Awwwww, Sal. We knew Sal was probably a goner as soon as we saw Don peak in on Sal and the bellhop, but it still seems more than cruel for Sal to get an unexpected hit on from a handsome direction and then have it turn on him. Still, that’s probably the way it would have happened. And when Don suggested Sal should have handled it the way “you people” handle it, it betrayed the secret relationship he thought he and Don had. Sal thought he knew Don because of what Don didn’t do, and that betrayal of a secret understanding really gets to the heart of the episode.
Through a weird, Ken Burns-esque letter-reading voice-over, we see the start of Betty’s affair with Henry Francis take real shape, and then fizzle and die when her juvenile chaise fantasies give way to the hard realty of a desk in an office. It’s nice to see Betty’s childishness kind of serve her well. She throws a box at Henry, but when that doesn’t end with him carrying her off into the sunset on a white horse she wants none of it. All for the best. Hard to see how that was going to turn out well.
But Betty’s relationship with Henry provides a new chance for a secret understanding with Carla, which, through awkward references to contemporaneous events sheds a little light on the superior relationship Betty’s cohort thought they had with African Americans vis-a-vis the South. When Betty’s guests discuss the barbarism of segregation as Carla hangs out in the back, the irony is a little too heavy. And poor Carla, I wish we could see more from her than the sideways glance.
The biggest betrayal, of course, is that of Conrad Hilton, who is one minute calling Don in the middle of the night to tell him he’s like a son and the next demanding some ridiculous ad like any other spoiled client. And it serves Roger the opportunity to give Don the smack down he’s been waiting to give him all season.
I’m just not sure what the episode tells us about Don. In his disappointment, Don does exactly what he’s always done. At the end he’s cuddled up with a hipster brunette which, incidentally, is just the way he started.
Wherever this show is taking us, it’s without my two favorite characters — Sal and Joan — at Sterling Cooper. This season has offered us some of the best episodes from the show yet, but this one seemed ready-made for the criticisms people often throw at it, that it’s a very stylized version of not very much that’s new. I could be wrong about the episode in the first impression. I’d love to see what you guys think.