Ben and Kate Review: "The Fox Hunt" (Episode 1.03)
Some of the greatest sitcom episodes deal with homemade games. There’s “The Contest” from Seinfeld and arguably one of the finest television comedy half-hour’s ever, Friends’ “The One With The Embryos.” Both Friends and Seinfeld waited until their fourth seasons to add depth to their characters through friendly competition, Ben and Kate only waited until the third episode. “The Fox Hunt” doesn’t have the level of excitement or introspective look into the past of this duo that one would hope for, but it is the most fun the show has had with these characters so far.
Since Ben believes he’s better at Kate in most things, Kate brings out an old Fox family tradition: The Fox Hunt, a scavenger hunt that Kate has never won. To make Kate feel more accomplished, Ben and partner Tommy decide to allow Kate and her lazy partner BJ to win for once. However when they realize that the rules state that the loser has to do the other’s housework for a month with less than two hours left on the clock, Ben works to win The Fox Hunt once more.
The biggest problem with “The Fox Hunt” is that the scavenger hunt just doesn’t seem all that interesting by itself. Turns out most of the items on the list, created by their father, was just grocery items for the kids, thrown in with weird items like a live bird. The game doesn’t give us much more information about the two than what we already know. We find out in the past Ben wasn’t usually the best at things, unless it was in competition with his sister. Ben’s attempts at competition mostly ended with participation medals, much to the chagrin of his father. Besides this, “The Fox Hunt” usually just reiterates themes, like the fact that Kate is trying to better her life, while Ben tries but never follows through on things, like his waterbed/recliner idea, the Aqua Lounger.
“The Fox Hunt” does strengthen the comedic chops of the group, as Dakota Johnson’s Kate is getting funnier with each episode and the oft-forgotten Tommy is becoming more of a funny presence. Unfortunately Echo Kellum’s Tommy has to compete against Lucy Punch’s BJ for best sidekick, a contest which he is almost always going to lose. Tommy is much stronger here than he has been in past episodes, but most improved is Ben, who is finally finding the balance between trying too hard and being genuinely hilarious. The show’s final moments, in which he tries to stop crying, yelling at himself in the mirror while experiencing a flurry of emotions is the series’ funniest moment by far.
Ben and Kate does have the potential to have plenty of these types of episodes, and it has occasionally dealt with the idea of putting the modern-day Ben and Kate into situations they had to deal with as children. It’s a great idea, one that sometimes gives us looks into their past, but it never seems to go far enough, probably because we’ve seen that their pasts aren’t that happy. But as the group dynamic grows stronger, it would be nice to have a deeper history to these characters, beyond “one is the screw-up, one is more together.” “The Fox Hunt” is full of great humor, but the lack of depth does leave the episode feeling like less than what it could have been.