Follow the whole rewatch here!
Welcome to the first installment of the Felicity Rewatch Project! Y'all, I am SO EXCITED that this is happening. It's like we're all college freshmen, embarking together on a crazy, thrilling and, let's be honest, totally awkward adventure. Just promise me that no one will secretly read anyone else's college essay or write a paper for them or accidentally play their private tapes out loud at a party. Cool? Cool.
First, a reminder of our drinking game rules!
The Felicity Drinking Game Rules
Drink once every time:
Felicity is endearingly earnest.
Ben smiles sheepishly.
Noel is adorkable.
Elena is a better friend than anyone deserves.
Meghan is mean and it's awesome.
Javier butchers a word or figure of speech.
Richard freaks out (in a good or bad way).
Drink twice every time:
Felicity stresses you out.
Felicity says, "Dear Sally."
Sean invents something.
Javier refers to Ben as “Benjamin.”
And now, let's dive in to the episodes! (I swear, most of the posts won't be this long... there's just so much to say about the pilot!)
The general rule of thumb for TV is to never judge a show by its pilot, because typically a first episode is either uneven or unrepresentative of the series as a whole. But with Felicity, the pilot embodies everything I love about the series--it's heartfelt and smart and compelling and romantic and funny. I feel like that last quality is often forgotten since people tend to focus on the emotional resonance of the show, how perfectly the series captures that liminal time of college. It certainly does that, but damn if it doesn't crack you up in the process.
Anyway, I don't need to tell you why Felicity is so great, because you're reading this post! So let's talk about the pilot, which features so! many! epic! moments!
It's high school graduation day, and while her classmates are seemingly stoked about the future, all Felicity Porter feels is a sense of dread--and embarrassment of her parents as they rock a Camcorder and hoot and holler while she walks across the stage. ("My parents' reaction was typically understated.") She's going to Stanford, just like her parents wanted, and it looks like her life is all mapped out. You get the impression that our girl isn't exactly impulsive... until she walks up to Ben Covington, the most popular guy in school, and asks him to sign her yearbook (which only has one other signature in it, from a teacher. Classic Felicity). Instead of quickly writing a note, Ben sits down and asks her if he can take a minute. And that minute is a Moment with a capital M. Because this is what Ben writes:
Here it goes. I've watched you for four years, always wondered what you were like. What was going on in your mind all that time when you were so quiet, just thinking, drawing in your notebook. I should have just asked you but I never asked you. So now four years later I don't even know you. But I admire you. Well, this makes me sound crazy but I'm okay with that. So take care of yourself.
p.s. I would have said keep in touch, but unfortunately we never were in touch.
UM YEAH. It's honestly no surprise that after reading his words, Felicity decides to turn her life upside down and follow him to college in New York. I mean, that's a hell of a yearbook message! And from Ben Covington. I'm just saying that Felicity's choice doesn't seem *that* irrational to me, is all.
Gif via Vulture
Of course, Felicity's parents are pissed, and her dad swears he won't pay for anything, but Felicity has made her mind up. So a few months later, in one of the most iconic shots of the series, she gets out of a cab in New York City with a couple of suitcases and a whole new world in front of her. Then there's the other iconic shot: Felicity, in silhouette, sitting on her dorm room bed and talking to her friend Sally (her old French tutor, whose fiancé died tragically a few months prior) via a tape recorder.
Felicity's fantasy of college life comes to an abrupt, record-scratching halt when she's taking her student ID photo and sees Ben, who not only doesn't remember her name (ouch) but also happens to have a girl on his arm whom he is most definitely dating (double ouch). To make matters worse, her advisor (played with incredible depth by Darnell Williams) confides that her parents don't consider her to be independently minded. It's a heartbreaking scene, and afterwards Felicity ends up silently crying in class, where the girl next to her passes a note that asks, "Are you okay?" with two options for reply: "No" and "I will be." Felicity marks the latter, and that's how she makes her first friend, Julie.
Gif via northbndtrain.tumblr.com
Things are looking up--until Felicity pulls Ben into a stairwell and confesses that she followed him to college. WHYYYY FELICITY WHYYYY. Ben seems to take it surprisingly well, saying that he's flattered, and the two part as friends. But obviously, it's not going to be resolved so easily, especially because Felicity has a knack for TERRIBLE DECISION MAKING and ends up pulling Ben's application (she has a work study job in the admissions office) and reading his essay, in which he writes about the death of his older brother.
Back at the dorm, she meets her RA, Noel (!!!), and promptly spills her guts about the whole Ben situation. Noel is clearly into Felicity, and that becomes increasingly clear when he finally meets Ben in Felicity's room, where they're studying together. And so the love triangle begins!
