Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ben and Kate

Ben and Kate
Episode 8: Reunion
Episode 9: Guitar Face
By: Carlos Uribe

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

Spoilers Ahoy!


Reunion is an episode that dealt with two things. The first is the relationship between Kate and Will. The two have gone on a few dates but they had yet to put a label on their relationship. This entire episode was about getting them to the point where they are calling each other “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”. In order to get there, the writers needed to come up with a scenario that showed just how much Will cared about Kate. This is really the reason that the high school reunion just happens to take place on the day before Thanksgiving. Kate doesn't want to go to the reunion because she's insecure about how people will perceive her. She's a single mother who waits tables for a living. She doesn't have the most successful or glamorous life. She didn't finish college and become a doctor. The people in the reunion amounted to something but she's not convinced that she has. She also doesn't want to go because the girl who made her high school experience a living hell is there. This is a girl who was jealous that Kate got a part at the school play and came up with a mean nickname: Junkface. Kate is trying to avoid her high school reunion because she doesn't want to be judged based on the labels she gives herself.

It is Will who pushes her to attend. He wants Kate to go to her old high school nemesis and to stand up to her. When the bully refuses to acknowledge the sins of her past, Will tries to stand up to her. When the bully brings up that Kate only got the part because of her brother, Will challenges the two to have a sing-off so that the best person can prove why they got picked. The bully turns out to be very good and Ben accidentally slips out that he actually is the reason that Kate got the part. His need to get her to stand up really confuses her because she doesn't understand why he cares so much. When she tries to leave early, he is able to explain to her that he wants to defend his girlfriend. That's the moment where he verbally puts a label on their relationship but it was already there. It was there the minute he felt the need to have Kate to slay the dragon of her past. Kate is able to stand up to herself because she actually does love her life. She might not be a doctor and have all the proper labels but she has a beautiful daughter, a great boyfriend, loyal friends, and the best brother. The bully might have the voice and the looks but she doesn't what really matters and that's Kate's life. Kate is only able to do this once she is able to define her relationship because she knows what it is. Once she knows what it is, she is able to stand up for it and the rest of her life.

The second thing is with Ben and B.J. The two have a major secret that they've been hiding from Kate. The two secretly got married seven years ago. Ben thinks that it's because B.J. needed a green card in order to stay in the country. He went along with it to be a hero. The two struggle throughout the episode on whether to tell Kate or not. Ben wants to tell her because it's the honest thing to do but B.J. doesn't want Kate to know the truth because Ben will then learn that she never needed a green card. Not only does B.J. have dual citizenship but she is actually from Texas. She had really married Ben so that he would stay in California while his sister was pregnant. Since he didn't know about the pregnancy, it was B.J.'s best way of ensuring Ben was nearby without actually telling him. That final scene where everyone learns the truth is probably the best scene this show has ever done. Reunion is a fun episode where Kate's relationship with Will is advanced and a funny piece of background information is revealed.

Guitar Face:

There is a simple plot that exists in many comedies: the perfect guy with a single flaw that threatens to destroy the entire relationship. This is a flaw that is very minor but is used as an excuse to break up with the guy. The excuse exists because the female character always sabotages relationships before they get too serious as a protection mechanism. This is precisely what this episode is about. Kate is the girl and Will is the perfect guy. Their relationship seems to be going so well until Kate discovers that he's in a cover band. She's willing to go to his show but she's starting to become hesitant about dating him. She thinks that he's going to be in a terrible band and that's the flaw that broke the camel's back. She's surprised when the band is actually pretty good but is then disgusted when Will gets a guitar solo. It's not because the solo is any bad but because it's the face that Will makes during the solo. This wouldn't be such a big deal except it happens to also be the face that he makes during sex. Kate hasn't had a problem with this before but now that they're starting to get serious, it actually starts to get in the way of them getting intimate. It is eventually resolved when Kate realizes that she's just using this as a way to push him away.

There is another plot that is often used in comedies: a selfish friend is feeling ignored when her best friend is paying less attention to her. In this case, the selfish friend is B.J. and Kate is the one who pays less attention. The only reason that this episode doesn't feel as trite as the main Kate plot is that this is something we've seen in a previous episode. When Kate was spending time with her old high school friend in that birthday party episode, B.J. was seen trying to deal with sharing her best friend. B.J. might want Kate to value her as an important person because she's selfish but it's also because she truly does care about Kate. She doesn't care what other people think about her and so she doesn't feel the need to seek out their attention. This is a friendship that means a lot to B.J. She is able to get through this with the help of a woman's support group. Getting her to the group was a bit convoluted but it was excusable as it led to some pretty good scenes. B.J.'s emotions were the ones that felt the most real in the entire episode and she's the one whose plot worked the best. This is because of the work that previous episodes had done.

We run into a little bit of a problem with the Ben and Tommy plot. Ben gets a job at the country club because he's hoping to use it to network and get investors. When he learns that he can secretly dive for golf balls and sell them at a large profit, Ben decides to do that. His plan is to use the money to invest in his latest company idea and become a business tycoon. This backfires when they get caught and he loses his job. Making matters worse is that Tommy's job is also lost because he was there. Tommy wasn't even guilty as he was trying to stop Ben. The reason this doesn't work as well is largely because of what we know of Tommy's character. We know that he loves Kate and Ben. We know he works as a tennis instructor but he's always willing to leave his job for any of Ben's schemes. That Tommy is actually in love with his job comes as a surprise. Ben is eventually able to make it up to Tommy by getting him his job back but the series could have better established just what this particular job means to Tommy.

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