TELENOVELA WATCH: The Latest on AMOR BRAVIO, UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR & ROSA DIAMANTE! Plus, CORAZON VALIENTE & EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA

AMOR BRAVÍO
It was an eventful week on AMOR BRAVÍO (weeknights at 10 p.m. ET on Univision) as the protagonists, Camila (Silvia Navarro) and Daniel (Cristián de la Fuente), caught riding in a storm, shared their first passionate kiss.  As this is a fairly traditional Televisa production, the audience is sure to see flashbacks to that kissregularly, anytime either character is in a solitary moment of reflection, you can bet that kiss is what they will be reflecting upon.  After the smooch, Camila fled to church where she pleaded that she didn’t want to feel for Daniel what she felt for Luis, her first love and fiancé who died in the first episode in a car accident.

One of the strengths of this telenovela thus far is it features active protagonists. What often happens on telenovelas is the antagonists drive the plot, scheming and acting against the protagonists with impunity; the protagonists become reactive characters rather than active, pushed blindly to and fro in the story by the traps of their adversaries.  That is not the case in AMOR BRAVÍO, as the antagonists Isadora (Leticia Calderón), Dionisio (César Évora) and Alonso (Flavio Medina) plot how to take the ranch from Camila, there is a band of protagonists aware of who the villains are and plotting against them in turn, led by Daniel who has on his side Viviana (Fernanda Castillo), Rafael (Alex Sirvent), Amanda (María Sorté) and Natalia (Florencia de Saracho).  Complicating matters further, the trio of villains are also concealing things from each other and formulating their own plots that best serve their individual interests.

A narrative card the writers were holding back was finally played this week as Camila’s sister, Ximena (Laura Carmine), joined the central story at La Malquerida, fleeing to the ranch after learning the law may be after her for a scam she was running at a high-end boutique.  Newly arrived Ximena almost immediately began conspiring with Camila’s husband, Alonso (Flavio Medina), against her sister.

Other big plot moments in this busy week: Isadora (Leticia Calderón) upped her villainy by suffocating Padre Baldomero (José Carlos Ruiz) with a pillow; Daniel set eyes on the man who tried to kill him in Chile and supposedly killed his wife (though I have my doubts she’s really most sincerely dead – we saw her in a coma, later heard from a not reliable character she died off screen, meaning she is probably still in a coma,another narrative card to be played at a later stage in the novela when she wakes up); even the juvenile characters’ had a decent conclusion this week as Luzma (Mariana van Rankin), on her wedding day,was dragged off by a mysterious ponchoed assailant, no doubt her evil uncle Leoncio (José Elías Moreno), as Friday’s episode ended.

UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR
One of the tenets of telenovelas is to depict two characters madly in love and then devise obstacles to separate those characters for a good part of the show’s run.  On UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on Univision), Luciana (Zuria Vega) and Rodrigo (Gabriel Soto) have been squarely in separation mode for a few weeks now, which can irk an audience.  This week, the audience was thrown some bones, as Rodrigo had some ardent, passionate moments with Luciana, briefly reciprocated before Luciana pushed him away again.

During this separation phase, it is important for there to be some happiness doled out, if not to the central protagonists, then at least to other characters the audience likes, otherwise the novela can become a slog of unpleasantness.  We get that on UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR – the romance between Conny (Luz María Jerez) and Oscar (Harry Geithner) remains a consistent pick-me-up; the Jana (Ilean Almaguer) and Lorenzo (Erik Díaz) romance finally saw some movement this week; and there was also a lovely moment recently where quadriplegic Patricio (Brandon Peniche) managed to open the refrigerator door on his own, a personal triumph shared with Connie and his old nanny Matilde (Maricruz Nájera).  The week also saw Melissa (Tania Lizardo) pass her professional law exam – it’s amazing how even the events in the lives of supporting characters seem momentous, with every bit of drama squeezed out.

Of course, not all the subplots on a novela work equally well.  I didn’t much care for the gold-digger plot with Violeta (Aleida Núñez) giving up on love and deciding to snag herself a sugar daddy and settling on Don Aquiles (Humberto Elizondo); though to be fair, this streak in Violeta was actually set up as early as the second week of the novela when she suggested to Luciana, who was then fleeing from the unwanted attentions of Don Aquiles, that it might not be the worst thing in the world to marry the rich old coot.  The resolution of that plot, with the revelation that Aquiles is actually Violeta’s father, annoys me in the coincidence that both Luciana and Violeta had rich fathers they never knew about.

It was a great week of performances from Laura Flores as the novela’s prime villain Rosalena.  Agreeing to see a psychiatrist in an attempt to con her family into thinking she wants to change and get help, Rosalena has an amazing breakdown where she again expressed her hatred for Aurora and Luciana.  Trying to make nice with Luciana while plotting against her and her unborn baby, there was a wonderful moment where Rosalena, alone in a hallway, wrenched and grimaced her face into a cordial smile, like a malfunctioning android in the process of a reboot, before entering Luciana’s office.  Later, Rosalena warned Lorenzo to stay away from her daughter before dismissing him with a withering look of palpable disdain.  Rosalena showed similar contempt for Violeta, who she believes is her husband’s mistress.

Unfortunately, the other main villain, Gala, is getting a bit repetitive in her outbursts.  Jessica Coch certainly plays the role for all its worth, but I wish she was given a few more diverse notes to play.

