Episode 23

Merci: The leitmotif of the episode were the nearly-operatic scolds which Armando directed towards Freddy. Throughout the episode, Freddy was distracted by his little worry that Aura María might slip through his fingers and that Kenneth would continue his [Kenneth’s] pursuit of his [Freddy’s] “grillita” (little cricket), “reinita” (little queen), etc. etc…

Beth: if you’re a fan of Freddy, you will probably love this episode (and from what i can tell of the previews, next week’s as well), as he is very much its centerpiece. however, altho it seems clear we are meant to sympathize with Freddy here, his antics over the course of this series have pretty much used up whatever patience i might have had with him. and even tho Kenneth doesn’t really do much for me, unless he does something incredibly stupid or mean in a future episode, i hope he makes mincemeat of Freddy with Aura María. (on an unrelated topic, i could be wrong, but i don’t think we see Natasha again in this episode, either. i wonder if Gaitán and the producers have decided to cut their loses on that particular plot line - one can but hope!)

Kenneth and Gabriela are standing next to Sandra and Natasha’s vacant desks (vacant because the latter two women have conveniently disappeared), discussing some shipments and other things which have to go to the home office in the United States. Kenneth is distracted because he has noticed Aura María, who is wearing an extremely provocative golden, flesh-colored halter mini-dress that clings to her like a second skin and clearly lets it be seen why Hugo nicknamed her “Pechuguín” [more or less, ‘chesty one’ - let’s say, “Boobsie”]. Gabriela tells Kenneth she’s hungry and suggests they go to lunch. He replies that he is going to invite Aura María to lunch, for “business” reasons. Of course, Gabriela doesn’t believe his excuses. Kenneth greets Aura María saying “hello” [in English] which he quickly changes to “quihubo” [loosely, “what’s up?"] and asks her if she wants to go to lunch with him. She tells him she can’t, that today is the day of the monthly Tarot card reading. Freddy, who has arrived on the elevator with the lunches and Mariana, refers to Mariana as the “head witch.” Sandra asks Freddy to put the lunches in the conference rooms. Freddy greets Kenneth and rather smugly tells him of course he [Kenneth] doesn’t like Creole food [Beth: as he waves the bags of food carelessly in front of a somewhat confused Kenneth’s face]. Gabriela, who had gotten on the elevator to leave for lunch by herself, realizes that Aura María hasn’t accepted Kenneth’s invitation and asks him to accompany her to her office because she has something to say to him.

Betty asks Armando where he’s going to have lunch. He tells her that he’s going to go to a restaurant downtown with Calderón. Betty gives him a curious look and he tells her not to look at him like that, he’s not going to do anything bad. Betty tells him if he should happen to do anything wrong, she would know because Mariana would see it in the cards and tell her all about it. They say goodbye to each other with a few kisses and tell each other they’ll see each other later. The adoring look Armando gives Betty says it all.

As Betty and the Cartel head towards the conference room, Armando stops Mariana. He tells her to be sure that she says good things about him in the reading because if she doesn’t he’s going to have to give her a ‘card’ as well - her pink slip [he’ll fire her]! She is going to say something in reply but he prevents her, telling her to keep quiet!

In the conference room, Freddy has very kindly set out the lunches for Betty and the Cartel. We see Aura María discussing something about the card reading with Mariana, and Freddy goes toward them to help Aura María seat herself at the table. Then he asks to speak privately to Mariana, telling her if Martin Luther King Jr had known her he would have held back in his sermons [Beth: ok, if that makes any sense to you, let me know. i’m sure he’s trying to compliment her somehow, but even for Freddy this is unusually obscure…]. Obviously, Freddy is surreptitiously trying to get Mariana to ‘help’ him during her card reading. Mariana loudly tells him not to try to suborn her readings. Freddy hastily tries to pretend he was doing no such thing and leaves in some disorder. All the women clamor for Mariana to explain what she meant by “suborn.” Mariana tries to avoid explaining but, unable to withstand their insistence, explains that Freddy offered her part of his salary in exchange for her helping him out by reading [Aura María’s] cards in his favor [Merci: so divine! Beth (not a Freddy fan…) - what a pest!!]. Aura María doesn’t want to hear any more about it or that slippery, drooling dog [Freddy]. Sandra remarks that he must be like this because the “gringo” continues to ‘besiege’ Aura María and it’s making Freddy jealous. Aura María states that Kenneth sometimes invites her out for lunch but nothing more [implying that Freddy has nothing to be jealous about; although she doesn’t seem entirely happy that Kenneth hasn’t done anything to make Freddy jealous…]. Sofía reminds her that he’s very timid.

