When Ugly Betty ended its run on April 14, 2010, the fans were just as devastated as the cast. ABC may have pulled the plug, but America Ferrera’s Betty Suarez still remains in the hearts of fans, (all of whom are still waiting for a movie) even with the rise of another award winning Latina character making waves on television, Jane Villanueva, (Gina Rodriguez) on The CW’s Jane the Virgin, also a loose adaptation of a telenovela. Rodriguez has even expressed her wishes to have a Jane and Betty crossover episode, and credited Ferrera’s groundbreaking character that “opened the doors for so many.” This week for #Throwback Thursday, we’re looking back at one of Ugly Betty finest hours, “The Bahamas Triangle.”
Like many getaway TV episodes, “The Bahamas Triangle” was automatically exciting, as it offered an entertaining break from the traditional setting of the show—the minimalist atmosphere of Mode magazine offices. This installment was packed with love triangles, island passion, drama and the great Shakira.
The episode opens with Betty in a black and white reenactment of Annette Kellerman’s famous 1907 arrest for indecency (for wearing a one-piece bathing suit), an inspiration for Betty’s pitch for the Mode magazine swimsuit issue. It happens to be Wilhelmina’s last photo shoot with Mode—one which could make or break her chances of getting the coveted editor-in-chief position at Isabella magazine, against a fashion industry rival. At one point she offers this hilarious threat:
I’ve told you many times before that people will die at my hands if things are not perfect, and this time, I ain’t playing.
Betty is visibly distracted by her unresolved attraction and feelings for her former boyfriend Matt, who has secretly started going out with secretary, Amanda and invited her on the trip. After arriving to the Atlantis Resort, Betty sees Colombian singer, Shakira who’s dressed in a Carmen San Diego-esque disguise.
One favorite scene that made a big splash, literally, was the jaw dropping return of Wilhelmina’s equally cynical and dashing lover, Connor Owens—who faked his own death. He emerged from the crystal blue waters (to a Barry White track, of course), to a stunned Wilhelmina, who is mourning her loss (cheeseburger in hand) of the EIC position to her rival Penelope Graybridge. She slaps him in anger for the staged death and they roll around in the sand making out. Connor’s seductive trance thaws her icy demeanor, causing her to walk around naked… which catches Betty off guard, as they have “hot secret sex” before planning to escape.
Meanwhile, the models (including the star that was set to appear on the cover) had gotten intoxicated during a party and randomly ended up on a boat to Cuba. Scrambling for a plan B in the absence of Wilhelmina, Betty immediately saved the photo shoot by taking a risk: convincing singer Shakira to rock the Annette Kellerman one-piece bathing suit and become the new cover girl. In one of the show’s most incredibly soapy moments, the FBI swarms the island to arrest Connor, who’s hiding out in the cabana after someone discovered his whereabouts. He convinces Wilhelmina to take credit for turning him, creating a dramatic scene that reveals he is in fact alive—gasps!.
Coming to terms with what happened; Matt and Betty decided to take their relationship one day at a time. Wilhelmina celebrates the fact that the love of her life is alive and that turning him in helped to keep her job at Mode. But all that happiness is cut short when Marc reveals that he accepted an assistant job from Daniel, believing he’ll one day help him become an editor instead of her.
“The Bahamas Triangle” had a lot of layers with the fun balance of business versus pleasure, and the dynamic between the ensemble cast as they ran free in the tropical oasis.
A stand-out moment was the flawless one-shot, rotating bedroom scene showing couples Daniel and Amanda, Marc and Troy (a fling who works at Mode), and Betty and Matt in bed with one another. The love triangle between Hilda, her boyfriend Archie and childhood friend Bobby was a more interesting contrast to Betty, Matt and Amanda.
Just as enjoyable was the blossoming of an unlikely friendship between Daniel and Marc, who both started bonding over being single and finding an island fling.
In the four years that it graced network television Ugly Betty was rare and special in its representation of a tight-knit Latino family, and of a non-stereotypical, bright, savvy young Latina woman whose inner beauty and spirit out-shined those perceptions that sought to define her. Ferrera’s “Ugly” Betty was a fish out of water from Queens, NY emerging in an industry that idolizes physical appearance. She enchanted viewers as her character tried to find her voice, yet simultaneously danced to the beat of her own drum.