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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira:

October 19, 2009 at 9:53 AM

Monday morning “Mad Men”: Betty knows

Oh, my. After teasing us a few episodes ago with a shot of Betty absently rattling the locked drawer on Don’s desk (as if it’s something she routinely tries), laundry day brought a bonus: the key, in Don’s robe. Pandora, of course, promptedly opened the box, and while she can’t entirely understand Don’s secrets, what’s immediately obvious to Betty is that she’s not, as she had thought, the first Mrs. Draper. And, because “Mad Men” is all about the slow burn, we didn’t get a confrontation scene, even thought Betty was clearly fired up for one: Don spent the night blathering about colors and the like with his angelic grade-school-teacher lover, and Betty finally put the box back where she found it and went to bed. And sat, looking beyond perfect (as she always does at her most angry), at the Sterling Cooper anniversary party, silently pondering her next step.
So, we’re about to learn what Don is like when he’s uncovered. His secret is known by at least two people at work (Bert and Pete), and now it’s out at home, or at least partly so. And clearly he’s feeling haunted by his past; the helping hand he extended to Miss Farrell’s brother was clearly tinged with guilt for abandoning his own brother, two seasons ago.
This was a busy episode full of plot (those who complain that nothing happens on this show must have been quiet last night). Sterling Cooper, we learn, is for sale — and of course, we were reminded that Don is now under contract, and may soon see his own worst nightmare: being shackled to a new and unknown boss. We saw a bit of Paul’s work techniques, which are about what we might have expected. (Am I alone in thinking that Michael Gladis is overplaying this role, just the tiniest bit? Paul is, of course, a pompous, theatrical twit, but he doesn’t always entirely ring true to me; I think Gladis needs to pull it back just a hair. Normally I wouldn’t even make such an observation — subtlety in TV acting being the rare thing that it is — but the caliber of acting on “Mad Men” is so uniformly high, you notice somebody being just the littlest bit off.) We saw, again, how Peggy does that Don trick of getting into a sort of ad-speak trance and voicing brilliant ideas off the top of her head (and, in the funniest moment of the episode, Paul staring at her with a how-did-you-do-that puzzlement). We noted that MIss Farrell, who surprised Don by turning up on his commuter train, just might be a bit of a stalker. And we saw Betty watching Carla watching Betty, and the entire Draper household wondering who that hang-up call was. (I think it was Miss Farrell. If Sally acquires a bunny in the next episode, watch out.)
No Joan (but she’s back next week!); no Sal; no Pete. Though it drives me crazy, I love how this show rations out its storylines. In the preview for next week, we see Betty packing a small suitcase. Is she leaving? How could she possibly fit even a few of her crinolines into a suitcase that size? Stay tuned; I can’t wait.

Call it “Mad Women.” Betty, as noted, always looks her best when at her most furious; this is the night she went to the Jimmy/Bobbi party in Season 2, suspicious (rightly) that Don was having an affair. (Photo courtesy AMC.)



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