As much as I enjoy when Matthew Weiner and crew try something new like they did with last week’s episode “The Crash,” sometimes less is more. And with “The Better Half” this week, it seemed everything in Mad Men was back to normal (from a storytelling) standpoint.
However, there seemed to be much more plot development in this episode.
Here are 5Takeaways from this week’s Mad Men.
Don and Ted are the ying and yang of each other
This season seems to play a lot with duality. And in Don and Ted you see two “team members,” who are jockeying at positions. When we open this week we are in the middle of brainstorming session between Don and Ted about margarine. Ted wants to play the “price” angle, saying how price is the most important aspect to a shopper’s decision. On the other hand, Don wants to highlight the “taste” of the margarine. Pete Campbell is of the opinion that they should on taste alone, while Harry Crane believe that they should go with price. Also, the managerial structure of the new agency is still in flux. The agency still has no name and Campbell is confused about his new role in the company.
Of course, Peggy is brought into side with one her mentors, but she can’t really do it. She still has a crush on Ted (more on that later) and feels like she can’t disappoint Don with siding with someone else. After the meeting is over, Don tells Peggy he isn’t paying her to be diplomatic and that she should just take a side. Peggy, graduating from the “Don Draper School of One Liners” awesomely retorts, “Ted is interested in ideas, you’re interested in your ideas.”
Betty is back
Last week we saw the return of Betty Draper in a skinnier form. I think we are led to believe that she lost the weight after learning that Henry was planning to run for a state office. She needs to look presentable. When we first see her in this episode she is being hit on by some friend of Henry’s. In the cab ride on the way home Henry bombards her with questions about what his friend was asking her. Henry seems to be turned out by other people wanting her and asks the driver to close the window as they get down to business.
It’s also parent’s weekend at Bobby’s camp! Don drives separately from Betty and goes to a filling station. Don tries to get the attention of the attendant, but he is fixated on something else. We see is staring at the butt of a woman trying to look for something in her car. Surprise, surprise, the woman is Betty. When Betty turns around to see Don you can only imagine it’s how Don saw her when he first met her. She looks great. A total bombshell. Don must be thinking, “How did I lose her?”
Don always wants what he can’t have
This may be the complete theme of Mad Men in total. All the men in the show want what they can’t have and when they receive that, move on to something new. Don arrives at the camp and surprise Bobby. Bobby is super precocious and has a new found “all-knowingness” about him. He begins to teach Don a song he learned at camp. With Don, Betty and Bobby singing it together, it’s like they are a happy family once again. With a smile on his face, Don actually looks happy.
Later that evening, Don and Betty are sharing a drink on the stoop of their hotel. Upon going into her room, Betty leaves the door open, and Don comes into the room. He cozies up to her and Betty says, “What are you doing?” Don says, “I’m waiting for you to stop.” The two then proceed to the bed, where you can only imagine what happens (they have sex). Similar to Don and Ted are the yin and yang to each other, Betty and Megan are the ying and yang of each other. Don loves the moment with Betty. Betty tells Don at one point, “Poor girl (Megan), she doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.” Even Betty realizes Don wants what he can’t have.
Peggy is becoming an almost Don like figure
Peggy isn’t sure what she wants. She has an apartment building with Abe that is all well and good, but she secretly has a crush on Ted. They made out a few episodes ago and she also made out with Stan. At the beginning of the episode, Ted is upset that Peggy is touching is hand at meetings and smiling at him. He clearly wants to end their relationship (whatever it is) even though Peggy in no way wants it to end.
Her relationship with Abe isn’t going well. I’m not sure if they are drifting apart naturally or if Peggy is making excuses to end things because she really likes Ted. Abe gets stabbed in the first half of the episode and won’t tell the police officer who the people were because he doesn’t want minorities unfairly targeted. Peggy is still scared. She goes to sleep with a weird spear and awakens to screams in her courtyard. When she gets up she is startled by Abe behind her, turns the spear, and stabs him in the chest. On the way to the hospital, “your activities are offensive to my every waking moment.” Abe breaks up with Peggy.
Joan has a new man in her life
Two weeks ago we saw Bob Benson actually have a purpose in the show, now we see that Joan and he are together. This week we see them going to the beach together. In confidence, Campbell approaches Joan and tells her the issues he’s been having with his mother. He needs to find a new nurse for her and doesn’t know where to turn. Benson takes it upon himself (with discretion) to give the Campbell the resume of an able bodied nurse.
Benson is almost the anti-Don. Whereas Benson helps everyone in the office with their problems and tries to please them, Don doesn’t really care. There is even a repetition between Don Draper and Bob Benson.