Category Archives: Ugly Betty

TV Review: Ugly Betty, Season 4, Episode 12: Blackout!

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?

Review: Ugly Betty, Season 4, Episode 12: Blackout!

TV Review: Ugly Betty, Season 4, Episode 3: Blue on Blue

Ugly Betty used to be at the very top of the TV game, consistently delivering amazing episodes week after week. But, although it’s episodes do display a certain level of quality that is lacking in many other shows, it’s last season delivered too many lackluster episodes for it to be able to surpass the high bar it had itself set the seasons before last (which by the way makes me admire the Supernatural team even more for being able to keep up the same level of awesomeness throughout the last four and a half years).

In any case, despite this, Ugly Betty still remains one of the great quality shows on TV that not only doesn’t have to do with cops, but that is uplifting and can bring about some pretty deep reflections – as demonstrated in the reviews you can find on this blog.

I wasn’t too surprised with how well this episode was written and produced, since, as mentioned previously, Season 4 has been slowly working its way back up to the level of awesomeness of Season 1. However, it also has to do with the characters’ evolution, as each of them is growing and changing while at the same time staying true to their own selves. Still adapting to her new role as Assistant Features Editor, Betty is catching up on the previous episode’s disastrous photoshoot, while Matt is still being his obnoxious and childish self; Marc – whose character has started evolving from superficial and uncaring to one with a little more depth (even Ugly Betty isn’t going into the miracles department, apparently) – is still smarting from playing second fiddle to Betty while Amanda is starting to take action to advance in her life. Daniel is starting to work on his grief issues (albeit unwillingly) and Wilhelmina has finally located Connor (or so she thinks). Finally, Hilda is working with her family on resolving the issue of Justin’s attendance at a high school in which he sticks out like a sore thumb.

Well then, there goes the synopsis of this episode. For those of you who want more, stay tuned for the review, because as usual, I have a lot more to say.

Let’s start with the girl of the hour. As mentioned above, Betty is still trying to make up for the disastrous photoshoot of last episode. Unfortunately, nothing she has attempted has worked up to now, the main reason being Matt’s lack of cooperation.  But thanks to one of Hilda’s clients, Sammy, Betty is able to scoop a story with Evan York, a designer with Dolce & Gabbana who is moving to Gucci – a move about which no one in the fashion industry knows about (yet). Unfortunately, Matt ends up at the same restaurant with Amanda (more on this not so coincidental occurrence later). Both Betty and Matt think the other is on a real date, and so start flirting with their respective dinner partners. And so Matt leads Amanda on and Betty freaks Evan out, the former raising false hopes and the latter losing the chance at landing an interview that would have impressed even Wilhelmina.

Well, ‘impressed’. We are, after all, talking about Wilhelmina.

I found this to be a rather interesting social commentary – even if it was a rather obvious one. Betty let a life-altering opportunity slip through her fingers because she couldn’t tune out her day to day problems. It seems to be a reality observable in many of us (yours truly included); I have witnessed far too many occasions in which we let opportunities to make a significant difference in our lives pass because we are too preoccupied with day to day affairs that end up being things that, while seemingly important, don’t seem so much so in the long run.

In other related observations, Betty’s assumption that Amanda was there knowingly sabotaging her was also very revealing, in that Betty’s prejudices and insecurities flash through. Matt’s rather callous use of Amanda to make Betty jealous was also interesting; he really is sinking to quite a low level, isn’t he. And most interesting of all was Mark’s disregard for Amanda; playing on her dream to land herself a rich, handsome man as well as her dream of not being a receptionist forever in order to get back to Betty definitely isn’t something a friend would do. It also seems to have demonstrated to Mark himself that however much he desires it, he doesn’t have the heart to be a person like Wilhelmina. Or rather, that he has too much heart to be like Wilhelmina.

The following exchange between Betty and Matt was also extremely interesting, especially in a society confused about the meaning of love:

Betty: You know how hard I have worked for this promotion, and you are ruining it for me!
Matt: I know I am, but I can’t help it!
Betty: What?
Matt: You’re right. I am awful to you. But I can’t stop myself, because I can’t stand seeing you so happy when I’m in so much pain. I know you probably can’t understand that, because you are so good. You’re not some spoiled rich kid who can’t handle it when he doesn’t get his way but apparently, that’s who I am. The worse thing is that I know that with every word I say, I am ruining whatever hope we had of fixing this relationship.
(Matt walks off, Ignacio approaches Betty.)
Betty: I don’t know what just happened.
Ignacio: He told you who he is.

