Alison Hallett, 1968
  • Alison Hallett, 1968

A quietly eventful episode of Mad Men this week. (Except for that one part, wow.) I've enjoyed this season in spots, defended it, but the second half has been far superior to the beginning. Last night's chain of events offered some insight into what we've been watching all spring.

More stuff below.

So, Wow! Wow, wow. Holy shit. Don's interminable bullshit caught up to him in a big way. The episode really set me up, thinking Don was acting out of nobility as he maneuvered and found a way for Sylvia and Arnie's son to avoid Vietnam. Even during the conciliatory phone conversation between him and Sylvia, I was thinking, "Don is being so mature about this whole thing. Good for him." BUT NOOOOOO. Newp. (It is possible that I'm too gullible to be reviewing television.) So Don finds himself back in the Rosen apartment, where he is discovered by his daughter.

First of all, Mitchell is like 19, a little out of Sally's range. And what the hell is wrong with Sally's friend? Taking her mash note and slipping it under the Rosens' door? That is not cool. No matter though, the writers got Sally into that apartment using basic human actions and emotions, so I'm gonna try to not be mad at them for creating a great character and then systematically ruining her life. I might blame them a little for laying it on thick during the dinner scene that followed, with Arnie and Mitchell and Megan basically telling Don he's the best guy in the world, forcing Sally to feel the hypocrisy that is her father's everyday life. When she stands up to scream, "YOU MAKE ME SICK!" Sally voices the opinion of the audience and Don loses his daughter. In spite of his feeble lies, he had ruined their relationship forever.

There's not a lot to analyze in this development. It was nicely orchestrated, thrilling even, but the themes of Mad Men are rote by now, right there on screen. Don's hypocrisy and lack of self-control destroy his life and leave him alone.

Is it me or has the show become more complicated in service to simpler stories?

Let's talk about something nice. How about Pete Campbell? He always cheers me up. As usual his subplot was a comedy of increasingly uncomfortable errors, starting with his mother confusing Peggy with Trudy and referring to their "child," then confessing her late life discoverey of sexual fulfillment at the hands of her male nurse. (Yeesh.) Then there was a charming glimpse of Pete and Peggy actually acting like friends for once, opening up to each other. Pete can intuit the admiration/sexual tension between her and Ted, Peggy lets a disturbed Pete know about his mother's...activities.

Ha! Pete confronting his mother was terrible. It started funny, then turns sad when she calls him "a sour little man" who is "unlovable." She's right, but poor Peter.

All that action was just a simmering set up to the BIG MOMENT. I can't take credit for calling Bob Benson as gay; it was suggested to me by friends and other bloggers. I just thought it fit the best. And it did. In the weekly "Inside Mad Men" video, Matt Weiner plays the scene down and suggests that Bob isn't necessarily gay, just really into Pete. BULLSHIT. The idea that Bob is just some dude in love with Pete is even more unbelievable his being an adorable gay dude in love with Pete! Bob's subtle advances are rejected. This might not end up so good for him. The preview for next week saw Pete polishing Chekov's his gun, introduced back in Season 1. That thing's gotta go off sometime.

That leaves Ted and Peggy. Ted who demonstrates that in spite of his similarities with Don, he really is more stable, responding to his wife's admonitions by making an effort at home. Responding to Don's constant brush offs with a sincere offer of help and reconciliation. Hooray for Ted.

Peggy is still living in her handsome apartment on the upper west side sans Abe. A bloodied rat in her apartment causes her to wake Stan who grumpily replies, "I'm not your boyfriend." She even tries to bribe him with sex but he knows that won't happen. In the end, Peggy finally takes her mom's advice and gets a cat, pictured above.