Let’s begin with the scariest moment of the evening. It wasn’t Kinsey galumphing around his Montclair apartment with a goofy scarf knotted around his neck, or later when Joan cut his pretensions so acutely down to size. It wasn’t the reminder that a single woman in her early 30s was, and some could argue still is, seen as a laughing matter. It wasn’t the chill of recognition anyone with a complicated, clingy family must have felt watching Peggy try to hold on to herself while sitting around her mother’s passive-aggressive kitchen table. Or even the specter of her pale baby boy squinting up at her from his eerily lit crib. It was, without a doubt, Betty‘s shot across the card table. The evening was already a bust — ”I’m sure we have something else to talk about,” she half threatened the trio of unhappily married people — but then her child upstairs started whimpering about ghosts. ”He was scared,” said Don, after tending to his boy. ”He’s a little liar,” Betty shot back through icicle teeth. Their marriage in a cocktail nutshell.
It seemed like all the characters had their ghosts hovering around them this episode. The ones in the room with Don and Betty happened to be brunettes with Manhattan zip codes. After their smoky evening of suburban misery came to an end, and all the drinks that wee Sally Draper mixed — ”Don’t smash the cherry!” — were downed, Betty crashed through the dishes. Don made the mistake of wondering about their neighbors’ happiness, and she whisper-screamed that Francine’s husband ought to be on his hands and knees with diamonds and kitchen-remodeling catalogs after all the humiliation he put her through. Don, resisting his angry wife’s call to arms, said the worst possible thing: ”I’ll say whatever it is you think I should say, but I’m not going to fight with you.” Don had the weary mug of a man ready to split, if it weren’t for the sleeping babies upstairs, who he’s loath to abandon as he did his little brother. Betty stomped outside and gnashed into her cigarette in the cold. What a thing to compare this brittle Betty, a woman who’s finally learned how to hide her cards, with last season’s little fawn, who clung to Don like he was her daddy.
NEXT: Pete gets through to Don