”Ugly Betty” returns: Cliff-hanger survivors
It’s been four months, Ugly Betty TV Watchers, since we last convened. A painfully long four months. I was honestly worried about you: Did you survive your summer without a fix of Suarez and Co.? Summer TV is dandy (all right, that’s a stretch), but the show-tune singers on America’s Got Talent? No match for Justin belting ”Good Morning, Baltimore” on the subway. Boozy escapades on The Real World? Gin-swilling Claire Meade could drink those little lushes under the table. And the attitude on Big Brother? Sure, there’s a laugh or two in there, but they’ll never top the Willy-Marc-Amanda barb-throwing trifecta. What I’m saying is: Thank goodness Betty is back!
My biggest concern going into last night? That this episode would go the way of so many sophomore-season premieres — the way of ”we got too big for our britches, i.e., we got cocky and tried to one-up ourselves but fell flat on our faces.” I’m all about one-upping, but in the case of Betty, why change something that was working so delightfully well? I’m happy to report that the show didn’t go off the rails. I was impressed: From Amanda’s sudden weight gain (genius!) to Justin scoring an internship (as the correspondent from Fashion TV would say, ”ah-maaaz-ing”!), the whole thing felt very core Betty.
The thing that struck me most about this jam-packed hour — besides the odd and cruelly deceptive Hilda-Santos dream sequence, but I’ll rail on that in a sec — was how mired we were in the disasters that the finale set up. Only three weeks after those catastrophic events, everything was still in upheaval, which asked a lot of this episode, requiring it to clean up the messes of such a flashy season ender. All of the cliff-hangers — Henry leaving and Betty’s subsequent grief, Santos being shot, Ignacio stuck in Mexico, Willy’s marriage, Amanda’s parentage, and the Alexis-Daniel car wreck — made for a choppy episode. Few story lines moved forward, and — good news for everyone — no new ones were started. (Although I won’t be happy if that’s the case for too long.) The hour felt like the day after a blizzard when you spend the entire time just clearing a path to the front door of your house. I’m fine with that for now, but spring — and newness — best be knocking soon!
And let me just put it out there: The Hilda-Santos dream sequence, while quite touching in parts (the vows! Hilda’s stunning dress!), was completely ridiculous. I was confused about what exactly was happening until I rewound my DVR to rewatch as I picked up my jaw from the floor. So Santos is definitely dead. But isn’t it a tad odd that Hilda was the only one still truly grieving over it? Santos and Justin didn’t have much of a relationship until just recently, but the son seemed pretty okay with everything (um, your dad’s dead!) and actually more put out by the prospect of having to make macaroni necklaces at arts-and-crafts camp. (I need to remember that logic doesn’t apply in Betty World! To Justin, macaroni necklaces would be a death sentence!) And alas, not everyone grieves the same way.
Some people, as we saw, bury their past. Which brings us to Betty and Daniel, who ceremoniously planted old loves in a hole in Central Park. While the burial was a little cheesy (Betty saved soy-sauce packets from her and Henry’s first date?), what I’m still enamored with is this boss-assistant relationship. It’s beautiful in its simplicity, in the mutual give-and-take. Daniel doesn’t treat Betty like a subordinate just because she’s his assistant, and Betty doesn’t treat Daniel like a monster because he’s her boss. ”It’s no secret you turn to potatoes in times of need,” Daniel said when he found her at the french-fry bar. Just that he would know that — and know to look for her there — melted my heart (with chili cheese, natch). Their bonding over letting go of their pasts — she said goodbye to Henry, he threw a bottle of pills away — was just plain sweet.
NEXT: Willy is back!
Willy, as usual, provided most of the humor of the episode. I realized I’d actually be fine with her not even having any real story lines but instead just going around and making snide remarks about what everyone else is doing. Wait: That’s basically what she always does! For instance, in the first scene with Marc and Amanda, she clicked through in typical Willy style, said hello to Marc, then saw Amanda’s huge, pink-lamé-covered booty hanging over the receptionist’s desk, and, naturally, gave a curt ”Betty.” And later in the episode, when going over the racks of clothes in her office, she shouted, ”N! I don’t have the energy to say ‘no’ anymore!”
As for the actual plot developments — Alexis lying in a coma and finally waking up, Amanda and Marc’s trip to Scarsdale, Ignacio’s absence, and the Claire-Willy showdown — I’m skipping going into all that. They all seemed rather expected, and I’ll undoubtedly cover them in future TV Watches. (Actually, I’ve seen episode 2, and things do get better.) I will add a note about Christina, though. Where’s her story line? Granted, there’s already too much going on right now, but I’d love to see her involved somehow, rather than just adding the occasional quippy line here and there. (”I’d like to give him a Bourne ultimatum”) An epic battle between her and Willy seems to be in order.
Last, I’m just going to put this out there: I’m losing interest in Betty herself. She may hold the show together (and America Ferrera does an amazing job, as evidenced by her Emmy and Golden Globe), but the entire ensemble is what continues to do it for me. Betty with an eye patch? Kind of eh. Marc clipping Bradford’s ear hair? Classic!
As usual, I’ll end by counting down my favorite Betty sound bites:
5. Willy, inciting Marc to use 24 tactics to locate Claire Meade: ”Trace the call. I don’t know, figure it out. Triangulate the signal!”
4. Marc, after returning from the gym: ”Guess who just showered a mere seven inches away from Emilo Estevez at the gym this morning? I am telling you! Steam, a little soap in your eyes?St. Elmo is still on fire.”
3. Marc, after Amanda struck out trying to get DNA from Bradford: ”Smoothie.” To which Amanda retorted: ”Shut it, Pinkberry.”
2. Amanda, lamenting over her possible parentage: ”If Bradford is my father, that makes Daniel my brother, who I slept with. A lot! And that’s the kind of dirty that don’t wash clean!”
1. Fashion elf Justin, after showing up in the Mode offices: ”I just think it’s too busy. Like Coco Chanel always says, ‘When accessorizing, always take off the last thing you put on.’ ”
So, Betty fanatics, what do you think? How much did you love that opening-sequence telenovela, with Betty as the maid? What fabulous things do you think Justin will do at his Mode internship? Will Ignacio make it back from Mexico? And what does Henry’s return mean for our fragile heroine?
PS: If you haven’t read them yet, check out these classic sound bitesfrom last season.