Don Draper is the goddamn devil.
For those of you on Double-D's-Going-to-Hell-in-a-Handbasket Watch, last night's inferno reference came from Sylvia Rosen, Draper's new flame. Dining alone, just the two of them, she ordered Draper the Steak Diavolo, diavolo being Italian for devil. Heaven made no appearances.
After the fantastical trip to Hawaii and in-your-face Weiner stunting—misleading POV shots! a dialogue-less Don for minutes on end!—of the two-hour premiere, "The Collaborators," the third episode of the sixth season of Mad Men, finds the series settling into a dark and nasty groove. A bloody gash, really, where the characters will fester and fail. Mistakes are there for the making, and everybody wants in on the action.
It's 1968, the Year of Bad, and the truce is a front for the Tet Offensive.
Our twin anti-heroes? Don and Pete Campbell. The episode opens with the Campbells saying good night to house guests, two couples. In one of two crucial moments of symmetry in the episode, you have Pete flirting with the two wives while, across the carpet, Trudy maintains her business-housewife cool in the face of unsubtle verbal pawing from the doofus husbands. There's a swinging '60s joke to be made here, if you're into that sort of thing.
The neatest trick Mattew Weiner and Jonathan Igla, the writers of "Collaborators," pulled was making it appear, superficially speaking, that Don's on the rise while Pete's falling down, when both are, in fact, dissembling their own lives.
The more vulnerable-seeming wife from the opening scene, Brenda, takes a trip into the city for sex with loathsome Pete, who displays magnificent anti-game. What a charmer, he asks a bunch of silly questions about the temperature in his pad and possible mood music before stepping to his skittish sidepiece with a skeezy line about how he's glad she came. Then he wraps her up in smooches. (Ringing out any and all sexiness, viewers later watch her emerge from Loathsome Pete's bathroom; she promptly informs him that he's out of toilet paper. Yuck.)
Pete's careless to be screwing a neighbor like that, and later, when Brenda comes knocking at the door of the Campbell residence one night, her nose broken and face bloody, everything falls apart. Her husband's attacked her. She turns to Pete, and of course Trudy knows. In the second crucial bit of symmetry, Pete is left alone in his house while Trudy drives the Brenda to a hotel.
See, Don and Megan are supposed to get dinner with the Rosens. But Megan's not feeling well (because she's recently suffered a miscarriage), so she stays at home. You watch her climb into bed wearing sleepwear that appears to be made from mattress pads, and it's like watching her die. A woman wearing a buttoned-to-the-throat nightgown on Mad Men spells doom like nothing else.
At dinner, Dr. Rosen is called away to save a life. Sylvia goes to the bathroom to powder her nose, and Don sits at the table, alone. Just like Pete. There's too much shit in the air for even his shit-eating grin to swallow.
After dirty sex talk in the restaurant, Sylvia orders the satanic meal for the man who's fathered a dead embryo.
Six weeks into her pregnancy, Megan's miscarried. But who does she tell first? Her neighbor, Sylvia. Not Don. Ever since Megan wormed her way into a commercial for a SCDP client, Don's been distant. From that moment on the set, nothing has been the same; he no longer respects her. She obviously knows something's wrong, as she kept the pregnancy and then the miscarriage from him. When she does tell him, she tearfully admits to not knowing how he would feel about their having a child. Ever the cipher, he tells her he'd feel however she was feeling.
The work place is no less beset by trouble. The skeezebag from Jaguar that Joan slept with is back on the prowl. He wants more locals ads about him and his dealership. Pete is happy to oblige. At a meeting with the skeezebag and the Jaguar execs, Don sabotages the pitch by, well, describing it, but in terms the stiff suits from the UK don't appreciate. Roger describes it as an act of self-immolation. There's the s-word again: S-U-I-C-I-D-E.
Yes, Don's looking like a boss again after the wreckage of last week. We love to watch him unzip dresses and chop that talk in the boardroom. Take a step back, though, and you find that he's doing a great job of dismantling two marriages and one serious business relationship.
It was all supposed to be different this year. Don was happy last season. He was trying. He killed the bad parts of himself, called for a ceasefire between his dick and the women of the world who aren't Megan.
But it's 1968, the Year of Bad, and the truce is a front for the Tet Offensive.
Written by Ross Scarano (@RossScarano)