The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

You’re A Monster

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Dear Kathryn,

I loved this episode’s bookends – with Don, in the fetal position on the bed, then the couch, having disappointed quite possibly the two most important women in his life (Megan, then Peggy). At least Peggy has the wisdom Megan lacks, and can call him out on what a monster he’s being. Megan seems willing to put up with being continually tossed aside by her husband (him changing the channel on her soap opera may have been a bit heavy handed there!). But in the same way Betty knows that Don is at home getting drunk (and Megan has no idea), Peggy too is able to call him out on his crap. Still, I’m left wondering just what it is about Peggy and Ted that bothers Don so. Sure, he mentored her, and she’s his proudest protege. And I’ve never really thought that Don could be in love with Peggy…but then his insistence that he’s not even attracted to her a number of times this season leaves me wondering if the fact that he might not be in love with her has more to do with his twisted notion of love than anything else. Perhaps if he got a better understanding of what love is, he’d see he feels it for Peggy? I don’t know if I’m stretching here – but I was struck by how Peggy and Ted acting out the ad recalled how terrible a stand-in Peggy was for Megan when she and Don were pitching Cool Whip. So is it the mentoring Don envies, or the love…or, even, Ted’s ability to love so freely? Perhaps it has nothing to do with PEggy at all…although I kind of doubt that.

I guess this week we got to dig a little deeper into the Bob Benson mystery – and I suppose I found this more satisfying than the revelation that he might be gay. BB seems a little more Great Gatsby than Don Draper (creating his ‘self’ whole cloth rather than stealing another man’s identity, and then working his way up by serving the rich rather than just sneaking his way in with a good idea) – but these are just the details that are changed so he isn’t a perfect copy (and, I guess, they opened up some GG parallels for DD that I hadn’t considered before). Just why he speaks Spanish so well, however, remains a bit of a mystery – unless we are to assume that he and Manolo are partnered long-term. And if we got to see that partnership, well that would be the big shift over Sal from first season!

What I’m left wondering, though, is whether Pete allowed Bob to stay at SC&co. out of ‘mercy’ (as the title of the episode might suggest) or out of a shrewd realization, having known this type of animal before, that keeping a DD or a BB around and on your side is, long-term, better than casting them out on their hide. Probably in the messed up world of Pete, the truth lies in some mix of the two – but for a moment I found myself liking our jr. partner…just a moment, mind you. Pair that with the brief affection I felt for him last week as he and Peggy reminisced, and the fact that he’s now stepping into Ken’s so dangerous role, I’m a little worried that it’s Pete who will be on the chopping block at the end of this season. We’re waiting for someone’s death, right? What if it’s Mr. Campbell??

Some stray thoughts: What do you think was with all the fetal/baby stuff? We had the fetal position bookends, the eggs (over)boiling on the stove, Cosgrove’s pregnant wife, Rosemary’s baby, and the brilliant – I just loved it! – moment of having Don go, “wah! wah! wah!” Any thoughts on that? How great was Joan offering the chicken soup? Is it just me, or does Glen make scenes better now rather than creepier? And what do you think is going to happen if Sally goes to boarding school?!? Oh, and poor, poor Ken Cosgrove – just how much was that shooting scene a veiled little dig at Dick Cheney’s own accident a few years back?

Here’s looking up your old address –
Natalie

—————–

Dear Natalie,

Yes, yes, and yes! Thanks for a great start to discussing this episode. You hit all the major plot points that stood out for me, so here are a few thoughts in response.

–Bob Benson! Not to toot my own horn, but I believed I pointed out that Bob’s own appearance at SC&P felt a lot like a redux of Don’s own sneaky entrance, which we only saw in flashbacks. While we didn’t get the whole story last night, BB seems to have pulled a DD, somehow convincing Pete that Pete hired him and/or convincing Ken of the same thing. Now that his elaborate self-invention has been revealed, I find myself far more OK with an additional gay plot. In fact, there were so many delicious layers of overlapping social cues when Pete confronts Bob, thinking he is putting down a “fairy” and his look of surprise when Bob plays much tougher than Pete’s own stereotypes about gay men seem to allow. As Pete learns more about the many different identities of Bob Benson, his categories explode. All except one: the Don Draper category (as he says to Duck when Duck confesses he’s never seen anything like Bob’s deceit, “I have”). At least, that is how I read Pete’s decision. He had proof in a box that Don Draper was not who he said he was and he took that evidence to Cooper, convinced it would be the end of Don. It turned out that Cooper (and everyone else) was far more invested in who Don had turned out to be than who he might once have been and no one wants to lose the current Don Draper. Having just been told that he is more replaceable on Chevy than Bob Benson by all his senior partners, Pete is not going to risk it again. He is cynical enough to worry that his partners will keep Bob, even manservant Bob, if it helps business. And since he has proof in Don of just how high this “kind of animal” can climb, he has decided to make a faithful friend (devotee) instead of an enemy. I read the “I’m off limits” stipulation not (only?) as a warning against Bob’s personal sexual preferences, but his professional ambitions. However Bob climbs he is now invested in keeping Pete on the rung above him.

–the Don/Peggy/Ted triangle! I am going to be a wet blanket and start by agreeing with Don. He was not wrong that Ted was carried away in gleeful enthusiasm/flirtation with Peggy and making some foolish decisions. Nor was he wrong that everyone in the office could see the flirtation. In some ways, I think he did save them both from what might have been a more humiliating exposure later. But, to redeem myself, I will also say that I agree with Peggy: Don did behave like a monster! He was clearly affronted by their intimacy and used his considerable wiles to crush it. I am not sure it matters if Don loves Peggy more or differently than he has admitted to himself, but I think he does love the idea that he made her what she is and that she needs him (as he needs her) in some way. Ted might have been acting out of love, but he also saw something brilliant in Peggy’s idea and he wanted to give it to her. Given that we’ve seen Don purposefully steal work and sabotage his juniors this alone – Ted’s genuine willingness to go out on a limb for someone else’s creative work – might raise the petty, controlling monster Don is, on many occasions, known to be.

–oh baby! I am not at all sure what all the baby imagery is about, except maybe some kind of “new start” symbolism (which is basically what Don’s own subconscious announced in CA during his hallucinations) and/or Don’s own guilt about ruining his child’s life. It is fascinating to me, on this latter point, that what seems to have undone Don more than anything is the confrontation with Sally. Does he feel guilty about ruining her life (and really, that girl is headed for some rough times if her boarding school sleep over is any indication!)? Does he feel powerless about essentially resting in the hands of a volatile teenager? Is he reliving his own coming of age at the hands of an asshole womanizer and can’t stomach the thought of it? All of the above plus a dose of morning vodka?

–Detroit! I have no idea how this will change when Pete is on the ground, but I have come to love the quick vignettes and allusions to the “yahoos in suits” in Detroit. Ken is the perfect foil for their antics and there is more than a touch of slapstick as we watch Ken show up on the stage in various states of convalescence from his most recent trips to the Rust Belt.

I am getting quite excited for the finale and all the ways it might hint at where the final season is headed next year!

I didn’t want to dampen their enthusiasm,

Kathryn

Written by themothchase

June 17, 2013 at 7:13 pm

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