Warning: This post contains spoilers for Never Have I Ever‘s Season 2 finale.
Never Have I Ever‘s Season 2 finale ended well for Devi, not so much for her longtime academic rival and sometime boyfriend, Ben Gross.
Both attended their school’s winter formal, though not together; Ben accompanied his girlfriend, Aneesa, while Devi and her single pal Eleanor decided to be each other’s dates. Everything seemed pretty chill until Paxton, whom Devi had been pursuing all year — including when she and Ben were dating, oops! — showed up and told Devi he wanted to be her guy, after all. (He also hit her with his car, but it’s OK. She’s fine.)
As Paxton and Devi slow-danced, Ben muttered that Paxton had always been Devi’s endgame. But Eleanor, who was standing nearby and overheard him, swiftly corrected him. She pointed out that Devi had been all-in with Ben after he drove her to spread her father’s ashes at the end of Season 1, but that she and Fabiola had talked Devi into going after Paxton instead. And then the episode ended as a devastated Ben watched Devi and Paxton kiss on the dance floor. (Read a full recap.)
Jaren Lewison, who plays Ben, tells TVLine that shooting those scenes had a profound effect on him… but maybe not for the reasons you’d think.
“I walked in and I got goosebumps and I had trouble speaking, which is weird, because I’m super loud and passionate in real life,” he says. “Even now, just talking about it, I still get butterflies in my stomach, because it felt magical. Seeing everybody dressed up, and the set decoration was gorgeous and the lighting was so beautiful.” Add in that Ben’s wrecked moment was Lewison’s last scene of the season — which isn’t a given in an industry that often shoots out of order to maximize production efficiency — and the revelation carried extra power.
“I just remember this tremendous feeling of gratitude and joy of getting the chance to be a part of such an incredible show, an incredible season,” he says. “And then, hopefully, getting the chance to reprise that and continue to build upon this world for Season 3.”
But what might Ben’s trajectory look like in a potential third season, given that he’s dating one awesome female while clearly pining for another? And what, exactly, is Ben thinking the moment he learns that he wasn’t quite the underdog he thought he was? Read on as we get Lewison to go deep on that devastating dance moment.
TVLINE | Let’s back up a little bit: Do you think Ben has ever had feelings for another girl like he’s having for Devi?
I think it’s hard to say. Devi… represents everything that Ben’s looking for. Ben is looking for someone who’s really smart and confident and a little wild, that can push him and challenge him both personally and academically. And when you couple that with a foundation of so many years of rivalry that eventually turns into a friendship, and they still have that special way they banter, and the ability to come back to each other on such a deep level because of how well they know each other…
She is really special in that way, and that’s why he does feel so strongly for her. It’s very hard for him to turn off those feelings and move on and get over her. I don’t think that that’s something that happens easily. And obviously, we see that especially at the end with that look, and Ben exclaiming how it’s always been Paxton, and then, finding out that it hasn’t always been Paxton. It kind of messes with his head.
TVLINE | It made me wonder if Ben feels all along like he was a runner-up to Paxton, and if that informed some of the other choices he made during the season.
As brutal as it may sound, I think that Ben’s been a runner-up his entire life.He’s been a runner-up at home when his absent father has been always choosing his clients over his own son. He feels like a runner-up oftentimes in school when he loses out to Devi. He’s a runner-up for his mother’s attention, who’s doing various things when she’s really a stay-at-home mom and should be at home supporting her son.
I think that he feels like he’s been second choice all of his life, which is why it does hurt him so badly to see Paxton and Devi together — as well as, backing up, in the beginning of the season, when he does get cheated on. It is so upsetting for him because he found somewhere that he belonged, and he found somewhere that he felt valued and appreciated when his entire life, he’s felt unseen, unheard and unvalued.
TVLINE | We see Ben comfort Devi in the school bathroom after Paxton rejects her in the hallway, and it’s a sweet moment. Do you think he would be OK with their going back to being just friends?
Yeah. I mean, I think that Ben’s always going to have a soft spot for Devi, and Devi’s always going to have a soft spot for Ben, and I don’t even think that he necessarily ruled out the possibility of another romantic relationship a little bit later down the line. Their connection is so strong. It’s so obvious that they have this magnetism towards each other because no matter what happens, they always seem to find their way back to each other, whether it’s Ben in Season 1 going over to Devi’s house when he’s most in need, or at the end of the Season 1 finale where Ben is driving Devi to Malibu, and then, in Season 2 with Ben in that bathroom scene for Devi, and then Devi kind of always being there, as well, to pick Ben back up, even sometimes when she’s the cause of some of his pain.
You can’t fight that, to a certain extent, and I think that Ben knows that. He feels it. He thinks about Devi frequently, whether it’s as a friend or as something more. Again, I don’t think that he can turn off those feelings so easily and so quickly.
…If we do have that season 3, which, you know, obviously, I really hope that we get that chance. Who knows? I have no idea how he’s going to deal with that inner conflict at the end. Those emotions obviously have been slightly subconscious for him, and then, were thrust to the surface, and he’s going to have to figure out how to deal with them.