Last night's episode of SouthLAnd -- "The Felix Paradox" -- certainly has fans a-tweeting and a-blogging. Including me.
What in the hell did Ben do, anyway?
In my opinion, there were two separate break-ins at Sammy's house. One, orchestrated by Ben -- getting Elena's brother to steal the incriminating tape. The other, orchestrated by the Strokeface gang. Somehow, these two break-ins converged. And I really don't believe Ben had anything to do with the actions of Strokeface's people. In the end, I think he is just as scared as Sammy over this turn of events. And he is also scared for Sammy. Because Ben, when all is said and done, truly is Sammy's friend -- at least as much of a friend as he is capable of being.
What really fascinates me about this episode, though, is people's reactions to it -- especially in light of the things Ben has done in the past. A lot of people seem to be genuinely shocked at Ben's actions in this episode. Albeit a lot of those people think Ben and/or Elena's brother (hired by Ben) may be responsible for the true violence that occurred at Sammy's house. As I said, I don't agree with this, for many reasons. I don't think Elena's brother is a violent person, for example. And I don't think Ben, even in desperation, would have asked any of the members of Strokeface's gang to break into Sammy's house. And I don't think Ben could have managed to get Elena's brother to somehow make it look like Strokeface's gang broke into Sammy's house. That just seems too far-fetched. We shall see.
But, whatever the details of Ben's actions, his actions were definitely wrong. And many people seem suddenly quite shocked at Ben for acting in this unethical manner.
Hello, people. No offense, but Ben has not been a nice guy for a while. It all started when Daisy dumped him. (Just kidding. But, not really. That did seem to be a bit of a turning point for old Ben.)
Ben has been flying around "under the radar" for a while on this show. I think people have perhaps been riveted by the wonderful performances and fascinating story lines of many of the other cast members. Maybe a lot of people have mistakenly seen Ben as a relatively simple character -- the smart and handsome new cop, trying to get his bearings in a tough job while making some understandable errors of judgement, chasing skirts (But, hell, why shouldn't he??? He's so hot, after all. And the ladies don't seem to be complaining.). And I think that because he is young and handsome and smart and capable and confident and new and someone you want to root for (at least that you wanted to root for), a lot about Ben has been overlooked, in both his actions and his ethical make-up.
Let's look at what happened at the end of Season 4. If you watch the end of that season, you will see Ben filing a gun. You will then see Ben making excuses for tracking down the evil pimp, while Sammy is in the hospital. You will watch as Ben chases the evil pimp to an area where nobody can observe either of them. The evil pimp ends up shot and killed. And -- ta-da -- there is a gun on the ground next to his poor, dead body. And where do you think that gun came from? I'll give you one guess. And I bet the identifying numbers on that gun have been filed off. Hello, dear people. But, this is first degree murder, I believe. So, now we are all shocked that Ben hired Elena's brother to sneak into Sammy's house to steal the tape?
Let's look at the womanizing behavior, too. I think there is a temptation to "wink-wink" at this. After all, Ben is just so cute. And he has those arm muscles. And he is so personable. And he's not hurting anybody, right? I mean, the ladies go after him just as much as he goes after them. It is very tempting to just view this behavior as innocuous. The "sewing of the wild oats," as we used to say. But, I disagree with this. I think Ben's attitude toward women belies a certain self-centeredness. A willingness to rationalize dishonesty. In short, it shows what a liar he can be. He is able to look into the eyes of both Brooke and Elena with that heartbreaking mug of his, making each feel that she is the only one. He is able to spend time with each of them, converse with each of them, go to bed with each of them, as if the other one doesn't exist. He often seems to be in each of their beds within the same 24-hour period (ewww...) and it doesn't seem to bother him in the least. Maybe I am a middle-aged lady. But, I am a sexual-revolutionary Boomer, and I think there is something very wrong here. I think we are observing in Ben some very serious moral shortcomings.
There are many other examples of Ben's morally dubious behavior and crass attitudes. There is the way he talks about the hooker who is having the retirement party. There is the time he tells Sammy that maybe Tammy is lying, and Nate really isn't his son. I mean, talk about cynical and totally insensitive to the fact that Sammy loves Nate with all his heart and soul. There is the way he got his old high school drug-dealer arrested. There is the manner in which he accepts the award for heroism, even though you can be sure he knows he doesn't deserve it. Then, at the strip-club celebration afterwards, he is happy to follow Officer Mendoza's suggestion to make himself scarce when things go awry. And do you recall how he practically strangles the prostitute in order to find out the whereabouts of the pimp (the one he ends up murdering)? Remember his propensity to punch out perps who are already handcuffed or otherwise indisposed? Remember how he acts toward the man who sexually assaulted his mother and knocked out his teeth -- threatening him after he is released from prison? And last -- but, certainly not least -- there is his whole negative attitude toward dogs and vet bills. I mean, that says it all.
I think the SouthLAnd writers have been brilliantly stealthy with Officer Ben. There have been many little clues about the kind of person he really is -- and the kind of person he has been turning into. The numerous things that are attractively compelling about his character have sometimes tempted us to either miss or turn a blind eye to even the seriously crappy things that he does. We have so much wanted good for him. We have so much wanted him to be good. And our desire has, perhaps, clouded our vision.
What to take away from all this? Our preconceptions, our desires, our values color our way of seeing something. And when we are dealing with a person we really want to admire, when we are dealing with a situation that we really want to turn out a certain way, we often interpret what we see in a manner that is most amenable to our point of view. That can be very dangerous.
Way to go SouthLAnd. What a lesson for us, what a reminder, in this day and age in which we live.