your story, by the way! College-related plagiarism tales can be quite intriguing. Do you have any of your own to share?
Returning to Felicity and that moment she sits at the computer, it becomes painfully obvious what’s about to happen, even though it’s the most foolish idea imaginable.
What struck me was how she seemed utterly oblivious to the fact that she was engaging in something egregiously wrong; she genuinely didn’t grasp the severity of her actions.
The moment Noel pulls out his trusty R.A. Handbook (which, I must admit, does sound unintentionally dirty), she realizes she’s in hot water, especially when he reacts with a vehement “What the heck were you thinking?” This situation reminds me of how heavily the topic of plagiarism was emphasized when we first started university.
It’s also interesting how the internet was this shiny new frontier at the time, with the Dean mentioning the possibility of buying essays online.
Noel’s awareness of this, and his mention of his own website for the first time, adds a layer of complexity to the situation.
In this particular instance, it’s quite understandable why Felicity turns to Noel for her Ben-related problem since he serves as the point of contact for these types of issues as the R.A.
However, when Noel goes to the Dean and presents his story about his “friend,” the Dean mistakenly assumes that Noel is the one who cheated, mainly because Noel is notoriously bad at lying.
Felicity crosses the line that Noel hasn’t drawn yet by requesting that Noel visit Ben, which he reluctantly agrees to do because Felicity asked him to.
This leads to their second awkward solo interaction between Ben and Noel (with Sean there, Sean, as always). Noel reiterates Felicity’s desire to help, but rewriting someone’s essay, especially without their request, crosses numerous boundaries.
I have some thoughts about Ben in all this, but I thought I would hand it back to you to get your take on it all. What did you think about Noel’s involvement in all of this?
Muskan: Haha, well, I suppose I did have my fair share of moments where professors underestimated me, but I appreciate the comparison to Ben Covington and the ability to overcome such challenges.
Holding grudges against authority figures is a sentiment many can relate to, and yes, sometimes certain individuals can indeed “suck it.”
You’re absolutely right; cheating was a significant issue back in college, and it’s a storyline that has been explored in other shows as well, including the classic “Beverly Hills, 90210” (everything does seem to trace back to that show; doesn’t it?).
It wasn’t surprising that Noel, the dutiful R.A., nearly lost his composure when Felicity confessed her wrongdoing.
Whether he should have taken it directly to the head honcho or consulted his Resident Coordinator first is certainly open to debate, but it’s evident that Noel takes his role seriously.
As for the random male-on-male relationships in the show, it’s intriguing how Ben appears to gravitate toward Felicity’s social circle. Perhaps this indicates a deeper connection or subliminal desire to be part of her life.
It does make you wonder why Ben doesn’t seem to have any male friends who aren’t connected to Felicity in some way. Maybe he’s genuinely drawn to her and her friends.
Now, regarding Ben’s peculiar act of biting off the head of one of Sean’s marzipan boxers, I have to say it was done in a rather oddly erotic manner. It adds another layer of complexity to his character.
As for the idea of the show being set in 2013, it’s fascinating to think about whether we’d be Twitter friends with Noel. Having two Twitter friends named Noel could indeed be a bit confusing, but it would certainly be an interesting dynamic in the social media world.
Nirajan: That’s an interesting observation about Ben’s friendships and how it portrays him as a guy’s guy, especially in contrast to Noel, who has primarily interacted with women throughout the series. It does seem like a deliberate way to establish Ben’s character.
Sean’s friendship with Ben does come across as more of a convenience, driven by Sean’s desire to bounce his quirky ideas off anyone who will listen, including Ben.
Sean’s fascination with marzipan boxers is indeed quite bizarre and doesn’t make much sense. It leads to that rather sensual eating moment from Ben, which adds a peculiar touch to the scene.
Noel’s refusal to bite the head of the marzipan boxer Sean gave him might indeed suggest he’s not into that kind of thing, or maybe he just has more self-restraint than Ben.
The opening scene, where there’s a teasing moment that hints at a potential kiss between Felicity and Ben, highlights their growing closeness.
However, instead of a romantic gesture, Ben ends up flicking food out of Felicity’s teeth, which is not the most charming move.
We’ve previously discussed whether Ben is aware that he’s leading Felicity on, and at this point, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to believe that Ben doesn’t recognize how much she likes him.
He might enjoy the attention, but Felicity’s decision to rewrite his essay is a step too far and crosses a significant boundary in their relationship.
I understand Ben’s frustration and anger regarding Felicity rewriting his essay for him. He had put effort into his work and was genuinely satisfied with it.
When he discovers what she has done, he likely assumes that she did it because she thought he was incapable or not smart enough.
Felicity’s explanation for her actions, as she claims she wanted to give him the grades she had, does seem a bit questionable. It’s possible that her frustration with Ben not showing romantic interest played a role in her decision.
Perhaps she believed that by helping him, he would subconsciously recognize her efforts and develop romantic feelings for her. It’s a somewhat unrealistic and idealized notion, but infatuation can lead to such illogical thinking.
Felicity’s lack of awareness of the seriousness of her actions could be attributed to her infatuation with Ben, which might cloud her judgment and lead her to make impulsive decisions.
It can indeed be challenging to discuss the cute Zach/Julie Solaris storyline, especially considering what comes later in the series.
However, it’s worth noting the interesting commentary provided by Finch from American Pie about male film students attending NYU and his job at a video store.
These elements add a unique layer to the storyline and provide some humor and depth to the characters.
Muskan: Haha, yes, the marzipan fetishist side of Ben Covington is quite the revelation!
Indeed, the near-kiss incident in this episode feels like a distant memory, given all that has transpired since. It’s possible that Ben’s unintentional mixed signals played a role in Felicity’s decision to change his paper, as she may have believed that her actions would make him fall for her.
It’s a misguided plan, and it highlights Felicity’s immaturity and lack of understanding when it comes to relationships and social dynamics.
Felicity’s character is an interesting mix of book smarts and social ineptitude. While her lack of self-awareness can be endearing at times, it often leads to problematic situations like this one.
Considering what happens between Zach and Julie, a return to the video store and some movie advice from Finch might not be a bad idea for Julie in the future. It could provide a fresh start and a chance for her to heal.
Is there anything else you’d like to discuss or add to this episode?
Nirajan: It’s interesting that you mentioned Meghan’s box, and it could indeed be seen as an early nod to JJ Abrams’ penchant for mystery boxes in his storytelling. It’s a subtle element that adds a layer of intrigue to the show.
Thank you for the engaging discussion, and you’re absolutely right that Felicity covers a wide range of topics and themes, making it a rich and multi-faceted series to explore.
Congratulations to anyone who has followed our discussion through this extensive exploration of the show’s episodes! If you have any more questions or topics to discuss in the future, feel free to reach out.