Betty Applewhite was a gifted woman. Everyone had always said so, ever since she was a child. Her first piano teacher praised her dexterity, her first college professor applauded her sense of rhythm and her first symphony conductor hailed her dramatic flair. But Betty was no longer a concert pianist. She was now just a woman with a secret. One she was determined to keep, by any means necessary.
|Mary Alice Young|
Betty Applewhite is one of the main and titular characters of Desperate Housewives. A single mother with strong religious beliefs and not to be trifled with, Betty is a former concert pianist who will do anything to protect her family.
Betty Applewhite had been a gifted pianist from a very young age. ("The Sun Won't Set") Her previous known residence was in the city of Chicago, where she lived with her two sons, her eldest and mentally-challenged child, Caleb, and her younger son, Matthew Applewhite. It is presumed that their father was Virgil Applewhite, but Betty was always shown as a single mother. Virgil was revealed not to be deceased, although Matthew once gave out that impression ("Next"), but his whereabouts are undetermined, as is the ending of his relationship with Betty.
Betty in Chicago. ("Remember, Part 1")
Back in Chicago, Matthew dated a local cheerleader named Melanie Foster. Their relationship was mostly on-again/off-again, and one day Matthew tried to sever his ties with her for good. Melanie told him to meet her at a local lumber yard that night, hoping to patch things up with him, but instead Matthew's brother Caleb, who had heard the conversation, showed up, bringing her flowers and hoping to become her boyfriend. Melanie mocked him, and slapped him after Caleb tried to kiss her. She then picked up an axe lying nearby and used it to hit Caleb, getting a perversed joy out of doing it. In self-defense, Caleb snatched the axe from her and hit her with it, causing her to lose consciousness. Caleb then ran home, panicked, and Betty found him with a blood-stained shirt. Eventually,
Matthew did make his way to the lumber yard, only to find his ex-girlfriend knocked unconscious and lying on the ground. She woke up upon his arrival, and he comforted her, apologizing for Caleb's actions and trying to let her know he isn't a violent person. Melanie tried to use this attack to her advantage, by convincing Matthew to patch things up with her, seeing as how she's in a fragile state. Matthew isn't budging, though, and thus Melanie decides to turn Caleb in to the cops. This angers Matthew, who hits her repeatedly with the axe, whilst screaming at her not to mess with his family, and eventually killing her. He then leaves the scene, leaving his jacket covering Melanie's corpse. However, Betty is left under the impression that it was her eldest son, Caleb, who killed Melanie, and the Applewhites then proceed to leave Chicago and move to Wisteria Lane, hoping to avoid imprisonment for Caleb. ("Remember, Part 1")
The house is fine. But how lovely of you to stop by.
The Applewhites move to Wisteria Lane. ("Goodbye for Now")
Betty Applewhite and her son, Matthew, quietly move in during the night and unpack. ("Goodbye for Now") Edie welcomes new neighbor Betty to the neighborhood. She becomes a little curious when Betty and Matthew appear to be standoffish when she asks to give them a tour of the house because they purchased it sight unseen. Betty tells Edie that everything is fine and she walks off as the Applewhites look on. ("One Wonderful Day")
It's time to give your brother the peace he deserves.
