Look, I get that this isn’t Dirty John: The Linda Kolkena Story. But it’s really bothering me that the series continues to treat Linda as a one-dimensional character. We know nothing about Linda and what we learn in “The Twelfth of Never” does nothing to make us understand her any better. Yes, she had an affair with someone’s husband, but this isn’t The Scarlet Letter and she isn’t Hester Prynne. She was 21 when she met Dan and 28 when she was murdered in her sleep. We can find her actions morally reprehensible but she certainly didn’t deserve to die because of them. By not giving us any insight into Linda, the show is implicitly blaming the victim. What was her childhood like? Her family? Her background? Why was she so willing to carry on with someone else’s husband? There’s no justification for her actions, obviously, but some context would be appreciated at this point in the story.
Here’s what we do learn in “The Twelfth of Never”: Betty wants her wedding china back. It has somehow become symbolic of everything she has lost. (Although we don’t see Betty talking about the china, just other people talking about how Betty wants the china.) Dan claims to not know where the china is. When Betty’s friend implores Linda to return the china, indicating that it would be an olive branch of sorts, Linda replies that she’s not doing an olive branch and she’s more inclined to break the china because that’s what Betty would have done. Betty has treated Linda terribly, and no one deserves to be repeatedly referred to as a “whore,” but from the show’s perspective Linda feels no responsibility for her current predicament. Maybe this is how she actually was, but the show isn’t interested in exploring Linda at all, which is the only real criticism I have of this otherwise stellar series.
The episode kicks off with someone sending Betty a newspaper clipping of Dan and Linda’s engagement with the words “Eat your heart out bitch” written in red across it. Betty is convinced that Linda did it. “If it wasn’t the whore, who was it?” she tells her friends. By the end of the episode, the show has implied that it’s Betty herself who wrote those words. Maybe Linda sent the clipping, but Betty scribbled on them in red ink and hung it on her refrigerator. Perhaps this is yet another outward indicator of her mental well-being slipping away.
Betty and Dan’s oldest daughter, Tracy (again, not the actual name of a Broderick child. The show changed all the names of the children) graduates from high school. Betty thinks that surely Dan will have to be nice to her on this momentous occasion. But he is not. He brings Linda to the high-school graduation and, to Betty’s further rage, Tracy hugs Linda first. When Tracy finally finds her mom, Betty can’t put her issues aside to celebrate her daughter’s big day. “How could he bring her here?” she asks her daughter. “Did you try saying this is a family event and my mother is going to see her daughter graduate and your presence will just detract from the joy of my achievement because everyone will just be talking about how my father left us for the tacky office slut?” Once again, Betty fails to understand that what is truly detracting from the joy of Tracy’s achievement is her mother. She is unable to let Tracy have the graduation be about her and not about her acrimonious parents.
This is also the episode where the divorce finally becomes final. Betty decides to represent herself, ensuring that she will be hoisted by her own petard. Dan is a lawyer and represented by a top divorce lawyer, there’s no way Betty could be a match for him in court. Even the sympathetic judge who tries to help her cannot really help her. Betty doesn’t know the legalese to effectively argue her case in court, and is hindered by California being a “no fault” divorce state where it doesn’t matter if Dan committed adultery. Dan also lies on the stand, saying things like, “You did get some money in between pregnancies,” completely disregarding how much Betty financially supported Dan and the family while he earned a medical degree and a law degree. He says her support was “non-existent,” and in his cruelest move says their divorce began “April 12, 1969,” the day they got married. I keep thinking of that famous Jennifer Aniston quote about Brad Pitt having a “sensitivity chip” missing. Dan is awful, and nobody does smug as well as Christian Slater, who is so good in this role.
The fact that Dan lied to Betty for months about his affair with Linda is irrelevant. The fact that he is clearly hiding assets from Betty and liquidated several accounts days before he moved out also is irrelevant to the court. In the end, the court grants Betty a lump sum of $28,606.02 and alimony at $16,000 a month ($192,000 a year) and Dan primary custody. Betty is unable to let go of the fact that she deserves more money. Nearly $200,000 a year is not representative of all that she put into the marriage or reflective of the money Dan is making. She is probably right, of course, but as discussed last week, Betty’s inability to let go, to move on and allow herself to begin to heal, is her downfall.
In this episode Betty also connects with a features reporter who promises to tell Betty’s story from her point of view — until Dan threatens to sue him. She also meets a woman through an organization called HALT (Help Abolish Legal Tyranny) who also wants to help, but Betty, as we now know all too well, is beyond help. All these people wanting to help her are no match for Dan Broderick.
Thoughts for your ’80s Mixtape:
• Interestingly there was no ’80s song this episode. No flashback tune to bring any amount of levity to the proceedings.
• Betty’s parents are the worst. She begs them to come be with her during the trial and her mother replies, “Your father and I don’t want to be a part of this whether you win or you don’t.” Their grandchildren are being directly and traumatically affected by this and her parents still won’t help her. When you consider why Betty puts her own emotional needs ahead of her children’s, you need look no further than the example set by her own parents.
• Amanda Peet is truly amazing and this is the role of her career. In particular I applaud the show for keeping Betty looking put together through all of this. I like that, to use the sexist term usually applied to women, she hasn’t “let herself go.” She still looks fantastic even as her life is falling apart.
• It’s outrageous that Dan spread rumors about Betty being a child molester, but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense that a woman who has been to jail could get a job at a preschool.
• I think we would all have to go to law school to truly understand Epstein credits, but they do seem outrageously unfair.