Episode 22

Merci: Tonight’s episode was terrific! Who knew Dr Armando Mendoza Sáenz could play a guitar? And what’s more, that he doesn’t sing as badly as that night he and Betty “sang?” Today I really did cry with laughter… Hopefully the summary will give you an idea of just how delightful this episode was…

The episode starts where we left off last week: Maruja saying that the police will have to imprison the doorman of the building where they found the gang of women thieves with Gutiérrez’s and Calderón’s cars. The lieutenant assures the Ecomoda women that he will call them as soon as he gets the results back on the [fingerprint] tests they’re running on the cars… Gabriela asks what would happen if it should turn out the gang of women committed the assault. Maruja replies, “Nice to meet you. I’m Maruja Bravo, the widow of Gutiérrez…” Aura María says that Freddy Estewart Contreras is dead meat. Gabriela tells the Ecomoda women that since they already suspect the Stooges, why not go talk to them? It’s better to get these things out in the open - maybe things aren’t how the Ecomoda women think they are. Maruja wants to know why Gabriela’s talking like this and Gabriela replies that she’s just playing Devil’s Advocate [Merci: for the little devils!!]. That maybe they [the Stooges] actually didn’t do anything. If that’s the case, then Maruja wants to know why the Stooges didn’t just open their little mouths and talk - it’s because they are a bunch of stray dogs, that’s why! Maruja makes Gabriela promise she won’t say a word of this conversation to the men - Word of a woman! Gabriela swears…

This next scene happened in Spain…

Gabriela : Word of a man, Word of a woman… Jeez!! Who can make sense of this?

Hugo : But no, my honorable Chesito! But no! Get this: I-don’t-want-to-get-back-together-with-you (…) But why all this pleading? Where is your Argentine “ego”? Where is that macho I liked so much? Ay no, ay no! If you are going to start crying like that… what a shame! What’s more, a visitor has just arrived to see me: A corpulent Frenchman who is selling me some fabrics, so “au revoir, Paris.”

Gabriela: How are you? [Beth: “Tú” alert - Gabriela and Hugo use the “tú” form with each other throughout this scene.]

Hugo: Ay, no, no! Men!! Men!!! Where is the operating manual??

Gabriela: Whoever finds it should let us know.

Hugo: Ay, yes!! That was an Argentine, the love of my life. I gave him everything - I did crazy things, I gave my heart to him, until… he betrayed me. And what brings you here? I know, I know, you want to see me latest work

Gabriela: Wow! How beautiful!

Hugo: Classic. Cut it a bit more here… Something’s missing.

Gabriela: Hugo, no… Your work is very beautiful but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here more for something personal, something… confidential I want to ask you about.

Hugo: My love… I am all ears. The soap opera begins .

Gabriela: Let’s see… Have you ever had to play as a man and as a woman at the same time?

Hugo: My love, I am constantly in flux .

Gabriela: I’m in that position right now.

Hugo: Tell me all.

Gabriela: You know about the assault on the Ecomoda executives, right?

Hugo: I know all the gossip at Ecomoda. I have some about Armando Mendoza - no! you’d die!! . Well, what I know so far is that ten men arrived and attacked them and stripped them, and it was just too bad I wasn’t there to enjoy the whole spectacle.

Gabriela: No. Listen to what I am going to tell you: It wasn’t ten men. It was ten “old ladies,” it was ten women.

Hugo : Ay no! Ay no! No! I didn’t hear that! How’s this? Women? It wasn’t ten men… but… but… and… How do you know?

Gabriela: Because they talked to me about it.

Hugo : But, how’s this?? It was a fraud, then?

Gabriela: No, no, no… it’s not what you’re imagining, and it’s not what the Ecomoda woman are thinking. It wasn’t a fraud or a collective betrayal. It was…. a boy’s game.

Hugo: But, one moment! You’re going to help them [the men], right? You’re going to keep their secret -but why?

Gabriela: Because, according to them, I’m one of them now. Let’s see, I’ll tell you the story.

Hugo: No, wait - just a moment because Bárbara Chesai can’t hear this . Good, she’s gone, and she’s not going to come back to me with company, right? [Beth: ??]

