Season 7 is already feeling like the show has come full circle, don’t you think? In the final moment of last night’s excellent episode “Field Trip,” Don said “OK” to something previously unthinkable: a list of restrictions and rules, tethering him to SC&P like a performing dog on a leash. This is the man, let’s remember, who was so freewheeling in the opening seasons that he famously didn’t even have a contract; now, he’s not allowed to be alone with clients, to go off-script in meetings, to drink (!) in the office, and he’ll have to report to the loathsome Lou, who clearly hates him. (Then again, pretty much everyone at SC&P — except the ever-jovial Kenny and Roger’s nice secretary whose name I’ve forgotten — wasn’t exactly thrilled to see Don.) And, his return to the office paralleled his first arrival at it (shown in a flashback in, I think, Season 3): he showed up, unannounced, citing a vague invitation from Roger.
Let’s look a bit, at that long day in the office (thanks to that hallway clock — was it there before? — we know that he arrived at 9 and wasn’t seen by the partners until after 7). After a job was offered at another company, Don clearly wanted to return to where his heart was, so, after a conversation with a plaid-smoking-jacketed Roger (!), he showed up, nervously, at SC&P on a Monday morning, where an unfamiliar receptionist didn’t know him, and his office was occupied by someone else. It was an exquisitely awkward return; Don didn’t know where to go, where to sit, how to occupy his time while he waited to be seen. But this man is nothing if not cool — he handed his coat and hat to Dawn as if he’d never left, and jumped right in with the nonplussed Creative team. Peggy, his onetime protegee, noted “I can’t say that we missed you”; Dawn, his loyal secretary, now has her own office with a closed door. Fascinating that all of the partners but Roger (we don’t know about Pete) clearly don’t want him back; even his onetime ally Joan (looking smashing in go-go-boots, despite Cooper’s dismay in his shoes-off office) has turned away. Jon Hamm wonderfully played the disorientation, with a nervousness suggested by Don’s furtive gaze and not-quite covered by his jovial calm. He was back, hat in hand, but he wasn’t going to beg — this is his company, his “wife”, his life. I suspect Don’s about to deliver an ad campaign for the ages; can’t wait to see what it is.
Meanwhile, someone else was also a fish out of water: Betty, overdressed for a day at a farm, joined Bobby for a field trip. Things ended badly, as Betty’s parenting excursions usually do, with a quiet Bobby murmuring “I wish it was yesterday” and Betty childishly telling Henry, “It was a perfect day, and he ruined it.” Oh, Betty. You’re the adult. And how telling that she said that with toddler Gene entwined around her; her favorite child, at least until he gets old enough to challenge her. Betty wants to be a child, and she wants her children to be adults; like most people on this show at the moment, she’s not getting what she wants.
Do you think Megan meant it when she said “This is where it ends”? Did you notice Francine’s slip of the tongue (maybe) in calling her friend Betty Draper? And Cutler’s sly reference to Jessica Mitford’s “The American Way of Death” as the latest shadow of the Grim Reaper, in a season already full of them? (Who do you think will die this season? My money’s on Roger. Whatever he’s doing with what’s-her-name at the hotel can’t be good for his already bad heart.) All around, a fine episode, and an unexpected return of a prodigal son. Can’t wait until next week.
Portrait of a man without an office — or a purpose. (Photo by Michael Yarish; courtesy of AMC.)