Bob Benson is back.
The mysterious account man has been tucked away in Detroit all season, and finally makes his first appearance of the year in Sunday night’s episode of “Mad Men.”
Joining Bob on his return to New York are Jack and Bill, a pair of Chevy executives who bring with them some not-so-great news for the agency.
Bill, the vice president of brands, gets into some trouble during his stay in the city, forcing Bob to bail him out of jail after he gets arrested for trying to perform oral sex on an undercover officer. On the ride back from the station, Bill reveals to Bob that Chevy is planning to move the XP in house and out of SC & P, although he admits that GM loved the work and that the agency may get a shot at something else since they had a “successful tryout.”
Bob also gets news that Buick is planning to give him a nice job offer that would force him to leave the company.
In the midst of all this, Bob looks to rekindle his friendship with Joan. But what started out as a benign relationship last season gets soured when Bob tries to kiss her and offer her a ring. Bob tells her that he’s going to Buick and that wants to marry her so that it will appear like he’s a family man in the eyes of the other executives, and he is offering Joan a luxurious life for her and her son in return.
While Joan is initially baffled by Bob’s advance since she knows he’s not into women, the speech is all too familiar, as she’s heard this song and dance before from countless other guys (namely Roger).
Bob thinks he’s offering Joan the world, but he can’t offer her the one thing she truly wants. “No you’re not Bob, because I want love,” Joan says. “And I’d rather die hoping that happens then makes some arrangement. And you should too.”
“I’m just being realistic,” Bob coldly replies.
In many ways, Bob is like a younger Don, not in just the fact he’s a fast talking guy from the Midwest who’s been able to climb the corporate ladder, but also in the fact that he’s willing sacrifice love (or the hope of it) in order to have a career.
Back at the office, Bob’s new job and the news from Chevy have a reverberating effect on the SC & P partners, who are in a panic.
Jim Cutler suggests that they start advertising their new computer more prominently and that they make Harry Crane a partner. Joan and Roger object to the decision, but they are overwhelmingly outvoted.
It will be interesting to see how Harry deals with the new position, since he’s been adamant about getting more respect from everyone else in the office since pretty much the beginning of the series.
The move may also mean another friend for Don (who voiced out in favor of Harry), since the two had a nice moment in California in the last episode.
Peggy and Don Rekindle Their Friendship
As per usual, Sunday night’s episode saw Peggy get mad at another decision made by her superiors.
After delivering a fantastic pitch for Burger Chef to the team, Peggy gets bumped from performing it in front of the client as Pete (who’s in town from California) and Ted (by way of telephone) suggest to Lou that Don deliver the pitch since he’s so charismatic and endearing during meetings.
Lou, unsurprisingly, hates the idea, but doesn’t have much say in the decision. He even somewhat goes to the defense of Peggy, who he made the lead on the account. However, she makes no attempt at fighting the decision and let’s Pete and Ted have their way.
While Don is clearly happy with it, Peggy feels disrespected and even threatened by her former boss for getting the spotlight instead of her. She even outright calls him out on it in a semi-drunken call to Don’s apartment.
Ever the mentor, Don extends the olive branch to Peggy and shares a drink with his student in advertising as they ponder a new idea for Burger Chef back at the office.
In a poignant moment, Peggy shows some vulnerability to Don and reveals to him that she’s worried of becoming a lonely woman who “lies about her age” and can’t relate to motherhood. Don also lets his defenses down and tells Peggy that he’s afraid his work never meant anything and that he has no one in his life.
What’s great about this scene is that we finally see these two lost friends reconcile their differences as they share a dance to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
It’s a fantastic song choice as both got to their positions via their own way and have helped each other a lot during their journey, whether it was Don helping Peggy after her pregnancy or the countless times she’s helped him after a drunken stupor.
In this moment, the pair (well, mostly Peggy) comes up with a genius new ad for Burger Chef that harkens on the theme that family can be something as simple as the friends and co-workers that surround you.
This theme is embodied in the episode’s final image before the credits, which has Don, Pete, and Peggy laughing and sharing a meal at Burger Chef as the camera moves to the foreground. It is just a beautiful scene which shows that, even though these deeply flawed people have complicated relationships with their children and spouses, they can at least find a sense of family in their peers.
-Joining Pete back in New York is his new girlfriend/real estate agent Bonnie. Pete is torn between trying to start a new life with her and maintaining a relationship with his wife and daughter, who he goes to see during the episode. Not surprisingly, Trudy wants to divorce him and Pete’s daughter barely even recognizes him. The decision to leave his old life behind may have already been made for him.
-The usually upbeat Roger looked worried in this episode, probably over the fact that Jim Cutler wants to give Don the boot so they can score another cigarette account. He also has a cryptic conversation in a steam room with an executive from McCann, which may have some implications for SC & P down the line.
-The packed episode of guests also featured a rare New York visit by Megan. Don and his wife seem to be on the rebound as they did share some nice moments. However, her short stay combined with the fact that she looks to be moving more stuff to Los Angeles out of Don’s apartment may mean that she’s bracing for a permanent split. The oddly shot scene of Megan and Bonnie on the airplane back to Los Angeles also gave off a bad vibe of things to come for Don’s marriage.