Last night's episode of Mad Men was a lot of things: illuminating, kinky, awkward, frustrating, and heartbreaking. I guess same old, same old for this show — but something about last night was a bit more intense, a touch more raw than the previous episodes this season. Maybe we're just at a place in the story arc of all the characters where, as Bobbie put it, "the gloves come off."
A lot of the characters in the Mad Men universe had moments of self-reflection: Don at the end of the episode, after another intense encounter with Bobbie, gazing at himself in the mirror; Pete taking a good look at himself in his own mirror after a night with a model. Meanwhile, Peggy's professional journey still captivates me, as she continues to face challenges as an up-and-coming woman at the office.
The part of Peggy's story that gives me chills is watching how ambitious she is becoming while knowing that, to some extent, she's not quite right in the head — or, at the very least, has experienced some emotional trauma we haven't seen her cope with yet. And this episode also had me laughing at the funny, old-fashioned terms people used for bras (like "brassiere")! So much to talk about, so let's start chatting — just
Don Draper: Don is quickly unraveling on the inside, and I can't totally place why this is occurring, other than the fact that his secret past is eating away at him. While he appears to be rocking and rolling at work, personally he's become unstable. First he ditches Betty at the country club gathering they attended on Memorial Day to call and flirt with Bobbie. Then once he's in bed with Bobbie it goes from being totally hot and sexy to terrible. Bobbie mumbles something about Don's reputation with other women, and it sets him off. He ties her to the bed and leaves her there! Don also completely undermines Betty's self-esteem when he tells her she looks desperate in her new yellow bikini. So mean — I could have cried for Betty.
Peggy Olson: As we saw in the previews last week, Peggy has been getting left out of a lot of business meetings and gatherings inside and outside the office. I really loved how this episode captured what must have been the most difficult part of breaking glass ceilings as a woman in business back then (and maybe now?) with the impromptu decisions being made at strip clubs and other men's hangouts. In the end, Peggy decides that if she can't beat them she'll have to join them, dresses herself up, and heads to the strip club with the gang and the bra client. But ew — when she sat on her client's lap and he said "Tell me what you want for Christmas," I nearly threw up.
Pete Campbell: Sometimes Pete doesn't seem as diabolical as he is pathetic, and his motives are hard for me to discern. His visit to Peggy in her office to talk about the Clearasil idea got weird as he lingered there awkwardly. I couldn't tell if he was trying to steal Peggy's idea or undermine her position at the firm in some way — or if he was trying to figure out if she still has a crush on him. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it? And then later we see Pete cheat on his wife with a young, blonde model. Wouldn't you love to see one of these guys get caught cheating? Just once?
A few more thoughts:
- I really liked the exchange between Joan and Peggy when Joan told a discouraged Peggy, "You’re in their country, learn to speak the language," and then handed down this advice: "You want to be taken seriously, stop dressing like a little girl."
- How'd you feel about "All women come in two types: Jackie or Marilyn?" I thought it was hilariously sexist to reduce an entire gender to two categories. Do you think that kind of ad campaign would work now?
- Betty's flirtation with Arthur was back again and Don noticed! I really like this storyline and can't wait to see how it unfolds.
- And finally, smarmy line of the night goes to Pete as usual. When Don asked Peggy about the difference between Playtex bras and Maidenform, Pete chimed in with, "I find they both open easily."
What did you think of this episode? Were you stunned by Don's treatment of Bobbie or are you used to his aggression toward her at this point? Do you think they're really over? How'd you like Peggy's transformation at the strip club? Did you feel sorry for her, or did you think it was a good move?
Photos courtesy of AMC