SPOILER ALERT: FAT BETTY! Ok, so I know she’s a fictional character and all, but I’m taking such joy in Fat Betty. As a not-skinny person, I always take great pleasure when someone who’s been hateful to others for their weight packs on some pounds themselves. It’s delicious, delicious schadenfreude and I will not apologize for it.

I know some other stuff happened last night. Some important stuff, in fact. Important stuff with Betty, even! But none of that cold overshadow January Jones, wearing a fat suit on top of her natural post-pregnancy weight. She’ll be skinny and perfect again before the season is over, surely, but for now, I’m going to revel in it. Plus, it makes Betty a more interesting and sympathetic character, something we’ve sorely needed.

As I was spinning around in my office chair, waiting for Mad Men to come on and for my cookies to be delivered (What? It was raining in New York last night.), I thought to myself, “Self, I bet we’re going to start this episode with Betty.” Mrs. Francis was so conspicuously absent during last week’s two hour all-drinking, all-smoking extravaganza that it seemed like there would be no other way to kick things off this week. And I was right! God, I love it when I’m right.

Where I wasn’t right about, though, was everything else about how Betty would show up. She’s always been the type who grips even harder to any kind of control she might have when things get stressful, so if anything, I assumed that Betty would be more tight-jawed and autocratic than ever, making Sally’s life a living hell and pushing Henry away at lightning speed. On the contrary – Betty got fat, yo. And I know that January Jones was likely still getting over being pregnant when the first episodes of this season filmed, I have no doubt that if Matthew Weiner had wanted her skinny for this season, he would have held filming until she starved herself back to normal. That’s consistent with everything we know about how Weiner, an autocrat in his own right, runs this show.

Again, au contraire. Betty couldn’t even be zipped into her old clothes, which contrasted sharply with the next thing we saw, which was Don easily zipping young, lithe Megan into a very late-60s looking dress to go to dinner with the Heinz exec and his wife. What Megan lacks in girth, though, she makes up for in awkwardness. In the process of trying to make basic small talk with Don’s client, she told them that Don’s divorced and more or less that she was his secretary when they met. In that era, that’s all “we met at work” could mean. Still, the Heinz folks seem intent on looking forward and being modern, so they ignored Megan and told Don to go out and get them the Rolling Stones for a jingle. “Heinz is on my side.” It’s not brilliance, but it’s also not a Bean Ballet, so points for Mr. Anonymous Heinz Exec.

Back at the office the next day, we learned a little bit more about a variety of things that happened during last week’s episode, including the addition of at least one new black staff member, Don’s secretary, Dawn. That gave Harry the opportunity to pull both a subtle reference to “you people all look the same” and an “eye-talian” in the same scene, proving once and for all that he’s not only a virulent sexist, but also a ready and versatile racist.

The Mohawk deal that Pete (and Roger, sort of) went about securing last week had also come through, but not without a little passive-aggressive office musical chairs over who should host what meeting and where. Peggy was instructed to find a male freelance writer to put on the account, though, and that’s exactly what she went about doing, despite the fact that she knew it could put her own career in jeopardy. Peggy follows instructions well, for better or worse.

Back at the Francis House of Darkness and Wood Panelling, Betty and the elder Mrs. Francis were squaring off in a Battle of the Fat Ladies. Betty’s mother-in-law had come over to tell Betty to take some diet pills and lose the weight to keep her son happy, and naturally, the best comeback that Betty would come up with was, “YOU take some diet pills!”

We know how Betty feels about being fat, though, so she dutifully went to the doctor to request some sort of amphetamines to help her stop eating Bugles and her feelings. Her doctor insisted on doing a physical exam, during which he found what felt like a lump on Betty’s thyroid. Ruh-roh. Would cancerous Betty be a better or (somehow, against all odds) worse human being than non-cancerous Betty? Only one way to find out.

After she went home and did a little bit of nominal shouting to see if Henry could be summoned from behind some giant planks of mahogany, Betty did exactly what we knew she would do: she called Don at work to tell him that, oh no, she might be dying. She didn’t call Henry at work first, you’ll notice. She went straight to Don, as if she was almost excited to have a reason to call him.

Henry was somehow notified, though, and he came home to find Betty in the bath, feeling too fat to be viewed. He suggested that they schedule her for a test tomorrow and that in the meantime, she should have a brandy. In 1966, a brandy or four cures everything. Come to think of it, 2012 isn’t all that different. Still, Betty made Henry turn around while she got out of the bath – he wasn’t drunk yet, after all, and wifely weight gain was one of the legal grounds for divorce in New York state back then.

