Don and Betty have close encounters of the extramarital kind, but she gets weepy at the thought of being part of his 'team'
Thanks to costume designer Janie Bryant , Hamm's '60s ad man single-handedly revived an interest in the classic two-button suit.
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There’s a terrifically interesting battle brewing in season 2, and it’s not just the growing tension between the Mad Men sexes. Yes, the boys over and over have told the increasingly self-possessed gals in their lives not to tell them what to do. They want to stay in control — of the conversation, the conquest, and their public image. Don finally went and kicked poor Lois back to the switchboard, not for all her administrative blunders, but for failing to put a proper spin on his afternoon at the movies. ”I try to cover for you all the time,” she protested wobbly, saying the worst possible thing to a man who likes to think of himself as bronzed in honor. ”You do not cover for me,” he schooled her, before spelling out the description of what may be the world’s worst job. ”You manage people’s expectations.” Joan came to his rescue, purring like a cat in her whammo blue dress.

Sexes aside, art and commerce were rubbing up against each other like itchy, angry lovers who can’t live with or without each other. When foul-mouthed comic Jimmy Barrett hurled drunken-whale jokes at the wife of a CEO on the set of a potato-chip commercial, Don was put in charge of damage control. He had to convince Jimmy to make nice with Sterling Cooper’s client’s wife, and to get that apology he had to go through Jimmy’s wife, Bobbie, who was, much to his surprise, also the brains behind the loud mouth. The two squared off on the darkened set, and the scene began as if these two were in some moody, backlit commercial themselves. ”These people are his benefactors,” he warned her. ”Like the Medicis of Florence? They’re patrons of his,” taking a pause for sneering effect, ”art.” Turns out Jimmy’s androgynously named wife doesn’t much like to be bossed around, and it was hard to tell whether she was speaking for herself or her husband when she cut Don down to size. ”Jimmy doesn’t have a lot of patience for business — or businessmen,” she said, nailing him to the bar. ”In fact, I’m pretty sure he already hates you: some glib adman, in that suit, cigarette perfectly in hand, not a hair out of place.”

To prove she had the upper hand, Bobbie later made a bum rush at Don in his car and really hit below the belt. I may have given Don too much of a pass last week. I thought he turned down a woman’s advances because he could no longer effectively detach after finding out that his wife was wise to his wandering eye. But he wasn’t scared of being identified as a man who cheats, so much as terrified of being a man who couldn’t literally come through. ”I don’t think I can do this,” he told the shark in his lap. ”Doesn’t feel that way,” she snarled right back. Afterwards Don slunk back into his kitchen and washed Bobbie off his hands and mouth before giving Betty a prim kiss on the cheek. He beamed when Betty gave him the watch she had repaired, marveling that she’d gone to the trouble of having it monogrammed. Turns out, though, that maybe she added that little extra touch because she had some trouble of her own in mind.

NEXT: Neigh it ain’t soNow for a quick gripe about this episode, besides the fact that we only got to enjoy Joan for a hot second. I’ve yet to find any scene involving Betty and a horse compelling. (And this from a girl who grew up with happy rows of plastic horses in various noble poses on her bedroom shelf.) After the initial fun of seeing Betty all dolled up in her smart equestrian attire, the stables have grown tiresome for me. There was a lot of meaningful talk with that dweeb Arthur about how to stay in control of your animal. ”Keep a tight rein on your horse,” she instructed. Is Betty the horse in this metaphor? Is Don the horse? Are husbands and wives in general the horse? ”She was ruined when I got to her,” said Arthur. Well, that one is more obvious. Poor Betty had Don watch the kids so she could spend the afternoon flirting with the idea of flirting with a man she and her friend imagined to be a Montgomery Clift type. Oh, hell, bring back the mechanic. All Betty got was the first truly bit of lame Mad Men dialogue. ”You’re so profoundly sad,” Arthur cooed. ”No, it’s just my people are Nordic.” He leaned in to make his move and she stiffened. ”Don’t do that.” ”Don’t tell me what to do.” And now, once more with feeling: ”You’re so profoundly sad.” At this point I was hoping Copenhagen, Betty’s Nordic and apparently sensitive horse, would reach over and chomp off the man’s left cheek. But the exchange left Betty all weevil-wobbly, if only to have spent an afternoon being seen through another man’s eyes.

