”Ugly Betty” recap: Willy’s power play
Before last night, I never considered Ugly Betty to be that much of a romance. Sure, there were the trysts and flings, especially from folks like Daniel. And there was the Hilda-Santos romance of last season. And, of course, Betty had her dorky, mostly boring relationship with Henry. But even though it’s loosely been termed a ”telenovela,” I always thought of the show as much more of a fish-out-of-water dramedy, focused on the pratfalls of a good-hearted but awkward girl. Although it’s still that, last night’s episode — with the love connections sparking between Gio and Betty, Hilda and Tony, and, yes, even Marc and Amanda — was so romance-tastic. What happened? Maybe it’s just that Betty isn’t such an oddity at Mode anymore. Maybe she’s mastered her career world, so the writers feel they should explore an area — that area being love — where she’s still got some awkward left in her.
Whatever the thought is behind it, I love the direction the series is headed in right now. It’s all very heartwarming. Since Henry had to go back to Tucson to be with his new baby, he and Betty decided a ”clean break” was best, although Betty (lying on her bed among dozens of used Kleenex, a Wicked Playbill, and photos of Henry) was understandably upset about the situation. Which, in a great stroke for all of us Getty fans out there, opened the door for the tango that’s currently going on between Gio and Betty. As they proved tonight, it certainly takes two. (I don’t want to dwell on it, but I’m so pleased that Betty decided not to do the long-distance thing with Henry! And I wasn’t pleased to see the previews showing that Henry will be back next week, proposing to Betty.)
After Betty’s initial reaction to Gio’s passionate, unexpected kiss in his sandwich shop (how much did you love Marc and Amanda’s devious ”Betty Whorez Is Out of Control” e-mail blast afterward?), I thought maybe I’d been wrong all along and that they’d actually never get together. Was Betty ready for a new romance? Did she ever really like Gio or was she just being polite? But the fact that she stopped outside the shop — it was just for a fleeting moment — to ponder what had happened made me realize she was at least considering the possibility. For a second, it seemed as if she might have actually — gasp! — liked the kiss. Could she really forget Henry that quickly? But alas, Gio still had to work hard to get her to come over to his side, charming her at Justin’s dance with his smooth moves and lock-picking skills.
And then, at the very end of the episode, Betty seemed ready to see Gio as more than just a friend, ready to possibly brush off her conflicted feelings for her ex. A date — she wanted a dang date with him! But Gio backed off. ”I don’t want to be the rebound guy,” he told Betty after she asked if he wanted to hang out some time. ”I want to be the guy.” This simple but smart comment from him was what made me love what’s happening here. This is a guy who knows what he’s doing, and at least at the moment, it doesn’t feel like he’s doing it in a sleazy, player-type way. He’s not just going to jump into something with Betty because she’s willing and wants to get over Henry quickly. Gio, at least right now, craves something real, and I can really respect that. Let’s hope this little rejection doesn’t make Betty go running in the other direction.
NEXT: Hilda makes her move
On another note with this story line, the little versions of Betty, Gio, Amanda, and Daniel at the school dance were a cute little gimmick, but I don’t think the writers took it quite far enough. And I’ll admit, had they taken it farther, I probably would have complained that it went too far. But it just seemed they could have used the genius idea to comment on events a bit more. Couldn’t little Gio and little Betty have hooked up as foreshadowing of what’s (hopefully) to come between the pair? Shouldn’t little Amanda have slapped little Daniel or at least pranced around him a bit to make him jealous? She should have been best friends with Justin, who’s a little Marc in some ways. Okay, I’ve obviously thought about this too much, but you get the idea.
My second-favorite kindling romance on Betty is what’s going on between Hilda and Justin’s gym teacher, Tony. (Again, my eyes melted tonight every time Eddie Cibrian showed up on screen.) Honestly, Hilda is running around like a boy-crazed schoolgirl! Even Justin is being more sensible than her. It’s interesting that Tony didn’t see — or maybe just wasn’t admitting that he saw — what Hilda was trying to do early in the episode. Saying that she was at the school to do something for the PTA, which she just joined, Hilda waltzed into Justin’s gym class in her cutest dress, with her flirt level at full throttle. But it wasn’t until the dance, when Justin straight up told Tony that Hilda was into him, that Tony turned on the heat himself. It was only too fitting that the heat he brought was in the form of a hot cup of soup! The cute guy gave the very sick Hilda a little broth to make her feel better. More melting, more melting….
