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SC&P's Power Trio?
This week's Mad Men episode is a series of short stories about disappointment. Every character we see—and in that regard it's noteworthy that we don't see Pete Campbell at all this week—isn't getting what he or she wants from life.

We start with Don Draper, of course, returning to Roger Sterling and then SC & P with hat literally in hand, having possibly ruined another marriage because of his lies. And after some mishegoss with the partners, he's extended an offer to return, but on terms so humiliating that his eager-sounding acceptance at the episode's end suggests that maybe Don's finally been humbled enough to change.

For Peggy and Joan, among others at SC & P, Don's return marks a disappointing, unwelcome return to the chaos he can bring to their lives, as well as for Peggy a reminder of his role in encouraging Ted to flee to California. Sure, Peggy may be frustrated at Lou Avery's lack of interest in her creative skills, but perhaps it's a form of disrespect she can handle better than Don's that's what the money is for! narcissism.

Harry Crane (hi! welcome to the season!) wants a computer, though it sounds like Jim Cutler may get him one. Dawn, meanwhile, is finding that her promotion into (half of) Joan's old job may not actually be terribly enjoyable.

Megan, of course, is disappointed with her unreformed husband, still lying, still avoiding. And isn't it odd that just like Don's relationship with Betty's therapist, Megan's agent also is using Don as a backchannel which looks horrifying in the 21st century.

And, oh, Betty. Always able to find the lone cloud on a sunny day, and I don't think Bobby's ever going to be able to enjoy gumdrops ever again.

Matt Zoller Seitz:

For all Don’s continued entitled-male behavior (especially in Los Angeles; “Thanks for the visit, daddy,” Megan tells him), he seems more genuinely contrite than in early seasons. He’s not too much of a better man, but he’s definitely trying. He could’ve gone off with that mysterious woman he met on the plane in the season premiere but didn’t. He’s still drinking, but not as much, and in this episode we see him ask a flight attendant on the New York–to-L.A. connection for tomato juice instead of booze. When Megan quite understandably accuses him of cheating on her again, his distress as he insists on his fidelity feels desperate yet true. He wants to stop what Freddy referred to in the season premiere as a “Cyrano de Bergerac routine” and get back to work, even if it means accepting limits on his autonomy. These are all signs of maturity. Don’s in his early forties, but hey, better late than never. Truly.
Sonia Saraiya:
In almost every crucial scene in this episode, Don is seated. He’s seated at the meeting with the partners; and he’s seated in that moment with Lou at SD&P. I think he’s even reclining when he tells Megan he was fired. What I noticed most of all, though, is that he’s seated when he meets Peggy again. Because even though she’s pretty short, she’s looking down at him while speaking. There’s some clear communication happening in the blocking....

Betty and Peggy are bitter because they’re stuck in a kind of infantile power struggle with Don. He’s always been the one who paternalistically called the shots in their relationships. It made more sense with Peggy, because he was her boss. But with Betty—and Megan, as you point out—the father-figure is a convenient and vacant role. You might argue that Don is clearly working through a dynamic with his mother through the women in his life, with Sally as the natural endpoint. Look at his sudden rage when Dawn can’t pay attention to his beck and call over the phone. Or his self-righteous anger when he tells Megan that her agent summoned him to L.A. It’s a type of tantrum he’s throwing.

Originally posted to Adam B on Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 04:52 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.


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