Betty plays the piano, at Rex's funeral. ("Next")
Betty is dusting her porch with Matthew. Bree and Danielle approach them and Bree introduces her family. After, she asks if Betty accepts to play the piano, at her husband's funeral. Matthew says he lost his father, too. Betty is ok and the Van de Kamp leave. Betty asks her son if says his father's dead is not morbid. Matthew says it could help to their cover story. Betty answers "In the future, you leave the cleverness to me". During Rex's funeral, Betty plays a lovely instrumental piece. Later, at her house, Betty plays the piano and a notices Matthew added a flower, on a buttler. Matthew says he thought it'd be nice. She says this flower is an act of kindness. Them, she turns and walks over to him and she hands him a revolver, and Matthew takes it and gets up. They head downstairs and Matthew unlocks a metal door. Betty heads inside and puts the tray down on a table in front of her. Inside the basement, someone's shackled hand grabs the glass. ("Next")
Inside the basement, the prisoner keeps pulling his chains, producing a clanging sound. Upstairs, Betty and Matthew are having dinner. Matthew yells at the prisoner to stop it, and Betty reminds her son that he knows they don't talk to him; that's part of his punishment - and listening to that sound over and over again is part of hers. The following day, Susan goes to say to Betty she keeps hearing these strange noises. Betty says she
hasn't noticed anything. The sound starts up again, and she has no choice but to acknowledge them, and explains to Susan that Matthew is doing projects around the house. Matthew walks up behind Betty. Susan is surprised, and Betty appears to be nonchalant about the situation. Later, Betty is sitting at a psychiatrist's office. She tells him her husband's story: he killed their son. Betty explains that she found one of his baby pictures and that was when she resumed having nightmares. The psychiastrist gives her sleeping pills. At her house, Betty is seen chopping up said pills into a bowl of soup, for her prisoner. ("You Could Drive a Person Crazy")
Susan is furious to find out that Edie is going to accompany Julie on guitar in a church family talent show. She goes to Betty for help in brushing up her piano playing skills, but she catches her at a bad time, just as their mysterious prisoner in the basement has gotten free and had to be forcibly subdued. Betty refuses to help or let her in and explains the red stains on her shirt are because she was making a cherry pie. ("You'll Never Get Away From Me")
Betty discovers that the police arrested a man for the death of a Melanie Foster. ("They Asked Me Why I Believe in You")
Betty is over at Edie’s house retrieving some of her mail that was accidentally delivered to Edie, when she sees on the news that the police arrested a man in Chicago for the death of a "Melanie Foster". She goes home and begins writing an anonymous letter to the Chicago police saying that they’ve arrested the wrong person. When she goes down to the basement to talk to Caleb about the recent developments, Matthew sees the letter on the kitchen table and tells his mother not to send it. She says that Caleb didn’t know what he was doing, that it wasn’t his fault. Matthew says that they won’t care that Caleb is "slow"; they’ll execute him anyway. Caleb, who has escaped from his cell, is listening to them talk in the kitchen, but when he hears this, he returns to the basement. ("They Asked Me Why I Believe in You")
Betty and Matthew discover that Caleb has escaped shortly after their confrontation. Caleb's disappearance leads them to snooping around the neighborhood. Matthew searches the street but is soon drawn to Danielle when he searches Bree's backyard. He lies and tells her that he is there to ask her out. Danielle surprisingly says "yes" and Matthew leaves the yard happy. That night however, Gabrielle soon comes eye to eye with Caleb and quickly runs away before he does anything dangerous. Her escape comes with a price though when she trips and falls down the stairs. Gabrielle lands on the floor helpless and witnesses Caleb quickly leaving the house. ("Color and Light")
Matthew continues to search for Caleb but arrives once again with no sign. On yet another one of hunts for Caleb, instead of searching he joins Danielle on a park bench where the two talk. Finally, Caleb is discovered by Mike. He comes from behind and tackles him. Mrs. McCluskey asks if he needs a taser but Mike just asks that she call the police. As the police arrive, Caleb is placed in handcuffs while the entire neighborhood watches. Caleb looks befuddled as Betty raises a finger to her mouth telling him to keep quiet about where he came from. ("The Sun Won't Set")