There are two interesting things about this exchange. First is Matt’s cruelty. However unintentional it might be, it doesn’t change the fact that Matt it acting so horridly towards Betty.

It makes me question if he loved her in the first place. If he really loved her, out a selfless love, wouldn’t he be happy that she is happy and this, despite the fact that she hurt him when she kissed Henry? It’s not an easy to discuss, and it isn’t right nor fair for anyone who isn’t matt to judge him. After all, the depth of love we feel for others as well as the way we deal with being hurt are so deeply influenced by the way we were raised that the only thing we can do is try to change for the better.

What if Matt hadn’t had this unintentional, heat of the moment realization? How could have Betty changed the course of events? Do you confront the person? Do you avoid them? Do you send positive waves in the hopes that they will wake up one morning from a dream in which they have had a miraculous change of heart?

Don’t we all wish that could happen.

The second half of the abovementioned exchange seems to answer in part these questions. Nothing much could have changed without Betty seeing who Matt really is, and Matt couldn’t change without identifying what the problem was and being able to verbalize it. Truthfulness is after all the foundation of all human virtues; if you can’t be honest with yourself, then you cannot work on developing your virtues. And since we have to bring ourselves into account every day so as to let deeds, not words, be our adorning, no one but us can make a deep and significant change. Perhaps we have all been underestimating Matt, since, by the end of the episode, it seems that he has just about enough humility to so fully accept what he has done wrong that he is starting to atone for it by having an extra chair brought into his office so that Betty could sit normally beside the other assistant editors.

And now Betty knows not only the good side, but the bad side of Matt. It seems to somewhat perturb her; however, I would feel more comfortable knowing both the good side and the bad side of a guy I’m dating. For it’s easy to show one’s good side on dates; the bad side tends to come out under duress, and, had one not seen it before, it might come as quite the destabilizing shock. As opposed to what has been posted on many fan sites after this episode first aired, I don’t think the question should be ‘who is the real Matt’. We all have a lower, animal-like nature that we can learn to control with our higher, spiritual nature. Matt is both the sweetheart of last season and the horrid man from this season; and now that Betty knows him so much better, she can make a much better informed decision about if she wants to pursue a romantic relationship with him.

Unfortunately for Matt-Betty shippers, Mark’s meddling has put Matt straight in the sights of Amanda. And this is where Amanda stops being the victim; she tells a trusting Betty that she should forget about Matt and move on. This scheming of Amanda’s might not be at the same scale of Mark’s scheming, but the result is the same: it will eventually cause a rift between the two girls.

Wilhelmina: Well Mark, Scheming is a lonely business.

And it seems that Mark might head towards scheming-inspired loneliness, as his scheming has deeply hurt Amanda, his closest friend. Marc’s jealousy over Betty’s promotion is still eating at him, and he comes to realize – with Wilhelmina’s help – that working with her has given him all the know-how on destroying someone.

Wilhelmina: Would I let someone take my dream from me? Or would I take it back?

As mentioned above, Mark sets out to ruin Betty’s supper with Evan, the designer who, unbesknowned to the fashion world, is about to make a huge transition that will affect the fashion world.

The fact that this is the first time Mark schemed for his own benefit rather than for Wilhelminas’ led to many different thoughts. First, it was funny watching him realize he could actually do it for himself. Second, it’s interesting to note that the nice Mark that we know is under all that Mode-iness has been so shaped by Wilhelmina and Mode that he actually stooped so low as to use Amanda. One really must be careful not to follow in such paths of deception.

It also made me wonder if, morally, it mattered that Mark previously schemed at Wilhelmina’s request whereas this time, he did it for his own benefit. One could argue that previously, Mark didn’t have a choice; if a career in fashion is his objective, he had to do whatever Wilhelmina wanted of him, if not more. Then again, it could also be argued that by adhering to Wilhelmina’s code of ethics (or lack thereof), Mark is perpetuating the problems the fashion industry is being crippled with, therefore making it even worse for himself to achieve success.

