“Mad Men”: Episode 11, “The Gypsy and the Hobo”

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For a week, after the cliffhanger ending of “The Color Blue” as Don was showered with applause, I’ve been imagining the fireworks that were sure to erupt when Betty finally confronted him with all the ammunition she gathered from the desk drawer. I was thinking of mega histrionics, screaming, furniture flying, glass breaking, binge drinking, etc.

I should’ve known better. When it really matters, this show is rarely predictable. That the showdown in “The Gypsy and the Hobo” between Betty and Don would come in whispers, in dimly lit rooms through gritted teeth — fantastic. It was not at all what I expected but it was so right; kudos to scribes Marti Noxon, Cathryn Humphris and Matthew Weiner and helmer Jennifer Getzinger.

I’ve been hard on Betty this season, but she regained her humanity in this seg because she wasn’t a screaming banshee. In fact, she was as good as Don could’ve hoped for — much better than he deserved, what with his latest lover waiting in the car outside the house. The fact that Suzanne finally crawled away in the cold, dark night was just right too. A confrontation with Betty would’ve distracted from the real drama unfolding between a wife and husband coming to grips with the fact that she doesn’t really know him, nor trust him, at all. “You’re a very, very gifted storyteller,” Betty tells him. And she knows his predilection for bailing when the going gets rough: “Are you thinking of what to say or are you just looking at that door?”

Betty was obviously considering staying a lot longer than a week in Philadelphia while she sorted out her future and her father’s estate. Her exchange with the family lawyer was rough to hear on a human rights level — the idea that a woman seeking a divorce in those days would basically be up a creek without a paddle — but again, it rang true. The lawyer did give her sound advice. (Didn’t it sound like he called her “Betsy”?)

For Don, I think that after the immediate W-T-F? shock of the confrontation with Betty (loved the scene when he staggers out from his den into the kitchen), he was still trying to work his best Don Draper mojo on her right up until the moment in the bedroom where she asks him about “Adam.” Even as he was taking her through the story of his tortured parental experience, he didn’t volunteer that he had a half-brother until she pressed him about the “boy in the pictures.”

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