I spent a week watching the Telemundo telenovela "La Vida en el Espejo" recently. This is what I saw:
Fifty-five-year-old Santiago Roman throws a barbecue for family and friends, the first time he has entertained since his wife, Isabel, left the house.
Paula, the nubile daughter of friends, is back from a year in boarding school in Boston and tells Eugenio, Santiago's dopey youngest son, that the place was annoying, with teachers always bugging you to be "number one" (she says that in English) and friends nagging you to lose your virginity.
Julio, Santiago's debonair single friend and employer, says women "are like squash balls: The harder you hit them, the faster they come back."
Santiago mulls over how feminine his bedroom is. "I feel like Cinderella," he says, and starts kicking around pink pillows. Just then Isabel, his workaholic wife who left him for her young assistant, calls to ask about the kids. "You ruined my life," Santiago moans, then hangs up. He resumes kicking pink pillows.
Next day Santiago meets Gabriela, a young disc jockey, for lunch at a snooty French restaurant. He asks her if she has ever been to France. (She hasn't.) He brags about being there for the 1998 World Cup and babbles on about the beauty of castles on the Loire. "Maybe that's why they call dreams castles in the air," Gabriela says dreamily. "Someday you'll live out your dream and see France yourself," Santiago says, in what industry insiders call a foreshadowing. Gabriela asks that they leave and go to an informal taco place. Why? "Because it's too formal here to yell out that I love you," Gaby says. "Well, I'll whisper it back: I love you too."
Gaby and Santiago are going at it at the taco joint, squeezing lime juice onto their tacos de carnitas. Santiago: "I can't believe I could fall in love with a woman who could be my ..." She stops him.
Isabel meets her children for the first time since they learned of her infidelity. Eugenio doesn't want to listen and calls her a whore. She tells them that she's fallen in love, that it's "a beautiful feeling at the wrong moment."
When Eugenio hears the man is her young assistant, he says it's a good thing he has no friends in school, because she would have screwed them, too. Ouch.
Gaby and Sebastian are still giddy, strolling about town, though for some reason he's explaining to her that you can't mix red and white wines.
At the family's public-relations firm, Isabel asks Eduardo if what Santiago wants for his 35 percent share of the firm is reasonable. Guess what he says?
Isabel complains to a friend that her thing with Eduardo isn't like it used to be. "All we ever talk about now are maids."
Isabel and Santiago's oldest child, 23-year-old Mauricio, is getting a lot of grief from his (hot!) girlfriend of two years, who wants to have sex. He says he respects her too much. She's not impressed: "I'm beginning to think you don't know how, or perhaps have a hormonal illness." She leaves in a huff.
Corrupted from her year in Boston, nubile Paula kisses Eugenio, who freaks out.
Over the phone, Santiago tells Gaby, "I could be wrong in wanting to fly, but I love you." She: "Stop, please, I need to breathe." They each crouch on the floor, breathing hard, blowing kisses into phone. First instance of phone sex on Spanish-language TV? Close, but no cigar.
In a steam room, friends ask Santiago how serious this thing is with the babe. He: "Gabriela is to me the only person in color in an otherwise black-and-white film." His friends are clearly worried.
Mauricio is at his family's vacation home with his buddy Jim, who lives in California (he went to Stanford), but misses Mexico. Mauricio: "Well, come back." Jim: "I wouldn't have same freedom." Huh? Jim: "Well, you know there is less freedom for homosexuals here in Mexico." Mauricio, who is having a rough episode, looks at his friend as if he were from Mars. Jim: "You are too, aren't you?" Mauricio's answer is to run away.
Diana, Mauricio and Eugenio's sister, tells a friend she has a crush on Jim. "He went to Stanford, he's sensible." She also throws in something about being freaked out by most guys because she was molested once at a party.
Paula kisses Eugenio again. He again freaks.
Gaby's malevolent boss at the radio station barks into a cell phone that he wants any and all information on a certain Santiago Roman.
Mauricio is a mess and hasn't left his room in days. Maid begs him to allow her to make his bed.
Visiting his starchy aunt Cayetana, Eugenio overhears someone say that Santiago should just forgive his wife, as he too strayed once, a long time ago.
Dangerously intoxicated, Eugenio loses it, goes on a rampage at home, smashing stuff and screaming that he has no family anymore; he ends up in the hospital.
Malevolent boss shows up at Gaby's apartment. "I've got some info on your lover, old Santiago," he leers. For starters, he's married. Gaby knows this, of course, and utters the best line of the week: "You'd starve as a telenovela villain."
At the hospital, Cayetana tells her brother, Santiago, and Isabel that they have to reconcile and get their act together, for the kids' sake.
Isabel asks Santiago if there is any chance of their being a family again. Nope, he says. "You gave your body to another." Oh, and I'm in love with someone else. He leaves, forgetting to tell her she can keep their bedroom's pink sheets, pink pillows and pink lamps.
Santiago and Gaby are going at it again on the phone, but for some reason she insists on calling him by the formal pronoun "usted." Must be the 30-year difference.
Diana tells her brother Mauricio that she likes Jim, and that he should invite him over again. Mauricio screams that Jim won't ever again step foot in the house. "You're just jealous," she tells him.
Julio and Santiago are talking about Gabriela when the meddling spinster Cayetana walks in. Who's Gabriela? Santiago says it's someone he is dating. She throws a hissy fit, rants about the kids, duty, loyalty ... "You people think love justifies everything." She tosses one of the pink pillows at Julio. Santiago says he didn't betray anyone, unlike his wife. Cayetana: "It's too late for you to alter the world you built. You can't expect your kids to accept this new woman." As if on cue, Diana knocks on the door, saying that a certain Gabriela is on the phone.
Isabel shows up at her lover Eduardo's place to announce that she is getting a divorce and moving in. He's happy as a puppy. But, she warns him, their romance must remain a secret.
Santiago calls Gaby back and yells at her for calling his house: "You have to accept that we will talk and see each other only when I can." Trouble in paradise?
Diana tells her father that Jim is different from her brother Mauricio's other friends; so much more sensitive and cultured. She has no idea.
Mauricio goes to swim at the club, finds himself not knowing where to look when some muscle-clad hunks in Speedos walk by. Nothing is said, mind you, but the music conveys, um, confusion.
Santiago and pals Julio, Alvaro and Ernesto (Paula's father) have some drinks, joke about how absurd it is that women have guys worrying about their penis size. Prostate jokes ensue, except Ernesto's not laughing. He later tells Santiago he's having difficulties peeing. And no, he hasn't been to the doctor.