MAD MEN: Scene of the Week

A few weeks back I commented on how Mad Men does beautifully awful moments better that any show currently on TV. And last night saw a slew of them. We get Don and Megan running into Peggy and Teddy, who are essentially flaunting their ecstatic flirtation in everyone’s faces. Don’s anger at his new partner and his disappointment in his protege causes him to follow Harry Crane’s lead and sacrifice Ocean Spray for a taste of Sunkist. It’s a slap in the face, but it’s nothing compared to a shot in the eye (Ken Cosgrove can totally relate). And it’s really nothing compared to Don stealing Peggy’s Rosemary’s Baby-inspired aspirin pitch and placing it at the feet of the late Frank Gleason. Given the way everyone starts to squirm during the meeting with the St. Joseph’s execs, Don can tell himself that he’s acting in the best interest of the agency. Maybe he is. But as Peggy so rightly puts it, he is also “a monster.” Don’s never worn saint’s robes, but I never hated the man the way I did last night.

Sally, fresh off of seeing her father in the arms of and inside Sylvia, seems on the verge of an equally horrible experience. Her need to escape to boarding school leads to the threat of hazing by deceitfully angelic mean girls. But… wait for it… Glen reappears! He’s bigger and “badder” than ever, and his defense of Sally’s honor in the face of his friend’s barely lecherous desires touched me in much the same way it does Sally. It makes perfect sense to picture next year’s finale closing with Sally and Glen sitting at the back of a bus, Graduate-style, while the next decade looms in front of them.

But no one is more on edge than that new character we’ve all grown to love, hate, and theorize about incessantly. The truth of the perpetually coffee-bearing and possibly gay Bob Benson is finally revealed. It’s nothing new, but it fits. Bob is not a spy or a long-lost son or an alien being. The truth is simpler. He’s Don. Maybe he didn’t literally step into another man’s shoes to escape the station of his birth, but he recreated himself for a chance on Madison Avenue. Everyone wants a fresh start at one point or another. Duck, of all people, brings this leverage to Pete’s attention.

And history has taught Pete well.

So Pete heeds Bert Cooper’s advice. Pete being Pete, he shows his upper hand and lets Bob know that he knows just what he is or rather isn’t. But Pete also opts to keep this bit of useful information to himself. Because really, who cares if Bob Benson is a West Virginian product of incest who lied his way into the feast? What does matter is that Bob has the drive and the skill to help Pete seal the deal with Chevy (Bert also said that Pete should focus on “bringing in accounts”).

I still don’t trust Bob, and given the Chevy execs’ penchant for violence, Pete might find himself the victim of some tragic “accident” while out with those boys before the series is out. But for now, Pete is holding a winning hand. And Don is alone and despised, awash in misery.