Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Ugly Betty: Betty's Wait Problem

Illustration for article titled Ugly Betty: Betty's Wait Problem
Illustration for article titled Ugly Betty: Betty's Wait Problem

Am I obsessed with the pace of this show? So far this season I seem to be. That's partly because writing about it every week keeps me attuned to its structure in ways I pay less attention to when I was just watching it—I'm watching it through critic glasses, as it were. That doesn't mean I get less pleasure out of it (people become critics out of love, not its opposite), but it does impinge on my sense of things at times.

This week felt almost as hurried as Ep 1: five vignettes in the first five minutes. But it was nearly as enjoyable as Ep 2—a decent place to be. Most everything was dealt with in quick, forceful strokes, and there was a lot of deft writing. Not all of it: Yoga, Claire Meade's fellow escaped con, gets the joy of doing things like holding a cocktail and saying, "This sure beats a 40 oz.," and upon entering the Black and White Ball—wait for it—"Black and white ball, huh? Looks like an all-white ball to me." I would never have guessed a black convict would say those things on prime-time television, either.

But big gestures matter less than little ones. Marc disrobing Amanda on the red carpet spins beautifully thanks to her split-second change in expression from horror to the realization that this is going to work. Afterward, Marc tells her, "The whole office is talking about you. I know they always do, but now it's with envy instead of pity and disgust." Inflect these lines wrong and it's a crepe; Michael Urie's slight hesitations and downward cadence makes it a soufflé. Marc and Amanda were on fire, whether discussing her "Daddy Warbucks fantasy" ("I don't know why it's so strong," she says—foreshadowing?) and responding to Henry going of about his surname, Grubstick (Marc: "Did he just get really hot?" Amanda: "I've never been more attracted to anyone in my life").

Most of tonight's plot points worked by not feeling especially plot-pointy. Ignacio getting out of being killed by Ramiro Vasquez first thanks to his excellent flan—Ramiro: "Sometimes I wake up and miss my wife. Sometimes I miss my flan." Ignacio: "You're insane." Ramiro: "No. Just hungry"—then after talking Ramiro's son out of it, and apparently into shooting his own father. Oddly there's no resolution on this, maybe because they want to keep the loop open for the future.

Gio (Freddy Rodriguez), the sandwich guy with whom Betty spends most of the episode bickering, isn't too impressive on first impression, though his obnoxiousness is obviously part of the role, and I enjoyed him singing "Un-Break My Heart" on the way to Jersey. Partly it's because I'm still rooting for Henry and Betty, though that seems a lot less likely now. Henry's drunken entrance is disapproved of by Betty: he's been drinking wine coolers. "Melon and apricot: it's gross," Betty says—this, from a fan of the girliest fruit cocktails ever? I did love Henry's line near the end: "I will never mix wine coolers and antihistamine again." And Gio did have one great moment: the "125 calories in every tablespoon of mayonnaise" rant in the Mode office, though Betty's "one of us" fantasy/horror sequence it triggered was even funnier. Meaning dude is a catalyst above all; unless he gets more dimensions, it's probably what he should remain.

I like Justin's adoption of Daniel as a cool-dad figure after their "miraculous" basketball game—these two have played well off each other since Season 1's Christmas episode. (Justin's attempts at basketball were almost too-too, though his throwing the ball and breaking off-screen glass was priceless.) And hey, someone gave Daniel some real material tonight, from making out with Amanda once they found out they weren't related, to mentioning Betty's favorite website, socuteitssick.com (doesn't exist, though if ABC wants to mobilize Ugly Betty fans they'll build it pronto—it'd kick the crap out of the limp, and extant, bettysuarez.com), to outing his recovery: "I forgot: the doctor called. I can walk!" Best of all was when Justin asked him if he could play ball: "Sure. If I can remember, they used to call me Dr. Swish. [pause] It's just a basketball term."

Grade: B+

Stray observations:

-Betty to Geo on her writing ambitions: "I practically ran the Queens College newspaper, but since I've left the quality has gone way down." God, no wonder publishing wonks like me love this show. I also loved her line readings during B&W; Ball prep, particularly, "How's that [check] going to look next to Daniel's tiny, pale head?" and, to Gio, "Your stupid plan."

-Plot-wise, Wilhelmina's seduction of Alexis is kind of tired—the same basic thing happened last season. But their scene was probably the funniest of the episode, from W. walking in on A.'s makeup session and barking to the assistants ("She's a trannie, not a drag queen") to the massacred Photoshopping: "And here we are . . . marching for gay rights?" And Wilhelmina's ruthless mike-grab from the kid onstage during the Ball was so brusque it was almost breathtaking.

-Girlfriend's Quote of the Week: "It's a very good episode for Marc making up words." (He described Alexis as a "tranesiac"; she hadn't previously heard "celebutard," Marc's term for Paris Hilton, though I've encountered it elsewhere.)

-So Amanda's on a serious quest to find her father. I hope she does; I also hope there's a lot more slapstick and a lot fewer trained animals on that path.