Mad Men, Season 4

Week 8: Does Betty Still Love Don?
Talking television.
Sept. 13 2010 11:03 AM

Mad Men, Season 4

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Week 8: Does Betty Still Love Don?

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) and Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks). Click image to expand.
Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) and Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks)

Rare is the episode of Mad Men that inspires me to write fewer than 250 words, but this one left me feeling like high-school-era Dick Whitman. Julia, I love your analysis of the Joan/Peggy showdown; that was by far the most interesting development in this episode. I suppose I could compare and contrast Don's physiognomy as he received fellatio in Episodes 6 and 8, but I'm not sure I could spin five paragraphs out of it. Four, maybe.

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

I was frustrated by many elements of this episode—first and foremost the voice-overs Julia already mentioned. I was also irritated by how quickly Faye Miller fell into Don's clutches. As we've discussed, Don hasn't had his A-game this season, but up until last night I had the sense that Faye recognized something about Don that other women haven't—that she knew he was trouble. I'd also assumed that she cared enough about her career not to jeopardize losing a client like SCDP by rolling in the hay with its mercurial creative director. Then in this episode she gets in a (surprisingly semipublic) fight with her boyfriend and all of a sudden acquiesces to Don's latest advance. She has a couple of glasses of Chianti, a whiff of Don's chlorinated pores, and her sugar walls tumble down like Jericho? Leaving Don to nix the hanky-panky? Boo.

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I continue to marvel at the maturity of Henry Francis. I liked the way that he manned up and went over and shook Don's hand at the restaurant. And while he was stern with Betty in the car, I thought it impressive that he chastised his wife for saying she hated Don. "Hate's a strong word," he says. "I hate Nazis." I was somewhat relieved, though, when Henry nosed his car into the boxes marked "Draper"—good to see the guy is human and even if he doesn't hate Don, isn't thrilled about the guy, either. Mike, a question for you: Your ex-wife's new husband buzzes you at work and tells you your junk is preventing him from parking his new boat in the garage—the garage attached to the house that you bought and that your ex-wife was supposed to have vacated last fall. Do you show up on Saturday at noon and pop the boxes in the trunk? I suppose it was meant to drive home that Don is making his peace with the situation.

Is Betty? I wasn't sure how to read that last scene. At first she seems to have turned a corner, calmly and confidently delivering Baby Gene to his father, not making a scene, and reassuring Henry that there's nothing to worry about. But then in that last shot we once again see a look of pain and ambivalence on Betty's face, suggesting that she perhaps still hates Don, or still loves him, or some combination of the two. Also: Strange lack of outro music last night, right? Did they blow the music budget on "Satisfaction"?

We haven't had a good wager yet this season. I'd like to propose one. I'll bet a burger at Keen's that Harry Crane isn't gay. I think the pigheaded Joey was misinterpreting Harry's attempt to play casting agent. Harry hasn't had a major role this season, but when he's popped up, what we've seen is a macher in the making. (To use a term he's probably picked up by now from his new friends in Hollywood.) Remember what Harry said to Pete a few weeks ago, about Ken Cosgrove? He told Pete it would behoove him to bury the hatchet because all three men were part of a cohort of young advertising talent rising through the ranks right now. It was important to maintain a professional connection with guys like Kenny because it might some day lead to a job opportunity, a chance to move up a rung. I think Harry's attempt to get Joey a part wasn't some veiled come-on; Harry believed that if he found the next star of Peyton Place, it would be a feather in his cap. Not convinced? Put your burger money where your mouth is.

For the New York City-dwelling Mad Men fanatic, allow me to recommend the excellent John Lindsay exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, open through Oct. 3. The '72 campaign, in which he ran as a Democrat, doesn't pan out so well for him—after a good showing in the Arizona caucus (he beats McGovern), he finishes a distant fifth in the Florida primary and bows out. Of course he will win his race for mayor (as a Republican), taking office in January '66, and the exhibit offers a thorough reminder of the upheaval in New York City—and the nation—during his tenure: racial unrest, crumbling urban infrastructure, war protests. (Lindsay, interestingly, would become a vocal opponent of the war in Vietnam). A better hint, perhaps, at what's to come on Mad Men than those pesky end-of-episode teasers.

Advancing the art and science of wet blanketry,
John

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