Mad Men, Season 3

Week 3: Betty's Mysterious Belly Rub
Talking television.
Sept. 1 2009 10:20 AM

Mad Men, Season 3

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Week 3: Betty's Mysterious Belly Rub

Julia, please let me know when you've tracked down Conrad Hilton's Midsummer Night's Dream ticket stub. But even without it, the case for Connie being the famous hotelier seems pretty strong, by golly. (The Times' ArtsBeat blog has a few more data points here.) And I agree—a Mad Men that doesn't let its viewers sit back and smugly observe how far we've come is going to be an even more powerful show, if a harder one to watch.

Patrick, I'm glad you flagged the scene between Betty and Henry Francis. Mad Men has furnished us with some impressive examples of male creepiness over the last two years, but Henry may have taken things to a new level. Who goes around hitting on women in their third trimester? (Although, having written that, I'm reminded of "code pink," the Columbia-Pres slang we learned about in this episode. At least Betty was conscious.) The charged moment between Betty and Henry naturally made me think back to Betty's infidelity with that young guy at the bar last season. It was a complicated act of betrayal, for which Betty, I think, had several motives: to get back at her philandering husband (even if she didn't intend to tell him about her tryst), to test her sexual powers (after years of child-rearing and homemaking), and to enjoy her newfound sexual freedom (no more daydreaming about the AC salesman!). I don't know that she is in the market for a full-fledged affair with Hank Francis—she might be—but it's clear that the Betty who reconciled with Don is not the one whose idea of stepping out was leaning up against her Maytag. I couldn't help but wonder if that final scene of Don and Betty kissing in the arbor was connected to Betty's encounter with Henry. She's content in Don's arms, but only, perhaps, if she's secure in the knowledge that she, too, has options.

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How great was this exchange between Joan and her husband?

Dr. Greg: I don't want to have a fight right now.
Joan: Then stop talking.

That glimpse of Joan having the upper hand, however, only made her musical performance more painful to watch. Reader jth90 makes an interesting comparison: "It was, at least for me, eerily reminiscent of the rape scene. Mostly for Joan's empty, closed off compliance."

Patrick, any thoughts on why Pete Campbell was the only character besides Don who seemed pained by the blackface performance? Nothing in his treatment of Sterling-Cooper elevator operators has ever suggested an enlightened view of American race relations.

Finally, I am grateful to reader jdanziger for pointing out that Paul's buddy Geoff Graves is played by an actor named Miles Fisher, who not only bears an uncanny resemblance to Tom Cruise but also, it turns out, does a devastating Cruise impersonation. For those of you who didn't see his turn in Superhero Movie—as thoughtfully scripted and meticulously art-directed as Mad Men, I'm sure—I highly recommend viewing this clip.

I'm in a very good place right now,
John

John Swansburg is Slate's editorial director. Follow him on Twitter.