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‘Mad Men’ Recap: Fat Betty’s Thanksgiving Spectacular


I’m sorry, everyone, but I love Fat Betty. I love her like I love watching the Hulk rip off an alien’s head, like I love watching King Joffrey get hit with shit in the face, like I love watching the continued cultural irrelevance of Taylor Hicks. I love it like all of those things and even more. Then she goes and takes a big mouth-full of Readi-Whip and spits it out in the sink and there I am, sitting in my living room, giggling with glee. If only Don and Megan would let her know about Cool-Whip, she might be back to her old fighting weight.

Yes, I just love Fat Betty so much, because she is the ultimate villain on the show and this is her ultimate punishment. She is a woman who puts so much stock in appearance, in the pristine shellack that has coated her entire life, that when that is taken away, she has absolutely nothing left. An ugly Betty (not the TV show) is a Betty that has no reason to live, that has absolutely nothing to aspire to. The outside ugliness finally matches the grossness inside. She might weigh out her little cubes of cheese and count her bites with tiny head tilts, she might go to Weight Watchers and squeeze her fat ass into a tiny school room chair, but it’s not helping.

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The reason is, as we hear in Weight Watchers, that the dieters should fill themselves up with their children, their husbands, their happiness, and their wonderful lives instead of food. But Betty has none of that. Her husband has backed the wrong candidate for President and will probably head on to a path of political and professional irrelevance, her daughter hates her and would rather spend time with her step mother, and her happiness — it has always been as elusive as trying to catch a sunbeam in your hand.

What Fat Betty is left with is an intense longing. When she goes to Don’s house to pick up the kids she sees a gorgeous, expensive apartment that could have been hers. She looks out at the city and she imagines how her life with Don could have been different. How they could have been young and beautiful in the city if everything about their lives hadn’t told them to get married and live the Dick and Jane life in the suburbs. She could have had it all and instead, she’s fat and living in the Munster’s house with some rich dilettante. Then, to make it even worse, Fat Betty catches Skinny Megan in just her bra and sees everything that she used to be, everything she wants to be again, and she hates it.

That’s what makes her gobble down that whip cream like she’s Demi Moore looking for her next Whip-It hit. She’s trying to fill that longing inside of her with the closest thing at hand (too bad it wasn’t Bugles). She does spit it out, but she’s already sabotaging herself. That’s what this episode was all about, people screwing over other people and screwing themselves over in the process. As Roger says, it’s every man (or fat housewife) for himself. Betty is trying to lose a half pound every week, but she’s still scarfing down that whipped cream. Her husband is supportive, but cooking steaks in the middle of the night. When he cuts off a little piece of steak for her, she eats it, but she cries inside because she knows that he doesn’t care if she’s a little fat, just like he doesn’t care if he’s successful at his job. He has given up, and she wants to fight again, to get back what she had. She wants Don with his destructive ambition and firm hand keeping her in check.

In order to get her old life back, she has a bit of sabotage of her own. After seeing Skinny Megan and her fabulous apartment and finding a love note Don left her on the back of a drawing that Bobby did, Fat Betty tells Sally about Anna, Don’s first wife. We all know that Dick Whitman never married Anna, but he had to pretend to be married to her so that his Don Draper facade could keep going and so that he wouldn’t be arrested for deserting the army. This is the secret that tore Don and Betty apart for good and Betty thinks that Don won’t have told Megan, so if she has Sally tell Megan then Megan will get mad at Don and then they’ll break up.

Not only does this ruin Sally’s relationship with Megan (who Sally calls a “phony” for lying to her and trying to be her friend) but it causes exactly the fight that Betty was hoping for when Megan tells Don what Sally asked. But Megan is too smart for Betty and keeps Don from calling her. Sally hears nothing but their fighting, something that gives Betty and her tactic power in her mind, but it is a power that Don strips away the next morning. He tells Sally, in that gruff and caring way that will scare you into a loving compliance, about Anna and sets the record straight. He doesn’t give her all the details (she’s still a kid, of course) but sketches it out enough that she won’t be too curious. It seems like Don Draper is finally integrated with Dick Whitman, at least as far as letting his wife and family know that he’s not the glamorous man from nowhere that he used to paint himself as. He is no longer the man that Betty knew.

The one question I have about the whole thing is if, after the camera cut away, Don and Megan really sat Sally down and showed her pictures of Anna and talked about it like she told Betty they did or if that was Sally’s revenge on her mother. Is there was something we didn’t see or if Sally has learned the art of subtle cruelty at her mother’s knee so well that she made up a story that would infuriate Betty in just the right way. Is that what she learned in the hall, that being deceitful was power? Questions abound and I hate to think of Sally as evil, but Fat Betty deserves it.

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