It seems like everything in this episode was neither black or white but rather one of the many, many shades of gray. Another example of this is yet two more scheming characters: Wilhelmina and Connor. These two are dancing quite the scheming tango; for if Wilhelmina thought she was the only one scheming to get back to Connor, she discovers, soon after her arrival in Bermuda (where her private investigator told her Connor was), that he had led her to him using the very same person – i.e. the previously mentioned private investigator. It’s rather unsettling for Wilhelmina, who is used to having the upper hand, to outsmarted by Connor. Then again, that is probably the main reason for the attraction between these two, knowing that the other is never far behind.

Which makes me again wonder about the definition of love.

After all, if Connor really loved Wilhelmina, would he have taken all the money from Meade in the first place? He says that he did it for her, but all that matters to her is Mode – which he put in danger  by the very action he did for her sake. It might take him a little while to understand that loving someone doesn’t mean doing what he thinks is best for her, but rather, doing what she wants best.

It really makes me wonder how much we truly understand about the concept of love. All the songs, stories, essays and poems dedicated to the concept don’t seem to lead us anywhere close to understanding it. Even more alarming is how our current notions are so unhealthy in the first place. A recent study out of Boston evaluating the how healthy pop songs are in shaping our view of romance established that most songs are akin to junk food. Which begs the metaphor: why take vitamins when on a diet of fast-food (supersized fries and soft drinks)?

The only people who seem not to be stooping to the level of scheming to get things their own way are Hilda, Justin & Ignacio (there is a social commentary if I ever saw one). The three are working hard at Hilda’s beauty salon, double end even triple booking to make enough money to send Justin to private school. Unsurprisingly, Justin would love to just stay home all day helping at his mother’s salon, but as Hilda so eloquently puts it: “I’m not double-booking haircuts to make money to get you into private school just so you can get rejected because you’re too stupid because you skipped public school”.
It’s rather sweet that the whole family is coming together to help: Betty is shampooing one client, Justin is giving a manicure, while Ignacio is adding a je ne sais quoi to the customers’ experience by serving them homemade café au lait’s. It makes me wonder how many families are still like that, i.e. not too affected by the culture of individualism that permeates our society so as to see themselves as an integral part of the family unit rather than as an individual who has a family, and sticking together so closely.

Betty’s quest to help others obviously extends to helping Daniel with his anger over Molly’s death by signing him up to a grief support group. Of course it’s not easy, and Daniel (quite unsurprisingly) skips out of the first meeting.  It’s kind of fun to see Claire Meade join forces with Betty in convincing Daniel to go to the group. And when Daniel tries to bail out of the meeting, a newcomer forces him to stick to his promise: Nathalie, who is grieving the passing of her boyfriend. In the couple of hours after Daniel meets Nathalie, he makes more progress than he has in the last couple of weeks since Molly passed away. And so it seems like a great friendship is born.

Then again, this is Daniel, and it seems that he has been cursed with the evil eye ever since we have known him. So this is probably yet another thing that is bound to turn around and bite him when he least expects it.

This has got to be the one powerful thing that Daniel and Betty have in common: it never seems like much smooth sailing for either of them. They each have one important element that is strong in their lives; Daniel has his family fortune to get him out of trouble, and Betty has her family. But apart from that, both are always struggling to make things happen for them, in every area in their lives.

One struggle Betty doesn’t seem to be making at all anyone is finding a way to be uniquely Bettilicious while still being fashionable. It seems that the change in Betty’s fashion choices is sticking, as once again she is wearing an outfit that, while more colourful than those of her coworkers, is quite tame compared to her old self. I was worried Betty was selling herself, but I think this is not going to be the case; rather, it might just be that Betty is growing up and these are natural consequences of that growth. I love her outfit; the pale pink business suit with a bright red patent leather belt cinched tightly at the waist above the coat, matching little briefcase (love it!) and pale pink heels – lovely, lovely, lovely! I can’t wait to see what other awesome outfits she is going to come up with.

TV Review: Ugly Betty, Season 4, Episode 10: The Passion of the Betty

Unlike many of the other shows I follow, Ugly Betty didn’t leave us hanging before the winter break, which made me wonder: were they certain of their fanbase’s loyalty, or had they run out of ideas?

Only the quality of episode 10 would give us an idea of the thinking that went behind that decision, and the idea seems to be: they are comfortable with their fanbase’s loyalty, enough to leave us at the end of episode with unanswered questions rather than cliffhangers.

