'Mad Men' recap, 'To Have and to Hold'

April 22, 2013|By Karmen Fox

"The only thing worse than not getting what you want is someone else getting it," Roger said in season five.

In "To Have And To Hold," Don not only loses what he wants to someone else, but he also watches the defeat unfold right in front of him.

This ties in seamlessly with the theme of unattainable desires and gluttony, straight from Dante’s “Inferno.” (Last week episode’s focused on the lust -- did the heavy-handed theme of prostitution give it away?) But the one appetite Don couldn’t and probably won’t ever be able to sate? His never-ending search for happiness, or what Sylvia suspects, peace.

Don has been drifting apart from Megan. She too can see it, but has been too focused on her budding career. Up next for the most famous maid in TV land? A love scene. Exciting for her, not so much for the husband.

So, how’s Don going to react? Arlene, the lead actress and wife of head writer, Mel, says they’ll take him out to dinner to break the news. Load off Megan’s mind, it seems. But that’s not quite what they want to tell Don.

“We’d like to be friends,” Mel says all too suggestively. Don and Megan politely say that they are friends. The couple insists: “We’d like to be better acquainted.” (Did I miss a wink and a nudge or something? Because they were coming on really, really strong.)

Don, getting the sex party invite loud and clear, says they can get to know Megan on set. “That’s work, this is play,” Mel hints. Don looks terrified -- more terrified than during Megan’s Bisou dance. Finally the sex-craved couple of 18 (!!!) years relents and indulges in dessert. That’s one way to fill the orgy void. Don and Megan leave dinner unscathed and unsexed.

The next day, Don goes to the set to watch Megan’s love scene, which is every bit as uncomfortable for Don as the dinner the previous night. Corrine, her soap character, repeatedly resists the male lead until he is on top of her on his bed. The bed, she points out, he shares with his wife. Just as Don meets his own mistress in her husband’s apartment while he’s on call.

The unease and regret sinks in. He looks more alone than he did watching her on her commercial set at the end of season five.

“You like to watch, do you?” Arlene coos. We already know that’s a big old “yes” after seeing him peep in on his “Uncle” Mac have sex with his stepmom in last week’s episode. But when watching Megan, it’s more for penance than for play.

After finishing the scene, Megan, surprised to see him, greets Don with a kiss. They head to her dressing room, where Don lays on the guilt. “Were you going to brush your teeth before you came home?” Don snaps.

(Side note: When Sylvia wiped the side of her lip after their elevator kiss before Don walked to his apartment, all I could think was, “Does he really go kiss his wife with his mistress’ slobber still over him? Couldn’t he at least brush his teeth?” I’ve never seen him make a beeline to the bathroom once after his affairs. Comforting to know he claims to care about hygiene as much as he does fidelity.)

Megan accuses him of ruining her happiness when things start going great for her. He’s never even visited her on set before (tsk tsk), so why did he show up today unannounced? Is his ever-lingering guilt coupled with jealousy causing him to lash out? Or is his career, limping after losing Heinz to Peggy and Chaough, making him a killjoy? He could at least be somewhat congratulatory for her accelerating career.

He leaves Megan crying in her dressing room and heads to Sylvia’s apartment. There he finds a penny under the mat, her signal that Arnie is at the hospital. In the bedroom, he touches her cross necklace and asks her to take it off. Though it means nothing to him, he says it means something to her.

“So after I leave, what do you do, get on your knees and pray for absolution?” Don asks. “I pray for you,” she admits. “For me to come back?” Why, of course, Don, it’s always about you.

“For you to find peace,” she says. He slides cross to the back of her neck so that it’s out of sight and kisses her again, finishing the most ineffective confessional and the broadest metaphor on “Mad Men.”

Don’s betrayal isn’t limited to just his marriage. He’s not satisfied with just Baked Beans and is going after Ketchup -- the Heinz accounts, not the actual food. He and Pete meet with Teddy, completely absolving his loyalty to Raymond.

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