Monday, October 22, 2012

Passion, Reignited

Melodramatic Mondays

Belle is hired for a foursome, but when she's unable to find a fourth, Ben offers himself up. After interviewing a number of men that don't meet her requirements, Belle finally accepts Ben's offer.

The review for "Pro Bono" can be read here.

Ben's (Iddo Goldberg) attraction to Hannah (Billie Piper) has long simmered under the surface, and made clear was the fact that Ben's fiancée was uncomfortable with the two of them being alone together. Her reservations are validated here, as Ben's devotion to his future wife is called into question, and the nature of his relationship to Hannah is also called into question.

It's a relief that the series chose to show Hannah/Belle's rules in regards to hygiene, as it's a detail that likely could have been overlooked throughout the entire series, but it acts as a good reminder that she takes her work seriously and that it could, if done wrong, be life-threatening. Her statement that every condom has a separate use, one for the penis, another for fingers, another for toys, et cetera, is an obvious idea, but her suggestion that Ben use one hand on himself and the other on guests in order to keep things clean is something that might not occur to everyone. Hannah/Belle's knowledge of sex is well-earned, and some times startling, but it's also an incredible relief that she isn't as naïve as she sometimes lets on.

Hannah/Belle has an incredible ability to put others at ease and also has the sense to know when people are uncomfortable. When Kate (Heather Bleasdale) states that she and Liam (Jonny Phillips) are celebrating fifteen years of marriage, Hannah/Belle takes that as her cue to imagine that she and Ben have been a couple for eight years. Hannah knows to change her undergarments, feelings that they're too hardcore for this couple, and knows when to pull Ben out of the action to allow Kate and Liam the intimacy they came looking for. Hannah/Belle sees her role here not as one of intrusion or even partnership, but as a facilitator to their needs; she considers it a puzzle of three sexual agendas, Liam's desires, what Kate wants, and what they both need, then looks for a way to mesh all three together. While the situation was set up as a group activity, with both couples swapping their partners, Hannah/Belle is aware from the beginning that the excitement and anticipation of the event, coupled with the resulting burst of adrenaline, will reignite the couples passion for one another, bringing an end to whatever issues they had been experiencing in their love life.

Hannah/Belle interviews a man (Richard Calkin) that goes so against everything she's looking for that she's left no option but to take Ben up on his offer. This short scene is designed to facilitate Ben's inclusion in the story, but it feels very cheap, as though to appease the audience and to say that she had exhausted all of her options before allowing her friend into her world. His attitude is so exaggerated and beyond inappropriate that it seems as though he's playing a caricature of someone and is somewhat unbelievable as a real person.

Ben is severely disappointed that he wasn't able to actually have sex during their session, and the experience was absolutely nothing like what he expected. Rather than discussing this with him, and questioning him about his relationship to his fiancée, Hannah instead offers Ben some Viagra to take home and please Vanessa. This entire situation is a cry for help, an attempt to get out of his upcoming nuptials, but Hannah's unable to see this. She can connect to absolute strangers, but she's unable to empathize with that her best friend needs, and it's upsetting on a number of levels that she turns this situation into something of a joke.

This episode is mainly an opportunity to explore the chemistry between Piper and Goldberg. While Bleasdale and Phillips fulfill their roles quite well here, they still are pushed aside in favor of showcasing the relationship between Hannah and Ben, with Ben's attraction to Hannah displayed through his eagerness to work with her, and their deep bond of friendship seen in their jokes regarding Ben's Viagra-induced erection. Piper and Goldberg appear to have a very genuine connection here, and their ability to play off of one another carries this story.

Susan Tully chooses to show Hannah/Belle's sense of professionalism in this episode, from her ability to recognize amateurs based on their photos and poses to her helping with grooming Ben before the other couple arrives. While Ben briefly protests that her efforts are too much, she swiftly states that she's preparing him to industry standards and that there's no second chance to make a first impression. In past episodes we have been witness to Hannah repeatedly shirking her duties as Belle, often trying to cut corners and avoid responsibilities, so it's nice to see her here taking charge and proving that she's worth the price she charges. Her take-charge attitude is also nicely contrasted with Ben's utter awkwardness when left alone in a room with the other couple.

Julie Gearey gives the character relationships, their inter-connectivity, the forefront in this script, allowing the actions of the episode to fall as they do based on the actions and inactions of the people involved. Rather than simply dismissing him as wanting to have sex outside of his relationship, Hannah gives Ben a chance by taking his interview seriously and not condescending to him. At one point she does ask him about whether he considers his engagement to be an issue, but she never follows that up with whether Vanessa would feel the same about it. The most glaring issue, however, is the fact that Belle's madam Stephanie (Cherie Lunghi) would book her for a foursome and not offer to find a man to fill the extra role. This is her business, and she should be taking a more active role in fulfilling her clients needs, but instead she focuses only on the money without a worry as to whether her customers will be satisfied.

Having volunteered himself for this situation, in part as an opportunity to have sex with Hannah as well as to cheat on his fiancée, Ben is looking less likely to follow through with his wedding, though a relationship with Hannah doesn't seem, from her perspective, to be in the cards either.

The review for "Rough in the Diamond" can be read here.


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