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TELENOVELA WATCH: UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR's Final Weeks, BELLA CALAMIDADES Comes To U.S.; Plus, AMOR BRAVIO, ROSA DIAMANTE & EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA

UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on Univision) is heading into its final weeks and presumably the final story arcs are beginning to be set up. The action moved forward five months to the birth of Luciana’s son, milked for all its dramatic worth with a difficult, suspenseful delivery with mother and baby in precarious states before coming through healthy, the joyous celebration of the birth with Luciana’s family and friends, all counterbalanced by Rosalena (Laura Flores) and Gala (Jessica Coch) conspiring against the newborn. Portents were plentiful with the baby’s father (Gabriel Soto) and grandfather (David Ostrosky) away on a business trip to China and the arrival of Luciana’s mother delayed by inclement weather.

The method of the actual abduction of the newborn wasn’t too convincing, requiring a series of events to happen in just the way they did for Rosalena and Gala to succeed – a case of Rube Goldberg machinations where more straightforward plotting would have been more effective. I also question the whole history repeating itself aspect of this plot, where Rosalena had given away Luciana as a newborn and is now stealing her baby, though I suppose there is a symmetry to the events that may ultimately prove interesting.

AMOR BRAVÍO
This week on AMOR BRAVÍO (weeknights at 10 p.m. ET on Univision), Camila (Silvia Navarro) and Daniel (Cristián de la Fuente) admitted their love for each other. The scenes were passionately romantic with fine chemistry between the actors, a satisfying culmination after weeks of pent up emotions, meaningful looks and lonely sighs. There is a charming overtone of playful teasing and joshing in the relationship between the two that seems very genuine, a nice element of fun that is too often absent from the ardor.

Several coincidences concerning past connections between characters popped up this week. Most outlandish was the revelation that Dionisio’s right-hand man, Julián (Toño Infante), the tattooed assassin who tried to off Daniel in Chile and wound up killing his pregnant wife, was the twin brother of Luzma’s father, Fidencio. In a flashback, we see Luzma’s vile uncle Leoncio (José Elías Moreno) murder Fidencio to prevent him from marrying his sister. Leoncio winds up murdering Julián as well, an interesting case where the vengeance seemingly reserved for a protagonist is carried out by another villain instead.

Another coincidence revealed this week is that Daniel and Camila’s half-sister, Ximena (Laura Carmine), have the same birthmark. Ximena’s claim that her father also had the birthmark strongly suggests Daniel and Ximena are half-siblings, though that is a jump for the audience to make rather than the characters at this point. The third coincidence also involved Ximena, as Friday’s episode concluded with her literally bumping into Bruno (Benjamín Rivero), the abusive, stalking ex of Camila’s best friend Viviana. It is revealed in the brief scene that Bruno knows Ximena and is aware she is wanted by the police for the scam she was pulling to steal clothes from a high-end boutique.

ROSA DIAMANTE
A major plot domino fell this week on ROSA DIAMANTE (weeknights at 8 p.m. ET on Telemundo) as Rosa’s true identity was unmasked through that old telenovela/soap opera staple – the big wedding reveal. This plot device of having a character withhold a crucial secret about herself going into a wedding, only for a rival to discover the secret and reveal it to all at the ceremony, is extremely difficult to pull off convincingly as it almost invariably paints the secret holder in a negative light - as a liar for failing to reveal the truth herself, as a coward for lacking the courage to reveal the truth, and an outright fool.

The pacing on this telenovela seems to have accelerated; I imagine a response to lagging ratings. As a result, the episodes leading up to the wedding between Rosa (Carla Hernández) and José Ignacio (Mauricio Ochmann) lacked the proper anticipatory build up – everything seemed to be moving too fast, and considering the dearth of chemistry between the lead actors, more scenes devoted to establishing their romance were sorely missed. After Rosa’s rival and José Ignacio’s ex, Bárbara (Begoña Narváez), revealed that Rosa wasn’t Eva, the rightful heiress to the Sotomayor fortune, Rosa was promptly left at the altar by José Ignacio and then arrested and carted off to jail for fraud and theft.

This week also saw the up-to-now fairly comedic villain, Rodolfo (Constantino Costas), descend into more explicit viciousness as he murdered designer Federico (Gustavo Navarro). As the pacing has accelerated in the stories, it seems the violence is escalating as well – and here I was hoping that there could be at least one Telemundo telenovela that didn’t feature somebody bound to a chair, tortured and murdered.

EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA
A question that arises often on American soap operas that is far rarer to see crop up on telenovelas is how soon a character should be paired with a new romantic partner following the death of their previous true love. It is usually a foregone conclusion that the central protagonists on a telenovela will wind up together; in the rare instances there is a deceased first love preceding the pairings of those protagonists, the mourning and recovery period is often dealt with a jump forward in time, such as AMOR BRAVÍO did with Camila after her first love died, the story moved forward to three years later.

And then, there is the case of EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA (weeknights at 10:30 p.m. ET on Telemundo) where a week after the protagonist’s first love, Antonia (Maritza Rodríguez), was murdered, Diego (David Chocarro) is already bedding Mariana (Elizabeth Gutiérrez). Telemundo productions are beginning to see a proliferation of these types of instant pairings which completely negate one of the principal advantages the novela format affords, namely, the time – months over 90, 120, 150 episodes – to establish convincingly complex and full relationships between the characters. Of Telemundo’s current productions, only ROSA DIAMANTE even attempts to build the relationships between the characters in a traditional novela way – it is perhaps telling that ROSA is also the only one based on a previous novela, the 1994 PERLA NEGRA.

Also this week, Ezequiel (Saúl Lisazo) learned his son, Luciano (Jonathan Islas), betrayed him be sleeping with his fiancée. Saúl Lisazo was excellent in these scenes, but it is difficult to muster up much sympathy or interest for a character we’ve already seen callously murder two men.

BELLA CALAMIDADES
A Colombian produced Telemundo telenovela from 2009, BELLA CALAMIDADES, makes its belated US premiere on Monday at 11:30 p.m. ET on SOI TV, a digital subchannel of Telemundo. It’s a remake of the 1987 Colombian telenovela, LOLA CALAMIDADES, about a woman who lives in a cemetery because of the bad luck she brings to those around her, and her reintegration into civilization. The protagonists of BELLA CALAMIDADES are Danna García (ALGUIEN TE MIRA; UN GANCHO AL CORAZÓN) and Segundo Cernadas (EL FANTASMA DE ELENA); the cast also features Adriana Campos and Katie Barberi.

RELATED:
- 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)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: The Latest on AMOR BRAVIO, UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR & ROSA DIAMANTE! Plus, CORAZON VALIENTE & EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA (September 29, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: A Look At EL CAPO 2, Now English Friendly; Plus, AMOR BRAVIO & EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA (October 6, 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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