Where the hell was Tommy? Last week, I complained that Ben And Kate took a step back after the show returned from the winter hiatus because Tommy continued to feel like a non-essential part of the cast. But I forgave the Ben And Kate staff: They gave us a one-off episode as a way to introduce new viewers to the show. With “Girl Problems,” they threw us right back into the thick of the arcs they began before the hiatus: Ben’s back on the Rail Mall game, Tommy’s dating Lila, and BJ is being BJ. Ben got his pay-off, but Tommy once again felt inconsequential to the episode. Kate completely dominated what should have been a chance to actually expand on Tommy’s world and give us a glimpse of the life he has outside of the Fox siblings, like BJ hinted at throughout the entire episode. BJ has a savvy business sense but can’t remember her mother’s name. That’s a character. It’s a weird one, but it’s a character, and I love that character. Tommy seems to do the same thing every episode, only this time, the Fox he was mildly angry at was a different one. “Girl Problems” managed to introduce an entirely new character without giving us any indication of what that character is like or expanding at all on the role of the character she was meant to serve.
We’re reintroduced to Lila during her honeymoon phase with Tommy. It’s not the very beginning of their relationship because the Gang is all familiar with Lila, including Kate whom Tommy clearly doesn’t want to hang with his new girl considering how fast they skedaddle from the bar. “Tommy’s been madly in love with you for as long as I can remember, which is about… five weeks,” BJ says. It’s a curious place to reintroduce the relationship because it robs the viewer of seeing Tommy and Lila’s early courtship, an easy way to establish what kind of person she is before she’s in full-on girlfriend mode. The same thing could be said for why we didn’t get to see her introduced to the rest of the Gang.
Kate takes it upon herself to hang out with Lila, because showing up at the door of your best friend’s new girlfriend is not super creepy at all (but then again, that’s Kate). What did we learn about Lila from this hang out sesh? Not much. She’s dating Tommy. Kate drops the bomb that Tommy was in love with her for a decade before Lila can establish any real personality traits other than blandly likable. This is Lila’s first major episode, so I’m not expecting her to show her multitudes or anything, but a personality trait other than “kinda looks like Kate” in that they are both blonde and pretty would have been nice. Even the plot to get Lila back into Tommy’s warm embrace is dominated by Kate, rather than by Tommy. Writers Matt Fusfeld and Alex Cuthbertson, who did a fine job with “Scaredy Kate,” had perfect opportunity to actually give Tommy something to do other than get mad and easily forgive a Fox sibling. Yet, it’s up to Kate to rekindle the romance between Tommy and Lila. Tommy’s lack of development is clearly a long-running issue for me, but one of the reasons this storyline felt so limp was I fell in love with Ben And Kate because of way it subverted my expectations, but from introduction to climax, I knew how everything was going to play out. Hopefully, this episode was simply a way to clear out any issues about Tommy’s past Kate crush so he (and Lila) can become fully realized characters.
Tommy and Lila didn’t get their due because Ben was so busy with Rail Mall, which is, for those who forgot, a Sky Mall for trains. (An excellent discussion about why no one takes the train in California, where Ben and Kate live, happened in the discussion of “Guitar Face,” by the way. Illuminating for an East Coast girl.) Ben And Kate continues with the theme that older ladies find Ben Fox irresistible, picking up a lover and CEO in the form of Vera (Melinda McGraw), who completely changes his idea so that it’s sane before agreeing to work with him, and continuing to bang him (“I want you in my hair.” Eeeeewwww.). I love suave Ben Fox, but it was BJ who stole the show, whether it was through her Southern-Midwestern-Texan undercover persona (“She may be your business partner, Ben, but she also wants to get into your business parts-nah.”) BJ is the prime example of why of Tommy is such a frustrating character. She didn’t need to be in this episode, and she served little purpose to the functions of either plot, but if she wasn't, I would have missed her. I love it when BJ gets inspirational, telling Ben to confront Vera about her deceitful ways. Throughout it all, BJ still showed that she had a life outside of what we see onscreen, including an incredible business acumen for a woman who can’t remember more than a month-and-a-half ago.
- Cedric Yarbrough better come back and actually do something this time or Ben And Kate needs to stop casting awesome people and getting my hopes up.
- What did Vera do to get Ben to change his mind about coming home with her? I honestly couldn’t see, and I don’t know if that’s my television or if it was cut out. I watched it a couple times. Illuminate me in the comments, fellow Ben And Kate lovers!
- “It’s called head-hunting Kate. Why don’t you take a listen to my audio book? It’s called Self Happens, Volume Three.” I would like this to serve as narration for the rest of the series, a la Eastbound And Down or Sex And The City.
- “Ooo, crab puffs. The lobster of crab appetizers.”
- “Ben, she’s worried about you. You’re an adorable bichon frise in a world of bloodthirsty street dogs, and she doesn’t want to see you get eaten. Or forcibly mounted.”
- “You really know your stuff.” “I just really like lofts.”