Review: 'Mad Men' - 'Field Trip': Get back to work!
A review of tonight's "Mad Men" coming up just as soon as I milk the wrong udder...
"I wish it was yesterday." -Bobby
Though it's Betty who goes on the field trip that provides this week's title, Don has time to take two different trips over the course of the episode. And none of the three journeys end up the way the traveler envisioned them.
In the first, Don goes to Los Angeles — mid-week, because what else does he have going on? — at the behest of Megan's agent to get her to stop badgering directors while they're trying to enjoy lunch with Rod Serling. He thinks he's going to rescue her career, and instead he ends up almost killing his marriage.
In the second, Betty — having recently told her old pal Francine that she still believes, in her old-fashioned way, that the reward for raising kids should be the kids themselves, and not the job you can take when they're older — volunteers to go with Bobby's class to visit a nearby farm. What seems like a perfect opportunity to bond with her older son and bask in those rewards she tried to guilt Francine about instead is ruined, as far as she's concerned, because Bobby trades away her sandwich for some gum drops.(*) Now, Betty isn't there to see Bobby chase away another boy who tried to sit in her spot on the blanket, so she assumes he thinks so little of her that he'd give away her food, when in fact he's being a kid who just wanted candy and was blinded to the implications of that pursuit. (Having been to the grocery store with my kids today, I am very recently acquainted with this mindset.) We know from experience that Betty's a bad mother, so she's not wrong when she suggests this to Henry, but this specific incident is her creating drama in her life where none exists, in part because she resents the path she's been on that led to her riding that bus.
(*) Half-tempted to attach a poll to this review just to see where forcing a guilt-ridden Bobby eat the damn gum drops falls on the list of cruel Betty parenting moments. Locking Sally in the closet is still the worst, right?
The third — and, with all due respect to Don's current and former wife, by far most interesting — trip is also the shortest one. Don, given an offer from a rival agency (albeit, from Roger's suggestion, a lowball one), could easily take it, walk away from the mess he left at SC&P, walk away from the marriage Megan has offered to end, go sleep with the attractive blonde, take the new job, and go back to repeating bad old patterns. Instead — in what's been the most promising trend in this early stage of the season — he seems to be learning from past mistakes. He was honest with Sally, and it made things better between them. He was honest with Megan, and while she reacted at first with outrage, it wasn't anything he didn't deserve, and their later conversation was better. (If only to a point; Megan still doesn't want him flying out there that weekend.) And rather than play the hobo and run from all the damage he did with the Hershey pitch, Don goes to Roger's apartment (hat literally in hand) to see about getting his job back, then goes to SC&P on Roger's advice.
Now, it's clear that Don's hopes for this trip aren't as high as they were for the latest LA jaunt, or as Betty's were for the farm visit. His first steps into the office since Thanksgiving are intercut with shots of Don sitting anxiously in his apartment, terrified of what may come when he's there. For a moment, the editing even suggests that the glimpses of him at SC&P are Don imagining a worst-case scenario, and while it quickly turns out that this is real, it is also almost as nightmarish as he might have feared. His first encounter is with the odious Lou, Roger is nowhere to be found, and just as he's on the verge of slipping out the door before it becomes too mortifying, Ginsberg spots him and draws him back in to schmooze and catch up on work.
And then... Don Draper, master of the universe, mystery man who once erected impenetrable barriers between his work and home lives and couldn't have cared less about the lives of the people he worked with, is forced to sit in that room all day, to be gawked at by Peggy and Joan and everyone else, to look at Ken's baby pictures and hear one of the junior copywriters ramble on about his wedding plans, and to have awkward encounters with the other partners, and with Peggy, who still blames Don for Teddy's flight to California, and for the general wreck her life has become since the merger.
And for a while, it seems like Don Draper is going to be slinking out of that office with everyone watching him and either smirking or sadly shaking their heads. But instead Roger — in an impressive, unwavering display of authority (and contempt for Jim Cutler) — makes it clear that he wants Don back in the office(**), both as their friend and talented collaborator, and because it'll cost too damn much to let him go.
(**) Which, for now, will be Lane's former office. I've lost track of who (if anyone) is occupying that now, since I believe Peggy's back in the one she had before she left for Ted's agency.