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Worldly Distractions: Mad Men 7.13 - The Milk and Honey Route




We're into the last stretch, you guys. Ten years onscreen, eight off, and a hell of a lot of water under the bridge. After next week, there will be no more - and that's a lot to say goodbye to. Join me, for the second-last time, as we follow this incredible series.

Previously on: Don leaves McCann, Trudy is lonely and shameful, Betty has moved on, and Don is going West. Opening credits - Alison Brie guest stars, along with Mark "Duck Phillips" Moses, Weiner co-writes and directs.

We catch up with Don, driving late at night on some far-off route. A cop pulls him over. The cop says he's been looking for Don, and would have caught up with him eventually. Of course, it's all a Dick Whitman-based dream. Don wakes up in a motel room in the middle of nowhere.

Pete is with Tammy, who has been stung by a bee. Trudy arrives with her friend Sherry, who is one of those women who is inexplicably hot for Pete. They discuss proper divorced parenting (in the absence of the ex-husband). Oh god Sherry, you're cute - you could do so much better.

Meanwhile, Don chats with Sally, who has quit hockey and is planning a trip to Spain. We learn that he has recently been in Wyoming, and is now in Kansas, which means he's following no path in particular. Next stop: the Grand Canyon. On the bright side, she and Don are finally on friendly terms, despite Don's spontaneous cross-country road trip.

At university, Betty looks very out of place, which the other students remark on. She also appears to be ill. Calling it now - pregnant.

In the elevator, Pete runs into Duck, who seems all too interested in the inner workings of the new McCann. (We also learn that Joan is still very much gone.) Duck is interested in poaching Pete, an offer Pete understandably finds a little shaky. However, he does have a bit of sparkle in his eyes. Despite Pete's protests, it seems like a meeting is in short order.

Don keeps driving, though his car seems about to crap out on him. Betty goes to the hospital, where she finds out that her classmates have snarkily registered her as Mrs. Robinson. The doctor discovers that something serious is happening, and Henry is summoned. Considering on how he pulls the cigarettes out of her hand, I'm assuming that they're finally making good on that cancer scare from Season 5.

It's going to take some time to repair Don's car, so he's stuck in a little town somewhere in the South. He immediately befriends an elderly couple who run a hotel.

Meanwhile, Pete meets with the exec (from Kansas, heh) for steak. Apparently, this guy also works with Hollywood talent. It's a big account, and Pete is interested in being on the other side of it. Pete tries to get out of it, but on the other hand, he's not in a hurry to end the evening.

Betty definitely has cancer, beginning in her lungs and metastasizing to her bones. Betty may have a year, at best. The doctor, of course, tells Henry this as if Betty is not right in front of them.

Don meets a hotel housekeepr (male), who is brutally honest about the area's shortcomings. He's dismayed to learn that he's in a dry county, though Andy the housekeeper knows where to get a drink if you need one. Despite the lack of amusements, the hotel does have an enormous pool, complete with bathing beauties. Precisely, one bathing beauty, who appears to be married.

Duck continues with his Pete-related efforts. Apparently, he has landed the job, and it's a beauty, but Pete still claims not to be interested. However, they're interested in a married man - and that is one requirement where Pete is tripped up. That's too bad, as they're having dinner-with-wives on Saturday...

Betty is devastated, obviously, but Henry keeps telling her not to give up, resorting to some crazy studies and remonstrating with her for her morbid talk. He seems to think his position can buy Betty a second chance, but Betty at least is a bit more grounded. It's horrible to watch.

Andy the housekeeper shows up with books and Whiskey, and extracts money from Don. In Connecticut, Pete is having another day with the family. Don's television craps out, so he goes to ask the front desk for a new one. He helps the owner with her typewriter, which she greatly appreciates. She sees that he's bored and suggests that he go to the Legion. DON'T DO IT, DON.

Pete is still in Cos Cob. Tammy baked him a pie, so he and Trudy share it. He uses this moment to ask Trudy to pose as his wife at the advertising dinner. She balks, even when he flatters her and appeals to her sense of nostalgia. He steps out in a huff, because apparently he forgot what "divorce" means.

Sally comes back to her dormitory to find her stepfather looking very grave. Despite Betty wanting him to keep it a secret until she figures out what she wants to say, he drops the news on poor Sally. Of course, she's terribly upset. He begs her to help him convince Betty to try this experimental regimen. Manipulative in the extreme, though I guess I can see that he's desperate. They both wind up crying, Henry much more so.

