Love, Victor - Sweet Sixteen - Review By Ali (June 26, 2020, 7:00 pm)
Like father, like son. Like mother-in-law, like mother.
Tensions are still high in the Salazar household and Victor is doing his best to make it all go away. He keeps putting out little fires, but new hostilities keep erupting. Between Pilar and Isabel. Between Isabel and Armando. And Victor keeps overextending and sacrificing in hopes of putting back together that which is broken. Armando’s parents, tito and abeula, are coming to town for Victor’s Sweet Sixteen. Even though he doesn’t want a birthday party, he agrees because he thinks it will save his family.
Right away we see that Victor’s grandfather, Tito (Juan Carlos Cantu), has some outdated views on gender norms when he sees Adrian playing with “girl toys.” Armando makes excuses and assures his dad that Adrian is a boy. Good to know, Armando. You know, the desire to please parents can definitely transcend childhood. It often does. Victor’s abuela (Terri Hoyos) is the stereotypical passive aggressive in-law when she interacts with Isabel. She complains or criticizes everything Isabel does. Isabel is a far better person that I have ever been. Well, except for the cheating. That was bad, Isabel.
Mia worries about making a good impression at the party, so she rejects Lake’s wild makeover. I have to say, I liked the way the electric blue eyeliner looked on her. Alas, she wants to project a more wholesome image when she meets Victor’s parents. While she easily charms Victor’s father and grandfather by being a girl and knowing about offsides in soccer, Isabel is a harder nut to crack. Her stress levels are off the charts, and she’s cold with Mia. You can see the hurt on Mia’s face. Knowing her history with her own mother it isn’t hard to figure out what must be racing through her mind. This must send the little voice that tell her she isn’t worthy of a mother’s love into overdrive. Isabel is having the same experience with Armando’s mother, that she isn’t good enough as a wife or mother. Insecurity is insidious.
Mia makes all the missteps while trying to impress Isabel. She even doubles down on her pronunciation of Salazar and Barcelona. Isabel raised an eyebrow. I cringed. That hurt, Mia. To my soul it hurt.
Isabel messes up the tres leches cake, which sends Felix and Lake on a mission to buy a new cake, save the party, and keep Isabel’s judgy mother-in-law off her back. Cute plot contrivance is cute. On their way out they run into an arriving Benji and Derek (Lukas Gage). And Benji comes bearing gifts along with his tall boyfriend. What’s in the box? It looks like the gift my parents’ church gave me when I graduated from high school. I don’t know that I ever opened that box, which definitely says something about me, even though my parents made me write a thank you note. I hope it didn’t have money in it. I’m sure Benji’s gift will send Victor to the moon and back again.
Victor introduces Benji and Derek as bandmates. They call Victor out on his crap. Benji is clearly disappointed by Victor shoving him back in a closet. If Mia were in the scene she probably would have said, “no bueno.” This Sweet Sixteen is not at all sweet. The tension is rising. Everyone is uncomfortable. So, let’s go to a happy place—Lake and Felix.
Lake and Felix arrive at Pastelería de la Rosa for a replacement tres leches cake. Felix’s bad Spanish is killing me. No, tú también. The last tres leches cake was just sold to a man, and despite Lake and Felix’s appeals, he’s not budging. So, Felix steals it. He runs and Lake follows. They have a moment. Nothing like spontaneous criminal activity to bring two people together. Lake and Felix were adorable this episode. Sure it’s cliché, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t cute. Lake can’t handle the moment they’re having so she blows it up by mentioning that she’s on the prowl for a hottie. Oh, Lake. Baby steps for you. Let’s get back to the hot mess of a Sweet Sixteen.
Pilar who has stayed in her room after Isabel rejected her t-shirt starts playing what sounds like instrumental death metal. Is that a thing? I too rejected Pilar’s shirt because it had a spider on it. Spiders are horrific. All the more horrific when crawling in someone’s mouth. Why would you own a t-shirt like that? Pilar this is where we diverge in the woods, but I still forever love you. Mia in another attempt to impress Isabel volunteers to talk to Pilar. She opens up about her absent mother, and by the look on Pilar’s face, she realizes that although she may think her mother trashy, her mother is there and loves her. There but for the . . .
Victor can’t leave well enough alone, so when he sees his grandfather talking to Benji and Derek he just has to enter the conversation. The outcome in keeping with the party’s theme is disastrous. Victor’s grandfather thinks Benji and Derek would clean up with the ladies. You know, the measure of all men. Before Derek can spill the beans, Benji swoops in saying they are too busy for the ladies. It’s clear he did it for Victor. Victor says exactly the wrong thing. He tells Benji he didn’t have to do that. Benji rightfully gives Victor the stink face and rolls his eyes. Hey, Victor you started it. Jerk.
As expected, Benji and Derek fight. Derek wants to leave the party, but Benji doesn’t want to leave because it’s Victor’s birthday. I think that’s code for: I like Victor, but I can’t tell you that because you’re my boyfriend, so that would probably be awkward. Derek doesn’t want to play straight for Victor’s homophobic grandfather just to keep the peace. Derek is right. They finally kiss and make up, but they aren’t hidden when they do, so Victor’s grandfather catches an eyeful of chaste kisses. Victor’s dad is worried about Adrian seeing two boys kiss. For Tito, and possibly Armando, queer is contagious and love is conditional. Definitely a realistic scene, but it hurts that we're still here. Armando wants Victor to tell Derek and Benji that it's a "family party." Gross.
Victor can’t do it. He goes off on his grandfather. His abuela starts to jump in, but Isabel stands up for her son then stands up for herself. Then Armando stands up for Isabel. Then Pilar with the win. She stands up for her family. The Salazars unite in the face of the grandparents’ antiquated ideals. No matter what, this is a good family, scars and all. Also, we get another peak at Adrian, the little seen, but quite cute third child.
Once the drama ends, Mia gives it another shot at winning over Isabel, but this time she goes for the truth. Isabel realizes that she’s being just like her mother-in-law. They have a sweet moment. For all our sakes though, Isabel tells Mia to just call her Isabel. That Salazar pronunciation was killing us.
Victor finally apologizes to Benji. Not to Derek though. Interesting. They talk it over. They have a moment. They have another moment when Victor makes his birthday wish. His birthday wish: that this will be the year he finally figures out what he wants. His new journey around the sun begins with Mia as his official girlfriend.
Cue the opening of Benji’s box. Benji drew a picture of Victor for his present. Victor holds it like it’s his precious then Armando enters. Armando is proud of Victor for standing up to his grandfather. He thinks Victor was brave for what he said about Benji and Derek. He agrees. Sort of. Not really. His parting shot - he hopes Tito’s wrong and Adrian doesn’t turn out "that way." You see the hurt on Victor’s face, and we watch him sink lower. Mi corazón se rompe.
Almost everyone grew this episode. Victor took two steps forward. Then his father shoved him two steps back.
“People who have affairs shouldn’t throw stones.” - Pilar to Isabel
“I’m not gonna tell them not to be who they are if that bothers you. That’s your problem. Not theirs, and not mine.” - Victor to his grandfather
What did you think of this episode? What did you think of Benji’s gift?