Ugly Betty

Season 1 Episode 1

Pilot

2
Aired Wednesday 10:00 PM Sep 28, 2006 on ABC

Episode Recap

The pilot opens on Betty Suarez sitting in the foyer of the Meade building. After an awkward conversation with a model who is dressed in a poncho from Milan, Betty is turned down on sight for a job by an interviewer. She tries to persuade him to change his mind, to no avail. The camera pans around to Bradford Meade watching from a distance.
We cut to a television screen showing a scene from a telenovela, which is being shown in the Suarez house. Justin, a young boy, complains that he wants to watch fashion TV, but his mother, Hilda, tells him to come and eat. Hilda then asks Betty if she has ordered their father's birthday cake yet. Betty replies that she ordered the same one they had last year. The family then gathers around the table to eat. Betty's father asks Betty how her interview went. Betty tries to put a positive spin on her bad interview, but her sister isn't fooled and mentions her own company, Herbalux. Hilda is cut short when Betty's father says that this is her dream job. The conversation then turns to Betty's boyfriend Walter, who was overheard on the phone telling someone that "she's the one." The family assume that he will ask Betty to marry him. When he arrives, he is greeted with excitement, as he takes Betty outside to talk.
The television is turned to fashion TV, which passes along the information that Fey Sommers has died. The magazine she edited has been taken over by Daniel Meade, Bradford's son, rather than Wilhelmina Slater.
We cut to the Meade building again, and the offices of Mode. Daniel sits behind his desk, relaxing, as his father walks in to the office, startling him. Bradford finds underwear in a flower arrangement, which prompts Daniel to ask him assistant out from under the desk. Bradford gives Daniel a wrap on the knuckles for his behavior.
We cut back to Walter and Betty, while he tells her he's in love with Gina, a neighbor.
Back in the house, Betty receives a phone call from Meade to say that she landed a job at Mode, an elite fashion magazine, as assistant to the editor-in-chief. A very excited Justin talks to Betty about needing to dress fashionably now that she's working for the leader in fashion publishing. Betty arrives for work the following morning dressed in a large, red, and very unfashionable poncho. The receptionist, Amanda, greets her. Blonde and pretty, the not-so-nice Amanda is surprised to learn that the not-so-fashionable Betty is working for the company, especially as she doesn't have very much experience. Betty prepares herself to join the meeting. Psyching herself up, she strides forward... and straight into the large glass door, causing uproar in the meeting the other side. As Betty enters, Daniel asks if she is okay, as she tries to make her way to the back of the room, with the other assistants. Daniel continues the meeting. Wilhelmina arrives at the meeting late, giving Daniel a gift – with the name "Danny" engraved on it. Daniel corrects her, but she brushes this off and takes over the meeting, talking about the Fabia cosmetics supplement. Wilhelmina explains that as the editor has changed, Fabia needs to agree to the supplement before it can be printed. Wilhelmina says that everyone is here to help Daniel and then wraps up the meeting for him. After the meeting, Betty introduces herself to Daniel. He looks less than impressed when he realizes that she is his new assistant. She is a far cry from the gorgeous, leggy, ultra-thin assistants he usually hires. In Wilhelmina's office, Marc is injecting botox into Wilhelmina's forehead while they discuss her input into the magazine, and the atrocity that she wasn't given the job as editor-in-chief. Daniel's appointment smacks of nepotism. They then discuss the fact that his new assistant isn't the norm for such a magazine, and they hope that Betty will be his downfall. Later, Wilhelmina receives a mysterious phone call that makes Marc suspicious. We cut to Betty's desk, where she is gathering information on Fabia for Daniel. Amanda comes to talk to her, briefly discussing the photographer, Philip, that is in Daniel's office. We learn that Daniel once slept with Philip's girlfriend. We then join Daniel and Philip in the office. Daniel confides in Philip that he is aware he's not welcome as Mode's new editor. Daniel wonders if he's being sabotaged with the layout design, and Philip offers his own ideas, while telling Daniel to keep things quiet from the other staff. Betty interrupts their conversation, and after establishing that no one wants lunch, she tells Philip she is a big fan, but inadvertently accuses him of stealing another photographer's idea. Daniel silently warns her to stop talking. After Betty leaves again, Daniel tells Philip that his father made him hire Betty. Philip says that she's too ugly to be working there, and then suggests that because she cannot be fired that they should try to get her to quit.
