The affairs on Mad Men used to be so much cleaner. Don used to enjoy the women he cheated on Betty with, filling some void in his twisted soul. Now we have this new Don, somehow a worse person than the guy we knew the last few seasons; colder and focused on…something. He’s sleeping with the neighbor, and unless Dr. Rosen suddenly says the couple is moving, I really don’t see how that will end well. Pete’s affairs, on the other hand, always end in disaster. Whether he ends up impregnating Peggy, or falling for Alexis Bledel’s Beth Dawes, doomed to have her memory erased by shock therapy, Pete can’t cheat. He’s just no good at it. The only good thing to ever come out of one of Pete Campbell’s relationships is that Alexis Bledel and Vincent Kartheiser are tying the knot in real life.
This week, Pete’s cheating ends up really coming back to haunt him in the form of his mistress neighbor being sent running to his home, bruised and bloody, with the abusive husband’s voice trailing in the background that she’s all Pete’s problem now. An awkward and poorly executed tryst in Pete’s Manhattan apartment brings a battered woman into the Campbell’s home. Alison Brie’s Trudy Campbell lays down the law, and now the Campbell marriage, the house, the kid, and maybe even the stake in the company that Pete Campbell has wormed and wiggled so hard to get into, are all in jeopardy because–I’ll say it again–Pete can’t cheat. His affairs seem to be born out of boredom and some skewed idea that he won’t be like Don and Roger unless he has these affairs; but they always end up going south, and this latest one could be his undoing. If I had a “Most Likely To Be The Inevitable Suicide Victim We’re All Obsessed With” ranking system, I’d put Pete pretty high at the top.
Don’s affair with Sylvia continues to be weirder and colder than his past escapades, only this time Don is apparently either fulfilling some sort of pay for sex fantasy one of them has (since the first scene between the two shows us a flashback of young Don growing up in a brothel), or outright helping her with cash after Al complains to Don that the money he gives her dries up fast. The only problem is Don handing her the money immediately after they do it, which normally doesn’t ever look good.
What else is there in “The Collaborators”? Not wanting to piss off the Heinz Baked Beans guy by working with what Kenneth calls “the Coca-Cola of condiments,” ketchup, and Peggy being asked to try and steal said Coca-Cola of condiments after her emotional boyfriend Stan tells her all about it. And then there’s Jaguar and giving the local dealer more and more of what he wants while possibly screwing up the national campaign.
Everything in this episode, no matter how boring and small it may have seemed this week, will probably resonate all throughout the rest of the season. Megan and Sylvia’s somewhat confusing talk of Megan’s miscarriage focused more on Megan talking about her Catholic guilt, and how she felt she sinned even though she had a miscarriage, which, I’m no altar boy, but does that really count as a sin? It almost sounded to me like Megan, whose acting career is slowly taking off, didn’t really want the baby, and all the talk of being a bad person sounded more like she did everything in her power to make sure there was no baby.
This episode really focused on its two strongest characters, Don and Pete. We’re watching Pete’s downfall, while Don gives us this sense that he’s barely holding things together. We’re seeing more Bob Benson, and hardly any Joan. Will Peggy play hardball and get Stan to start collaborating more with her and her new job? And will Megan ever say, “Don, you smell like another woman. Get the hell out of my bed”? I’m really curious as to why that’s never happened when he crawls home at two in the morning.