This week on Mad Men,
the Bob Benson mystery finally gets solved, Sally makes a pretty impressive pitch for her own '60s Mean Girls
spin-off and Don destroys everyone's happiness just because he can. Oh yeah, and Ken Cosgrove gets shot in the face.
The penultimate episode of Mad Men's sixth season packs in a lot of story and somehow manages to make Don look even worse. This hasn't been a good season for Don, and it's not like he's ever really set the bar very high when it comes to good behavior. But directly on the heels of traumatizing Sally, sending her into the boozy arms of boarding school, Don once again disillusions another important woman in his life.
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Don might have ultimately been right about Ted and Peggy's lovesick behavior in the office (Joan's knowing eyebrows to Don in that first pitch scene really says it all), but the way in which he humiliates the two is more malicious than concerned.2013 TCA Awards: The Americans and Breaking Bad Lead Nominations >>>
After losing Sally, Don couldn't seem to deal with the fact that the other woman who used to look up to him is seemingly moving on and replacing him. After all, it's not until Don and Megan see Ted and Peggy out at the theater that he decides to take Harry's call about Sunkist. While last week Don couldn't seem to care less about the business, this week he's suddenly all about what's best for the company.
Don has become a bigger and bigger hypocrite this season. It's not that Don's ever been a swell guy, but this season it seems as if he's actively getting more and more unlikable with every episode. Much like Walter White on Breaking Bad, we've continually watched Don become a worse person. The hypocrite angle is just a new flavor to the same old story of Don Draper, who can't ever seem to break out of his most self-destructive patterns of behavior.
Last week, Don was so distracted by helping Sylvia's son, he seemed to take the olive branch with Ted over Ocean Spray almost without realizing it. Earlier in the season, he continually ignored business to go play weird Fifty Shades of Grey games with Sylvia in hotels.
Last season, he was so wrapped up in his honeymoon relationship with Megan that he took his eye off the ball where business was concerned. While Megan had a knack for copywriting, her career definitely advanced because Don was so enamored with her. Which is much like how Ted wanted to do the more exciting and expensive commercial to get Peggy a shot at the Cleo award.
Don might not be wrong with his criticism of Ted and Peggy's very public flirtation, but it's certainly a path he himself has traveled down more than once. (Remember Faye?) Don's behavior continues to isolate him from the people he cares about most. He's pulling away from Megan, Sally isn't coming to visit anymore and now Peggy has had enough of Don.
I don't think it's a mistake that the scene of Peggy calling Don a monster and storming out echoes the scene of Sally doing the same last week
. The most important people in his life, the women who looked up to him and reflected back a more idealized Don Draper, are quickly realizing he's a liar and a hypocrite.
Don plays the child a lot in this episode, beginning and ending the episode in a fetal position and playing the crying baby in the pitch. That's no mistake, because it's his own childish behavior that ultimately pushes everyone away. I'm not sure what symbolism we can read into with the use of Rosemary's Baby in the episode, but Don is certainly acting like a demon spawn.
The Mystery of Bob Benson Revealed
You know that old saying about how if you don't learn from history, then you're doomed to repeat it? Well, history has been repeating itself all over the place this season for many of our characters, while conversely the world of the '60s never stops moving forward. While Don is repeating old patterns, Pete is once again sparring with the most dangerous opponent of all: a self-made man.
After Ken once again gets nearly killed by the Chevy guys in what is, hands down, the most darkly funny moment of the episode, he decides he wants out. Every scene where Ken is harmed by the Chevy guys always plays in the episode as if it's plopped in from some other show. It's always so broad you at first have to ask yourself if it even really happened. In the world of SC&P, the Chevy guys are the real supernatural horrors.
So Pete swoops in, finally managing to get the role in their biggest account he thinks he deserves. Only one problem: Bob is about to come along for the ride. After last week's awkward knee touch heard 'round the world, Pete is having none of Bob's nonsense. He asks Duck to headhunt for Bob so he can get rid of him.
But Duck finds out something even more interesting than a job opportunity. He discovers Bob Benson is an illusion. He never had the jobs on his resume or went to the fancy colleges. He was from some out of the way, backwards town and started life as a "man servant." He left his last company with a "pencil sharper and the Christmas card list" and managed to con his way into a job.
This all makes perfect sense with the social climber, aggressively ambitious Bob we've come to know this season. It also reminds us of Don's own story, although perhaps not as dramatic as the Dick Whitman switch. As Pete mentions, he's seen it all before.
And after his run-in with Don, he knows how these things go. People like Bob and Don who can pull themselves up from nothing and rebuild their own histories are the most dangerous kind of people to pit yourself against.
Unlike Don, Pete learns from his history and doesn't repeat himself. Instead of getting Bob fired, he tells Bob to stay out of his way. Whatever Bob does from here on out, Pete is off limits. Pete manages to put himself back into a power position while keeping Bob at least moderately beholden to him.
"I don't know how people like you do it," Pete tells Bob. Perhaps the real threat to Don isn't Ted, or even Peggy, but a younger version of himself. I'll be interested to see what, if anything, the show does with Bob in the finale.
As a season-long mystery, it's been fun to speculate over who Bob might be, and the answer is completely satisfying while also fitting into the larger themes of the show. But I admit, it would have been fun if Bob turned out to be Pete and Peggy's time traveling love child or an FBI agent or Don's long-lost son like some of the crazier theories put forth.
Elsewhere in SC&P
-- Sally's running away from her awful parents the only way rich white kids do: boarding school! But to get past the mean girls, she'll need Glen, his creepy friend Rolo and a whole lot of booze and pot. Sally's little smile when Glen and Rolo fight over her proves she might be a little more like Betty than she'd like to admit.
-- The whole scene with Ted and Peggy's pitch is priceless. I could watch Don Draper do that weird baby crying all day. Also, Joan as a Jewish neighbor! There's a wacky sitcom in there somewhere for whenever Mad Men ends.
-- Hey, SC&P has a new logo and the font is pretty groovy!
-- Why all the love for Rosemary's Baby? First, Sally was reading it earlier this season, then the Sharon Tate shirt on Megan, and now the movie itself pops up in the show. Any theories?
-- Betty thinks Don must have given Sally, who admittedly can make a perfect Tom Collins, booze. "My father has never given me anything," Sally replies. Happy Father's Day!
What did you think of the penultimate episode of Mad Men season 6? Will Sally attend the boarding school? Will Don and Ted continue to fight? What will happen next week in the finale? Sound off in the comments!