Mad Men "The Collaborators" Review: Behind Closed Doors

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Mad Men S06E03 "The Collaborators"

So, little Dick Whitman, the bastard son of a prostitute, spent a portion of his formative years in a whorehouse run by his "Uncle" Mack—and during his time in said whorehouse, learned a rather important lesson that colors the way Don Draper goes about his business. While perving on Mack and his stepmom getting frisky in her room, one of the fancy ladies spotted the future Don Draper peering through the keyhole and admonished him. She said that he had his own room—that's how it worked—and implied that whatever happened behind the privacy of his own locked door would be his business, like the liaison between Mack and Abigail.

In "The Collaborators," the necessity of conducting affairs behind closed doors became apparent as Don, Pete, and Peggy each learned the value of discretion and privacy in their personal and professional lives. Not only is maintaining one's own privacy of the utmost importance, but understanding and appreciating the privilege to see inside someone else's "room." 

As the Tet Offensive, a surprise attack against the United States and South Vietnamese forces by North Vietnamese during what was previously understood to be a ceasefire, waged in Southeast Asia, Megan fired the maid for a variety of minor offenses that started to add up and bonded with Sylvia, the neighbor Don was revealed to be banging in last week's season premiere. Allegedly, Megan had miscarried a few days earlier and struggled to reconcile her relief at not having to choose between a baby and her career with the guilt and sorrow she was raised to believe she should feel over the loss (as well as her implication that, if the pregnancy had progressed any further, she may have considered terminating it). Earlier, during one of their shagging sessions, Sylvia had asked Don how he could sit across from her husband and his wife and act like they weren't doing anything wrong. Don said he just didn't think about it, like it was as easy as forgetting to set the timer for the oven. Sylvia said she liked Megan, but didn't feel like she really knew Megan outside of the fact that she was Don's wife and a daytime soap star-in-the-making. When Megan poured her heart out to Sylvia, she allowed Sylvia to see a side of her (and, by extension, Don) that wasn't a polished and perfect housewife or TV star. By seeing Megan in a vulnerable state, Sylvia gained more insight to the Draper household than was visible during their tame dinner parties and Don's undoubtedly carefully constructed appearances. 

Don claimed that he and Megan were growing apart—which, probably initially, alleviated some of Sylvia's concerns going forward with her and Don's affair, but that justification became harder to maintain once she realized that Megan appeared to still care deeply for her husband, given her reluctance to tell him about the miscarriage. At the very least, she cared enough about their marriage that she was reluctant to risk upsetting it with a difficult subject. Whether Megan's motive for maintaining a happy union stems from sincere love for Don or just a desire to continue benefiting form the financial stability he presents is definitely up for debate—but regardless, Megan's willingness to let Sylvia see behind her door jarred Sylvia's already shaky dedication to sleeping with Don.

While Megan was inviting when it came to her most private personal state, Sylvia was guarded. She didn't appreciate Don knocking on her door when her husband was home because it violated the extent to which she was willing to bring Don into her home. When fate conspired to conveniently reduce Don and Sylvia's double date with their spouses to an intimate dinner between the two lovers, Sylvia's anxiety rose to previously unseen-by-Don heights. Sylvia is fine with sleeping with Don, but only on her terms. Master-manipulator Don eventually broke through her guardedness—this time around, anyway—but it'll be interesting to see where they end up in the long run. Based on her interaction with Megan, when the subject of abortion was very passively broached, Sylvia made it clear that she was raised to find it wrong, which implies either a very traditional or religious upbringing. Depending on how devout Sylvia is, she may cheat on her husband, but draw the line at leaving him. It's definitely apparent that she's feeling some level of guilt about sneaking around. She's definitely not as uninhibited by moral considerations as Don is. 

Don himself also experienced the negative aspect of learning a secret, even though it was entirely Megan's decision to bring him in by telling him about the miscarriage. Don was barely interested in Megan's situation once the truth about her illness over the last few days came out. He put up a false front of unity, claiming that he felt whatever Megan felt and would stand behind whatever decisions she made concerning children in the future. Guys and gals, we know Don Draper, and we know that just isn't how Don rolls. Oh, he's not going to knock her up and lock her in the kitchen or anything, but every relationship Don's had has been defined by the power he wields over the women he sleeps with—probably a carryover from his time growing up in a household and environment where women were not independent people and were just barely regarded as more than property. His stepmother, Abigail, has been shown to be domineering and cruel, and so Don's father turned to prostitutes. As Megan becomes less dependent on Don and he loses control over her, he too is leaving the home. Currently, he's tturning to Sylvia, who is very easily swayed by his words and demeanor. 

