Mad Men: Fight Night!

Mad Men

A Night to Remember
Season 2 Episode 8

Last week, cuckolded comedian Jimmy Barrett told Don and Betty that he knew Don was shtupping his wife. This week, Betty freaks out.

The Pitch
Wash that man right out of your hair.

The Campaign
Whoa, Nelly. If you figured this show would tease out the knowledge of Don’s adultery for a few more episodes of sublimated tension, you were way wrong. This episode literally gallops out of the gate, with Betty charging on a snorting steed of barely repressed rage and sexual energy.

This episode is about three women whose illusions are shattered, so let’s talk about the other two first: Joan is a very unhappy bride. When Harry asks her to help read some scripts, she’s sharp and a perfect saleswoman — and then she is replaced by an unqualified dweeb. Her husband is a chauvinist jerk, even for this show. “Didn’t know you were such a reader,” he patronizes. “I thought you just walked around with people staring at you.”

Peggy is an unhappy “undercover nun,” but she just can’t stop trying to be good. Colin Hanks may or may not be flirting with her by asking her to help draft a “Night to Remember” dance flyer for the church. It’s hard not to read his comment as a come-on: “You’re a smart, beautiful girl, you have so much to offer … Do you feel you don’t deserve His love?” Maybe the church isn’t so pure after all; Peggy can’t seem to trust anyone.

Now back to Betty. Just when you think she’s going to simmer in her own hatred for a few episodes, she erupts over an incident involving Heineken and her susceptibility to her own husband’s advertising. “I know about you and that woman,” she blurts out. “I know you’re having an affair.” And (so much for subtle subtext): “How could you? She’s so old.”

Master salesman Don can’t even fake a good lie. Is it because if he tells the truth about one thing, he’ll be forced to tell the truth about everything? Betty freaks out, hits the bottle, and searches every pocket and drawer for Don’s secrets. All she finds are “cocktail napkins with stupid advertising slogans on them,” like “What do women want? An excuse to get closer.” She’s outraged that he thinks he knows women but can’t begin to fathom her.

Astonishingly, Betty — always stronger than you expect — kicks Don out. Why doesn’t he just tell her that he loves her? It could be more than pride. Don might not want to fix this.

The Early Results
This episode’s timing is so quick and surprising that Betty’s anger seemed truly frightening. It’s an Emmy clip-reel episode for January Jones, whose turn as the victim is hardly conventionally pathetic. Forget the clichés of the wronged woman: Jones plays her part recklessly and violently — bringing back the weird and cocky woman who once blasted at the neighbor’s doves with her son’s BB gun.

Mad Men: Fight Night!