Gabriela: Listen to what I’m going to tell you. The police…

Hugo: Ay, no! I loooove the police! I’m sick that way…


Listen to me, please, Hugo - I need your help. The police detained part of the gang when they found the men’s cars. The men don’t want to denounce the gangsters for fear of being bawled out by their wives and for fear of public ridicule. What they don’t know is that their wives have practically found them out anyway because they’re been talking to the police. The police sent the cars to be fingerprinted. At 5pm they’re going to have the results and they’ll know that the women assaulted the [men]. They [the men] could go to prison for complicity. Hugo, hold on a second. I have information for both sides. The men made me swear, word of a man, that I wouldn’t tell the women anything; and the women made me swear, word of a woman, that I wouldn’t tell the men anything, and if I don’t talk, the men are going to go to jail. Which promise should I break - the one to the men or to the women?

Hugo: Let’s see, is there another choice, like suicide? No?

Gabriela: You think I didn’t think about that?? Jeez, Hugo!! Help me, please. Let’s see, if you were a real man and I broke my word to you, what would you do to me?

Hugo: As a real man, I would stuff myself half-full of aguardiente, I’d kick you around, I’d break your face with my fist, and there you are!

Gabriela: And if you were an “old lady” [i.e., wife], what would you do?

Hugo: I would forbid you to go back to my hairdressing salon and then start a rumor that I did you in [murdered you].

Gabriela: In other words, why don’t you just loan me a revolver and I’ll kill myself? Hugo, and if we were friends and I broke my word, what would you do?

Hugo: In either case I’d kill you. I’d kill you, but not for breaking your word, but rather for being a bad friend.

Gabriela: You know what? I’m going to stop the guys from being put in jail… I’ll let the women down.

Hugo: C’mon over here. Wait just a second while I bring over a ladder so I can give you a kiss.

In the conference room we see the little boys talking about the same thing… Gabriela comes in and tells them they have to reconsider their decision to not denounce the gang of women thieves. All the Stooges are against this idea. She asks what time it is and when she realizes it’s 4:10pm, she’s startled to realize that the “zero hour” is nearly upon them [when the police will have to let the girl gangsters go if no-one will swear out a complaint against them]. She again asks them to go denounce the women and Mario tells her “no can do” (in English). Armando is troubled by Gabriela’s insistence and asks her what’s going on with her. She replies that she’s worried because [she and the Stooges] will all be put in jail. Freddy starts up with his nervous laughter and Armando tells him to cut it out. Then Gabriela tells him about the fingerprint testing, and that the Ecomoda women had spoken with the lieutenant… Gutiérrez cannot believe that his “dragoness” spoke to the lieutenant! [Beth: why not?? after everything we’ve seen and heard of her in BLF and this show, i should think he’d have expected her to speak to the lieutenant!!] He asks the other Stooges for a revolver with which to kill himself, and Armando again tells him to stop behaving like a mouse and act like a man. Armando is now convinced they should go identify the women. Gabriela continues to remind the rest of them that they will be accused of hindering prosecution and complicity if they don’t denounce the women. In the end they decide to do the right thing, and they thank Gabriela. As they leave for the police station, Armando gives her a kiss on the cheek, Nicolás hugs her, and Freddy tries to but she won’t let either him or Gutiérrez do so. Mario, that scamp, thanks her and gives her a kiss on the lips…

In Betty’s office, Maruja asks what time it is and Betty tells her it’s 4:20pm. Maruja wants to call the lieutenant to find out the test results. She doesn’t want to wait - the lady is out for blood and she wants it NOW! Gabriela comes in and asks the Ecomoda women to try to take things calmly, their husbands and Freddy need understanding… They have to swear to her, word of a woman, that they are going to take things calmly. They all swear… Gabriela then tells them that yes, it’s true the Ecomoda men were assaulted by the gang of women. Maruja asks her how she knows this… Gabriela replies that the Stooges themselves told her. Aura María is furious and says she won’t forgive Freddy even in 120 years. Gabriela continues to insist, in vain, that the Stooges didn’t betray their respective Ecomoda women [Merci & Beth: well, in my opinion that’s being pretty darn generous because that shameless Gutiérrez was a hair away from doing just that, while Freddy was very lovey-dovey with the blonde one… Armando is the only one who behaved himself]. Maruja says that Gutiérrez is going to live out his very own horror movie the minute she sees him. Betty asks Gabriela to tell them everything. Gabriela continues to insist that the Ecomoda women calm down and listen to her as she tells about how the men went to a bar, about how they met up with the women, and about how it all ended up being an assault…

