'Mad Men' Recap: Don, Peggy and Joan Contemplate Past and Present Loves
'Mad Men' Recap: Don, Peggy and Joan Contemplate Past and Present Loves
Alan Danzis
Alan Danzis
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Without injections of PCP, you would assume this week's Mad Men, "The Better Half," would be a bit of a slower episode where everyone acts normal. But then Don and Betty have sex for the first time in a very, very long time. And Peggy accidentally stabs Abe with a makeshift bayonet.

On a thematic level, however, the majority of the episode has our characters like Don and Peggy contemplating and choosing between their past loves and their present, or possibly future, ones.

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Don and Betty

Don and Betty are heading up for the weekend to visit Bobby at his sleep away camp. On the way there, they inadvertently wind up meeting up at a gas station. Don and the gas station attendant were checking Betty out from behind when Don realizes it is his ex-wife -- possibly seeing her for the first time since she lost all the weight and changed her hair color back to blonde.

Later at the camp, Bobby is overjoyed to see his father -- he was expecting his mother, but is surprised when Don arrives. Bobby talks a lot in this scene, possibly more than in any other episode. He simply can't contain his excitement that both of his parents are visiting him.

Don and Betty bond later that night and even reminisce about how they "made" Sally at a similar camp years ago. After sitting on the porch, Don holds Betty's hand to help her up and they both have a long, lingering look. Making sure the next moment is clear, Betty winds up leaving the door to her room open, and after Don enters, he shuts off the light.

"What are you doing?" Betty asks. "Waiting for you to tell me to stop," Don says.

And then dead sober, Betty and Don have sex.

In the middle of the night, after sex, they're surprisingly cordial to each other. Betty also admits that she's fairly happy in her life with Henry -- earlier in the episode, they seemingly have sex in the car ride home from a political event after Henry seems to enjoy questioning Betty for being hit on by other men at the party -- and Don starts to realize he maybe hasn't been treating Megan right for a very long time.

"That poor girl ... she doesn't know that loving you," Betty says, "is the worst way to get to you."

The next morning, Don wakes up and Betty is gone. She's down at the dining room hall having coffee and breakfast with Henry, enjoying herself. Don sits down by himself and looks longingly at his ex-wife. 

When Don returns home that night, he sees Megan out on the balcony and tells her, "I missed you."

"I miss you all the time," she says back. Megan says she wants a change. Don admits he hasn't been there for her lately -- Sylvia much? -- and seemingly indicates things will get better.

Unbeknownst to Don, Megan has her own opportunity to stray earlier in the episode. While Don's having sex with his ex-wife, Megan's friend Arlene -- the woman part of a swingers couple that had propositioned Don and Megan earlier this season -- makes multiple attempts to kiss Megan at the apartment while she complains about the state of her job.

Don and Megan could seemingly go either way at this point. Don could continue cheating on Megan while she hates her life. Or for once in his life, Don could mean it and actually try to improve this relationship.

Peggy and the Men in Her Life

Peggy, meanwhile, has to deal with both the professional and personal men in her life. (And one sort of sits in both worlds.)

The episode opens with Teddy and Don trying to get Peggy to settle an argument they're having over the margarine account. Peggy refuses to choose a side, and Teddy even tries to get out of fighting with Don in front of her.

Later, he tells Peggy how he feels about her and how he knows it's not good. She even admits she may feel something for him too. She offers to leave the company, and when Teddy says of course he doesn't want her to do that, she leaves his office.

Her boyfriend Abe, meanwhile, is attacked not once, but twice in this episode. First, by a mugger that he refuses to identify to the police by ethnicity or color. Fearing for his safety (and her own), Peggy later manufactures her own bayonet and, in typical Mad Men lunacy (the same kind that once resulted in a lawn mower accident in an office), stabs Abe by mistake with it.

In the ambulance of all places, he does something fans have wanted Peggy to do for a long time -- end the relationship.

When Peggy tells Teddy about this at the end of the episode, he doesn't even seem to care. He tells her she'll find someone new. Clearly, Peggy wants him to seem happy or even overjoyed at the news, but he isn't.

And the episode ends with her standing in the middle of the hallway, with both Don and Teddy having closed their office doors on her. When Peggy tries to choose the future, she finds she's cut off from both it and the past.

Joan, Bob and Roger

Roger's daughter Margaret is mad that he took his grandson, who's four, to see Planet of the Apes. "We'll probably have to get rid of the dog," says Margaret. "He's afraid of the fur."

Margaret then forbids Roger to see his grandson again without his ex-wife there.

With that in mind, Roger springs a visit on Joan to see his son, Kevin. But Bob Benson is there, clearly having gotten more involved in Joan's life since they recently bonded when Joan was sick. Joan quickly gets rid of Roger so she and Bob can spend the day together.
Roger goes to see Joan again in the office on Monday, and she reminds him that he can't drop in on her. He claims he just wants to spend time with his son, but Joan says no, because she can't count on him to always be around.

Joan, known as the confident and in-command of all the Mad Men characters, clearly is choosing her future.

Other Stray Thoughts

-- Harry seems to think when things "settle down," he will be a partner. Oh, Harry -- they're never going to take you seriously.

-- Pete going to see Joan for personal advice about his ailing mother seems out of left field, as does him asking her to supper. When have they ever been friends? Or does Pete just have no one else in the office to talk to that could even be considered a friend? Even more randomly, Joan tells this to Bob, who offers to help Pete at the end of the episode with the recommendation of a good nurse. Seems like a random plotline.

-- Pete is having lunch at his apartment with Duck Phillips, of all people! Duck, who works now as a head hunter, offers him a job in-house somewhere, and Pete considers it. Could he pull a Peggy and leave the agency, which still doesn't have a name, at the end of the season?

-- Is it just my cable station's mixing or are the sounds of ambulances really noticeable in a lot of the scenes tonight?

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(Image courtesy of AMC)