Season 1, Episodes 2 and 3: “The Last Stand” and “Hot Objects”
Original airdates: Oct. 6 & 13, 1998
Astha: Dear Kriti,
(Imagine me typing this in my most sincere “Dear Sally” tone.)
I’m starting to experience some President Fitzgerald Grant-like emotions regarding Ben.
The writers seem determined to make us root for Ben, to sympathize with his challenging home life, and to believe that he’s just a good guy trying to be friends with this quirky girl who followed him to college and gazes at him a bit too much.
But, honestly, I’m not buying it.
Ben is playing with Felicity’s feelings, plain and simple. If this were a real-life situation, I think Ben would have cut off any pretense of friendship by now.
Felicity followed him to college, read his essay, shared her own essay with him, and invited him to a party in her dorm.
It’s blatantly obvious that she still has strong feelings for him, and it’s equally clear (and quite reasonable) that he doesn’t feel the same way about her.
Yet, he continues to stick around.
The considerate thing to do would be to remove Felicity from his life entirely. So why is he persisting?
1) Is it because he wants to see Julie? Meghan seems to imply that he has no trouble secretly meeting Julie.
2) Is it to boost his ego? It’s possible; after all, he’s an eighteen-year-old guy with some unresolved maternal issues.
3) Is he genuinely attracted to Felicity? I can’t fathom why, especially since she behaves a little obsessively around him.
So, I think it’s a blend of trying to please everyone while unintentionally causing harm to the somewhat neurotic girl who adores him.
In summary, Ben, please just step aside. Take a break for a while. Allow Felicity to be herself.
That’s my take on Ben in these two episodes. Do you have anything to add on the Ben situation?
Kriti: I completely agree with you that under normal circumstances, Ben would probably have distanced himself from Felicity by now, given that her actions have come across as borderline stalking – no matter how she tries to dress them up, her decision to come to New York was primarily motivated by her infatuation with Ben.
The only plausible reason Ben hasn’t created some distance is that he relishes the attention he receives from this charming introverted girl who made a major life choice because of a simple yearbook message he wrote.
He’s been thrust into a powerful position, and by staying within her sphere, he continues to receive an ego boost. It does feel like he’s toying with her emotions.
Regarding the second episode and the whole tape incident – which is up there with the Swingers voicemail scene for most cringe-worthy moment – it doesn’t make much sense for Ben to request to sleep in her room after hearing it.
We don’t hear Felicity mention Ben’s name in the portion of the tape that played for the room, but it’s quite evident to everyone involved that she’s talking about Ben.
He can’t be that oblivious. Leaving his keys behind in drama class appears to be a flimsy excuse, and if he wishes to elicit even more stalker vibes from Felicity, he might succeed when he wakes up to find her watching him sleep.
Ben is undeniably adorable and charming – he possesses the perfect combination of an amazing smile and squinty eyes (reminiscent of James Franco).
However, once you delve beyond his surface charm, things begin to unravel.
Consider his performance in his drama class (and having Richie Aprile from The Sopranos as a teacher would terrify me) – it unveils more about Ben’s home life.
Due to his personal essay, which was essentially a lie, it’s challenging to believe anything he says.
We’ve witnessed him arguing with his mom on graduation day, indicating there’s clearly tension at home.
He explains that there’s always tension at home because he doesn’t get along with his father, which makes his mom cry frequently.
While I believe there’s some truth in what he’s saying, it doesn’t help that he essentially borrowed the idea straight from Felicity.
It appears that he is incapable of forming independent opinions.
This is likely meant to make us feel sympathy for Ben, but instead, it gives me another reason to be skeptical about his intentions and general behavior.
We’re only on episode 3, and I’m already feeling conflicted about Ben.
That smile, though – it’s kind of perfect how Felicity and her mom both swoon in the same manner when Ben walks by in “The Last Stand.”
Regarding Julie and Ben, I think it’s an unfortunate situation for Julie, who’s been unwittingly caught up in this romantic drama.
I do believe she’s genuinely trying to be a good friend to Felicity. When Felicity accuses her of lying at the party, I can understand why Julie loses her temper.
She’s attempting to do the right thing, and her involvement with Ben was primarily due to Felicity telling Julie that there was nothing between Ben and her, making Ben fair game for Julie.
