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The Best Mad Men Recap Reader Comments: ‘The Better Half’

In his recap of “The Butter Better Half,” Matt Zoller Seitz likened the show’s many metaphors to the comparisons between margarine and butter. He celebrated the “rhetorical blurriness” that rendered the episode “genuinely dreamlike,” and wondered if Bob Benson might just be a nice guy. Readers had many more thoughts. Here’s what you had to say about “The Better Half.”

You celebrated Butter Betty ...

* "There's something fascinating about the fact that Betty really knows Don better than anyone, even though the (ultimate) reason for their divorce was that he'd kept his entire past hidden from her. Their relationship is not based on each of them being able to relate to where the other comes from (she never knew where he came from; he always despised where she came from, which we were reminded of this week with the mention of the fight between Don and Gene over the bags on vacation). They relate to each other's all-encompassing narcissism and ability to override their own emotions in order to get what they tell themselves they want." — Commenter MrsCoach

* "I have never loved Betty as much as in this episode, not even with the cigarette and shotgun. And her conversation with Don in bed felt like the most honest one Don has ever had on the series. Actually every bit of their conversations in this episode felt like the most candid ones we've seen, even when they are leading up to Betty inviting Don in we can feel the moment building and clearly they both see that it is about to come." — Commenter lifesanarsehole

* "Compare Don with Henry. When Roger hit on Betty, he freaked, made her feel like a disgusting whore, and wouldn't even touch her again until he paid Roger back for touching his ‘property.’ When some other guy hit on Betty, what did Henry do? He got excited that these guys wanted, and couldn't have, his beautiful wife and got it on with her right there in the limo. No shame, no guilt trips. Go Betty." — Commenter HollowayNotHarris 

... and compared her to Margarine Megan.

* "Megan and Betty as blonds make them margarine and butter. Megan's margarine at this time because she's naive enough to be in love with Don Draper. Anyone who becomes his wife loses her self confidence, inner calm and happiness. Betty, on the other hand, has a husband who adores and respects her. So she feels like butter. Don can taste her, but he doesn't have what it takes to possess her. Only dumb, and therefore cheap, margarine will put up with his bullshit. We don't admire Margarine Megan, on the other hand, we're loving and wanting more of that Butter Betty right now." — Commenter 2uptown

* "I loved the image of blond Megan (as Colette) getting caught going through the desk on her soap opera. It reminded me of Betty breaking into Don's desk to find the evidence of his double life. It sets up Megan as the ineffectual 'twin' of Betty in Don's life." — Commenter ulysses4700

You're not letting "Bob Bunson" off the hook just yet ...

* "Bob Benson is the devil. Period. In the season premiere, he told Ken his father was dead. In this episode, he told Pete his father just recovered from illness, which meant his dad's Spanish army nurse was now available. Which is it, Bob? Plus, he was blatantly fishing for dirt on Pete when he was talking to Joan. Ken saw right through this guy and knew he was no good. If Ken Cosgrove makes an observation about someone, consider it gospel. Bob is going to reveal himself soon." — Commenter HollowayNotHarris

* "I also find our discomfort with Bob Benson fascinating. He's clearly calculating and manipulative, which turns us off, even though SCDP&C's stock and trade is calculated manipulation." — Commenter Classicist

* "I think Bob Benson is just presenting a logical alternative to the other men in the office: the kinder, gentler bounder. Pete was obviously and grossly ambitious at the start of the series (still is), but he took a very direct approach. Bob's just doing what a more sensitive but still ambitious man of the late 60s would do: be egregiously helpful, omni-present, always volunteering, and trying to make personal connections with his superiors through lies about his past and family. He dresses differently, he always smiles, he acts differently — he's very literally just a different type of man. Still a liar, of course, but that's hardly new in this office." — Commenter yesindeed

... though you were totally digging those tiny shorts.

* "I wish it were still commonplace for men to wear shorts like Bob Benson's." — Commenter amibbdos

* "Would like to see Hamm in those shorts!!" — Commenter Loreoeo

* "They couldn't contain his Hammhood." — Commenter Herder

You made note of the sirens ...

* ”I'm surprised you didn't mention the intelligent use of sound design in this episode. The constant blaring of sirens in the background is a very real part of living in NY and I loved that at times (especially, on the balcony), it forced characters to raise their voices to talk over them. Megan on the balcony in her underwear=safe, but the crime below is always present. Meanwhile, Peggy's guarding her apartment with a bayonet.” — Commenter TwitterTwat

... possible plot developments ...

* "The merger has now made Don somewhat redundant to the firm. Although Ted might not be QUITE as brilliant a creative director as Don — he certainly seems fairly talented. Couple this with the fact that Pete Campbell is feeling insecure about his position there — AND he possesses an unlimited-time 'kill' button for Don Draper (Dick Whitman's secret) — makes for some interesting possibilities. Don better be very nice towards Pete — since the previous state of mutually-assured-destruction (should Pete press the button) is no longer the case." — Commenter marmad

... and pop psychology ...

* "
I kept reflecting on the idea of Boomer generational self-image and politics during The Better Half. I don't know Weiner's age, but I'm guessing around mine — late 40s, early 50s — people born at the tail end of the Boomers or just after in that twilight zone between the Boom and what came next. We're the 'cohort' who had a lot of Boomer mythology crammed in our heads and grew a little cynical about it. The Better Half definitely plays into post-Boomer wariness at clichés about how the 60s-early 70s were this carnival of youthful rebellion and self-discovery that liberated our society from convention and repression. On a micro level you had many individuals experimenting with different ways of living and potentially revolutionary choices. But in most cases people recoiled at the initial shock to their conventional expectations and the sheer excruciating difficulty of translating new options into real life outcomes." — Commenter mhaag

... but maybe you were just mixing things up with Arrested Development.

* "Was it my imagination (or the previous night's AD binge) or did Roger refer to himself as "Pop Pop" when holding his grandson?" — Commenter CharlottesLocks

* "And his grandson is growing up to be Buster. He can't even use stairs!” — Commenter sophielotte

Photo: AMC