Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you haven’t seen Mad Men Season 6, Ep. 9 – “The Better Half”.
“I guess we’re all a little bit out of context right now.” – Roger Sterling
To be wanted. It answers the most base need of humanity and it feels damn good, but as the characters of Mad Men found out this week, being caught between two people doesn’t always work out the way you hope. Pete may have been the only one able to verbalize it, but everyone this week was being pulled in many different directions, to sometimes disastrous results.
The episode began with Peggy where she was destined to be the moment the merger was first suggested: caught between Don and Ted. Torn between her two mentors Peggy is in the precarious position of honoring the relationship that made her who she is and the one that respects her for it. Of course it’s also complicated by the mutual, not so professional, feelings between her and Ted.
There has been no advancement of the Ted/Peggy (potential) affair since their first chaste kiss, but in their respective minds it’s gone further. Peggy decided to ignore it and Ted decided to confront her. As far as Peggy has come in her professional life, in her mind she’s still the secretary that no one wanted in her romantic life. She latched onto Abe mostly because he showed interest but it has clouded her ability to see how ill matched they are. So of course when things with Abe fell apart (due less to the late night stabbing and more to do with Abe’s pretentious douche-baggery) she clung to the idea of the other man who’d expressed an interest. Unfortunately, part of what makes Ted a good match for Peggy is exactly why they can’t be together.
Peggy, a woman completely unused to being fought over ended the episode completely alone. Abandoned by her boyfriend and both mentors. From here on out she’ll be managing these murky waters alone.
It may seem like Joan should be torn between Roger and living her life on her own terms, but Joan is one of the few characters who understands what is best. Roger may be the love of her life, but circumstances dictate that she do what’s best for her son. Being the son of a war hero will always trump being the illegitimate son of you’re mother’s boss.
As much as it pains me to say it, Roger and Joanie will never be again. The moment he allowed her to sleep with the Jaguar guy he closed the door on that relationship for good (don’t believe me? Check out what she wore to that meeting). But, as good as it is to see Joan happy, I’m still not sure how much I trust Bob.
But Betty is a woman who understands the power of being wanted. After a lifetime of knowing she’s the most wanted woman in the room and a recent batch of not feeling that, Betty was relishing her newly regained stature. Random men want her at fundraisers, her husband can’t even wait to they get home and, most importantly, her ex-husband saw her again.
The moment Don divorced Betty and January Jones remained a full time cast member it was clear that a reunion was unavoidable. I dreaded the day it would come, but I could not have been more pleased with the way it played out. Betty didn’t sleep with him out of some misguided notion that they would get back together. Sure, she did it to feel better about herself, to convince herself that Don’s desire for her wasn’t the problem, but for the first time in their history, she was the one with the power.
And for Don it wasn’t just another conquest or to prove a point. Regardless of the walls that sprang back up after last week’s breakthrough, he is still reeling from his realizations. As with all his women, his issues are intrinsically linked to his mother issues and this was the most maternal we’ve ever seen Betty.
Don will never be caught between Megan and Betty. He’s caught between the life he’s created and figuring out how to make that life feel right. He always has been and he always will be. What was actually surprising about the secluded rendezvous was that, despite the façade and the walls Don has worked so hard at keeping up, it hasn’t stopped people from understanding him. During their marriage Betty seemed oblivious to Don’s demons, but her pillow talk revealed she’s always known more than she let on. And perhaps that’s the real reason Don and Betty will never get back together.
“That poor girl. She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.”
The merger has everyone shook up and questioning their places within the company. Just like the culture of the time has everyone questioning their place within society. Like the sirens incessantly ringing throughout the hour, the personal lives of these characters echo the circumstances they find themselves in. Everyone is a little out of context, everyone is in a panic, and everyone is clambering to pick the side that will come out on top when all this craziness dies down.
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