Season 1, Episode 19 & 20: “Docuventary” & “Connections”
Original airdates: Apr. 27 & May 4, 1999
Simran: Let’s start with the storyline that I anticipated would infuriate me, and that’s Ben’s involvement in gambling.
An audible groan escaped me as the ‘previously on’ segment featured Ben’s significant win from the previous episode.
The one redeeming aspect here is how rapidly he spiraled into his personal gambling abyss.
Ben manages a single win, only to sink deeper when he places all his Dean & DeLuca earnings on a bet, resulting in a loss.
An intriguing facet of this narrative is the financial hardship Ben is enduring due to his father discontinuing his tuition payments.
In a world filled with terrible TV dads from J.J. Abrams shows, where would you rank Ben’s father? While he’s not as nefarious as John Locke’s kidney-stealing or window-pushing misdeeds, he’s certainly no match for Spy Daddy.
Ben hesitates to seek assistance from his mother, especially after learning in “Connections” that she has left his father.
He doesn’t want to be a burden now that she’s free from the clutches of the elder Covington.
It turns out that Ben also grapples with anger issues, much like his father, and he initiates a confrontation with Lynn after Lynn declines to lend him money.
Lynn’s taking the right course of action, even though it’s rather contradictory to cut Ben off after introducing him to this bookie.
However, Ben is not his father. While he clashes with Lynn, he refrains from resorting to intimidation to settle his debt. This decision leads to him enduring a brutal beating, albeit thankfully a brief one.
Although I’m somewhat skeptical of the offer to clear his debt, I’m no expert on the gambling world, and it was unlikely that Ben would face any kneecapping threats.
Ben demonstrates remarkable kindness toward Guy (who assumes a prominent role in both episodes and might be my preferred recurring character in the dorm).
He can’t bring himself to take the last of Guy’s money.
Ben, you’re too good to be entangled in such misadventures.
This aspect is closely tied to Ben’s struggle in understanding his true self, a topic we’ve delved into in the past.
In this particular situation, it’s about the person he fears he might be, and that fear can be just as paralyzing.
It’s noteworthy that he turns to Felicity in this crisis, not seeking money but seeking refuge.
Part of the reason for this is that he isn’t afraid to reveal his vulnerable side to her. When it comes to Julie and Sean, he feels like a failure, both as a boyfriend and a roommate.
With Felicity, he can open up completely, and she’s also more adept at offering advice. In my notes, I’ve emphatically written, “NEVER LISTEN TO SEAN.”
It seems I feel strongly about this. Felicity suggests that Ben should confide in his mom about the situation and stop worrying about her, allowing her to be the parent he needs.
I can relate to where Ben is coming from. I recall being in college, hitting my overdraft limit, and falling behind on my credit card payments, and not wanting to inform my parents.
Unlike Ben, I didn’t find it too difficult to share with them.
Even though I’d tell myself not to mention my financial situation, it was invariably the first thing I’d blurt out, often followed by tears.
I find this storyline quite frustrating because it addresses a very valid issue.
Financial troubles, or the lack of funds, are common when you’re in college.
Also Read: Team-Up Review: Felicity, “Boggled”
However, the inclusion of the gambling plot makes it feel overly sensational and dramatic. I wonder if this will be a three-episode arc and then never be mentioned again.
What are your thoughts on Ben’s storyline in these two episodes?
Muskan: When it comes to Ben and his dad, Mr. Covington doesn’t quite measure up to the league of Locke’s dad, Jack’s dad, or any of the other dads, at least not yet.
It’s possible that our perception is influenced by the fact that we haven’t seen him yet (I don’t recall if we ever do get to see him).
He remains this enigmatic figure whose alleged badness is mostly conveyed indirectly. I’d prefer to witness his bad behavior before making comparisons to John Locke’s dad.
Additionally, Felicity’s dad has his share of issues, so perhaps that’s a commonality between them.
