Mad Men recap: Pears, Pairs, and Despair

Peggy branches out, Allison breaks down, and Don sinks even lower
Ep. 04 | Aired Aug 15, 2010

Carin Baer/AMC

I'm unsure how I feel about the new character Dr. Faye Miller, who may have the coldest heart ever to beat on the Mad Men stage. She was so calculated, the smooth way she adopted the secretaries' wardrobe, coolly removing her engagement ring so as to appear relatable; the way she relaxed the women and pretended to empathize. Then once she told the clients to turn off the tape she dropped all pretense of giving a damn. ''Is she okay,'' Megan asked after Allison. ''Who?'' the doctor snapped back with indifference. In a sense, Don was right to be repulsed by her and her recommendation that the Ponds campaign appeal to a woman's insecurities. ''1925, I'm not going to do that,'' he snapped. But righteous his rejection of Dr. Miller's findings, he was really disgusted by what they revealed to him about himself. When Allison started snuffling into her Kleenex, murmuring that sometimes it was worse when a man noticed you, he squirmed under his suit jacket. ''You go in there and you stick your finger in people's brains,'' he snapped at her, ''and they just start talking blah blah blah just to be heard and you know what? Not only does it have nothing to do with what I do, but it's nobody's business.''

Don famously once said ''It will shock you how much this never happened.'' Last night we finally heard someone refuse that idea. ''This actually happened,'' Allison insisted. ''I know,'' he said. ''I know.'' Last night we saw Peggy and Pete find some poignant peace with what in fact very much did happen between them. There was such glowing relief and respect on their faces as they went their separate ways — Peggy with her laughing young friends and Pete comfortable with his smug and chortling crew of old white guys in suits. It's like they were both informally accepted into their chosen worlds, headed in different directions.

''We're waiting for Don,'' Pete told the men in the lobby. Don doesn't fit with either group. He's so adrift and alone it's painful to watch. The title of the episode was ''The Rejected,'' a label that could fit for many. A secretary like Dottie who couldn't count on her work to get her name right or her boyfriend to look her in the face and like what he saw. Allison who was rejected by Don and then rejected him right back. The presence of Pete and Peggy's baby loomed large. But most of all perhaps, the rejected these days is Don, unmoored from his home and family. That man used to have so much fun, such outrageous adventures when he would step out on Betty. Without her to betray, there doesn't seem a point. He sat alone again in his office, only one of the lamps turned on, sealed off from the promise of the bright lights, big city. (''Stephanie says we don't look old in this picture,'' Anna wrote on the card. Wait, do I usually look old, you could almost see him wondering.) Don is old and unwell in a young man's game. He's on the cusp of becoming uninteresting, as a man and perhaps even as a character. It's time for us to see Don reckon with himself and take responsibility for the things that have everything to do with him. Go home, Don. Fight. Is it so very hopeless and wrong of me to hope there's a sliver of a chance for Betty and him yet? In the scenes for next week, Betty fumed that she hated the man. Those are not the words of a woman who's moved on.

Looking good Kenny! I missed your sunny face.

Line of the evening: Is there any contest? ''Didya git the pears?''

What do you think of that last look Don gave the old couple across the hall? Was it one of longing? Is he missing the companionship of a marriage, however edgy and flawed? What's your take on Dr. Faye Miller? Do you approve of Abe for Peggy? Do you believe the Don we've known all these seasons would be so chastened by Allison's sadness and disapproval?

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