In Gabriela’s office, she’s telling Kenneth that he has to be more bold, that all this messing about inviting her [Aura María] to lunch is just tiresome. Kenneth tells her he doesn’t know what to do. Gabriela recommends he confront the situation: He has to invite Aura María to eat a romantic, candlelit dinner at a really nice restaurant, where they can speak privately. Just outside the office, Freddy is eavesdropping with growing horror. Gabriela tells Kenneth that if he wants to marry Aura María, he should just ask her already. Kenneth continues to waffle, saying he doesn’t know how to deal with the situation. Gabriela suggests that he invite Aura María to dinner and she (Gabriela) will take care of the rest of the details like the restaurant reservations, etc. Kenneth thanks her [with a great deal of relief] and they give each other a “high five.” Gabriela teases Kenneth, pointing out how the big strong Marine can’t deal with a simple date. Still outside the open office door, a frantic Freddy tells himself that he has to stop this at all costs.

Freddy stops outside the door to the conference room to eavesdrop on what is happening during the card reading [Beth: Mariana and Aura María happen to be in the two seats that are nearest the door to the hall…]. Inside, Mariana tells Aura María that the cards say a man is in love with her. Hearing this, Freddy opens the conference room door and tries to come in, using the excuse that the dessert has arrived. Sandra stands up and indignantly asks him if he hasn’t realized he’s interrupting something sacred -what, would he interrupt a priest in the middle of Mass??- and practically pushes him back out the door. Mariana continues with her reading and tells Aura María that the man is nervous, in love, he’s going to propose; but of course Mariana says she doesn’t know who the man is. She adds that what happens in the man’s life will depend upon Aura María’s response to his proposal, but it [his life] will change. Bertha announces salaciously that it smells like a wedding…

Freddy continues to have his ear all but glued to the door -getting more upset by the second- and Armando can be heard asking (shouting?) “Freddy! Freddy!!” Freddy tries to get him to be quiet and tells him to hang on for a minute. Armando comes around the corner, sees Freddy, and demands that he stop eavesdropping and get to work helping Wilson carry some boxes of samples to Hugo’s workshop. Freddy replies that he is looking out for the future of them both. Armando insists to “Iron-Face” [Beth: “iron” as in what you press your clothes with, not iron the metal, i.e., “flat-face”] that he get a move on and run now to help with the boxes. Get going! get going!! In front of the elevator, Armando and Kenneth greet each other. Armando asks Kenneth if he’s going to go to the cocktail party that night given by Color, Inc. Kenneth tells him he doesn’t think he’ll be able to go since he “probably” will have something very important to do, but he’ll let Armando know. Freddy, who has been standing there listening to all this, tells Armando not to let the gringo get away with this! Armando has to be firm and impose his will!! and he insinuates that Armando is letting Kenneth walk all over him. Armando asks Freddy if he will let him give him some advice. Freddy tells him yes, but not to shout at him. Armando then “asks” Freddy just what, exactly, he was trying to insinuate with his little commentary, and then [without giving him a chance to reply], takes him by the ear [as if he were a bad schoolboy] and tells him to get to work already.

Kenneth is preparing to knock at the door of the conference room when it opens and the Cartel and Betty emerge. At last he dares to invite Aura María to go out with him that evening - to eat, to have a few aguardientes, to dance vallenatos. But he doesn’t manage it without suffering various interruptions from Freddy, or having Freddy “accidentally” bump into him [Beth: Freddy pretends he can’t see Kenneth over the boxes he’s very reluctantly carrying]. Ignoring Kenneth, Freddy tries to talk with his “beloved consort” to invite her to go out with him [Beth: but since she at least has some manners, and Freddy’s just barging in rudely, Aura María basically brushes him off. good for her! and Armando inadvertently helps Kenneth by crankily reminding Freddy yet again to stop goofing off and get back to what he’s supposed to be doing, which is helping Wilson with the boxes, since they don’t have all day for this]. With Freddy out of the way, Aura María happily agrees to meet Kenneth at 7pm. The Cartel excitedly asks Aura María what Kenneth wanted to talk to her about and she explains about his invitation. Bertha is very pleased, since Kenneth is “silver-plated” - haven’t they noticed his wallet stuffed with credit cards? Mariana says it’s obvious he’s going to propose something to Aura María. Sofía is less optimistic: She says that Kenneth just wants a one-night stand - he’s going to take her out to dance, then back to the hotel and in the morning it will be, “If I’ve ever seen you before, I don’t recall it.” Inesita tells Sofía reprovingly that Don Kenneth isn’t like that. Mariana is horrified [at Sofía’s pessimism] and says that her cards don’t talk about pornography. Sandra says this smells like marriage, like Aura María’s going to be going to the United States…

