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Mad Men recap: All in the Family

Betty deals with the fact that neither the family she grew up in nor the one she’s created is doing very well, and Pete might be a step closer to starting his own family

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January Jones Mad Men

Mad Men

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss

To the end of the line! As season 2 speeds toward what feels like the only possible gruesome and hysterical end, the old guard was drooping this episode, their power almost laughably diminished. Betty’s father had a stroke and was reduced to copping a feel from his daughter at the breakfast table. Roger’s usually sly wit seemed silly; he was like your friend’s father who tries too hard to be cool. Don, who seems to be coughing up more and more lung every morning, swanned past the receptionist with a suave “Hello, Donna!” “Allison,” she called after him. “Of course!” He arrived to a largely deserted office, until he heard everyone yell “Surprise!” from the conference room. It seemed like the beginning of Don’s worst nightmare — taken off guard, stuck on the outside looking in on the professional world — but it turned out to be a nifty baby shower for Harry. (Nifty for everyone except for Joan, clenching that cake knife when Harry opened a Tiffany’s box from Jane and his sloshed one-night stand from season 1, who wanted the proud papa to know that she was really, really, hic!, just really so happy for him.) Mr. Cooper, more and more like your mystified great-uncle who always forgets to zip up his fly, wandered into the party and announced “Happy Birthday!”

But the line in question was Pete’s, who was talked into the idea of adoption by an increasingly tolerable Trudy. (In fact, I’m not sure the prig we know and hate to love would have come around so quickly to the idea, but more power to him.) As amiable Bud walked his little bro through their parents’ ravaged estate, Pete fessed up that he and Trudy were thinking of adopting. “People do that,” Bud said, trying in his limited way to be supportive. He should get a medal for compassion, though, compared to Pete’s blisteringly cold mother, who warned that no discarded spawn would ever see a dime of her money. Pete, bless him, told Ma that there was no inheritance left to threaten him with because their bum dad had squandered it all.

Throughout the episode, Pete toyed with the idea of a phantom child who might be in need of parents, still clueless that such a child exists, saddled with a bit of that putrid Campbell gene pool. So every scene between Peggy and him was deliciously fraught. She served him a piece of baby cake! She wants him to get astronaut autographs for her nephews! She was forced to endure him spiraling out nonsensically about adoption! The problem with Pete is that he has no self-awareness. He’s a narcissist, and when he gets drunk or down enough, he seeks out Peggy so he can unload. So he glommed on to her and started reminding her how difficult it would be for him to fly because, his eyes hungry for her attention and sympathy, of his dead dad. Peggy has long since flipped the switch on him and all she had to offer were cold-fish statistics of how he most likely wouldn’t crash and burn. He next tried the I hate my mother route, and then went on about the lousy genes, and on and on and on. When her eyes didn’t go moony with understanding, he spat that “Everything’s so easy for you.” Peggy, so sad, and so shut down — so like Don that it is as if he made her out of clay and sensible knit fabrics in the backroom of Sterling Cooper, reminded him that “It’s not easy for anyone, Pete.”

NEXT: Daddy, dearest


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