Last week rather shocking and unexpected departure of Matt was bound to create some waves, be it on the show or in fan forums. There was one particular thread that wouldn’t die in the one I checked out: that Matt’s departure was a desperate attempt at reviving a dying show.
Honestly, I don’t know where the concern for Ugly Betty’s demise is coming from. This season has really picked up the pace and gotten back to the quality plotlines that defined it during its first two seasons: quick-paced, filled with one-liners and ‘moments’, inspiring and realistic at the same time. At this point, the only thing that is different between Season 1 and Season 4 is the lack of crime – which I am not complaining about.
But it seems that the writers had already thought of this, as this episode does feature a crime. More on that later.
In a post-Matt world, anything can happen – but the episode opens on Betty doing, quite uncharacteristically, nothing. Which adds to the realism of Ugly Betty; even the most cheerful person takes a bit of a hit when something like this happens to them. However, in true Betty fashion, this doesn’t mean that she is moping; she remains surprisingly cheerful, albeit less than usual.
And so our heroine has moved back into her old place (remember the tub in the middle of the living room? It’s baaaaaaack!). She’s understandably having a hard time adjusting to the fact of being single, bribing Hilda and Justin to stay over with homemade pasta (Carbs? Gee, I wonder why that plan didn’t work). Thankfully, even if this little slip into relative depression was normal, reality hits Betty before anyone else could. On the evening news is the story of a woman who was dead in her apartment for a month before anyone found her. The woman is seen wheeled out on a stretcher with only her fuzzy pink house slippers showing – the same ones Betty is wearing while eating her pasta in front of the TV (and the way this sequence was filmed added to the mirth). The woman’s neighbour mentions he often saw her in her apartment alone, eating enough pasta for two… And there you have it, Betty is out of her funk.
In an attempt to build herself a social life, Betty tries to reach out to Mark and Amanda – with expected results. I have to admit that I still don’t understand Amanda and Betty’s so called friendship. Amanda can be sweet, but fact of the matter is that she’s not, especially with Betty. There are always barbs (“when I say it’s there in the hallway, I mean Betty”) and undermining actions (after the blackout happens, she invites everyone at Betty’s party over to her apartment for a ‘blackout party’, taking Betty’s snacks and drinks and guests away). Which makes me wonder: what happens to people like Betty in a world of Amanda’s?
Realizing that the only people she knows in the building are Mark and Amanda, and having rather unsuccessfully tried to hang out with them, Betty decides to hold a Karaoke party in her apartment. While distributing invitations, she lets in two freezing neighbours of her, who promise to come to her party.
Unfortunately, while these two seemed nice, turn out they aren’t, as they proceed to rob the entire building.
Not only are none of the neighbours too happy with Betty’s random act of kindness gone wrong (it was caught on tape and so everyone knows that she is the ‘ding’ that let the burglars in), so she decides to help the building super have an electronic door system installed on the front door of the building. While that seems to soothe some of the neighbours, it doesn’t help Mark, whose laptop was stolen during the burglary – and as if this wasn’t terrible in itself, Mark’s entire application for a position as Senior Fashion Editor at Mode, which he had of course not backed up, was on that laptop.
Certain that the Karaoke party is as well as cancelled, Betty convinces Mark not to give up, and that together, they can come up with another application before the midnight deadline. But the neighbours seem to disagree wholeheartedly, as they show up at Betty’s apartment just as she and Mark are starting to work.
Obviously, Betty doesn’t dare face the wrath of her neighbours again by being the ‘ding’ who cancelled a party on the same day as a burglary. Yet again, Betty juggles between two demands made on her time: Mark’s application and the party at her place.
Betty’s determination helps her and Mark pull through, as they manage to finish the application with time to spare. And that’s when, in a day where everything just had to go wrong, the entire city of New York blacks out.
And it just had to be on the day Betty helped have an electronic lock installed on the door to the building.
Needless to say, Betty having already cost him one promotion, Mark wasn’t very happy at her being putting quite literally an obstacle in his way to another opportunity for a promotion. But Betty comes to the rescue yet again, this time with the help of Bobby, who knows a little something about forcing doors to open. And so Mark and Betty get his application in on time.
And yes, Mark does get the position.
It was really interesting to see Mark and Betty working together. The difference between their approaches to the various obstacles that littered their path was downright fascinating. Mark is a defeatist; his first option, whatever he was faced with, was to give up. Betty’s reaction was never to give up.
Mark: It’s like I’m destined for failure.
Which makes me wonder: why is Mark self-sabotaging? Does he not want to succeed? Or is it rather that he is so miserable with his current life that the only thing keeping him going is the thought of a promotion, but he’s so scared that it won’t make him as happy as he thought it would that he sabotaged himself with his negativity?
And what happens to people like Betty in a world of and Marks?
Mark: Forget it, it’s no use.
Betty: I think if we put our heads together, we could come up with something.
Mark: Just give it up Betty. You’ve done enough.
And to top it off, Mark’s approach also involves him laying the blame for his failures on everyone else rather than looking at his part. I know he’s aiming high and perhaps beyond his level of experience, but if you are going to aim high, you’d better shoot hard.
Doesn’t it also make you wonder how Mark is going to deal with an undoubtedly difficult, high-stress job?
It looks like we are potentially going to have the chance of seeing for ourselves what is going to happen when optimists and pessimists rub elbows, since Mark, happy to have finally reached his goal, and grateful to Betty, extends her an olive branch:
Mark: I was in the hallway and I thought I heard something, so I came to see if you were dead.
Betty: Nope, still here.
Mark: (…) So I was thinking we could watch TV and make fun of people’s clothes.
