Well, this was one of those episodes that proves that the words "Betty Draper Francis" are synonymous with "Horrible Mom".
Betty, Betty, Betty. Just when we thought Betty had discovered a little compassion in her life and view of the world in her new marriage and her struggle with weight, we now find her this season looking svelte, yet flashing that venomous glare while lunching with her suburban friend Francine. It's always been clear that Betty doesn't find my joy in being at home with her kids. She's not baking cupcakes with them or trying out the 1969 pinterest craft, she's letting the maid do the homework and the diaper changing while expecting her children to behave perfectly and understand terrible things like their parent's divorce and remarriage, and whatever other emotional upheavals they want to heap on them, without much maternal guidance.
But this week she volunteers to go with lil' Bobby on a field trip to a farm. Bobby appears to be in seventh heaven while soaking up undivided Betty-time on the bus to the farm, discussing his favourite monsters and even eliciting thoughtful responses. At the farm Betty is the cool mom when she volunteers to drink fresh milk straight out of the metal pail. It all seems like some solid Betty parenting until lunch and lil'Bobby trades away Betty's sandwich. In her signature cruelty Betty viciously cuts him down to size for making such a lapse in judgement by trading her sandwich for candy. He offers to get it back for her but Betty prefers the punishment of forcing Bobby to eat his ill-gotten sugar sans enjoyment while enduring her dagger eyes which are only slightly shielded by a pair of gorgeous sunglasses. Betty furthers her punishment of Bobby at home, blaming him for ruining a nice day out. Bobby's crushed face is heartbreaking as he says staring to his forlorn meatloaf "I just wish it were yesterday."
The crux of Betty is that she is so self-absorbed with such a deep wound of needing constant love and attention from others that she cannot even see that she may be required to love others in return. She asks Francis, "Why don't they love me?" She views her children as bottomless love ATM's, that must continually feed her need for love. She is so blinded by her own selfishness she doesn't even see the very obvious pain of Bobby after his precious time with his mom has been ruined. Matthew Weiner defends Betty a lot, and usually makes the point that we're just like her. And he's right. We are just like her in that we have the same human falleness that makes us see people as objects and in terms of how much they can give us, even if what they're giving is love. We all have the wound that seeks love, that wants to be filled; but this desire is never met when we're trying to fill it with other people. In another sense the American housewife of the 1950's would have been unfulfilled just like Betty if she was seeking constant affirmation and love for her children, using her children to demand they make her feel good at all times, looking to them as her sole source of happiness just like a stay at home mom would today. Again, it's difficult to see our own issues with these sins when January Jones has such an impeccable ability to be so cold, unfeeling, and biting. Betty is a helluva character.
This episode was played deftly between Betty's storyline and Don's. It has the effect of mirroring them and it played well especially because we could make comparisons to mistakes they both made in their marriage to each other, and how they can be put in new situations but still be unable to see what is really required of them.
Don again flies to L.A., this time at the behest of Golden Girl Megan's agent who reports she may need some extra babysitting because she's been crying in front of directors in the face of rejection. Don arrives at Megan's and then there is I-missed-you-sex, accusations, some father issues tossed around, and finally Don telling her he's effectively been fired. Megan doesn't understand the lying, but even more so that Don would be choosing to sit home alone and not live with her in L.A. and she tells him they're finished.
I'm not sure if this is the end of their relationship. Megan is clearly a worldly, capable woman who doesn't seem to be dependent on Don. She's also so smart when it comes to understanding how men work, and how to best use a situation for her advantage that I find it hard to believe she's having a tough time in LA even though I really, really, really want to her to be having a tough time. I thought Jessica Pare's acting this episode was some of the best I've seen from her. I don't even know if Don will attempt to fight for this marriage. Can he deal with rejection again after he took it so badly from the apartment mistress (I can't remember her name for the life of me.) last season?
Don flies back to New York with renewed energy to get back to work. Personal rejection and issues seem to propel him back to his job where he's fed his ego before. He even storms the tower of Roger Sterling who says he should just show up on Monday. But Don showing up at SC&P on Monday proves even more awkward than Betty in a pastoral setting with innocent farm animals around. Everyone is in shock Don would even show his face, secretaries are on damage control trying to find the partners, the terrible Lou is fuming, Peggy holes herself up in her office, and Don is forced to hang out with the underling creatives. It is a marvellously awkward situation.
All the New York partners aside from Roger seem to want Don gone. The only thing holding them back is being unable to buy out his partnership. Jim Cutler's plan to get rid of done completely seems to be put on hold, although even Joan seems to want Don banished forever. The partners come back to Don offering him a compromise of letting him come back to work but under really tough and almost humiliating circumstances. He's even going to be answering to Captain Mediocrity himself, Lou. This deal seemed so bad, on so many levels I was expecting a giant "F--- You!" delivered in Don Draper deadpan but instead he answers "Okay." I'm hoping that the sly twinkle in his eye when he spoke his answer means Don has a plan to come back with a vengeance. He worked his way up once before, and he now seeks some type of professional redemption at the office where he has spectacularly flopped in front of everyone. I really want to see some advertising bad-assery as Don takes back his reputation and his company somehow. It all feels as if I'm cheering for the anti-hero to become a traditional hero somehow. So that must mean Weiner is going in a completely opposite direction.
I liked how this episode is spinning everything and everyone around once again, and a new Mad Men will emerge.
Some quick notes:
- Harry Crane is back. He is such an ass, yet he seems to be doing terrifically well. He's even telling Jim Cutler to take a hike. He seems to prefigure today's social media experts in being able to use numbers and perception more important than substance.
- Joan - wow, not a lot of loyalty left for Don. He's been awful to her in the past, and his attempts to help her out have often come as too little, too late. But she was very quick to give him the boot.
- Speaking of Joan's boots: She looked so good this episode, and her patterned dress with the large collar looked professional and a tad bit more trendy than Joan usually wears. Her boots were amazing.
- Betty also looked stellar in every scene. The patterned dress and matching jacket she wore to the farm was a beautiful colour and looked like a million bucks. Although, it was so hilarious to wear to a farm. I also really liked the blue wrap dress she wore.
- I was expecting Neve Campbell to somehow show up on Don's flight...
- I enjoyed how Ginsberg and the other creative boys still seemed to both like and respect Don when no one else does.
I'm off to enjoy some gum drops.
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