And the last romance: Marc and Amanda’s! Finally, Mode‘s dynamic duo is back together. (The banter was there, but I kept waiting for them to pull out a ”Nelly Ripa” reference. Maybe that’s totally over, but it just kills me, and they haven’t used it for too long!) Of course, the revival of their friendship wasn’t totally perfect — at least, at first. In the time they were apart, Amanda had taken to filming a reality show, perfectly titled Daddy’s Little Girl, with her recently discovered father, rocker Gene Simmons. Truth was that Gene was just using her as a show premise and wasn’t even her real dad. The always in-touch Marc detected that and mentioned that Gene wasn’t so into her off-camera, which set Amanda off. But they came back together, in one of the most touching scenes of the evening: ”I’m sorry you still don’t know who your family is,” Marc said after Amanda told him about Gene. ”Yes, I do,” she responded, with a twinkle in her eye. Awwww! Again, just so happy they’re back together. Marc summed up my feelings exactly after he and Amanda sent out the e-mail blast of Betty kissing Gio: ”Oh, Mandy, how I’ve missed this.”
Okay, so while the romances of the evening were really good, let’s be honest: The main event was Wilhelmina’s return to Mode. In true Willy fashion, she said, ”Let’s do this, bitch!” and sashayed back into the offices dripping in out-for-blood red, via some popping lipstick, a flawless wrap, a shiny belt, and killer heels. Her goal: crush the Meade family. And she’s well on her way to doing that. At the end of the episode, she had recaptured the creative-director position at Mode and successfully turned Daniel and Alexis against each other — and that was even after they’d made a pinky-swear promise to work together! Truth is, Willy is the best person to run Mode, and the shrewd Alexis recognized that. Meanwhile, the increasingly dopey but always sweet Daniel (how nice was it that he got Betty a writing assignment for Hot Flash?) went on Larry King Live to talk about Willy’s return. I love that in wacky Betty world, the viewers of Larry King Live care about — or even know about — the internal strife at a fashion magazine. My question: Daniel can’t even come up with a replacement concept for an issue of the magazine, but he’s smart enough to book himself on a national talk show? Right….
NEXT: Biting comments
Also, because I can, I’m going to point out the continued genius of Wilhelmina Slater with this little exchange with her assistant:
Willy: ”Brilliant move getting a Vermont cell phone.”
Marc: ”But you told me to.”
Willy: ”Like I said, brilliant.”
And now to the best sound bites of the night. It was a sharply written episode (kudos to writer Brian Tanen!), so there are lots:
? Justin, admiring his ensemble before the school dance: ”It’s an homage to Grease. Danny Zuko meets couture. If I’m going to this tacky thing, I’ll at least make a splash.”
? Justin, commenting on the decorations at the school dance: ”Yeah, it’s still the gym. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig.”
? Gio, taunting Betty about their kiss while at the school dance: ”You Frenched me, Suarez. You Frenched me good.”
? Fashion TV reporter Suzuki St. Pierre, about Willy’s baby: ”Wilhelmina: A mother again? She’s certainly been called one.”
? Willy, after her grand return to Mode: ”Now that was fun. Am I smiling? I can’t tell.”
? Marc, kissing Willy’s ass: ”You are a horror movie I wish would never end.”
? Marc, after finding out that Amanda is starring in a reality show with her dad, Gene Simmons: ”Mandy! You’re going to be a reality TV star. It’s what every pretty girl with no specific talent dreams of!”
? Amanda, after Marc expresses interest in being on her reality show: ”Okay, there’s no other way to tell you this. You know how in real life you’re always so jumpy and bopping your head and moving around? [She pants like a dog.] Well, that makes you blurry. And on TV, people can actually see your face. You’re cute, but not TV cute.”
? Marc, commenting on the photo of Betty kissing Gio: ”She does realize that’s the sandwich guy and not an actual sandwich, right?”
? Amanda, trying to be a Hollywood insider on the set of her reality show: ”Crafty is for talent only. That’s short for ”craft services,” which is long for ”food.” I’m sorry, it’s industry lingo.”
? Marc, poking fun at Amanda’s insistence that she’s a celebrity: ”Well if it isn’t Miss Fancy Pants Celebrity, back amongst the Muggles. Hey, if you’re really such a celebrity, then where’s your posse? Where’s your hybrid? Where’s your inappropriately named baby?”
? Marc, talking about Henry (before pulling out the cell-phone photo he actually did take): ”One time, I saw him changing his shirt in the bathroom, and I wasn’t staring and I definitely did not take a picture, but for a nerd accountant, he has body karate.”
Sorry for the long-winded post, TV Watchers, but now it’s your turn: Which favorite sound bite did I miss? Would you watch Amanda’s reality TV show with Gene Simmons if it were real? Are you missing Henry or — shudder — Charlie yet? And what are your thoughts about seeing La Lohan and Naomi Campbell in next week’s season finale?