Ugly Betty (S03E03): “Crimes of Fashion”

Grade: B

With news that Rebecca Romijn would be leaving the show early on this season circulating the web for some time, this episode was bound to happen. It has that feel that most shows do when real life drama seeps into the fictional world, seeming just a little forced and raising all sorts of “what ifs” as to where the characters would have gone had the writer’s pen not been guided by outside influences. Tonight’s story certainly felt propelled along by the need to find Alexis an exit door, but that said it was still enjoyable even if the weakest episode in the still fledgling season.

“Crimes of Fashion” is all about the aftermath of Christina’s classic soap opera moment last week–pushed down the stairs by an unseen hand. Betty gets wrapped up in the middle of it all, trying to prove Daniel’s innocence after she unintentionally lets the police know that Daniel had asked her to lie about his whereabouts on the night of the incident. It’s of course very clear by this early revelation that Daniel is not guilty, but it’s all about finding the evidence to prove this. The episode flashes back and forth between the present and the slowly connecting pieces of the puzzle from the night of the MODE party, presented in drunken sepia tone.

What was a nice touch in Betty’s sleuthing was the humanizing of almost all of our characters. Usually, one or maybe two might have a tender moment in an episode, but tonight they all let their guard down for Betty, albeit only briefly. Amanda shares her financial woes and we learn just how she affords (or doesn’t afford) her fancy lifestyle, Marc reveals he likes to slap around Wilhelmina’s Mannequin, which looks a lot like one of those Real Dolls, and Claire admits she can’t drink one cocktail without drinking fifty. These little moments of insight into the real thoughts of the characters versus the personas they’re always putting on are always enjoyable, and these were no exception.

Marc and Amanda are stealing not only the show these days, but putting it to shame with their webisodes. Even though they were funnier in this week’s installment, which you can find on ABC.com, their team up with Betty to discover the truth behind Christina’s attack was still very fun. Not so much fun for Betty, though, who keeps stumbling upon more and more evidence seemingly pointing back to Daniel.

While Christina herself didn’t have much to do, laid out after the attack and all, Wilhelmina’s publicity stunt in the hospital was one of the night’s highlights. It’s not the first time she’s shamelessly visited an injured person (Betty White, anyone?), but it comes as no surprise from a person who always, and I repeat always, puts herself first. When she starts screaming and nearly crying for someone to get Christina a glass of water, only to slip right back into her collected, devilish self, it’s obvious just how wonderfully evil she is. It has been awhile since she had one of those Ugly Betty humanizing moments, and she gets a brief one later when Christina reveals she’s just found out Stuart is dying after the experimental surgery she paid for has failed. Wiilly being the one that started the whole mess by essentially blackmailing Christina into having her child can’t help but feel just the tiniest ping of remorse over how it all turned out. You can bet that sympathy won’t linger long, though, and she’ll be back to plotting by next week, which is for the best. What fun would a Wilhelmina with a beating, human heart be?

The last story is Hilda’s, which doesn’t much fit in with the rest of the MODE happenings. She’s still seeing Coach “I’m married” Diaz, but trying to work it out by borrowing her sister’s place for the day to talk (and yes she means talk, though the coach may have other definitions in mind). Word gets around to her father of the affair, or more like slaps him in the face when he finds the Coach very naked in Betty’s apartment, expecting Hilda to walk through the door and not daddy dearest. This tiny misunderstanding leads to an all out family feud, until Betty injects some reason into the situation near the end, as she’s so very good at doing. Let’s face it, this family is so tight that no amount of soap drama can tear them apart, which is a very good thing in my opinion. They can mess with a lot of relationships on TV, but the Suarez family is one they’d better not tear apart.

With everything that was going on and the rushed nature of the arc, most characters felt sacrificed this hour to the story. As everything developed at a quick pace, there weren’t as many funny gags or jokes and Betty especially felt used more as a device to move the plot from point to point than her usual self. Some characters like Daniel and even Alexis, whose face we’ve seen the last of for at least some time if not forever, were pushed aside for the majority, only popping in when the story absolutely required it. Daniel Jr was also barely seen, even though his name did pop up in the end as part of the big, last second reveal. He’s not Daniel’s son, but Alexis’ from when she was still a he, and with her being carted off to the slammer, I guess this is a way to get rid of the dad and son dynamic. As I said in the beginning, this episode reeks of a rushed change in direction, guided by Rebecca’s departure, but all in all it was still a fairly solid effort.

I did enjoy Rebecca’s stint on the show, and was pretty upset when I heard the news she was leaving. However, thinking about it I realize she was steadily becoming obsolete in many of the episodes and serving more as a pretty decoration. Whether this was because of the writers not having stories for her or another early side effect of her pending departure. Either way, it makes saying goodbye a little easier. Add to that news of her replacement being cast and there may be some exciting developments in Betty’s near future.

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