Mad Men Episode 503: Recap & Review

Mad Men Season 5 Episode PhotosYup, this addition of Recap & Review is super belated, but better late than never right?

The third episode of the season was Betty-ful. I think it was rather smart of the Mad Men team to not have Betty and the goings of the Francis Household in the season premiere as Betty is such a downer. I sympathized with Betty when she was with Don as she seemed but one story of the thousands of women who had similar upbringings and situations during the 50s and 60s. However, when the situation remained unchanged even after she became Mrs. Francis, you can’t help to realize that she’s nothing more than a horrible mother with a frigid and childish personality.

There are many Betty haters out there, but I have to admit, this episode made her an iota more likable.

The beginning of the episode had a great visual parallel. Sally and Bobby  (poor Bobby he’s been replaced so many times) are seen struggling with zipping up the back of Betty’s dress. Failing, Betty crawls into bed and blows off Henry and his important Junior League of America meeting for the fourth time in a row. In the very next immediate scene, we see Don quickly and easily zipping up the back of Megan’s dress. Betty’s life post-Don is still full of baggage while Don’s life (so far as we’ve seen) has turned a complete 180 and has no snags nor bumps.

Betty has turned into a fat ice queen. She’s now overweight and throughout the episode is shown eating. When she was Mrs. Draper, she was rarely shown partaking in any sort of meal. After fixing dinner for her family or for parties, she would chain-smoke endlessly and guzzle down red wine. Betty’s an incredibly vain individual who was bred to be a beauty queen and a trophy wife. There’s nothing attractive about her other than her physical beauty. Henry’s mother summed it up best last season. “I know what you see in her. You could’ve gotten it for free you know.”

Now that she’s landed the perfect husband with a well-off background with political power, she’s let herself go. Junk food galore!

The mother-in-law had had some choice words for Betty after hearing about Betty’s behavior for the umpteenth time: “You get comfortable, and you give up a little bit, and it just gets out of control. There are things you can do about this.” “This” meaning diet pills, and further comments that losing weight will be “easy for you. You’re just one of those girls.”

During a visit to the doctor’s office, Betty inquires about her weight gain, and she’s told that for middle aged women it’s easier to put on than take off, and for housewives it could be due to boredom. During an examination the doctor finds a lump on her thyroid gland. When she returns home she frantically calls out for Henry but since he’s not home and has no one to talk to, she calls Don. Don is genuinely concerned for her well-being, and when he inquires if “She wants him to take the kids” for the time being, Betty stops herself and realizes that she hasn’t even thought about how cancer could affect her own children at all. The exchange parallels their entire relationship. Betty only cares for herself, and Don, regardless of his various feelings for Betty, truly loves his children. For a scorned woman who broke up with her ex-husband over lies, she now finds comfort in them when dealing with the truth regarding her own mortality. She tells him to “say what he always says,” which he replies with “everything will be okay.” In reality, Betty’s life is all about fantasy and illusion. When she was with Don the lie was that she was the perfect mother and housewife and the victim of a deceitful husband, and when she first met Henry she was the princess in need of saving.

The children are just collateral damage.

Mad Men Season 5 Episode Photos

At a follow-up visit to the doctor’s, Betty runs into an old friend. As all women know, there’s nothing more mortifying than running into a friend years later and 30 pounds heavier. The two have lunch (seeing her friend has checked her vanity, so Betty only indulges in drinking tea) and I can honestly say this is the first time when Betty gives an inkling of being a three-dimensional character. She inquires to her friend about what it is like to live with cancer and listens carefully to her friend’s honest and poignant answer. Betty then bares her soul to her friend about how she feels about herself and her own life value. She’s easily replaceable and she isn’t someone that means terribly to those around her. She’s Henry’s second wife, and god knows she’s just one link in a chain, her ex-husband upgraded with a chipper younger model, she doesn’t understand her own children, and her mother-in-law thinks nothing of her. For once, Betty is expressing her emotions rather than bottling them up by her own intentions (save for when she utilized Sally’s psychiatrist last season). This scene brought a nuanced never-before-seen vulnerability to her icy veneer. A fortune teller comes, and as she reads Betty’s tea leaves, she says, “You are a great soul. You mean so much to the people around you. You’re a rock.” Knowing that those pretty words are a far cry from the truth just previously, Betty starts crying.

During the time Betty’s waiting for the dreaded diagnosis call, she truly seems to enjoy being with her family. She initiates sex with Henry and the two make love for the first time in ages, she smiles while watching her children playing with fireworks on the lawn, and even takes the small simple pleasure of sniffing her baby’s hair. Although some might say that perhaps she is building an illusion to seem like the perfect wife and mother before she passes, I think she truly enjoyed those moments, and wanted to appreciate them while it lasted. As mentioned in an exchange between Don and Roger, Betty’s not a fighter. She’s not the type to fight against death with all she has. Rather she’d use the time she has left to create beautiful memories and leave a beautiful corpse.

The call from the doctor reveals that the tumor is benign. Henry is relieved and delighted, but of course, Betty sees the glass half empty. She proclaims that she was “Put through the ringer to find out you’re just fat”, to which Henry replied (as he did all episode long), “I just don’t see it.” Betty quickly quipped back  with “I know, you’re mother’s a beast.”

The moment she’s found out she’s okay Betty’s back to her cold self. In the end, cancer was an illusion that hid the truth that her weight gain was through the fault of her own. She’s not an unfortunate victim of cancer but rather a victim of her own actions.

Scare forgotten, she doesn’t even tell Don the news. Betty and his children’s fate are at the forefront of Don’s thoughts, as he keeps an ear out for calls from Betty at work and at home. When he breaks the news to Megan, and at another time to Roger, his thoughts are filled with his children, and how they would be able to cope without Betty, and regardless of how much Megan would try he knows that it wouldn’t be enough. After days of not hearing anything, Don believes the lack of communication signals that Betty in fact, does have cancer and is grieving. He calls the Francis household. Henry picks up and coldly tells him that she’s alright and hangs up. Francis still sees Don as the black haired villain who ruined Betty’s life, but he no longer holds the belief that Betty was the princess he thought her to be. Through their interactions last season Henry experienced first hand about Betty’s childish behavior, and now he looks resigned to the fact that she’s not all rainbows and butterflies.

Hopefully this experience has impacted Betty and she’ll become more human. Betty’s last scene is one where she and Sally are eating ice cream sundaes in the kitchen. Betty seems to be enjoying their time together, but when Sally leaves her sundae unfinished, Betty dives right in. She might possibly become more loving, but she’s still eating her emotions.


Recap & Review for episode 504 will be up before the weekend!


By Contributing Blogger:  M. Do.


  1. Amazing!

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