The Passion of the Betty opens up with yet another brace-centric scene, as a trip to the orthodontist ends in disaster. Said orthodontist asks Betty out; she admits to having a boyfriend, to which the orthodontist, very clumsily might I add, answers by telling her to look for another orthodontist.

What happened to acting professional?

Speaking of her boyfriend, the episode opens up to a very happy Betty and Matt, as they adopt a steady routine in which they spend most of their time together. It’s only a matter of time before Betty starts becoming a little fidgety at having Matt with her every single moment of the day; a concern that isn’t helped by Hilda’s assertion that she’s seen couples such as Betty and Matt before, and that while it’s all fun and games at first, it ends in murder-suicide.

Not helping much, Hilda.

And so Betty starts encouraging Matt to do his own thing while taking some time to go back to her family’s house and spending time with them (and away from Matt). It might have been a better choice to try talking to Matt about this situation, but somehow, I don’t think that conversation would have gone so well, especially on the heels of the still rather fresh fight over Betty’s indiscretion. In any case, it’s not an easy situation to handle; you try telling someone who has put you at the centre of everything they do that you do not want to be in the centre. It’s no wonder that independent Betty is suffocating.

The plan Betty comes up with is to rekindle some of Matt’s other passions, one of which is painting. She discovers an exposition for new and emerging artists and submits one of Matt’s paintings. The curator of the exposition loves the initial painting Betty brings her, one of Betty waving through a window. And so Betty takes her to Matt’s studio. However, most of the paintings that are exposed in the studio aren’t that appealing to the curator, who deems them as lacking passion. She then explores a deeper recess of the studio and discovers a pile of paintings that take her breath away. Betty doesn’t have time to check the paintings out for herself, and so gives the curator carte blanche to take any she deems worthy.

And you know, right then and there, that something really bad is going to happen, that those paintings which reflect enough passion to take the curator’s breath away just have somewhat to do with Betty, and this being the show that it is, it’s going to be something neither Matt nor Betty would ever have wanted shared with the world.

And so it is revealed that the paintings are in fact of Matt’s emotions regarding Betty’s betrayal. Matt asks Betty to explain herself, then, acutely feeling the sting of humiliation, storms off after telling Betty: “The problem isn’t that I feel too much passion; the problem is that you don’t feel enough.”

But Hilda, having read Betty’s diary throughout their teen years, knows better: Betty is full of passion. The problem isn’t a lack of passion on Betty’s behalf, but rather that Matt only has at the moment one passion in his life, and by focusing all of his energies on it, he’s suffocating Betty.

Betty uses her diary to show Matt that she does feel as much passion for him as he does for her; and surprisingly Matt acts like a mature gentleman. He took the time to reflect and realised that Betty was right to a certain extent. He needs to find more balance in his life, and one of the ways of doing this is for him to quite Mode, for which he shows no passion at all.

It’s such a striking difference from the Matt from the beginning of the season that it’s a little unsettling – but I rather like it, and it bodes well for the future.

Hilda is still dealing with the aftershocks of finding out she’s pregnant. She hasn’t told anyone other than Betty, a situation she is going to have to change very soon. After all, her clothes are so tight that at the first bit of weight gain, it’s going to be pretty obvious what is going on.

I wonder how Justin is going to take the news.

One of the realities that Hilda is having a hard time dealing with is that she is going to have a child with yet another bad boy. While being a bad boy doesn’t mean the person is bad per se – Santos had, after all, a good heart – but, as Hilda herself puts it, having a child with a bad bay isn’t quite the same thing as dating one.

It doesn’t help that Bobby doesn’t see Hilda as just some fun – he really likes her, to the point of getting her a ‘little’ gift of a 52 inch HD plasma screen. Bobby adorable factor increased when he admitted thinking of Justin when he got the TV: “He can watch butterfield eight or whatever on a big screen TV, it’s better”.

But Hilda’s prejudices about bad boys – understandable, since she knows them quite intimately – makes her wonder about the source of the gift. Did Bobby purchase it, or get it in a less than legal way?

The prejudice against Bobby is further strengthened by Ignacio who, when he finds out the big plasma screen came from Bobby, asks Hilda the same question regarding its origin, adding: “Bobby is a thug. He always has been, he always will be”. Their conversation takes a turn for immaturity, as Hilda talks back to him like a teenager would, warranting a warning from Ignacio for Hilda not to repeat the same mistake she made when she was 17.

