Mad Men, Season 3

Week 13: Would Betty Have Brought Sandwiches?
Talking television.
Nov. 10 2009 1:01 PM

Mad Men, Season 3

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Week 13: Would Betty Have Brought Sandwiches?

Still from Mad Men. Click image to expand.
Mad Men

Dear Julia and John,

This entry will be a short one—and my last. In the interests of disclosure, I should say that I'm in Paris this week, on a long-overdue vacation with my wife. We were able to get the episode on iTunes in our hotel room (though curiously, when I left my shoes outside the door, no one polished them). But all claims about Mad Men's significance in our cultural landscape notwithstanding, if I dodge the Louvre for the TV Club one more day, my wife may fly home via Reno.

I'm glad you mentioned that final shot of Betty, Henry, and Eugene, Julia, because Reno raises a series of interesting possibilities for the soon-to-be-former Mrs. Draper. So far, Weiner has chosen to jump ahead in time between each of his seasons. But I hope Season 4 begins with Betty in Nevada. It would be fitting to give her a West Coast interlude to match Don's in Season 2, and to date, Betty has been at her most appealing when the story finds her in a hot climate. The Italian sun seemed to melt some of her Main Line frost and bring out a more carefree, passionate Betty. Maybe Reno will do the same.

And while it's gallant of Henry to fly her out there, I assume he won't be staying long. He has duties in Albany, presumably, and he'll probably be impatient to head back East so he can gossip with his daughter. I mean, is this guy tactless or what? I wouldn't confide even a mildly embarrassing secret to any friend or fellow debutante of Margaret Sterling.

Don suggests that Betty has built herself "a life raft" in Henry Francis, but that's really the last thing she needs. Henry is a good bit older than Don, and while his paternalism may be a comfort to Betty as she steels herself for a divorce, in the long run it will cosset and confine her, indulging the very worst of her infantile sensibilities. My hope is that she and Gene will settle into some motel in Reno; that she'll develop a more age-appropriate love interest on the side; that, perish the thought, she might even find some kind of job. Betty doesn't need a life raft. She needs to learn how to swim.

In fairness to Betty, and contra Caprivi, I think that under the right circumstances, she would absolutely bring sandwiches. Betty's not much of a mom, but when she believed that Don was keeping his end of the compact, she was always a dutiful hostess. (Remember the Heineken dinner party?) I read the sandwiches scene as Don being moved by a simple gesture of kindness and fellowship—the sort of thing that keeps marriages, and upstart companies, intact—and perceiving the truth in Roger's assessment of him: "You're not good at relationships. Because you don't value them."

(If only Roger would apply this newfound psychological acuity to his young wife's budding interest in conspiracy theories. "She's obsessed!" he exclaims. "That's the most interest that girl's ever had in a book depository.")

I completely agree, Julia, that Lane has improbably emerged as one of the best characters on Mad Men. It was the great joke of this season that the lion tamer dispatched by London to take the Yanks in hand was actually something of a cub and that in America Pryce found a freewheeling, meritocratic alternative to fusty, buttoned-up Blighty. (Have either of you seen An Education? The time period is the same, and the film's young heroine seems to share Pryce's sense of England during these years as an oppressive place to be escaped at all costs.)

I love the way Don cajoled Lane with the morbidly evocative suggestion that if he chose to stay on at PPL, "You'll be thrown overboard, and you'll be a corpse knocking against their hull." But before we renew Lane's visa indefinitely, let's see if Sterling is prepared to stop antagonizing the poor chap. "Don't be a stranger," Roger says, with his patented blend of wry chauvinism masquerading as good manners, during the initial buy-out chat with Lane. "We've got tea." And notice Roger's smug little grin when he learns that PPL has cut Lane loose.

John and Julia, this has been enormous fun. Many thanks to both of you for joining me in discussing this fascinating show. Alongside our fellow Maddicts in the Fray, we've dissected each installment with the kind of obsessive curiosity that Jane Sterling reserves for presidential assassinations. And if that's not saying something, what is?

Still, the Parisian sun is peeking through the curtains, and as Pete might say, I have other plans.

À bientôt,
Patrick