Love is a cruel mistress my friends. It’s hard enough to find love in this world, and yet sometimes when we are lucky enough to find it, it’s not the love we want. For me personally, I have met many many women I’ve fallen in love with, and I’ve spent so much time growing close with them only to discover they love me as a friend (shit just happened to me the other day homies, who wants to get drunk with me?). It’s still love, there is still great care between us, but they’re not loving me quite the way I want them to. Then you find yourself in the odd situation of debating whether or not to reject love, just because it isn’t the one you want.
This conundrum is the main debate of “Field Trip”, and it is best personified in Betty Draper’s first appearance this season. Betty decides to chaperone Bobby’s school field trip to the farm, and he couldn’t be more thrilled. He is so enamored with her, he won’t let others sit with them. He is blown away when she has an actual “conversation” with him, and he and all the boys are mesmerized by her looks. Betty even drinks the milk straight from the cow’s utters like the “cool” mom and delights Bobby, who gets a smile from the girl he has a crush on.
It’s the “perfect day” until according to Betty, Bobby “ruins” it, by trading her sandwich to the girl he likes, because she didn’t have one. Rather than understand Bobby is just being a boy, Betty is upset that Bobby doesn’t love her. Of course he does, he can’t get enough of her, but he’s a normal boy. He has crushes on girls that aren’t his mom, but Betty cannot accept this. Betty doesn’t want to be a mom for normal reasons, she wants to be a mom because then, and no matter what, SOMEONE will love her completely and unconditionally. She indicates this to her friend at lunch. When her friend mentions she got a day job as a reward for raising the kids, Betty asks “aren’t they the reward?”. It’s the same reason Betty had an unhealthy relationship with Glenn Bishop. He was a kid yet she gave him pieces of her hair and didn’t get upset when he walked in on her in the bathroom. She wants to be someone’s everything, and she doesn’t care who it is. Bobby loves her, but not the way she wants.
Meanwhile Don continues to struggle with his marriage to Megan. Don’s issue, that a lot of us have, is that he fears if anyone knew the truth about who he really is, they would never love him. That’s why I hoped after Sally heard him out on all his recent mistakes and she still said “I love you”, he’d be more open to being vulnerable to Megan. Don flies to California to “suprise” Megan with a visit, and she’s excited, until she finds out he only came to scold her about her acting career. Don tells her she is a lunatic for basically stalking a director after she felt she had a bad audition, and Megan gets furious. Don then makes an odd attempt to be vulnerable and tells her he lost his job and isn’t drinking, but all that makes Megan realize is that he’s had the opportunity to be with her all this time, and he’s decided (while sober) not to be with her. Why doesn’t Don love Megan the way she wants? Does he, but he just can’t admit it? She lives in California because she thinks Don wants her at an arm’s length, but Don is lonely without her. Maybe he loves her in a fatherly way and not like a husband. They too were having a perfect day that was ruined, but unlike Don Draper, Bobby Draper is able to admit that he “wishes it was yesterday,” and so do all the characters in Mad Men at the moment.
Roger feels his power in the company slipping, so he makes the executive decision to reinstate Don. He misses Don, he hates Lou, and he wants to make a statement, but is it really a good idea? Don enters work a stranger, (it’s another field trip! Clever, Clever Matt Weiner!) clinging to those who remember him and nervously waiting for Roger to arrive. It so reminded me of when you feel lonely at the beginning of College, so you go back to visit your high school where you were once king, only to discover some of your favorite teachers retired, there is a new prom queen, and a new star athlete. You stroll the halls of a world you remember vividly but no longer remembers you. How fascinating to watch THE Don Draper so powerlessly sit in the writers room he always avoided.
The partners meet to discuss Don’s fate, and for the first time I realized I too may erroneously wish it was yesterday. I root for Don, and I love watching him take control, but when the partners bring up all the reasons they shouldn’t bring him back, I almost agree with them. Jim says they need to use their money to get a computer. He literally wants to propel them into the future, but Roger argues they don’t need a computer because Don is a genius. Is Roger right or wrong? The past and the future for the first time directly clash here in the partner’s room.
They eventually agree to let Don back. Not because of his genius, but because it saves them money. But there is a catch. Don can only come back to work if he is never alone with clients. He reports to Lou, and doesn’t drink. It’s a contract the old Don Draper would tear into pieces, and that’s why they gave it to him, but Don compromises. For the first time he admits he is no longer the man he once was, and accepts the contract. Sterling Cooper doesn’t love Don the way he wants them to, but he has nothing else, so he accepts it.