But as we know, she already has repeated the same mistake; and Hilda, emotional from the hormones, confused about her feelings, not knowing what to do and stressed from the combination of all of the above, let’s the cat out of the bag during a heated exchange with Booby – and within earshot of her father

It’s a very difficult situation that Hilda is going to have to navigate during the next couple of months. Bobby shouldn’t be judged for what he did as a teenager; after all, people do change, and everyone should be given a chance at redemption. However, Hilda has to be careful not to let either her crush on Bobby, her fear of raising another child alone or her father’s point of view influence her judgment. Whatever she decides has to be based on facts, and not ideas nor impressions.

And fact is that, for now, Bobby has been a pretty nice guy. After Hilda dropped the bombshell about the pregnancy, Bobby understandably walked out, only to come back the next morning with a peace offering (a gift for the baby) and a promise to Hilda: he wants to be there for both her and the child.

Things are up and down for Wilhelmina as well. Last episode, Connor found her during the photoshoot in the Bahamas. They were planning on leaving together and living somewhere aboard with the money Connor has stolen from Mode; unfortunately, someone tipped off law enforcement, and plans were quickly changed; Wilhelmina pretended to be the one to have turned Connor in, and now Wilhelmina can promise to return all of the money stolen from Meade to the company, thus buying Cal Hartley out of his share.

Unfortunately, there is the small matter of Denise, the new creative director Hartley hired. She knows nothing about fashion and is an embarrassment to Mode as shot after shot of her in ridiculous outfits (as Marc and Wilhelmina point out, she even wore in public an outfit found on page 46 of Lucky magazine!) are displayed in tabloids. However, this weakness can be used to the benefit of Wilhelmina and Daniel, as they connive together to get rid of Denise by having her embarrass herself in front of the world in an interview with Suzuki.

At first it seems that the plan is backfiring, as Denise shines throughout the interview, even quoting her ‘favourite designer’: “Fashion is a dream you put on every morning”. But when the cameras stop rolling, Denise admits to Daniel that she paid an undergrad for a list of quotes and that not only she doesn’t know anything about fashion, but she doesn’t even understand or like the world of fashion. Thankfully, Marc, always there at the most opportune moments, happens to turn the camera back on. The clip is aired on Suzuki’s show and Denise promptly resigns.

And so, Daniel and Wilhelmina make their offer to Cal Hartley. Unfortunately, neither Cal nor Claire Meade want Wilhelmina back or Cal out, and so Wilhelmina has to find something else to give her the edge. And Amanda provides her with just the right thing: the information about Claire’s trip to South Dakota. Recalling a conversation she had with Claire, in which the latter admitted to having been pregnant and having been in South Dakota, Wilhelmina puts two and two together and voilà – she has the upper hand again.

Speaking of which, the trap that Wilhelmina laid for Amanda to lure her into a stairwell was quite a hilarious moment captured in the set of screencaps below.

Cal Hartley isn’t only causing havoc at Meade and Mode, he’s also causing it in Daniel & Claire’s relationship. Claire sees Cal as loving & caring, while Daniel sees him as a shrewd businessman who has an eye out only for the bottom line, and not for the future of the family company. Unfortunately for Claire, Daniel was right. Cal showed his true colours when ‘someone’ sent him the file with their offspring’s information in it and shocked Claire when his only concern was the possibility that this bastard child would waltz in and taking a cut of what Cal worked him entire life at building. This shock almost sent Claire back to drinking to dull the pain somewhat… But thankfully, she resisted long enough for Daniel to come by.

And so the scale is tipped, as Claire decides to back Daniel and Wilhelmina. Cal is asked to leave Meade and when he refuses, Claire blackmails him: if Cal doesn’t leave, Claire will tell their son, Tyler, everything – something Cal definitely doesn’t want.

This situation leaves the power again in Wilhelmina’s hands, as she holds the information about Tyler in her hands. Because although Wilhelmina denies knowing anything about Tyler, it’s obvious to Claire that Wilhelmina had something to do with it. After all, as she puts it: “Confidential files don’t just make their way onto people’s desks”.

While Marc was integral to Denise’s demise, his presence in this entire episode was a lot less tangible and weighty than in previous episodes. It’s worth noting that he and Daniel are working really well together, and that it’s going to be interesting not only to see how he is going to change under Daniel’s tutelage, but also to see how Daniel is going to change under Marc’s influence. After all, the latter did get the former to join forces with Wilhelmina, didn’t he?

