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Ugly Betty: "Grin And Bear It"

Illustration for article titled iUgly Betty/i: Grin And Bear It
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Illustration for article titled iUgly Betty/i: Grin And Bear It

Well, I turned out to be right about one thing: earlier, I figured we might get a '70s flashback. It didn't take place at Mode itself but came close enough: a photomontage at Studio 54, where Wilhelmina, then Fay Sommers' assistant, saw a man with a Tweety Bird tattoo on his ass shtupping the boss and siring Amanda. (Later, Wilhelmina gets a great line from Amanda's discovery: "Even if I wanted to express sympathy, I physically can't." And the 54 guest list is a nice touch as well.) The montage works especially well in its we-did-this-on-computer style—made it more dreamlike.

And cartoonier, which is seeping in more blatantly by the episode: tonight we had Betty's talking teddy bear attack, the Daniel smile-and-thumbs-up montage, Wilhelmina's Mead Publications meet-and-greet (Cucina eds: "We here at Cucina believe that Crème Fresh belongs on . . . " Player eds: "Boobs"). All of it flowed well with the rest of the episode; the pacing throughout was relaxed. This was probably the solidest episode yet, if not the best (Ep 2 is still my favorite; in my memory it's an A- rather than the B+ I gave it at the time). Even with developments afoot galore (more in a second on those), the show's pretty breezy. A commenter complained about this last week: "I had no sense of suspense at all about the outcome of the dad's story." That's a valid point, but I think by now the climaxes are less important than the flow, the interactions, and I enjoy the way they pair different characters who haven't really interacted—tonight it was Henry and the newly bad-boyish Justin, who flunks his tests and makes out with girls (!) to loud reggaeton (nice touch). Tonight Justin was kind of a ghost—after a couple episodes where we got to see/know him better, it was disappointing for him just to hit his marks and leave. But with as many plots and subplots as Ugly Betty has it will undoubtedly be made up for within the next episode or two.

I haven't really written about Betty herself much yet. The show spins on her, and America Ferrara gets the tone right consistently, but sometimes she feels more like a supporting character than the lead. Fair enough, but tonight her dilemma was her own and not someone else's that she was responding to. The business with the mixed-up piece was pro forma in itself, and so was a lot of the accompanying business. But the writers got in some nice grace notes, from the writing teacher's too-intense-for-his-own-goodness ("If only I hadn't blown my Pulitzer money at the Indian casino"; "I couldn't bear to keep it to myself. And that's not a pun. I never pun"; "Why can't the rest of you get attacked by a bear?") to Daniel and Betty's post-resolution. Betty: "Wait, this is supposed to be my pep talk," complete with a nice music-cue pause, a parody of every other Daniel-Betty pep talk in the show's history. It also occasioned my first Girlfriend Quote of the Week: "Betty's certainly losing her moral center this season." She is, and it'll be interesting to see how far she falls.

So the baby's Henry's. I thought, "Well, it's over," before seeing the preview of next week, in which Henry proposes. Hmmm. Ferrara's line readings with Henry are generally excellent, and this week was no exception: got me right in the gut with a very clipped, "You should go." Just please God no more dippy middlebrow-indie music cues. Please please please. At any rate, my hopes for Henry-Betty are gone, which saddens me a little, especially after Henry promised to dress as Pythagoras to tutor Justin and said, "See you later, calculator." Geek-cute: always an up at a show about a fashion magazine.

Grade: B+

Stray observations:

-Curious to see how Wilhelmina's plans to torpedo Mode go, though I was disappointed, at the end of the flashback, that she didn't finish, "If I can't have Mode, no one else can." Come on: you just showed us Studio 54, go for the full-on, circle-closing, "I can't have Mode, I don't want nobody, baby." (See the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack if you're confused.)

-The first writer dude would be a better Betty hook-up than Gio. Hope he returns. Kenny, aspiring rap guy in the cubicle next to Henry's: no.

-Couple mentions of recent, "relevant" things that fell flat, e.g. Wilhelmina informing the staff that Mode will be holding its "British nu-rave piece." Sure, it's a magazine, but topicality doesn't really become the show.

-The bit with the dropped advertiser was forced, and even on a show as fanciful as this one the idea that a bunch of advertisers would follow suit is dubious. Though tonight's second Girlfriend Quote has merit—"It's so cute to not see James Van Der Beek being Dawson"—hearing him utter, "I can't afford to be associated with the whole he-she element," didn't hold much water in a show set in an industry as gay-friendly as the fashion world.

-Alexis's big cover idea was beautifully executed: "She's big, she's sexy, she's outrageous: Anna Nicole Smith!" Rebecca Romijn's big, goofy delivery and physical slapstick were especially good tonight.

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