Mad Men Live Blog: Season 6, Episode 9 — “The Better Half”

9:45pm: Joan Harris looks to figure prominently in tonight's new episode of Mad Men. And yes, tonight is a new episode, even though it's Memorial Day weekend here in America. Roger Sterling and Don Draper are (fictional) veterans, and at least one of them left the war with his real name, so it's somehow appropriate to have a new episode over a holiday break.

Tonight's episode is entitled "The Better Half," and the episode appears to feature Joan Harris prominently. Are Mad Men's writers too clever by half? Perhaps it's atonement for last week's Mad Men episode, which was the most effective anti-drug campaign ever aired in prime time. Don Draper's downward descent continued, but so did the meandering focus of Season 6. Let's give Don an easy way out in this episode. Maybe Megan's career takes off, she needs to move to Los Angeles, and Don leaves SCDP/CG&C to be her manager? Anything can happen, especially if it lets Ted Chaough get the agency back into real pitches.

See you in the live blog!

9:48pm: We get a re-air of last week's Mad Men instead of a movie on AMC! Thank you, AMC!

9:53pm: In the re-air of last week's episode, Don Draper just fainted in his apartment. That was his best line in the show.

9:58pm: I love Ted Chaough calling out Don Draper for turning in copy with the word "Chevy" misspelled. That was the best line in last week's episode. 

10:00pm: It's on! Peggy complains about Don's approach to the merger. I'd watch a Mad Men where she had Don's job.

10:01pm: Pete Campbell: Margarine has a 70 percent market share, whereas butter has a 30 percent market share. I prefer jam.

10:02pm: Don asks Peggy what goes through her mind when she purchases margarine. She says she'd purchase the cheaper one. Abe is a big part of her life.

10:03pm: Harry Crane insists to Pete Campbell that he will be a partner at the merged, unnamed company "after the dust settles."

10:04pm: Megan Draper's character in her soap opera is named Colette. Collette? Anyway, Megan gets yelled at for improvising a part of her scene, which does make sense with how gifted Megan tends to be with stressful situations.

10:06pm: Don to Peggy, regarding the differences between his idea and Ted's idea: "There's a right and a wrong." I don't eat enough margarine to decide who should be right.

10:07pm: We're at a fancy party. A rando dude is hitting on Betty Francis. Mr. Dahl? Doll? Again, the spelling doesn't matter because Betty is awful.

10:08pm: Abe is at Peggy's apartment (their apartment?), and he's been freshly stabbed by a couple of unknown assailants. The police officer interviewing Abe is slightly suspicious of Abe because he left the hospital against orders. Long hair, handlebar mustache — what isn't suspicious about Abe?

10:10pm: Peggy, angry at Abe for his general griminess: "I don't care if I take a loss. I'm selling this s—hole."  That word could describe both the apartment and Abe.

10:11pm: Don and Megan are eating dinner at their apartment. Megan is complaining that her soap opera's director wants her to play two characters, leading to the episode title of "The Better Half." Ta da.

10:12pm: Henry Francis is angry at Betty Francis because Stu (Mr. Dahl? Doll?) hit on her. This leads to Francis v. Francis intimacy. Henry is not credible as an emotional lover, just as Betty is not credible at anything.

10:14pm: Duck Phillips! Pete Campbell meets with Duck Phillips, now a recruiter, at his apartment. Duck mentions a job in Wichita, and Pete asks, "Anything back here on Earth?" Kansas joke! Anyway, Duck mentions that Pete needs to get his family life in order before thinking about a new job, which is sensible advice from a washed-up alcoholic.

10:17pm: Don meets Betty at a gas station, as they're both heading to Bobby's summer camp for some reason. Neither is a credible-enough parent to care about Bobby's life. Regardless, Betty is now thin and blonde again, so Don's probably going to hook up with Betty and bring her story arc back into the show. 

10:19pm: Commercial break! On this Sunday's Mad Men classics, Megan cleans the Drapers' apartment. This classic episode aired last season. 

10:22pm: Back to the show!

10:23pm: Ted and Peggy are having a very detailed, important conversation about the kiss they once shared. Unfortunately, Peggy's top blends into the wallpaper in Ted's office, so all I see is her head floating to and fro.

10:24pm: We're at Bobby's summer camp, where Bobby is wearing a passively racist camp polo shirt. This is our reminder that it's 1968.

10:25pm: Pete seeks Joan out for advice about his wife, child, and mother. Joan points out that her life is also in disarray, which isn't really true at all, since she is an affluent partner in a New York ad agency with her own apartment. But anyway, why not let facts get in the way of Pete creepily closing the door of Joan's office?

10:27pm: Commercial break! It's a commercia for the Google Chromebook, which I own and like using! Is the Chromebook a work device, as advertised? Well, I do take it to work and use it for work purposes, so yes, I suppose it is. Just make sure that a Web connection is available and reliable.

10:29pm: We're halfway through tonight's episode, and I'm feeling pretty good about it. Betty is back in a big way, but I'm surprisingly OK with it thus far. Ted and Peggy had a great scene together. The Megan scenes are the only down points. Otherwise, it's been a good episode!

