The characters on Mad Men often reveal the most about themselves when they’re alone—but even then, they can remain a mystery to us. A particularly emotional moment in last night’s episode came when Betty Francis (née Draper) stood in her kitchen, placed her hands on the counter and stared downward at something we couldn’t see. It happened twice: both after the return of a surprise visitor from her past, and again after halfheartedly disciplining her two boys. Was it the realization of how quickly the world turns outside of her domestic comforts, or simply the burden of her ceaseless duties as a mother and a housekeeper? If there was a lesson to be learned from last night’s Mad Men, it was simply a matter of always standing your ground: be upfront and never apologize, or you’ll end up on the losing end.
SIZING PEOPLE UP AT THE OFFICE
McCann invites company executives to a retreat in the Bahamas, and Don is expected to write “the Gettysburg address” on the state of the company, which is understandably a tall order; we never see him complete the task. (A classic exchange with Peggy: “Do you have my thesaurus?” “Probably.”) Meanwhile, Don meets with Ted and Peggy individually to discuss their ambitions for the office. Ted is simply interested in bigger accounts, while Peggy wants to “create something lasting,” and to establish a role as the first woman creative director at the agency. Don nags Peggy for further details on her life plans, as if to once again ask himself, is that all there is? “This is about my job, not the meaning of life,” Peggy says. “You think those things are unrelated?” he responds.
MATHIS GETS FIRED
Mathis, the green employee, asks Don for advice about how to deal with a snubbed client. Don, essentially, tells him to never apologize and to play it cool. But Mathis takes it too literally and makes a terrible joke, throwing his career under the bus. He busts into Don’s office, proving he isn’t able to take responsibility for his own actions. “You have no character,” he says. “Neither do you—you’re just handsome.” Don swallows his pride and retorts: “Everybody has problems. Some people know how to deal with them, other people don’t. You’re fired.” Let’s see if this will have any bearing on Peggy’s trip to Paris with Mathis’ cousin, who we haven’t seen or heard from in two episodes.
JOAN’S NEW MAN
Joan travels to LA with Lou Avery on business. She’s staying at the Beverly Wilshire, where Warren Beatty is making conquests. As Lou courts Hanna-Barbera for his cartoon ambitions, Joan has a coup de foudre with Richard Burgoff (Bruce Greenwood), a newly divorced real-estate developer. He buys Joan dinner and wonders aloud how she could possibly be single. After they sleep together, he demands that she cancel her flight to “get lobster in Malibu, sit on lounge chairs by the pool in Santa Barbara…” “I need to work,” Joan says.
When she returns to NYC, Richard follows her, and she reveals that she has a 4 year old son. Richard is furious and accuses her of using him as a crutch. “I know what this is, and so do you.” He’s just sent his kids off to college and doesn’t want to be responsible for anyone else. But then he visits her at the office with a bundle of flowers, telling her that he’s buying property in the city and she can visit him at will—with or without the kid. Perhaps Joan has found the perfect compromise with an older, more experienced man who can be there for her whenever she wants, without any expectations of domestic commitment.
GLEN BISHOP PAYS A VISIT
Sally is getting ready for a cross-country bus trip with her swim team, but someone knocks at the door: Glen Bishop, their old neighbor and Betty’s former precocious young confidant. He’s now a trim young freshman at SUNY Purchase en route to Playland with a new flame. To Sally’s dismay, he reveals that he just enlisted and is heading to Vietnam. “You’re gonna die! For what?” Sally yells, and runs upstairs. Glen leaves, as proud as he’s ever been. That night, Sally calls his school to tearfully apologize, but can’t reach him.
The next day, after Sally leaves, Glen returns to the Francis residence to pay a visit to Betty. He sips a beer and gets close to her in the kitchen, confident as ever. “I know you’re mine,” he says, and tries to kiss her—but Betty hesitates. “This was going to be the one good thing that came out of all this,” he says. “I know you know the man I can be.” He then he reveals that he flunked out of college, and enlisted in part to hide the news from his stepdad. Betty sends him off, proud of him, but then has the previously mentioned moment alone in the kitchen. What has her life become after all these years?
DON SELLS HIS APARTMENT AND SENDS SALLY OFF
Don’s real estate agent, Melanie, comes into his apt in the morning and wakes him up. “The emptiness is a problem,” she says bluntly. “This place reeks of failure.” Don still hasn’t removed the wine stain from the floor from his tryst two episodes ago, nor has he rented any new furniture since Megan took off. “A lot of wonderful things happened here,” he says in his own defense.
But when he takes Sally out to a Chinese restaurant with her classmates, one of her friends flirts with him: “You have a penthouse? When I watch TV, the commercials are my favorite part…” Sally accuses Don and his ex-wife of “oozing everywhere”, as if sex appeal was always their primary phenomenological trait. “You are like your mom and me and you’re gonna find that out,” he says. “You are a very beautiful girl, but you’re more than that.” He sends her off on her cross-country trip just before he gets the news that his apartment as just been sold. He stands in the hallway, sizing up the path that defined the last half-decade of his life. If the main existential question here is “where can a man live after the Upper East Side?” (and it surely isn’t), we have three episodes left to find out.