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Ugly Betty: When in Rome…

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Part of me wants to pretend this show ended its season after last week’s episode, with Betty realizing she needs to “stop trying to be perfect and just be.” Sage advice from the sandwich shop owner.

But it seemed like advice Betty was willing to embrace at show’s end: She asked said sandwich shop owner, Gio, if he wanted to “do something sometime.” Sure, it’s not exactly a declaration of intent, but it showed that Betty was willing to move on from Henry. And thank God. I love Christopher Gorham, but the writers have backed his character up against a wall and it seems like there’s not much left to explore there. All along, we’ve been told that Henry would be leaving for Tucson once his child was born. And that bun has left the oven. But now he wants Betty to marry him and live in Tucson. Now I KNOW you don’t think that will happen. In last night’s season finale, Henry tells Betty he “can’t think of a reason she shouldn’t say yes.”

Well I can.

Ummmm, how about it’s her dream to make it big in publishing in New York? How about she has a job that challenges her and a network of contacts and friends and family there? How about because moving across the country to play second fiddle to your second family isn’t in her best interests? If I were Betty, I’d be more than a little pissed that Henry shopped her resume around to Bland No-name magazine without telling her. It’s nice that Henry’s planned everything out and is desperately trying to get those plans to work. The problem is, it’s just so… desperate. After all, this show ain’t called Nerdy Henry. Though I might watch that show. What? Gorham is really hot.

More and more Henry seems like a distant memory, something Betty had to experience to become the person she’s meant to be. Her relationship with him is fairly childish. It relies on a lot of fairytale fantasy and fluffy, dreamy optimism. But what do I know? Maybe it is true love. Maybe love would make the unpalatable “move to Tucson and be a writer for Tucson Life while helping me care for my love child while my baby momma looks over your shoulder every second of every day” offer more palatable. Of the two options, this feels like the “safe” one. And since Claire told Betty that to get to what she wants in life (to own her own magazine and be like Claire), she’s going to have to stop playing it safe, it doesn’t seem like Betty will be taking the “Mrs. Grubstick” option.

Besides, I would take Gio’s casual “Wanna go to Rome?” any day of the week. It’s Rome! It’s a first-class vacation! It’s free! It’s Rome! It’s exciting and new and it’s definitely not safe! Nothing is planned and nothing is guaranteed. It’s the ultimate high board. Oh, and if jumping off the high board means jumping on Freddy Rodriguez? In Rome? Take the plunge. Isn’t the choice obvious? As much as I don’t think Betty really “needs” a guy, Gio would push her buttons, challenge her and teach her that a good time doesn’t have to end with a valiant prince on a white steed charging to the rescue. Maybe it’s a guy from the neighbourhood with dreams as big as her own. If she’s going to make her plan work, it’s time to grow up a little bit.

The only part of his storyline that rings false is also the reason I most wish the season had ended last week. When Gio dropped Betty off after the dance, he was gracious and charming when Betty asks him out and he turns her down. “I don’t want to be the rebound guy. I want to be the guy.” Hand to God, my cold, dead heart turned to mush. It was the perfect end to an all-around excellent episode.

So as somebody who doesn’t want to be the rebound guy… why is he acting like a rebound guy? Last week, Gio turns Betty down for a casual date, this week, he’s planning a trip to Italy so they can have the “most romantic first date of all time?” Maybe they’re trying to drive home the point that Gio is as passionate and romantic as Henry is staid and reserved? They don’t have to sell me. It’s no contest between Tucson and Rome and I think that’s pretty obvious, even if Henry WAS Betty’s first true love.

But that’s just me. Betty makes her own decision. Rome or Tucson? On the one hand, Rome is free and it’s short and exciting and fun. On the other hand, Tucson is a guaranteed job when she presumably no longer has one at Mode, since Daniel is out as E-in-C. Please. You guys have seen Beverly Hills 90210. If this isn’t an “I choose me!” moment, then I don’t know what is. Fifty bucks says she’s going to the Grand Canyon, like her mom always wanted. When she gets back, we’ll see who’s still around. But my money is on Gio.

All in all, this episode felt tacked on, patchy and uneven. I think there was just too much going on, much of it, stuff I don’t care about. Daniel’s petite français being chief among them. Aren’t there enough illegitimate children flying around this family? And isn’t the obvious answer for this trainwreck of a storyline to have Alexis be the kid’s father? And couldn’t we have had a taste of Christina? I like her. I miss her. She hasn’t had enough to do since she started housing Wilhelmina’s stake in Meade Publications in her womb.

The truth is, I’m a little worried about this show’s future. In February, it was picked up for a third season, but on the same day, exec. producers Marco Pennette and James Hayman were let go. Because… why? The show was so bad? It had poor ratings? Oh, right. None of those things. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, ABC. Sheesh.

But there are still good bits, even in mediocre episodes. For example:

Amanda and Mark forcing Betty to try out for the cheerleading squad for their own twisted amusement. Amanda putting makeup on Daniel’s son. Daniel’s very good vocal impression of Wilhelmina. Wilhelmina telling Daniel that she plays chess, he plays checkers. And Mark trilling “Queen me!” Oh, Mark! Naomi Campbell makes fun of her phone-weilding ways and parks one to center field. Joe Zee cattily tells Wilhelmina he only struck out because he was distracted by how fat she looks in white. And the phrase “Play ball, bitches!”

Easily the best part of this episode, and certainly the show itself, is the family dynamic between Ignacio, Hilda, Betty and Justin. The scene where Betty tells her family she’s going to Rome with Gio is brilliant. Hilda’s “Papi! She’s 24! It’s not like she’s a virgin!” Ignacio’s shocked “Wait! WHAT!?” at this news, Betty’s nervous warning “Hil-da!” and Justin’s disgusted “Ooookay! I’ll… get the recap later!” were all perfectly timed and believable. Maybe it’s latent longing for Veronica Mars, but I love strong father-daughter relationships, and Ignacio is one of my favourite characters on the show. His chat with Betty about her mother and his advice about her decision was hands-down the best scene of the week.

I haven’t even mentioned the two second Lindsay Lohan cameo because it wasn’t even really funny. Yes, I know. She’ll be back next season. Don’t remind me.

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About Tanis

Badass, smokin' hot and overall nice to come home to.

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