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!