Ben’s sense of failure in front of Julie and Sean might be linked to his ability to adapt to different social roles.
With Julie, he has always portrayed himself as the tough, protective guy, and now he’s struggling. He doesn’t want Julie to see him in this vulnerable state.
When it comes to Sean, Ben likely anticipates receiving numerous lectures and unhelpful advice, and he’s always presented his financial problems to Sean as if they were under control (ironically, Sean’s own finances aren’t in great shape either).
On the other hand, Felicity’s love for Ben is unwavering, and he recognizes this, feeling that he can confide in her.
Besides, if anyone on this show were to offer valuable advice, it would probably be Felicity, even though she likely has never placed a bet before.
While I enjoyed Guy’s role in these episodes, I’m hoping the gambling storyline is behind us. It seemed destined to lead nowhere significant.
However, it did serve the purpose of rekindling conversations between Felicity and Ben.
As for Sean’s Docuventary idea, it’s an interesting concept. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on it.
Simran: First and foremost, if no one has already done it (I’m looking at you, Buzzfeed), there should be a ranking system for all the J.J. Abrams dads, given the multitude of terrible and complicated paternal figures in his works.
Sean continues his streak of questionable ideas, and his “Docuventary” concept is far from brilliant.
He only decides to create a documentary after reading about someone who made money from such a project.
His sole focus is on college, and initially, I was concerned that the entire episode would be filmed in a shaky, unsteady manner, like those early video cameras, and not even one equipped with a stabilizer, like the ones from the “Top 9 Best DSLR Camera Stabilizers, Gimbals & Steadicams in 2017.”
It briefly reminded me of the “Blair Witch Project,” but then I realized that this episode aired five months prior to the release of “Blair Witch” in theaters. Kudos to J.J. for the foresight.
He later explored that format more extensively with the movie “Cloverfield” many moons later (counting time in moons is definitely more fun than years).
The documentary eventually centers on Felicity and Noel, particularly their recent breakup and its impact on those around them. It’s the hook that Sean believes will bring him fortune.
While he attempts to engineer a happy ending, the one that unfolds is surprisingly satisfying. Sean lacks tact and timing, and his camera skills leave much to be desired.
Yet, he manages to bring Felicity and Noel to a place where they are willing to work on their relationship, even though they refuse to kiss for the camera.
Sean collects various testimonials with differing opinions about Noel and Felicity.
Richard liked it when they were together because he could bribe Noel, Julie remains a romantic and believes they’ll reconcile, the RA from another dorm strongly supports Noel, Elena is Team Felicity, Ben takes a nonchalant approach, even when Sean suggests that Eli has replaced Ben, and Megan couldn’t care less.
Megan’s comment about Felicity’s infinite sweater collection stands out as one of my favorite moments from this episode.
It illustrates how one relationship can spark a wide range of opinions, and while it’s not entirely new territory, I appreciate the exploration of the impact of a single relationship.
Some people may be indifferent, but living in such close dormitory proximity is a unique experience, and “Docuventary” captures this essence.
Before we delve into Felicity and Noel, what were your thoughts on Sean’s documentary?
Muskan: Sean can be maddening because he reminds me of people I know who are constantly fixated on the bottom line, as if money alone will bring them happiness.
Sean continually concocts and experiments with new business ideas, all of which seem lackluster, and it doesn’t appear that he has a genuine passion for any of them.
These endeavors all come across as get-rich-quick schemes, and I believe Sean won’t find true happiness until he discovers something or someone (cue cryptic hint…) that he genuinely loves.
It’s interesting that you mentioned the connection with “The Blair Witch Project.” The Felicity show’s anticipation and utilization of that style were indeed forward-thinking, providing a fresh touch in 1999.
However, in hindsight, it might feel a bit dated. It also seems to serve as a somewhat convenient narrative device to compel everyone to confront their emotional baggage.
