Don and Peggy become dance partners once again, Bob Benson returns with a surprising proposition for Joan and New York Pete remains the worst version of Pete Campbell.
This week's episode seems to be all about belonging and family. Bob, Megan and Pete return to their former home city to find they haven't changed as much as they would like.
Meanwhile, Peggy discovers things haven't changed as much as she thought when her pitch is pulled out from underneath her and given to Don. But it's up to her, of course. It's her decision.
More than most episodes in season 7, this story underlines how the strides made by the show's women have still left them light-years behind. Despite all that she's accomplished, Peggy's still only "as good as any woman in the business."
While Don is the very definition of a loose cannon, Pete and the partners would still rather Don present the idea to Burger Chef. Instead, Peggy can take on the role of the mother, playing the "emotion" while Don portrays authority. Yet it's Peggy who is supposed to be in charge.
Couple this with plenty of talk about motherhood, asking permission from husbands and even the idea of a working mother as being too depressing for an ad. The women on Mad Men, and in the culture of 1969 at large, have come terrifically far. But no matter how hard they try or how fast they run, it'll never be quite far enough.
Likewise, Pete bristles at the idea of Trudy moving on and dating, although he came back to New York with his pretty new girlfriend in tow. And poor Joan receives the saddest marriage proposal of all time; all business arrangement and no love. Bob Benson tells her it's likely the best offer a woman like her, pushing 40 with a baby, is likely to get. Then she shows up at work, where Harry Crane is now being made a partner.
What I especially like about this episode is how the things unsaid inform so many of the scenes. Joan isn't just mad Harry Crane is being made a partner because he's the most irritating person on earth, but because of all that she had to sacrifice in order to attain a partnership for herself. Peggy cries about her life not being the way she thought it would by the time she was 30 and Don comforts her. What neither mentions is the child she gave up for adoption, a secret only the two of them share.
Mad Men's strength is in leaving things left unsaid, but using the power of those unspoken words to inform the characters' actions. We know why motherhood makes Peggy uncomfortable, we've seen what happens to gay characters who don't play by the rules (still miss you, Sal!) and we know the parts of herself Joan has sacrificed for the job.
Don and Peggy, Back Together
If this episode does nothing else, it reunites the dream team of Don and Peggy. Since Don's return, Peggy has been nothing but cold and suspicious of her former mentor. And with good reason, since Don was hoping to jump the food chain back up to the top.
However, since Don took Freddy's advice and started doing the work, it appears their relationship has begun to improve. In the meeting where they pitch their commercial idea, both are extremely complimentary to each other.
This isn't to last, unfortunately, since Pete suggests Don should be the primary one pitching the Burger Chef account so he can unleash that special Don Draper magic. While Don is excited to be inching back up the ladder, he doesn't actually seem all that happy at the idea of Peggy getting pushed aside. Still, because he's Don, he does throw out a new idea, likewise throwing Peggy into a turmoil over her original pitch.
So Peggy pulls a classic Don Draper: she obsesses about the pitch, she calls Stan to annoy him, she drinks and yells at Don, she lays down on various couches and takes naps. If there was a Draper playbook, Peggy clearly has the thing memorized cover to cover.
When Don shows up at the office, the two finally have a heart-to-heart about their biggest fears. "I worry about a lot of things," Don says, "but I never worry about you." It's this quiet respect and admiration the two have for each other which has worked, in its way, as the through-line for the entire series.
They restructure their pitch around family, but not the kind of 1955 Leave it to Beaver family ads usually show. Instead, it's a family of those you chose to sit with at a Burger Chef, or dance to Sinatra with in your office. The image of a found family is brought home at the end, as Don, Peggy and Pete sit in a booth at the restaurant.
These people have so many secrets and hurt between them, and yet there they are, eating a burger together and smiling. No matter how much they occasionally might wish to be rid of each other, they just can't seem to manage it. Sometimes, in fact, they even like each other. Just like family.
Not Great, Bob
This episode also sees the return of "Not Great Bob" Benson from Detroit. After another Ken Cosgrove one-eyed pun, the Detroit guys are off to see the town. Of course, seeing the town in this case means getting arrested for gay stuff in the city.
Bob is very disappointed, but that disappointment turns to shock when he discovers Chevy is dropping SD&P for an in-house team. Of course, the guys in Detroit love Bob Benson so much they're willing to offer him a plum position. And I mean, of course they are because Bob Benson is made of rainbows, and glitter dust and the lilting sopranos of tiny cherubs.
After hearing of his Detroit coworker's very understanding marriage, Bob gets a glimmer in his eye and a spring to his step. He takes Joan, her mother and her baby out for a day on the town, and then pulls out a wedding ring as a nightcap. Joan is hesitant, even with Bob's giant Precious Moments eyes staring at her. "My face doesn't please you?" Bob asks, which is silly, because Bob Benson's face pleases everyone.
Joan gently but firmly informs Bob that he is gay and therefore probably not interested in picking up what she is putting down. But Bob persists, and insults Joan in the process by telling her this is the best offer she is likely to get. He also very much lets the cat out of the bag in regards to Chevy. It's a double fail for Bob this week.
Joan sends him packing, and I sadly contemplate the thought of this being Bob Benson's swan song. If it is, at least we'll always have his short shorts. Let us never forget.
New York Pete is the Worst
Tan, happy, weirdo LA Pete Campbell lands in New York and immediately begins transforming, as if by magic, into the petulant child he's always been. Without a steady stream of sunlight and California oranges, Pete will turn into a monster, sort of like feeding a Gremlin after midnight.
He goes to see his daughter, who doesn't even recognize him, and then gets more and more bent out of shape that his wife, Trudy, isn't at home to greet him. The very thought of her on a date is so disgusting to him that he yells at her and then ruins her cake with his beer. I'm sure Trudy missed him very much.
Pete's new girlfriend, Bonnie, hoping for a romantic and fun time in the city, is certainly in for a surprise when New York Pete rains all over her parade. Bonnie shakes her head, washes her feet and hops a plane back to LA posthaste.
Elsewhere in the City of Dirty Feet...
-- Losing Chevy means doing press with prominent newspapers touting the new computer and elevating Harry Crane to partner. Oh man, can you imagine how big Harry's ego is going to be now? It might not even fit in the building.
-- It looks like Ginsburg is still in the hospital. While Stan has gone to see him, Peggy refuses.
-- Megan comes for a surprise visit to Don, but mostly she seems to be on a trip to bring back her essential items to LA. Don stares at her wistfully in his apartment, seeming to have missed her presence in New York. But it doesn't look like Megan much missed the city that never sleeps.
-- Roger has an awkward encounter with a McCann man in the steam room and seems to be onto some new business opportunity.
What did you think of the episode? Were you happy Don and Peggy patched up their friendship? Will Pete stick around in New York? Will we ever see Bob Benson again? Sound off in the comments!