I’d say that assessment still stands, overall. In this episode, for example, Bert Cooper’s discomfort with having a black receptionist seemed predictable (old people were unprogressive in 1969, too!? shocking). But Pete Campbell realizing at the same time as the audience that his Betty Draper-lookalike cupcake of a girlfriend isn’t just a pretty plaything but a real person with a real job she takes seriously? That was electric.
You’re right, though, about that scene between Dawn and Shirley in the break room. It was fabulous, and it had a strong whiff of some early-season break-room scenes in which secretaries confer with one another about how to best manage their relations with their male bosses. Only this time, it’s the black secretaries advising each other on how to handle their white bosses (of both genders) rather than the female secretaries advising each other on their male bosses. That’s an interesting shift on the show’s part, trading one uncomfortable power dynamic for another.
And I thought Dawn calling Shirley “Dawn” while Shirley calls Dawn “Shirley”—presumably their way of playfully commiserating over the fact that they’re frequently mistaken for each other—was a great touch.
Heller: I hope we see a lot more Dawn this season. She’s arguably the most moral character on the show: She helps Don during his exile, she refuses to take any money for the extra work, and she recognizes when she has the freedom to criticize Lou. (She was totally right, too. Who forgets to buy a gift on Valentine’s Day?) My guess is that she’ll play a big role in the coming episodes. She appears to be sitting right next to the conference room, and now, she’s got a reason to spy for Don.
Fetters: Oh, wow. “The most moral character on the show” makes me want to immediately re-watch all six existing seasons with a tally chart in my lap. But in this episode, Dawn did show a remarkable commitment to the trifurcated cliches of “doing the right thing,” "standing up for what you believe in," and “going the extra mile.” Remind you of another former secretary of Don’s who had an incorruptible moral compass and bailed Don out of jail in the middle of the night once? Maybe Dawn is the new Peggy.
Meanwhile, speaking of characters who are underratedly sane, we saw no Megan this week—but she was an integral part of a very necessary conversation that finally happened between Sally and Don. Don admitted to Sally that the only reason he’s not moving out to California is because he’s foolishly waiting for Megan to come back to New York to fix everything for him. That’s a new, sad twist on the Drapers’ failing bicoastal marriage, right?
Heller: It's a new twist of an old flavor. Last week, we wondered what Don meant when he said he needed to “get back to work.” Well, he’s back in Manhattan now—and I have to say, his life looks an awful lot like what I did when I skipped class in college. The mandatory snooze button, mornings that start at noon, a bag of potato chips for breakfast, marathons of The Little Rascals, and no reason to put on clothes until 8 p.m. I remember it being a lot more fun than it looked in this episode.