This doesn’t mean that Marc isn’t dealing with issues of his own, what with Troy convinced that they are in love. Things get even stickier when Marc finds out he was Troy’s first and that his parents already know everything about Marc.

Needless to say, Marc is a little freaked out, but withholds from telling Troy anything, realising as Amanda says that he’s a fragile little baby duck that has to be weaned off gently, but also because he likes that Troy thinks of him like an Adonis. Obviously, stroking Marc’s ego is a great way to keep him in a relationship he doesn’t want to be in.

This can’t finish well. Will Marc ever learn his lesson? How many relationships is he going to have to ruin and how many hearts will be break before he learns?

One last note, this one regarding Betty: her outfits are becoming more and more fashionable. You still see the Bettiness in each of them, but you also see the newfound wisdom and growth she went through in the last couple of years.

I find that Ugly Betty is really finding its original edge again. Perhaps the drama isn’t as intense as it was in its first seasons; but the writers seem to be striking a balance between keeping the beat and the drama alive while keeping up with the changes in each character, all the while not forgetting who these characters really are.

I’m looking forward to the second half of season 4 and, hopefully, a season 5 of Ugly Betty!

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TV Review: Ugly Betty, Season 4, Episodes 1 & 2

I finally caved. After months and months of being harassed (lovingly, thankfully) by some of you guys, I decided I’d start reviewing Ugly Betty episodes again. I did take notes while watching the first half of the season, but I never quite got around to typing them out. And since nine episodes have already aired, I was thinking of reviewing two episodes a week for the next couple of weeks: one old one, and one new one.

We’ll see how that holds up.

Season 4 opened up on a rather interesting note, with Betty dreaming (literally) about the day her braces would come off. Perhaps it heralded what was to come, i.e. Betty’s change in looks – but then again, perhaps it’s only such a normal part of the life of a person with braces to daydream about having them taken off that we couldn’t go another minute in the show without having one.

For a moment though, I really thought that the braces were coming off for good, and it made me very happy – until I realised that it really only was a dream. Actually, it was a nightmare – according to Hiilda, a stress-related nightmare about her promotion to Assistant Features Editor at Mode.

Finally! Betty is moving forward in her career!  Unfortunately, it does mean that Marc, the other contender, is not going to advance (yet) in his career, placing Amanda in the awkward position of being friends with two people who are now enemies. At least, for now; hopefully, the softer and kinder side of Marc, of which we have seen glimpses of throughout the last season, is going to shine through once again, and the three can be friends again.

It would have been nice for Betty to have them as friend, as this latest career move of Betty’s is yet again providing Mode employees with great opportunities to make her the butt of many jokes. Of course things are a little bit easier this time, since Betty has worked at Mode for three years now, but it still came as a shock to our eternally optimistic Betty. It’s sweet, really, and also reassuring to see that although Betty was hoping for the best, her last three years have prepared her to deal with the worse head on. Some viewers might still argue that this is just a cheap way to bring back old anti-Betty jokes rather than write new ones. However, I think it’s a great reflection of a reality we are all bathed in: when we think we are on top, we get dragged right back down.

One simple example: school. You enter elementary school and are the youngest there. When you finally have made your way to the top and are reigning the playground as a 6th grader, you are yanked out and taken to high school, where once again, you are nothing but the little newcomer. And the same cycle repeats for college and then for your first post-undergrad job, then for your graduate degree, then for your first post-graduate job (although admittedly it is a lot easier at this point in time to deal with the transitions).

It’s also a reminder that while going forward is a normal part of evolution, it does however mean leaving everything behind. This means not only the bad things, but also (unfortunately) the good things. Betty might finally be working as an editor and advancing in her career, but it does mean that some major changes have happened. From her deteriorating relationship with Mark, whom she was chosen over, and the fact that Amanda has to now hide their friendship from him, to the tension with Matt, whom has yet forgiven her for her indiscretion, to the simple fact that she isn’t working with Daniel, now her closest friend, not everything about her promotion is roses.

It must be especially hard for Betty to go forward and let go of the good things she had before her promotion when it becomes clear that the other associate editors are not going to make it easier on her. One in particular is Meegan, who lost her old position to Matt – which gives yet another person a legitimate reason to dislike Betty. And unfortunately, this is also the time when Betty finds out about ‘Betty Daily Distasters’, a blog chronicling every outfit she has ever worn at Mode, which of course doesn’t make her feel any better about anything.