Betty finds out from Edie that Gabrielle's intruder is remaining quiet and that his identity is unknown. The police are currently keeping Caleb in a mental hospital until he starts talking. Betty and Matthew decide to bring Caleb home by planning a secret escape. As Betty plays piano for the other patients, Matthew creeps behind and pulls Caleb out from the room. Little do they know that another person is looking for Caleb (who is disguised as a hospital employee) and follows Caleb and Matthew out. ("Coming Home")
The Applewhites dispose Monroe's body, in their car. ("One More Kiss")
Betty and Matthew argue over how Caleb wants his freedom. Betty reminds Matthew that if was not so preoccupied with other things maybe he could keep him company. Matthew then tells his mother that he thinks they may have termites which are destroying the basement stairs. After Betty and Matthew leave, Curtis Monroe plans to enter the residence to take Caleb hostage. When he finds Caleb he tells him not to be afraid and then punches him. He then goes back upstairs to get his gun only to fall through the stairs as his gun goes off. Monroe dies shortly after as Caleb looks on. Betty and Matthew then arrive home to find Caleb eating ice cream. Caleb tells them that he didn't do it. They then find Monroe hanging from the stairs. However when his cell phone rings the caller ID says "FOSTER", they become suspicious and Betty decides they need to get rid of the body. They dispose of the body in his car but when Matthew leaves the keys in the trunk, they are forced to keep the car parked on the street. ("One More Kiss")
After Bree's arrestation, Betty pulls up next to her in a car and offers to give her a ride. Bree then tells her that she was arrested for DUI and her car was impounded. Betty has empathy for her but then says how the neighborhood is talking about Andrew and her dealing with her husband's death. This causes Bree to tell Betty how everyone is discussing how she and her son are the most odd people on the block. After Bree leaves, Betty calls Edie to inform her that she wants to sell the house. ("We're Gonna Be All Right")
Betty plays poker, with her neighbours. ("There's Something About a War")
When Bree finds Matthew in Danielle's bedroom, this causes sadness and anger from Danielle when Bree walks the both of them to Betty's. Betty then slaps Matthew due to his rude behavior. The following day, Bree visits Betty but when Bree discovers Caleb lurking in the upstairs window she panics and tells Betty she has to leave. Then, Bree alerts her friends that she has serious dirt on the Applewhites. Later, thanks to Matthew, Betty learns the true about Juanita Solis' accident. Before the poker game, Betty visits Bree who warns her that if she breathes a word about Caleb's existence she will inform the Solises and the police about Andrew's crime. Bree is then forced to lie to her friends and tell them that Betty is a master card player and will be joining their weekly game. ("There's Something About a War")
Betty visits Bree shortly after hearing from Caleb that "a red haired woman" came to see him. Betty reveals chat about Caleb and Melanie Foster. She was Matthew's girlfriend in Chicago. After one of their feuds, Caleb called Melanie and asked to meet her. She agreed to meet him. Caleb told Melanie that if he was her boyfriend he would never break up with her or fight. Caleb, in all sincerity, then kissed her, but this made Melanie uncomfortable and she proceeded to slap him. This angered Caleb who then picked up an axe and killed her instantly. This, Betty believes, is the reason why she felt it was her fault and not his for not protecting him "from himself" since she is his mother and could not see him going through imprisonment or even death. Bree then puts her hand out to Betty as a sign of truce. ("Silly People")
Matthew wants to buy Danielle a present for her birthday but cannot because he does not have a job. Betty offers him money but Matthew is set on getting a job and moving on with his life. He then tells his mother that they should put Caleb away since they will not have to hide anymore and he will be safer. Betty scoffs at this and offers Matthew twenty dollars. When Danielle arrives home, she finds Caleb hiding in her bedroom and he offers her a gift. Danielle tells him to go home, but when Caleb refuses, she shoos him out calling him a freak. Caleb, angered and hurt, runs out of the house. ("Could I Leave You?")
