April 16, 2013
In the second episode of this season of Mad Men, prostitution abounds. So does betrayal.
Don, we now learn, grew up in a whorehouse. Through flashback, we see pre-teen Don and Abigail, his step-mother (who I believe is pregnant with Adam) move in with her sister – who runs a brothel. There, young Don is cautioned to find his own sins.
Meanwhile, in the present day Don is still sleeping with Sylvia Rosen. When she asks him if it bothers him, he tells her simply that this didn’t happen – it’s just in his head. After their morning tryst, he leaves her with cash for the day before heading to work; she tucks the money in her cleavage.
As the day progresses, Megan is alone and distraught. She runs into Sylvia in the laundry room, and they end up having a heart to heart in which Megan reveals that she’s recently had a miscarriage. Not only that – the truth is, she admits, she would have wanted to abort the baby. Sylvia, who has just said in relation to Megan’s career that watching TV during the day makes her feel guilty, does not allow Megan reprieve from her guilt: she would NEVER consider abortion. Each woman is wracked with her own demons.
In the Campbell household, things are equally bleak. After a dinner party in which Pete and Trudy each flirted with the wives and husbands of their neighbors, we find Pete in his Manhattan apartment, beginning an affair with one of said wives. She’s infatuated with him, and he’s a total weasel, right up to the moment when he tells her to hurry up and get dressed.
Peggy, meanwhile, is become more and more a carbon copy of Don – she even has her own black secretary! She is feared in the office, but the difference between those who fear Don and those who fear Peggy is that in her case, they aren’t too scared to pull a practical joke – they leave a pitch for QUEST on her desk, which is a feminine hygiene powder which works to “kill overly-critical Olsens.” Sigh.
In the SCDP office, Heinz baked beans brings in Heinz ketchup, who wants to meet the men behind beans’ massive success. But when ketchup leaves, beans says that if they go after ketchup at all, he’ll be furious. Don tells Kenny that sometimes, you have to dance with the girl who brung ya. Really, Don? At the office, he’s such a loyal spouse.
Each individual relationship comes to painful head, then: Pete’s mistress arrives, bloody, at Pete and Trudy’s door. Don and Sylvia end up at dinner alone together. Peggy accidentally betrays SCDP by spilling the beans (sorry) about the ketchup situation to her boss. The war rages.
But here’s where it stops: with Trudy, first of all. WITH TRUDY, TRUDYYY. In a moment of intense strength and fierce power, she brings that weasel Pete Campbell to justice right in his own kitchen. “There’s no way for me to escape, to not be an object of pity while you get to do whatever you want,” she says. And then: “I refuse to be a failure.” With that, the Pete/Trudy marriage is over, and we can finally feel some vindication.
At the Rosen/Draper dinner, Megan pleads illness and stays home, and Dr. Rosen gets a call and has to leave. When Sylvia makes noises about feeling guilty for this, Don tells her that she just wants to feel shitty right up until the moment when he takes her dress off (it’s perhaps worth noting that this is how Megan described her guilt, earlier, too “I feel so shitty,” she said. The language suggests deterioration). Sylvia and Don eat quickly.
Finally, there’s a re-appearance of Herb, the disgusting creature who bought a night with Joan last season. “He’s here,” Joan says simply as she enters Don’s office, and pours herself a drink. Herb wants to manipulate Don and Pete so that they’ll convince the team that his idea – a focus on local advertising as opposed to national – is what they think will sell the most cars. In the meeting, Don acts on his disgust for Herb and takes the idea to an extreme, saying that even USED cars are better sold this way. It’s awesome, and the Jaguar people shut it down. It’s like Munich, Roger and Don tell Pete when the meeting is over; it means we gave the Germans what they wanted to make them happy, but it just made them want more.
Everyone is betraying someone in this episode. Don is, of course, betraying Megan, who feels that she is betraying him – by not wanting his baby, and by not telling him that. Pete is betraying Trudy, and, in his evil little eyes, the woman he slept with betrayed him by telling her husband. Beans is betraying ketchup. And Peggy – aw Peggy! – has unwittingly betrayed Stan and all of SCDP.
But, as Ted Chaugh tells Peggy, this is how wars are won. So we’re entering a war between Peggy and Don, between Don and Jaguar, between Pete and Trudy. And then there’s Bob Benson – who is this guy? So sunny and helpful, and yet it seems like he must have ulterior motives. And where did he come from? We know where he’s going, at least – that is, to buy toilet paper for Pete’s apartment.
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