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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Ben And Kate: “Career Day”

Illustration for article titled Ben And Kate: “Career Day”
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It’s always a cause for worry when a recurring element is introduced into the well-oiled cast of a sitcom. It’s an especially difficult proposition when the addition is most certainly temporary. Ted’s (and most recently Barney’s) girlfriends on How I Met Your Mother have become a string of people who awkwardly try to interact with the core five and are largely forgotten as soon as they are anticlimatically written out of the picture. (Zoey who?) It’s no fun watching outsiders because all we want to do as an audience is spend time with the regulars. As discussed time and time again, Ben And Kate’s major strength since the beginning is actor chemistry, so throwing Geoff Stults into the mix—he’ll be around for at least five episodes—could certainly be rough going if not handled correctly, especially for a show as young and unestablished as Ben And Kate.

But if “Career Day” is any evidence, Stults will do just fine, and it might be one of the first times I’m sad to see a sitcom significant other go (which, I’m assuming he will, if only because Kate’s love life is too fertile for comedy to close it off so immediately with a longterm boyfriend—although that would be pleasantly unexpected). Stults works so well because, through his character and his acting choices, he perfectly fits into Ben And Kate’s lovingly skewed dynamic. He’s generically attractive with his square jaw, but imbued with a goofiness that makes him seem like less of an unreachable presence. When the episode first opens up, we see Kate’s making a full scale attack in the excellently named  “Operation Crockpot,” by having Stults’ Will direct her into a parking space. But Will’s almost-pained reaction is perfect: Kate isn’t the only one who’s freaked out by their budding romance. It’s throwing Will off, as well.

But even if Stults hadn’t worked out so well, this episode still would have been stellar. In previous episodes, when the group broke off into their separate stories, the show tended to feel overstuffed or lopsided. Ben And Kate feels the most natural when it’s balanced, either with the group working together or neatly paired up. But each of “Career Day”’s storylines feel like they were given enough weight, blending into each other rather perfectly: The Kate and Will date merges nicely with Ben and Tommy’s search for the perfect career, which fits with the battle between BJ’s and Kenny/Sam (Ryan Pinkston, who will always be “that kid from Punk’d”).

I loved the slight twist at the end of BJ’s tussle with Kenny/Sam (Note to the writers: If Pinkston comes back, please only allow BJ to refer to him as Kenny/Sam). BJ achieved a certain amount of redemption in “Scaredy Kate” by eschewing her plan to steal fancy South American face cream in order to be by Maddie’s side. But any earned good guy points are immediately erased because she’s not concerned that she doesn’t know any of the kitchen staff’s name—she’s only relieved that people don’t believe she’s sleeping her way to the top. She has ethos, but they only arise when it comes to the Fox family. She is consistent in that she feels for Maddie, Kate, and Ben and gives no shits about anyone else.

BJ has been the first character so far to get her own running storyline (her relationship with her boss, played by Rob Corddry) that has little to do with the other cast members. That’s no surprise, as BJ is clearly a favorite and less reliant on her counterpart for laughs. Tommy needs Ben and Kate to exist, but BJ can exist without either of them. That’s okay—I’ve grown to like Tommy considerably—but I wouldn’t want to see him off on his own. BJ is allowed to break out, but it’s dicey territory: Leave her alone for too long and it overshadows the rest of the episode, but don’t give us enough, and I stop caring about the main plot because I want more BJ. But this is exactly how it should be done in the future.

One of the episode’s sharpest moments successfully plays to the show’s strength of cast chemistry and moves the plot along. While trying to figure out how to distribute his wealth of wine, Ben buys two boxes of Girl Scout cookies (“Thanks again for childhood obesity”), gives one to Tommy and they proceed to finish their conversation with mouthfuls of dessert, spewing crumbs with each word. “That’s the way you run a business!” It’s the perfect encapsulation of Tommy and Ben: two man-children participating in a childish act, in spite of trying to make seemingly adult decisions in the service of both Maddie and, of course, themselves.


Stray observations:

  • “Career Day” was written by Lorene Scafaria (the woman behind Seeking A Friend For The End of the World and Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist) who you might remember as one part of the the self-described Fempire—which also includes Ben And Kate creator Dana Fox. Does this mean we’ll get other members of the Fempire (oh God, Fempire is just the worst word to write, isn’t it?)  to contribute an episode? Liz Meriwether clearly understands the necessity of a balanced group dynamic, but she’s got her own show to worry about. Diablo Cody would be interesting, but genuine and sweet are not her greatest qualities as a writer.
  • We’ve seen Ben interact with Will, but I’m excited to see lovestruck Tommy go up against Kate’s new guy. Echo Kellum was excellent playing injured puppy in “21st Birthday.” I want to see more of that than the expected freakout.
  • Similarly, I am excited to see how Ben’s love life develops. We’ve now seen him with a crazy girl and a cougar. If Kate gets a love interest now, when does Ben get a sweetie?
  • Cougar Town fans, how much were you wishing that CT was also on Fox so we could have a Cul-de-Sac Crew crossover edition of Ben And Kate?
  • “Then that is when I will see you with my looking balls,” followed by Dakota Johnson’s incredible reaction. All of the reaction shots in this episode get an “A.”
  • “Slash?”
  • “It’s a tough world to break into, especially if you’re an unknown, not unlike the cliquey world of meteorology.”
  • “Fasten your seat belts and no texting. A lot of good people died horrifically that way.”
  • “I find him to be too symmetrical.” “Eerily so.”