Fairly Legal, Season 2 (thus far)
After season 1, USA axed the show creator and brought on a different show creator, then brought in Ben as a love triangle character. Season 1 was about the rather broken relationship that Kate had with her soon-to-be-ex husband Justin, which was summed up in season 1’s episode “Coming Home”:
J: What we have is not a marriage, Kate.
K: I know, and isn’t that great?
J: How is that great?
K: Well, when we were married married, we never had any time for each other, right? And that created pressure.
J: Which I was willing to work through; you weren’t.
K: It’s everything I loved about the relationship without actually having to be in the relationship.
J: So it’s all the fun without the work, right?
K: Yeah, so what’s wrong with that?
J: Where do I start?
The scene ends with Justin pulling back more than once. In Season 2, Kate finally does sign the divorce papers she’s been putting off, and Justin ineptly tells her she can start dating again. This leads to an awkward situation where she’s out having a drink with Ben (as a colleague) and Justin shows up with a new date, something Kate’s completely unprepared for.
But let’s back up for a minute.
The opening scene of Season 2 is when Kate’s sitting at a bar waiting for Justin so they can sign the divorce papers, but he doesn’t show (not his fault, as is shown later in the episode). Ben, a rather cocky attorney, comes by to hit on her. He throws one line after another out, hoping for something to stick, and as she’s starting to leave, he finally hits home.
B: Is truth the way to your heart?
B: Withdrawn, counselor, I misspoke. We have not yet established that you have a heart.
K: The way to my heart would be to do everything and to say nothing. No negotiation, no foreplay, no strategy. Just be who you are and take me.
K: (whispers) Too late.
B: (stares after her as she leaves)
As it turns out, he actually does really listen to what she says here, though he doesn’t really get the groove right away.
The next day, he’s representing one party in her mediation, and by the end of the episode, he’s bought his way into the firm. Now, strictly as a writer thing, it’s the way to get him into situations up close and personal with the main characters — there was no other way to have him continually interact wth her.
For Ben, though, he’s the 23rd-highest-grossing attorney in the city, he has no associates, is generally a lone wolf (and competent at it), so why would he buy his way into a law firm that was going under — if it weren’t for his initial fascination with Kate?
The day after he buys into the firm:
B: You look familiar.
K: Oh dear God, it’s true. You actually do work here.
B: Didn’t you hit on me in some bar recently?
K: You know how some women don’t remember the pain of child labor? I don’t remember the bar.
B: And yet here I am, rosy cheeked, 153 pounds, 7 ounces, right in the office next to yours. We’re going to have so much fun together, Katie. Pillow fights. Movie nights. Up gossiping till dawn.
K: (punches elevator button repeatedly)
Things progress until episode 6, “What they Seem,” which is when Justin fumbles telling Kate she can date. There’s an earlier bit cut out of the actual episode that’s in the season 2 promo that’s necessary for context.
J: The only reason he brought you into this mess is because he thinks you’re can throw me off my game.
K: Oh, you think?
J: Oh, so you know he’s using you.
K: Yeah. Sometimes a girl doesn’t mind being used, especially if he’s cute and has a lot of money. (blows Ben a kiss.) (To Justin) How’s your game now?
Later in the same episode after the case’s resolution,
J: (About a case they just worked on) I guess I’m not usually blinded by my emotions.
K: (Sarcastically) I have no idea what that’s like. You said I was the one being used.
J: Just for the record, if you wanted to be used, or — not used, but — look, what I’m saying is–
K: (turns to look in the direction Justin’s looking and sees Ben) Ben Grogan?
J: No. No? (impliedly asking if she were interested in Ben)
J: No, no, no, I’m talking about the concept in general of dating. (devolves into stammerfest)
K: You’re so cute to see you fumbling for your words.
J: Oh my God, forget I said anything.
K: Good, I hope so, ’cause that was weird.
Somewhat earlier, Kate is convinced that inattentional blindness is at the heart of her current mediation, and Ben doesn’t believe in it, so Kate leads him into the office by his tie and tries (successfully) to distract him. Her demo buys her most of a day to try to uncover what really happened.
In the bar later, Ben notices Kate isn’t her usual self:
B: To partners.
B: Look at you, agreeing to have a drink with me.
K: Oh, slow down there, cowboy. I just needed a bar and somebody with a car to drive me there.
B: What is the matter? You’re the queen of win-win. This is win-win-win.
K: Uh huh.
B: You get the truth, O’Hara gets to keep his pension, and Andre Chernof is going to clean up.
Then Justin walks in with a date. Ben asks if she wants to leave. Initially she resists, but then grabs Ben’s coat and says, “Let’s get out of here.” Ben drives Kate home, and she invites him in. She then propositions him, but he turns her down. For a lot of fans, this was when they started liking Ben.
Naturally, the two characters wind up in the elevator the next morning:
B: Oh shazam, now I remember. You saw Justin on a date last night, drank too much, I drove you home, and you asked me in for meaningless revenge sex because you think I’m an empty person. Did we? No. Because I said no to you and went home.
(There are a lot of great elevator scenes in this series)
Two episodes later, after another case, Kate and Ben are leaving the building at the end of the day, and he pulls her into a kiss. While he starts it, she definitely contributes to it, then breaks it off. In the following episode, she describes it as “I kissed somebody” to two different people — as though she had initiated the action, but when she tells her assistant Leo, and he asks who, she lies and says he doesn’t know the guy. Leo figures it out later that day, though.
Nevertheless, Kate stands up Ben the next episode, instead spending the night with Justin (who tells her “Don’t ever change” — a line that justifiably enraged a lot of fans).
It’s not until the 10th episode, Shattered, when Kate finds out that Ben really cares, and leads to my favorite line of the entire series when Ben’s ex shows up as counsel for one of Kate’s cases:
“Were you two Amish together?”
Kate corners Leo after noticing that Leo and Ben are acting different around each other; Leo tells Kate (after Ben asked him not to — twice) that Ben had come around to his house looking for Kate when Kate stood Ben up.
Despite this, Kate leaves hand-in-hand with Justin at the end of the episode, but she looks back twice to see the reaction on Ben’s face. Next episode’s sneak peak suggests that Ben isn’t going to fight fair. I approve.
I didn’t come around to Ben right away; he’s become increasingly sympathetic as the season goes on, but he’s just as flawed as Kate is. What I find interesting is that when you look at personal space, Kate is far more likely to invade the space of or touch Ben than she ever was with Justin. Kate’s a very touchy person, and is comfortable with that close boundary, but she tends to keep her distance with Justin unless she’s trying to manipulate him into sex. I really hope she stops doing that, but hell, I had one of those relationships with an ex for years, so I can also empathize.
In Kate’s case, it really doesn’t seem like she’s dated anyone other than Justin, which makes it harder for her to break things off.
In Ben’s case, we’ve already met two of his exes, so one wonders how many dozens (or hundreds) of others there are.
Or, as I’ve said before: Kate’s a train wreck and Ben’s a perfectly good train. The main thing wrong with Justin is that he’s an unwreckable train. In order for a plot to work, the plot mechanisms need to be able to create change in the characters, and Justin’s like Argon: non-reactive. He’s too steadfast a personality to be interesting with Kate. Ben is mercurial and has that well-practiced exterior gloss over the wounded puppy inside.