When I saw the title of this episode, I was a little concerned that Betty had committed suicide.
Not to worry. I’m pretty sure they’re still just keeping her off camera until she diets for a credible length of time to reattain doll-size proportions.
But even if Betty hasn’t been getting any screen time, her ghost was all over this episode. She haunts Don and Megan’s marriage, where she’s a constant counterpoint to Megan. Joan says, rather cattily, that Megan, like Betty, has proven herself to be just the kind of girl Don marries — a pretty, vacuous thing who doesn’t want to work too hard, and has found herself a rich husband to support her undemanding but glamorous hobbies. But Joan, for once, gets it wrong. Don had been thrilled that his wife was pursuing a career in his own field, and when Megan says she wants to leave SCDP, Don even suggests that she take her demonstrable talents to a competitor agency. That’s how much he wants her to keep working. At the end of the episode, when Megan tells Don that he’s everything she hoped he’d be, Don answers, “you too.” But he can barely keep himself from grimacing as he says it. He’s actually bitterly disappointed.
Betty’s ghost shows up again in the form of Beth, another cognate of Elizabeth, who is, like Betty, a doll-faced, dissatisfied ’50s housewife with a philandering husband. Pete has been terribly unhappy this season, and in this episode, he puts a name to what is bothering him. The Drapers — Don and Megan, but Don especially — get to “do whatever they want.” “They get to decide” what happens, while Pete is forced to accept decisions that are handed to him. Pete has always emulated Don, but he can never quite get it right. He now has everything Don had a few years back — the house in the suburbs, the pretty housewife, the baby, the junior partnership — but Don has moved on to better toys, and Pete wants those, now, too. His latest attempt to act like Don — by seducing the wife of another commuter — backfires on him. He actually falls for the girl, who rejects him; and instead of giving him a sense of accomplishment and power, the affair makes him feel even more diminished and insignificant, like a picture of Earth from space.
Bitchy, take-no-shit Peggy! I totally love it.
Also, this episode seemed designed to answer the folks (including myself) who observed last week that this season has been neater and more thematic than past seasons. There were clear themes in this episode, but overall it seemed much looser than other episodes so far this season.