10:30pm: Arlene, Megan's co-star on her soap opera and the wife of Megan's boss, comes to visit Megan at the Drapers' apartment. Don is not there, but Arlene's bottle of alcohol certainly is there.

10:32pm: Back to Bobby's camp. Don and Betty are sharing the only alcohol Don was able to find in (presumably) rural upstate New York.

10:33pm: Betty: "I loved camp." Yeah, Betty, you would love camp. I don't really know what I mean by that, but it felt good to say it.

10:34pm: Don and Betty are reminiscing, which is going to lead to a campfire make-out session. Right?

10:35pm: Yep, of course it does. Don just strolls into Betty's bedroom. Betty: "What are you doing?" Don: "Waiting for you to tell me to stop." January Jones has an awesome agent. 

10:36pm: Back in New York. Arlene (the wife of Megan's boss) kisses Megan, and Megan accuses Arlene of taking advantage of her loneliness. All of this doesn't compensate for Betty rejoining the Mad Men arc in a major way.

10:37pm: Commercial break. Megan is pure because she rejects Arlene, while Don and Betty are both hurting the people that love them. Except…Henry Francis hasn't really loved Betty since stealing her from Don, and Megan doesn't seem capable of the adult concept of love. 

10:40pm: Still in the commercial break. Betty is back. It happened. 

10:41pm: Is Megan really opposed to selling out her marriage for the sake of her career? She seems the least mature in the show for being unwilling to go that route. Quebec raises some noble folk.

10:42pm: Back to the show.

10:43pm: Don to Betty, after their intimacy: "I missed you." No, Don, you did not miss Betty. You missed being in control with a woman who needs you.

10:44pm: Betty to Don, re: Megan: "She doesn't know that loving you is the worst way to get to you." Please, Betty, tell us the best way to reach a self-destructive alcoholic and philanderer. 

10:45pm: It seems that someone's thrown a rock through Peggy's and Abe's apartment window, perhaps in retaliation for Abe's talk with the cops. Did the phrase "snitches get stitches" exist in 1968?

10:48pm: Roger Sterling's daughter is angry at Roger, just because Roger took her 4-year-old to Planet of the Apes. In retaliation, Roger's grandfathering privileges are revoked. That seems extreme! Is Planet of the Apes scary?

10:49pm: Before the commercial break, Don ran into Betty and Henry Francis at breakfast. Why is Henry Francis there? Bobby Draper isn't his kid. And does Henry plan to drive back in his car alone? This seems inefficient. 

10:52pm: Back to the show! Joan is getting ready to go to the beach, and it looks like the Wharton MBA will be babysitting on the trip! Or more. 

10:54pm: Roger Sterling arrives to Joan's apartment and sees the Wharton MBA. Roger to the Wharton MBA: "Who are you?" Alas, nothing more doing there.

10:55pm: Peggy has quite an interesting knife-on-a-stick contraption, which she attempts to use for self-defense when hearing a commotion outside her apartment. Like most home weapons intended for personal protection, however, Peggy's knife-on-a-stick ends up hurting a member of her household, as she stabs Abe accidentially when he sneaks up on her in the kitchen.

10:56pm: Abe to Peggy: "Your activities are offensive to my every waking moment." Abe, further to Peggy: "You'll always be the enemy." So…how's your love life? And yes, they're now broken up.

10:59pm: Megan to Don, after he returns from the campsite: "I don't care where you've gone." Maybe she didn't say it that way. I dunno, but she had a cool T-shirt on it with a red star.

11:00pm: Joan and Roger talk a bit about their love child. It doesn't matter.

11:01pm: The Wharton MBA had a chance to be interesting (by giving out a bit of Joan/Roger gossip), but gave that up to brown nose with Pete Campbell. So, he's boring and misguided. 

11:02pm: Wow, Peggy needs a better tailor. She goes into Ted's office without showering, without makeup, and with a horrible, ill-fitting light green dress. Therefore, Ted takes the news of her break-up with Abe without attempting a grand romantic gesture. I know she just stabbed her ex-boyfriend, but still, she could have cleaned up a bit.

Final score: January Jones wins the night! Betty Francis gets back into the Mad Men game tonight in a big way. By going from Don's ex-wife to his lover, Betty enters a pantheon of strong women, including Dr. Faye Miller, Rachel Menken, and Season 3's Allison Last Name Unknown. I don't think this was a one-off, either. Season 6 Betty has miraculously transformed into Season 1 Betty, and since Season 1 was the best season of Mad Men, this is the right move for the show. If Matthew Weiner wants to revert the whole thing back to square one, let's go for it! More Betty may mean a more energetic Don, back out on the street and doing pitches (tonight's episode was another pitch-free episode, of course).

Overall, tonight was a rebound for this Mad Men season. We learned more about Ted Chaough, we saw Peggy develop from a one-note success story to a nuanced character, and even Betty was interesting to watch. We're back on the upswing heading into the end of this season. Full speed ahead!

Thanks for reading tonight's Mad Men live blog. See you next week!