Back at SCDP, Peggy had gone about the work of calling in books and bringing one copywriter, Michael Ginsberg, in for an interview. As if the name hadn’t tipped you off, Ginsberg is Jewish, and Weiner (also a member of the tribe) wrote him like the pushiest, most stereotypical New York Jew you’ve ever encountered, except for the fact that he appeared to have picked his outfit from the Pete Campbell WASP Plaid Blazer Collection at Sears. I halfway expected a pastrami sandwich to fall out of his briefcase.

Ginsberg treated Peggy like a secretary, pulled his crumpled-up resumé out of his sleeve and continually insisted that he wanted to skip the interview and go directly to Don. At first Peggy reacted with defensiveness, and then with righteous indignation, and then she fell in love with him a little bit. It’s the same thing that happened with her and her boyfriend last season – at first he was offensive, and then he was really offensive, and then he had her heart forever or at least for a little while.

Peggy didn’t even have time to gather her thoughts before Roger suddenly decided that Ginsberg was hired, though. Not only had he already promised Mohawk, but Roger felt that having a Jewish dude on board made the firm seem cool and modern, and that’s more or less how Roger the manchild makes all his decisions – slightly drunk declarations about what’s going to be happening because he thinks it sounds good. That leads to a lot of good one-liners, but also to losing Lucky Strike. Speaking of Jewish people, can we have Rachel Menken back? She was always my favorite of the Don Draper paramours.

Back in Bettyville, it was biopsy time. At the doctor’s office, Betty ran into an old friend who we had never met before (at least that I remember) who was there to be treated for some kind of cancer, and after their appointments, they met for lunch at a hotel that looked like it was probably supposed to be the Plaza. The scene that followed, wherein Betty asked questions about how it felt to be slowly dying, was one of the only sympathetic ones that I can remember from the character in the past two season. The entire episode, in fact, painted a more diplomatic picture of Betty than we’ve seen in a long time, which made me wonder if perhaps Weiner has taken some of the loud criticism of how her character is written to heart. Everyone else in the cast gets to have their positive and negative attributes, but in recent seasons, Betty is nothing but flatly negative and entirely unsympathetic.

Still, though, I couldn’t help myself from cackling when the “fortune teller” came over to read their fortunes during lunch (tea) and told Betty that she’s a rock on which everyone around her depends. It made Betty get weepy and sad about her surely impending death, but come on. Everyone hates Betty. Her own second husband doesn’t even like her all that much, and I’m halfway sure that Sally is eventually going to snap and stab the shit out of her. The gap between the way Betty hopes to be seen and what the audience (and her fellow characters) actually think about her was so cavernous that I was afraid her lunch partner might fall into it, never to be seen again. Which, of course, made me (and probably you) wonder if Betty was perhaps a little bit excited for the chance to martyr herself. More on that later.

First, though, Don and Harry had to go in pursuit of the Rolling Stones during a New York tour stop. Don’s thinly veiled, white-hot contempt for Harry so far this season (he even turned down a great veal parm just because he’d have to eat it with Harry) is so utterly spectacular, but I’m not entirely sure why it gives me so much joy. Perhaps because Harry has evolved from a lovable, bumbling buffoon trying to make a name for himself to a smarmy, self-important mid-manager with little regard for anyone who can’t immediately advance his career or show him her boobs? Actually, yeah, that’s probably it.

Anyway, the Stones. One thing that’s usually missing from Mad Men’s version of 1960s America is how important youth culture was to the changing face of the country, and seeing Don and Harry in their suits (as Megan said, Don’s so square, he has corners) backstage at a Rolling Stones concert with a bunch of long-haired, pot-smoking teenagers brought that gap in the show into stark relief. One of the teens set her sights on Don, and for a brief moment, I was terrified that he might bang a 16-year-old. Don came through, though – he got all Dad-like on her instead while Harry was inside a dressing room, accidentally signing the wrong band. Afterward, it became clear that Betty isn’t the only one who eats her feelings. Anyone else have a strange craving for White Castle?

While Don was out courting rockstars, Betty was at home, using her newfound martyr status to summon up the strength to have sex with Henry, which they apparently hadn’t done in quite some time. Henry seems unfailingly patient and understanding about the whole thing, but now that Betty might have finally found the victimhood for which she’s always been looking, it’s actually made her a tolerable person. Afterward, she had a genuinely sad dream about the family after her death, during which Sally was actually sad. Might be wishful thinking, lady. (Ok, I’m kidding.)

