Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Ugly Betty)
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is the 18th episode of the dramedy series Ugly Betty, which aired on March 22, 2007. The episode was co-written by Marco Pennette, Veronica Becker & Sarah Kucserka and directed by Tricia Brock. The episode's title references the United States' "Don't ask, don't tell" military policy.
|"Don't Ask, Don't Tell"|
|Ugly Betty episode|
Marc [coming out] to his mother
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Tricia Brock|
|Written by||Marco Pennette, Veronica Becker & Sarah Kucserka|
|Original air date||March 22, 2007|
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In the wake of Claire Meade's arrest, the Suarezes find themselves dealing with the press coverage. The episode opens with a news reporter seeking to get a comment from Betty who, while trying to get away from the news cameras, runs directly into the wall of a bus shelter. Justin amuses himself by watching the footage repeatedly, which distinctly annoys Betty, who later expresses her guilt over Claire's arrest to Hilda.
At MODE, the now released Bradford and Alexis finally face off, with Bradford firing his daughter. Later on, Bradford goes to see Claire to see how she is doing. Claire insists that she has been better while he tells her that he is here for her. Daniel later comes in and Claire informs them that she wants them to be a family again, including Alexis. Bradford is extremely uncomfortable with the idea until Claire tells her husband that he can’t fire Alexis, since he does not own MODE. She reminds him that while he is the owner of Meade Publications, she owns the rights to MODE and therefore Alexis stays.
Meanwhile, Marc's mother — to whom he has never disclosed his homosexuality — visits the office; she brings along her cat, Lady Buttons of Camelot. Amanda learns that after three years of willingly pretending to be Marc's girlfriend during such visits, she has been "dumped" in absentia because Marc wanted to escape his mother's pressure to move on to marriage. Amanda gets angry and storms off, yelling to Marc that she will be the best 'pretend girlfriend' he has ever had.
Hours later, Betty tells Daniel that it may be a good thing that he and Alexis work side by side, but Daniel informs her that it was never easy working directly beside Alex, because he always had to come out on top. Daniel and Alexis later meet with Wilhelmina to inform her that they are both Editors-in-Chief at MODE and inform Wilhelmina that she is still the creative director. When he begins to claim what duties he will handle, Alexis interrupts and insists that she does not want anything to do with the business. After Daniel leaves the room, Wilhelmina rushes over to Alexis and tells her that she has to take what belongs to her and that she cannot leave MODE, then volunteers her office. Marc then panics when Wilhelmina drags him down to their new office and tells him it is only temporary—just long enough for Alexis and Daniel to push each other out.
Marc gets a text message on his cell phone informing him that his mother is in the building. Marc’s mother, Jean, stops at the desk to see Amanda and tells her that she cannot believe how she broke her little boy’s heart with all of her drug and sex addictions. An incensed Amanda then notices Betty walking down the hall, pulls her over to the desk and vengefully tells Jean that Betty is Marc's new girlfriend. Betty laughs, but before she is able to mention that Marc is gay, Marc cuts Betty off in mid-sentence by kissing her on the lips (with Amanda in the background pretending to vomit). Marc then rushes to the bathroom and washes out his mouth in disgust. Betty is stunned by Marc's deceit, but when he begs her to help him, she agrees to play along. Back at the desk Amanda notices Betty’s cell phone is ringing, and when she sees it is Ignacio on the phone, Amanda cruelly tells Mrs. Wiener that she should answer and initiate a chat about Betty and Marc's relationship. Moments later Amanda joyfully rushes over to tell Marc and Betty the news that they have dinner plans with Betty’s family. Marc then tells Betty that if she helps him, he will tell her important information that will help save Daniel’s job.
Betty later rushes to see Daniel and tells him Alexis is planning to take over the company and push him out, prompting Daniel to go see Alexis, who then tells him they should try working together. Daniel insists he is not just her kid brother anymore and she cannot push him around, but Alexis tells him they are in this 50/50. So Daniel agrees and instructs her to have her "letter from the editor" ready by noon tomorrow, so they can print them side by side. When he leaves, she calls in her new assistant, Nick, and orders him to cancel his plans for tonight because they have to get their work completed by midnight, informing him Daniel is crazy if he thinks she is going to share anything with him. Alexis has a major photo shoot and sends her pictures in to be on the next cover of MODE. Wilhelmina is pleased with this scheme, saying this is too easy. Alexis tells them Daniel is not going to know what hit him and rushes out the door.
In another corner of the building, Marc and Betty are working hard at memorizing personal information about each other, until Betty gets distracted by Henry, who comes over to drop off the mail. After Henry mumbles the answers to the personal questions concerning Betty — all of which Marc had failed — Henry leaves. Betty goes to see Daniel and tells him his "letter from the editor" needs to be his own statement about the Meade family instead of about shoes, then rushes home to fix dinner.
Marc, Jean and Buttons the cat — demoted from royalty after finishing poorly in a show that afternoon — arrive at the Suarez household for dinner. Hilda jokingly insists to Marc that she "wouldn’t have missed this evening for the world." As everyone struggles to make conversation during the dinner, Betty focuses the conversation on Jean and her cats. Jean then brings up Marc’s old roommate and friend, Chuck; while Jean is shown to be oblivious to clues that Chuck had actually been Marc's boyfriend, Marc quickly insists that they were not that close. Hilda and Ignacio make numerous comments hinting to homosexuality and giggle at the situation. Things get a little too intense and Betty excuses them to her room, informing Marc that he is a grown man and needs to tell his mother the truth. Marc insists that if tells her the truth now it will ruin things, but Betty assures him that it is the right thing to do, and that it will make their relationship better. Justin arrives and complains to everyone that his father took him out for fast food when he is trying his best to watch points for swim suit season, before showing off his "Free Claire Meade" T-shirt, saying that he will not rest until Claire is free. When Buttons notices the door open and runs out, Ignacio runs after her and sets the alarm off on his ankle tag. Jean sits in shock at all that is going on around her. The doorbell then rings and Daniel enters the room, and when Jean asks who he is, Justin tells her that Daniel is Betty’s ex-boyfriend.