Which makes me wonder: is it possible for Betty to win easily, just once?

In any case, she is given some advice by a surprising and unwilling source:  Wilhelmina, who doesn’t mince with words. In her opinion, if Betty is to survive as Assistant Features Editor, she needs to find herself some allies and know her enemies (does that sound like a novel strategy, coming from Wilhelmina? Nope, didn’t think so). But while she tries as hard as she can, Betty (unsurprisingly) has a hard time winning her coworkers over, even with (or because of?) her low fat, low sugar, low carb. High in antioxidant muffins.

However there is one ally Betty does have: Claire Meade, who takes the time to listen to Betty and to give her a little advice of her own. And with Daniel’s help, she does manage to help our Meegan in a big way. Unfortunately that also kind of backfires just a little bit, as a paranoid Meegan can’t seem to wrap her brain around the fact that Betty just wants to help, and doesn’t want anything back, especially not to steal her story. Fortunately Meegan comes to realise that whatever she might think of Betty’s office decoration and fashion sense, she takes the position of Assistant Features Editor very seriously, thus earning her (grudging) respect.

As if this slice of heaven could last. Remember, Betty can’t have it easy!

And the source of her problem comes, quite surprisingly, from Daniel. After an absence to go spread Molly’s ashes in Tibet, he returns to New York in time to hear about the tough time Betty’s been having at mode lately. And although Daniel is Betty’s ally and would do anything to help her, his concern for her backfires, as he sets up Betty to being accused of favouritism (kind of like the teacher’s pet in high school, remember that?). Needless to say, it causes more harm than good – which includes a setback in the grudging respect Betty had started earning.

Daniel’s unfortunate bad effect on Betty’s career is only the tip of the iceberg; the anger and resentment that has been building up since Molly’s death don’t seem to have been expunged while in Tibet. The drop that made him crack: a bus stop ad for a trip to Tahiti, the destination he and Molly would have been headed to had Molly not passed away.

Unfortunately, Daniel’s breakdown comes at the worst possible moment for Betty, whose photoshoot has to be done with only a day’s notice. And unfortunately, things take a turn for the worst, and then another turn towards even worst, as Betty doesn’t manage to separate her personal life from her professional life, and as Matt is intent on making her life miserable rather than act in a mature, professional way.

Betty’s visit to Olivia Guillemette was, of course, a thinly veiled metaphor for the very same transformation Betty has already begun going through this season and, if certain leaked pictures are any indication, is going to continue throughout the year. There is of course some actual reasons for this metaphor; as mentioned previously, both her promotion as Assistant Features Editor and the upcoming removal of her braces. It’s going to be interesting to see how much more Betty is going to be changing. Already at the end of the first two episodes, she changed her glasses and let her bangs grow out (really fast, by the way). She also wears an outfit that is quite tame, by Betty standards. I find it a little sad; is Betty changing for the better, or is Mode finally having an effect on her? And if so, how far will Mode go into changing Betty?

Another character going through a lot of changes this season – and, as you faithful readers know, one of my favourites on the show – is Betty’s nephew Justin. Having just entered High School, Justin pretty quickly finds out that things are not going to get any easier on him, as a band of bullies start picking from the get go. I don’t think any viewers were surprised that Justin didn’t immediately turn to his family for help; after all, how could they understand what he is going through? Hilda keeps talking about just how popular she was in High School, and although Betty was tormented through her years in High School, she, well, how can I put this nicely… She was a nerd, the ones that are typically bullied. Well dressed and confident kids like Justin usually aren’t. There is also the small fact that, however nice a person Hilda is, she is pretty wrapped up in her own things. Had she not been, she herself would have been able to see what was best for Justin: to talk to someone who could truly understand what he is going through.

And although Justin does know one person who has been through the same thing (Marc), Hilda catches wind of what is going on and unhappy that her son isn’t confiding in her (hello, immaturity), puts her foot down. And so,  under threats à la Hilda (which seem quite scary), Mark is forced to avoid Justin, thus cutting him off from the one source of support he does have.