The next day at the Draper household, Don finally got around to telling Megan that Betty might have cancer while the pair was getting ready to go to Fire Island. Although Megan’s reaction was a bit petulant, she did have a point – using Betty’s maybe-illness to get out of going to visit her friends looks pretty terrible when you consider that Don went to a Rolling Stones concert the night before, even if it was for work. We all know that hanging out with a bunch of 20-somethings is the last thing Don wants to do no matter the health status of his ex-wife, and even if he was kind of bummed, it’s a crappy excuse. Still, Megan’s reaction reflected her somewhat neophytic maturity level.

It would seem that Don didn’t end up going to Fire Island, though, because he was back in the office the next day, interviewing the Jewish copywriter that Roger had already actually hired. Peggy sat in on the interview and was a bundle of nerves, apparently afraid that Ginsberg would behave poorly, which would reflect poorly on her for bringing him in to waste Don’s time. To the contrary, Michael (I think that’s his first name) actually did a fantastic job and seemed to genuinely impress Don, a fact that both relieve Peggy and infuriate her. And then, of course, it forced her to fall a little more in love with him. Just wait and see, you guys! I’m sure of this one.

While all of that was going on, a very important phone call was happening at the Francis Wood Panelling Emporium. Betty got the test results for her biopsy back, and based on the look on her face, the nurse might as well have said, “You’re not dying, you’re just fat.” That’s all that Betty heard, anyway. She seemed happier when she thought she was cancerous, because not only did that give her the victimhood for which she’s always been searching, but as Megan later pointed out, it gave her a reason to call Don. Say what you want about everyone’s least favorite Canuck chanteuse, but a lot of the time, she’s right on the nose. Henry, once again, acted like the husband that every girl, fat or skinny, wants to have. He loves his Fat Betty.

Back at SCDP, things were continuing apace with Pete and Roger. Pete had gathered everyone into his office to announce the addition of the Mohawk account, and even though he had promised the day-to-day Mohawk operations to Roger, he made a point to ensure that everyone in the office knew that the account was his coup and he was merely giving it to Roger as an act of charity, all the while staring squarely at him, watching Roger squirm.

After being publicly bent over, Roger retired to Don’s office to complain about all the changes happening around them, and tellingly, to wonder when everything would go back to normal. Roger doesn’t want to admit to himself that Pete Campbell’s ascendance and the existence of Peggy Olson in the copy department and the mere presence of non-white staff members is now the new normal, and the days of his office being strictly an Ol’ Boys Club might be dwindling. He’s not a man who has much experience with getting anything but exactly what he wants, and that’s becoming harder and harder. The world will never be Roger’s world again, which is likely a realization that he’ll have to deal with sometime before the end of the season.

We rounded out the episode with two home visits, the first being with Ginsberg the new Jewish copywriter. He had told Peggy during his initial interview that he had no family, but that wasn’t exactly accurate; from the short scene in his dark, cramped apartment, it was clear that he lives with and perhaps supports his aging father, an immigrant from Europe and a reciter of Hebrew prayers. That’s the only hard information we gained from the scene, but it was very clear that the life Ginsberg leads is quite different from the average lifestyle of an SCDP employee. Hopefully we’ll get a similar peek into the life of Don’s secretary, Dawn, at some point in the season – in order for the show to give the era’s race issues a fair treatment, they should be seen from a variety of angles, not just the white folks’ perspective.

Our second and final home visit was back with Betty, who was trying to have a familial moment with Sally over some ice cream sundaes. Sally’s hitting the tween years though, which means that on top of her generalized hatred of Betty, she just doesn’t really want to hang out with mom. Where Betty used to have to swat food out of Sally’s hands for fear that she’d get fat, now Sally’s abandoning ice cream sundaes at the kitchen table, which Betty mournfully finished up on top of her own. I won’t lie to you, I was hoping that she’d grab some Bugles and sprinkle them on top. Maybe next week.

