So, I’ve been getting flack for being a Betty Draper fan for six seasons. I know that she’s a weird, sometimes-cruel person with issues. Trust me, I know. But I find her endlessly compelling. Alternately, I love her and love to hate her. She’s unpredictable and savvy. So, imagine my joy when season six finally gave Don some reunion time with Betty, and on her terms too. Here’s the tale of the relationships in week’s episode of Mad Men.
Don and Betty had to meet up at Bobby’s summer camp. They bump into one another on the road in fantasy-esque scenario of blond-again, thin-again, Betty needing directions at a rural gas station and Don driving up just in time to see her bending waaaaaay over to get her map. It almost feels like a flashback because everything is so 1950s, even down to the gas station attendant. But once they are hanging out with Bobby on the campground, bonding over a nip of illicit alcohol, things just start to flow. Don can do his stoic seduction thing and Betty can revel in being the center of his attention for the first time in years. They both get what they want. Till the next morning anyhow, when Henry Francis gets to share breakfast with Betty, and Don must eat alone.
But Don doesn’t always have to eat alone, as we saw earlier in the episode when Megan reaches out to him yet again. She’s having a rough spell at work and wants to talk. The soap opera has set her up now to play twins, and she’s not having an easy time making that work. Don, however, doesn’t want to talk or eat the dinner she’s made for him. He wants to work late, drink more, and go to sleep. She’s totally honest with him in her last scene of the episode, when he has come back from his little camp adventure. He finds her tearful, as she watches the city from their balcony in a completely of-the-moment t-shirt and undies. She is so different from the seemingly-independent yet 1950s put-together Betty he just saw. Megan wants their early relationship back in a totally different kind of nostalgia. I sigh for her, because I don’t think it is going to happen. I also feel a bit guilty because seeing Don and Betty play was so much more fun and interesting than seeing Megan and Don’s marriage continue to falter.
Speaking of faltering, Peggy and Abe are through, in perhaps the most surprising way any relationship has ended on Mad Men. She accidentally stabs him with a homemade spear, and he realizes that she and he are too different politically. Seriously. Let me explain. They’d been struggling with the apartment that she bought in his preferred location. He’d been stabbed earlier in the week, but didn’t tell much to the police because he doesn’t want to give their racial profiling more fodder. Peggy is more worried about their safety than his use of the experience for journalism. She’s been looking for a way out, but this wasn’t really the one she wanted. To further complicate matters, she and Ted attempt to talk about their attraction and their kiss from a few weeks ago, but it doesn’t go well. Ted seems to acknowledge how much he likes Peggy, but doesn’t want to allow her room to express her feelings or preferences. It culminates in him shutting his office door in her face.
Smaller relationship tidbits include Megan’s swinging co-working Arlene making a play for Megan without Don or her husband around. Megan isn’t even tempted. This show doesn’t like female-female attraction. They’ve had three lesbian/bisexual women on the show, and they all show up basically to hit on straight women who are more central characters (Joan’s friend, Peggy’s bohemian acquaintance, and now Arlene). This lame pattern is definitely a weak point in the writing. Mad Men just doesn’t handle this super well. Arlene is a bit slimy and manipulative, but Megan’s rejection isn’t very compassionate. Roger tries to pay a visit to Joan, only to interrupt her and Bob Benson getting ready for a day at the beach. The difference in how she interacts with Bob and Roger is so marked. She seems more relaxed, happier, and younger with Bon; Roger just makes her sigh. Rather like how Roger makes his own daughter more-than sigh when he takes her young son to Planet of the Apes which gives him terrible nightmares. Roger is a big kid and every woman on the show is tired of cleaning up after him.
Otherwise, this week a few things happen which might play out more completely by the end of the season. Pete and Duck have a talk about Pete’s prospects for other jobs. Duck tells him that he can increase his value exponentially if he does just a bit more in the here and now. Pete also shares his situation with his mother with Joan, who in turn shares it with Bob. Bob seeks out a solution in the form of an army trained nurse who he gently proposes to Pete. I still wonder if Bob might be doing the long con on everyone at the office, but so long as he keeps doing people real favors, it is hard not to root for him. Early on we get a brief glimpse at the Francis political process, which seems to involve strange men tactlessly flirting with Betty and Henry getting horny/grumpy about it. There’s also lots of office brainstorming about margarine and butter, but even with its metaphorical weight, it takes a distant second place in this episode which really is all about relationships.