Whew! Talk about your gamechangers!
Sterling Cooper will be sold! Betty finally unlocks Don’s Drawer O’ Drama! Paul finally realizes Peggy is his superior in every way!
It’s enough to make you wish for a longer season. With only three episodes between us and the finale, Weiner & Co. are really starting to tip their hand. And I couldn’t be happier.
Let’s start with Sally’s ongoing awesomeness. First she blows up the Draper family spot by asking Betty why they only go to church at Christmas. “Carla goes every week,” she notes. Betty’s response is typically condescending and loaded: “We don’t need to go every week.” (Note Carla in the background, continuing to give her customary smirks and side-eyes.) What unmitigated gall, insinuating that Blacks need weekly atonement, while the Drapers are pristine enough to get by on a once-a-year roll-through.
Don, of course, continues disproving that theory, right up the street. As telegraphed ever since her character’s introduction, things are getting pretty complicated pretty quickly with Miss Ferrell. The lovey-doveys were sweet while they lasted; Ferrell moons that she wishes she knew Don at eight (“I’ll bet you were serious.” Spot on.) and he wistfully volleys that he would’ve liked her and her long curly hair. “No one has that anymore,” he laments.
I’m sure I’m alone in this, but I’ve always enjoyed watching Don’s affairs unfold (with the notable exception of that comedian’s wife he assaulted in Season 2; they were incompatible and deplorable together). From the hippie to Rachel Mencken to Miss Ferrell, Don lets slip all kinds of vulnerability and romanticism with his women on the side. It’s the kind of thing that makes me remember why he deserves to be the anchor of this show and I love the dividedness I feel: Don’s at his best when he isn’t with his wife; ironically, his affairs are what string me along, holding out hope that he’s redeemable.
I didn’t love the business with Ferrell’s epileptic brother, so I’ll leave that for you guys to hash out if you so choose. What I did find interesting about his exchange with Don was how Don tried to use him to exorcise the lingering guilt he feels about his own brother’s suicide. Was it an effective parallel? Maybe, even if heavy-handed. When he said, half to himself, half to the young man: “I promised myself I’d try to do this right once,” he could be talking about the affair or about being a decent human being, and I dug that.
I have to briefly return to Sally’s aforementioned awesomeness here: I looooved the short scene where Sally asks to answer the phone and Betty smiles, amused and almost doting: “If you do it right.” Then the caller hangs up, both Betty and Don look mad shifty, and Betty’s good humor sharply 180s: “Sally Draper, try not to take things so personally!” Sally: “Jeez Louise!”
I know I’ve said in recaps past that I find Sally grating, but I have to admit; she’s starting to grow on me.
Personally, I think Miss Ferrell’s lying about not being the prank caller. Her eyes are a bit duplicitous in the subway scene of forbiddenly interlaced fingers.
Henry Francis certainly has no reason to lie, when Betty tries to use the hang-up as an excuse to reconnect with him. Typically direct, he insists that if she intends to get in touch with him, she should use thin pretense. I really wished this would be the scene where Betty’s veneer of stale adolescence eroded, but of course she ends the scene pouting, as usual.
But wait! Maybe her fantasy world of princesses and fairies is evaporating after all. She grins like a kid sneaking a pre-dinner cookie, notably wearing plaid capris and a headband that play up her bobbysoxer side, when she finds the key to Don’s Drawer O’ Drama. But after spending just minutes with the box, pawing all its pictures and dog tags and unmarked bills, her tremulous fingers topple it (in a callback to the nervous condition of Season 1).
What must she have been thinking, while she futilely waited, with her requisite wine and cigarette, for Don to return home? Maybe she was summoning the same steely resolve that led her kick him out last season. But with hours to think, when the impulse and righteous indignation dulled to a simmer, she knew she wasn’t quite ready. She’d rather play make-believe a little while longer; it’s easier.
Onto office matters. Paul Kinsey is such a tool. I love it. I knew, as pretentious jazz wafted out of his office and he tried to prove himself a friend of the working class by bonding with Achilles (who he immediately shushed moments later, realizing his own presumed genius), that he’d screw himself over. “Write it down!” I yelled at the screen. “Write it down, you big faux-commie oaf!”
Like a puppy he had to humble himself to Peggy, who’s also experiencing a crisis of creative insecurity (… or is she?). Initially, neither of them landed ideas in front of Don, then once again taking one of Paul’s premises and finessing it into something lovely, Peggy came up with “A telegram is forever” for Western Union and Paul, for once, is speechless.
Does Peggy need Paul? Not necessarily. Does Paul need Peggy? Absolutely. When, earlier in the ep, he simpers: “You’re spontaneous and you’re a girl and [Don] loves you!” he nails the quality that makes Peggy a better copywriter than he: spontaneity. He also has to concede, as he watches her work that, just as he whined, her “being a woman won’t help her with Western Union.” So maybe now he can shut up about it.
Because I don’t care about the woes of the British couple—at all—I’ll move on to Roger. How telling was his little monologue to Bertram: “I found him. Working in a fur company… in night school? And that girl, Betty? Mona said they looked like they were on top of our wedding cake…. Screw him.”
Yes, he’s a hater. But if you boil that down to its essence, even though he doesn’t know that Don is Dick, he knows that Don (and Betty and their marriage) are kind of a crock. At least, he seems to be arguing with himself, he’s upfront and unapologetic about who he really is.
Later, as he delivers his award introduction, he publicly drives home just how over Don he really is, beginning to tick off Don’s previous accolades before blurting, “I’m not reading all of this” and faux-playfully tossing the script to the side.
“And now the man who will stand beside me for the next forty years…” Roger intones hollowly, ominously.
Meanwhile: “Sterling Cooper is for sale.” Um, shots fired.