Focus On The Family
Mad Men Season 6 Episode 9 recap
No matter how elegant and grown up you consider yourself to be, it is a long-understood truth of adulthood that you will revert to being thirteen as soon as you get back to within striking distance of your family.
This could be dismissed as just a weird little irritation if it wasn’t for the other nagging truth: the one that says that your family knows you better than anyone else, that you’re your true self when you’re with them, for better or worse.
If that’s true, then it also follows that all the pretty packaging you put on yourself as an adult doesn’t really matter. All of your tricks to pretend you’re someone else haven’t worked. This is a fundamentally frightening prospect, and I think it’s why I blanched when Don told Peggy “He doesn’t know you (like I do)” before anything had even happened yet.
She hated it because he cut to her core. Because he could see that she was holding back on saying that Don’s idea was better (if Chaough’s was better, she would have just said it) and waffling, which is not the Peggy we’ve come to know. Don values her because she speaks her mind – maybe doesn’t know how to stifle it, even. So when she clearly waffles on saying what she should, he knows what’s up. I don’t think that Peggy thinks of Ted romantically and was being gentle as a result, but I do think she has an affection for him that’s been wildly misinterpreted.
Don can see this – note that her hand on Ted’s arm triggered one of his flashbacks last week – and isn’t having it. Not because he doesn’t want them to be close, but because the work should triumph over all. This week, at least. I’d have a lot more sympathy for him if he were in any way consistent, at least about what counts creatively, but this is, after all, Don Draper.
Still, he made Peggy blink when she realized she was probably being inauthentic, and I love how it came out with Abe. She made the grand mistake of pretending she was down with living the way he wanted to, and he called her on it. That she wasn’t as cool as she thought she was. I loved this, frankly, because even though Abe is a grand douche and she should have ditched him months ago, he actually pulled the trigger. Family knows you best.
It’s why Joan knew, too, that everything Roger wanted was too much and too silly. I could have done without the Margaret storyline to slam things home – after all, we know she’s a harpy who cries about everything, so it felt less effective that Roger was getting yelled at because who knows if any of it was true or not? I might have preferred him trying a different method to get closer to baby Kevin (who remains, most of the time, blissfully unseen), but he assumes he’ll be able to get there whenever. Joan knows this. It wouldn’t even occur to Roger that he couldn’t come over to Joan’s whenever, and here’s what kills me – it will continue not to occur to him. They will have this conversation over and over again through the years. Maybe not on camera, but nonetheless. He doesn’t, and won’t, understand a situation where he’s not welcome.
Don, on the other hand, understands all too well.
I want you to raise your hand if you didn’t enjoy this storyline. Stand up and be counted if you didn’t relish these two back together. I was delighted the whole time. There has begun a cottage industry of maligning January Jones but man, doesn’t she come to life with him? Betty and Don? She was always sardonic enough for him, in a way that Megan and all the others never would be. Don and Betty shared a not-precisely cynical worldview, but a dry, measured one. I loved that neither of them wrung their hands about the infidelity or what It Meant. It meant that, though they weren’t supposed to be together, there was an ease and a chemistry and a fundamental understanding of who the other was, and will be.
It hurts because it will always be that way. No matter how many other partners, entanglements, and slipping back into different personalities Don and Betty go through, they will always understand each other in that particular way. It’s worth mentioning that, even though I know we were supposed to see again, for the first time in a while, how beautiful Betty Francis is, I didn’t need the business with Henry also being possessive-yet-turned on when other men hit on her. It felt like second verse same as the first, and it’s a poor shadow (or in this case, premonition) of what she always shared with Don.
This is what he values in people. These are the few who he’s chosen to be his family – Betty (originally), Roger, Peggy – people who know what’s up, whether they want to or not. It’s one of the reasons Megan is so irritating, of course, her gosh-golly naivete, but I suspect it’s also the reason Don hates her parents so much: they see through the veneers of the “happy life” he’s tried to construct. They’re cynics, like him. But we know what happens to cynics who try to be happy…
They wind up stabbing their lovers in the stomach, and, upon reflection, not being all that sad about it.
Easily the best episode of the season, not least because Harry continues to be underappreciated (good!) and because everyone was acting like themselves, including snotty Pete. I don’t have too much to comment on here because the concern over his mother, while apparently genuine, seems like a convenient way for him to continue not to have to say “my wife kicked me out”, but hey – Duck! There was Duck! I hate Duck, and I love hating him! Remember the affair with Peggy? Remember when he sent his dog out into New York alone in the night? I’ll never (sob) forgive him for that. But I love that he’s bouncing back yet again.
Also? “Bobby Five” Heh.
Attached -- Elisabeth Moss in New York last week.