Meghan, however, doesn’t win any roommate of the year awards, and she seems to be brutally honest, at the very least.
Now, when it comes to Noel – do you think he’s being excessively needy?
Astha: My word, Felicity does an awful lot of staring. I understand that it’s probably because the director instructed her to do so, but good gracious.
She stares at Ben, she stares at her professor. She just stares. I adore you, Felicity, but you need to rein it in, girl.
Right now, I’m somewhat annoyed with everyone on this show.
Ben is toying with Felicity (although I must admit I’m relieved he doesn’t appear to be using his success in acting class as a springboard to change his major to theater).
Felicity is acting strangely. And Noel is undeniably way too clingy.
This show is a bit of a conundrum. They’ve cast two handsome gentlemen in the leading male roles, so I think we (women) are predisposed to like them.
Nevertheless, each of them has significant flaws.
Noel needs to dial it back. He’s barging into the girls’ bathroom to chat with Felicity (Bathroom scene!)
He’s procuring every possible variety of Estonian chocolate that Yuri can locate for her.
Also, he’s doting on her when she wears a spaghetti-strapped dress (which she promptly covered with a cardigan).
Noel, make yourself less accessible. It might actually endear you to Felicity.
Moreover, regarding the party in the dorm. What on earth? What kind of dorm hosts a party like that?
Were they genuinely drinking? In the hallway? With their resident advisor present?
I’ll assume that what they were actually consuming was some Estonian soda and not alcohol. The latter would be too much of a stretch, even for a fictional college.
Additionally, let’s reminisce about mix tapes. Remember mix tapes? They were fantastic.
Kriti: Felicity stares almost as much as Jordan Catalano leans.
I understand that it’s the early stage of the show’s development, and everyone’s characters are at their most extreme, but I genuinely hope they tone down Noel’s clinginess.
Regardless of how much I enjoy a well-executed bathroom scene, this level of intensity is not the way to endear a girl to you.
Noel attempts to keep things casual with Felicity but falls short, coming across as a bit too smitten at this point.
Noel does provide a considerable amount of humor in both of these episodes, whether it’s his interactions with his fellow dorm residents, like John Cho’s entirely reasonable fear that his roommate is plotting to murder him or the guy who is fervently advocating for a live band at the party.
A noteworthy moment that combines needy Noel with comedic Noel is when he inadvertently characterizes Felicity’s parents as overbearing while they are present in the room.
This is a blatantly obvious yet effective instance of awkwardness that adds to the list of reasons why they’ll want her to return home.
Noel is the one who initiated this introduction, and it’s far too early for this sort of thing.
Moreover, the fire alarm incident would have been more realistic if it had occurred at 3 am; in our building, fire alarms frequently went off, and we later discovered that one guy thought it was amusing to set them off in the wee hours of the morning for fun.
This was a clear violation of health and safety regulations, but because our living quarters were on the third floor, we would shout out the window to people outside, asking if there was a fire. The answer was always no, so we stayed inside.
On one occasion, I even slept through the alarm, which was astonishing given how loud it was and the fact that I hadn’t consumed alcohol that night.
Returning to Noel, my favorite scene involving him is when Julie approaches him to discuss her Ben predicament in “Hot Objects.”
He nonchalantly comments, “So, everyone’s into Ben, huh?” At least he doesn’t pull a nasty move and exploit this information to score points with Felicity.
Another scene I enjoyed is the one with the Estonians, where they tell him he needs a beeper.
It’s so quintessentially ’90s, and I can’t help but picture Dennis Duffy as their beeper supplier.
Regarding the party, I was going to ask if it was a fairly accurate representation of college life since most of the college parties depicted on TV and in movies take place at frat houses.
The pre-party ritual before the first college party seems more true to life. I still recall how nervous I felt before attending my initial college house party.
I love what Felicity is wearing as she ditches her oversized sweaters for the first time, combining sexy with comfy by donning her Converse sneakers and a cardigan.
Mix tapes were amazing, but this episode underscores the potential pitfalls of recording all your thoughts and feelings.
The modern equivalent would probably involve accidentally playing a voice memo on your iPhone or iPod if it’s on shuffle – a scenario I know was depicted in the zombie Halloween episode of Community.
Since we’re still discussing the second of the two episodes, what did you think of Felicity’s interactions with her incredibly prickly professor?
