It Looks Like Fat Betty Might Be Here To Stay On Mad Men

“Fill yourself with the good things in your life…Food is just a symbol of the other things.” Surprisingly good advice for a 1960s Weight Watchers meeting, no? Weight Watchers was perhaps ahead of the curve by recognizing that weight gain in ’60s housewives/victims of the feminine mystique often had a psychological component, or maybe they just listened to that doctor from a few episodes back. Unfortunately for Betty “Fat Betty” Francis, the issues that caused hers are not likely to go away any time soon, as was evidenced by her behavior in last night’s episode.

Was I the only one who felt a little bit bad for Betty when she had to witness Megan‘s impossible tininess up close and personal while picking up the kids? Because in that moment, she seemed sort of sympathetic again. Sure, it’s stupid of Betty to be nostalgic for a marriage that was never all that great, but even a relatively happy person could be driven to insecurity by that torso. The sweet note from Don to Megan (on the back of Bobby‘s drawing of a WOUNDED BUT SMILING WHALE–real subtle guys) was hard to watch her find, too. But Betty has never met an ounce of viewer empathy she couldn’t immediately squander, as she did when she used Sally as a pawn to try to fuck with Don and Megan’s marriage. Sally as in her daughter, as in the person she’s supposed to be protecting from confusing, age-inappropriate things like Don’s complicated history. I know she learned about beejays from her step-grandma in the last episode, but is she really ready to find out her blood grandma was a teenage prostitute who died in childbirth when she was just a few years older than Sally is now? Betty is mom-ing harder with each episode.

Betty’s diabolical plan almost works, as Sally throws a bitch fit at an unprepared Megan, but a bit of voyeurism later, she learns that this is something Betty did to hurt her dad and step-mom, whom she hates the most. The ever-sensible Megan convinces Don not to give Betty the satisfaction of responding, and Sally shows her increasingly sophisticated capacity for mind games when she tells her mother that Don had “shown her pictures and spoken warmly” of his platonic first wife, Anna. Try as it might, the toxic bullshit invading the air of New York cannot penetrate the Draper-Calvet household…at least, not this time. Not yet.

What’s a girl to do in the face of this massive unfairness but hoover up bugles and Redi Whip faster than she can buy them? (Not to mention the steak her husband feeds her like she’s some kind of goddamn dog.) And then lie about how blessed she feels at Thanksgiving dinner in the selfish phrasing of “no one else has anything better” as she savors one Brussels sprout and ten peas? The completely fucked up mixture of pleasure, guilt, and need that plays across her face as Maurice Chevalier taunts her to “just help yourself to some [happiness]” might be the finest bit of acting we’ve seen from January Jones thus far.

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