MAD MEN 5.09 ‘Dark Shadows’

Rivalries, sabotage and confrontations abound! And yes, we see a Betty/Megan showdown...

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

Two steps forward, one back – that's still progress, right? Sure it is.

I said it last week: they just won't let us have her. Megan Draper is the single greatest thing to ever happen to Don Draper, and each week their connection is put through a hell course of obstacles and saboteurs. This week, the assailants were Betty Francis, former wife of Don, and her passionately deluded and defiantly hormonal daughter Sally. It's Thanksgiving week in 1966, and the title "Dark Shadows" couldn't be more apt. Put simply, everybody's being a righteous dick. 

It was a night of battles & confrontations, with devious attacks a'plenty. Sally, easily is the most nuanced and adult-acting child character on TV, opened the episode by learning how to make herself teary-eyed – an indicator of her very grown-up role later in the episode, as an eventual double agent against her own mother.

Betty's joined Weight Watchers, and gotten a few pounds lighter – but she's still susceptible to triggers that cause cascading bouts of binging and emotional crash-testing. Jealousy is eating her alive, and it's not going to help her with the weight. 

With Henry impatiently double-parked outside, Betty heads into Don’s home to fetch the children, who were visiting for the weekend. Snooping around while Megan is occupied in the other room, Betty is dismayed at the peaceful, happy home she finds – and far moreso when she sees the beauty of her replacement getting changed in the window. After a curt interaction between them, we then see Betty raid her fridge, slurp a mouthful of Reddi-whip right from the can, and spit it out in self-disgust.

The self-disgust, however, soon shifts to a poisonous jealousy. After seeing a sweet not from Don to Megan on the back of a scrap of paper, Betty maliciously tells Sally (who is working on a family tree while visiting Don and Megan) about Anna – Don's first wife. Betty convinces Sally that Megan would have told her about Anna if she had really wanted to help her with the project, and instead chose to lie to her. 

Naturally, this infuriates Sally, who thus far has enjoyed Megan's friendship and kindheartedness. Soon she's accusing her stepmother of being a "phony" and displaying a terribly bitchy attitude that isn't altogether surprising, given her rapid entry into young ladyhood and her mother's mental tinkering. Megan defuses the situation, but is clearly impacted by it. Later, she fills Don in, quick to diagnose Betty's saboteur strategy. She deters Don from calling his ex-wife in anger, because, well, it's exactly what that dirty bitch wants: "the thrill of having poisoned us from 50 miles away." Don hangs up the phone and apologizes. 

I was on my feet, yelling with excitement. Relief. 

Meanwhile, we're witness to Roger's immaturity and shameless opportunism. He bribes his self-loathing Jewish wife Jane, soon to be his ex,  to score points with potential client Manischewitz wine. It works, yet he ruins the night by insisting on conquering her in the new place he bought her. Having sex with her in the new apartment meant she wasn't escaping what she had desperately hoped to: sad memories attached the old one.

Don may have been in line on the high road at home, but things were anything on the up and up back at the office. A devious competitive-assault volley with brash new copywriter Michael Ginsberg, all over a soda pitch, showed Don's hand as a man off his game. He's threatened by the new kid – that's never a good sign. 

Don's team works up two campaigns, one of Michael's, the other from Don. Right before the client meeting, the creative office convenes for their own assessment. It's obvious that the kid's is the favorite – but just before he exits the taxi on the way to the pitch, Don purposely leaves Michael's campaign in the back seat.

Ginsberg catches wind of the block. He's naturally, and rightfully, livid. Forced chance finds him and Don alone in the elevator soon after. They exchange unpleasantries, but it's the final cut that brings the most blood:

"I feel sorry for you," the kid says as the elevator door opens.

Don replies: "I don't think about you at all." 

Don steps out. Elevator closes.

Brutal. But telling. Something's got to give. That big of an open shot at the chief, and you're either out the door or in a new light. Either one is going to be fascinating.

In the end, Betty announced at Thanksgiving dinner that she's thankful for having everything she wants, saying "no one else has anything better." Naturally, nothing could be further from the truth – as evidenced by her utter orgasmic indulgence in the single bite of stuffing she's allowing herself at the meal.

A little bit of darkness crept into everyone this week – something I'm sure won't abate as the season finale looms. But what will Betty think of next?