It’s easy to look at Betty Draper after these 6.5 seasons and judge her, ridicule her, think of her as a horrible, bitter person and a terrible mother. All that may be true. But when you start to think that way of her, I want you to remember this episode, in particular. And I want you to realize how much of her character’s trajectory is Don’s fault. The scene between Betty and Jimmy Barrett near the end of “The Gold Violin” is the culmination of an arc that’s been building since the previous season, when Betty first discovered Don had been going behind her back to talk to her psychiatrist. And then there was the scene in the previous episode where Betty wears her new bathing suit and Don eviscerates her like she’s a child; he may as well have slapped her in the face, she’s left so emotionally beaten. But this episode is where it all comes together. It may take another season and a half to become official, but the Draper marriage ended right here, when Jimmy points out so casually how he knows his wife and Don are having an affair. Betty may have had suspicions before, but she can’t deny what’s right in front her face, while she and Jimmy sit “at the kids’ table,” as he calls it. Don was a terrible husband to Betty, much worse than she ever was a bad wife to him. It was his job to love her and protect her and to build her up, and instead he destroyed her, leaving her nothing but a broken, shallow, callous shell of a woman.
So that’s the end of “The Gold Violin.” What comes before is one of the best episodes of the entire series, especially for one that doesn’t focus on a central event (not to mention almost no lines for Peggy and not even a sighting of Pete). The first half seems to be comprised entirely of wonderful lines that twine into brilliant scenes. From Jane leading a stealth mission into Cooper’s office, to Don buying his new Cadillac, to Ken’s dinner at the Romano household. We even get an ever-so-brief flashback introduction to the real Donald Draper’s real wife, Anna. It’s a perfect midseason character study (a “Mad Men” staple) that goes from laugh-out-loud funny to heartbreaking over the course of just 46 minutes.
Best Scene: The aforementioned party to celebrate Jimmy getting his “Grin and Barrett” show picked up, where he first confronts Betty and then Don about the affair. Patrick Fischler (Jimmy) should’ve won an Emmy for this piece of work alone.
Best Line: Jimmy to Betty: “All I know is, I know her and you know him, and there they are, and they don’t care where we are.”