Poor Don Draper! (Seriously this time.)
All Don has done for the past three episodes is try to get his job back, try to make things work with his wife, and try to be a good dad to his daughter.
But as Don intimated to Sally over Valentine’s Day Reubens during last week’s episode, you sometimes get into trouble for telling the truth. If “Day At Work” was all about expectations, this episode is all about disappointments, especially for Don.
So when he flew out to surprise his young, actress wife in Los Angeles and told her that it wasn’t exactly because he missed her and partially because her agent told him she was acting insane, that didn’t go over too well. And then when he told Megan that he had actually been on a leave of absence for several months that, too, didn’t fly.
Still, even though Don is trying to be “good” that doesn’t exactly mean he’s succeeding. Or, rather, he is succeeding at being Don Draper’s version of good. When Megan asks who his latest “girl” is, Don swears he isn’t sleeping with anyone else and that “I’ve been good! I haven’t even been drinking that much!”
But Don’s job has always been more important to him than his personal relationships. (Not because he’s such a hardworking, nose-to-the-grindstone type of guy, but because he really doesn’t know how to act around people. As Megan said when she kicked him out of her Hollywood home, he pushes people away “with two hands.”)
Once Don gets back to New York City where he belongs, he wants to be seduced by a new job offer and not by the call girl that the agency sent over to very conspicuously invite Don up to her room.
Roger then grants Don’s wish to obtain gainful employment when he shows up at Roger’s hippie orgy palace because he “misses” Don. Aww! I love this bromance.
Alas, absolutely no one else at SC&P misses Don, which Peggy has no hesitation telling him to his face. Peggy is being so mean lately! Nobody is happy about Don’s return, the least of whom are Lou, Dawn, Joan and Peggy, who think that their newfound positions of power are at risk with Mr. Draper back.
Betty made her first appearance of this season to take wee Bobby on a field trip to his hot, braless teacher’s childhood farm. Obviously, things go wrong because Betty is just a horrible mother who brings her son to tears for trading her crappy picnic sandwich for gumdrops when, clearly, gumdrops > Wonderbread sandwiches.
I am honestly not quite sure what to make of the Betty subplot, except to make the assumption that this will be integral later on in the season, because I can’t quite find a parallel between she and Don’s plot lines, except for the obvious fact that both of their “field trips” go terribly.
There are a couple of things from this episode that we should keep in mind and that will more than likely come back this season: Betty’s curiosity over her friend Francine’s new part-time job (three days a week in an office!) and Betty’s realization that her kids absolutely hate her.
By the end of the episode, the partners have decided to keep Don, if only because it would be too expensive to buy him out of his contract. His rehiring comes with some stipulations, the worst of which is him not being allowed to drink at the office except for when entertaining clients, and the fact that he has fallen so far that he has to report to FREAKING LOU, who is maybe a bigger buzzkill than Ted Chaough.
To my surprise, Don agrees to all of these rules — and even to move into Lane’s old suicide office. This morbid detail is not an accident and is yet another (if the only example this episode) addition to the death motif that has hung over every episode of the season so far.
In “Mad Men” world, Don’s simple “okay” to his demotion is a sign of growth and change. But will Don continue to be “good,” or is he going to screw it all up? I’m guessing the latter.
Other notable moments:
- Don to Ken after Ken showed him a photo of his son: “Now I know what you look like bald.”
- Is Harry really the biggest liar Jim has ever met? I’d keep this in mind.
- Jim’s aside that SC&P could learn something from the funeral business has me thinking that someone else is going to die in that office.
- Betty is the worst, but her bitchiness towards the braless teacher was the best.
- MORE CALIFORNIA PETE CAMPBELL.