MAD MEN: Scene of the Week

There’s really no contest. As always, last night’s Mad Men, “The Better Half,” packed plenty of punches. Megan continues to blossom/struggle on her soap set (her character’s got an evil twin, but Megan is having trouble distinguishing between the two). This leads to a tete-a-tete with her co-star, Arlene, who tries (and fails) to get Megan to loosen up, girl-on-girl style (I assume that Megan’s unusually prudish attitude is a subconscious form of rebellion against her radical parents). Back at the office, debates about the merits of butter over margarine, Teddy and Don vying for Peggy’s approval, then simultaneously turning their backs on her when she most needs a friend, makes for one rough outing for Miss Olson (don’t you just hate it when you accidentally stab your boyfriend with a homemade harpoon because you’re terrified of your neighborhood and then he breaks up with you en route to the hospital because you represent all that he sees as wrong with the universe)? Things aren’t much better for Roger. His attempt to be a cool grandfather only gives the little tyke nightmares (Planet of the Apes is kind of a disturbing movie), and when he goes to Joan in the hopes of fixing the mistake via their son, Bob Benson is already playing house (it wouldn’t be Mad Men if everyone wasn’t miserable).

And yet, for a few nostalgic moments, the show’s former first couple are very happy. Last week, the Betty of old reemerged, svelte and blonde and poised. I kind of hate this Betty (I kind of hated the fat, brunette version as well). But last night, away from her castle and Henry’s campaign events, Betty is relaxed and suggestive of the girl that Don first fell in love with. That they would fall back into bed was a foregone conclusion. And given all that’s transpired, that it would be a mere moment in the woods for Betty and a punctuation of all that is missing for Dan, was also pretty obvious.

But the afterglow, Betty remembering how Don delights in what he cannot have before smashing it once the object of his desire is in his possession (sorry, Megan), and Don questioning sex as the true definition of closeness to another human being, was dramatic gold. Betty will likely reclaim her monster title before the season is out, and Don will likely rely on his extracurricular activities to wash down the loss of the one person he could still be close to, albeit platonically (Peggy). But for an instant, Don and Betty understand each other and themselves. Shame that it won’t last.