At the police station, we see Armando, Mario, Freddy, Gutiérrez, Nicolás, and Kenneth signing the police reports denouncing the women, and speaking with Lieutenant Acevedo. Freddy is super-nervous about what could happen if ‘his’ blonde should call Aura María. Armando explains [to the lieutenant] that the women in the gang who hadn’t been arrested yet were threatening the Stooges with calling the women in their respective lives. The lieutenant says he won’t publicize the incident. Armando thanks him and says to the rest of the Stooges that they’ve talked to the least dangerous person and now they have to go talk with the most dangerous ones - Betty, Maruja, and Aura María… Gutiérrez asks the lieutenant if he doesn’t have a nice maximum-security cell that he [Gutiérrez] could stay in… Kenneth and Nicolás practically have to drag Gutiérrez away with them as they leave.

Gabriela tells the Ecomoda women about how the Stooges had dared Armando that he couldn’t manage to be faithful to Betty and how that that was how he ended up going with the rest of the boys to the gangster women’s house. Gabriela says that since they’re guys, they fell for it, but they didn’t do anything. Maruja says that this didn’t just happen - there had to have been a seductive preamble. Gabriela says she was sorry now she’d told the EM women the truth, she doesn’t need to be here defending the guys… Betty thanks her for the information. Aura María does too, and adds that thanks to Gabriela she now knows she doesn’t want to be with Freddy any more. Maruja also thanks Gabriela and tells her that now Gutiérrez is going to remember why they call her [Maruja] The Witch… Gabriela continues to insist the women go speak with their men, how they will see that the guys didn’t do anything bad [Merci: ok, they lied. but still… Beth: well, as for the guys not doing anything, i don’t agree: with the exception of Armando -who didn’t want to be there in the first place- that they didn’t do anything wasn’t for lack of intent, but because the thieves had other plans…!]. Maruja for her part continues to insist that of course the Stooges did something bad - they didn’t have to pick up those women, much less go to their house [Beth: you go, girl!!]. Gabriela says that now that she’s seen the Ecomoda women’s attitude, she understands why the Stooges would prefer to go to jail rather than talk to them. Gabriela tells them about the gang’s attempt to blackmail Armando and Gutiérrez. Betty wants to know to what they owe the Stooges’ change of heart and decision to go denounce the women after all. Gabriela replies that she told the Stooges about what Lieutenant Acevedo said regarding the tests and about arresting the guys [if the tests proved it was the women], which latter threat they had already known about. Maruja asks Gabriela how she could break the promise she had made, and what’s more, how come she hadn’t told them before… Gabriela says that she had promised the Stooges she wouldn’t say anything. Betty says her theory is that the Stooges sent Gabriela to soften the Ecomoda women up. Gabriela states that she’s there of her own volition, so that idea is a non-starter. Maruja asks what time the gentlemen will be back. Betty states that she’s going to leave now because she doesn’t want to be there when Armando gets back.