Betty manages to sell the house without consulting Matthew and warns him that they are leaving. Matthew recommends that instead of moving that they put Caleb away. Betty refuses seeing as Caleb needs his family and that they would be an asset to his crime. Matthew and Danielle then concoct a scheme in order to convince Betty to reconsider. One evening, Caleb visits Danielle and attempts to rape her. Bree soon discovers them after hearing Danielle scream and takes her gun. Bree then storms into the bedroom and puts Caleb at gunpoint. Danielle asks that Bree not call the police because the Applewhites will also be in trouble. Bree then visits Betty and calls their truce off. Betty agrees and the next morning she and Matthew look at psychiatric facilities. Betty however thinks of a better idea and decides to contemplate poisoning Caleb. ("It Wasn't Meant to Happen")
Betty wants euthanize Caleb, with his ice cream. ("I Know Things Now")
Betty plans to euthanize Caleb by taking him to a picnic and feeding him ice cream she prepared with drugs. At the lake, Caleb asks where Matthew is and Betty says it is a special day just for the two of them. Caleb then tells his mother that Matthew told him to kiss Danielle and that she would be waiting for him. Betty then takes the ice cream from Caleb and demands that he tell her everything Matthew told him to do. Later, Betty locks Matthew in the basement for his treachery. ("I Know Things Now")
Betty keeps Matthew locked up in the basement and when he pleads her to let him out, she tells him that he's betrayed the family and that what he did was unforgivable, that staying locked up is best for him since she doesn't know what she'll do to him if she lets him out. But, after her birthday party, Danielle discovers that Matthew is trapped and tells him she'll find a way to get him out of the basement. When Betty comes back, Danielle hits her on the head with a bar and lets Matthew out. ("No One is Alone")
Betty is arrested. ("Remember, Part 1")
Betty and Caleb prepare for their departure from Wisteria Lane in the middle of the night. As they pack, Betty remembers the prior year when Caleb murdered Melanie Foster. Later, as Betty and Caleb leave their house, the police surround them and they are placed into police cars as the entire neighborhood watches. At the police station, Betty is shown a picture of Melanie's dead body. Betty quickly notices Matthew's jacket on her body and warns the police that the jacket belongs to her other son. Betty sends a phone call to Bree for tell her that she believes Matthew, not Caleb, killed Melanie, and that Bree's daughter, Danielle, is in danger. ("Remember, Part 1")
The Applewhites leave the street, forever. ("Remember, Part 2")
Matthew returns to his home for a sledge hammer. He is soon confronted by Betty who knows that it was he killed Melanie, not Caleb. Later, Matthew is shot by a police squad and killed, at Bree's house. Matthew's body is then wheeled into an ambulance as the neighborhood, and Betty, watches. The following morning, Betty and Caleb leave Wisteria Lane for good. ("Remember, Part 2")
The Applewhite family's 'situation' was mentioned by Karen when Edie tried to sell Paul Young's house. A potential buyer asked Karen why Paul was in jail. She told her the story regarding Felicia and her severed fingers. When Edie asked Karen to leave the place, she replied with "Maybe you'll have an easier time with the Applewhite house and that rec room in the basement." ("Listen to the Rain on the Roof")
Betty is also mentioned by Bree when Edie wanted to sell her old house to Alma Hodge. Bree described Betty as someone who was "harboring a murderer". Edie explains that she did it to protect her son and so, she was a "great mom". Ultimately, Alma decides to buy the house anyway. ("Not While I'm Around")
- Betty Applewhite is the only main character not to be featured in any episode of the post-time jump era of the series. This also means that, out of all the main characters, she made her final appearance the earliest on.
- Betty once tells her psychiatrist that her husband, Virgil, killed their young son. To this day it is unknown whether or not Betty was telling the truth, although it appears as though she was lying in order to be given some drugs.
- Vanessa Williams (Renee Perry) admitted to having been a fan of the series during its first year, but stopped watching because of the racially insensitive second season mystery storyline. It focused on Betty, the series' first black main character. Williams explained to Entertainment Weekly, "[Betty] had her son in chains in the basement. It was like, 'Really? Do we have to go there with our first Black character?' I honestly fell off the show after that. I think it was just so implausible and just an image that Black folks don't want to see: their child chained and shackled in the basement."
- Marc Cherry has stated that Betty's mystery and Season 2 as a whole was a major misstep.
Gallery of photographic stills released to promote the character.