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Mad Men recap: Living the Dream

Don wins accolades while living his double life, and Betty catches on to the bigger lies

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Mad Men

Mad Men

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

Let’s begin with Achilles the janitor. I groaned a little at the first mention of the fellow’s name, but it did keep rolling around in my head all night. What exactly is Don Draper’s fatal weakeness? Is it, as Miss Farrell’s epileptic brother summed up after Don slipped out of his sister’s bedroom, his arrogance? Is it soullessness? (The home without a hearth…) Or a crippling lack of faith — in himself, in the people around him, in the roiling world that he believes he must forever navigate alone? The episode, another bleak one that left me driving my fingernails through my palms, opened at the kitchen table. Sally wondered aloud why the Draper family didn’t go to church. Betty, so self-conscious now of Carla’s judgment, snapped that they did indeed attend. Only on Christmas, Sally pointed out, when Carla goes every week. ”We don’t need to go every week,” hissed Betty.

No, not the Drapers, they’re doing just fine on their own. Roger’s ex Mona once declared that Don and Betty looked like they belonged on the top of a wedding cake. I admit I’ve always rooted for these two to somehow find a way to hold onto eachother. Maybe it’s because of the flashback in Season 2 where Don first described to Anna his thrilling love for the girl. He looked so earnest, so light, so free from the cynical drag of his movie star cheeks. He’s never looked like that with any of his brunettes that I can remember. But I spent last night’s episode hissing ”Just divorce already!” at the TV. Whatever problems I have with Betty, they pale in comparison to my growing disgust for Don. He deigned to join this family at the kitchen table for an early dinner. He’s due back in the city though. Duty calls, dontcha know. Betty worries that he’s working too hard. ”Bets,” he sighs, ”I don’t have a choice.” You lie!

So he scurries off to the garage apartment, where Miss Farrell waits with gold stars on her cheeks and loaves of fresh date nut bread cooling on the stove. We zoom back to Betty, left alone at home to read a Mary McCarthy novel about largely unhappily married women. Back to Miss Farrell’s we went, where Don and Teach enjoy some cozy pillow talk in bed about her student’s questioning of the color blue. How do we know your version of blue equals mine? ”The truth is people may see things differently but they don’t really want to,” said Don. He’s so intrigued by this wild woman, the anti-Betty, who dares to scream during orgasms and likes it on top.

From his admiration of Miss Farrell’s long, curly hair — ”No one has that anymore,” he purrs — we zip to a brain-storming session for Aqua Net. (There were many neat piggybacks this episode, but all in all I felt like the rolodex spin of quick cuts buggied up the rhythm a little.) Don unwraps his damnable napkin of date bread while Paul assumes the make-believe driver’s seat of the campaign. Paul describes a lengthy scene of a woman in the backseat, hair all atumble, and her envious relationship with the perfectly coiffed woman in the passenger seat. (I fear that one day down the road, once Don has returned to his family and sworn to himself yet again that he will be a better man, that Miss Farrell may lurk behind pretty Betty and seethe over her manicured life.) Don is bored by Paul. ”Every time I hear ‘and then,”’ he says, ”there’s another chance for the ladies at home to misunderstand.” He really does think very little of his wife and her ilk.

Peggy seamlessly interjects, boils Paul’s idea down to the essentials and impresses Don. Paul, that blustery ox, later explodes on her. He accuses her of only getting ahead because of her dress, and Don’s unearned favor, and her infuriating spontaniety. He’s right about one thing — Peggy’s professional genius is her spontaniety, her ability to conjure up the emotions and impulses it takes to be moved by an ad. And she’s not afraid of Don. I love Peggy. Hey, where was Pete this episode?

Back to the garage apartment we went, even though I would have given anything to be elsewhere. There was no more humiliating scene all night than Don wrestling himself back into his pants and the coarse sound of his zipper as Miss Farrell tends to her brother out in the living room. Don wants to stay the anonymous man in her bedroom; she wants him to meet the most important person in her life. Her brother is a smart, caustic 25-year-old who lives on the margins of society because of his epilepsy. Don backs out the door, with banal wishes of good luck, and refuses to kiss his mistress in front of her brother. ”I’ll call you,” he says wanly. ”Tomorrow,” she insists. ”He knows how to leave a room,” said Danny. ”Like Mom.” I’ve never liked Miss Farrell. I think she’s all kinds of trouble. Damaged goods — whether by that hinky mother or a series of men like Don. But she is good to her brother, which is more than can be said about Dick Whitman.

Next: Betty unlocks Don’s drawer of secrets


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