Aura María tearfully leaves Betty’s office and runs into Bertha, Sandra, Inesita, Mariana, and Sofía [Merci & Beth: obviously NOBODY worked at Ecomoda today… well, maybe Natasha worked, because we didn’t see her the whole episode]. Bertha demands that Aura María tell them exactly what is going on - the Cartel senses that it has something to do with the attack the night before… Aura María cannot help telling them, and she cries that the assault was by a gang of “90-60-90s” [or, for the metrically-challenged among us, 36-24-36"s]… They head for the Ladies’ Room to get all the gossip [Merci: Surprisingly, we don’t have to listen as the Cartel gossips until sated]. As they leave their “Conference Room,” we hear Aura María telling the rest of the Cartel that the men have no idea that the EM women know what happened. Just then they run into Betty, who realizes that Aura María has told the Cartel everything. Aura María defends herself by saying that Betty has to understand - there’s no way to resist the Cartel when they really want to find out the latest scoop. They ask Betty where she’s going and she says she’s going to take a walk and think about what she’s going to do when she sees Armando. They tell her she can’t go alone and insist she instead go with them to Aura María, Sandra, and Mariana’s house. They also invite Maruja, who was planning to empty her house and serve Guti-gu with divorce papers. The Cartel -especially Inesita- insist she shouldn’t take such a drastic step. Sandra says they’ll “celebrate” with a bottle of 12-year-old scotch instead… [Beth: excuse me - “celebrate”??]. They all shout, “Down with men!” Bertha amends that to down with all men except her “Fattie,” who she then has to call to ask permission to go out partying. They also invite Gabriela to come along. Gabriela says she has to take care of a few things first but she’ll meet them there afterwards - Aura María gives her the address.

By now it’s nighttime in Bogotá and the happy Stooges get off the elevator, pleased to have gotten out of the mess with the gang. Mario says they’ve saved themselves from the slammer and they have to celebrate. Armando isn’t in the mood to celebrate since he’s been calling Betty on her cel and she isn’t answering. Nicolás tells them that no-one was in their places at Ecomoda. They all make a dash for the conference room!

In Aura María, Sandra, and Mariana’s apartment, Betty tells the women that the fools don’t have any idea that they [the EM women] know the whole story. They note that the whiskey is running out and Maruja offers to send for more to be delivered - courtesy of Gutiérrez, since she’s going to use his credit card to pay for it! All of the women are pretty tipsy; Betty’s laughing in that way she does when she’s had too much to drink… Inesita says they can’t get drunk since they have to keep a clear head for when they speak with their husbands [Beth: it’s likely Aura María is included in this group, even tho she and Freddy aren’t married. as i may have mentioned before, in many parts of Latin America, boy- or girlfriends and their immediate family members are often referred to using marital terminology. for example, when i had an Argentine boyfriend, his friends frequently referred to him as my husband and me as his wife, to his mother and brother as my in-laws, etc]. Maruja replies that it would be better if she were drunk when she sees Gutiérrez, because if she is hopefully she won’t lose her nerve and she’ll kill him. Betty doesn’t want to drink any more since, she reminds them, it affects her badly. Inesita says she can’t drink because it is bad for her arthritis - but she accepts a glass of whiskey anyway, saying she just wants to enjoy the smell.

In the Ecomoda conference room, the Stooges are all drinking whiskeys as well, as they consider their next move… Gabriela enters and asks what they’re doing. Mario replies that the geniuses are thinking. Gabriela grabs Mario’s drink and tosses it back in one gulp. She tells them there’s no need for them to make any plans. And she takes Armando’s drink away from him and tosses it off too - Armando says “Ay, my God! Cheers!” She tells them their women know everything. And then she drinks Gutiérrez’s drink! Armando asks her what’s wrong with her, she violated his trust. Before replying, Gabriela drinks Nicolás’ drink. She tells them she got worried because those “old ladies” (the women in the gang) were going to call the guys’ “old ladies” (Betty and company) and tell them everything. That she, Gabriela Garza, at your orders sir, had to tell them [the EM women]. Gutiérrez wants to get out of there so he can throw himself from the first open window he can find. Nicolás tells him not to do that. Armando tells him to stop making such a fuss [Merci: it’s strange seeing Armando be the most calm and collected, isn’t it?]. He adds that they have to face things. Freddy wants to know How, by God, Doctor?? They want to know why Gabriela told on them - and Nicolás calls her “Gabriela Judás Garza.” Mario gives her a very disappointed look and tells her he didn’t realize she was a rat fink. Gabriela begs their pardon and says she’ll see them around. They ask her where she’s going and she says, To Aura María’s house, and she tells them how all the EM women are gathered there - working out the best way to chop them (the Stooges) up into pieces.

