For a show that made its mark with over-the-top characters, fashions and plots, "Ugly Betty" has an understated surprise tonight. The series' penultimate episode features a moment fans know is coming, but its restrained execution proves that "Ugly Betty" still deserves a special place in TV history.
It's been four years since "Ugly Betty" introduced TV viewers to then-11-year-old Justin Suarez, Betty's (America Ferrera) artsy, fashion-forward nephew. Played by then-newcomer Mark Indelicato, Justin immediately stood out as a fresh TV character, a child too young to understand or proclaim his sexual orientation but compellingly comfortable in his own skin. That he was part of a traditional Latino family that embraced him no matter what Broadway tunes he was singing or what designer he name-dropped only made Justin more distinct in the TV landscape.
Tonight, Justin comes out to his family -- not in a melodramatic way or as a result of being outed by someone else -- but in his own sweet, adolescent Justin way. For weeks, viewers have seen Justin struggling with his feelings, forcing himself to like a girl and then allowing himself to like who his heart truly likes, his friend, Austin (Ryan McGinnis). Last week's episode ended on a cliff-hanger, with Bobby (Adam Rodriguez) catching his soon-to-be-stepson kissing Austin on the front steps. That's where the story picks up tonight, and though we won't reveal the details, be warned. By the time Amanda (Becki Newton) tells Marc (Michael Urie), "Don't cry, it makes you look like a girl," it will be too late.
"I think the writers have really done this whole transition, this whole discovery, with such grace and in not a cliche way," said Indelicato, 15, during a telephone interview on Tuesday. "I definitely thought there was going to be a cliche dramatic breakdown crying moment. And I don't think it should be like that because that's not the message we wanted to put across. We don't want people to be afraid to tell their family and friends who they are. In the episode, you're going to see how the family deals with everything and how Justin deals with everything and it's an eye-opener for people that need some clarity."