As you pointed out, the emotional baggage that needs addressing revolves around the unresolved matters between Felicity and Noel.
The interviews don’t necessarily offer groundbreaking insights. Richard’s support for their relationship is expected, Elena doesn’t contribute much of substance, and Julie discussing Felicity and Noel seems somewhat peculiar, given her limited presence during their courtship.
The standout moment is unquestionably Meghan’s commentary, mentioning Felicity’s sweaters and Noel’s persistent inquiries about Felicity’s whereabouts.
While I may not have been a fan of the documentary style, I do understand and appreciate your point about dorm life, where everyone becomes deeply involved in one another’s affairs.
Living in such close proximity leads to the formation of concrete opinions on matters that don’t directly involve us (except for Richard, who undoubtedly has a stake in Felicity and Noel’s relationship).
Regarding Felicity and Noel’s future, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on where this pair is headed.
Simran: our assessment of Sean is on the mark. It appears that his desire to be an entrepreneur is more for the status it brings rather than a genuine passion.
They haven’t explicitly mentioned Sean’s age, but it’s clear that he’s driven by aspirations beyond his current state. I’m glad they acknowledge the oddity of his project.
When Felicity went to use Noel’s Photoshop, I empathized with both of them, recognizing that this period of adjustment isn’t easy for either party.
Felicity wants to erase the past and move on, while Noel can’t seem to forget. He even tries Sean’s eccentric hypnotherapy idea as a way to Eternal Sunshine himself of the Eli situation.
Ultimately, they must engage in a conversation, and Jake (a nod to Scandal) is under the impression that Felicity never felt that strongly for him.
It’s worth reminding him that he was the one who pursued a relationship with Felicity’s ex-girlfriend.
Fortunately, Sean captures Felicity baring her soul on camera, leading to her realization that she might be in love with Noel.
The big declaration and Noel’s decision to skip a trip with Guy to attend “Late Night with Conan” to share his feelings with Felicity are noteworthy moments.
At the end of “Docuventary,” they’re not officially back together but are making a concerted effort to rebuild their connection, which quickly leads to some kissing. As for my feelings on all this, I was firmly in the Noel/Felicity camp before “The Fugue.”
While I’m pleased to see them give it another try, I’m somewhat cautious.
They are undoubtedly adorable together, and the kiss moment in “Connections” is heartwarming, especially with Richard’s amusing interruption.
However, I can’t help but wonder when Ben will reenter the picture because a love triangle often needs that third person, and that’s a looming factor.
At the moment, I find the development of their relationship to be highly entertaining, particularly in how they both navigate the awkwardness that comes with this territory.
It’s also significant that Felicity misses a pivotal seminar and must tackle the significant project independently.
No matter how much she pleads with Professor McGrath, it’s evident that he won’t relent.
Now, before we delve into Felicity’s project on the genetics of love and the enigmatic professor, what are your thoughts on Noel and Felicity? These two episodes indeed function effectively as a two-part storyline, even if it’s not explicitly presented as such.
Muskan: I’m also glad that Guy found a date to go with him to Conan. Noel, on the other hand, might not have made the most friend-friendly decision by choosing Felicity over his buddy.
Ben’s emergence as the third side of the love triangle is indeed interesting, though not entirely unexpected.
Noel has been grappling with his concerns about Felicity’s feelings for Ben throughout the season, and it seems that his worries may not have been unfounded.
It’s easy to understand why Ben would turn to Felicity in his moment of despair. He can’t confide in Julie, Sean, or Lynn, and Felicity is the one person with whom he feels he can be himself without judgment.
It’s intriguing to consider Felicity’s feelings in this moment.
She certainly has strong feelings for Noel, possibly even love, but when the guy she moved to New York for stumbles into her room one night, it’s bound to leave an impact.
Felicity’s project on the genetics of love is quite self-centered, to say the least. Dr. McGrath (whether they call him “Professor” or not is a matter of academic preference) isn’t buying into her approach.
