Jon Hamm as Don Draper. (Michael Yarish/AMC )
It’s a battle royale this week. No, Pete didn’t get punched in the face (yet).
‘The Better Half’ explored contending relationships, both at home and at work. It was one of the more shocking and gruesome episodes since a man lost his foot to a lawn mower. Thankfully, nobody died.
The match-ups: Don vs. Ted, Betty vs. Megan and Abe vs. civilized society. Nobody was a clear winner, but the definite loser was Peggy. More on the advertising wunderkind in a bit, but first, let’s talk about Don.
This season has elicited a lot of gripes about rehashing the same ol’ story line for Don. Yes, he’s a philander; yes, he’s a lush; yes, he’s unhappy. But we need to see something different to feel engaged.
And the least expected thing from Don Draper? Seeing him act like a father and genuinely enjoying it. The father-son duo singing “Father Abraham” was so adorable and incredibly endearing. No wonder Betty left her cabin door open.
The Don-Betty affair was one I sensed coming when she was moving out of the Draper house in season four. As Don pulled out a hidden liquor bottle (which was hinted at as he and Betty clinked drinks at the cabin in this episode), she confided in Don that everything between her and Henry wasn’t “perfect.”
In Betty’s world, imperfect translates to disastrous. Just like Don, she quells her unhappiness in the arms of someone other than her spouse.
Her sadness, coupled with her drastic weight loss, has catapulted Betty from neurotic to full-blown narcissistic. “What did you think when you first saw me?” Don says what she wants to hear: “That you were as beautiful as the day I first met you.”
But still, words aren’t enough. Even after Don admits that sex doesn’t define closeness, Betty coyly asks, “You sure you just don’t want to hold me?” No, he’ll just settle for sex.
The next day he wakes up to find Betty gone. At the cafeteria he finds her sitting and giggling with Henry. It’s like she planned it. Betty, in her signature Ice Queen blue hue, gives off a cruel and conniving vibe, much like the queen bee in a high school cafeteria.
And much like Lindsay Lohan in ‘Mean Girls’ retreating to the bathroom to eat her lunch, a dejected Don shuffles off to a lonely table in the back. We almost feel sorry for Don. Almost.
We do, however, feel sorry for Megan. As much as she tries, she’s just not getting through to her distant husband.
First, she tries making dinner for him. He’s not hungry. She asks him how his day was. He’s reticent. Police sirens go off in the background. Then she tries opening up about her difficulties with her new part -- twins, no less -- on her soap opera.
“They’re two halves of the same person and they want the same thing, but they’re trying to get it in different ways.” Megan’s analysis could possibly describe two sets of people: The real Don versus the idealist Don, or Megan versus Betty.
Don has always wanted to be the family man who feels fulfilled by his doting wife, darling children and rewarding job. Nevertheless, his deeply rooted fear of abandonment prevents him from connecting with his loved ones.
But more than likely, this is a metaphor for Megan and Betty. They both want to be near Don. Betty has since moved past the idea of being married to Don. Megan, however, is grasping to keep her husband’s attention.
“She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you,” Betty observes.
(Side note: Why is it that Don’s been sleeping with women who have been rooting for Megan this season? First it was Sylvia pointing out that Don once loved Megan and telling him that she prayed for his peace of mind. Now his ex-wife pities her and makes observations as to why his relationships with women don’t work. Why can’t he get sound marital advice from a woman who isn’t banging him before he goes home to his wife?)
As it turns out, sex is the farthest thing to feel close to Don. For Megan, that makes repairing their marriage a tricky task.
“We need you to make these women different,” the soap opera producer says on set, clearly referring to the dueling wives. And how exactly does Megan stop herself from becoming the brunette Betty?
Megan confronts Don, rather than seethe in resentment.
“I don’t know where you’ve gone, but I’m here,” she confides.
Again, we hear sirens going off in the background, alerting us of the couple’s continuing marriage troubles.
“I keep trying to make things the way they used to be, but I don’t know how. Maybe that’s stupid or young to think like that, but something has to change.”