The kids’ table

I’ve been reading a big ol’ book about WWII, and it’s basically 350 pages of vignettes; one brief anecdote after another, occasionally connected, but usually not. It’s interesting, but exhausting.

That’s how I felt about the first 45 minutes of this episode, and last week’s, too. Too many plots, too many glimpses, when really, I just wanted a meaty story. Finally, though, everything came into focus — and doesn’t Sally Draper wish it hadn’t!

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I’ll save that for last. Let’s start with my girl Peggy.

“It will shock you how much this never happened,” Don told Peggy after she gave birth to Pete’s baby in secret*. Over the years, I’ve felt a little shocked myself at how much it never happened. Both Peggy and Pete seemed to have developed a remarkable ability to bury that piece of their pasts.

I thought the tipsy moment they shared over was the perfect way to acknowledge that, yes, occasionally it does cross their minds. (I’m assuming it crosses Peggy’s more often.) Please note: This is not me condoning, in any way, shape, or form, the possibility of a rekindling of what could barely be called a “relationship” between these two. Peggy. Please. You can do better.

Ted seemed happy to be there, but when he returned to the table after making a call and intruded on Pete and Peggy’s private moment, he looked uncomfortable. In the full context of the episode, that moment seemed to be one of several that drove Ted away from the office and pushed him toward his neglected home life. His home life, from the glimpses we get, is not something to escape. Then again, neither was Don’s, or Pete’s, or any of the many other homes we’ve seen break up over the course of the show. Unlike those examples, though, Ted seems to realize it, and possibly not too late.

Was he ever in love with Peggy? It’s hard to say, based on the little screen time these two get. To me, it smacked of infatuation, by a guy with a history of getting swept up in new adventures and risks. He’s coming down to Earth. It amused me that he still had to make a  grand gesture to secure Don’s promise for the office battle to end. (Don, rightfully, has no idea what he’s on about, because of course, Don’s main battle is with his own demons, not Ted.  Can you imagine early Don Draper jeopardizing an account with GENERAL-FREAKING-MOTORS over a personal issue with his former mistress?)

Peggy doesn’t seem to be too hurt by Ted’s waning affection in the long run. I died at her late-night phone call with Stan. I hope she names her cat after him.

One thing I really liked about this episode was the theme of the innocence of children. Sally and her friend are obsessed with Junior Rosen; they completely miss the undertones of tension during the meeting in the lobby, when Sylvia arrives and sweeps him out of the building. Ted’s children, climbing over his back and eating cereal on their parents’ bed, seemingly serve as a reminder to him that here is where he belongs. They don’t pick up on any of the tension between their parents.

The best example is the final scene in the Draper apartment, when sloppy drunk Don stumbles in after his bender. Obviously, he hasn’t come to any conclusions about how to deal with Sally’s discovery. Julie and Megan continue with their dinner, assuming the war is about something else, ignorant to the major drama of the day. Sally has become an adult, yet Megan is lumped in with the innocent children.I really didn’t see the subplot of Arnold and Sylvia’s son being so important, in so many ways, until the pivotal moment when Sally looked up and saw… oh, poor Sally! I’m still not sure why Sylvia deserves so much of Don’s devotion, and maybe she doesn’t, and that’s just, finally, the fickle nature of love working on him. She alluded to this when she told him on the phone that he was better to her than she was to him.

Leftovers:

  • Bob Benson, I’ll tell you what I told Peggy: Please. You can do better than Pete Campbell.
  • At least someone loves Pete!
  • I sort of want to watch the earlier episodes of this season again, to look for glimpses of this Benson-Campbell infatuation. What exactly has Pete done to be so desirable?
  • Tom & Lorenzo make the weird connection that the two main gay characters on the show, Sal and Bob, have the same names as Sally and Bobby. Whaaa?
  • Did the doorman ever get his keys back after Sally dropped them in Sylvia’s apartment? (Practical detail that nagged at me!)

*I forgot all about another of Don’s lines in Peggy’s postpartum scene: “Move forward,” the same words Peggy used on him earlier this season.

Talk amongst yourselves!

Just a Gigolo

What’s your favorite “Mad Men” episode? Most fans, I imagine, have a favorite episode, or at least, a favorite moment. I know I have many. I can’t imagine any part of “The Collaborators” falls into either category, but maybe someone will disagree with me. I watched this episode Monday morning and felt like it cast a pall over the day — and we all know how Monday turned out, unfortunately.

We’re treated to more of the same heavy-handed symbolism of Season 5. Don gives a woman money after sex. What does it mean?! Perhaps it has something to do with this flashback, in which we learn Don lived in a bordello and watched, through a keyhole, as his pregnant stepmother prostituted herself? Well, then. I think I get it.

Speaking of pregnancy, Megan reveals (to Sylvia — of all people!) that she has recently had a miscarriage. Don begins the scene by actually saying the right things. Then he just makes me mad. Megan expresses that she wants children someday, but she’s not sure of the timing. Don says, several times, variations on “Whatever you want.” We learn nothing about what he wants — but even if he told us what he wanted, would we believe him? I get the impression Megan would, and that’s sad, considering his mistress’s bed isn’t even cold as his wife is telling him about her miscarriage.

I’m interested in the parallels between Don and Pete in this episode. At the beginning of the series, Don tended to keep his affairs in the city and his wife in the suburb. Now they’re only a floor apart. The weight of it is showing on his face, especially as he collapses into a heap at his front door. Even the bedroom scenes look more like drudgery than romance. I’m waiting for his Roger Sterling-style heart attack during coitus.

Pete. Just when I start to think he’s not such a cad, he hisses at the battered woman bleeding on his floral-print couch, “What did you say to him?” Again, the romance of the Mad Man’s affairs has given way to seedy rendezvous and Pete Campbell offering “peanuts and cheese crackers.” Blech. More drudgery.

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Season 1 flashback — Don & Midge

Remember Season 1, Don and Midge bantering as they rolled around the white sheets in her light-filled, Bohemian apartment? Her little Holly Golightly men’s tuxedo shirt? She would’ve stabbed Don with a paintbrush if he’d lured her to a dive and offered nuts and stale crackers. Pete may think he’s of the same school, but he’s not…

…as evidenced by it all blowing up in his face (yet again) and Trudy’s memorable ultimatum. Go, girl? I have a hard time cheering her on, when essentially she’s committing both of them to a love-less marriage as long as her husband keeps his affairs in the city. But the similarities between Don and Pete in this episode make me think Don could soon face a similar blow-up. I have a feeling Megan will handle it differently than Trudy, although I’m not sure what to expect.

Peggy, looking especially sophisticated in some bold jewel tones and kicky prints, shrugs off a sexist prank (not the first, certainly not the last) and again spars with Stan over the phone. Why does Stan give away the Heinz tip? It was unethical of Peggy to share it, sure, but we’ve see how ethics work in this business. Ted Chaough (who I just spotted the other day in an episode of “Friends,” as Monica’s sous-chef!) pops in, and we still can’t decide if he’s into Peggy for her work or more personal reasons. I’m struggling to care. He’s a slimeball, and that’s saying something, because the competition is fierce in Peggy’s world.

It felt like we ended this episode right where we started. I imagine there will be some shaking up soon. So much more to say, for instance, about Sylvia and her interesting moralism and “Catholic guilt.” (I’m familiar with the concept!) I’ll save it for another day, because I’m sure we’re not done treading that road into the dark wood.

My favorite recappers: TLo on style and substance.