Friday, November 16, 2012

Ben and Kate

Ben and Kate
Episode 6: Scaredy Kate
Episode 7: Career Day
By: Carlos Uribe

Ben and Kate is a show about a responsible single mother and her carefree older brother.

Spoilers Ahoy!

Scaredy Kate:

Let's talk about Kate's costumes in this Halloween episode. She wears a costume of Babe Ruth Bader -Ginsburg but underneath the robe she wears a sexy baseball player costume. These two costumes are indicative of who Kate is and who she attempts to be in this episode. Her first choice of the costume is to dress as a Supreme Court justice. She wants to impress her daugther to value women who contribute to society and this is one of the ways to do so. There's a reason that she has made her daughter dress up in scientist costumes and tries to have her daughter avoid idolizing princesses. She wants her daughter to come up with the right values and this helps dictate her Halloween costume. She simply also likes this kind of costume better than a sexy or horror one. She's a giant nerd and she probably does fancy Bader-Ginsburg as one of her heroes. This costume is able to tell us the kind of person that Kate really is. The costume that she wears under it is an attempt to be sluttier than she actually is. Kate has shown to have little to no seduction skills and her costume is an attempt to trick a hot neighbor into getting into her. This costume is about Kate trying to escape who she is because she wants to leave someone with a different impression than who she really is. This illusion she tries to create falls apart when she can't help but cry because she's exhausted.

That hot guy Kate's trying to impress isn't even the point of the episode in terms of her narrative arc. It's true that she thinks he's attractive and she decides to go to his Halloween party so she can turn her luck with men around. That's one of the reasons that she tries to be someone that she isn't. She tries to be like all the other girls at the Halloween party but she isn't. This drives her away from the attractive guy when he rejects Kate behind her back. Kate realizes that no matter what she wears, she's still going to be just her. This doesn't bother Kate because she likes who she is. There's a moment in the episode where she revels in calling the cops when parties get too loud. It's when she leaves the party that she meets a single father named Will. Will is practically a Kate version of her in this episode. The two hit it off and it's pretty clear that the series is going to lead them towards being in a relationship. The entire Halloween party plot is to lead to that one point. The entire episode built up to it. Kate's journey to realize that she's better off as herself helps lead her to meeting Will. That's the first time that Will appears in the episode but it works because it feels like this is who Kate is really supposed to be with. The hot neighbor was just a red herring.

Kate's plot is great but it's equally matched with the two sub-plots. The first has to do with Ben and Tommy. The two get high on BJ's candy from Europe. This leads to them having numerous journeys but it's all really a way for the episode to show a conflict. Tommy loves Ben to death but he isn't happy that Ben keeps ignoring all his ideas. Ben wants to do what he wants and he's not listening Tommy. This causes a friction between the two until Tommy is finally able to articulate his problem with Ben. Ben realizes the problem and promises that he'll try to be more courteous to Tommy's needs. This conflict between the two helps to add meat to what would otherwise be a typical plot. That the conflict is so built around who Ben is that it simply felt very natural. It makes perfect sense that Ben would inadvertently listen to his own ideas. The other sub-plot was genius and it involved BJ realizing that making Maddie dress up like a princess could be an invitation to Maddie dressing up like a slutty princess in the future. BJ comes to realize that her actions are influecing Maddie and it might not be for the best. All three plots are based on character which leads to a really funny and great Halloween episode.

Career Day:

Career Day is a very funny episode as well but it's not as well executed. When Ben learns that Maddie is having career day, he doesn't understand why he wasn't invited to speak. There's an obvious explanation for this and it's that he doesn't really have a career. He might always be looking for that next business idea but he is unemployed. Ben decides that he'll get a career just for Maddie in the next two days. He settles on being a wine salesman. This leads to a whole situation where he gets involved in some crazy foreplay between a weird couple. The episode concludes with Ben talking to the class about how he doesn't have a career but it's okay because at least he keeps trying. According to him, trying is success. This whole plot is about Ben's career but it makes one wonder why exactly is this so important for Ben? It's not like not having a career has really bothered the character before this episode. If the writer could have been more clear about Ben's ultimate motivations then it could have created a stronger episode. As it is, it kind of felt like Ben was trying to get into Career Day just because he has nothing better to do.

His motivation when it came to Will was much stronger. He wants to protect Kate despite all her protests. He goes up to Will at school and starts to get to know him. He invites Will over for an imprompu barbeque so he can see how Kate and Will interact. He's satisfied with Will's answers that he provides a blessing to Kate. Kate is annoyed by all of this because she wanted to flirt with him for months before making any move. She wants to be cautious. Since Ben is a man of action, he pushes them to get together way quicker than Kate was expecting. Even when Ben learns that Will had left his wife in Christmas and tries to get an explanation for this, Ben is able to bring the two new couple closer. Will being a possible suitor to his sister meant that Ben's protection mode kicked in. A mode that had existed in the pilot. It's consistent with his character that he would do his best to ensure his sister is dating a good man. Kate's motivation is simple. She's nervous about going out with a man she has a crush on and she was trying to take it slow in an attempt to build up her courage. This is what created the conflict between the two of them but it was all rooted in both of their characters and the relationship that they have.

Career Day also has a sub-plot with BJ. BJ believes that the waiting staff are judging her because she got a raise after sleeping with her boss. She doesn't like the looks that they're giving her. This bothers her because the idea of not being liked isn't a nice one. She doesn't know what to do until Maddie gives her some advice. BJ decides to take it and this helps her realize that she doesn't know a single name of the waiting staff. She decides that they're just annoyed with her over their silly names and that she can live with that. She doesn't really care about them and their names aren't important to her. It's a nice plot that continues the series arc of having a special bond between Maddie and BJ. A bond that BJ is starting to become dependent on.

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