What a fantastic episode of Mad Men. The bi-coastal stories go single coast this week as Pete/Bonnie as well as Megan converge on New York for differing reasons in the season's best episode so far. Also the return of Bob Benson is much welcomed.
Bob Benson, newly back to agency from Detroit (having taken over as Chevy liaison after Ken lost his eye) returns to New York in his first Season 7 appearance. He gets a call from an executive for "lewd behavior" trying to pick up an undercover officer of the Vice squad. After being belittled for being gay the executive Bob springs him on bail, who works in the industry and I think Chevy, informs Bob that Chevy only signed SC&P for a "trial period" and would be going to be doing their advertising "in house" rather than through an agency. He also informs Bob that Buick would offer him a proper job for him to live in Detroit if he wanted. The melancholy and difference between the executive's embracing of his sexuality and Bob's denial of his own made for a good bit of awkwardness when Bob tries to explain why he "controls himself" in a city like New York. Bob sets up a day with Joan and he typically pleases her and Joan's mother with flowers and just being an all around decent guy. I'm angry he didn't have a run-in with Pete since they have such a richly antagonistic relationship and this may be Bob's way of being written out of the show. He awkwardly asks Joan to marry him and to set her up for life with his new job (also confiding that they're losing Chevy) but Joan says that he "shouldn't be in a relationship with a woman" in a painfully difficult scene to watch with how desperate Bob is to live the lie that he's straight to gain other people's approval. Especially when mentioning the life someone with a job like his is "supposed to live" much like Don, Roger, Harry, and Pete type lifestyles of functional alcoholism and casual sex. Seeing Bob so vulnerable and Joan admitting that she'd rather refuse stable support, not relying on her mother, for a chance for love really shows just how different the characters are. Hopefully they at least can stay friends. But I feel sorry for Bob and if he is leaving the agency for Buick I hope we get to see more of him down the line as a guest star.
Roger gets an indirect warning about losing Chevy in a steam room at his local gentleman's club (not sure how to refer to it exactly) from a rep at McGann. Not much else happens with him this week beyond Roger wit and some smoking on his part.
Peggy visits the Midwest chain of Burger Chef and interviews housewives and other customers to check the pulse of what makes the place appealing to them. Upon returning to New York the creative team think that what they have is "good" but with Pete championing it they agree that Don should give the pitch. This throws Peggy into paranoid overdrive as Don is of course delighted at the news. Don of course even offers a passive aggressive "hey what about this?" that makes Peggy waste her weekend in the office thinking if she made the right call or if she should re-write everything. With Megan in town Don is occupied but agrees to come into the office to help Peggy work it out. Even Stan admits that it could be better but Don says that when he was under the pressure to do good at work like she was that he'd "abuse those closest to him, take a nap, and figure it This is very much a look into the changing and self-aware Don that has come into being this season. His scene with Peggy has a great weight to it and seems to repair the drift between them that has been there since he came back from leave. The idea that "everyone around you is family" coming to Peggy and them dancing amidst the New York landscape as a backdrop is a classic bit of Mad Men minimalism that lets the characters simply be together for a moment. While it never reaches the heights of my favorite episode "the Suitcase" it did soar as a character study especially in the yarn between Peggy and Don who manage to turn the work around and hopefully it will wow Burger Chef when time comes for the Pitch. Also sad to see Megan taking more stuff with her and shows just how truly doomed her marriage with Don is and he seems to just not be aware of it yet. If he simply asked her to move back to New York or something things could work out but he continues to cling to how he thinks she wants things to be since she only went out to LA because he was supposedly moving there before he gave up his spot to Ted. I hope we get more of this in the midseason finale next week for some juicy confrontation scene that can show if Don's really changed.
Pete had quite the trip to New York, losing much of that "spring in his step" that LA seemed to give him of being out in the Sun. Bonnie tags along for the business trip and he promises to spend time to her but he of course goes and messes it up in his own way. He visits his daughter, who is now understandably awkward towards her father having grown up without him for quite some time. This also puts Verna (the nanny/houseworker) in an awkward as Pete's daughter continues to try to stay by her, the familiar maternal figure who no doubt will protect her from the strange man in front of her. Verna informs him that Trudy's out and when he returns after having spent the day with his daughter Trudy is still not present. He gets a little drunk and waits for her, against his plans with Bonnie to catch dinner and a show together. Trudy (the wonderful in everything Allison Brie) comes in late and is surprised Pete is there still. Pete has a freakout and claims that they're still married and she can't be "behaving like It's a little funny, him accusing her of being unfaithful when they're getting a divorce and that she is probably seeing someone (he mentions some guy he doesn't like that he wouldn't like her to be seeing) while Pete himself is in a new relationship. Grow up Pete, seriously. Your marriage fell apart because you were an unfaithful D-Bag and you can't even let your wife have a bit of happiness, as if you have any say in what she does. You're just the father to her daughter and that's it. Get on with your life and stop being a child. Even Bonnie turns against him when she comes back to the hotel. "I don't like you in New York" is an adept way of saying that Pete is much better off, as is Trudy and daughter, on separate parts of the country and New York always did bring out a more smarmy side of him than LA seems to. I also love Bonnie's line "you can't f**k your way out of this
The next Monday in the office the partners meet to discuss losing Chevy. Cutler wants to get ahead of the news by announcing that their new IBM computer is open for use to clients and wants to move Harry Crane to partner in SC&P. Roger and Joan object (Ted's not there) but the motion still passes. I wouldn't want Harry Crane as a partner either, he's just so easy to hate and doesn't really seem to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever. But it will certainly be interesting next week with the Burger Chef pitch and Harry Crane moving up the ladder to move us into "the End of an Era" coming Spring 2015 (still don't know why they split it in two besides for the two Emmy chances). The closing image of the gang eating in Burger Chef to solidify Peggy's new angle on the pitch was a nice way to close out the episode as we move into big event territory next week on the last season finale (non-series finale) we'll ever have of Mad Men *single tear*.
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