For a week, after the cliffhanger ending of "The Color Blue" as Don was showered with applause, I've been imagining the fireworks that were sure to erupt when Betty finally confronted him with all the ammunition she gathered from the desk drawer. I was thinking of mega histrionics, screaming, furniture flying, glass breaking, binge drinking, etc.
I should've known better. When it really matters, this show is rarely predictable. That the showdown in "The Gypsy and the Hobo" between Betty and Don would come in whispers, in dimly lit rooms through gritted teeth -- fantastic. It was not at all what I expected but it was so right; kudos to scribes Marti Noxon, Cathryn Humphris and Matthew Weiner and helmer Jennifer Getzinger.
I've been hard on Betty this season, but she regained her humanity in this seg because she wasn't a screaming banshee. In fact, she was as good as Don could've hoped for -- much better than he deserved, what with his latest lover waiting in the car outside the house. The fact that Suzanne finally crawled away in the cold, dark night was just right too. A confrontation with Betty would've distracted from the real drama unfolding between a wife and husband coming to grips with the fact that she doesn't really know him, nor trust him, at all. "You're a very, very gifted storyteller," Betty tells him. And she knows his predilection for bailing when the going gets rough: "Are you thinking of what to say or are you just looking at that door?"
Betty was obviously considering staying a lot longer than a week in Philadelphia while she sorted out her future and her father's estate. Her exchange with the family lawyer was rough to hear on a human rights level -- the idea that a woman seeking a divorce in those days would basically be up a creek without a paddle -- but again, it rang true. The lawyer did give her sound advice. (Didn't it sound like he called her "Betsy"?)
For Don, I think that after the immediate W-T-F? shock of the confrontation with Betty (loved the scene when he staggers out from his den into the kitchen), he was still trying to work his best Don Draper mojo on her right up until the moment in the bedroom where she asks him about "Adam." Even as he was taking her through the story of his tortured parental experience, he didn't volunteer that he had a half-brother until she pressed him about the "boy in the pictures."
Clearly, these scenes are going on Jon Hamm's Emmy reel next year. I can't believe the number of shades his face turned and how much he did with his eyes. Incredible stuff. Breaking down as he tells her the Adam story -- the whole truth, when it would've been easy for him to varnish his role in it -- was the cathartic release that Don/Dick probably hasn't experienced since his subterfuge began back in the war. I think that was the point of the shot of him brushing his teeth -- cleaning himself up, although he couldn't look in the mirror -- and waking up from what appeared to be a sound sleep the next morning.
For the first time in a dozen years or so, Don/Dick wakes up without the weight of the Big Lie on his chest, at least with the Mrs. His emotional reaction obviously has a big impact on Betty. At first she's deftly leveraging the power she suddenly has over him -- did you notice Betty was wearing pants in the confrontation scene? -- but then she's touched by his story of the prostitute mom, troubled childhood etc. She's affected by his shaking hands.
It would've been easy to keep Betty at full-boil but this was so much more compelling, to me. Instead she's actually more rational than usual, asking him smart questions and standing up for her right to be angry over the loooooong betrayal. Yet it was telling in the scene between Betty and the lawyer, when he asks her if she's afraid of Don, she replies quickly and emphatically, "Oh no."
I noticed the high volume of "goodbyes" said in this episode. In a way, it's as if Dick Whitman is able to say goodbye, on some level, to Don Draper in this episode, at least in the sanctity of his own home. And that Betty appears to be putting real effort into working to salvage their marriage (once again) is an amazing sign of the strong bond between those two. You only give a half-eaten sandwich to the one you love after all (who else would take it!?) And that it ends for Don/Dick on Halloween, the night when everyone has license to dress up as something they're not...fantastic.
This was a mammoth Don and Betty episode, but there was some swell stuff with Roger Sterling too. He got a great big dose of humanizing in the storyline with his old flame, Annabelle, returning to Sterling Cooper in need of rehabilitation for her dog food company and her emotional core. Recently widowed, Annabelle clearly needs to find herself, and she wants to find herself nearly 25 years earlier romping around Paris with Roger Sterling. Although Roger of old would've been up for a drunken reunion, the new Roger says no. It's also made clear that Annabelle caused him severe, grow-up-fast pain way back when and he's not exactly feeling all that willing to help her through her late middle age crisis. "You were the one," she tells him. "You weren't." (Great guest star turn by Mary Page Keller as Annabelle.)
I found intriguing the brief business of Joan calling Roger for help in finding a job. Roger's obvious joy in connecting with her ("you want to be on some people's minds"), even if only over the phone, left just a tiny bit of doubt in my mind when Roger was telling the tipsy Annabelle that "it's different with this girl." Did he mean Jane? Or perhaps Joan? Or maybe he just wants to do right by Joan for karma's sake. Hmmm...
As for Joan's home life, well, score another one for the "Mad Men" maniacs who parse this show on various blogs. There's been a lot of speculation about whether Greg the untalented surgeon was headed for the Army, what with all the references to Vietnam dropped this season, and sure enough in this seg he goes an enlists. I think I speak for many in admitting that I had no trouble cheering when Joan took the vase to the bank of her whiny husband's head. "You don't know what it's like to plan something, to count on it and not get it," he moans. Oh yes she does -- for starters how about her wanting a decent husband. I mean, I generally don't condone violence but Greg had it coming to him since last season, dammit.
And then there's Suzanne -- she's as much of a jumble of emotions and impulses as the beautiful Leonard Cohen song of the same name (if you've never heard it, stop reading and listen here). That the hand of fate forced Don to abruptly cut it off with her -- in a humiliating way -- is the best thing that could happen to our Miss Farrell.
She was continuing to go down a nutty path in her relationship with him: "I look at your life...and even if I remove myself from the picture I see a man who is not happy." And even with weird pillow talk -- "I wanted more than I thought I would want...but it'll pass" -- Don can't help himself and turns on the old seductive charm telling her about he wanted to run away with her at first sight.
I felt that maybe they telegraphed that Suzanne was starting to get her heels back on the ground when she asked Don in their final (?) phone conversation if she had to worry about her job. Of course, Don can't quite let go completely, telling her that they can't see each other "right now." (Of course there is the ticking time bomb of her brother who's carrying Don's promise and his business card.) Suzanne should known enough by now to start running if Don ever comes her way. And will somebody please fix her up with Ken Cosgrove! I think they'd be very good for each other.
So much more:
** Sally and Bobby want to be Minnie Mouse and an astronaut, respectively, for Halloween, but they wind up going as a gypsy and a hobo. Two sides of their father's personality?
** Great line, from Annabelle about young Roger: "You walked around like you were hoping to be a character in somebody else's novel."
** Great line, from Peggy to Smitty during the dog food focus group: "Dogs don't like uniforms."
** 1961's "The Misfits" -- a famous misfire known for being the last straw in Marilyn Monroe's marriage to Arthur Miller (who wrote the screenplay) and for being Clark Gable's last pic. I saw it years ago but completely forgot the plot until I looked it up. Sure enough, Gable's desperate cowboy character sells horses for dog food.
** Horse meat -- "I've eaten it," Don says in the initial meeting with Annabelle, showing his humble roots, which Roger notices.
** Great line, Roger to Annabelle, ostensibly about Sterling Cooper: "I'm not going to sit here and brag about how big I am."
** Sign of the times, from one of the men in the dog food focus group: "When people are protesting, I'm on board." He'll have plenty of opportunities in the coming years.
** After glorifying smoking so much, it was the least they could do. When Annabelle talks about her 51-year-old husband dying of lung cancer, the camera cuts to Don lighting up.