Betty walks through the lunch area, with all the staff looking at her in contempt. She finally finds an empty stool. She is instantly joined by Christina, the Scottish in-house seamstress who is also dressed slightly differently to the fashionistas around them. Two other ladies, Nancy and Zelda, join them - also not part of the clique.
Cut to Bradford, sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons. He is joined by another man, who tells Bradford that "she's gone." Bradford was at her funeral, but he doesn't trust that she is really dead, and he asks the other man to investigate what Fey Sommers knows about him and his company.
We cut back to Daniel's office, where he starts his plan of degrading Betty into quitting. Her first job is to pick the cabbage out of his coleslaw... which we then see her sitting in a side room doing.
Cut to Betty being woken at 3:23 am by a phone call. Cut to Betty bringing Daniel and Philip coffee on a street, and then walking a large great dane for them. Cut to Daniel walking in his office with one shoe on, as Betty pulls chewing gum from the sole of his other shoe. Cut to Betty sitting outside, at night. She receives a phone call from her sister telling her that she's missing her father's birthday party because she is still working. We follow Betty's eye line, and see a young woman getting out of a cab. She ends the call with her sister, immediately phoning Daniel telling him "The red turkey is on the move." We cut into Daniel's apartment, where he is lying mostly naked, with Amanda next to him. He tells Amanda that the phone call is work stuff, and she has to go. She asks him when the assistant position is going to be open. He responds that he hopes it's soon, as she puts on her coat and leaves. Daniel returns to the phone, telling Betty to stick around for a bit, rather than leave. She looks aggravated, but agrees. Daniel looks out of the window at her, a moment of doubt passing across his face before the other lady then arrives in Daniel's apartment, removing her coat to reveal that she only has underwear on.
We cut to Betty arriving home, passing by Gina's house, and hearing her with Walter, as well as seeing their silhouettes through the window. The house is quiet, as her sister cleans up after the celebration. After telling Betty that their father is asleep, she reminds Betty that this is the first time they haven't been together on his birthday since their mom died. Hilda hopes that Betty's job is really worth it. Betty slumps on the sofa, and happens to look over to a picture of her mother, with her as a child, putting make up on. She then gets out her notepad, and starts writing "Work Idea."
Cut to daytime, Betty follows Daniel through the corridor at Mode. He talks on the phone about a photoshoot, while Betty drops files and tries to keep up him. Daniel continues on, ignoring her. They enter the elevator, and Daniel's call cuts off as he states he's on his way to the set. Betty tries to make conversation, but Daniel ignores her. She tries to show him her idea, but he's cuts her off completely by walking out of the lift, leaving her behind. As they walk out onto the street, Betty again tries to give Daniel her idea, but again he cuts her off. He then sends her back to collect an outfit that was forgotten.
Betty walks into the closet and meets up with Christina. They talk about a designer outfit made from burlap. Christina comments about how she loves fashion, and notes that Betty isn't too much into it. Christina then asks how Betty is doing. She tells Christina about how badly Daniel is treating her, and how he bit her head off when she was trying to show him her idea. Christina then tells Betty the truth about why she was hired. Daniel was made to hire Betty because Bradford didn't want his son to be tempted to sleep with his assistant. Betty tries to put a positive spin on it, but quickly leaves wardrobe with the outfit for the shoot, leaving her ideas folder behind. Christina picks up the folder. It's a supplement idea for Fabia cosmetics.
