I was reading Tom and Lorenzo's Mad Men commentary and took note of their complaining about the show's increasing tendency to have a character blurt out the theme of the episode in some obvious way. I complained about this a little in Season 4, then got sick of complaining about it, but I'm taking a moment to point it out because they have a pretty good idea of how to make these broad assertions more fun:
Like, say, they could rapidly zoom in on a character’s face and flip on dramatic underlighting just as the character is about to utter some essential truth. And if that character is Roger, then just have him look in the camera, wink, and give finger guns. Might as well own it and make it fun.
If you don't, be sure and read their Mad Style posts in which they analyze episodes based on costumes and decor. Warning, it is an internet rabbit hole.
Onto the spoilers.
This episode the honors of theme-announcer went to Roger, who says. "It's every man for himself." Cornered by an irate Peggy, Roger dismisses any notion that he plays favorites beyond asking a Jewish guy for ideas for a Jewish business. Everything that used to make Peggy special is disappearing. The role of the company's young whiz and ambitious outsider is gone, being Don's bestie and emotional support isn't as necessary or appealing as it used to be, even her role as minor partner in crime to Roger was fleeting.
BOLD PREDICTION: Peggy will quit the agency by the end of the season. I think the writers are building to it, especially with her late night drunk conversation with Dawn. I hope I'm wrong, since Peggy is basically my favorite, but I'm just saying. Get used to Ginsberg.
The rampant social Darwinism of the episode had a driving fuel, jealousy. What better occasion to welcome back Betty Draper in all her weight watching, underhanded glory. Yeah they've turned Betty into a total monster these last two seasons, but I kind of like it. Her binging on whip cream then immediately spitting it up was epic. Her casual mention of Don's secret past to Sally was classic. And finally getting to see Betty and Megan interact was everything I hoped it would be. I mean, I had hoped there would be some sort of lady face off a la Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but a few choice, biting phrases will suffice.
In the middle of Betty's ploy to upset Don's new life was Sally. I'm still very impressed by the development of her character, watching Sally turn into her mother and resist doing so is fascinating. She got some awesome catty dialogue and maneuvered between her mother and her step-mother deftly. Sally protects herself, even in the midst of changing allegiances, until she finally finds herself up against Don, who manages to show her some respect. She knows she can trust her father, and she might be right.
People have been predicting bad things for Don lately but I think he's doing okay. Megan is good for him, and it's refreshing to see him try at his job, even if it is to come up with a hilariously bad idea, one he's only able to sell because he screws over Ginsberg. Don's behind the times but he still has power and knows how to use it, and he still knows how to deliver a cutting line to a subordinate.
Everyone who triumphed in this episode did so at the expense of another. This showed especially in Roger's subplot. His new found enlightenment seems to be fading, even if he's trading on it for position. Jane's Judaism, once so concealed that even the audience didn't know about it, is a badge of honor once it can help the business. And yet he still has no respect for her, treating her more like a child or an accessory than a person. Also, how rich is this guy? He has alimony payments, bankrolls SCDP, and just BUYS Jane an apartment in Manhattan? Unreal.
Once again we're left with the basic theme of Mad Men, dissatisfaction and disnhonesty. Lies all around the Thanksgiving table and Betty chewing away at the tiny bit of happiness she's allowed. (Another LOL moment.) Here's to you Betty.
Some Outside Reading:
The killer smog at the end was a real thing.
Andy Greenwald at Grantland has a great essay on Megan and the season so far.