Allyssa Lee
November 03, 2006 AT 05:00 AM EST

”Ugly Betty”: Children with issues

This episode of Ugly Betty was a must-see, if not for all the skeletons that emerged from the characters’ closets, then for the flagrant use of the word must, as in Mode magazine’s Must List for 2007. Or, as in our Must List, a concept the Betty writers blatantly stole. Don’t know whether to tip our hat or tip off our lawyers on that one. (By the way, your usual TV Watcher, Michael Slezak is away, so I’m temping this week.)

Anyway, the week was also filled with people clamoring for attention and none of them being served. Daniel decided on first sight that he must have caliente new editor Salma Hayek, but he couldn’t seem to win her affections, no matter how many innuendos and clichés he hurled her way. They even got stuck in an elevator (Daniel: ”Last time this happened, it was four hours of Kevin Federline trying to cornrow my hair”), but rather than falling into that old trope of forced intimacy and broken barriers, Daniel got a much-needed slap in the face instead. (Though, seeing how Hayek is set to appear in some more episodes, perhaps the Making Your Man a Bottom author and Daniel will hook up after all. But does this mean Hayek won’t show up in the telenovela segments anymore? I don’t know about you, but I kind of lived for those.) Too bad the slap didn’t do Daniel any good, as the himbo couldn’t seem to figure out where he went wrong, and poor Amanda had to listen to his complaints. Which the doormat did willingly, until she grew her own cojones, told him that she was the girl at whose apartment he had left his watch, and finally put an end to their dysfunctional sleepovers. I would hail this as Amanda’s empowering way of taking back the night, but unfortunately Daniel met this breakup with the sort of ho-hum indifference that’s usually reserved for the Blockbuster Awards. I’m afraid Amanda will come crawling back before Daniel realizes he’s lost something worth remembering.

Meanwhile, Wilhelmina’s daughter, Nico, was trying to get face time with Mummy. Seemingly expelled from yet another boarding school, Nico proceeded to wreak havoc on her mother’s life — even infringing on her favorite retail source. (”It’s an emergency!” said Marc. ”Bergdorf’s!…Shoplifting!”) Turns out it was all a thinly veiled attempt to get some maternal loving, which both wily Willy and her assistant were onto. ”Did you really think that imitating that very special episode of Punky Brewster was going to get your mother’s attention?” asked Marc. And so Nico was left to drown her sorrows in endless bowls of Cap’n Crisps. (And given that Willy’s kitchen is as cold and calculating as the grande dame herself, the Cap’n seems to be the only thing that could provide any kind of comfort in that sterile environment. Maybe the folks at Pimp Yo House could add some life?) This is where we learned about Wilhelmina’s upbringing, how the Senator kept her at arm’s distance, and how Wills decided to use the distance to make herself impenetrable (not to mention how she was caught doing a horizontal tango with ”Mischa” Baryshnikov when she was 15). ”Being away from the ones you love makes you strong,” Willy proclaimed. ”The only person you can depend on is yourself.” But no man — or highly-Botoxed woman — is an island, as Wilhelmina discovered soon enough, morosely fishing for the Cap’n’s companionship at episode’s end.

Betty and Hilda also couldn’t seem to get what they needed out of their single parent. There’s a chance their father could be deported even after 30 years in the States (though what could be more American than belonging to Oprah’s Book Club?). But he remained mum on why he didn’t apply for a green card years ago. To raise the $20,000 needed for legal fees, Betty shilled Herbalux at the Mode office (which Hilda said ”looks like a gay version of Star Trek”), and Hilda befriended Entourage‘s Debi Mazar, a sharp-talking yoga fan who also happens to be a card-carrying immigration lawyer. Props to Ana Ortiz, who makes Hilda loud and brassy and practical without yielding to caricature. (For all the family drama that erupted, however, son Justin was noticeably absent.) Betty even nearly made a pact with the devil herself, temporarily accepting a $20K check from Wilhelmina in exchange for dirt on Daniel. ”Her money, my soul,” Betty mused, and smartly turned down the offer. Tensions escalated as Betty insisted that she must know the truth about her father and the mysterious wedding ring in an old photo of her mother. Both Betty and Nico demanded that their parents grow up and act like parents. But in the end, naive Betty understood what worldly Wilhemina didn’t: that it doesn’t pay to think only of yourself. Where Willy pushed her relatives away, Betty held on. So it was only after Betty turned the other cheek and told her father she trusted him unconditionally (”You’re our rock, Dad” — sob!) that he explained that her mother was married to a rich wife batterer named Ramiro Vásquez and that he took Ramiro on after a particularly abusive night and fled Mexico with their mother. ”I killed Ramiro Vásquez,” Mr. Suarez said, giving the episode a suitably juicy telenovela end.

What do you think? Should Amanda and Daniel end up together? Do you prefer Salma Hayek on the telenovela or as the publishing exec? Do you want to see a more tender side of Wilhelmina? And should membership in Oprah’s book club be a requirement for U.S. citizenship?

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