One night, Felicity invites Julie to join her and Ben for a study session at the Lucky Strike (I think this is the only time we see an exterior shot of the restaurant where they always hang out), and Julie agrees to come only after Felicity assures her that she has no feelings for Ben. Riiiight. Of course Ben and Julie totally hit it off, and when Ben admits to Felicity that he has a crush on Julie, she once again lies her face off and tells him she's cool with it.
After the study session, Felicity's back in her room when she finally meets her mysterious roommate, whose side of the room is covered in bone sculptures, goth clothes and a Marilyn Manson poster. MEGHAN HAS ARRIVED. Felicity asks if she's Meghan, and Meghan says, "Yeah," then gives Felicity a look of pure scorn and disgust before leaving. It's priceless.
Fueled by anger and disappointment, Felicity marches over to Ben's place late that night and demands to talk to him. It's an insanely painful and awkward conversation, especially when Felicity yells, "You made me fall in love with you!" Ben is taken aback but impressively keeps a cool head while trying to make Felicity understand that she is ACTING CRAZY. And then, the worst part: Julie comes out of Ben's place with the saddest look on her face. Gah, this hurts.
Utterly defeated, Felicity informs her advisor that she's leaving. It's obvious that he feels she's making a mistake, but rather than say that, he brings up her drawing portfolio and tells her that while she might still want to be a doctor, she's already an artist. Gah, if only all college advisors had the time and ability to be as amazing as this guy.
Ben finds Felicity as she's packing up her stuff and asks if she'll come up to the roof with him. As they look out over the city, Ben confesses that he made up the dead brother, and that he's not the great guy she believes him to be. "You provoke me," he tells her. "You make me think about things I never think about. Without even saying anything, just by the way you look at me." He apologizes for not being the Ben Covington she followed to college, but then Felicity says, "I thought it was you but you were really just the excuse." She's realized that it's not about a boy, it's about making a decision for herself.
Back in the dorm, Noel makes an impassioned plea for her to remain in the form of an adorable speech which begins with four (nope, six) words:
Felicity asks if he has feelings for her, and he admits that he does, but then says, "Don't fundamentally regard everything I've told you, just because of my affection for you." His language is so sweetly formal, and I love him for it.
Her parents show up and offer her the chance to come home and stick to the original plan. Her dad also lets slip that he pulled a few strings the first time around to get Felicity into Stanford, UGH. Felicity looks down at the car key remote (another bribe from her parents) and stares at the Panic button, then makes her decision: "If I made a mistake, then, at least it was mine. You know?" She's going to stay!
The episode closes with a voiceover from Sally (Janeane Garofalo!) as we watch Felicity approach Julie and embrace her. Sally speaks for all of us when she says, "I just want you to know, I think you've made a really great choice. And I can't wait to hear what happens."
How many times do I have to take a drink?
15 times, plus you'll probably need a shot to get through that scene at Ben's place.
While Ben scores major points for handling Felicity in a way that is appropriate but never mean (and that rooftop scene!), Noel wins the day with his speech and his clear desire to help her, not just get in her pants.
College Nostalgia Moment
This whole episode buzzes with the glorious mixture of fear and anticipation unique to the first few weeks of college, when you're on your own and everything is new and everyone is new and anything seems possible. "I know it's just college," Julie says, "but it's sort of terrifying, isn't it?" Exactly.
Y2K Nostalgia Moment
During Noel's speech, he paints a picture of Felicity's (boring) future as a successful doctor, with a family and a big house with four phone lines. I mean, that's when you know you've made it.
The photographer taking Felicity's student ID photo is played by David Bowe, who is one of those actors that's been in everything (X-Files, 90210, Mad Men, etc.). He also shows up later in two more Felicity episodes!
1.2 "The Last Stand"
We see the opening credits for the first time! Which means we all get to "oohhaahhhoooh" along with Judith Owen.
Not much time has passed since Felicity decided to stay in New York, but time has clearly passed since the pilot was filmed, because Ben now has his signature shaggy blonde hair and Noel's haircut is slightly less dorky.
One of the ladies in the admissions office tells Felicity that a "young man" called and asked to see her application essay, which this woman takes as proof that Felicity has a secret admirer. Uh, that lady and I have different ideas of romance, but anyway, Felicity asks Noel if it was him, and he denies it, then hems and haws about how he has crushes on everyone and his feelings for her aren't a big deal ("Am I blushing?"). Felicity then jumps, nay, LEAPS to the conclusion that it was Ben (Noel: "Okay, this is about Ben."), who was the subject of her essay (and she still got admitted?). Then she decides that the best
worst course of action is to mail Ben the essay! OF COURSE SHE DOES. Noel, the voice of reason and all of us watching, pleads with her to NOT do that, but Felicity is resolved. "You can never be ashamed of the truth," she says. "Never." While I agree with her in principle, I'm shaking my head like a lunatic as she drops her essay in the mail and I take a drink because we're only a few minutes in and Felicity is already stressing me the eff out.