Freddy and Wilson come out of Hugo’s workshop and Freddy greets the Cartel as his “co-worker ex-sisters-in-law.” Aura María refers to Freddy as the Black Cloud. Freddy invites Aura María to go out to have a “chuzo” bread (??), a hamburger, and a soda. Afterwards the plan would be to go to Aura María’s house. Haughtily, she asks him, ‘To eat what and go where?!’ Freddy persists, and tells her they will go to a “proletarian-type” restaurant and then hang out in Aura María’s house until they get tired. She tells him she can’t that night; they’ll speak the following day. He jealously asks her if she has an invitation to go out, and says he can just imagine who it was who invited her. He begs his little queen not to accept that invitation, not to go out with some gringo. And he cannot believe that she’s wearing that little flesh-colored dress so that other hands may touch her!!

Just then we hear Armando again scolding Freddy about moving the boxes. “Freddy,’ (we hear him say), ‘is it possible we could finish up this business with the boxes?’ Then, upon noting that Freddy is talking with Aura María instead of working at the task to which he’s been set, Armando asks in an ironic tone if perhaps he’s interrupting…? He adds, ‘So sorry!’ then he says that he himself will go with Wilson to bring up the boxes [not!!]. Freddy runs after him and tells him that he would never permit his Armando to do such work. Armando replies that he (Armando) would never do his (Freddy’s) work and not to be a dolt. Freddy has TEN MINUTES [to finish up with the boxes]!! And Armando shows him his two open hands, while Freddy replies that five times two is ten [??]. Armando heads for his office. Freddy tells Wilson to give him a minute, that the problem with Aura María is more important than Armando’s ten minutes.

Back in Gabriela’s office, we hear her speaking with the restaurant on the phone, making the reservation for two at 8pm. She writes down the details and hands them to Kenneth. Outside, Freddy is again spying and overhears everything [Beth: however, i caught this part of the show and did not hear them mention what restaurant they would be going to. hmmm…]. Gabriela tells Kenneth, “Tonight is your night.” Kenneth replies (in English), “Yes, sir!” Tonight or never! Kenneth says that he would do whatever it takes for Aura María - even if it means dancing the vallenato. Gabriela tells him to do whatever, but do something.

On the street in front of Ecomoda, we see Wilson and Freddy unloading some boxes from a truck. Freddy continues with his fixation about Aura María and Kenneth and their upcoming date, and says that “everything is working against him.” Wilson asks him what he’s going to do and Freddy remains thoughtful.

Freddy arrives at the Executive floor, walking like an automaton - perhaps he’s a man with a mission? [Beth: in my opinion, not at this point, no - he’s just a man in shock. but by the end of the episode, he has become a Man Obsessed; as you will see over the course of the episode, he becomes increasingly irrational, nervous, and frayed, not to mention completely fixated - especially any time he runs into an obstacle]. Sandra runs into him and calls him “sick.” Aura María looks at him worriedly. Freddy approaches Sofía and Bertha’s desks, greeting them as “chiquita” [small one] and “gordita” [loosely, fattie, but it’s not quite the same kind of insult it would probably be considered to be here] respectively. He immediately asks Sofía for his paycheck and explains he’s in a hurry. He asks her to please cash it for him now, but Sofía explains that she can’t until after 6pm, when she’ll know if she has enough money in Petty Cash to cover it. Somewhat more wired than usual, Freddy goes into the conference room, pulls out the yellow pages, and calls El Mesón. After confirming that Kenneth has a reservation there, he makes one for himself at the same time as Kenneth’s. Hours later we see Aura María and the Cartel chatting. Aura María wonders if her dress wouldn’t look better if the skirt were a bit shorter [Merci: well, any shorter and it’d be a bathing suit…]. She shimmies her tight skirt up to show them, backing up as she does so, so they can get the whole effect. Inesita is horrified, as usual. Aura María backs up right into Freddy, who is just getting off the elevator. As she, embarrassed and a little annoyed, quickly pulls her skirt back down, Freddy greets Sofía by calling her “Pati!” Sofía asks him why he called her that and instead of explaining, he calls her “Paticortica”[loosely, “shortie-legs”] and asks if she can cash his check (and if perhaps she could give him dollar bills instead of Colombian pesos!). Kenneth arrives to pick up Aura María, asking if she’s ready to go. She is, he offers his arm, and as they say their good-byes and get onto the elevator, the two are very close together with their arms linked like a loving couple. Sofía arrives with an envelope full of Freddy’s cash, and as she hands it to him he thanks her, calling her “Lili” (for Lilliputian!). The rest of the Cartel asks Freddy why he wants all that cash and he explains that it’s so he can invite them to dinner at El Mesón, because he needs their help to get Aura María back. They’re a bit dubious, saying that if Aura María is happy with Kenneth, it’s not up to them to interfere, but he silences their doubts by insisting that if Kenneth succeeds with Aura María, he’ll take her away to the United States and none of them will ever see her again - do they really want that? [Beth: ok, am i the only one who has a problem with Freddy’s particular line of reasoning here - or with the Cartel for going along with him? not to mention the fact that we have not seen any signs that Kenneth intends to move back to the United States any time soon…]

The group arrives at the restaurant, where we see Kenneth and Aura María already at a table and enjoying themselves [Beth: i also caught a little bit of this scene, but either i don’t remember El Mesón from BLF all that well -which is entirely possible- or they are using a different set/location for it now. because this place looked a lot more like a disco-bar-restaurant than a nice restaurant that happens to have a stage and live performers. it also seemed both darker and noisier. but as i say, my memory could be off…]. The two are of course astonished at the Ecomoda invasion which has befallen them as the maître d’ guides Freddy and the Cartel to a table next to theirs. While loudly telling the women to order whatever they like - it’s his pleasure to buy dinner for his friends, Freddy quietly tells the waiter to bring a half-bottle of rum, the cheapest they have, for the table, and moreover not to let any of the women order anything the least bit expensive. They greet Kenneth and Aura María, and Aura María approaches the table to tell the Cartel that everything is going very well. After Aura María returns to her table, Freddy notices that Kenneth and Aura María are about to toast each other with a glass of rosé wine and -worse!- that it looks like they’re going to start to talk about serious things and proposals, so he loudly proposes a toast to the Cartel that drowns out Kenneth and Aura María’s toast at their table, and starts to mock the type of wine selected by Kenneth. Kenneth is insulted and they end up challenging each other to a duel with shots of liquor. Freddy goes to the bar and asks the bartender to prepare two drinks that look alike but where one (for Kenneth) is very strong while the one other (for himself) is only juice. The bartender does as asked, Kenneth and Freddy toss their drinks off, and of course the alcohol rapidly starts to have an effect on Kenneth. Drunk, he behaves boorishly toward Aura María, Freddy defends her, and carries Kenneth to the door of the restaurant where he asks the doormen to put Kenneth into his car [Beth: ok, i have a HUGE problem with that!! if Kenneth is drunk, the LAST place he should be is in his car!!]. At the entrance, Freddy runs into Jorge and the others from the mariachi he’d ‘hired’ early in the series [note: NOT the trio from the last episode]. The group enters the restaurant playing and they sing “La venia bendita” [The Blessed Pardon, or The Blessed Consent] to Aura María while Freddy gets out the engagement ring. He asks her to marry him, right away - tomorrow, because he’s in a hurry and he can’t live without her. Aura María, melting in his arms, tells him Yes! as the Cartel cheers. All is happiness and light, and Freddy and Aura María hug and kiss each other….

…And then we return to cruel reality! Freddy has been painting this verbal picture to Wilson as they were taking the boxes off the truck in the street out in front of Ecomoda. We see Armando coming out of Ecomoda - ‘What’s going on, idiots? I told you to finish up quickly with the boxes - hop to it!’ Armando gets into his car and drives off. Wilson thinks Freddy’s plan is excellent but tells him he’d better get a move on because it’s getting late.

