Ugly Betty (S03E02): “Filing for the Enemy”

Grade: B+

True to it’s soap opera nature, the stories on Ugly Betty are like quickly revolving doors, bringing in new ideas just as fast as they give them the boot. The third season started with many changes afoot, but by the end of the second hour many of these shakeups have have replaced with new ones, and it’s both a good and bad thing. Overall, though, this was another fun romp with Betty Suarez and crew even if it was outdone by Marc and Amanda’s interweb exploits.

Last week, Wilhelmina finally had her hands on MODE, Daniel was head of the skanky Player Magazine, and Betty was focusing on Betty by getting her own place. This week, the only one of those plots to stick is Betty’s. By the end of hour two, Wilhelmina’s throne has been overturned and Daniel is in place to return as editor in chief, but there’s a lot that leads up to this point.

This episode seems to be about juggling what you want with what you believe in and then fighting for whatever it is you choose. Daniel finds out his son’s grandparents want him back home, leaving him to decide if he lets him go or takes the matter to court, where a long, bitter struggle could take place. Not only that, but he must decide if taking back MODE is worth a struggle, but at first he’s unwilling to take the first swing. Betty is struggling with her loyalty to Daniel and her career aspirations, and she momentarily chooses the latter. She returns to MODE as Wilhelmina’s protege, but gets a startling glimpse at what following that path might lead to. And, finally, there’s Hilda who has to choose between being the other woman or letting her married boyfriend go.

Daddy Daniel is not the Daniel I love best. So perhaps the place this episode takes us is a good one–positioning Daniel back in the halls of MODE–but I also think his time at Player could have been spent focusing on more than just his son. Personally, I thought that arc would have ended sooner by some twist or other, but it’s looking like Daniel Jr. may be sticking around for some time. Daniel is a natural father as Claire Meade puts it, and it’s clear finding out he has a son has softened Daniel. So is it bad if I miss the wild and crazy version of him? And for half this episode I kept trying to pinpoint what looked so different about Daniel, only to realize later on it was his wardrobe. He looks so different when not wearing a suit all the time. Rambling aside, Betty leaving Daniel to go back to MODE really gets him thinking about what it is he wants, and he can’t help but feel a little jealous of her for being able to get what she wants. So he mopes around for a bit until finally deciding to start swinging some fists. He stops being afraid and asks his son what he wants, which ends up being the answer he wanted to hear all along (that he wants to stay in New York). Betty, who knows Daniel wants to leave Player and sees his talent in a Mock-up of Mode she finds him writing in, comes across bags full of positive mail sent in to Daniel during his time as editor in chief. Wilhelmina had hidden it all from him, sending through only the negative ones. So she dumps the mail on Daniel’s desk and sets the spark to light his butt on fire.

On Betty’s end, she’s becoming Wilhelmina. She initially gets the job because Willy wants to make sure she’s kept out of the way, but ends up impressing even the ice queen herself. She’s sent on a number of errands, including the near-impossible task of retrieving a tiara from a museum. When Betty, through sheer niceness, does get the Tiara, Willy suddenly sees the untapped potential in Betty and tells her she sees some of herself in her, which freaks Betty out. Wilhelmina takes away the MODE relaunch party planning duties away from Marc and hands them to Betty, which doesn’t sit too well with him. But Marc’s jealousy actually allows him to do a backhanded good deed and ultimately save the day. To try and distract Betty from her planning duties, he gives her those big bags of mail I mentioned before and tells her to shred them all. As she begin to shred, shred, shred she notices they’re all positive letters to Daniel about the magazine (and maybe a few fan girls wanting his body mixed in for good measure). But just as Betty is dangerously close to following in Wilhelmina’s footsteps, she has a horrifying vision that sets her straight. She dreams she is Willy, with short, bleached hair and an impeccable taste in clothing, barking orders at everyone and kicking puppies. I think it’s the puppy kicking that scares her most, and she immediately decides to quit MODE…again.

She hands in her letter of resignation at the party, right beside the giant ice sculpture she had made to resemble her short-lived boss, Willy. Wilhelmina is disappointed, but the blows are only just beginning for her. The relaunch of MODE was a big, fat failure and Alexis, Daniel, and Claire storm the party to reveal the horrendous sales figures. Alexis has finally stopped being a bitch and realized her brother is better suited for the spot, but assures Willy she will still make a fine creative director, which I’m sure reads as an utter, maddening insult to the vindictive scheming diva. And Claire, whose awesomeness continues to grow, lets Willy know the incredible lengths she will go to for her children. Oh, and she knocks over the ice sculpture just for the sake of drama and the symbolic image of Wilhelmina falling from her glory to a shattered and fallen state. After all this, Betty figures out that Marc gave her those letters on purpose, to make sure he got his job back. He set this whole thing up for very selfish reasons, but still helped make everythign right at the end of the day and his subtle, knowing smile to Betty gives us one of those rare moments where these characters become real flesh and blood people with hearts.

Then there’s poor Hilda, who can’t catch a break in love. She’s fallen for possibly the most attractive man in New York, but his sexiness comes with a catch: he’s married. When he tells her she’s not the other woman, she’s the woman, it’s hard to believe him, but she wants so much to. When coach Diaz swings by MODE to pick up an autographed copy of Player (how fitting, no?), Amanda and Marc about shrivel up from drool loss, and Mandy swipes his cell phone in an attempt to see him again. Betty gets it back, but sees pictures on it of him with a woman that isn’t Hilda, so she calls her sister over to break the news. It’s old news to Hilda, but the sisters don’t see eye-to-eye. Betty thinks what she’s doing is wrong and should end it while Hilda wants to make it work. But when she goes to meet him for dinner, the nights his wife was supposed to be out of town, she’s left standing on a New York street alone, waiting. Finally, she calls him and he answers, but talks to her like she’s some guy he knows. It’s not that he’s into weird role play, but that his wife is with him and he has to pretend for her sake that it’s not Hilda calling. Any doubts that she’s not the other woman after all are put to rest, and poor Hilda is once again smacked across the chest with the heartache stick.

Looking back, part of me wishes Willy’s reign at MODE had been extended and that Daniel’s days at Player had been made more interesting. It’s unlikely that Wilhelmina will be back in that position again anytime soon, if ever, and there’s some wasted potential there as the show rushes quickly onward. The positive is that it will give her the chance for more scheming, which is always fun, and also that Daniel will be back where his character thrives best. Betty has shown it can leap from one far-fetched plot to another with ease, so I’m not too worried, I just think these big changes went mostly to waste. Even Willy’s baby is in jeopardy by the end, after Christina gets pushed down a flight of stairs in dramatic, yet typical soap opera fashion. With the status quo returned to MODE, it will be interesting to see where this show goes next because as of now I have no real idea.

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