“Guitar Face” featured one of the most Ben And Kate moments of the entire run of Ben And Kate: At the very of the end, while Kate fills the prescription for a little more cowbell, BJ, Tommy, and Ben just sit around talking about how they’re going to go to a pool party at ZZ Scott’s (Dave Allen) house. Good thing his landlord is gone so they can park in his spot. It’s such a nothing conversation. It had little to do with any of the plots, yet I wanted it to continue. I wanted to hear more about the bathing suit that Ben keeps in his center console. C’mon! It’s the pink one! It speaks volumes that this non sequitur conversation was so wonderfully comfortable, even tacked on to the end of an all-around quality episode.
As everyone chatted though, I couldn't help but think: Where is Maddie? For being a single mom, even with the help of her brother, Kate has a lot of free time on her hands to do, well, pretty much whatever the hell she wants. In the past, I praised the writers’ judicious use of Maddie. But this episode got me thinking about how much Ben And Kate would change if Maddie wasn’t a part of it, and I don't think it would be drastically different. Of course, Maddie is the mechanism that brought Ben back home in the first place, but she’s barely a presence anymore.
What did she do in this episode? She instigated milk pong, walked in on her mom’s Post-it-boob apology photo session and helped Ben get Tommy back. BJ complained about Maddie sucking up Kate’s time, but those same criticisms could have been ascribed to Will. Maggie Elizabeth Jones is freakishly cute and I wouldn’t mind some more Maddie time, if only because this is supposed to be a show about a single mom and her brother who takes care of his niece. It’s not necessarily a knock that they aren’t using Maddie more consistently because I am enjoying the show without her. Raising Hope is similarly guilty of forgetting that it is supposed to be about a kid and his kid, and not just Garret Dillahunt and Martha Plimpton being awesome. Moments like the conversation between BJ, Tommy, and Ben about the mysterious pink bathing suit kept in the center console just highlight Maggie's absence.
Speaking of center consoles, it’s perhaps best that Ben not drive, considering his terrible three-point-turning skills and his inability to handle the golf cart bestowed upon him as the new snack girl at Tommy’s club. The hot pink visor was a particularly nice touch. I doubt Ben’s money-making schemes will ever get old (“Sky Mall catalog for trains, your time has come”), but I am interested to see how long it takes for Tommy’s patience to wear thin. Ben got himself thrown in the penalty box, just like in “Scaredy Kate,” after getting Tommy fired while poaching golf balls, and their reconciliation was similarly short, sweet, and funny. Nat Faxon’s reaction to getting hit in the gut with a golf ball was fantastic, and I loved that it was extended beyond the commercial break (“We should have just talked this out like girls!”).
Meanwhile, BJ’s selfishness pervades a women’s support group, leading to one of my criticisms of the episode: You can’t bring out big guns like Leslie Grossman (okay, she is not a big gun but I came to enjoy her over-the-top shtick on the banally likable What I Like About You), who plays group leader Nan, and Allen without firing them. BJ got the best of the women’s groups scenes—especially with her coffee request—and Allen's part could have been any random actor. We’ll have to see if he comes up again in future episodes. I hope he does.
Much like the potential of the guest stars wasn’t fulfilled, some scenes felt choppy and cut short. Kate’s apology photo sesh may have reminded us that Maddie existed, but it felt superfluous, like the episode was trying to kill time. As much as I liked the ending conversation, it felt strangely drawn out after so many quick-cut scenes.
I liked the Will/vinegar strokes plotline, but didn’t love it. Sitcom characters are either uber-clingy or commitment-phobic, because well-adjusted people are not funny, but few have used the face the significant other makes while playing guitar and/or doing it to as a reason to break up (telling bad jokes, on the other hand, is an excellent reason to dump someone). But the plot’s conclusion was pat and expected. It was cute, and its sentimentality earned, but I’ve come to expect Ben And Kate to throw off my expectations so wildly, I was a little disappointed when it proceeded exactly the way I thought it would.
- Ben had the choice lines this week: “I wouldn’t call this a backpack. It’s more of a scrotal carry-all.” “I know exactly what mine is! I had it sketched.” “I feel like I’ve just spent the last 40 minutes watching my sister and her boyfriend have face sex.”
- I want Ben to keep pissing off Tommy if only so we can see him leave more apology messages.
- Kate's rock faces were almost as good as the faces Ben makes during his mirror monologues.