Mad Men is back! If you’re a fan, join us regularly for Mad Men Musings – a space to discuss selected highlights, low points, or just plain water-cooler worthy moments of each episode.
When it comes to thinking about our better halves, and how we choose who to relinquish our hearts to, I always flash back to philosophy class and Plato’s character Aristophanes. His simplified theory was that people were once literally joined together, but the gods split us asunder; we spend the rest of our lives trying to find our missing halves, our soul mates. In the Mad Men universe this week, we saw this search play out in various configurations, none of them particularly successful.
First up is Don, still engaged in a territorial pissing contest with Ted at work. This time, it’s over Fleischmann’s margarine, aka the “Chivas Regal” of the butter substitute world. But it’s also over Peggy, of course – she’s clearly Don’s work soul mate, only he’s too jaded and possessive to foster a healthy working relationship. At home, Don is disengaged as ever; Megan might want to be Don’s missing half, but he doesn’t seem to share the sentiment. Poor Megan just wants comfort after a rough day as soap-opera twin Colette (c’mon, wearing a feathery platinum wig and a crimson crochet bodysuit is HARD, guys) but Don just wants to drink and watch TV.
Next, Don attempts to reconnect with Betty when he goes to visit Bobby during a summer camp weekend. By reconnect, I totally mean cabin sex. What started out as an admittedly sweet family scene in the restaurant devolved into short-shorts, drinking, and an open door policy. (Again, you’ll notice, with the whole door theme).
Now, let’s talk about Betty for a second – her transformation back to svelte, sleek, and ice-blonde is complete. Well aware of her newly restored power, Betty enjoys a variety of male attention here, of the tongue-lolling, steam-coming-out of-the-ears, Tex Avery wolf cartoon variety. And although she appears to be happy with Henry and the power and status he represents, it’s clear that her beauty and desirability is what she prizes, above everything else. (Also, can you believe she’s had three children?) Betty’s soul mate is…herself?
At any rate, it was interesting to see the role reversal amidst the cabin sex. Don seems wistful, longing to connect to a distant and confident Betty. He wonders why sex must be the way to get close to someone; he tells her he would have been happy just to hold her in his arms. Somehow, Betty manages to control her laughter at this – instead, she strokes his face and says, referring to Megan, “Poor girl. She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.” Preach, Betty.
When Don returns home, Megan is waiting with a gentle confrontation about the distance in their relationship. Don admits that he hasn’t been there for her, but it rings hollow. He better watch out, though, because Megan’s co-star Arlene is more than willing to fill that void.
While Don continues the search for his better half, Peggy sees the dissolution of her relationship with Abe. There have always been hiccups between the two of them – Abe is a rabble rouser progressive and Peggy not so much – and her latent feelings toward Ted haven’t helped the situation. At work, Ted confesses his inappropriate love for Peggy, after calling her out for touching his hand during a presentation. Ever the gentlemen (or the coward, depending on how you look at it) he makes it clear that nothing can happen between them.
At home, Peggy is confronted with Abe and his [first] stabbing. Abe refuses to ID the race of his attackers and his bullheadedness, in the face of a violent crime, infuriates Peggy. Here, their basic ideological/philosophical differences start to reach the breaking point. The cherry on the break-up sundae, though, pretty much happens when Pegs accidentally STABS Abe with her knife-on-the-end-of-a-broomstick weapon. This whole incident, the surreal and sudden violence, reminded me very much of the lawnmower incident from Season 3 – a stark reminder that scary, crazy things are totally unpredictable. Abe’s break up speech to Peggy was equally wounding: “Your activities are an offense to my every waking moment.”
So, Peggy plus Abe do not equal soul mates, clearly. But neither do Peggy and Ted: when Peggy tells him she and Abe are done, Ted spouts platitudes and practically shoves her out the door with a pat on the head. (Funny how Ted was all Romeo when it was “safe” to do so; now, it’s a different story). Devastated, Peggy starts towards Don’s office, only to have him shut the door. That final shot of her, literally and symbolically in the middle of Ted and Don and yet all alone, was haunting.
The last set of broken halves this week consisted of Pete, Roger, and Joan. Pete is fretting about his job – his estranged marriage, coupled with the stress of his mother, is impacting his work performance and he’s worried. So worried, in fact, that he has a meeting with Duck Philips (and so help me God, if Peggy and Duck hook up again I’ll be the one doing some stabbing). Duck tells Pete he needs to get his family stuff in order, which is a very tall order at this point.
Meanwhile, Roger is trying to bond with his grandson. Because Roger is fun and awesome but pretty thoughtless, he takes his grandson to see Planet of the Apes – a bit much for a four year old. His daughter is furious, and even Roger’s silver tongue can’t smooth this one over. Instead, he swings by Joan’s apartment with some Lincoln logs for Kevin, seeking a connection with his secret son and baby mama.
But what’s this? Oh, just Joan in a killer nautical ensemble…and Bob Benson, bound for the beach. Awkwardness ensues and Joan gets rid of Roger immediately. Later, at the office, Joan tells Roger that he and Kevin will never have the relationship he wants – it just isn’t possible. Of course, she’s also referring to her own relationship with Roger. She’s right, probably, but I wish they could make it work: Roger and Joan 4 eva.
In the very last scene, Bob tells Pete he needs to speak to him about a “delicate situation.” At last, we’ve come to the point where Bob’s true nefarious self will be revealed! He’s going to insinuate dirt about Joan and Roger. I knew it! Here he goes, he’s giving Pete…the name of an excellent nurse to solve his out-of-control-mother problem? You got me again, Bob Benson.
Readers – Have your feelings about Ted changed at all? Did anyone else notice that right after the margarine office scene, cut to Betty wearing…a margarine-yellow gown? And let’s get philosophical: does Aristophanes’s theory ring true for you?
all photos: via AMC
Amity writes and teaches in Central PA. Her obsessions include: Rodarte (she can’t afford any Rodarte, mind you, but a girl can dream), espresso, books, vintage/thrift fashion and fountain pens. She thinks you should dress like a weirdo once in a while, just to shake things up.