Holy wow, what an episode, spoilers ahead for season 3 episode 11
This season of Mad Men has really kicked in to hyper drive and it is hard to anticipate what is going to happen in the final two episodes of the series after this humdinger. I was really expecting the confrontation between Betty and Don regarding what she had discovered in his desk drawer to not occur so soon, so it was a shock when it did happen, but the fact that it did happen so soon did not take away from the tension of the scenes, from when Don walked in to a seemingly empty house until Miss Farrell slinked away in to the night I was on the edge of my seat. And the fact that Miss Farrell was sat in the car just a few feet away from the Draper house made these scenes even more on edge, would she come to the house wondering where Don was? In the end she waited for who knows how long before going home, painfully aware that whatever had occurred in the house meant the end for their tryst, no romantic getaways for them. Although somewhat to my annoyance when Don did ring her to explain his absence he only said that it was over for now, suggesting that the door could still be open for their affair.
Prior to Betty confronting Don we saw her at her fathers house, sitting at his desk taking command of her situation, asking the family lawyer for some advice regarding the situation she is now in with Don after finding his secret box and to her dismay (and mine) all he offered her was a reason to stay with Don, he is a good provider and divorce is hard to get if you are a woman in the 1960s unless adultery can be proven so she should just try and make do with staying married to Don. This answer thankfully does not stop Betty from confronting Don with what she knows and thankfully she does not give up or give in as we might have expected her to, Betty Draper is strong willed, and though there have been many moments where I have wanted to shake her to stop being so passive it was wonderful to see her take control with Don.
The role reversal that occurred from when Betty thrust the desk keys on to the table and Don realised that she knew the truth was wonderful to watch, with Don being reduced to a figure who looks like he is about to lose everything (much like he did last season when we saw Anna Draper call him out on he was at the car dealership). Jon Hamm is a joy to watch normally but in these scenes he really surpassed himself, from stumbling in to the kitchen realising that his 'perfect' life is over, when he dropped his cigarette on the floor and struggled to pick it up it became apparent that his cool exterior had really been shattered by Betty and what she had found out. Betty was definitely the commander in this conversation, knowing that her husband is good at selling anything she called him out on this, also noting that he has been lying to her every day. When baby Gene started crying and Betty went to attend I really thought that Don might do a runner, with so many doors to escape in to, however we see him pick up the box of evidence of his previous life and go in to the hallway.
Don takes the box to the bedroom, this is where he spills the secrets from his past life that he has tried so hard to conceal from everyone in his new life (though as Betty notes if he had really wanted to keep it secret then why would he leave it in their house). I was half expecting him to fudge some of these details with the only lie he really tells is saying that the army made a mistake about who he was, when in fact he was the one who enabled this mistake by switching dog tags, though this is a lie I can let him tell, would Betty really want to know that about him. Although he also says that he asked for a divorce from Anna when he first met Betty, this she calls him out on as the divorce decree was only three months before they were married, I guess he said this to make the whole thing appear to be romantic. He reveals everything else though, why he helped Anna, where he came from, that he is the son of a prostitute and that he was from a family that was very poor. He finally cracks emotionally when Betty asks her about Adam, and he even reveals that Adam killed himself and he contributed to this by sending him away so not to ruin his Don Draper life, this break in Don endears him to Betty and to me as recently his actions have seemed more deplorable than normal and it is good to see his emotional side rather than his charm and arrogance. As I have said already Hamm is amazing in these scenes but props must also be given once again to January Jones who in these scenes also goes through a transformation of emotions and performs incredibly with her co-star.
I hope that after this reveal that the Draper marriage will get stronger, now that Betty knows the real Don can they make a success of what they have beyond the exterior which seems to be perfect whereas it is actually deeply flawed. Though with Miss Farrell around the corner will she rear her head before the season is out?
The other stories in this episode of Roger and his former (first?) love Annabelle and of Joan and her not so hot doctor husband Greg were also pretty fabulous. First it was nice to see both Joan and Roger with plenty of screen time, even with the two of them reconnecting over the phone with Joan asking Roger to help her find a job that is not back at Sterling Cooper (boo, I really miss her round the office), the chemistry between these two even crackles on scenes on the phone and I hope that this isn't the last we see of these two together this season.
Joan in this episode was being the supportive wife that Dr Rapey really does not deserve, she helped prep him for his interview, giving him great advice and support that he neither listened too nor used in his interview that he says he crashed and burned in (though would you really want someone so introspective as your psychiatrist?). Though what followed this whining had me cheering at the screen, with Joan picking up a vase of flowers and smashing it over his head (the gif for this can be found here). Greg after this buys Joan flowers to apologise for how he has been and then reveals that he has joined the army, will this be how we get rid of Greg when he hopefully gets sent to Vietnam?
The Roger and Annabelle story revealed that Roger was once a man that had been ditched in favour of another and that this event was an important one in the making of who he has become and it was interesting to see him turn down is former lover because he is married. I don't really take this to be the reason though I do think that in this early stage of his marriage to Jane he does not want to return to his usual adulterous ways but he also does it out of some place of revenge, revenge for having his heart broken over twenty years ago. Annabelle declares that Roger was the one, he states that she isn't but is Jane really the one for him? I would like to think not, that his perfect match is Joan, a woman who really is his equal, but is she too strong willed for him, would he just like a continuing flow of Janes until his ad man lifestyle gets the better of him?
The funniest line of the episode came from Peggy during the focus group regarding the dog food that Annabelle's company was trying to re-market, when the group started complaining that the food was made of horse meat Annabelle demanded that it was turned off, Peggy responded to this with: "I can't turn it off. It's actually happening." I wonder how many of these characters wish they could turn off what is actually happening to them?