Mario says that the thing to do, then, is to tell the truth [Merci: Mario Calderón - speaking the word “truth”!! Beth: yeah, right - fine advice to give now that the cat’s completely out of the bag anyway… what are they gonna do - try a different lie? even the Stooges can’t be that dumb!]. That Gutiérrez and Armando will have to go home and tell [their wives] everything. That Freddy will have to go on his knees to Aura María. Armando tells him of course, it’s easy for you [to say that] since the only feminine thing waiting for you at home is your blanket [in Spanish the word for “blanket” is feminine]!!. Armando tells Mario he (Armando) has a serious problem - a wife who doesn’t want to answer his phone calls to her cel, who doesn’t trust him. Nicolás tells them to do what they want - the only thing he’s risking, since he doesn’t have a girlfriend or anything, is having his television and snacks taken away for a week…

Back at Aura María’s apartment, Betty is making fun of Armando with a dead-on impersonation of how he’d told her the attack had been worse than the battle of Waterloo and of the bite by the guy who was like a Rottweiler!! Maruja makes fun of Gutiérrez, imitating how he speaks in English and the way he’s always moving his mouth. Aura María relates the story Freddy told her about he humiliated the attackers. So then Gabriela stands up and makes fun of how Kenneth talks: [in somewhat broken Spanish] “I am Marine, take care of all those guys…” [Merci: Gabriela’s going to have a killer hangover the next morning because she’s really drunk!]. Bertha says that the only thing that was needed to assault the Stooges were a great pair of legs in a short skirt. Maruja says it didn’t even take that much. Betty is convinced that the women at least had to be really hot-looking. Maruja continues mocking Gutiérrez… and they all say “Down with men!”

Gabriela’s cel phone rings - it’s Armando, calling to ask her about the mood at the apartment. She tells him what they have is an uprising, and holds the phone so he can hear what the women are saying: “Foolish men!” “Castration!” Armando is frightened and says they’re not women, they’re psychopaths. He tells Gabriela that he, Freddy, and Gutiérrez are outside the apartment with a “serenata” [a small singing group that does serenades]. Gabriela tells him she’ll come down to open the door for them. She hangs up the phone and tells the rest of the women it was a [male] friend calling. They tell her to invite him over to be lynched…

Outside the three Stooges are planning Operation Serenade. Armando, guitar in hand, starts to sing “Perfidia” [“Perfidy” or “Treachery”]… Freddy starts to cry. The serenata guys take the guitar away from Armando and give him some maracas. The serenata trio starts to play “Contigo Aprendí” [loosely, “You Taught Me” or “I Learned From You”], which song Freddy starts to sing. Freddy tells the guys in the trio that they [the Stooges] have to wait until the women start to cry and then they should go inside. Armando tells them [the serenata guys] they have to check out the mood of the room - and if things are really bad they should start playing “…la puerta se cerró detrás de tí” [“the door shut behind you…"], to let the Stooges know not to go inside. Gutiérrez starts to sing “…no existe un momento del día…” [“there isn’t a moment of the day…"], Freddy sings “no hay bella melodía…” [“there isn’t a beautiful melody…"]. Armando orders them to be quiet. Gabriela opens the door and the trio enters with instructions to make the women suffer and cry… Armando starts to drink out of the bottle of whiskey they brought [Merci: although, you have to congratulate Armandito - he’s not drunk. Beth: random thought - i wonder if the show’s producers have gotten a sponsorship from Jack Daniels or some other brand of whiskey…? if not, they certainly ought to consider it - look at all the whiskey drinking that goes on in this show! and after all, BLF certainly had its share of product placements…].