ROSA DIAMANTE
Promos this week for ROSA DIAMANTE (weeknights at 8 p.m. ET on Telemundo) announced it was entering a new stage – it’s difficult to discern whether this is a natural progression within its story or a response to flagging ratings (ROSA is now Telemundo’s lowest rated novela, falling behind EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA a few weeks ago).  One character’s 180 degree turn seemed especially out of left field, as the apparently, slowly softening Rosaura (Lupita Ferrer) was suddenly revealed to still hate Rosa/Eva (Carla Hernández) and hopes to take the family company from her.

There is a great deal I like in this novela: Carla Hernández is doing a good job as the lead, who is a smart and strong protagonist, best when in protective big sister mode, early in the novela with Eva (Thali Garcia), and now with Andrea (Sofía Lama), or when she is standing up to the numerous villains; there are some decent subplots from the scandalous past of Raquel (Claudia Ramírez) to the burgeoning confidence of Andrea; and there is some nice humor, mostly generated by the villains Bárbi (Begoña Narváez), her father Rudolfo (Constantino Costas), his lover Margaret (Luciana Silveyra), as well as an archetypical snappy novela maid (Ofelia Guiza).

Still, there is enough that doesn’t really work that I can understand why viewing figures have gone down.  The big plot moments are never built up properly – crucial events like the fashion show that will make or break the company are just nonchalantly dropped into the story, with little anticipation or suspense.  There is far too much reliance on eavesdropping to drive plot - nearly every episode seems to have an instance of this device.  Rosaura’s feigned blindness should have been dropped ages ago – it perhaps made sense for her to feign blindness to hold onto her straying husband, but after he died, why continue the charade?  It seems doubtful she would be afraid to lose her family if they discovered the truth as she seems to loathe them; and that she would allow herself to be blackmailed over her fake blindness defies all logic.

But for me, the biggest problem with ROSA DIAMANTE is the protagonists just don’t have much chemistry.  This was a crucial week, with Rosa and José Ignacio (Mauricio Ochmann) having romantic beach moments, as they realize they are in love with each other, and I found the scenes utterly tepid.  Ochmann can be a very good actor when he has meaty material, but I must admit, I never find him too convincing as a romantic lead.  I can’t say Carla Hernández as Rosa has generated many sparks with either José Ignacio orhis brother, Junior (Marco de Paula).  On the other hand, the romantic chemistry between Junior and Andrea seems effortless.

CORAZÓN VALIENTE
On CORAZÓN VALIENTE (weeknights at 9 p.m. ET on Telemundo), new bad guy “El Verdugo” (Gregorio Pernía) is quickly living up to his name, having executed three people this week.  The mansion where he lives must be littered with bullet holes.  One of his victims was Miguel’s first love, Alejandra (Carla Rodríguez), whose chopped up corpse “El Verdugo” shipped to Miguel in a box.  The silly treasure map story seemed to finally resolve itself, and needing another reason for “El Verdugo” to continue his villainy, it was revealed he is obsessed with Fabiola (Brenda Asnicar) – though apparently not so obsessed he wasn’t willing to blow her up with a bomb a couple episodes earlier.

The opening credits for this novela were changed a few weeks ago, probably because there’s been such a massive changeover in the cast during the show’s run.  It was also probably needed to more accurately depict what the show has become – it seems the original premise of two kick-ass female bodyguards has largely faded away: Samantha (Ximena Duque) is now baby crazy and Ángela (Adriana Fonseca) is a baker.

EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA
I thought EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA (weeknights at 10:30 p.m. ET on Telemundo) was a bit better this week, or at least, there was something that finally worked on the show, and that was the sequence of scenes with Martín (David Chocarro) and Mariana (Elizabeth Gutiérrez) driving from New York to Miami.  It was a case of two actors with good chemistry managing to momentarily drum up some interest in the fairly nonsensical story they are trapped in.  Characters still mostly act with little logic or just plain stupidly to drive story – there was an especially ludicrous bit with psychiatrist Antonia (Maritza Rodríguez) brandishing a gun to get answers from a woman whose son, through turns in the plot, Antonia winds up kidnapping.  Supporting characters are still shallowly written and acted, and rather than the mystery tightening in focus as the novela progresses, it is becoming more and more dissipate and unbelievable.

RELATED:
- TELENOVELA WATCH: AMOR BRAVÍO Premieres; Plus, CORAZÓN VALIENTE, UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (August 18, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: AMOR BRAVÍO and UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR Updates; Plus, PREMIOS TU MUNDO (August 25, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: Dramatic Irony on AMOR BRAVÍO & UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR; Plus, CORAZÓN VALIENTE (September 1, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: Thoughts on AMOR BRAVIO, UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR and POR ELLA SOY EVA (September 8, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: AMOR BRAVÍO's Intelligent Women. Plus: UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR, CORAZÓN VALIENTE, EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA (September 15, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: Gregorio Pernía In CORAZÓN VALIENTE And His Work In OJO POR OJO, LAS DETECTIVAS Y EL VICTOR (September 22, 2012)

R.G. Morin writes a weekly column for We Love Soaps, "Telenovela Watch: A weekly look at the world of telenovelas for non-Spanish speakers." For feedback or questions, you can email R.G. Morin   at argeemorin@hotmail.com.

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