Last night’s bizarro Halloween-themed Mad Men finally featured the nudity we’ve all been waiting for: a glorious disrobing of Don Draper’s decades-long, self-perpetuated costume. For the first time in a long while, Don wears an expression other than stern, troubled, and potentially constipated when Betty confronts him on his universe-shattering box of secrets. He’s visibly weakened. He’s not Don Draper, literally or characteristically-his hands tremble too much to even pour himself a drink.
A smaller scale disrobing happens in the Harris household as Greg whines on and on to Joan about how she doesn’t understand what it means to want something her entire life and then lose it. At those words, a heretofore composed Joanie takes a vase and swings it at the back of his head. Sure, her swing had about all the staying power of Jai Alai (she was back to being the dutiful wife by the next scene), but at least it came out, if only for a moment.
And that’s the thing about reality. It can only be avoided for so long. Back at the office, Don and Peggy are watching a dog-food focus group through a two-way mirror with a potential client. It takes a turn for the worse when the participants are told their dogs are eating pony meat. Don barks at Peggy to put an end to the interview that’s clearly upsetting everyone involved, and she delivers the line that drives home the point of last night’s episode: “I can’t turn it off … it’s actually happening.”
But unfortunately Peggy’s the only woman on the show who’s afforded the ability not to turn off reality. Near the end of the episode, Joan’s back to feigning false enthusiasm for Greg’s newfangled plans to become an army surgeon. And Don and Betty take the kids trick-or-treating the next night, escorting them from door to door in their costumes, but the real irony is that it’s Betty and Don who are already back in disguise. Joan and Betty can read feminist texts in the tub, confront their husbands’ selfish behavior-angrily, even-but when it comes to refuting the facade, they just can’t.