Whether Megan's admission—a peek into the private life of a woman Don has less and less influence over—was an unwelcome display in an environment he's no longer invested in, or an unwanted intrusion into his own private comings and goings, that final shot of Don hunkered down in the hallway outside their apartment door was telling in its parallel of his teenage attempts to spy on his stepmother and her lover at their most intimate moment. Namely, because he didn't appear eager to engage with the door, and what waited behind it, in any way. Sometimes, it's worse to know everything than to blissfully go about knowing nothing. 

Peggy got a crash course in her professional life when Stan passively mentioned the infighting between Heinz beans and Heinz ketchup—a seemingly frivolous conflict that, regardless, I'm sure Don would have preferred he didn't blab to Peggy during after-hours phone chats. Peggy, in turn, took the seemingly unimportant information and turned it into an amusing anecdote for Ted Chaough. Ted, of course, pounced on the chance to lure a highly lucrative client, the "Coca-Cola of condiments," away from a rival firm, all thanks to Peggy's access to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce's operations. 

Finally, there was Pete and Trudy Campbell, and while Pete ended up experiencing the most disruption to his life, it was Trudy who was forced to face some unsavory realities about her husband, even though it seemed she was at least marginally aware of his philandering before she found herself driving one of his women to a hotel after the woman's husband beat her. Trudy's response wasn't unlike that of another scorned woman on another Matthew Weiner series: Carmella Soprano (though Trudy is generally way more likeable). Carmella knew about Tony's various mistresses, but as long as she didn't have to actively engage with them or acknowledge them, she was able to essentially pretend they didn't exist. The same can be said for Trudy, who gave in to Petes's desire for an apartment in the city at the end of last season, effectively compartmentalizing their respective lives. What happens in Pete's bachelor pad stays in Pete's bachelor pad—except for when it doesn't, and once their two realities collided, Trudy kicked Pete to the curb, "If you so much as unzip your fly to urinate, I will destroy you." <3 Trudy. 

What did you think of "The Collaborators"?


– Some things never change: Even as the boss lady, Peggy gets mocked and pranked by her male coworkers. Poor Peggy. 

– Baby crazy: There were a lot of birth undertones joining the dark and gloomy death vibes this week, particularly around Don. Birth and babies tend to represent hope, and Megan's miscarriage could be indicative of the loss of hope, both for her and Don's marriage and as the once optimistic '60s slide into the cynical part of the decade. Even at dinner, Don's doctor friend pointed out that the American's were "losing the war," meaning Vietnam, to which Don said, "You wouldn't know that to look around here." "Losing the war" can also be applied to the idea of traditional social ideas as well as the war itself, and Don's response would be correct in both instances. While Megan symbolically lost hope in the "present," Don's stepmother, pregnant with Adam in the past, was the opposite. Abigail justified her cruelty toward Don/Dick by reminding him that he was the son of a prostitute, that he wasn't her child and that she didn't have to love him. Twisted though it is, Adam represented the opportunity to raise a child that is biologically hers, untainted by sordid origins like Don. In a way, Adam was Abigail's hope. 

– Carmella Soprano eventually took Tony back once she realized that she couldn't live on the affluent level she was accustomed to without him, but Trudy actually has a stronger financial background than Pete, and with a little help from her parents, she could probably continue to enjoy a leisurely life in the suburbs without him. Still, do you think those two will eventually get back together?

– Don deliberately sabotaging Herb from Jaguar with that amazingly bad pitch to Herb's superiors was delightful, but did anyone else initially question whether he was actually doing it on purpose? I mean, Don's work quality has been all over the place for a few seasons now.

– This was the second (technically third) episode with hardly any Joan action. I'm not amused. 

– Was anyone else disappointed that when Pete and Trudy investigated the screaming outside their house, Pete didn't grab his rifle from Season 2?