Back at home, Don, looking rather wan in his weekend cardigan, asked Betty to go to dinner with him at Lutece. She positively sparkled at the idea of a night on the town, only to deflate when he told her it was for business. After wondering if this was an evening where she was supposed to speak or not, Don glibly instructed her to be ”shiny and bright.” Did she ever come through in her strawberry-pink dress, wide-eyed and bashful in the face of the leering comic. (And bravo to Patrick Fischler, who brought just the right amount of lewdness and shrewdness to the role.) While Jimmy trained his hungry gaze on Betty, marveling that she must have little birds hang her laundry for her at home, Don looked briefly panicked that the evening was fast spinning out of his control. He didn’t want to be compared by the talent to JFK — ”You’re not Jackie but you’re definitely his type,” Jimmy assured Betty — or Gregory Peck’s fraudulent main character in Gentleman’s Agreement. So Don followed Bobbie into the powder room and showed her who’s boss by hiking a hand up her skirt and yanking her hair back hard, like Pete once did so memorably with Peggy. It was about as crass a scene as there’s ever been on Mad Men, and some of my deep affection for Don dried up.

NEXT: Weep it to yourselfBetty started to weep prettily in the passenger seat on the drive home. Finally, she told her husband, she had a glimmer of what it felt to be included in his life. ”We make a great team,” she said, though it sounded more like a question. No need for her to ever know that it was Don’s hand job that convinced Bobbie to goose her husband to make nice with poor Mrs. Schilling in her Stay Puft Marshmallow outfit. At the end of this depressing episode, a tearful Betty rested in the crook of Don’s arm, basking dumbly in an imagined glow of partnership. While Jack Jones crooned in the background about lollipops and roses, in a love song that paints women as manic half-wits — ”one day she’ll smile/the next day she’ll cry/minute to minute/you’ll never know why!” — Betty hugged onto her Ken doll. (Jimmy was onto something when he asked the handsome couple if they were sold separately.)

As an antidote to all this ugliness there was Harry and his pregnant wife, Jennifer, who looks like Betty without the perfect hair, makeup, and dresses nipped just so at the waist. Harry was a boob last season, sleeping with Pete’s secretary and then haunting Sterling Cooper after hours in his socks and boxers when his wife rightly threw him out on his ear. It seems that getting back into the house has made him want to be a better husband. When Harry tore into Kenneth‘s paycheck envelope he was stunned to see that his pal made $100 a week more than he did, and then he called home for advice. I think this may have been the first time we’ve ever seen a man from this world asking his wife a question other than ”What’s for dinner?” or, in a weary, resentful tone, ”What’s wrong now?” But here was Harry, spilling his anxiety and frustration to his wife, treating her like an actual partner. He later slipped into Sal‘s office and confessed both his crime and the counsel from Jennifer. ”You told your wife about this?” moaned Sal, who we learned is indeed married. ”I know,” apologized Harry, as if he was a recovering alcoholic who had snuck a drink. ”I do that. I keep doing that.” Poor Sal, who’s locked himself in the closet, looked positively disgusted. ”There’s nothing you can do. That’s why you don’t tell your wife.” (And that’s why, when the nice chap from Belle Jolie turned his pleasant gaze at him again, Sal gave him a huffy stiff-arm on the way out the door.) Bravo, Harry, who may be the only married member of the Mad Men with a real shot at happiness. Betty might have ended the evening with stars in her eyes, but the only scene that smacked of true romance was when Harry went home to his modest bedroom and tenderly laid his head on his wife’s growing belly.

A couple of big questions: Do I have to pluck the stars out of my own eyes and consider the possibility that little Hildy might have gotten an abortion last season, and that’s why Harry grimaced so while watching The Defenders, later suggesting that his wife wouldn’t like the show? Would the Don we know, a man who says the word ”art” with a sneer, really spend his afternoon at a foreign film without first being told he wouldn’t ”get” it? On that note, will somebody with more highfalutin tastes enlighten me as to what the movie was? I discovered that the poem the woman was reading is by the French poet Francois Villon, a dark, self-created man born unto poverty, not unlike Don himself, but my paltry insight ends there. Finally, if these dry questions haven’t run all of you off, did some of your affection for Don wither after watching that scene in the powder room?

Episode Recaps

Thanks to costume designer Janie Bryant , Hamm's '60s ad man single-handedly revived an interest in the classic two-button suit.
Mad Men

Jon Hamm stars as Don Draper in the Emmy-winning ’60s-set drama

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