So, it wasn’t President Kennedy’s assassination that hammered this brilliant season to an end. It was the man’s stoic handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, those blisteringly tense couple of days when it seemed like the world might poof into the air like a carelessly blown dandelion. And so, as our characters wrestled with the fragility of their existence, the hour of TV ticked by with a similarly sick and sweaty feeling of anticipation and dread. How would this all end, and who would be left standing?
The episode opened with a cross-stitched Bambi on the wall, pleading with Betty for mercy in a doctor’s home office. When Doc told Betty she was indeed pregnant, he mistook her dour expression for worry about her weight. “Are you concerned about your appearance?” he asked dopily. “You’ve been blessed with a very resilient figure.” (Ack attack!) It was time for her to eat sensibly, rest well, and let her riding boots gather dust in the closet. So naturally the next scene showed Betty sliding off her horse after what she hoped was a womb-rattling ride. And there waiting for her was Don, fedora firmly in hand. “I was not respectful to you,” he finally, finally admitted, though his hot blast of earnestness wasn’t enough to thaw her iciness.
At the office — and I’m with Kinsey, I like the office the way it is! — Duck dug into his Tanqueray stash and leered like a creepy uncle over the merger. With booze running through his veins, he was callous and smug, eager for the chance to take down those who had been so hard on him when he was hanging on so tremulously to his much-maligned sobriety. He announced to Pete that he would soon be named the president of the new Sterling Cooper and that, as a reward for Pete’s grief-shilling to American Airlines, he wanted to make the young man head of accounts. It was the promotion that Pete had tried blackmailing Don into giving him back in season 1. This was his chance to see his onetime nemesis taken down, but the news that Duck would soon have Don under his thumb gave Pete a Mr. Yuck face.
I wanted to stand up and cheer when Don strode through the front doors in an oddly rain-splotched raincoat. As Joan zingily welcomed him back to the land of the living, Peggy, in a chic, figure-flattering dress (all grown up!), peeked out of her new office to say hello. “Do I work for you now?” asked Don, who looked pleased to see her name on the door. “I landed the Popsicle account,” she said happily, with just an endearing note of pride. “So other than her office and haircut, is there anything new I need to know about?” Don asked Joan. Ha!
After marching unapologetically into Roger’s office — “I’ll stack my absences against yours any day,” he said breezily — Don learned about the merger and the half a million dollars that would soon be landing in his bank account. “Best vacation you ever took!” crowed Roger. As Don struggled to catch up — to the idea of new owners, to Roger’s engagement, to Duck doing business at a bar — Roger bemoaned his rotten timing with supposed true love. “Kennedy’s daring them to bomb us, right when I get a second chance,” he groused. Don, chiding him for his naïveté, spoke as one former soldier to another. “We don’t know what’s really going on — you know that.”
NEXT: Betty’s backroom revenge