Cut to various brightly colored models draped over a car wreckage. Clearly a fashionable photo shoot. Amanda grabs Daniel as he walks through the shoot, telling him that if he needs anything, she is more than willing to help. We then see Philip on his mobile, complaining because one of the models didn't show up yet. Philip needs the model for the test shots. Daniel suggests using a stand in. Philip says he needs someone with the correct skin tone, and decides that he'll use Betty as a stand in. Betty walks in, staring wide-eyed at the photo shoot. Philip persuades Daniel to ask her, as it's likely to be the thing that makes her quit.
Betty helps herself to a doughnut from the buffet table, only to have to spit out her mouthful as Daniel approaches. He explains the crisis they are having and says he needs her to help, by standing in for the model in costume. Betty dithers and confirms with Daniel that this is what he wants her to do. Betty walks out without agreeing, and Daniel watches her leave, a disappointed look on his face.
Cut to Philip setting up for the shoot, as Daniel walks over to tell him it looks like Betty finally quit. Daniel doesn't look happy about it. The camera pans back to take in the surprised expressions on Philip and Amanda, along with other extras, as Betty walks in dressed in the costume: a black and red leather hot pant set, with thigh high silver boots. The outfit looks uncomfortably tight. Daniel is surprised to see Betty, and doesn't look happy about what is happening.
Betty takes a breath to compose herself and asks where Philip wants her. He places her in between two tall, thin models, and starts shooting, getting the girls to pose. Betty does her best to emulate the sexy poses, but achieves nothing accept the mocking laughter of the people around her. Daniel stands there looking appalled, and eventually walks over to Philip, telling him to stop the shoot. Betty walks out, straight past Philip and Daniel, and out onto the street, still wearing the ridiculous, unflattering costume. Daniel chases after her, begging her to wait. Betty cuts him off, telling him he got what he wanted. He humiliated her until she quit. As she said, "God forbid you had to work with the ugly girl your Dad forced you to hire." Daniel watches her leave, looking very upset.
Cut to a street scene in Queens, and then to Betty's front steps. Justin brings her out a cup of chamomile tea. They have a conversation about her job not working out, and that Hilda wishes Betty would be more realistic, as jobs like that don't happen "for people like us." Justin disagrees. Veronica then hears noises from Gina's house, Betty looks over to see Gina making out with someone through the window. Betty marches over to her neighbor's house and storms in through the front door. She complains to Gina about it being unfair, as she lives two doors down. As Gina pulls back we can see that this man isn't Walter. Gina tells Betty that she isn't seeing Walter anymore, and in fact only used him to get thirty percent off a plasma screen television. As Betty leaves, she slams the door, causing the plasma to fall to the floor.
Cut to Fabia in a meeting room at Mode, kissing a small dog. Philip, Wilhelmina, Marc and Daniel are in the meeting room with her. Daniel shows Fabia the pictures that were taken at the photo shoot. There are bright, grotesque images of crashed cars, models posing as dead bodies, along with police and emergency services all dressed in tight leather bondage clothing. The whole vibe is violent, hardcore, and morbid. Fabia eventually stops the slideshow by asking if this is a joke. She shouts that the photos are "stupido" and after throwing a handful of sweets at Daniel, she walks out of the meeting extremely angry. Daniel asks what happened, and Marc explains that Fabia backed her car into twelve people about a month ago. Daniel complains that no one told him about this, and Wilhelmina points out that he didn't include anyone else in the concept, so none of them could warn him about it.
Cut to Daniel talking with Bradford, while Bradford exercises. Bradford tells Daniel that Fabia intends to cancel all advertising from all Meade publications. Daniel tries to explain the reason he didn't consult anyone else was because he thought Wilhelmina was trying to sabotage him. Daniel asks to be given another chance to come up with something else by the following morning.
