”Ugly Betty” recap: Unhappy birthday
How stoked are you that Mode is back in business? It’s been exactly three months since the last episode of Ugly Betty aired. Three months! And just like the Suarez clan yearning for Ignacio’s delectable flan, I’ve been craving my fix of delicious love triangles, devilish in vitro impregnations, and, of course, Willy’s genius one-liners. And there was so much to look forward to: A new Meade magazine, courtesy of Claire! Dark revelations about Willy’s sister, Renee! Some sort of resolution to the Betty-Henry-Gio love triangle! Hilda with bangs!
But before we get to that, let’s talk about what got me through those three dark months: First, a bunch of delightful casting rumors about the show — upcoming episodes will feature appearances by Project Runway‘s Nina Garcia and Christian Siriano, as well as tweenage versions of Betty, Amanda, Daniel, and Gio. As clichéd as it may be, I’ve got to say all that is bound to be totally fierce. Then creator and executive producer Silvo Horta, announcing the show’s return, said it would refocus on its main character and ”heart.” All right, I’ll take that, too! And most recently, ABC put out both a video podcast hosted by Becki Newton and Michael Urie (the duo’s ”Ready for Betty” song is a showstopper!) and one of those short, cool catch-up videos the network’s been doing lately. Good stuff? For sure. But I suppose I should get back to the episode at hand.
That Horta doesn’t lie: This was definitely a Betty-centric episode, in mostly the right ways. Aptly titled ”Twenty-Four Candles,” the story focused on Ms. Suarez’s official foray into her mid-20s. (I always forget that she’s still so young!) The wacky dream sequence — Betty on a fairy-tale carriage ride with Henry — at the beginning completely set up what we all knew was coming: a day to remember, which inevitably meant, in Betty world, a totally botched celebration.
Excitedly raising the roof and shouting, ”Birthday girl in the house!” as she waltzed up to Henry’s apartment a few hours after the dream, Betty — toting her newly BeDazzled cell phone, courtesy of Justin — couldn’t have been happier to run off to a romantic weekend in the Poconos. But instead, she discovered her worst nightmare: Charlie! Claiming she was in town for some sort of parenting seminar, Henry’s baby mama successfully managed to get the weekend getaway canceled. Then, feigning sickness after a hilarious run-in with the cupcake-toting Hilda (who growled, ”These are not just decorative,” as she scratched the wall with her talon-like fingernails), Charlie also managed to foil the backup plan: dinner, a concert in the park, and fireworks. My heart broke a bit watching Betty, as she stirred her fondue for two, sitting at the restaurant naively thinking Henry would show up at. Because her cell got screwed up in the BeDazzling process, she couldn’t even hear Henry’s message saying he couldn’t make it. Oh, the perils of technology!
My first instinct is to treat Charlie like the witch she truly is. Showing up, by happenstance, on Betty’s birthday and getting sick — everything she did was so calculated and cunning. There’s no denying all that. But I loved that this story line set up the sweet birthday date between Betty and Gio. The sandwich guy saved the day — natch, in a horse-drawn carriage — and whisked Betty off to the birthday of her dreams (sort of), complete with construction-site fireworks. But Betty keeps pushing him away, and I need to know why. Granted, the love connection between her and Henry is strong, and they’re über-cute together. But there’s all that baggage with the baby and Charlie and everything. And — didja forget? — he’s leaving when the baby is born. I’m still convinced the baby isn’t even his. On the other corner of the triangle, there’s a guy who’s undeniably, majorly into Betty. He keeps coming back, even after she consistently shoos him away in a rather rude manner. Why — besides the chiseled body and cute, boyish grin — is Henry winning this contest? Gio knows what Betty dreams about, for goodness’ sakes! He’s the real deal. At least it seems that way right now.
What’s more, Betty really didn’t seem too upset that she wound up spending the evening with Gio. Granted, she was pleased to see Henry snoozing on her couch when she got back home, but where was the tantrum before that? The nasty breakup phone call? The suicidal trek to the Brooklyn Bridge? I’m just gonna say it: Trading a romantic evening with Henry for one with Gio went just a little too smoothly. Dare I suggest she’s ready to give ol’ Henry the heave-ho? It’s time, people, for a Gio revolution!
NEXT: Willy and her sister square off
Elsewhere on the show, the battle between Willy and Renee became red-hot. Willy tried her best to get Daniel to dump Renee, for reasons still not completely clear to me, but in the end, her efforts only pushed the couple closer together, as they eventually decided to move in together. Renee, however, showed she definitely shares Wilhelmina’s DNA: She liquored Marc up and got him to spill all of Willy’s baby-making plans. So now, both sisters have secrets on the other. Willy’s foreshadowing comment — ”I know you think I’m the evil sister, Marc, but at least I stop short of murder” — made it clear that Renee has something dastardly to hide. But just murder? That’s so been done before. C’mon! The funniest part of this whole story line was when Willy sent Marc into Daniel’s apartment to switch out Renee’s crazy pills. When he pulled out Daniel’s see-through underwear — ”Daniel, you naughty boy!” — and smelled them, I simply lost it.
In what seems like a desperate attempt to give Claire and Alexis a story line of some sort, the Meade mother was busy launching her new over-50 women’s magazine, Hot Flash. And despite the great acting abilities of Judith Light and Rebecca Romijn, even they couldn’t give this lame story — Alexis cut off funding for the mag, so Claire hired recently released prisoners — any oomph. May I suggest to the writers that rather than have Claire flaunt the fact that she’s gone through menopause, they give her a love interest? And, on that note, isn’t Alexis burning and yearning for some lovin’ too?
So after seeing this ”heart”-and-Betty-infused first episode back, I have to say I was pleased, but with the caveat that I miss seeing more of the supporting players. I — along with all of you TV Watchers, I’m sure — demand more Justin. And surely more Amanda. I’m all for this show getting back to what it was originally about — Betty’s sunny point of view — but don’t scrimp on the genius moments with the supporting cast, please!
Before we part ways for the week — and it’s only a week this time, friends! — how about a few of my favorite Betty sound bites? Here goes:
· Amanda, assuming that Betty is a tad older than she really is: ”What’s your favorite thing about getting old? Is it your hair thinning or when kids ask you about Vietnam?”
· Marc, on Willy’s cold demeanor: ”Well, maybe the massage will help circulate the ice in her veins.”
· Marc, lamenting the prospect of being locked up for his part in Willy’s baby scheme: ”I’m too pretty for prison. They’ll pass me around like a collection plate at a Catholic church.”
· Marc, on Renee and Daniel’s relationship: ”Uh, don’t look at me. I don’t get straight people. Who puts what where — it’s all so confusing.”
· Willy, berating Marc for replacing Renee’s crazy pills with fat-blocking pills: ”Marc! We want her crazy! Not crazy and thin!”
But what do you think, my long-absent TV Watching friends? Are you just as bored as I am with Claire’s story line? Have we hit the breaking point with Henry and Betty? How do you feel about the nickname Getty? And, most important, what do you think of Hilda’s new ‘do?