First things first: my thanks to Bob Westal for ably filling my shoes last week while I was in the UK. Alas, I was so busy covering the press junket for “Pirate Radio” that I wasn’t able to hunt down the home office of Putnam, Powell, and Lowe. Oh, well, maybe next time…
Betty is packing her bags when the episode begins. Will it prove to be prophetic…? We’ll see, but it certainly doesn’t seem to bode well that A) she and the kids are heading off for a week at her dad’s old place, and B) her last moments with Don involve him…well, not so much lying to her face about his stash o’ cash as unabashedly avoiding giving an answer when she asks if he has any money lying around. But, even so, you can tell she’s still damned well pissed at him, and given all of the confusing information that she’s found out about him through the contents of the drawer, you can’t blame her.
We meet Annabelle Mathis, heiress to a fortune in dog food as a result of her husband’s unfortunately demise at the age of 51…and, boy, the look Roger cut to Don when he was lighting up just as Annabelle was revealing that her husband had died of lung cancer was priceless. Don’s given the opportunity to take a shot at the campaign (apparently, Sterling-Cooper used to have their business, but, per Bert Cooper, “Her father was a son of a bitch”), just so long as he follows two cardinal rules: don’t change the recipe and don’t change the name. What’s the connection between Roger and Annabelle? Well, there was clearly a relationship of some sort back in the day. At first, it sounded like an extra-martial affair, since she asked him if he’s still married, but it’s later revealed that their coupling was quite some time in the past…not that either one of them has forgotten it. It’s to Roger’s credit that, despite the amount of alcohol in his system, he still doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity for post-dinner entertainment that Annabelle offers him.
Speaking of Roger’s extra-marital affairs, Joan is trying to help her husband prepare for job interviews, and in the process, she learns that his father had a nervous breakdown. Somehow, that stands to reason. The next day, she decides to call Roger and, although she won’t ask him for her old job back, she’s not above asking him for assistance in finding a new gig. The two of them have a nice, flirtatious conversation that harks back to earlier seasons, making for one of the most pleasant scenes of the episode, and although it doesn’t entirely pay off for Joan yet, Roger does indeed start making calls on her behalf. Things don’t go nearly as well for Dr. Greg, however, who promptly does an emotional bellyflop during his interview, then comes home and takes his annoyance out on his wife. She, however, responds in turn, clocking him over the head with a vase and leaving him to pick up the resulting broken glass by his damned self. “Oh, shit,” indeed. You go, Joan. But by episode’s end, we’re left wondering if maybe she gave him a concussion, as he returns home to tell her that he’s joined the Army. Just the mention of Vietnam and the throwaway line when he references it, saying, “If that’s still going on…” is a sure sign that he’ll be going over there and probably never coming back.
The dog food test for Calcott Farms goes so horribly bad, with the participants immediately recognizing the name, that Don orders Peggy to turn it off, leading to one of the funniest lines in the episode: “I can’t turn it off. It’s actually happening!” And then…
Oh, but you don’t want to hear any more about this stuff, do you? Let’s get to the real meat and potatoes of the episode: Don and Betty.
As is only to be expected, Don is back in the arms of Sally’s teacher the second Betty and the kids are out of town, but what he doesn’t know is that Betty, in addition to battling with her brother over their dad’s house, is also discussing with her attorney what she’s learned about Don and trying to figure out what her options are. Unfortunately, he doesn’t offer her much in the way of encouragement, basically just telling her that maybe she’d be better off trying to work things out.
As such, she and the kids head home early, and Don gets the living hell shocked out of him when he walks in the door to find them waiting for him. “I, uh, need to go back out to the car. I left my hat.” Nice try, Don. But, of course, the look of horror on his face at that moment was nothing compared to his reaction when she demanded that he opened the drawer of the desk in his office.
The subsequent talk between Betty and Don was one of those scenes where…well, first of all, no matter what he’s done before or since this in the season, it was enough by itself to earn Jon Hamm an Emmy nod. Don did a pretty good job of laying it all on the line for Betty…moreso, I think, than many of us might’ve expected. But, y’know, he’s been holding this stuff in for so long and never known how to discuss it with him wife, and now he doesn’t have any choice. It’s a case where he doesn’t know how she’s going to react and it doesn’t even really matter: it’s just a chance to finally clear his conscience. And by episode’s end, he once again finds himself in a position where he’s decided that, dammit, he’s going to get back on the straight and narrow and commit to his marriage, kicking Sally’s teacher to the curb.
Will it last…? Given his history, there’s no reason to think so, yet this is the biggest secret of Don’s life, and he’s finally opened up to Betty about it. It could prove to be a real game-changer.