This week on Mad Men,
Sally sees something she'll eventually have to work through in therapy, Pete struggles with feeling increasingly useless in every aspect of his life and we might have uncovered at least part of the mystery surrounding Bob Benson. Or have we?
There's some good stuff in this Mad Men
episode and even some downright shocking moments, yet the episode somehow doesn't end up feeling as if it came together as a whole. Instead, it feels more like an episode of Mad Men
spinning its wheels, with a big shocking moment thrown to make the rest of the episode feel more relevant than it ultimately is. While Don spends most of the episode worried about Mitchell, Sylvia's long-haired, recently drafted son, perhaps he should have worried more about his own relationship with his daughter.
We've seen Don talk a bit about his relationship with his children this season, but he still seems very estranged from his kids. After the Grandma Ida incident, Sally hits the nail on the head when she correctly calls that she doesn't actually know all that much about her father. Unfortunately, this episode sees her learning about Don Draper the hard way.
Earlier in the episode, Sally tells Betty that Don supports her. While I wouldn't say Sally has unrealistically high expectations of Don, she does seem to put him on a bit of a higher pedestal than he merits. Now he's certainly been knocked off that perch, after Sally walks in on Don giving Sylvia some sexual healing. His explanation to an angry Sally, that he was "comforting" her, is especially weak.
The Descent of Don Draper
Sally walking in on one of Don's affairs is definitely the big "OMG" moment of an episode that feels mostly like filler. This is definitely a strong suit of Mad Men, lulling you into a false sense of security with its languid pacing and then springing something dramatic on you when you least expect it. The show pulled a similar stunt earlier this season when SCDP suddenly merged with CGC, the repercussions of which we continue to see with Ted's inability to lose to Don.
Obviously, what Ted fails to realize is that he's fighting a ghost, since Don barely has his head in the game anymore. In fact, Don seems to be losing the agency more business than he is bringing in, first losing Jaguar, then recusing himself from Chevy, now causing a mix-up between Ocean Spray and Sunkist because he didn't read one of Ted's many memos.
Ted keeps hitting, trying to exert dominance and win the top dog position at the agency, but Don is practically a punching bag at this point because he's not even really hitting back. Half the time, he doesn't even seem all that clued in to what's going on in the agency. When Don sincerely thanks Ted for helping out Mitchell, Ted seems to think it's a trick because he too is fighting the wrong war.
Throughout this season, Don has seemed to become a sadder figure than he was last year. With his marriage to Megan silently and imperceptibly (to Megan at least) falling apart, Don threw himself into the affair with Sylvia with a kind of desperation we've hardly seen Don display before. Add that to all the flashbacks of Don's hard knock childhood in the little whorehouse of sadness and the fact that he's barely managed to score a professional win this season and Don resolving into an ever sadder figure.
Perhaps Sally is finally starting to see her father for who he really is, and as she says at dinner, it makes her sick. And it has been particularly galling watching Don buddy with Doctor Rosen, the very man whose wife he's sleeping with. We're not particularly shocked because we've seen Don display this kind of cavalier attitude before in his affairs, but it must be a huge blow to Sally.
Between this and opening the door on Roger and Megan's mother last season, I don't think Sally is ever going anywhere without knocking ever again. Lesson learned the hard way. Man, Sally is going to need so much therapy.
Who is Bob Benson?
The Pete and Peggy affair that started the show is very rarely referenced, instead it just simmers under the surface for the writers to reference whenever they need. Peggy's surprise pregnancy and giving up the baby was such a powerful moment in the show's history that it doesn't need to keep reminding the audience that it happened. Which means sometimes we even forget all about the Pete and Peggy of it all, considering how much all of the characters have grown and changed since the early years.
But this episode contains a lot more Pete and Peggy than we normally see, and even includes a callback to their love child. Peggy chats with Pete's mother, who mistakes her for Trudy, and tells them they should get back together for the sake of the child.
While all the color drains out of Peggy's face, Pete's mother goes on to confide her nurse Manolo is doing some "comforting" of his own. If you know what I mean. And I'm using the new, sexy Don Draper definition of the word comforting.
Later, while Pete tries to drink off his flying nerves with Peggy and Ted, Peggy tells him all about the conversation. It's a really nice, little scene between the two of them, and makes me realize how rarely we really get to see Pete and Peggy interact outside of general shop talk.
Pete asks Peggy not to feel sorry for him because she's one of the few people who actually knows him, and she tells him she doesn't. But Pete is also becoming an increasingly sadder and more marginalized figure, cut out of Chevy and working on juice accounts that might not even happen.
So Pete confronts first his mother, who tells him he was always a sour child, and then Bob Benson, who recommended Manolo in the first place. Bob strongly hints that Manolo might not be playing for team heterosexual, but Pete says that makes it worse somehow. Then Bob smoothly hits on Pete by touching knees. Pete moves his knee away and seems very unsettled.
It seems we've gotten at least some answer to the Bob Benson enigma, although Bob certainly doesn't seem all that torn up about Pete's rebuff of his advances. In the previous episode, Ginsburg asked Bob if he was gay and Bob subtly sidestepped the question. It looks like the answer is yes, although Bob is still such a slippery character, it's hard to trust anything he does or says as absolute fact. Although I guess those shorts he was wearing to the beach with Joan a few episodes ago should have been a tip-off.
Hey, if they bring back Sal (still holding out hope!) they could be the new agency power couple!
Elsewhere in Sterling Cooper and Partners...
-- Peggy pretty much proves she has chemistry with everyone in the office this episode thanks to great scenes with Ted, Pete and Stan. Frankly, the Stan scene is my favorite because Peggy and Stan are always an amazing combination. Also, I would like to know how Peggy can correctly identify Stan's sexy voice. Is it too much to ask for an all Peggy and Stan episode?
-- Also, Peggy takes her first exciting step towards becoming a crazy cat lady.
-- Sally's friend has a major crush on Sylvia's son, Mitchell, who totally looks like he could be in a band and wears the most ridiculous pants ever. What will she think when Mitchell has to cut his hair? And did Mitchell ever get to read Sally's letter?
-- The show talks about the war in Vietnam in somewhat greater detail, this time through Mitchell's drafting after he dropped out of college.
-- We go home with Ted for the first time, whose wife is unhappy he seems to be so much happier at work than at home.
What did you think of this week's episode of Mad Men? Were you shocked by Sally walking in on Sylvia and Don? Is Bob Benson really gay? Sound off in the comments!