So I decided to put it away, and think of ways to rewrite the scene. I knew the conversations had to stay for the most part, as they are integral to not just the scene, but the entire plot. Chapter 2, scene 2 sets up what is to be the first bit of rising action. But the introducing paragraph for that section was just . . . bleh. If I were reading this as a finished product off the shelf, I would've tossed it back without a second thought. Since I had to improve the scene, I decided a complete rewrite was in order.
But what could I do to improve the scene? It took me a month to come up with something plausible -- I finally decided to change the setting, take it out of a private location and throw it into a very public forum, which would introduce tension into the characters that hadn't been there before. This way the rising action has a greater impact, for it forces the characters to restrain themselves physically while discussing a matter that greatly affects the safety and security of their future.
Of course, it doesn't hurt when you also discover a song that jump-starts your creativity and facilitates the much needed change. You can see what helped inspire my progress below.