On ''Ugly Betty,'' our heroine tracks down her grandmother in Mexico and learns valuable lessons about fighting for love; plus, Marc stands up for Amanda

By Tanner Stransky
Updated May 13, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
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”Ugly Betty”: Finding herself

I have to admit that when I realized Ugly Betty was going to put its weird, rambling subplot of Ignacio’s visa woes front and center, I immediately thought, ”Oh, hell no.” For the second half of the season, I’d been fighting yawns when this snoozefest story line worked its way into an episode. Buuuut, I’m kind of into it now that the subplot got a little bit more play. It was a breath of fresh, wholesome air in an otherwise really bitchy, shallow (but totally delicious!) season of television.

Granted, the story of Betty finding her grandmother, mother, and herself all in one didn’t lend itself to nearly as many great sound bites as usual. But the whole going-to-Mexico thing really felt like it came from the heart — Betty’s dear little well-meaning heart.

Think about it for a second: Doing a story line where a Mexican-American family goes to Guadalajara to meet their relatives and solve the patriarch’s citizenship problems? Where there’s a weird healer lady who speaks in cryptic phrases about the future? Where Betty finds her heartbroken and now-demented grandmother, who thinks Betty is her daughter? It could have come off so, so much worse. (Okay, the healer lady was creepy and weird.)

Did anyone else get positively tingly when Betty’s grandmother was talking to her as if she were her daughter, Rosa? I got that feeling that I used to get on Christmas Eve when I knew presents were coming the next day — sheer joy. This woman was alive again, after 30 years! Okay, again, I know I’m being lame, but the connection between Betty and her grandmother felt authentic. And you felt that both of them had been waiting for it for so long — the grandmother got to make peace, while Betty got a sense of who her mother was, as well as some great advice. And I suppose that’s what really did it for me: The way two story lines — Betty’s unresolved relationship with Henry and the search for her mother — intersected. Betty will make a decision similar to the one her mother made 30 years ago. Goosebumps!

So Betty has decided to go after Henry. I mean, how can she ignore her grandmother’s words during those Puffs-worthy moments? But I have to say (and anyone who’s read this TV Watch will know what’s coming next) it’s about freakin’ time! (On another note: What was up with the shots of Henry, or someone who looked just like him, riding around on the motorcycle thing? I realize he was ”leading” her to find the message, but it was kind of strange. Oh, what the hell am I talking about — this is Ugly Betty. Nothing is weird on Ugly Betty.)

Another thing only Betty could pull off? An ”in-ing”! Amanda’s new boyfriend was ”outed” as straight by Marc. Sheer genius. And how adorable were Amanda and Marc this week? When he pleaded with her to stick up for herself a little bit and come out of her bad-relationship closet, I reached for the Puffs again. For a second there, I even thought Marc and Amanda might hook up, especially after they found the elusive Love Dungeon. But that’d be just too weird — even for Betty.

Although this was a wonderful installment overall, a few minor points irked me:

1. The opening-sequence pratfalls. Okay, okay, we get it: Betty is clumsy! She’s awkward! She’s (sorta) ugly! Before they flash ”Ugly Betty” on the screen early in the episode, we always see Betty falling down the stairs or staring into the camera with her braces showing. I’m over it!

2. The episode was all over the place. Maybe I just noticed it because I was taking notes the whole time, but the story jumped from plotline to plotline as if it were on the same drugs as Daniel! In Mexico for two seconds, then back to New York with Alexis for five, then over to ”Brad” and Willy for three. I couldn’t keep track of everything.

3. Rebecca Gayheart. Why? Granted, female-on-female kissing action is almost never a bad thing, but that was cheap. And Gayheart’s acting style didn’t quite fit in. I don’t see recurring-character status in her future. (Bring Lucy Liu or Patti LuPone back!)

And now, Betty lovers, your weekly subscription of one-liners! Just my top six tonight:

1. Marc, to Amanda, after she broke their date: ”Don’t tell me you forgot we were gonna rent 300 and enjoy the mildly homophobic-slash-homoerotic content!”

2. Willy, trying to calm down dueling siblings Daniel and Alexis: ”Okay, girls. Tuck ’em back in. You’re both big.”

3. Justin, complaining about the bad timing of the trip to Mexico: ”Doesn’t anyone care that I am understudying the lead in West Side Story? God forbid Joey Colano takes ill and I don’t know my finger snaps for the rumble.”

4. Willy, worrying about getting wrinkles from smiling: ”You really can’t see those lines can you?” Marc: ”Nope. You’re as dead on the outside as you are on the inside.”

5. Hilda: ”To be honest, that quesadilla isn’t sitting so well.” Betty: ”Oh really? Because usually when you buy cheese cooked on a bus, it’s pretty good.”

6. Marc: ”Please, if anyone hears us, we’ll just say it’s Christina, blind-drunk, crying, and making out with the mannequin.” Amanda: ”Again.

But what do you think? Did you laugh at Bradford’s makeover? How much of Willy’s love for him is an act, and how much could (gasp!) possibly be real? What’s up with Daniel’s drug issues? Was he hopped up the whole episode? And most important, how freakin’ good did the previews for the finale look?

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Ugly Betty

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