Review: Ugly Betty, Season 3, Episode 9

In the last couple of weeks, my reviews have all more or less mentioned something about the show losing some of the appeal brought to it by the initial tension that defined Season 1 and 2. I’d like to apologize about that because of course the tension would have to change. Dragging something on and on would be laziness, bad writing, cheap and everything Ugly Betty is not. The fact that it is changing at the rhythm of the growth of its characters shows that the show adapts, and adaptation, we know, gives way to survival.

Hurrah for Ugly Betty surviving!

And so, after this realisation hit me sometime between this week’s episode of Heroes and my NaNoWriMo-ing, I started thinking about what could possibly happen. I came up with the brilliant conclusion that, well… I didn’t quite know what to expect anymore. Ugly Betty has entered something of a safe zone, with only little things rocking the boat. While it is still filled with amazing moments and brilliant one-liners and no hour of UB leaves me bored and itching to reach for the remote if that boat doesn’t get knocked over at least once by the end of the season, we might start getting quite bored with the entire thing (what? We’re not watching a reality show people! TV is about instant gratification!).

Two of the little ‘rock the boat’ story lines were YETI and the Wilhelmina/Connor/Molly/Daniel love rectangle (or parallelogram, if you prefer).

The YETI-related tension was interesting in itself, but also in that Mark and Betty are now on the same team: they are both assistants to editors who are reaching for bigger and better things. I wonder where that is going to leave Amanda, if she will get jealous of the possible tightening of the Mark-Betty bond and how that jealousy just might affect Amanda and Betty’s roommate situation.

The YETI plot line brought us some surprises on the one hand, and on the other, confirmed things that we have known for awhile.

On the one hand, we get to see a less superficial side of Mark (perhaps the side that attracted Cliff?) as well as his dedication to pursuing his dream of owning his own magazine. He spent three whole months working on his application – which makes me wonder if he had already tried out for YETI? His angle on the celebrity magazine – commenting on the reasons why we are so obsessed with celebrity – was also a pleasant surprise. Were Betty even the slight bit arrogant, she would have taken it as an unpleasant surprise, but the Betty that we know and love took it as reason to not accept the place she had been given in YETI because of her ethnic background.

On the other hand, we see Daniel yet AGAIN choosing himself over Betty. Instead of writing a letter of recommendation for Betty and scheduling time for a dry run before her presentation, he chooses to make macaroni earrings with Molly (who happens to be an engaged woman). To all Dettyers, I have said it and I will say it again: even if he always comes through at the end (a six page letter of recommendation? I’ll have one of those, please!) Daniel is a great guy, but it is nowhere near good enough for Betty!

Now about that parallelogram. I am very proud of Connor for not falling for Wilhelmina, and not even kissing her – great job, that’s the type of man we need more of! But… Then again, he was playing with fire (how else would you call a combination of alcohol, a beautiful woman and an intimate setting?). As for Wilhelmina, answering to Mark’s question as to what the plan is with a scathing: “Nothing. There is no plan I’m not going to beg?” – was she giving up because she lost her respect for a man who is dating a ‘mousy teacher’, or because she has gained respect for him and maybe even is a tad bit (very) envious?

On a (much) lighter note, has anyone else noticed how Betty is becoming more stylish? OK, maybe she’s still a little way off, but if you compare the way she dresses now to how she dressed in season 1, she has evolved by leaps and bounds. I love how she has maintained her Bettyness while acquiring some truly Mode-ish flair at the same time. The pieces she wears are, in themselves, quite lovely and worthy of someone working in fashion (do I detect a hint of our lovely seamstress in her selection?). But the way she puts them together is definitely very Bettyish.

Which brings me to something that I really didn’t like, a particular moment that could have been amazing but the way it was given was a little hard to swallow. Near the end of the episode, Hilda and Justin have a lovely mother-son moment. Randy pushed Justin away, and Hilda tells her son that there is nothing wrong with him; tough for Randy for giving up on a great friendship.

Don’t get me wrong – I thoroughly agree with the essence of what Hilda is saying. We should absolutely be about what we believe in, and not change according to the whims of those who are around us. However, the words Hilda uses were a little grating. “You’re perfect”, she tells her son. What? Justin’s perfect? Those of you who follow my reviews regularly know just how much I love that character, but I’ll be the first to tell you that neither he, his mother, those who created him nor anyone else (myself included) is perfect.

This is a concept we have taken way too far, the fruits of which we are reaping now in the form of over confident and arrogant people all around us who don’t listen to anyone because they are being who they are. No, no, this is not a rant, I promise! But just think about it. While we should never change the essence of who we are, but shouldn’t we at least accept that we aren’t perfect and always be on the look out to improvement? The way Hilda was presenting the facts to Justin was to say that he’s perfect, therefore he doesn’t need to accept anything from anyone. Can’t Justin simply turn around and say: “Well if I’m perfect, then I don’t need you”?

Enough seriousness for now – I will definitely come back to this on a future post!

Here are some of the little details from this episode that I loved:

  • Mark calling Connor Male-hilmina;
  • Hilda, after Betty asks for two spoons to drown her sorrows in food: “Two spoons, never a good sign!”
  • Mark, taunting Betty about her magazine: “Oh yeah, what is it called, Clashing Patterns Digest?”
  • The ‘Da Vinci Code’ moment, when Betty steps into the YETI judging room, with the deep music in the background and her heels resonating cavernously;
  • Daniel wearing a little bit of colour this week; loved hot dark purple shirt I spied!
  • I’m not sure if I like the more colourful Wilhelmina though. I love the clothes on Vanessa Williams though – wow, that woman is beautiful!
  • Betty high on coffee, with her big fat frizzy hair filled with knick knacks;
  • Daniel, when he broke Betty’s silence: “Ha! Got you to talk, you can’t go back now!”
  • Hilda referring to, euh, the ‘girls’ as the ‘pointer sisters’;
  • Molly telling Daniel: “The macaroni earrings you made are surprisingly wearable.”
  • Daniel telling Betty: “I know that in 20 years, I’ll probably be your assistant.”

One last thought… My favorite moment was at the very end, when Mark called Betty right after she heard from Daniel that she made it into YETI. Then, at the end of their conversation, Daniel calls for Betty and Wilhelmina calls for Mark, and Marks rolls his eyes at Betty. That was an absolute fabulous moment.

Now, what would a Mark-Betty alliance do? It’s obvious that Mark has some brains under that lovely mop. Perhaps they could work together like Daniel and Wilhelmina now do? They could REALLY rock that metaphorical Mode boat, couldn’t they. Maybe even start a competing magazine? Or… Take over?

Such a great episode. Too bad life isn’t tidy like in Ugly Betty, i.e. that you don’t always get what you deserve, be it good or bad. But it does give hope, and it certainly makes you smile.

How much would YOU pay for a “special” samosa?

Gotta hand it to the man – he DID try!

Couple pays $200 for “special” samosas

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A Dutch couple on a visit to the eastern Indian state of Bihar paid 10,000 rupees ($204) for four samosas, a spicy deep-fried snack that usually doesn’t cost more than a few rupees, a newspaper reported on Monday.

After the tourists ate the snacks, a stall owner at the Sonepur cattle fair last week told them his “special” samosas cost more because they were made of herbs and had aphrodisiac qualities, the Hindustan Times said.

After an argument, the couple paid the shopkeeper. But they later complained to a policeman.

Police forced the shopkeeper to return the change — 9,990 rupees.

November 20th post of Dead-Alive for NaNoWriMo08

Unfortunately, try as I might, it didn’t seem like I was meant to live in peace anytime soon. The very same day, only a couple of hours later, Jeffrey called with some less than good news.

“Could you please come to the station for a chat with some colleagues of mine?”

The knot in my stomach tightened. “Why?”

His hesitation made the knot twist uncomfortably. “They want to ask you some questions about what has been happening to you.”

My next question came out with difficulty. “Is it bad?”

He hesitated again. “Not really, in that they don’t have anything against you. Yes in that they want to believe it’s you.” His voice dropped. “Look, I can’t talk about it now, I’m at the precinct.”

“I understand.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be here.” His voice went back to normal. “Can we expect you here in, say, an hour?”

Oh wow. This was happening fast. “Sure.”

Talya came with me, but they wouldn’t let her in. Quite the contrary; they took her into another room to question her alone. They would probably want to corroborate our stories.

Jeffrey was there at the door waiting for me. He smiled and showed me into an interrogation room straight from television.

“You have got to be kidding me,” I muttered, eyeing the setting. Was this some kind of joke? It looked like it was straight out of a popular cop show, including the faces of the investigators who were there to question me.

We went through the usual civilities – turns out their names weren’t, regrettably enough, straight out of a cop show. Quite the contrary; they were the most boring names ever, Jones and Thomas.

I was keeping up an internal monologue to keep myself from freaking out; it had the unfortunate effect of alienating one of the investigators.

“Anytime you would like to join us, Mr. Baynes,” he sneered. “We have all day.”

I shook my head a little. “I’m sorry. I’m just a little nervous.”

Mr. Thomas’ eyebrow rose by about an inch – a feat I would have far more appreciated had I not been so stressed. “Why?”

“Enough, Thomas,” Jeffrey snapped.

“He’s right,” Mr. Jones said. “Let’s get on with it.”

They shuffled their papers around.

“Could you please tell us, in your own words, about your experiences in the last six months?” Mr. Jones said.

“Everything?” I said. I’m afraid it might have come out a little squeaky. I hope not.

Mr. Jones nodded. “And, if you don’t mind, we’d like to record it.” He pointed to the little recorder at the center of the table.