Inside, Bertha is telling a joke that goes something like this: Why did God make women so beautiful? So that men would fall in love with them! And why did He make them [women] so stupid? So that they would fall in love with men…! At this point the trio enters, singing the bolero “Perdón” [“Pardon” or “Forgiveness”]. Freddy, Armando, and Gutiérrez are outside, waiting to see what happens… Sounds of a scuffle can be heard, and the trio returns to the men, wearing their guitars around their necks…

The consensus is that the women are not going to be appeased with serenades. Gabriela continues to plead with the women to behave in a civilized manner, to put the past where it belongs - in the past. Betty continues to be very angry with Armandito. They say they’re not going to forgive [the Stooges] and start to chant, “Death! Death!” At the half-opened door, a stick with a white handkerchief can be seen. Gutiérrez has been charged with carrying the “flag” of truce. The women take the “flag” away from him and return it to the men shredded and stained with what looks like blood.

Gutiérrez suggests they send Freddy the messenger as the advance force, and he and Armando can enter afterward. Freddy, of course, doesn’t want to go. Armando tells him not to be a coward! Gabriela tells them to come in already and they have no choice but to do so. The three thick-headed calves greet the women, say good evening, ask how’s it going? They hear the word “Castration!” Inesita gets tired of the matter and shouts at everyone “Enough already!” and that everyone should sit down. Then she tells them that love is an act of faith and they have to all go home and talk, that if they want to move forward, this incident has to be put to rest TODAY. If they can’t manage that, then they will have to live through hell in the future. She repeats that they should all go home, and each couple should take a bath together [Merci: this idea really appeals to Armando!]. Freddy thanks her and asks if the bath should be with bubble-bath and everything… Aura María tells him he’s shameless, and he has no reason to even be there since the two of them are nothing more than co-workers. Maruja tells Gutiérrez, “We’re leaving!” He wants to know about the bath, but it looks like a romantic bath is not what Maruja has in store for him: She’s going to hold his head underwater in the bath until he tells her the truth.

Armandito asks Betty, “My love, is it possible we could talk?” The Cartel choruses, “Talk! Talk!” Armando then adds, to Betty, “Can’t we do it in our little house, my love, ok?” Betty replies, fine, let’s go… He asks her if, before she kills him, cuts him up into little pieces, etc., it’s possible she could give him a hug. She both hugs and kisses him… Freddy tries the same thing with Aura María but she slaps his face. Gabriela puts her hand on his shoulder to comfort him.

Betty and Armando arrive at their apartment. He tells her that he’s aware of the pact between them [Betty and Armando], but that he also had a pact with “the guys.” Betty asks him if this pact with the guys is more important than the one between the two of them. Armando replies no, it isn’t, but he still couldn’t break his word to them [the Stooges], any more than she could to her friends in the Cartel. Betty asks him when he planned to tell her the truth and he tells her that eventually she would’ve found out, she knows he can’t hide anything from her [Merci: well, you still haven’t told her about that little matter of the fender-bender outside the motel, though, have you?]. Just then the phone rings and Armando wants to answer. Betty tells him no, and she answers. Obviously it’s Andrea of biting-Armando fame, who tells Betty all about the “great orgy.” Betty asks her how many women Armando was with and when Andrea answers Betty says it couldn’t have been so few because Armando always likes ten or more!! And she adds that the two of them [Betty and Andrea] are at least in agreement that Armando is a powerhouse!!

Betty tells Andrea she’s tired of listening to her, and to call back some other day so they can chat some more. Armando tells Betty she’s incredible. He thanks her for having believed him, saying she behaved like a goddess during her conversation with Andrea. Betty tells him that she told the truth and then says, “Have a good night.” Armando can’t believe what he’s hearing - they’re not going to sleep together! Betty tells him he’s going to have to try out the sofa [Merci: what? an apartment that size doesn’t have a guest room?]… Betty says he’s being punished for “omitting information” and that he deserves this punishment - until tomorrow. Armandito takes off his jacket and lies down awkwardly on the sofa… Poor guy! Off-camera, Betty throws a blanket over him and lies down with him on the sofa. Armando’s happy face is a joy to see! Betty tells him she can’t leave him there all alone, with all those women out there who might rob and strip him… And they kiss… and, well, I’m sure you can guess… Lovely!

Advances for next week: Apparently the competition for Aura María’s heart will intensify. We hear Gabriela tell Kenneth that if he wants to marry “her” (could she be referring to Aura María?), he had better propose to her…