That is, of course, until things get figured out. Hilda manages to start thinking about Justin, rather than thinking about how she feels about Justin, going through the same process her father and every other parent in the world has to go through: admitting that they can’t solve every problem their offspring is going through and allowing them to start figuring it out on their own. And so Justin is able to once again come hang out at Mode with Marc, which obviously makes me very happy.

We still don’t know, as of the beginning of the episode, the identity of the person who surprised Wilhelmina, costing her a glass, and whom she is now hiding in her apartment. And of course Mark can’t stand not knowing and is trying to nose his way into her business, especially when she asks him not to answer her cell phone. And so Mark does what he just has to do: he goes to Wilhelmina’s apartment without her permission – not quite breaking in, since he does have the keys, and he finally discovers what Wilhelmina has been keeping from him – or rather, who.

It’s not, as we and Mark suspected, Connor, but rather Nico. It was rather curious that Wilhelmina would hide Nico’s presence from Mark – or from anyone, for that matter – and it made me wonder, right from the get go, what was going on.

Nico’s presence might not seem like reason enough for Wilhelmina to hide her presence for everyone including Marc, until we find out that Nico killed her boyfriend. Granted, it was self-defence, but what she did after – dump the body in the water – makes it seem rather suspicious. Having nowhere to go, Nico heads for her mother’s place. Unsurprisingly, Wilhelmina promises to take care of everything. And things do seem to be under control, until we find out that Wilhelmina and Nico didn’t quite clean the boat where the manslaughter happened quite as thoroughly as they had thought they did.

I have to admit that I found this storyline a little on the ludicrous side. Nico had clear bruise marks on her arms that night – and rather nasty ones, too. Self-defence seemed like a clear motive for her boyfriend’s accidental murder. So why did Wilhelmina go through so much trouble to clean up after her daughter? Is her faith in our justice system that shaky, or does she simply not want to go through the hassle – and pay the money (since she doesn’t have any)?

Matt’s ongoing grudge over Betty’s kissing Henry is on the one hand interesting, but right from the beginning, I was a little worried about how far the writers are going to take it. After all, the action in Ugly Betty episodes has been going down and there were a couple of things they milked out in Season 3 – perhaps not as much as usual shows do, but uncharacteristically so for this show. Although I have to admit, it does bode well for well-placed barbs such as: “Some of you I know, some of you I don’t, some of you I thought I knew but apparently I didn’t”, “It’s all about communication, people. (Looks at Betty) Some of you are going to have to work on that”, and “So he thought he was signing up to something long term and ended up with something short term.  I can relate.”

Since Matt avoids Betty at work, she has to stalk him down at Central park during his jog, but unfortunately, that doesn’t go well either. Which is an interesting situation, as both parties are now at fault. First, of course, is Betty. Kissing Henry was wrong; she shouldn’t have done it, and Matt has every reason to be hurt. However, for him to lower himself to hurting Betty back in such a petty manner made me lose all compassion for him. That is no way for a gentleman to act, however unladylike the lady acted.

But it’s obvious that it’s only because Matt is, well, quite the immature young man who still has feelings for Betty and doesn’t know quite how to handle himself in this situation. It’s going to be interesting to watch this relationship unfold in the next couple of weeks.

Amanda makes a new friend, as Daniel’s new temp happens to be an older version of her. Kristen Johnston makes a special appearance and – big surprise – is totally awesome in the role of Helen, the replacement temp. This role was apparently supposed to go to Paula Abdul, but because of some ridiculous demands she was making, it got offered to Kristen instead. I know, how sad that these things don’t only happen on TV.

Helen is, basically, Amanda in ten years, down to the tight dresses and joy at being groped by the doorman of a hip club. She manages to do something quite impressive: Helen rings the bell of reality for Amanda, that however beautiful she is, if she is to be the fact of an industry that sells beauty, and if the idea of beauty that is sold is that of youthful beauty, her days as Mode’s receptionist are numbered. Amanda realises that this is not enough; she has always wanted more.

Who knows: perhaps Betty isn’t the only one who is going to undergo some major changes this season.

Speaking of Amanda, she was, as usual, in the midst of one of the best moments in this episode:

Mark: Mandy, you’re brilliant.
Amanda (horrified): You take that back. I’m beautiful.

But this definitely wasn’t the only great moment. There are too many to list here exhaustively, so I’ll leave you with this one:

Mark: Ah, Betty’s younger sister.
Hilda: Thank you for the part that’s complimenting me. But watch it for the part that slams my sister.

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