Don’s secret is out. The scene in which Betty finally confronts him about his real name, his other marriage, his other life, would have been tense enough on its own. Heightened as it was by our knowledge that Don’s mistress Suzanne was sitting outside the house, in Don’s car, waiting for him to emerge so that they could go away together… has Don’s high-wire act ever been on a higher wire? It goes without saying that Jon Hamm brought the scene home in a way that no other actor presently on TV could have managed, and in consequence underneath Betty’s rage and dismay there were glimmerings of genuine, and warranted, pity.
Until that point I had been planning to give this week’s episode to John Slattery and Christina Hendricks, both separately and together. This might well have been Slattery’s finest work on the show: a recently widowed old flame of Roger’s blows into town, offering both business – her father’s horsemeat-into-dogfood company – and pleasure. Slattery’s poised acting left one wondering exactly what his feelings were, even as he dismissed the chance of a hookup. Meantime Joan rehearsed her husband’s interview for a new job, as pitch-perfect at that as she is at everything else. And when he failed to get it and filled their apartment with self-pity, she smacked stupid Dr Rapist upside his stupid rapey head with a vase. You could hear the cheering from the viewers.
But the scene in which Joan phoned Roger looking for help in finding work was just perfect, as the two of them managed to be flirty, affectionate, businesslike and more than a shade regretful: Roger let her get away, and he knows it; Joan pays the price every day of trying to make a “suitable” marriage. As it was a phone conversation there’s every reason to think that they weren’t anywhere near each other when recording their respective parts, but Slattery and Hendricks had the chemistry crackling down the phone line. Now that, folks, is acting. And as a review that’s doing no more than scratching the surface of another quite magnificent episode.