Before we get into the multiple subplots we have to tackle (Betty’s back!), we should talk about Don Draper first. Or rather, the awkwardness that was the last 15 minutes. Long story short, Don Draper is now employed and here’s how it happened.
Following an unsatisfactory meeting with two ad execs, Don surprises Roger at his swag pad to basically yell at him for not being a good friend or business partner. After all, his full-time drinking companion at the company apparently hasn’t sent more than a Christmas card and Don is in desperate need of some help. So Roger agrees to a meeting, which Don then takes literally and shows up at SC&P the following Monday, sending the office into a tizzy.
Lou, Joan, Jim and Bert Cooper have no idea what is going on. Apparently, Roger has failed to let any of them know that Don is coming back and asking for a job and they all think it’s a horrible idea. Jim wants to ask him to leave, Joan is offended and Lou wants to call security. The entire office is treating him like a crazed, dangerous knife-wielding psychopath while he’s sitting in an office all by his lonesome, guffawed that no one knows about his plans to come back. The partners meet and come to the conclusion that it’s technically cheaper to take him off leave. “Even if we do fire him, he’s a partner and we’re going to have to buy him out,” Roger says. And with that, they’ve come to an agreement. Don’s brought in and presented an offer with serious stipulations. He cannot be alone with clients, he must stick to a script in meetings, a script approved by his fellow partners, and most importantly, Don isn’t allowed to drink in the office anymore. Now that’s going to be a problem. Without thinking, Don agrees and he is now employed again at SC&P. That’s how the episode ends and we’re left with more questions than answers, with the first one being: How soon into this arrangement will Don order Dawn to get him a super secret flask?
Now for a more chronologically true recap: The women of SC&P (which now, thankfully, includes Dawn) are understandably exhausted. After catching a flick at the local movie theater, Don calls the office and runs through a list of things for Dawn, who is in desperate need of a promotion, to do. She’s swamped with a scheduled shoot for Mountain Dew but Don apparently is in desperate need of a new ribbon for his typewriter along with some stationary. He is sharp with her, which sets the appropriate mood for this entire episode: unnecessarily testy.
Peggy’s not having much luck with things either. She’s pitching Lou who is just as horrible as when we left him last time. “Who put a knot in your pantyhose ?” Lou says, adding to the list of horrible things he’s said to women so far this season. Also in this conversation, another reference to “Rosemary’s Baby,” which is getting a bit exhausting at this point. There have been several references to Polanski and more specifically Megan Draper’s similarities to Sharon Tate since last season, leading up to a theory that Draper is actually Tate and she will exit the show in a brutal fashion.
For those unaware of this theory, it first popped up last year when Megan was shown wearing the same red star t-shirt that Tate famously posed in in a 1967 Esquire Magazine shoot. When a fan asked the show’s costume designer Janie Bryant about the coincidence via Twitter, she responded “No Coincidence!” but the Internet still held onto this long shot given the two women’s other similarities. Megan and Sharon are/were both up-and-coming actors with older, philandering husbands (Roman Polanski was ten years older than Tate) and last season Sally was seen reading “Rosemary’s Baby” (directed by Polanski) when she found Grandma Ida rummaging through her family’s apartment. Also, Megan is living in the canyons and Tate moved into her canyon house in 1969 as well.
Bottom-line: Should we be worrying about Megan’s safety? Could this be the shocking twist of Season 7, Part 1? I say it’s highly unlikely, given that Matthew Weiner is never this obvious but if it really is the big twist, we won’t know for a while. The Tate murder took place in August 1969, but that could also line up with the mid-season finale for Season 7. And so we wait.
In a very different New York, we finally get to see Betty. The last time we saw Betty Francis, she was overwhelmed and calling Don to tell him that Sally had just gotten suspended from Miss Porter’s for buying beer with the name “Beth Francis.” “The good is not beating the bad,” she said. And here we see Betty Francis a few months later, having a conversation with a “friend” who’s busy bragging about her career. Betty is apparently not yet formally employed with no intentions of making moves to change that anytime soon, and she insists she’s just “old fashioned.” Her travel agent friend then sends in a jab: “Betty Draper, that is indeed how I would describe you.” Notice how she said Betty Draper. With that, we get to see the real Betty, as she exhales her cigarette smoke and sends her “friend” a look packed with enough expletives that they’d have to move the show to HBO had they been said.