We see Freddy doing the same as in his daydream, except this time things aren’t quite so easy. The first hurdle: Sofía tells him straight out she doesn’t have enough money in Petty Cash to cover his check, so he’ll have to race to the bank, which is just about to close, in order to get the cash he wants. When he gets back he dashes into the conference room to make his reservation at El Mesón for 8pm (same as Kenneth) and rather hysterically demands that the maître d’ be sure his party is at a table next to Kenneth’s. Then he calls Jorge from the mariachi to make certain they’ll be at the restaurant at 9pm. We don’t hear what Jorge says, but from Freddy’s side of the conversation it is clear that Jorge hasn’t forgotten what happened the last time Freddy hired them (remember: he couldn’t pay them…); Freddy swears he will give Jorge cash in hand this time. We again see Aura María hike up her skirt to see how it will look, but this time it isn’t Freddy who catches her doing it, but Kenneth. In some confusion, she discretely pulls it back down again. She and Kenneth say goodbye to everyone and as they’re getting onto the elevator she tells him she doesn’t want to go to El Mesón. Freddy, who is standing right next to the doors, nearly panics, and starts to insist that they HAVE to go to El Mesón, period. Kenneth is willing to go wherever Aura María wants, but after some indecision she ends up giving in to Freddy’s insistence and agreeing to El Mesón after all [Beth: RATS!]. After they’ve left, a rather rattled Freddy hurriedly recounts his Plan of Conquest to the Cartel and how he needs their help to put it into effect. Although tempted by the offer of dinner, they are dubious about the plan, but before Freddy has a chance to bully them over to his side with his Kenneth/United States argument, Armando and Betty arrive on their way to the Color, Inc. cocktail party. Armando peremptorily orders Freddy to take Betty’s car to the Mendoza-Pinzón apartment and leave it in the garage there since they will need both cars the next day because Betty has to take Camila to the doctor. Freddy tries to argue that it would be better -safer- to leave the car in the Ecomoda parking lot, not to mention the savings in gas, and says that he can’t go because Betty and Armando’s apartment is completely on the other side of town from where he’s going. Armando gets mad and asks Freddy if he is suggesting that he (Armando) should take the bus in the morning…? Then he asks who is in charge there anyway. Freddy says, ‘With all due respect, it’s Betty who is President.’ Staring at him sternly, Armando repeats his question and Freddy, defeated, says ‘You are, ex-President.’ Before leaving with Armando and Betty, Freddy gives Sandra the engagement ring to keep safe for him while they are in El Mesón [Beth: why??]. The Cartel decides they cannot abandon Freddy and will help him with his plan.

Harried by the delay, Freddy finally arrives at El Mesón in a taxi to find the Cartel standing around outside. Sofía explains to him they haven’t gone in because there’s a 25,000 pesos-per-person cover charge because there’s a magic show that night. Freddy does some quick addition in his head and decides he has enough to pay for everyone to get in, so he pays, since his plan won’t work without the Cartel.

Advances for next week: Everything goes very badly for Freddy. During the magic show they ask for a volunteer. Freddy tries to get them to pick Kenneth but they end up picking him instead. We see him put into a big trunk and made to disappear…

Beth: [you might want to skip this if you’re not in the mood for another of my rants…] ok, i’m all for Love and Romance and Fighting for your Heart’s Desire and all that kind of stuff, but Freddy has had a zillion chances with Aura María and has managed to waste them all, so in my opinion he no longer deserves to “win” her -if he ever did, that is. no matter how good his intentions might be, i’m now at the point where i figure he doesn’t deserve Aura María, while she deserves someone who will treat her better, and who -more to the point- will actually pay attention to what she says, and what she wants. maybe that will teach Freddy a lesson he can then apply to good effect with some other, as-yet-unknown woman. plus, we have now gotten to one of my pet gripes with what seems to be a perennial Romance Novel plot line: the one where one member of a would-be couple completely forgets that it takes TWO WILLING people to make a happy and healthy relationship. Freddy (like so many novela writers, it seems) can’t or doesn’t want to understand that just because he wants Aura María, it doesn’t necessarily follow that she (still) wants him. as a result, one of the first and most annoying results of this completely flawed reasoning is the firm conviction that the only thing stopping the object of the Lover’s desire from loving him (or her, as the case may be) is temporary blindness caused by a Rival (real or perceived), and thus all that is needed is to get the Rival out of the way for a moment and the Beloved will immediately fall into the Lover’s waiting arms as if saved from a fate worse than death. AAAARGH! WHAT A CROCK!! does the Beloved have NO say in what she (or he) wants?? are we to assume that the Beloved has no free will of her (his) own?? clearly, that’s what Freddy thinks about Aura María, and THAT’s why, in my opinion, he doesn’t deserve to get her even if his feelings for her are real. and anyway, if he really, genuinely loved her, he’d be willing to let Aura María go if she doesn’t want to be with him, as Marcela ultimately did with Armando. but noooo - these idiots all… again, AAAARGH! right. i’ve made my point. i won’t belabor it.

anyway, what that whole rant is leading up to is this: as you might have guessed, i caught bits and pieces of this episode (tho i did not see the whole thing). one of those bits was the tail end of the promo, and from the horrified look on Aura María’s face when Freddy disappears from the magician’s trunk, well… i can’t help feeling that they’re laying the groundwork for Aura María to realize, as a result of his ‘disappearance,’ how much she cares for Freddy so that they can have her end up with him after all, once he’s ‘rescued.’

snarf. i could be wrong. hopefully. maybe. but i’ll bet not.