Stray Observations:

  • There’s been a lot of both talk and foreshadowing about windows and falling this season. Megan’s time on the balcony last week, Roger and Ginsberg joking about throwing things out the office window, Roger’s metaphor about hanging from a ledge with Pete stamping on his fingers. The great majority of the season’s promotional materials emphasized the falling man from the opening credits, so is someone literally going out the window this season? Is it Roger? Has he always been the falling man in the credits while Don sits coolly on the couch?
  • Megan seemed a little less calculated and a little more like a young, sympathetic woman swept up in a powerful man’s wake this week. I still can’t figure out exactly which direction her character is headed.
  • If Betty has a tumor on her thyroid, even if it’s benign, couldn’t it still be what’s making her fat? I know that Betty’s weight gain is supposed to be a signifier of her unhappiness, but the medical explanation hasn’t quite been cleared for my taste.
    Betty and Don are totally going to have an affair.
    As are Peggy and Ginsberg.
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Share Your Thoughts With Us

  • Midge S

    Jsut FYI that the year the show is in is 1966.  specifically June/July 1966 this ep (per Weiner on a talk show) 

    • Ahh, thanks! I will update, I had previously heard 1967 as the speculation for this season.

  • gpc

    Did I hear correctly that Betty said to Don, “I love you” when ending the call she made to him to tell him about her tumor?  I think they either will have a fling or get back together.  Could she have an over-active thyroid to account for the weight gain?  Very interesting on the falling metaphors…

  • LLANeedle

    If a pastrami sandwich had fallen out of Ginsburg’s pocket it would have been a great NY pastrami sandwich…how I miss them!

  • Pookie5

    SO happy to see you recapping Mad Men Amanda!  This is going to be fun!  To be honest, I had long stopped watching any of the Real Housewives….only read your hilarious recaps.  Bless you for hanging in there!  LOL to “Frances House of Darkness and Wood Paneling!”  What’s up with that mausoleum anyway?!  Looks like 1867 instead of 1967.  I halfway expected Lurch to creep in and ask Betty if she rang! Munching down boxes of Bugles and ice cream sundaes would be the least of my problems if I had to live there!

  • suz

    Amanda, I’m so glad you are doing this show.  Those Housewives have all become unwatchable…..not to mention the beyond horrible Shahs of Sunset.

    Interesting…..your comment on the falling metaphors and/or maybe plot foreshadowing.  I have always been bothered by the opening credits because of the images imprinted in my mind of falling bodies from 9/11.  And,  I always wonder why no one is sensative to those images.  But now, maybe I can just think “plot line”. 

    As for Fat Betty….I assumed she was still pregnant when they began shooting because even her face is almost unrecognizable.  I’ll tell you, if I had to live in that dreadful house with that awful husband, I’d be both fat and suicidal…..or out the door (although people didn’t “bolt” so fast back in the day).   And, I agree……I was bothered that they didn’t do anything about the tumor even if it was benign.

    • Reality Junkie

      Suz- there has been some online criticism of the opening images as it relates to 9/11- quite a bit of it. I personally always saw it as a metaphor for the characters in the show whose lives spin out of control, and in the next moment, they are sitting on a couch, as if all is well.
      Amanda- you will not see anyone fall out of a window at SCDP, unless they relocate, because their office windows don’t open (as pointed out in the newspaper advertisement in the season opener).
      I agree with Amanda and “gpc” (commenter) that Don and Betty are headed for an affair, or at least a tryst. Honestly though, I don’t think the show would suffer if we saw less of Betty. The only thing I find interesting about Betty anymore is Henry’s increasing frustration as he realizes what a petulant childlike woman he married, and the elder Mrs. Francis’ disdain for her. That is a great plotline and I hope Weiner explores it in greater depth.
      And the Francis’ “House of Darkness and Wood Panelling”…OMG! Poor Sally, having to live in that horribly depressing home, especially as it compares to Don and Megan’s incredibly cool apartment. Is anyone else wondering what happened to the “fainting sofa” from Season 4?

  • As much as I love the real housewives, now that beverly hills has wrapped, I prefer madmen recaps over atlanta & OC recaps :)


  • suz

    …oh yes….and what, in heavens name, was Megan wearing in the going/not going to Fire Island Island scene?….a bra, a bathing suit top, a half slip, weird shorts…not a good look, for sure.

    • Pookie5

      At first glance, I truly thought it was a cloth diaper!

  • Desma

    I was hoping to see an Atlanta Housewives Re-cap considering there were only two episodes left (this week and next weeks finale). I needed a good laugh this morning.

    • Reality Junkie

      I am sorry that Amanda is no longer recapping RHOA because I would’ve loved to hear her thoughts on Kandi’s new sex toy line. I used to like Kandi, and I don’t consider myself a prude, but she and BRAVO have gone TOO FAR. Did she really say “Clitstick”? How trashy are they going to get? And how does that even make it on the air?

