Michael Slezak
November 24, 2006 AT 05:00 AM EST

”Ugly Betty”: Leftovers and hangovers

Happy Thanksgiving, Betty-istas! Because of the elevated tryptophan levels in my bloodstream, I’m in a race against time, trying to bang out this TV Watch before I fall into a turkey-induced coma. But I’m going to try to be quick and stuff all of tonight’s brilliant one-liners, exciting plot developments, and emotional moments into the next few paragraphs, much as I stuffed tasty roast bird, sweet potatoes, and three kinds of pie into my overworked stomach.

Speaking of holiday treats, I don’t even know where to start with this episode, arguably the funniest in Betty‘s short, punch-line-filled run. Wilhelmina and Marc stranded in the outer boroughs? Hilda and Daniel defending Justin’s freedom of fabulousness? Betty doing battle with an out-of-control stylist? Baby Chutney? The amazing thing about Ugly Betty is that its large cast of characters contains no weak links — well, except for Walter, and let’s give thanks he had the night off.

This week’s story line was certainly a strong one for the woman who continues to inexplicably date him. The episode-opening glimpse of Betty’s senior-year portrait, and her confession to Daniel that she’d spent the previous summer ”mopping up at a cat hospital,” was certainly a gauge of how far our heroine has come in a short time. Tonight, though, facing off against tyrannical stylist Bruno (Bob Clendenin, who was also memorable guest-starring on Felicity a few years back), Betty finally brought to her job some of the patented moxie with which she conducts her home life. With Daniel felled by a wicked post-Thanksgiving hangover, the responsibility for organizing the debut photo shoot of power Hollywood couple Tim and Chloe with their newborn, Baby Chutney, fell unexpectedly into Betty’s lap.

Initially, as Bruno and Amanda comically planned to drape the child in chain mail, then douse her with a bucket of water, Betty could only bring herself to fetch coffee and acquiesce with comments like ”a wet-baby ambush could be very dynamic!” But she finally came to her senses while hashing out the wardrobe details. Perhaps Christina’s observation that ”we’re gonna have to find something safer for the baby to wear — like maybe a plastic bag” finally spurred Betty to action. Whatever the impetus, Betty’s climactic showdown with Bruno — dismissing him with the reminder that his Courtney Love-in-a-wheelbarrow cover (!) was Mode’s lowest seller in 17 years — was a true stand-up-and-cheer moment. Well, more like a sit-down-and-cheer moment; I did mention sampling three kinds of pie, no?

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of high-fat treats, didn’t you love Wilhelmina making like a CSI sleuth and discovering that rogue cashew while trying to determine who’d been using her office phone on Thanksgiving. ”Who on this staff would willingly eat something that’s 15 grams of far per serving?” she barked, eventually sending Marc into a wheezing fit and Amanda into another bout of stress bingeing. Clearly, Vanessa L. Williams has friends in the writers’ room, seeing that she gets one hilarious sound bite after another. ”You are done dialing, Nancy!” ”Do you know what JFK stands for?” ”What’d you drive in the old country — a goat?” ”Poor people are so…cheap!” Honestly, by the time Willy used the heel of her boot to break open a church collection box to pay for her and Marc’s escape from a run-down Queens neighborhood, I was waving the imaginary white flag, praying for a few laugh-free minutes to catch my breath. Here’s hoping a future episode finds Willie reduced to slumming it on the subway. Oh, the horror!

Of course, it wouldn’t be Ugly Betty if I didn’t get choked up at least once per episode, and this time around, the tears made an appearance shortly after Santos predictably revealed his Neanderthalic distaste with Justin’s love of chenille, skin care, and holiday decor. (Funny, the dude seemed comfortable enough with his masculinity to sport one of Hilda’s butterfly robes, but I digress.) I’m not entirely certain, but I think I heard the sound of America’s collective hearts breaking when Santos sneered he wanted his son to go outside and be ”a normal kid.” But not to worry: Hilda and Daniel had TV’s most snap-tastic preteen covered — Hilda swiftly booting the absentee dad with the reminder that if Justin was happy and comfortable with himself, then everyone else had better be, and Daniel subtly but definitively showing his approval of Justin by asking whether to twist or braid his homemade holiday ornament. It’s been a few good weeks for Betty’s boss, indeed; his interactions with the Suarez clan (and his budding romance with Salma Hayek’s Sofia) have revealed he’s more than a nattily attired jerk, and it made all the more realistic his final act of selflessness this week — setting Betty free to choose a more prestigious job at Sofia’s new mag. Of course, now it’s up to Betty to come back — to Daniel, to Mode, and to the ongoing story that viewers like me have discovered they can’t bear to miss, holiday or not.

What do you think? Was Marc wise to use his newfound knowledge to score job security and a company credit card? Should Betty stick with Mode, or is her talent going to waste covering the world of high fashion? And, finally, who’s on for trying the Queen of Hungary’s skin-care regimen of sleeping in a sheet, wrapped in steaks? Report back if it works, please!

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