Tender Moments, Heartbreak, and Righteous Anger. Mad Men Season 6: Episode 2 Recap
Jon Hamm returns to the directorial helm, and Don stays on an emotional rollercoaster throughout this episode, “The Collaborators.” And that’s just poor Don’s personal life. He isn’t even concerned with larger issues like Vietnam that keep popping up in the background Between the flashbacks to a particularly unsavory part of his youth and his current muddle of resentment and guilt, the episode quick literally knocks him off his feet. The flashbacks concern his move to his uncle’s house which is in actuality, a brothel. The guilt isn’t so much about his affair; instead he longs to make up for his failure to prevent Joan’s very temporary excursion into prostitution with the Jaguar dude. The slimeball is back, trying to make classless demands, but at least this time they are about Jaguar’s advertising. Don sinks the Jaguar exec’s cheap idea with venom, but it doesn’t satisfy him. What ever actually does?
Trudy totally owns this episode. Let me back up and explain. Pete Campbell is a divisive character on the show, and lately he’s been cheating on his wife, a lot. Their suburban façade finally crumbles in this episode after Pete sleeps with one of his neighbors, Brenda. Their rendezvous is discovered by the husband who bloodies poor Brenda’s nose and kicks her out of the house, shouting “She’s your problem now.” Against all hope and logic, Pete thinks he can keep Trudy in the dark. He’s wrong. So wrong. When she shouts him down the next morning, it is a glorious moment. Pete tries to turn it around on her, but he’s the empty sad one. Trudy is going to be just fine. I hope she gets more screen time.
Megan also has a really rough time. Totally unknowingly, she opens up to Don’s new mistress Sylvia about suffering a miscarriage. I was so sure that Sylvia was going to respond to Megan in return and confess the affair. This caused my first shouting at the TV for the season. It didn’t happen, and I think I’m glad? Megan felt ambivalent at best about the timing of the pregnancy, so her emotions about the miscarriage are complex. Unfortunately, Sylvia shames Megan about these feelings. Later, Megan shares the same news with Don, but with more guilt and less honesty. They talk about having kids, and both pretend to be more on board for the idea than they really are. I was beginning to feel hopeful for Megan this season, but this really worries me. She needs to be a fun soap opera star, not a miserable reluctant mom. Don’s kids already have one of those (sorry Betty).
So, about Sylvia and Don. I probably shouldn’t be on board for their affair. It is unquestionably a Bad Thing. But I like both of the Rosens, and the illicit relationship is a huge part of the connection between the two couples. Sylvia seems feisty and wheedling by turns. She already feels far more for Don than he does for her. Their accidental date at a fancy Italian restaurant makes this clear. She experiences guilt and pleasure in pretty big ways because both Don and her husband matter to her. Don just wants to treat guilt like a kinky aphrodisiac. He is not good at sexual or emotional fidelity, the end. Maybe that’s what some of those flashbacks are about. Don understands emotional safety in a weird cheating way because of what he experienced as a child. Oh his poor women who have to deal with this without the educational glimpses of baby Don.
The warming relationship between Peggy and her new boss Ted Chaough may have come to a major stalling point. He’s the sort of fellow that shamelessly chooses business over friendship, and Peggy just isn’t. With her, ethics do matter, even when things are complicated. Ted overhears Peggy on the phone again with Stan, this time about Ken Cosgrove looking dumb over the weird incident with Heinz. Earlier in the episode, the Heinz bean guy brought in the Heinz ketchup guy but unilaterally forbids Sterling Cooper Draper Price from pursuing Ketchup’s business. Peggy and Stan were just enjoying Ken’s punctured pride, because he’d been bragging too soon. Once Ted hears the story, he wants to use the information to start its own ketchup courtship. Peggy objects, but Ted keeps pushing the point. Icky icky.
No Betty. Not enough Joan. But a great episode. More sex, more love, less death. Never a complete lack of death though, not on Mad Men.