    • Wow, that show STILL hasn’t wrapped up? I got so frustrated with this season and how long it was dragging on that I quit midstream to move to Mad Men. I couldn’t take it anymore.

  • Sana

    I loved it too, “Betty got fat, yo!”
    I haven’t seen any of the housewives you usually recap so this was a pleasant surprise. Not sure if you have done it in the past. The only thing I don’t agree with is the Ginsberg – Peggy romance. I think he’s gonna use her – backstab her. Maybe even romance her a little for his gain. 

    I’ve had enough of Roger. He’s so damn annoying. Harry, I still find colorfully obnoxious.
    Read you next week Amanda! 

    • dbl d

      I agree with your assessment that Ginsberg plans to use Peggy.  Retiring to his bleak apartment was a stark contrast to the lively persona on display during his interviews.  This guy is trouble.

  • Addictedtotext

    January was still pregnant at the time of filming.

  • TGB

    I enjoy Fat Betty because it finally makes her vaguely interesting, instead of being a lazy, bored, whiny, nagging harpy.

    • suz

      I dob’t know…..Fat Betty seems just as lazy, bored, whiny, and nagging….maybe even worse

  • Nancy from SB

    Did anyone notice that Betty snapped the tv off with a remote in one scene? If this is indeed, 1966, they didn’t exist. Or am I confused???

    • Pookie5

      TV remotes were introduced to the public before 1966, but only someone who would have lived in a place like the “Frances House of Darkness and Wood Paneling” (still laughing at that!) would have had one…not regular folks.  See history in Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remote_control

  • Kitty

    I think it was very telling that Betty was only worried about herself when she found that she has a lump.  It was Don who reminded her of the children. She said something to the effect “oh, yes the children”.  Any loving mother would have her children foremost in her mind. Betty will be Betty, cold, selfish, preoccupied with herself and how others’ should admire her. Ohhh, she is such a despicable woman. Brrr. On the other hand Don gets more likable for me. Plus he is delicious as always.

    • Reality Junkie

      Yes, Kitty, good observation (re: “oh, yes, the children”)…I hadn’t thought of that! I did, however, notice her comment that “no one will ever say anything nice about me (to the children) again”. Yet it, it is ALL ABOUT BETTY!

  • Kemilia

    Excellent recap! I really am liking Fat Betty, that pink, quilted, satin bathrobe looked like a tent. I’m glad to hear that January Jones was still pregnant because I couldn’t get over how good that fat suit she must have been wearing was, it looked too real (I would pause the show and look for suit lines on her face/neck). ‘
    I loved the Stones scene–I was that age when they were getting started and it brought back memories (I am so old now). The clothing is right on for the times too, I’m seeing too many of my bad outfits! And yes, “Frances House of Darkness and Wood Paneling” says it all, reminded me of Dark Shadows.

  • Lindsey

    That’s right, another reference to falling, in a way, was the guys throwing water balloons out the window in the very first scene of the season.
    I am wondering why Peggy has been dressed in such ugly shirts so far this season? The green dress in the Ginsberg interview scene was cute but what’s with the ugly, baggy shirts? Was that really the fashion of the time?
    Nice summary, I’ll be back for more!

    • Reality Junkie

      Lindsey, I read in an interview with the show’s costume designer, that she was attempting to make Peggy look like she was dressing more in a “man’s uniform”. I think the plain shirt and skirt are supposed to be (yet another) attempt on Peggy’s part to fit into the man’s world.

  • Great recap. Just a few comments.  Betty or January Jones went back to work two months after giving birth to her son.  Harry ate all those burgers because he was stoned remember when the girl passed him the joint.  I don’t know if anyone reads the blog tomandlorenzo, but they do a great Mad Men recap as well.  The scene where Betty and Sally are eating ice cream was extremely telling.  Sally only taking a few bites of her sundae while Betty devoured her entire sundae was thinly veiled attempt to show her mother that even though she is a kid she has more self control than her mother.  Those two are going to have power struggles in their relationship forever.

  • blaine101

    Betty reminds me a little of Dangerous Liaisons Marchise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) – bear with me – Betty has always waxed nostalgic over her early single days in New York City pursuing a career.  I’m thinking she, like the Marchise, was trapped in her time a bit.  The Marchise might have been a very successful general if she were born a man.  Betty should never have married, should never have had children – she just wasn’t cut from that cloth.