This episode was not on the level of “Mystery Date”, “Signal 30”, “Far Away Places” or “At the Codfish Ball” but I loved this episode’s Betty-ness a lot more than “Tea Leaves”. That episode had a lot of interesting stuff around it, Peggy shaking down Roger and the introduction of Michael Ginsberg while the center story was of Betty’s uninteresting, rushed story line explaining her weight gain and anxieties. This episode is about trying to overcome the anxieties of trying to lose the weight, and the prosthetics have either become more subtle or she has lost some weight since the summer, by joining Weight Watchers that I guess at the time was more of an Overeaters Anonymous for Women. She seems sympathetic and totally buying what WW is selling including delivering spiel to Henry that made me take pause at how kind Betty seems the way Peggy was disturbed by Don’s kindness in “A Little Kiss”. But that did not last long. The claws came out and Betty, and this seems underplayed in many recaps I have read, did one of the most evil things she has ever done on the show. Ever.
Sally is doing her family tree that she was mostly doing in the Draper Love-Nest and she with Bobby and Gene brought back a lot of scraps of paper they drew on, including on paper that was not meant to leave the Love-Nest, mainly a love note that Don and Megan seem to have a thing for since she has left SCDP. Betty reads it in Don’s voice and something triggers.
I am not sure if it is a reminder of what she had with Don or that this was a completely different man, as in a kinder, romantic man, who treated her poorly but is now with a younger, thinner woman who she catches an accidental glimpse of changing into a paisley shirt before their awkward first ever interaction on the show. Either way, Betty is pissed by the note and drops the nuclear bomb on unsuspecting Sally Draper. She tells her about his ‘first’ wife, Anna Draper. This is all new information to Sally, of course, but considering that Megan is the one helping Sally with the family tree, I am pretty certain Betty’s aims were to also drop the bomb on Megan about the Anna stuff which would lead into the Dick Whitman stuff which caused her marriage for Don to end and would surely in her mind really shake the foundation of the Don-Megan marriage.
Seriously, the revelation and what it could have done in terms of damage far exceeds Betty moving out of Ossining or firing Carla. But of course, Megan already knew off-screen and refers to Don as Dick Whitman in “A Little Kiss”. Betty is not aware of their union being more honest and open from the start than her marriage to Don ever was. Still, Sally feels some level of betrayal. She is entering teenage-dom and finding out how much adults lie and it bothers her a lot. So when Megan knows a secret about her father, she feels betrayed on a friend-level. Remember she has been in a friendship with her stepmother that existed before Don even had the male gaze for Megan (and remember, that was when Sally felt her father failed her in trying to escape her mother and Megan was her should to cry on in Season 4’s “The Beautiful Girls”). Sally does not really see Megan as her mother but a lifeline into adulthood the way Don saw Megan as a lifeline into youthfulness. She ambushes Megan in full Betty mode (and to a certain extent, Don at his worst) calling her ‘phony’ (how Holden Caulfield) and projecting a Disney Evil Stepmother to her and the deceased Anna.
Megan tells Don what has happened and basically can read what exactly Betty wants to happen. I mentioned in “At the Codfish Ball”, I see more Megan as an older Sally who has dealt with the drama of her parents bickering. She calms down Don before ever trying to make that phone call, with the awoken Sally hearing through the walls realizing that Megan cares about Sally’s feelings and that this needs to be talked about but not in an argument-driven, accusatory phone call to Rye, New York’s haunted mansion. Sally gets part of the story, but mainly the Anna Draper story without hearing about the Dick Whitman revelation. When Betty asks Sally, after hearing how good her grade was with her family tree, she asks if she included Anna, Sally responds lovingly with how much Don and Megan spoke admiringly of her and she ever saw photos. In one flail swoop, Sally tells her mother she knows more about Anna than she ever did, note how it was a complete 180 from Sally calling her and Megan insignificant. Sally ain’t stupid, she finds out she was a pawn and Don diffused her anxieties about hearing her father had another wife by saying he wished he had the chance for her to meet Anna and that it was the sweet California home he once took her to see. Betty’s plan gets foiled with great passive aggression goal-keeping by somebody who witnessed way too much of it in her childhood.
We move from Don’s very lovey-dovey marriage that seems to still be going fine if into mushy territory, not just the letters but him immediately realizing she is right about not falling into Betty’s trap, into him getting ahead in work, including stepping on the copy-writing golden boy, Michael Ginsberg. Don is no longer relationship-cheating, just work-cheating and it is indeed as pathetic as the reversal seasons ago. He skims through Ginsberg’s work after going into the empty SCDP office after realizing how much he screwed over Peggy and himself with the Heinz account fiasco. Everything interesting has been done by Michael, who goes against Don and Pete revealing ‘nobody chooses advertising as a profession’ in “Signal 30”. The guy is a savant but he gets cut down to size by Don, much like taking some of Peggy’s idea for the Glo-Coat ad, taking some of the general idea of Ginzo’s hundreds of pitches in his pocket for Sno-Ball and makes his own, which I personally think has appeal but Ginsberg’s was just better and more accessible. Peggy and Don had it out in “The Suitcase”, largely because Peggy had it pent up in her for a long time while being stuck working late with him (and amazingly at that time hated working late while now has made her office a surrogate home). Ginsberg is too blunt to keep his frustrations inside by telling Don he knows he left his ad in the cab and did not even present it. In many ways Don is correct but there was a lack of ‘That’s what the money is for!’ type of clarity Ginsberg needs versus ‘I don’t think about you at all!’. Instead it is childish and a little cruel because Ginsberg can always go to another agency. But Don wants his mojo back and gets a little bit of it even if he stepped on the wunderkind of the agency. He is the boss but is his agency hip or ‘hep’ as Bert Cooper says it?