“Sure,” I said. Did I really have a choice?

Mr. Jones fiddled with the recorder, recorded the time, the location, recited the names of everyone in the room then repeated his request.

“OK,” I said, taking a deep breath. “Six months ago, I was on vacation with my wife and children. We were in Africa, at her family’s villa. It was a great three weeks; Talya – my wife – hadn’t seen her family in ages, the kids were taken care of by everyone and got along splendidly with their cousins, I got along with everyone else, it was a fantastic vacation.” I had to stop the needless details; Mr. Thomas seemed to be getting more antsy by the second. “So that day, I was at the beach with my brother-in-laws. I feel asleep, and that’s when I had my first dream.”

I told them about the entire dream, not sparing any details.

“We didn’t think much of the dream itself; we were more concerned with the sleep waking. That had never happened to me before, and it’s quite unusual for an adult to start sleep walking.”

“You weren’t concerned with a violent death such as the one you witnessed?” Mr. Thomas said.

I hesitated. “Well, at the time… I mean… I didn’t think it was something real. We had had a horror movie marathon the evening before, and we were convinced that was the reason I had had that dream. Now we know that it had actually happened. When Talya and I started to piece things together, we gave her family a call and asked them to look into a possible event of the sort that had happened. ”

Jeffrey, who had yet to hear this story, straightened in his chair. “And?”

“Well it did happen, but about fifty to sixty years ago. Talya’s grandfather isn’t certain.”

“Why didn’t you see a more recent event?” Jeffrey asked.

“Well we think that might be because nothing much had ever happened in that particular area,” I said, “and I just tapped into the most recent thing that did happen.”

Jeffrey slowly nodded.

“Could you continue, please?” Mr. Jones said.

I nodded. “I didn’t have any more dreams in the last 6 days we were in Africa. However, the very day we got back here, I had a second one. By the third, my wife suspected this wasn’t going to stop anytime soon, so she started building a sort of chart on me.” I was still very proud of my wife for having done this.

“Why?” Mr. Thomas said. “It seems a little morbid to me.”

I shrugged in what I wanted to be a nonchalant way. “We’re scientists. We’re deeply curious and trained to explore that inherent curiosity. It also made it a little easier on me.”

“What do you mean?” Mr. Jones.

“You guys,” I said, gesturing to the three of them, “are in this job because you are made for it. You have the strength to do it, and your training has further reinforced that strength. Not me. Even horror stories give me the willies. To see these events in their full glory was – and still is – a shock to my system, each and every time. By looking at it through a scientific lens, each dream became an opportunity to study a curious phenomenon rather than a hell I had to walk through.”

Mr. Jones nodded. “Go on.”

I told them about the most striking dreams, the ones that gave me walking nightmares for weeks. I told them about being caught in the cold, in the rain, in woods, in mud, I told them about the fear, the anxiety, the depression, I told them about Talya’s breakthrough…

“How did she figure it out?” Mr. Jones interrupted me.

“It was because of a particular dream,” I explained. “I had ‘seen’ a woman raped then strangled, and it rang a bell in her head. She remembered hearing a woman at her office call that alleyway a dangerous place for women after sunset, and how at least four of her friends had been raped there. So she looked on the Internet and found a couple of articles about the rape and murder of Geraldine Forbes.”

“I remember that case,” murmured Mr. Jones.

“When she checked the case files we had started on each dream I had had, she realised that I had actually seen something that had happened, rather than something straight out of my imagination. We took it from there.”

Silence fell for a few moments; the only sound was the rustling of papers as Mr. Thomas was going through the pages of what I now saw to be a photocopy of the ‘chart’ Talya and I had made.

“That’s it for me,” Mr. Jones said.

Really? I was expecting some big counter interrogation and a potential breakdown. Or had I just watched too much television?

“I have a couple of questions myself,” Mr. Thomas said.

It would have been too good to be true.

“You say, Mr. Baynes, that you have now ‘seen’ close to one hundred criminal effects, many of which you do not have an alibi for. How can we know if you are not behind this entire charade? That you and your wife aren’t trying to bury some of your own past transgressions by creating this ridiculous story?”

I knew it was coming and yet it still upset me. There was only one way I could convince this man. “Why don’t you do what Jeffrey did, Sir?” I suggested. “Come to my house and stay downstairs, awake, for a few nights. I usually have two to three such dreams every week, more when I’m stressed. I’m sure you’ll get your fill within two weeks, but you are more than welcome to stay on for a longer time. No one can fake so many sleepwalking sessions. One, probably, two, maybe, three possibly – but over four? It’s statistically impossible.

Mr. Thomas stared at me for a long time; I stood still, refusing to succumb to temptation and stick my tongue out at him. “I just might take you up on your offer, Mrs. Baynes,” he finally said.

“Good,” I said. “I’ll let Talya know and we’ll clean up the house a bit.”