It’s somewhat surprising to see Felicity, who barely got into the class, missing it to talk to Noel. Her actions seem out of character, akin to Richard’s habit of skipping class.
Richard is the archetypal guy who doesn’t attend lectures, a quintessential college behavior.
The episodes feature a range of entertaining guest stars, including Guy, Danny, and Ali Wentworth’s Dean & Deluca manager character, whose name I can’t recall.
I also found it intriguing to realize that Barry looked familiar because of his role on “Hang Time,” a memorable Saturday morning show.
How did you feel about the guest stars, particularly the rather unlikable college professor, or as you aptly described him, “Prince Humperdink”?
Simran: You’re absolutely right; the show has done an excellent job of creating a diverse and believable college environment that goes beyond the core characters.
It adds depth and authenticity to the series, making it more relatable and engaging.
And it’s interesting to know that Guy is Quincy’s nephew in real life; connections like that can add a unique dimension to a show.
I completely understand the satisfaction of recognizing an actor from another role, as you did with Danny from “New Girl.”
It’s a delightful moment when it clicks. By the way, I share your appreciation for “Hang Time.”
The Dean & DeLuca story in “Connections” provides a nice break from the college-centered narrative, and seeing Felicity get flustered is indeed fun.
I had similar thoughts about Danny’s character at first, wondering if he was playing Felicity, but the details like the bloody bandage and the nun’s presence seemed to suggest otherwise.
The gender-reversed tie scene was a refreshing twist, and I’m glad you found it appealing.
Moving on to Elena and Dr. McGrath’s storyline, I share your concerns. These kinds of stories are sensitive and can often lead to uncomfortable or distressing situations.
While the college setting may make it less skeezy, it’s important to approach the subject matter carefully.
I also hope that if it unfolds, it doesn’t devastate Elena, who may be more fragile than she appears. It’s crucial to handle these storylines with sensitivity and awareness of the potential impact on the characters and the audience.
How do you feel about this subplot, and what are your hopes for its resolution?
Muskan: No worries at all about the Professor/Doctor thing; it’s not a callout, just a clarification.
The girls in the episode might indeed have referred to him as “Professor McGrath.” Sometimes these distinctions can be a matter of personal preference or institutional tradition.
It’s not weird at all to find yourself shipping Danny and Ali Wentworth’s characters.
It’s a testament to the actors’ chemistry and the show’s ability to create engaging relationships and dynamics. Wanting Danny to help her with her tie is a playful and fun wish.
The show has indeed done a remarkable job with character archetypes, capturing the essence of college life.
I can relate to knowing both a Richard and a Guy during my college years, as well as the peculiar dynamics that can develop between students and RAs.
Regarding the professor/student romance, it does seem like a storyline the Felicity writers felt compelled to include as a college trope. I
t’s an obligatory narrative element in many college-based shows.
However, as you mentioned, it’s important to approach such stories with care and sensitivity, given the potential implications.
The show has explored various tropes, including date rape, gambling, coming out, and cheating, and it’s interesting to see how it handles these themes in its unique way.
Simran: The professor or doctor does seem rather unsettling, and his mention of his ill ex-wife could be interpreted as an attempt to garner sympathy.
Your reaction is not necessarily cynical; it’s possible that the character is intentionally written to be somewhat ambiguous, and it raises questions about his motives and behavior.
You’re right that the show has focused more on issues related to drugs rather than a heavy-handed “ALCOHOL IS BAD” message.
Felicity’s incident with throwing up in Noel’s lap and his reaction to Meghan’s “brain juice” certainly touched on some substance-related themes, but they haven’t delved into the topic extensively.
A pregnancy scare could indeed be a future plot point, considering the show’s penchant for exploring various college-related experiences and challenges.
It’ll be interesting to see how they handle it if and when it occurs.
Muskan: Drugs and alcohol, yes! I guess they did need to save something for Season 2.