Perhaps it has to do Mark’s influence, but I’m going to be uncharacteristically pessimistic I have to admit that although Wilhelmina does tell Mark that she wouldn’t give him a promotion if he didn’t deserve it, and that Daniel seems to be in on it and happy about the promotion, I’m still not convinced that Wilhelmina didn’t work it out to get her way, since she ranted during most of the episode at the fact that she didn’t have Mark to help her.
Daniel: All because I wouldn’t let her get away with Mark!
Wilhelmina: As if you could ever keep me from having my way.
Despite appearances, could this promotion simply be a way for Wilhelmina to get Mark back to work under her, or is this a real one? Only time will tell.
Time seems to be the common denominator for many of the storylines in this episode, from Mark & Betty’s race against time to waiting to see what the nature of the promotion really is, and with Bobby needing time to prove that he isn’t just the thug Ignacio is convinced he is.
Bobby hasn’t been getting it easy from Ignacio, who has yet to recover since last week’s shocker announcement about Hilda’s pregnancy. Understandably so, Ignacio is worried that Bobby hasn’t shed all his old habits as a thug
But the blackout provides the two men with an opportunity to bond. Ignacio was home alone when the lights went out, watching what sounded like a Hitchcock-type psychological movie. Predictably perhaps yet worth the admirable performance by Tony Plana, the lights went out just as the music swelled and screams increased in intensity, making Ignacio scream like a girl.
The hiding behind the blanket was a great added touch.
Wanting to make sure Hilda and Justin were OK, Bobby stops by, unaware that the two had yet come home. Although at first, the men’s get-together started pretty badly, what with Ignacio smashing Bobby’s head in (the former thought the latter was a burglar), some truths are brought to light (pun intended) and the two men are able to start up a friendly relationship.
It’s an interesting situation for a father (and, by the same token, for any concerned family member) to be in.
Bobby: Is it so hard to believe that I’m not the same person at 17?
On the one hand, yes, a person can drastically change in the span of ten years; this is what life is all about, after all, continual improvement of one’s self. However, it still remains that our past defines us, and some pasts’ effects are harder to shed than others. Ignacio’s concerns are absolutely justifiable, as the reality is that Bobby does have the kind of history that would make any father a little edgy, coming to Betty & Mark’s rescue by guiding Betty through the steps of picking the electric lock in their building by phone.
Betty: It worked! It worked!
Bobby: Of course it worked. What do you think I am, an amateur?
(Ignacio raises an eyebrow.)
Bobby: I’m not a professional. I’m not.
On the other hand, while his concerns are understandable, and Ignacio has every right to have them (I would even venture to say that any parent worth their mettle is going to have such concerns if faced with this situation), his initial way of dealing with it wasn’t the one most conducive to the unity of the family. And, if you consider it to be the fundamental unit of society, the unity of the family is fundamental to the advent of peace in the world.
No pressure, anyone.
And so the question becomes: how can Hilda & Ignacio give Bobby a fair chance? This would imply Bobby proving to them, through constant action, how different of a person he is now that he was at the age of 17, and would also imply Hilda & (mostly) Ignacio to understand that Bobby is still allowed to make some mistakes. However, it also involves Hilda working on taking off the veils that might blind her from seeing who Bobby really is (not really easy when one is in love). And it also involves Ignacio working on removing the veils blinding him from seeing Bobby for who he really is, however good intentioned he might be.
This situation demonstrates just how versatile the concept of putting beliefs to the test can be, and how imperative it is to live life as a constant testing of the various verities defining it, however much we might take them for granted. It could also show how versatile the concept of bringing oneself into account every day also is; it seems to not only involve looking back at one’s actions throughout the day, but also exploring the reasons behind the various decisions we make. In a demonstration of how interrelated the various aspects of our spiritual growth are, these are also ways of ensuring that we don’t get stuck behind a veil, however good the intentions were behind putting that veil up, as well as increase our humility.
Humility came out en force at the end of the episode, when Ignacio rather graciously admitted to Bobby that his accusation regarding his fear of not being needed by Hilda & Justin was keeping him from giving Bobby a chance. It seems that, as currently in place, only good can happen, since Ignacio not only admits to his fault, but still keeps things honest by telling Bobby that he still isn’t convinced he isn’t a thug – which is fair, and the essence of giving someone a chance.
It sounds like a marriage (pun again intended) between the old way of doing things and the new way of doing things. Old customs where parents did everything from choosing a spouse to organising the wedding as well as the post-wedded ‘bliss’ of the couple is a little extreme, as it completely sets aside the wants, desires and wishes of the offspring, and isn’t conducive to family unity, often building up resentment and unhappiness. However, the new customs where offsprings are ready to be engaged before telling the parents anything is also not conducive to unity. By the time the offspring is in love and ready to be married, he or she might be blinded to the fact that his or her union with said person will cause disunity for various reasons asunder.
Marrying the two then becomes a logical choice. The offspring should be allowed to choose to “find one who is pleasing to [him or her]”. However, as we all know, love can be blinding, and to that effect, the parents need to fairly and justly help their offspring make sure that the union will bring family unity. Of course this implies the parents striving to be non-judgmental and leave non-essential arguments off the table (‘he wears sneaker!’ isn’t a valid argument, at least not in itself).
It looked like where this relationship was going, but unfortunately things don’t end well as Hilda’s check-up with the obstetrician reveals that the foetus’ heart isn’t beating.
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of weeks. Will Mark remain friends with Betty this time, although he got his promotion without her help? (Wilhelmina had already decided to hire him before he presented his application.) If he does, will Amanda also become nicer to Betty? Will Betty in typical Betty fashion meet another guy and be put in an awkward situation when Matt unexpectedly returns? Will Bobby turn out to be a thug, or a nice guy? Will Justin’s being accepted into acting class help him at school? How will the new assistants turn out? And I must ask, but will we see Connor again?