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TV Review: Ugly Betty – “A Tree Grows in Guadalajara”

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I’m so depressed that tonight’s Ugly Betty was the penultimate episode of the season! So much is going on, it’s hard to imagine them tying up all the loose ends in next week’s episode. Ah, but they don’t want to tie them up now, do they? Then what would we have to look forward to next season? Okay, enough lamenting the inevitable end of the season, let’s talk about tonight’s episode. It was a doozy…

So much for my placebo theory, seems that Daniel is buzzing around about 106 miles an hour on the new mystery drug, making a fool of himself at editorial meetings, most of which end with Alexis and Daniel bickering like grammar-school siblings in a sandbox. An old girlfriend of Alex’s, Jordan, is hired for a feature in the magazine, causing some tension (since the last time she saw Alexis, she was a he). Daniel decides that he will join Jordan in the bungee-jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge photo shoot, just to piss his sister off. Of course, he manages to seduce Jordan before the episode is half over, upsetting Alexis even more.

Tensions are running high on the trip down to Mexico.  On the plane, Ignacio admits he’s nervous about going back. When they arrive, we meet his sister Mirta, played by the incredible Rita Moreno! It is so nice to see her again, and boy howdy, does she looks fabulosa! At the gathering to welcome the visiting Suarezes, Betty meets a curandera, a healer who tells her she will be unhappy for the rest of her life unless she finds the answers behind the missing branches of a big tree. Given that Betty was working on her family tree on the flight down and has been unable to fill out her mother’s side, this seems the obvious place to start. But she soon discovers that no one is willing to talk about her maternal extended family. Betty gets Aunt Mirta drunk to pry information from her, and finds out that her maternal grandmother, her abuela, is still alive.

Betty and Hilda confront Ignacio about his lie that their grandmother is dead. He told them it was because their abuela hated him, because he was a lowly cook; that she told her daughter if she left with Ignacio, her daughter was dead to her. Hilda can’t understand why Betty would want to meet the grandmother who didn’t want to meet them.

The scenes in Mexico were wonderful; sunlit and dusty, colorful and ripe with magic. The women of the family were all a hoot, and the scene where Hilda is trying on the nightmare of a dress that was her cousin Clara’s (played by Six Feet Under’s wonderful Justina Machado) wedding gown was priceless, particularly watching style-prince Justin cringing through a haze of blue frills and miles of lace. Betty tricks Hilda into going to see their abuela, which involves a trip through the hills in a rickety bus. However, Betty keeps seeing visions of Henry everywhere, which causes them to miss getting their bus in the middle of nowhere. I love the image of Hilda teetering down the dusty street with her spike heels and tight jeans. Betty sees the vision of Henry again, and he leads her to the blue house the curandera told her about.

There she finds her abuela, and is told that the old woman’s mind is gone, that there’s no use talking to her. But when Betty is saying goodbye, her abuela mistakes her for her mother, Rosa, and thinking it was that night so many years ago when she told her daughter not to run off with Ignacio, her abuela apologizes, tells Betty she loves her, and that Betty should follow her heart, even if it means leaving her familia. It was an incredibly powerful scene, with Betty able to complete the circle for herself, her father and her abuela, and feel connected with her deceased mother once again.

Meanwhile Hilda meets a good-looking guy in town whose advances she rejects.  When Ignacio introduces himself to the young man, we find out that he has some connection to the man Ignacio murdered.

Much to Wilhelmina’s dismay, Bradford didn’t file the divorce papers. She drags him to Tavares’s clothing line launch party downtown, actually getting him into jeans and a leather jacket (the whole effect was scary, actually). The party gave us some wonderful opportunities for drama. Amanda gets dissed by her boyfriend while he is doing his faux-mo act, and Bradford shows up in an even more frightening outfit that includes a snakeskin jacket, red dyed hair, and a leopard skin slinky shirt (I have one word for that: ewww). Marc discovers Amanda’s secret — he catches her and Tavares making out in the back room — and is concerned that she is yet again in a relationship where she is being kept a secret.

Marc’s character is evolving more and more with each episode, all without losing his bitchy edge. I just adore him. In his defense of Amanda, Marc publicly “ins” Tavares, announcing at the party that the designer is straight. Later, back at the magazine, while trying to drown their sorrows in designer clothing, Amanda and Marc accidentally discover the love dungeon. Wonder what secrets that mystery room holds…

The episode ends with Daniel apparently being robbed by drug-dealing thugs, Ignacio stuck in Mexico with people from his past seeking revenge, Bradford signing divorce papers, and a transgender Lesbian kiss between Alexis and Jordan! Okay, the telenovelas I’ve seen were never THIS rich!

Next week is the season finale, and I can’t even begin to imagine what treasures are in store for us.

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About Ann Hagman Cardinal