Cut to Wilhelmina on a cell phone, talking to Marc. Marc tells Wilhelmina that Daniel is trying to contact her. Wilhelmina points out that she is still unavailable, as the camera pans out to see that she is in bed with Philip. Wilhelmina tells Philip that Daniel should have come to her earlier, but she would have still attempted to sabotage him. Philip was also in on the sabotage attempt. They toast and then kiss.
Daniel is in the office doing damage control and trying to come up with a new concept for Fabia. The desk and floor are strewn with photos. Eventually he moves a large binder aside, and spots Betty's concept lying neatly underneath it all. He starts to flick through the pictures.
Back to Betty's house, and another shot of the telenovela. We hear Betty on the phone pleading with someone to pay for her father's prescription, as he has a heart condition and needs the pills. She hangs up the phone when they put her on hold yet again. Betty's father thanks her for helping him out. We hear a knock at the door, and we cut to see Walter standing there. Walter apologizes for dumping her and tries to win her back. He's quickly cut off by Daniel arriving. Walter accuses Betty of seeing Daniel, which she ignores. As he stands there sputtering, she asks him to leave, so that she can talk to Daniel in private.
Daniel tells her he wants to talk. He apologizes to Betty about the way she was treated, and says it's all his fault. Betty appreciates the apology, but points out that she is still out of work, and facing various problems that he never will understand or have to deal with. Daniel confides in Betty that he lost his brother a while back, and he feels he'll never measure up to what his brother was. Daniel continues by telling Betty that he saw her layout, and thought it was smart and beautiful. He asks to take the idea to Fabia, giving Betty credit, and giving Betty her old job back. He promises that things will change. Betty decides that she'll have to think about his offer. He tells her not to wait too long, as he'll probably be out of a job himself by the morning. Daniel leaves. Betty's father comes in through the doorway, saying he heard every word.
Cut to Fabia in meeting room at Mode, waiting for Daniel. Bradford and Wilhelmina are in the room as well. Wilhelmina gets up, apologizing to Fabia, and starts to present her own idea, but gets cut off by Daniel and Betty's entrance. Daniel apologizes for being late, and starts his presentation, saying that this is a rough idea, as there has been no time for a new photo shoot. Betty sets up the laptop, and accidentally clicks on the wrong photo presenting a picture of her and Walter eating hotdogs, which amuses Wilhelmina and Marc. Daniel then starts his presentation, talking about the concept of "Mothers and Daughters" as a selection of pictures are shown of Betty as a child with her own mother. The pictures show typical childhood scenes of riding bikes, cooking, pinning clothes... the small special moments that are usually taken for granted. The final image is of a young Betty trying on lipstick in the mirror while her mother watches. As Daniel concludes his presentation, Fabia asks why this would appeal to her customers, and Betty talks about the statistics and analytical data. Fabia agrees to the layout, much to the delight of Daniel and disappointment of Wilhelmina. Bradford congratulations Daniel, and when he tries to give credit to Betty, she jumps in saying the idea was his best one. Wilhelmina also congratulates him. Cut to Wilhelmina in darkly lit room, with a strange woman lying on a dental chair, her face and body covered with cloth. Only her eyes are visible. She expresses that she is unhappy, but Wilhelmina says it's just a setback, but soon enough the company will be theirs for the taking. The woman tells Wilhelmina to keep an eye on the assistant. We scroll through a quick montage of people saying Betty's name, starting with Wilhelmina, then Gina, then Amanda, then Walter, and finally ending with Daniel as he calls her over to the car he is standing beside. Betty is standing outside the building with Christina, and as she leaves she thanks Christina for everything she did. Daniel tells Betty that she should have let him say it was her idea, but she responds by saying that she will let him next time. She starts to discuss tomorrow's appointments with him, but he cuts her off by saying it can wait until tomorrow. After getting a pointed cough from the car behind him, Daniel says goodbye to Betty, watching as she crosses the road in front of him, smiling as she trips before continuing across the road with a big smile on her face. Betty Suarez is on her way.
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