This week on Mad Men: they could have just called this episode “How Betty Got Her Groove Back,” because whatever the internet conspiracy theorists (slightly NSFW) have to say about it, this was totally Betty’s episode.
We first see Betty at some kind of event, where she’s waiting for Henry. Another man comes up and begins hitting on her, and Betty seems flattered by the attention and recounts his come-on to Henry later in the car. Henry is not as displeased with this as you might think he’d be.
Then Betty’s off to visit Bobby at summer camp without Henry. She’s relaxed and happy, singing a camp song with Bobby and learning the dance. Don comes up to see Bobby as well, and later in the evening, he and Betty sit and reminisce about the time they went camping with Betty’s parents and conceived Sally. Betty sashays off to bed, but leaves her door cracked in an unspoken invitation. Don follows her in, and after telling her she looks as beautiful as the day he met her, they sleep together.
As they’re lying in bed, the two former partners have a conversation that’s almost unrealistic in how honest it is. Don leads it off by explaining that he doesn’t consider sex particularly intimate, which explains some things. Betty replies that she loves seeing him as he is now, so focused on her, but she knows that she can’t hold his attention. She asks if he’s doing the same thing to Megan that he did to her and when he sort of dodges the question she says, “That poor girl, she doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get close to you.” Don clearly doesn’t know how to respond to this, and I’m not sure how to respond to this alarmingly AWARE version of Betty.
The next morning Don wakes up alone. He goes down to the cafeteria, where Betty and Henry are sharing a pleasant breakfast. Betty glances coolly at Don, before refocusing all her attention on her husband. Don sits down alone, looking a bit bewildered at the second woman in less than a month who’s basically said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
But seriously, let’s talk about Betty for a moment. I’ve mentioned before how she seems to be calmer lately, and not as full of misdirected rage as she used to be. She did gain a lot of weight, I suspect due to some kind of depression, but lost it when she really wanted to. I wonder if Henry’s unconditional love and attraction through her heavier days has helped to create this new version of Betty: the one willing to do a silly song and dance with her son, to sympathize with a teenage girl doing her best to put down Betty’s life, and to care enough about Megan to feel sympathetic for her when she realizes Don is shutting her out the same way he shut Betty out for so many years. She’s always been proud of her looks, but she seems self-assured in a more complete way now. It’s lovely, and I hope it continues. However, now that I’ve written this, in the next episode she’ll throw a lamp at the wall.
While this is going on, Megan is struggling to play a pair of identical twins on her soap and asks her actress friend for help. After what seems like some typical girl-talk, the woman tries to kiss Megan and gets thoroughly miffed when Megan firmly rebuffs her. When Don gets home from his weekend at Bobby’s camp, Megan tells him that things haven’t been alright between them and she’s been trying to pretend otherwise, but can’t anymore. Don takes his wife into his arms over the sounds of sirens screeching in the background below their apartment balcony.
Peggy gets the lion’s share of the emotional turmoil this week, as Ted confesses that he’s in love with her but knows that they can’t be together because he’s married and she has Abe. Not for long, though! Peggy comes home to see Abe refusing to give a cop any useful information on the kid who stabbed him as he was coming out of the subway. He has so much sympathy for the other people in the community that he won’t give the cops any reason to harass them. One rock through the window and mysterious midnight screams later, Peggy is sneaking up to her window with a knife taped to a broom handle when Abe comes up behind her and gets stabbed AGAIN. As they’re in the ambulance on the way to the hospital (with the knife still sticking out of Abe, sort of hilariously) he tells Peggy that it just won’t work between them. She’s so scared, and works in advertising. She’s everything about their culture that’s abhorrent to him. Which, you know, I get that he’s all for the revolution but if he can be empathetic towards someone who stabbed him as he was coming out of the subway because of how their upbringing shaped their life and perceptions, you think he could afford Peggy the same consideration. Peggy and Abe are over, and Peggy goes to tell Ted, who tells her that he’s very sorry to hear that. Because I guess Peggy missed the part where he said he wasn’t going to leave his wife. Anyway, newly single Peggy ends the episode standing between Don’s office and Ted’s office, and I’m sure that’s not meant to be any kind of symbolism at all.
Roger’s also having a bit of a tough time. He gets to spend the day with his grandson, and quickly gets his solo visiting privileges taken away when he takes the boy to see Planet of the Apes and the poor kid ends up with terrible nightmares. He goes over to Joan’s for some comforting, only to find her packing up to go out to the beach with Bob Benson. Bob himself is sporting his usual cheerful smile and some remarkably brief shorts. Roger later confronts Joan at the office with a gift for Kevin and a wish to spend more time with his son. Joan makes it clear that Kevin’s father is Greg, who may not be there but who is at least RELIABLY not there. It’s sad for Roger, but he is sort of a flake and seems to only be interested in Joan and Kevin when he needs them for an ego boost.
While Bob was socializing with Joan, she mentioned that Pete’s having a difficult time with his mother, so Bob drops in on Pete and after much hemming and hawing about how he came by his information, offers up the name of a nurse who had cared for his father. Or that’s what he said. Bob Benson’s father has either just been cured by this wonder nurse or he’s dead, as Bob told Ken several episodes ago. You guys, I just want Bob to be a slightly over-eager guy who likes coffee and doing nice things for people. I have the feeling I’m going to be disappointed.