Don gets his car back. As he's about to leave, the owner of the motel asks him to join him at the Legion, in exchange for a free room. They've noticed how handy he is and want him to fix their Coke machine. More Dick Whitman flashbacks?

Henry brings Sally home. Of course, Betty immediately realizes what's up and is extraordinarily pissed at Henry. The two boys clearly don't know. Sally lies about her reason for being there, hauls baby Gene (now like seven) onto her lap, and they sit quietly for a moment.

Don comes to the Legion barbecue, where he quickly makes a bunch a friends. They start getting into military details, which makes Don very uncomfortable, but they seem innocuous enough. Pete has dinner with his brother Bud, who really does not want to be anywhere nearby, a common reaction around Pete. They discuss the nature of life, opportunities, and womanizing. Bud claims his wife likes it, which is the biggest BS I've ever heard.

The Legion barbecue gets very awkward when they decide to bring over a guy who was also in Korea. Fortunately, they don't appear to have been there at the same time, or so Don claims. They have a woman-out-of-the-cake show, or rather a guy-in-drag-our-of-the-cake show. Some dude lackadaisically plays the drums. Don looks extremely uncomfortable.

Pete gets a visit from Duck, who really should learn to take a hint. Drunk, he yells at Pete for standing them up. However, Duck has managed to parlay this into Pete being insulted by the offer, so the company has gone bigger. Now Pete absolutely cannot refuse.

Sitting around listening war stories, Don gets progressively drunker. His new friends wonder why he's so quiet. An old man recounts a tale which reminds me of Quint's story from Jaws. Only centering around some kind of atrocity he committed in Germany. Don, completely wasted, tells about how he accidentally killed the original Don Draper (though there's no word of identity theft). The men are surprisingly sympathetic. The evening ends with some Civil War songs.

Betty goes to see Sally in the middle of the night. She apologizes for Henry's conduct. Sally wonders why she won't get treatment. She promises to stay with her mother and help her through whatever, but Betty insists that she wants to spare her that sight - she knows her time is up, and she will handle it in her own way. She gives Sally instructions, to be opened when Betty is gone. So at the tender age of sixteen, Sally is burdened with both her mother's bad news and her last wishes, without even a comforting hug.

The men from the Legion arrive in Don's hotel room demanding their money, which they think Don has stolen. (The hotel owner, being terrible at her job, let them in.) Despite his protests that he didn't take it, they insist he did, and try to beat the answer out of him. At this point I'm shocked we haven't devolved into full-on Deliverance. 

Pete goes back to Connecticut. A surprised Trudy lets him back into the house, worried that it's bad news. He asks her to move with him to Wichita, so that they can be a family again. She tries to explain that it's long over. However, he feels that he's seen the light, and they have plenty of good years to spend together - if they can manage to start over. "I will never allow you to hurt me again," she says. "I love you too," he says. And that is Pete and Trudy in a nutshell.

So she's dazzled by him, they get back together and everyone watching the series wants to Free Trudy. Cue a physical reunion on the couch. "Tell [Tammy] her birthday wish came true," says Pete. Oh, and he doesn't forget to make a date for Saturday night. Trudy, you are better than this.

More importantly, McCann is now down one Joan, one Don and one Pete - what on earth comes next?

The pimply housekeeping dude, Andy (who was waiting at the Legion) shows up at Don's hotel room. He has correctly deduced that the kid set him up and blamed him for the theft, so he orders Andy to leave town before Don unmasks him and he loses everything. Don hands over the cash, taking the fall by omission, and even takes the kid as far as the bus stop.

Despite her illness, Betty still goes to class, which confuses Henry. Sally opens the envelope Betty gave her, which is a letter detailing her last wishes, to be facilitated by Betty's brother. As Betty struggles to the lecture hall, Sally reads her mother's words, talking about her concern for her daughter, and how she now knows that Sally's life will be full of adventure. Sally breaks down. This is a hell of an episode for Mother's Day.

Don drops the kid by the side of the road, and hands over his car. Understandably, Andy  is a bit confused, but Don is totally serious. So he drives off and leaves Don by a bus stop in Oklahoma. More and more, Don Draper is being chipped away.

In fact, it feels like the whole world of Mad Men is falling apart - Betty dying, the firm breaking apart even in its new form, and Don going out into the world. This episode had some pretty stunning developments, even with half the major characters missing this week, but more than that, it is pretty clearly on a drastic trajectory. But where is it going to end up? I want to find out and I don't.

Next on - there is none, actually, because they're keeping it under wraps. Oh my god the agony.

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