Mad Men – Recap & Review – The Better Half

photo: amc

photo: amc

Mad Men
The Better Half

Original Air Date: May 26, 2013

Ryan O – Staff Writer
ryano@thetwocentscorp.com

Betty appears in this episode, which can sometimes be a distraction. Not this time. Betty serves to drive the plot and expose something of Don to Don that he might not have known.

Meanwhile, things progress for Joan romantically but regress for Peggy. AND! Someone goes to the hospital in an ambulance!

In this episode called “The Better Half,” we focus on both halves of a number of relationships. Most of the episode focuses on Don relating to various “better halves” in Ted, Betty, and Peggy and Peggy relating to her better halves of Abe and Ted (along with Don).

Don

Don and Ted are debating the merits of ways of looking at margarine — quality vs. price and how to present an idea to the client. Pete and Harry are there in the conference room, too, but Harry isn’t saying anything and Pete little more than that. Neither Ted nor Don is giving in. Don sees Peggy walking by the conference room and waves her in.

Peggy comes in and isn’t going to pick one side over the other. Don eventually gets annoyed, gives in to Ted since he won’t be attending the meeting with the client anyway, and walks out, giving Peggy quite a glare as he leaves.

Later, Don stops by Peggy’s office. They have a nasty conversation where she says Ted wouldn’t have put her in the middle the way Don did or make her feel this way. Don says that’s because he doesn’t know her. Don leaves.

And where is he going? To visit Bobby at his summer camp. As he pulls into a gas station, he spots an attractive woman in shorts leaning into her car. Only when she stands up and turns around can we, and Don, see that it’s Betty, who has lost all of the weight she’d put on. They have a friendly conversation.

Late, Don walks into a rustic restaurant to see Bobby leading Betty through one of his camp song. Bobby is excited to see his dad and Don sits at their table. Before long, we get to watch Don singing the camp song, too.

You can see where this is headed, right? That evening, at a motel, Don spots Betty, walks over, they reminisce for a bit, and talk about Sally. Betty says Sally is a lot like Don while Don thinks Sally is a lot like Betty. Sally has qualities from each of them. Halves.

Soon, they are in Betty’s room and in Betty’s bed. Betty asks, “What did you think when you saw me?” “That you’re as beautiful as the day I first saw you.”

As they stare at each other afterward and talk, Betty asks if it’s the same with Megan. Don doesn’t want to talk about her but Betty says, “That poor girl. She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.”

The next morning, Don goes back to the same restaurant. Betty is already there, sitting with Henry. Don walks over and says, “Hello.” Betty and Henry are both polite. Don goes and sits by himself. He can’t help but look at them and notice how happy they look.

Halves also refers to their relationship. The half that was before their divorce and the half that was after.

Don goes home and goes onto their balcony where Megan is standing. She says, “I don’t know where you’ve gone but I’m here.” She’s lonely. Don acknowledges that she’s right.

Peggy

Things aren’t going well for Peggy. She comes home from the day she had dealing with Don to see Abe and a cop in her apartment. Abe got stabbed on the way home from the subway. Abe doesn’t want to help the cop, who leaves. Peggy is annoyed Abe didn’t give a description of the guy who stabbed him. Abe doesn’t want to contribute to what he sees as the trend toward a police state. He cites Paris and Prague and doesn’t want that happening in NYC. (Good luck in Chicago, Abe. Enjoy the Democratic Convention.) Peggy is ready to put their building back on the market even if it means taking a loss.

The next day, after a meeting with Fleischmanns, Ted tells Peggy that she can’t smile at him during a meeting and that he never should’ve kissed her. She eventually says she does think about their kiss. Ted says they both have someone and they can’t do anything about their feelings. Tom and Lorenzo cover this sort of thing much better but it’s hard not to notice in one shot how Peggy, in her top with red polka dots, standing in front of a wall with curvy geometric orange and brown patterns, is in conflict with the room. She visually does not belong in Ted’s office.

Peggy comes home to Abe fixing a window that had a rock thrown through it. Peggy is scared. Abe tries to calm her down but he gives in and says they should put the place on the market. Abe has to go to work though.

Peggy wakes up to the sound of breaking glass and arguing outside her window. She grabs her homemade bayonet — she’s duct-taped a knife to the end of a broomstick — and heads to the window. She hears a noise behind her, spins around with her bayonet, and spins it right into Abe. They stand there for a moment, stunned that Peggy has stabbed him. She’s panicky and not sure what to do.

Peggy is riding with Abe in the ambulance. Abe knows Peggy is scared. He starts ramping it up a bit, too, about advertising. “Your activities are offensive to my every waking moment. I’m sorry but you’ll always be the enemy.” He’s breaking up with her right there in the ambulance with a knife still sticking out of him, siren blaring in the background. (Rough couple of days for Abe, getting stabbed twice but he’s happy to write a story about the whole thing.)

The next day, a disheveled Peggy, who clearly hadn’t showered or put on make-up, goes into Ted’s office and tells him she broke up with Abe. He’s sorry to hear that. He says she’ll find someone else who will be lucky to have him. It’s not what Peggy was hoping for, clearly, and she’s a little surprised by the reaction. Ted then asks if she’s ready to get to work since it’s Monday morning. She walks out of the office a little stunned.

Peggy is more alone than ever. She lost her boyfriend, her former mentor, and her current mentor. Oh, and remember that thing Peggy said about Ted not making her feel that way? It might not be the exact same way Don made her feel but it’s probably worse.

Other things

Pete, who isn’t happy with life at the still-nameless company, went to see a headhunter, who turns out to be Duck Phillips. Duck essentially tells Pete to be better at his job so that he can find him a really great job.

Pete also goes to Joan. He’s unhappy about his whole life situation and he wants advice. He doesn’t really have a question and Joan doesn’t really have any advice but he does leave feeling a bit better. Joan’s good like that.

Joan’s going to the beach with Bob Benson. Roger stops by. He doesn’t recognize Bob and Bob doesn’t realize that Joan has a history with Roger (and she doesn’t fill in the gaps for Bob). Roger clearly wanted to see Kevin but Joan quickly ushers him out.

Later, Bob stops by Pete’s office and gives Pete the name of a nurse that can look after Pete’s ill mother.

Harry thinks by the time everything shakes out at the company, he’ll be a partner. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s right. I’m not sure either way.

Megan invites a friend over, her co-star whose husband is a writer for her show — one half of the couple that propositioned Megan and Don early this season. They talk about Megan’s career and this and that and Megan mentions being lonely, which leads the woman to kiss Megan, startling her. The upshot is the woman calls Megan a tease but says not to worry about it and leaves. Megan is also more alone than ever.

A sense that New York is becomingly increasingly unsafe hangs over the whole episode. Not just with what Peggy and Abe deal with but there are loud police sirens in two scenes with Don and Megan and there’s a mention of shootings in Central Park (which appear to be a reference to the July 3 shootings involving a sniper who shot a number of people before being shot by police).

Best Lines:

“I can only hold your attention so long.”

— Betty speaking to Don as they lay in bed, but it could’ve been said to Don by any woman he’s ever known

Best Shots:

The shot of Betty, Bobby, and Don sitting together in the restaurant as they sing one of Bobby’s camp songs borders on being more Rockwellian than Rockwell.

The shot to close the episode, where Peggy walks towards Don’s office but then his door closes, so she turns to look at Ted only to see his door close, too. Literal doors closing on Peggy.

Song over the end credits:

“(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” by Lou Johnson, released in 1964. You might remember the Naked Eyes’ 1983 cover of the song.

What do you expect to happen in the coming weeks? Let’s hear your Two Cents!

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