Over on the California front, Don receives a call from Megan’s agent, Alan Silver, (much like the kind of calls Don used to receive from Betty’s therapist) and he’s concerned with her erratic behavior. Apparently she’s been flubbing auditions and then low-key stalking the casting directors, keying to her anxiety as an actress and as a person, something we saw in the premiere with her uncomfortable in bed with Don. Rather than phoning Megan right away, he decides to take a quick trip to California. This is not a good idea.
Megan’s excited when she sees him but after making love, she starts to ask the real questions. She asks point-blank why he’s there in the first place and Don admits to getting a call from Silver. “You just have to stop acting like a lunatic,” he says. Which sets Megan off and she goes on a tangent that leads us to believe that she is finally, finally onto him.
Megan’s apparently been calling SC&P and she’s noticed how quiet it is, how she never hears typewriters in the background and how Don is never really there, and that he always has to call her back. So Don finally breaks down and admits that he’s been on leave, with the hope of returning soon and as per usual, Megan doesn’t give him the yelling match he deserves at this point. “So with a clear head, you got up every day and decided you didn’t want to be with me,” she says. Don asks her if she’s mad (Really, Don?) and in a nice change of character, Megan kicks him out of the house. “It’s okay, Don, if this is the way it ends,” she says. And sad, mopey, depressed Don just got a lot more sad, mopey and depressed, but only for a mere minute because he changes his attitude the minute he gets back to New York, talks to Roger and sets up that Monday morning meeting.
The next time we see Megan is when Don gives her a ring after his “meeting” with Roger. He tells her that he’s going to get his job back and that he fixed it, he fixed everything. But Megan doesn’t buy it. “’I fixed it’ would mean you got a job out here,” she says, meaning California. “Stop pushing me away with both hands,” she insists. Don asks if he can fly out this weekend to see her and she refuses, signaling what could be the end of Don and Megan. Los Angeles never suited him anyway.
To end on a high note, Betty is just as comically immature as when we left her and we see this in a ridiculous montage of Betty playing chaperone to Bobby’s field trip to a farm. It’s doomed from the start, with Betty hardcore judging her son’s teacher for having a low-cut shirt. Bobby insists that she likes Betty and she quips, “that blouse says she likes everyone.” Ah yes, that’s the Betty we all know and love and love to hate. She finds a similarly judgmental mom on the farm grounds and the two smoke cigarettes while standing in highly flammable hay and talk about the teacher’s décolletage. “Farmer’s daughter needs a bra,” Betty’s companion says. Also enjoyable was when Betty took a swig of fresh cow milk after Bobby’s classmates took turns milking a real, live cow. Now that doesn’t seem very Betty Francis, does it?
But what does seem very Betty Francis is her near psychotic break when she notices one of her two packed sandwiches is missing. Bobby traded one sandwich for a bag of gumdrops and Betty has had it. She says it’s fine but Bobby knows that he will have to spend the rest of his time on the grass with his mother in silence while she smokes a few more cigarettes. And that is exactly what they do. When they get home, Bobby says “I wish it was yesterday.” But don’t think Betty isn’t self-aware. She’s constantly questioning her actions as a mother and asks Henry if he thinks she’s doing decent as a mom. He of course says yes, but then she asks a very interesting question: “Then why don’t they love me?” With time, with one child already into adolescence and stumbling, Betty could very well try to change this season. Or maybe not. Maybe this is just another failed attempt to care. She at least has self-doubt, and at least some ounce self-awareness, but Betty has remained the most unflinching character on “Mad Men” to date. The Betty we met in Season 1 is still very much haunted by the same ghosts as now. She is unsure of herself, but also obsessed with herself, and maybe in the last season Matthew Weiner will finally give us a change.
Hopes for next week: My only hope is that we get a definitive answer to the future of Don and Megan. We saw progress and an attempt by Megan to really give Don what he deserves this time but there needs to be more. Plus, aren’t we all a little bit interested in Megan getting her own love interest? Don can’t continue having all the fun.