, to say an episode is about cheating is like saying the sky is blue. Perhaps this week's episode, in which we spend time watching both Pete and Don stray, isn't so much about cheating as it is about the repercussions of cheating. Last week, the two-hour season 6 premiere was all about death. Yet this week's installment somehow managed to feel even bleaker than that death and doom filled outing.
This week's episode is dark, as it involves cheating, domestic abuse, miscarriages and continual references to prostitution. Why does Don kill Herb from Jaguar's idea? Part of it has to be the way they got the Jaguar account in the first place, alluded to in Joan's brief blink-and-you-missed-it appearance in the episode.
Although Joany gets more screen time in commercials than she does on the show, she does get in a good zinger on the disgusting Herb. "There are parts of you that you haven't seen in years," she calmly sasses at him.
Don Draper is as shaped by his past with prostitution as he is by his identity switch. It's why, despite having little scruples about other underhanded business dealings in the past, he asked Joan not to go through with the Jaguar trade last season. In flashback we see a young Dick Whitman entering a whorehouse with his very pregnant mother. The flashbacks practically ooze with sleaze, especially the man who eventually hooks up with Don's mom.
Later, as he talks to a still in bed Sylvia he hands her a bundle of cash. This is because Don heard Sylvia and her husband arguing about money earlier in the day. But the shot is framed to make Don look like a john offering recompense to his lady of the evening (or morning in this case.)
As the episodes comes to a close, the song spells it out as Don finds himself unable to open the door to his home. "I'm just a gigolo who knew better days," the song says. Don has rarely seemed so disconnected or miserable. This affair isn't making him happy. He seemed more excited talking about death last week than he did at any point in this week's episode.
Pete's Affairs Catch Up To Him
Throughout the course of the show, Pete Campbell has been trying to turn himself into Don Draper. But he's never been as good as Don. He's not as charming, he's not as smart, and as we learned last year, he's just way more punch-able. So when Pete tries the Don Draper special by luring a neighborhood housewife up to his city apartment for some extramarital fun, things go terribly off script.
The difference between Pete and Don's affairs and personalities could not have been better displayed than it was in this episode. Don ends up on a solo date with Sylvia after Megan cancels and Sylvia's husband is called off on another emergency. (Fun fact: Sylvia's husband is the only doctor in New York!) When Sylvia starts to feel guilty about the affair, Don drops a classic Don Draper line about skipping to the part where he takes off her dress and before you can say "eggplant rigatoni" the two are making opera-scored love.
Meanwhile Pete is over his quickie with the neighbor before she's even put her stockings on, but for some reason she's besotted with Pete. Perhaps it has something to do with her abusive husband?
Later that night she shows up on the Campbell's doorstep bloody and beaten. Trudy takes the lead and drives the poor woman over to a relative's house, but not before glaring daggers at Pete. Trudy obviously knows the score and she's none to happy about it.
Pete Campbell has done some disgusting things on this show (the Jaguar deal being one of his worst offenses) but tonight when he blamed the domestic abuse victim for her beating that might have topped his list. So it was especially satisfying when Trudy kicked Pete to the curb.
Trudy can't believe that even after she allowed him to have an Austin Powers-esque shagadelic bachelor pad in the city, he would still screw the neighbor. She tells him she's had enough and then kicks him out.
"I'm drawing a 50-mile radius around this house, and if you so much as open your fly to urinate, I will destroy you." And with those words, Trudy becomes the absolute coolest. If only she had punched Pete. It's been three episodes already, and no one has punched Pete in the face. This is very upsetting.
Both Don and Pete have affairs with their neighbor, but only Pete's blows up massively in his face. Pete Campbell might desperately want to be Don Draper, but he's still got a long way to go.
Peggy Eyes Ketchup
Meanwhile Peggy is having an hard time leading her new team of copywriters. She's finding the balance between being an encouraging mentor and demanding the best a hard one to walk. Which is why she ends up with a stupid joke on her desk about a feminine product, showing that even though she's the boss sexism is still alive and well.
Thankfully, her fun phone conversations with an increasingly shaggy Stan continue. Stan tells her about the Heinz bean guy, who brings along ketchup, the Coca-Cola of condiments, for a meeting. Yet he doesn't want them to work with ketchup and threatens to pull his business if SCDP so much as looks at the ketchup department. Don agrees, even though it's a much bigger and better account.
After Peggy tells her new boss Ted, however, he advises her to go after ketchup. Peggy hesitates because it would be betraying Stan's confidence. But Ted says Stan underestimated her and he hopes the competition does as well.
So it looks like Peggy will be gunning for the ketchup account, which seems like a promising storyline for her. Sadly it will probably effect the Stan/Peggy phone calls, which are quickly becoming my favorite part of this season.
Elsewhere in SCDP...
- Megan had a miscarriage two days before but hasn't told Don about it yet. In fact, she didn't even tell him about the pregnancy. Confiding in Sylvia, she more or less says the miscarriage was a blessing in disguise since a pregnancy right as her acting career is taking off would just be terrible timing. They seem to talk obliquely around the idea of abortion, but no one says the word or even comes close to talking about it openly. Finally Megan admits to Don what happened and they wonder if it's time for the kids talk.
- New guy on the block Bob is pretty much everywhere underfoot, kissing up to anyone who will give him the time of day. What is this guy's deal?
- No one talks directly about the war in Vietnam and yet it is everywhere in the background of this episode. Instead we get updates through radio and TV while watching the more domestic drama of our characters unfold.
- While last week's premiere was obsessed with death, it still managed to be lighter and even funnier than this week's episode. Besides Peggy, things were pretty gloomy. Something just felt off about this episode. Anyone else feel the same way?
What did you think of this week's episode? Will Pete ever make his way back home? Will Megan or the doctor figure out the affair? And will we ever get more than five seconds of Joan? Sound off in the comments!