Around the same time, Wilhelmina goes to see Claire in the hospital and tells her she is worried about the business because Daniel and Alexis are going to kill each other. She suggests she get her attorney to draw up a power of attorney so she can keep things running smoothly. But Claire informs Wilhelmina that only a Meade will run the company from now on. Wilhelmina then holds a bottle of liquor in front of Claire's face, which Claire stoically resists. Wilhelmina puts a glass of liquor right on the table in front of Claire, who is handcuffed to the bed. When she leaves, Claire tries to reach it, but fails.
Daniel has come to see Betty at her home to tell her he has finished the editor's letter and wants her to proof it, to see her look at him with pride. She informs him that she is proud of him and that she will submit it in time for the printers. After Daniel leaves, Marc walks in to see what is keeping Betty so long, then informs her that she need not worry about the letter since Alexis has already sent the issue to print. In shock, Betty tells Marc she must notify Daniel immediately. She slams the door leaving Marc all alone there with his mother and her family. Betty catches up to Daniel and they rush off to stop the press.
As Marc and Jean gather their things to leave Betty's house, he informs her he is breaking up with Betty. She is thrilled to hear this and starts criticizing all the Suarez family until Justin runs by, saying in a sing-song voice "Golden Girls marathon." Jean tells Marc she does not even know what "that" is, that Justin is so "swishy." Marc becomes furious and tells his mother to shut up. This momentarily silences her, and Marc informs her that these people have done a really nice thing for him tonight and informs her that she is practically calling her own son "swishy" when she talks that way about Justin. She warns him not to say any more but Marc tells her to open her eyes and see him for what he really is. Jean says she'd better leave, but Marc blocks the door, saying he may never be this brave again. He tells her that he loves her, but if she wants to get to know the real him, she'll have to get to know him as he is. Jean looks at her son and tells him that if this is the lifestyle he has chosen, and if this is the real him, then she does not want to know him. She opens the door and leaves the Suarez house and sarcastically instructs him to thank them for a "lovely" evening.
Alexis sees Daniel and Betty running down the street to the printers and as they sprint side by side toward the entrance, Alexis wins in the end. Daniel later runs into Betty at a bar and tells her that if Alexis wants the company, then she can have it and he will be only too glad to return to his old lifestyle of partying and unemployment. Meanwhile, Wilhelmina sits in her office and thinks of a plan, so she reaches down and scratches out her own last name on her stationery and writes Meade in its place, then dolls up and heads over to see Bradford, where she offers him a little dinner and some company.
Betty arrives back home and finds Marc sitting alone on her front porch. He tells her that his mother left when he told her the truth. Betty tells him she has learned that it is not always family that loves you the most, but that sometimes it is the family we make for ourselves. Marc tells her fondly that she will always be his "Little Chimichanga" and then leaves to go home while Betty sits alone to read the letter that Daniel wrote, in which he talks about how happy he is to have Alexis back with him and that his family is finally coming together. Betty then goes inside and spends time with her family.
Marc and his mother have different last names. In Fake Plastic Snow we learned that Marc's last name is St. James, but in this episode his mother's last name was Weiner, which means that this is also Marc's real last name. However that reason behind Marc's last name being changed was edited out when "Don't Ask" aired. In the deleted scene, Betty asks Marc: "Your real (last) name is Weiner?" Marc answers: "I had to change it. A gay kid named Weiner? I wanted to beat myself up." The idea for Marc to come out to his mother was both actor Michael Urie (Marc St. James) and America Ferrera's idea.
In a bonus feature from the season one DVD, the scene where Betty bumps into a bus shelter is actually a green screen with the outside setting digitized.
Ashley Jensen (Christina) does not appear in this episode. Also, this episode introduces Max Greenfield to the cast as Nick Pepper.
This episode makes references to properties with connections to The Walt Disney Company and its subsidiaries: Golden Girls, Cinderella (which Henry claims is Betty's favorite character and movie), Mulan, She's All That and High School Musical (which is Marc's favorite musical).
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was submitted for consideration in the category of "Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series" for the 2007 Emmy Awards. In addition, Vanessa L. Williams submitted this episode for consideration in the category of "Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series" on her behalf. Mark Indelicato and Michael Urie also chose this episode respectively to submit for consideration of their work in the category of "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series," while Patti Lupone submitted this episode as her entry in the category of "Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series".
The episode was well-received because of Michael Urie's character. Notes Entertainment Weekly's Tanner Stransky: "Looks like my Betty wish came true. In my TV Watch last week, I pined for more focus on the supporting characters, and — voila! — an episode centered on Marc, his sexuality, and how he has not come out to his in-your-face, overbearing mother. Plus, some nice support from Amanda. And a bit from his girlfriend Betty, too. Simply awesome. And we were treated to Claire in the hospital, Willy hatching more ways to take over Mode (including an attempt to seduce Bradford!), and some always awkward conversation between Henry and Betty. Double awesome. All around, another great episode."
- Patti LuPone (Mrs. Jean Weiner)
- John Burke (Reporter)