Don Draper isn’t really a person; he’s just an image. Hell, Don Draper isn’t even the guy’s real name, so it’s fitting that the he spends more time projecting a fake image of himself than facing and embracing who he really is. But now that the façade of Don Draper seems to be unraveling, with his job, marriage, and relationship with his children all in jeopardy, Don seems willing to blow up that old image. No more boozy pity parties, no more girls on the side, no more lies. Don’s starting over, but the real question is…will anyone let him?
Megan’s idea of Don starting over seems to be a restart without her involved. When Don gets a call from Megan’s agent with the news that Megan’s been unconfident and incredibly desperate at auditions, Don flies out to surprise her. Her surprise and delight lasts only as long as a quick lovemaking session before Megan discovers why Don is really there. She accuses him of being like a concerned father, not a husband, and worse, she has suspicions that he’s lying. He’s never in the office, the office is too quiet when he calls, there’s never even the sound of a typewriter. “I was your secretary,” she screams, “who’s your new girl?!?”
Before it can escalate, the new and improved Don Draper decides to come clean about his work situation. The moment of honesty at first seems like a good thing for the Draper marriage, but it only reveals that Don has been lying and purposely staying apart from Megan by his own choice. She calls for the end of their marriage and demands he head back to New York. Don protests that he did it to keep up his image in her eyes, but she knows that isn’t true, because she knows that image only matters in his own eyes. Their marriage is more strained than ever, but did it really ever stand a chance? When Don proposed to Megan initially, it spelled disaster, but I still can’t help but be disappointed that Don didn’t prove me wrong.
At least Don’s marriage being put on its last leg compelled him to make a move in his professional life. He uses an offer from a competitor to stage an ultimatum with Roger. Their reunion is tense at first, with Don taking credit for Sterling Cooper & Partners, but Sterling taking credit for Don. Roger also mocks his Hersey meltdown, but when pressed, he admits he misses Don and tells him to come back to the office on Monday. When Monday rolls around and Don arrives, Roger is nowhere to be found, and Don has to reintegrate with the office like someone returning from the dead. The reactions from his co-workers are priceless; Ken is ecstatic, Stan and Ginsberg are happy, Joan is cautious, Cutler and Cooper are annoyed, and Lou Avery and Peggy are livid.
When a drunken Roger finally arrives and meets with the partners, he lays down the law. This is one of Roger’s finest moments, coming to bat for his friend while also sounding business savvy. Roaring like a lion, Sterling puts Cutler and his protesting that Don should finally be let go to waste. His reasoning is fairly simple; Don is a partner, so he’d have to be bought out and that would be expensive, and if he’s really gone, could you handle competing against him? With that said, the partners alert Don of his reinstatement, but it comes with stipulations. He can’t meet with clients alone, he can’t go off script, he must have all scripts approved, he can’t drink in the office, and the kicker, he must report to Lou Avery. The Don of old would have scoffed and drained his glass, but Don agrees with no qualms. He looks like he’s got a plan, and one foot in the door might be all he needs to reclaim the throne.
Seeing Don work as an equal with Peggy is going to be very interesting. Will Don treat her with respect or still consider her is inferior protégé? And how long before Don calls BS on Lou Avery’s managerial skills? Don being back in SC&P offices needed to happen, but with Don working in a diminished role, it makes the power dynamics and story potential ripe. I’m glad the show didn’t push this plot point back to the midseason finale like I thought they would. The Don Draper Redemption Song is speeding up its tempo.
The Best of the Rest
– Betty makes her first appearance of the season this week. She meets with an old friend who has started a travel agency and she’s completely bewildered by the life of a workingwoman. She claims motherhood is her sole job, but her friend talks about how that time when children need their mother is fleeting. This motivates Betty to take a field trip with Bobby, but since Bobby is an idiot and a worse character than Lou Avery, their nice day is ruined by Bobby getting rid of Betty’s lunch. She has to be stern and then wonders to Henry why her children don’t love her. Motherhood and being a wife are the only jobs Betty has ever attempted or held dear, and she’s already failed at one once, so how meaningful has her life really been?
– Seriously, Bobby Draper is the worst.
– Speaking of the worst, Harry Crane is still complaining. After extinguishing an account’s fears with fake promises, he urges Cutler to consider getting a computer to appear relevant and informed.
– John Slattery was outstanding in this episode. Roger’s defense of Don was incendiary.
– What’s worse for Peggy; reporting to Don or Lou? Lou Avery continues to be a monster. He doesn’t submit Peggy’s Rosemary’s Baby ad for a Cleo Award and gets angry when she exerts any extra effort, like adding sketches to a pitch.
– “Stop pushing me away with both hands.” – Megan Draper
– It’s interesting to compare the crumbling of both the Draper marriages. The thing that’s most evident is how much more emotional Megan is compared to Betty. When Betty discovered one of Don’s ongoing lies, she didn’t cry or pout or even give Don the time to protest, she coldly sought divorce and didn’t stand for anything less. Perhaps Betty’s harsh, emotionless approach is the right way to handle Don Draper.
– Betty is perfectly described as being “old fashioned.” She can’t help but make comments about Bobby’s braless teacher and she even dresses impeccably on the farm.
– Ginsberg is nominated for a Cleo, to Peggy’s chagrin.
– “I cant say that we miss you.” – Peggy to Don. Ouch.
– Don’s fake name when calling a competitor is “Clarence Birdseye.”
– Don’s return really puts Dawn in a tough spot. All of her new responsibilities mean that she doesn’t have time to dote on Don, yet she’s afraid to assert herself against the man who gave her the opportunity to work there in the first place.
– Don’s brown suit in this episode stood out to me. It was almost like the suit color showed Don’s lack of power and authority in the office.
– Sterling drunkenly asserts that he is the president and can do whatever he wants, but when asked to call a meeting, he has to go check with Joan first.
– Still no Bob Benson…