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The Best Mad Men Recap Reader Comments: ‘The Quality of Mercy’

Matt Zoller Seitz drew comparisons between Bob Benson and Dick Whitman in last week’s Mad Men recap. After relishing in his foresight, he continued to speculate whether Pete might be gay and applauded Sally Draper. Readers had much to add, of course. Here’s what you thought of “The Quality of Mercy.”

You picked out other doppelgängers.
* “Also, this week in Mad Men THEMES!!!!: MORE TWINS!  
Identical cousins on The Patty Duke Show, more from Megan’s soap opera with her good twin/evil twin characters, DD/BB, Ken looking like Stan’s Moshe Dayan poster with his eyepatch.” —Commenter pennywise

* “@pennywise - Betty and Sally having a smoke.” —Commenter 77BC

You defended Pete …

* “Pete getting his head blown off is a fantasy? Dude, are you nuts? Pete Campbell is, for better and worse, the most interesting and unpredictable male in the ensemble. Certainly, watching Don circling the drain, engaging in an endless broken loop of affairs, drinking, and other acts of self-destructiveness, has become a genuine bore for most of us to watch.  Pete remains such a reliable source of constant yet believable surprises- if the series did away with him, the show would lose a lot of its spark. So I say, PETE CAMPBELL 4EVAH!” —Commenter justins 

* “I really feel that MZS and my fellow commentors are grasping at straws with the closeted Pete Campbell theories. I mean, this is a guy who as recently as earlier this season was visiting a whorehouse, sleeping with a neighbor, undressing and crawling up next to Trudy in bed and coyly hitting on Joan. Plus, the affairs with both Beth and Peggy had wells of emotion and attraction that completely belie any theory that he is a closeted gay man. Are we really using the fact that he didn’t immediately retract his knee from Bob’s as proof of his sexual identity?” —Commenter seanlaw81

… cheered for Sally …

* “All I can say is that Sally Draper is going to be (or already is) the greatest master manipulator of all time. Being half Don and half Betty, it makes sense. But man, that scene with her and the boys was brilliant. She knew *exactly* how to play that to get the result she wanted — attention. She got Glen’s attention back after he left to go fool around with the blonde girl and then she got the blonde girl’s attention/admiration after the fight. Well played, Sally.” —Commenter becks13

* “I don’t think Sally’s smile while Glenn and Rolo were fighting was about them fighting over her, but rather the realization that in Glenn she has someone who is willing to fight for her, to do the right thing even if it inconveniences his plans. Totally unlike either of her parents or (apparently) anyone else in her life.” —Commenter sarahkristina

* “Back to Sally, that moment when those schoolgirls were warning her about what was about to happen (which ended up being nothing) reached a level of menace completely terrifying. (I know this might come out too fanboy-y, but she deserves her own show. A spin-off set during her college years would make me happy).” —Commenter GuyMackendricksFoot

… and finally forgave Betty. 

* “Betty’s look after Sally’s ‘My father never game me anything’ was beautiful. That brief look of confusion (or was it concern?) was so fascinating because I thought Betty would have pounced on a comment like that if it meant she had the upper hand over Don. But I could be reading too much into it. I really like January Jones this season! Any previous qualms I had with her as an actress and Betty’s character has definitely been snuffed out.” —Commenter graceqyu

* “There has been much harping over the course of Mad Men on how awful Betty is as a mother. She’s no Donna Reed, it’s true, but I really felt for her attempts in the car rides to/from Miss Porter’s to talk with Sally like an adult. I’ve always had the feeling that Betty wanted her kids to be seen-but-heard, but that children essentially bored her. Now that Sally is well into adolescence you can see Betty viewing her (for better or worse) more as an equal. The striking image of the mother and daughter smoking together (horrors!) confirmed this.” —Commenter funbud23

* “OH MY GOD! Betty isn’t a REGULAR mom, she’s a COOL mom! Why didn’t I see that coming?” —Commenter holdforhollisgreen

You defended the way Don handled St. Joseph’s …

* “I don’t mean to be a Don apologist. And maybe I’m being naive. But I don’t think Don sabotaged Ted on Sunkist/Ocean Spray. Don repeatedly told Harry to back off, that they had resigned. Sunkist was just barreling forward on its own momentum. And it was clearly the better, more lucrative account. As for St. Joseph’s? Bad idea, over budget — and both Ted and Peggy were acting unprofessionally and embarrassing themselves in the office. Everyone was concerned; Don was the one who took action. He might not have handled it well, but at least he did something.” —Commenter maggiebex

* “Don is an a$$, always, of course, but, did Peggy and Ted have any bright ideas how to get a budget for their commercial? Because they were just sitting there pleading and smiling and hoping like idiots. And had NOTHING. So pardon me if I don’t feel bad for them.” —Commenter 77BC

* “I disagree with MZS assessment of the Don, Peggy, Ted situation. From a 2013 vantage point, the concept of the ad is clever, but really, a children’s aspirin ad in 1968 that plays on Rosemary’s Baby isn’t a good concept. What baby aspirin company wants to be associated with a demonic baby? It wasn’t just Don who noticed the overtly flirty behavior of Ted and Peggy, Joan and even Ginsberg were rolling their eyes, so the fact that Ted was letting his infatuation with Peggy cloud his professional judgment was obvious.Don’s side eye was hilarious, and while I don’t think he was a hero in this scenario, it had to be said. Peggy constantly defending Ted as the world’s greatest guy is Peggy ignoring the fact that Sir Galahad is flirting with becoming just another philandering husband and father. So no, he’s not so virtuous. Don’s one to talk, but Peggy lost the moral high ground when she started acting like a giggly schoolgirl with a crush in front of everyone at work.” —Commenter Sboobydo

