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SUMMER CAMP & SUMMER SIRENS: MAD MEN, SEASON 6, EPISODE 9, “THE BETTER HALF”

May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! I hope you’re all having a lovely long weekend. As for me, I have to open this recap by telling you that I am, quite frankly, hungover. Still, I’m happy to report that I woke up this morning and watched Mad Men and I’m delighted to share all my thoughts about it.

This week’s episode was all about pairs, as evidenced by the title. Megan is now playing twin sisters, and is chastised for having difficulty finding their differences. In the office, there is still the polarizing pair of Ted and Don, and other pairs are everywhere – Roger’s grandson and his son, his daughter and his ex-lover, Peggy and Ted. And at home, we have Betty and Henry and Betty and Don.

Betty is big news this week – she’s back! Or, her body is back, it seems like overnight. She is again being hit on by creepy dudes while she waits for her husband — in this scene, she is positioned exactly as she was when Henry first approached her. She’s being ogled by gas station attendants and she feels real good about it. And just like that, too, Don wants her again. This bothered me a little, and it bothered me that it didn’t bother her. She was a fat shrew, and now she’s thin and likeable. Is that just how that goes?

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Bobby continues his winning streak in this episode, being adorable and singing “Father Abraham.” At camp, he’s Bobby #5, although Bobby #1 is gone – “Because of Bobby Kennedy?” asks Betty, but no, Bobby #1 just got sick and had to leave camp. Nice one, Weiner. At dinner, Don and Betty and Bobby are a family, and that night Betty and Don are together again – but she’s figured him out now, and at breakfast she is smugly back with Henry.

Meanwhile, Peggy and Abe live in hell. A hell of their own making, both in their relationship and in their physical apartment, which appears to be in the middle of a constant crime scene. Although the problems of the world are more absent from this episode than they have been in recent ones, they are present here simply in sound: there seemed to be sirens in the background all the time. I really loved how funny this plotline was, while also being horrifying – in the ambulance, after she’s stabbed him, and he’s told her that she’ll always be the enemy, Peggy asks, “Are you breaking up with me?”

And the sirens scream in the background when Don returns to Megan, hopefully sincerely telling her that he wants things to change. Is that Peggy’s ambulance, or just another city story playing out behind them?

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Finally, let me return to my season six obsession – that’s right, I’m talkin bout BOB BENSON. He appears to be somewhat dating Joan, or at least hanging out with her, and it’s wonderful. He’s in shorts, they’re going to the beach, and he’s plying her for information about Pete. In that moment, I was certain there was something shady going on. When he comes into Pete’s office and says he has a delicate matter to discuss, it seemed like this was going to be the time when we find out that he’s really a sleazeball, that he would somehow use his insider knowledge to his own advantage. But no, he just wants to give Pete the name of a nurse. Is Bob Benson God?

Speaking of Pete, he seems really sad this week, and helpless. He’s given up his family for his career, and for his freedom – and then Duck tells him that family is where he should draw his confidence. So, he’s alone.

Megan, too, admits to being lonely (to Arlene, who weirdly tries to kiss her). Megan is alone, Pete is alone, and then, at the end, so is Peggy. Peggy seeks comfort, or something, from Ted – but he’s all about business, and seems to have entirely shut off his romantic feelings. Maybe he’s more similar to Don than he initially appeared. His door is shut to Peggy, and Don’s is, too – she has no Abe and no Ted. Where will she go now?

I really liked this episode. After weeks of Don’s bullshit, we finally got to see a good chunk of everyone else; and to see only Don’s better half, such as it is. Plus, more Bobby! More Bob Benson! You can’t go wrong with a team like that.

Re-live your Memorial Day hangover, and this episode, on Portable.

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