My hunch is that he will eventually come to appreciate her and she’ll become his favorite student, although it may take some time to get there.
Astha: Our residence hall frequently experienced middle-of-the-night fire alarms.
My freshman year roommate had a habit of wearing an excessive amount of makeup during the day, so whenever we had to evacuate the building at 3 AM, she resembled an extra from The Walking Dead.
When it comes to Noel, I wish he had a bit of an edge, a hint of danger. At this point, Ben exudes danger and downsides.
Noel, on the other hand, is a real wet blanket. But he is funny, so that’s a plus.
I believe my favorite line from him in these two episodes was when he spoke to John Cho’s roommate, saying, “I’ve got to be honest. I wish you were a little more convincing.”
Additionally, I thoroughly enjoyed all of his interactions with the Estonians and Julie. Basically, I appreciate everything Noel does when he’s not with Felicity.
The concept of Dennis Duffy serving as the Estonians’ beeper supplier is rather amusing.
Thinking back, I realize we did have an annual residence hall party. While alcohol was not officially permitted, there was karaoke.
My friend Ann and I performed a duet of “Endless Love.” That’s how we rolled in ’99.
The scenes with the teacher were cringe-worthy. I want to relate to Felicity, but sometimes it’s quite challenging. She’s such a nerd.
It’s understandable that she’d seek to get on her college professor’s good side, given that her closest friend in the world is her former French tutor.
I also wanted to mention that Tom from Cougar Town appeared in these episodes as well. I always enjoy spotting “famous” actors in these shows.
Kriti: I also derive immense enjoyment from spotting more “famous” actors, and beyond John Cho and Richie Aprile, I found it delightful to see Ivana Milicevic (who I often confused with Lake Bell).
This third episode was a cringe-fest on multiple levels, from the party shenanigans to Noel’s relentless adoration of Felicity.
The interactions with her professor were particularly brutal because he clearly doesn’t share Felicity’s passions.
It stings all the more due to the high esteem in which she holds him. When she explains the reason to Ben, she comes across as an endearing nerd.
The convenience store scene, after Felicity’s awkward confrontation with the wall of Ben and Jerry’s, was the least uncomfortable of their encounters, though it had a tough act to follow given the embarrassment that came before it.
While we’ve dissected Ben and Noel over the course of both episodes, I’d like to delve into Felicity and her parents in “The Last Stand.”
We got a glimpse of how Felicity’s monumental decision has affected her relationship with her parents, and this episode delves deeper into their efforts to persuade her to return home.
Considering J.J. Abrams and the recurring theme of daddy issues in his work, it’s not surprising to see it at play here.
However, it was Felicity’s interactions with her mother that I found most intriguing, and it even led to my first emotionally stirring Felicity-related moment.
Her mother’s explanation for her prickly behavior toward her daughter regarding this choice, and their discussion about their Tuesday dinner ritual, truly touched my heart.
It captures that generational divide that I can relate to with my own mother (even though she didn’t have me or my sister as young as Felicity’s mother did), and I believe it was handled exceptionally well.
Early in the episode, I wrote in my notes that Felicity’s parents were the worst, but by the end, my opinion had completely shifted. Hooray for character development!
What were your thoughts on this subplot involving Felicity’s parents?
Astha: I watched that episode thinking, “Forever Young Adult thinks Patty Chase is the worst? How about those Porters?”
I must admit I found myself zoning out a bit during the parental segments. I just wanted them to leave already.
While I empathize with Felicity’s mom, her dad still comes across as rather unpleasant.
These two exhibit helicopter parenting tendencies and need to discover their identities beyond their daughter.
They must allow Felicity to be herself. This is the second time I’ve mentioned that in our conversation, which suggests it’s something I truly believe.
Now that they’ve returned to Palo Alto, we can dive into more engaging content, like playing Boggle in the next episode.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Kriti: One more thing worth noting is how the show adeptly captures the absurd topics people discuss at college as if they’re the most profound, meaningful things ever said.
Not that this doesn’t happen before or after college, but such conversations are more prevalent in this setting.
For instance, Felicity’s musings about how we’re all unique snowflakes or Astrid’s pondering about where Q should be located in the alphabet.
These are the little moments that make me roll my eyes and then remember that I had equally nonsensical discussions.
Oh, and yes, Patty Chase 4EVA!
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