One consistent aspect of Mad Men is that appearances aren’t always as they seem, particularly in the personal lives of these characters. Don is of course telling the biggest lie; not just in the extra-marital affairs that he has, but with who he really is. Flashbacks give a glimpse of a young Dick Whitman and this reinforces the notion of his past and his present being separate entities that result in Don’s inability to remain faithful. Don isn’t the only one having trouble keeping his relationships at a distance as Pete encounters troubles out in the suburbs thanks to a dalliance close to home.
Don and Pete’s storylines often mirror each other with noticeable differences; on this occasion Pete gets caught after his new neighbor tells the truth to her husband and most likely Trudy (even if she didn’t tell Trudy, Trudy is perceptive enough to figure out what has been going on). Don is also having an affair close to home, but unlike Pete he is much better at covering up this indiscretion. Both men have the issue of never being quite satisfied by what they have and Pete’s dissatisfaction only increased when he moved out of the city, this again mirrors Don’s behavior when he was with Betty in a similar set up. This is much like the Munich reference that Don and Roger make; the Germans were given everything they wanted and so they only ended up wanting more. Don is invoking this example because of Herb from Jaguar and how they should have said no to him when he made the indecent proposal about Joan, but really it could apply to half of these characters.
Unlike Betty, Trudy doesn’t want a divorce from Pete as this will seem like failure; instead she insists that she will dictate when he can come home. This is an excellent moment for this character, but I hope we still get to see Alison Brie this season. Pete is rather indignant about all of this (shocking I know) and refuses to acknowledge that he has done anything wrong. Pete acts like he isn’t bothered about returning to his New York apartment, but the sight of him alone in his office tells a different story. We’ve seen how pathetic his city apartment looks, with a screen to separate the bedroom and the only thing that is stocked is his bar and his music collection. Pete even has to send out Bob to get him toilet paper and I think it will be sooner rather than later that we see Pete begging Trudy to return home.
The flashbacks to Dick Whitman’s past give further insight into Don’s complicated feelings about intimacy; we know that he is the son of prostitute, but now we also get to see that after his father died he went to live with his uncle, who happened to run a brothel. Dick witnesses his uncle sleeping with his very pregnant step-mother, a scene shot through a spyhole to make it even more disturbing than it already is. We already know that Don’s upbringing had a profound effect on who he is and the person he didn’t want to be, but does this excuse his constant philandering?
At this point it is becoming a touch repetitive to see Don making the same mistakes, yes we had a season of no affairs but we have circled back to a place we have seen Don many times before. Sylvia has similar qualities to those that have come before her (particularly Rachel Menken and Suzanne Farrell), with the main difference being how close to home this affair is. Don is even being as brazen as knocking on her door when Dr Rosen is home and so it seems likely that he will get sloppy at some point and get caught either by his new friend or his wife.
Feeling guilty and trying to avoid these feelings is a big aspect of this episode and Megan’s miscarriage is a focal point for this. Megan is conflicted when it comes to having children and while this episode suggests that she does want them at some point, this isn’t the time as her career is only just beginning. Don seems genuinely concerned for Megan’s well-being and not just as a side effect from feeling guilty. This doesn’t stop him from returning to Sylvia, so he doesn’t win any good husband awards and this isn’t necessarily going to fix the issues that their marriage has. When Megan confides in Sylvia, Sylvia deflects her feelings of remorse back onto Megan when Megan suggests she didn’t want this baby. Sylvia’s cold attitude towards Don at the start of the dinner is a mixture of jealousy and shame over what Megan has gone through.
Peggy is having her own issues at work as it is clear that she is disliked by some of the people that work for her and she dramatically declares to Stan that “Everyone hates me here.” While Stan doesn’t have a solution for this he does tell her about the Heinz meeting and because Ted walks in on this chat, Peggy reveals this juicy advertising gossip to her boss. Ted uses this opportunity to try and score Heinz Ketchup as a client, but Peggy fears that this will impact her friendship with Stan. Will Peggy betray Stan in this way and if she does will he understand?
These late night calls are a really fun aspect and connect Peggy back to SCDP, if she does go through with it I hope this doesn’t ruin their relationship. Peggy has always had a hard time connecting with the people that she works with and the practical joke that is left on her desk reminds me of her attempt to find a new roommate when she worked at Sterling Cooper and the prank phone calls that she received. With Stan there was tension between them at the start, but they now have a wonderful friendship that I hope remains this way.
– Don has a lot of cigarette excuses prepared when he wants to see Sylvia; he’s forgotten them or needs to buy some more. It’s telling that Dr Rosen uses this moment to suggest that he should quit this habit. If only you knew Arnold. The sneaky post-coital cigarette further highlights how inappropriate this is.
– Don giving Sylvia money after sex is a tad on the nose with the links to his past, but shows that everything can be a transaction on this show.
– Mad Men likes dark humor and this is apparent when Megan tells Sylvia about her miscarriage, with Sylvia laughing thinking it is another plot from Megan’s show.
– Sylvia says she feels guilty if she watches TV all day; Nick Miller disagrees with this notion.
– The return of Herb made me want to run to the vodka bottle like Joan did. Joan handled herself well and managed to get in a dig (“I know there’s part of you that you haven’t seen in years”). Don perfectly undermines Herb’s idea with the other Jaguar executives and it’s a lot of fun to see Don doing it in such an enthusiastic manner.
– Herb is unhappy that they don’t have a lift up to the accounts floor, the staircase wins this round.
– Apparently all Pete has to do is offer tickets to a show and a hot dog and a woman falls for him.
– The Vietnam War is becoming more prominent with TV and radio broadcasts playing in the background of scenes. Some characters pay more attention to this than others.
– Stan’s beard is still magnificent.
– “Of course when you want them to be funny they’re useless.” Don’t ever change Peggy.