Mad Men Thread: Let the wig do the work


The classic Mad Men pattern reasserted itself with this week’s episode, The Better Half. After a clinker/experimental episode, this one moved quickly and was full of surprises, Don, Peggy, Betty, Pete, Roger and Joan. It was a good ‘un, so without further ado, here we go:

Torn Between Two Mentors: It was tough to be the Pegster, both at the office and at home. Don and Ted continue to circle one another like tom cats but at least they skip the spraying and butt sniffing. They both did some hissing at the Pegster over the margarine account. She tried to stay neutral, which leaves both of her mentors unsatisfied, especially-surprise, surprise-Don Fucking Draper who gives her one of his most withering looks.

Meanwhile at home, Peggy and Abe are clearly not cut out to be urban pioneers. There’s vandalism, violence, and more of Abe’s inept handyman routine. He’s no George Utley, y’all. He’s also a classic lefty radical circa 1968. It’s not fascist to give the cops a description of your assailant, dude. Peggy is horrified by the stabbing, becomes increasingly scared, and takes to wielding a spear as a self protection device. Abe was, quite literally, hoist on the Pegster’s petard when she accidentally spears him like a swordfish from Brooklyn but Abe is no prize. She feels terrible, apologizes, and he dumps her for being THE MAN. She’s well rid of Abe since he values his political purity more than their relationship. I will, however, miss seeing him melt down when Tricky Dick wins the election.

Meanwhile back at the unnamed agency, Peggy has two-count em two-private encounters with the artist formerly known as Teddy Turtleneck. Ted makes it clear that the smacker he placed on her was a mistake. Peggy is not happy, especially when she informs him of her breakup and he’s disappointed, not opportunistic. Ted continues to be the anti-Draper. Don would have pounced on Peggy like a coyote on a pork chop in the same situation. I really hope that Peggy and Ted do not go bump in the night. It’s far more interesting that way, but if they do, I hope margarine is not involved…

Duck and Recover: Pete Campbell remains whiny and petulant over his uncertain place at the unnamed agency. He meets with that dog abandoning motherfucker, Duck Phillips, who is now a head hunter but not one of Herbie Hancock’s band of that name…

Pete is no longer hot shit so Duck mentions a job in Witchita. I expected Pete to stroke out, but he survived. Pete is still sniffing around Joan but she continues to, quite wisely, keep him at arm’s length. She does indirectly help him with his crazy mother problems by letting them slip to the man Roger calls Bob Bunsen. He does have a burning desire to fluff his bosses, so it’s apt. Or is he just as nice and dull as Megan?

Speaking of Roger, he continues to screw up. His attempt to play Disneyland Grandad backfired when he took the kid to see Planet Of The Apes. His daughter was not amused, even by Roger’s impish impression of the apish Dr. Zaius. She bars him from solo grandparenting, so he turns to Joan and Kevin. Joan tells him where to put his lincoln logs and reiterates that he cannot see his bio-kid. She figures if wee Kevin has to have an unreliable father, a “war hero” beats a raffish account man any day. Poor Roger,she even prefers the company of Bob Bloody Benson to his. Context is everything.

Megan Has The Twin Sister, Sapphic Pass Blues: Megan continues to have the mopes, and who can blame her? She’s married to Don Draper who is distant and detached, and her new job isn’t going so well. Her co-star/boss comes over, hits on her and tells her she’s okay. Okay is the best that Megan’s character is ever going to be. Nice people are undramatic and boring and she’s trapped in a sweetheart loop with Don. The only way for her to win him back is to dump him as we shall see below…

Betty Is Back: She’s got her figure back and she’s enjoying the attention of some GOP fat cat, which in turn turned on Senator Wannabe Henry.Then, there was the rural grease monkey who leered while “giving her directions” to Bobby’s camp. Enter Don, moth meet flame. Don always wants what he cannot have, so he winds up in the sack with Betty. Big mistake, dude. Don is usually the predator, but in this instance, he’s the prey, and Betty will make him pay. That’s what he gets for being a walking cliche by sleeping with his ex-wife. In contrast, Ted resists clichedom by not bonking his protege.

Damn, that last paragraph was sing songy, so it’s time to end this post, but not before posting this musical tribute to Don and Roger who were clearly not made for 1968:

7 thoughts on “Mad Men Thread: Let the wig do the work

  1. Great synopsis!
    Besides seeing Abe get bayoneted, my favorite moment was all the Bobbys at summer camp, and how they made sly reference to the fact they keep recasting Bobby every season: “I’m Bobby Number Five!” he told his parents, quite proudly. Where’s Bobby Number One? “He went home.”
    Quite a tease to have the preview teaser be “Joan goes to the beach” and then never have her get there… or (the whole point of the teaser) put on a bathing suit.

  2. Also: the handsome Bob Benson, who just seems to be around the office. Who hired him? What does he do? Why is he gleaning details about the other people in the office and then offering to solve their problems?
    Why did Bob tell Ken Cosgrove that his father was dead, and tell Pete Campbell his father was in good health?
    Given that we’re in an era when “shorts” consist of several yards of material and hang below the knee, his little shorts outfit (which was, um, pretty revealing) must have looked bizarre to anyone under 30.
    And it doesn’t seem an accident he’s an opaque figure who seems to be making up his past based on what he thinks people want to hear. Even the name “Bob Benson” calls to mind the name “Don Draper,” in several ways. But Bob is younger and looks very much of his time. Draper is still handsome, but he looks old next to Benson — and hopelessly mired in the 1950s.

  3. That’s why I called Bob a man of mystery in prior posts. I missed the fib to Pete. Could just be career ambition or, as I’ve posited before, he’s writing a tell-all book.

  4. Out of sheer speculation, I stake my claim:
    Bob’s not Don’s lovechild; he’s Sal’s paramour, spy and instrument of revenge. You heard it here, first.

  5. At first, when it looked like Don was going to get back with Betty I was like Oh no,no,no,no,noooo! But then she turned it around and treated him exactly like women who are a bit too interested—-the sequence of him going to sit at a tiny table by himself afterwards was priceless. Will it register? Could this signal a change in Don (at least a temporary one, given his final conversation with Megan) or is he just too unself-aware in the self-aware 1960s?
    At least Betty finally did something interesting, for maybe the third time in five years.

  6. that should be ” treated him exactly like Don treats the women who are a bit too interested in him”

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