While this episode was about Don getting a successful pitch account and Roger charming new business, suddenly using Jane’s once hidden Judaism as a plus, it is undercut by Pete realizing that this agency just is not up to par with the fresh faced agencies of the period like the real Wells Rich Greene aka Peter, Paul and Mary ad agency. It may not be wise for Don to bask in the glow of outdoing an underling with promise when that guy is the future. But cruel Don, or Devil Don (with Jon Hamm’s ludicrous devil voice affectation), can now only seem to function outside of the Draper Love-Nest because Megan is not tolerating it there and not just the smog monster of Betty Hofstadt Draper Francis trying to drop bombs from Rye, New York, as Alan Sepinwall notes in his recap.
Overall, the episode is getting undeserved flak for not being up to par with the other episodes but it shows SCDP actually functioning with new work and accounts showing the new talent as well as showing how old habits die hard with Don and Roger.
Sepinwall also nailed that maybe Don is still not completely in work-mode as the best pitch is his love letter to Megan that could easily be an ad pitch. I hope they find an electric light bulb company and fast.
Pete Campbell has a BUtterfield 8 fantasy of Beth Dawes (aka Rory Gilmore) that was somehow creepier than Don’s fever dream of strangling an evil ex.
Pete’s fantasies about the affair have become so overt it cannot sound ridiculous without the context, telling Howard on the train point blank he would have sex with his wife. Howard almost interprets it as Pete either upset he cheats on his wife or that Pete simply cannot take the idea that Howard snagged a beautiful 24 year-old woman. But Pete was asking to get caught in the previous episode with Beth. Again, this seems like a story-line moving along to bad things.
My mother told me nothing in those Weight Watchers meetings have changed in 50 years. That really depresses me.
I am ignoring the Roger story-line because it seems like he did feel empathy for Jane by ‘defiling’ her new apartment by being her first lay there. At first I thought Roger was regretting ever letting her go by her charms to the Rosenberg wine-magnate son but he was just jealous and their encounter held no meeting other than feeling empowered. Jane knew it and Roger knew it. Did Roger really change? Jane feels like she missed out on something in that LSD trip to the point I feel really bad for her and wonder if she is a candidate for the death-pool. I actually just hope she schtups the Rosenberg kid.
Kiernan Shipka during her act-out with Megan felt a little too much Betty, to the point where it felt like a horror movie when another person’s personality takes over a new body.
I normally do not say this but January Jones as Betty Draper was good tonight such as the Weight Watchers meeting, the passive aggression, and counting her points and bites. I feel like Fat Betty was the best thing that happened to her. Her Thanksgiving plate was so grotesque, darkly funny, and depressing at the same time. In all but 10 seconds, I laughed, clapped, and felt depressed by her eating and spitting out whipped cream.
So is there more to Megan teaching Sally how to act-cry? Should I start re-looking at all previous Mad Men episodes that featured Megan crying? Maybe I am too naive but I think she is just an earnest Canadian who wants to be away from the cynical world of advertising and using children as pawns.
So Megan’s actress friend is trying out for “Dark Shadows” and Megan dismisses it, except it does portray how for many actors, soap opera appearances are a **GET**. I think that Megan is choosy and snobbish toward soap operas, a carry-over from her father hating advertising and probably promoting high-culture into her education. I know “Dark Shadows” was/is a beloved soap opera, but the genre is pretty low-culture. So what can Megan find to do? I still think acting will not be her long-term profession.
Roger admits he should not carry around that much cash. Do not even look at the inflation index of what he has paid out to the likes of Harry, Peggy, and Michael in 2012 money. Do not even include how much he put into Jane’s new apartment.
I will finally get my Lane Pryce fix next week. A Christmas present, indeed.
I feel like the Mothers Day theme is more tied to this episode than “Dark Shadows”.
Some theories that the creative team will be leaving Don, even before this episode, and seeing the sight of Wells Rich Greene did feel like a foreshadowing of a triage that people are certain Peggy will be apart of, because she is having a rough season work-wise and is bitching about loyalty. She has a pact with Ken and I consider Stan Rizzo to be her work-boyfriend, so those three immediately stick out. Ginsberg is an X-factor but I cannot see Rizzo staying and Peggy going.
Next week episode is indeed Christmas themed and it looks like it will be Harry-heavy in addition to Lane and it looks like Don and Megan are going out to see something that I am certain Megan put Don up to. But that means deciphering another ‘Next Week on Mad Men’.
Betty inhales whipped cream gif: