Mad Men recap: Identity Crisis
Where to start?! The most breathtaking moment of this ridiculously rich and full episode was when Don was caught, found out by his wife who had respected his privacy for too long. Betty stood there, brow furrowed, eyes looking into and through him. His hand holding those dastardly keys fell to the desk with a thud. All the artifice had been shot out of him. Then that same hand — loosening his tie as he wobbled into the kitchen like a man on the brink of a heart attack, palming water into his dry mouth, fumbling for a cigarette. I felt flooded with such enormous feeling for the riveting last 20 minutes. An Emmy for Jon Hamm’s hands!
The show started with Betty packing up for Philadelphia. After last week’s revelations, and her ice-eyed assassination of Don Draper up there at the podium, she was running home. In the kitchen, the couple shared a cold goodbye. Betty, who saw the mint her husband keeps in his drawer, says she needs more money. Don gives her the fish-eye, assures her the $200 in her checking account is suitable cashflow. ”Take care,” he says, sending her on her miserable way. For all those (including me last week) who’ve been clamoring for their divorce, her Pop’s lawyer Milton reminded us just how badly women back then could find themselves stuck. Could she prove adultery? Ha! She’d still be left with nothing and he could take the children. The man doesn’t beat her and she’s got a nice new living room. Go home, Milton urges, and make it work.
At the office we finally met Roger’s match. The man was rendered speechless when he took that stunner Annabel’s hand. Great chemistry between these two! The woman was a new widow (”lung cancer,” she said, as a cloud of smoke mushroomed around Don’s face) and was now in charge of her Dad’s dog food business. She teased Roger over his teenager wife and then demanded an intimate reunion over French food. Their entire meal, from Roger ordering her one of those lovely wines to their drunken memories over Hemingway and peanut butter, was great TV. She wanted Roger, and tried to repaint the death of their relationship in Casablanca colors. Roger rebuffed her at the end of the night — not unkindly and so all the more cruelly.
Roger said he finally had a beautiful, carefree girl unconcerned about the future. I say that the man has been burned, badly, and that his attacked heart isn’t up for love anymore. When he talks about Jane he does it ironically, as if he’s in on the joke. Nothing like the genuinely affectionate and respectful tone he takes on when discussing, say, Joan to a possible employer. Joan is really going to need that job. (At Gray’s, perhaps?) Her husband is joining the Army. Dr. Cut-Up, who flopped his psychiatry interviews, whose head was still bruised from Joan’s magnificent clobbering with a vase, thought he’d stumbled upon the golden ticket. He can be a surgeon for the troops. He’ll just have to endure a brief rotation in ”West Germany or Vietnam if that’s still going on.” Uh oh, said Joan’s worried eyes. Annabel isn’t going to be the only widow on this show.
NEXT: Roger’s big decisionAnnabel, head held high, returned to Sterling Cooper for a focus group with a few nerdy dog owners. (Yay, Peggy and Smitty shot!) The trio recoiled in disgust when they found out that their slobbering dogs were eating her company’s product, forever tainted by the pony expose. Change your name, Don urged. ”Your name has been poisoned…I’m not saying a new name is easy to find…It’s a label on a can.” Oh Don, you have no idea what the rest of the day has in store for you. And it’s not more spaghetti and cream and hot pepper with Miss Farrell. Annabel, unwilling to be twice rejected by Roger, stormed off into the secretary’s lounge. She told Roger that all along he had been the one. He looked at her with such tenderness and said, ouch, ‘You weren’t.” (For all the drama of this episode, I was extra grateful for a seemingly throwaway moment of levity. Roger was left in Annabel’s wake when Don’s secretary strolled into the lounge, realized what she’d walked in on, and quickly, terrifically turned tail. Love that girl!)
In the end, Betty is the one for Don. She’s the one who unlocked her husband. Not Miss Farrell, who tells Don she can see the real him and that what she sees is an unhappy man. (Our Don is a real narcissist so he ate up her mournful analysis.) The teacher, who I admit suffered a humiliating hand last night, was falling hard. She wanted more, she promised it would pass. Don offered to take the week off from work and whisk her away to the fairy tale land of Mystic. Her bag was packed, they were off. Don just needed to run into the house for something quick. So Suzanne sat slumped in the passenger seat and Don, thinking he was a man in charge, strode into his darkened house.
”Daddy!” Oh Jesus. Don looked down at his daughter wrapped around his waist. He’s still Don Draper. He didn’t miss a beat. Left his hat in the car but would be right back, he smoothly told Betty. Not this time. She led him straight into the study where he tried to hold onto his upper hand (”That’s my desk! It’s private!”). But Betty wasn’t giving it up. Bravo Betty, and bravo to January Jone’s furrowed brow and pinched monotone. ”Is that you, Dick,” she demanded. ”I can explain,” Don gasped. ”Oh I know, I know you can,” she said calmly. ”You’re a very, very gifted storyteller.”
I’m in love with the entire sequence of Don’s physical unraveling, as somehow he made it from his study to the kitchen sink to the table. And I love how Betty, stunned to see him so genuinely shaken, looked at him with faint but exasperated concern. Her husband had disappeared before her eyes. Recognizing that he was coming undone, she shooed him to the table and offered to pour him a drink herself. That amounted to her smacking a glass and a bottle of booze in front of him but it was still an extraordinary act of generosity given the circumstances. ”Where do you want me to start?” he sadly asked. ”What’s your name?” she demanded. (I still can barely believe the confrontation we’ve been waiting for for three seasons came to pass.)
NEXT: Don gets intimate with BettyThere was a big moment of crossroads. Baby Gene started crying upstairs and Betty left to soothe him. Don, a man born to run, was surrounded by doorways. Instead of fleeing, he picked up that shoebox of a life and went upstairs to their darkened bedroom. He asked Betsy to sit next to him on their bed and introduced the various doomed members of his family. For some reason it was the line about his Uncle Mac, the stepfather who came into orbit when he was 10 years old, that really slayed me. ”He was nice to me,” said Do with simple, pathetic gratitude. Betty though felt for him most deeply when he spoke of the brother he betrayed. From Hamm’s first wounded look of shock when Betty first brought Adam up to his choked admission of guilt for the young man’s death, this will hands-down be the meat of the actor’s Emmy reel. What a confession. What terrible grief. ”I’m sorry,” said Betty. She timidly put her hand on his shoulder, and then rubbed his back the way one might a nauseous child. It was the most intimate moment these two have ever shared, and I wanted to stand up and cheer that they both in their own ways came through for each other. The fact that Don’s mistress was outside throughout, waiting to run away with him, added perfectly to the scene. In Don’s greatest moment of truth, he is still a maze of secrets and lies.
Don went to bed that night on Betty’s side of the bed. He woke up alone, looking startled. And yet there downstairs was his family gathered around the kitchen table. Even Baby Gene was ready to greet him good morning. ”Do you want something?” Betty wondered. In that moment at least, Don wanted what his wife wanted. ”Are you having something?” he asked hesitantly. Sally gaped at her parents, surprised to see them expressing such interest in one another. I take back all that talk of divorce. Stick it out, you two. You’re just starting to get to know each other.
Miss Farrell, who we’d last left teasingly slumped down in the passenger seat, finally got out of the car last night. The woman has driven me nuts all season and yet how sad I felt for her limping away under a street light with her weekend bag. ”Do I have to worry about my job?” she tearfully asked Don when he called her the next day from the office. This, as we all suspected, wasn’t her first affair with a married man. Does the romantic in me wish Don hadn’t stopped by her apartment that morning? Yes. Do I choose to believe that when she asked if they were going to see each other again and he said ”Not right now” that he was just letting her down easy? Yes. I just want one episode to bask in Betty and Don’s breakthrough.
In the end, as he always does, Don went home. Betty looked at him differently. She offered him half her sandwich. They went out into the night as a whole family. At a neighbor’s house, Sally rang the doorbell and she and her brother called out ”Trick or Treat.” The kids had begun the episode declaring their desires to be Minnie Mouse and an astronaut. They didn’t get to be who they originally wanted. The man with the candy sing-songed over the little gypsy and hobo before him and then looked up at Don. ”And who are you supposed to be?” he asked of the adults. Don’s face, at once so weathered and boyish, flickered with panic and despair. The answer to that question is huge.
Talk to me people! Was this the first time you’ve ever had real hope for Don and Betty? Surely it’s too sentimental a thought to wonder if perhaps Joan was Roger’s one? (Yes, of course it is.) If Don is the hobo, does that make Joan the gypsy? If forced to choose, would you give the Emmy for best supporting actor to Bryan Batt, Roger Morse, or John Slattery?
Jon Hamm stars as Don Draper in the Emmy-winning ’60s-set drama