Deceptions (original Spanish title La usurpadora, "The Usurper") is a very popular Mexican telenovela produced by Salvador Mejia Alejandre and originally broadcast in 1998. It has become one of the most popular and exported Televisa telenovelas, having been licensed in 125 countries and dubbed into 25 languages.
The beautiful Paola Bracho (Gabriela Spanic) is a wordly, sophisticated golddigger who loves smoking, drinking and partying in the company of handsome men. She married the tragically-widowed Carlos Daniel Bracho (Fernando Colunga) for his money and feels stifled and bored by her married life. As a result, she often lies to her adoring husband and flies around Mexico in search of entertainment. On one of these travels, she runs into a young woman who looks exactly like her: the humble, honest and kind-hearted Paulina (also Gabriela Spanic). After recovering from her initial surprise, Paola hatches a plan to send Paulina back to the Bracho house for one year so she can jet set around the world with her newest paramour, a millionaire by the name of Alessandro Farina. Paulina initially refuses, but is framed and blackmailed by Paola into accepting.
After only six days of coaching by Paola, Paulina arrives in the Bracho house and quickly discovers that her situation is much more complicated than she could have ever expected: a string of Paola's lovers quickly begin to harass, threaten and blackmail her, her in-laws Estefania and Rodrigo hate her, the children are being emotionally neglected an and displaying strange behavior and the grandmother Piedad (Libertad Lamarque) is suffering from alcoholism which Paola had previously enabled. Paulina resolves to bring back order into the Bracho house and restore what the selfish Paola had destroyed, all the while trying to keep the adoring Carlos Daniel and her own growing feelings for him at bay...
This series shows examples of:
- Awful Wedded Life: Estefania and Wily are deeply unhappy in their marriage. Wily chases after Paola with very little subtlety and Estefania knows it, which is why she throws venomous reproaches at him several times per day.
- Big Fancy House: The Bracho family lives in one. Rodrigo Bracho's house isn't as big, but it's still very modern and elegant.
- Brainy Brunette: Averted with Gema, who makes some fairly questionable decisions over the course of the series. She meets the handsome Luciano in Paris and allows him to move into her apartment after knowing him for only a few days at most... while she was planning to move into the Bracho house, essentially leaving her entire apartment into the hands of a virtual stranger. She also chases after Carlos Daniel even though he's known her all his life and still married someone else (twice!).
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Paola wears strong colors such as red, gold and black while Paulina tends to wear light pink.
- Contrived Coincidence: Paola just happens to meet Paulina who is secretly her sister in a club while visiting another city. Gema Duran first meets Paola's friend Luciano by complete coincidence all the way in Paris.
- Dark Feminine Light Feminine: The cunning, selfish seductress Paola (dark) and the gentle, self-sacrificing and modest Paulina (light).
- Death Equals Redemption: Despite all the horrible, cruel things she did in life, before dying Paola is forgiven by both Paulina and Carlos Daniel, and dies admitting her love for the two of them.
- The Determinator: Paulina bravely resolves to bring order and peace in the Bracho house, even though many people outright hate her or are mistrustful of her. She deals with an incredibly high amount of venom directed to Paola but unjustly thrown at her, and manages to deal with it gracefully.
- Femme Fatale: Paola and her rival Gema are beautiful seductresses with few scruples.
- Good Hair, Evil Hair: Paola and Paulina have drastically different hairstyles; Paola has a stylish bob cut while Paulina had long but modest hair, the implication being that the vain Paola is a slave of fashion while Paulina is a Humble Heroine.
- Gold Digger: Paola married the wealthy widower Carlos Daniel Bracho for his money and status. While she has several affairs with young men without any particular wealth, she seems to prefer becoming "exclusive" with millionaires like Alessandro Farina.
- Stay in the Kitchen: Rodrigo loves his wife Patricia, but whenever she does something he does not like, especially in connection to Paola, he reacts like a jerk. Annoyed at the fact that Patricia appreciated Paola's (secretly Paulina's) gift to her, he roughly grabs the box from his wife's hands, throws it on the pavement and drives away. When Piedad gives Patricia a voice in the family council, Rodrigo angrily attempts to forbid his wife to vote because he fears she will vote against his desired outcome.
- Idle Rich: Estefania and her husband Wily do not work and spend their time arguing with each other around the Bracho house. Gema Duran is another example, as she is extremely wealthy and spends her time traveling abroad, shopping, going to restaurants and chasing after her own cousin.
- Ill Girl: Paulina pretends to be ill in order to keep Carlos Daniel's advances at bay. It also serves her as an excuse to dispatch Paola's lovers.
- Kissing Cousins: Gema and Carlos Daniel are cousins. Neither that, nor the fact that Carlos Daniel is married stops Gema from pursuing him.
- Lady Drunk: Grandmother Piedad Bracho becomes this after losing both her husband and her son Raymundo. Paola used to be her enabler, but when Paulina arrives in the house she quickly takes steps to help Piedad overcome her addiction.
- Large Ham: Gabriela Spanic is clearly having fun as the evil twin Paola.
- Loving a Shadow: Carlos Daniel adores his wife Paola, and while he has his suspicions that Paola is not entirely faithful, he remains unaware of the true extend of Paola's promiscuity and the fact that she only married him for his money.
- Manipulative Bitch: Paola has her husband and a host of other men wrapped around her little finger. On top of that, she encourages people's vices in order to gain their support (such as with Piedad).
- Mook Lieutenant: Lalita plays this role for Paola in the Bracho house. She is aware of Paola's numerous affairs and helps her hide them, secretly stashing her letters away and listening in for any piece of information that could be useful.
- Parental Neglect: As a result of Carlos Daniel's distant and stern parenting style and Paola's tendency to indulge him beyond reason, Carlitos Bracho displays abnormal behaviors. He is old enough to go to school but still does not dress himself or even put his own shoes on, and when he is punished he has fits similar to those of an epileptic. Carlos Daniel in particular seems callously unconcerned with his son's abnormal behavior.
- Prophetic Dreams: Paola has a disturbing nightmare at the beginning of her trip with her lover Alessandro. It turns out to have been a premonition, as she and Alessandro get into a terrible car accident. He loses the ability to walk, and Paola needs months of surgeries and therapy.
- Silk Hiding Steel: Paulina seems sweet and easily intimidated but she quickly proves that she is no pushover. She enter the Bracho house a scared, confused and insecure woman but surprises everyone by courageously taking the reins and standing up to everybody, through different methods.
- Traumatic Haircut: Paulina sobs as she begins cutting her long hair in order for her hairstyle to match Paola's.
- Undying Loyalty: Fidelina is only a servant in the Bracho house, but she is deeply loyal to the family, even though she was not always well-treated by people like Paola. The reason for this? Because Estefania is her daughter.
- Unwanted Spouse: Carlos Daniel has become this for Paola. She married him for money and status, but quickly grew tired of the confines of married life.
- Estefania is this for Wily, as her narrow focus on religion has made her lose her attractiveness, making him extremely vulnerable to Paola's charms.