Dear lord, the utter rage I felt watching “More to It Than Fun,” which chronicles not just the end of the Broderick marriage, but all the things that Dan did to deceive Betty as their union barreled toward its disastrous conclusion.
Let’s play “what was the most egregious thing Dan did?” Was it Dan going to the doctor with Betty to discuss reversing her tubal ligation so they could have a fifth child while he was actively plotting to leave his marriage? Was it he and Linda flaunting their relationship around Dan’s office so that pretty much everyone he worked with knew what was going on? Was it buying a whole new house for Betty to live in, pretending he was going to move into it as well? Was it returning to Betty after a drunken night and sleeping with her, giving her hope that he still wanted her? Was it hanging up on Betty when she called him because their new house was overrun with rats? Was it not going to her father’s 75th birthday party? Or was it flat-out denying that anything was going on between him and Linda while the pair was cavorting around to fancy restaurants and romantic getaways?
Ding! Ding! Ding! If you picked Dan denying anything was going on when so much was going on, you are the winner. “I can’t prove that something’s not true,” he tells her after spending his birthday with Linda and not his family. This is clearly the root of what sent Betty over the edge. When one of Dan’s assistants calls him out on the fact that Linda is so blatantly talking about their relationship, he shuts her down. “I’ve been miserable for years. I’m doing this the way I want to do it,” he tells her. As suspected last week, Dan is playing the very long game and has done some mental gymnastics to justify the way he is behaving. Even when Dan moves out, he doesn’t confess to his relationship with Linda, instead choosing to tell Betty that he just needs time “to think.”
And what of Linda? She seems to feel no guilt or shame about her relationship with a very married man. Besides being stressed about learning to type and sad that she can’t tell her family that she is in a relationship, she appears perfectly content with what’s happening. Dirty John provides no insight into her motivation besides falling for the wrong guy and being swept up in Dan’s glamorous life.
The action of the episode is juxtaposed against the testimony of a psychologist (played by Jeff Perry) testifying at Betty’s trial about the long-term effects of infidelity especially when that infidelity is denied. Time is marked by how long Dan is in a relationship with Linda while flat-out lying about it to Betty. “The behavior of the infidel makes the victim feel crazy,” he says. “As long as there’s no resolution for the victim, healing does not take place.” The back and forth between the doctor’s testimony and Dan’s betrayal is a little too obvious. I’m pretty sure we all could have figured out how bad what Dan was doing was without the good doctor pontificating. But he does give us the medical facts to back up our outrage. Plus, I’m for any time we can work in the movie Gaslight into the conversation and discuss the origins of the term “gaslighting.”
While Betty’s anger is absolutely justified, she begins to make irrevocable decisions that will have lasting and damaging long-term consequences. She leaves her four children at Dan’s doorstep without telling him that is what she’s doing. “She said you’ve been having a lot of fun lately and you needed to be reminded that there’s more to it than fun,” their eldest daughter tells Dan when he arrives home and finds the kids waiting. From Betty’s perspective, she’s reminding Dan that she’s not the children’s babysitter, nor is she Dan’s babysitter, and he needs to step up and take responsibility. Dan’s not having it. “You’re trying to prove that I can’t do this without you. Maybe that’s because I never tried,” he tells her. He handles taking care of the kids by sending them away to overnight camp.
This is truly the crux of the issue. Dan is off gallivanting with Linda while Betty is raising the kids, moving into the house and doing all the child-rearing. But abandoning her children was a serious mistake and shows the cracks in her judgment. Dan also ups the ante by getting an emergency judgment for custody of the children, giving Betty only Wednesday nights and every other weekend. He’s the one who started this, and now he’s doubling down on his cruelty.
Betty, however, is also having trouble regulating her temper. She’s willing to put her children in the middle of everything, and already her two older girls are exasperated with their mother’s behavior. When Betty goes to Dan’s house to pick up the children, she finds Dan’s favorite Boston crème pie on the kitchen counter. Deducing that the pie has been made by Linda, she smears it all over his bed and clothes. Many of us might think of doing something like that, but few of us actually would. Dan gets a court order saying Betty is only allowed in the house with his permission.
In the episode’s final moments, Betty pleads with Dan, “We have everything we’ve ever wanted,” before begging him to tell her the truth. “Was I imagining it?” she asks. “No, I’m in love with her,” he finally admits. “Was I ever imagining it?” she wonders. “No, you were right the whole time,” he says with an infuriating smug smile on his face.
Bring. On. The. Rage.
Thoughts for your ’80s Mixtape:
• Quarterflash’s “Take Me to Heart” and Laura Branigan’s “Self Control” are the pitch-perfect soundtrack for the episode.
• Why didn’t Dan just change the locks on his house? Seems like it could have saved everyone a lot of trouble.
• Talking about Knot’s Landing while Betty is living a Knot’s Landing plotline is a nice touch.
• Jeff Perry also played Debra Newell’s lawyer on the first season of Dirty John, though there appears to be no other connection between that character and the doctor here.