Starting in an elevator again, Don overhears a clamorous fight between his lady-of-the-moment Sylvia and his best pal Arnie. A big fight. A marriage-ending fight. Don seems genuinely disturbed by it, but it is hard to see what he’s really feeling, especially after his behavior for the rest of this fairly strange episode. Basically, she calls him at work on a really busy day, saying that she needs him. Somehow when he shows up, he’s ready to take their relationship to a whole new kinky level, but he sure doesn’t know how to talk about it. So instead he silkily gives her orders about his shoes, the hotel bed, the hotel phone and sexy red dresses. It’s clear that he now trusts Sylvia with the desires that he isn’t comfortable with, but he doesn’t go about it in a very smart way. Sylvia mostly isn’t in to it, especially once she’s supposed to wait in the hotel room after he takes away her paperback novel. Her parting words to him at the end of the episode cut deep, “It’s easy to give up on something when you’re ashamed.” She likes the attention, but not the objectification or uncertainty. Who can blame her?
Part of me wants to create a sneaky roundabout reading of the whole thing that paints Don in a better light. Maybe he does all this Domly Don stuff to take her mind off of the fight with her husband because deep down he wants them to stay together. He wants what is best for her and Arnie. Maybe he just has a lot of extra steam because of what’s going on at work. Whatever. Nope. It won’t fly. I refuse to give Don a pass on this. If he wants something, he needs to learn to ask for it. He needs to think about his own desires and own up to them before asking if Sylvia (or Megan) wants to play too. It’s called consent, Don, and it’s pretty freakin’ important.
Peggy and Don have it out in his office after he gets Ted Chaough totally blitzed when they are trying to brainstorm about margarine. Peggy does not want to fall into old patterns. While she doesn’t like everything about the way Ted does business, she certainly wants to bring his style of working into the office. I can only applaude her when she delivers the message to Don, “Move forward.” There’s a much better moment when Joan and Peggy subtly show support for one another and pleasure to be working together again.
Pete reaches new lows this week, and it makes me so disgusted I can barely write about it. I get that he feels very threatened by the merger. And his mom’s dementia or Alzheimer’s is a terrible burden. These things do not excuse his temper tantrums, or worse his attempts to manipulate his mother by taking advantage of her disease, confusing her and lying to her, so that he won’t have to deal with her. Horrible.
Joan has a rough time this episode. At first it’s just more weary office shenanigans about status and efficiency due to the merger, but it gets more serious when she experiences sudden debilitating pain. What’s-His-Face, the cheery suck-up Bob Benson, comes to her aid as soon as he sees her face (after she’s vomiting from the pain). He even manages to lie to the ER nurse to help her skip the line and get treated for what turns out to be an ovarian cyst. As many others have said, if the show messes with Joan’s health, I am out. That is a deal breaker. Mad Men would be over for me at that point.
In a confusing return to a previous season’s drama, Roger fires Burt Peterson again with such venom and bile that I felt like I must be forgetting something really interesting. Maybe I need to go back and read up on why they are so salty at one another, but the scene did not motivate me to find out more. Ah well.
The episode closes darkly on a one-two punch of Don returning home only for his eyes to glaze over as Megan reaches out to him with the suggestion of a family vacation. That is after all how they got together and how we saw them having fun at the start of the season. She loves him. She wants to be close again. He cannot even bring himself to hear the words coming out of her mouth. Eek. The next thing we see is the morning of Sen. Kennedy’s assassination. Megan just watches the TV and cries while Don sits wooden and distant. This is the moment for me that re-emphasizes the generation gap between them. Don doesn’t care about *this* Kennedy and Megan does. She’s the one moving forward.
There were lots of missing faces this episode, as far as I am concerned. I’d love to check in with Dawn, Betty, Trudy, and Sally. Come on Mad Men.