Felicity's parents are back! Well, actually they never left, and they're still on a crusade to convince their daughter to come home. They also just want to understand what's going on in her head, which is why her dad called the admissions office and asked to see her essay. Yeeeeeeah.
Felicity races to the mail room and tries to get the essay out of Ben's mailbox, but to no avail. And then we all watch, cringing our faces off, as Ben picks up his mail and tells Felicity, "I think it's really good that you're staying." AUUGHH DRINK DRINK DRINK.
In order to help smooth things over with Felicity's mom and dad, Noel suggests inviting them to see her dorm and offers to give them a tour. It's a great idea in theory, until they're in her room and Noel walks in to ask, "When do the overbearing parents get here?" Nice first impression! Things continue downhill as Felicity and her parents meet with her advisor. Felicity insists, "I came here because of Ben, but I'm staying here because of me," and tries to explain why her freedom and independence are so important. Her mom, clearly hurt, storms off after dis-inviting her to come home for Thanksgiving.
When Felicity tells Julie (who has been avoiding Ben in order to maintain her friendship with Felicity) about what happened with her parents, Julie confides that she's adopted, and that she came to New York because her birth mother, whom she's never met, lives there. Man, I forget how much I love Early Julie. (Later Julie... not so much.)
That night at dinner, Felicity's dad (her mom doesn't show) finally relents, having come to terms with the fact that it's her life to live. He agrees to pay for her tuition, and while he is and always will be kind of a jerk, it's obvious that he loves his daughter.
The next day, Felicity's mom has a change of heart and finds her on campus, where she shares the root of her dismay and sadness over Felicity's decision. Mrs. Porter sees some of her own past in Felicity's actions, because she met Felicity's dad when she was young and then had Felicity when she was only 20. Basically, she gave up all of her dreams, and while she doesn't regret having a daughter, she's terrified about what life will be like now, without Felicity to focus on. "I lived for those Tuesday dinners with you," she says. "I think they were a little too important for me." It's an incredibly touching moment, and I love that the show explores the parent perspective on what it's like to send a kid to college.
Then, wouldn't you know, Ben just happens to walk by, and Felicity introduces him to her mom. He tells her that he got her essay and... miracle of miracles, he's not freaked out. As he walks away, Felicity and her mom slowly learn forward, both pairs of eyes trained on his retreating figure.
"He's cute," her mother murmurs, and it just squeezes my heart in the best way.
The episode ends with Felicity telling her parents good-bye and watching their cab drive away with a gamut of emotions trembling on her face. In spite of getting her mom and dad on her side, she's really on her own now.
How many times do I have to take a drink?
While Ben remains amazingly chill about the bananas shizz Felicity keeps pulling, I gotta give this episode to Noel, who tries to give Felicity excellent advice (about Ben, to boot!) and doesn't get huffy when she fails to listen. He also makes an effort to help her heal the rift with her parents, like a sensitive and thoughtful guy would, and when he tells Felicity's dad that he's looking out for her, it's hard not to audibly "Awww!" at his genuine goodness.
College Nostalgia Moment
When Felicity and Julie are talking about their parents, there's a moment when Felicity says, "I feel all grown up." It took me back to that aspect of college that separates you from your family and allows you to see your parents, maybe for the first time, as human beings, with their own desires and flaws and emotions. It's such a fundamental shift, and it's one of the major reasons why you suddenly feel so old when you're in college (even when you're clearly still a BABY).
Y2K Nostalgia Moment
Felicity uses a payphone to call her mom and dad! So cute.
Meghan, after overhearing Felicity tell her parents that Meghan is a freak:
John Cho shows up as Larry, one of the residents on Noel's floor, whose roomate has started talking in his sleep:
Images via northbndtrain.tumblr.com
This episode also featured a character actor who's been in everything, Bob Clendenin, as the hilariously humorless mail room clerk.
Well, that's the end of our (super, duper, way too long but I can't help myself) first post of the Felicity Rewatch! For those of you joining in, does the pilot hold up for you as well as it held up for me? And was anyone else surprised to be reminded that Julie started out as a likeable character you would actually want to befriend?
Tune in next Wednesday for Meredith's write-up of "Hot Objects" and "Boggled."