… reevaluated his relationship with Pegg y…

* “I disagree with the idea that Don is mourning romantic potential with Peggy — I see his reactions as jealousy over the fact that Ted is getting more and more of Peggy’s respect, while he is losing it steadily. Don and Peggy have always had a more intellectual bond, instead of a romantic or sexual one.” —Commenter gumdropcookies 

* “I thought it was interesting to see the Rosemary’s Baby Aspirin scene acted out, with Peggy as the beautiful young mother to Don’s ornery baby — that juxtaposed with the end scene of Peggy castigating Don and the shot from above of him curled up, like a wounded child, in the fetal position really drove home the notion that Don’s feelings for Peggy are less the romantic kind than the familial, approval-seeking kind. As arrogant and terrible as Don has been, he still seeks the admiration and adoration from Peggy that she may have had for him prior to her leaving the agency. ” —Commenter channyd07

* “I don’t think you can really talk about Don’s angst about Ted and Peggy without talking about Megan. The only time we’ve ever seen Don happy in this series is when he and Megan are married both in life and work. This is probably the only way Don CAN love someone — when she is intertwined with his only real love, work, and when she is just as talented at that work as he is. We know this because that relationship went south as soon as Megan left SCDP. Don seethes when he looks at Ted and Peggy because it is like watching something slip through his fingers. That it involves Peggy, his former protoge, is relevant, too. But I think his longing is more than wanting to work closely with Peggy. I don’t think Don can love — or live — outside the lines of SC&P.” —Commenter jenninnyc

* “Maybe Don was being protective towards Peggy in a way he felt he had failed towards his own daughter? In a way, he’s right; Ted is a married man and his leading Peggy on could eventually be very hurtful for her personally and professionally. Instead of calling him a monster, I would have called upon the wise words of the Coen brothers: ‘You’re not wrong. You’re just an a******e.’” —Commenter Shoot_the_Critic

… and drew presidential comparisons. 

* “In terms of power, I think Ted is becoming the new Don and Bob is going to become the new Roger. I think Roger could survive this realization with his wit and the fact he is truly self-assured (though he probably couldn’t handle a Bob/Joan situation if that transpired), but I don’t think Don could take someone taking his place while he drinks himself to death in his office. Bob has a further way to go, but he is all charm and opportunity, and like Roger, has had every opportunity in life. Ted is quickly turning into the leader of creative at the agency (taking meetings without Don) and being the hero to the client (symbol of piloting through the weather to Mohawk and the comment that he is the one who flew them there) as well as edging out Don as the person in charge in Peggy’s eyes. Maybe Don could live with the shifting work loyalties, but I think he is really going to lose it when Ted and Peggy eventually get romantic … which opens a Don/Megan/Ted/Peggy comparison and spells out what is always true for Don — everything is a facade in his life and he has to watch Ted and Peggy have something real.” —Commenter bk300 

* “BK300 is right (comment about 30 minutes ago) that Don is very threatened by Ted. Ted is who Don wants to be and can’t be, on several levels. This connects to the reason I think it was Don who is seen viewing the Nixon TV ad (which, unlike the other stuff he was watching, he didn’t change the channel on). Don IS Nixon right now, at the same time as others have compared Ted to being a Kennedy (JFK, RFK) – not in terms of what we know of the Kennedys now, but who they seemed to be back then. Back then the Kennedys were the pure white knights, Nixon the evil genius. It’s a historical fact that Nixon was jealous of JFK and threatened by the presence of all the Kennedys.” - huey80

You made important observations about Manolo(s) …

* “A minor but worthy point: I’m pretty sure Manolo and Bob were different kinds of ‘manservants.’ Bob knows Manolo because they run in the same gay circle — not because they run in the same manservant circle. I think Duck’s reference to Bob being a ‘manservant’ was not a suggestion that he was any sort of butler or caregiver by profession: but rather that he was an underling who slept his way to the top with a male boss.” —Commenter ndesq

* “Wait, when Bob Benson said ‘Manolo doesn’t like women,’ he wasn’t talking about Pete’s mother’s former nurse; instead, it was a futuristic jibe at shoemaker Manolo Blanik shoes, which brutalize women!!! Talk about Time Travel!” —Commenter cocopazz0 

… and were, above all, relieved our dear Ken Cosgrove did not die.

* “Kenny is possibly the only decent man left on the show. So of course, he’s the one that gets shot in the face.” —Commenter emdash

* “When Kenny was shot, I thought he died along with my theory that the series would end with him writing a novel based on his colleagues. Thinking that may still happen. And … besides Ken, Glenn is turning out to be one of the only good guys!” —Commenter itsagas

* “In the ad agency of the blind, the one-eyed Ken is king.” —Commenter Kit_Marlowe

Best Mad Men Recap Comments: ‘Quality of Mercy’