Of course the moment that everyone will remember is when Don Draper got donkey punched by a bunch of drugged out kids, but it was the series of silent vignettes that really made this episode different.
Matt Weiner—assisted by director Daisy von Scherler Mayer, the lady behind classic '90s indie Party Girl—starts off the episode with three out of context moments, one of Peggy, one of Betty, and one of Don each lying in a precarious state. The rest of the episode busies itself filling in the context for how we find our characters in their prone state. As the season starts to fold in on itself, with previous occurrences finally having ramifications, the situations inform us about both the characters identity and their destiny.
Peggy is Dead:
Well, she's not dead for real, but the lifeless falling of her arm out of the bed was certainly ominous for something to come. It's probably more that Peggy is dead meat now that she has entered into a very unwise affair with Duck. Oh, Peggy, why?! Why must you leap into bed with every man who shows you a hint of attention? I mean, Duck? Really?
Duck continued trying to woo both Peggy and Pete to his agency with an Hermes scarf and a box of Cuban cigars. They both return the gifts and plan to stay where they are. However, Peggy, being sought professionally for the first time, is on shaky ground. When Pete comes and talks to her, we see that she's again out of the interoffice loop and doesn't even know about Don's meeting with Conrad Hilton. However, Pete convinces her it's best to stay put.
Later, she uses that intel to try to get on the account and Don lashes out at her, telling her to do her job and stop asking for things. If Don only knew that she was on her way to Duck, who was putting all sorts of sweet nothings into her ear, he might have chosen his words more wisely. Once Peggy scampers over to see Duck, she very unconvincingly says that she is happy at Sterling Cooper and rebukes his advances of leaving the firm. He then very easily convinces her to go into bed. Oh, Peggy, why?! This can't be a wise move, but it is sure to be a definitive one for Miss Olsen.
Betty is Lusty: When we first see Betty, she is in a state of repose lying on divan. Later, we see her on the same couch, but this time, patting her dress seductively. That's because pretty ice queen Betty is thinking about chilling the arms of another man.
At a meeting for the Junior League—in her fabulous redecorated sitting room—the happy housewives of Ossining tell Betty that they are going to fight a 3000 gallon water tank being built on the Hudson River. Betty tentatively takes up the cause and meekly states that she knows someone in the governor's office, her old friend Henry, the pregnant belly toucher from the Kentucky Derby Party (that little shindig sure seems to be the lynchpin for this season). The other ladies seem to be keen to the fact that Henry has an eye for pretty young things and convince her to use her influence.
Of course, Betty orchestrated the whole thing. If she didn't want to see him or talk to him again, why bring him up? We all know that Betty only cares about Betty and since she is not a giant water tank, she could give a flying fuck whether or not it gets built. So, she arranges a meeting and shows up to the bakery looking like Slutty Suburban Barbie (though we haven't had any fierce hats lately, those sunglasses more than made up for it).
After shielding her from being blinded by the eclipse, Henry suggests that Betty lie on a fainting couch, like the overcome Victorian housewives of old. That finally made it clear how close Betty is to being a Dickensian biddy, with all her frigid repression, manners, and insistence that a facade of propriety be kept even though her hormones are brewing underneath. She parts with Henry, but they make hasty plans to meet again.
When she returns to buy the couch that Henry suggested, she has already cheated in her mind. Much to her designer's chagrin, she also places it in front of the fireplace, which the designer described earlier as the soul of the house. Betty has not only ruined her room, but obscured the soul of her family with her impulsive purchase. For some reason though, I don't think that Betty, essentially an entirely passive being, has it in her to go through with the affair, a very active role indeed. She can barely do anything but lie on the couch, how can she summon up the energy to do something more on it. It's as if the passion of a liaison with Henry would burn too hot for her to contain, and instead of letting it melt her, she would turn away from the flame entirely.
Don is Under Attack:
Not only did some hippie scum drug him and beat him on the head to take his money—and they were so generous to leave his car!—but Mr. Draper was under attack on all fronts.
The episode starts off well enough, with Don impressing Paris Hilton's great-grandpa successfully enough that he's going to throw some business Sterling Cooper's way, but only if Don is the one who is going to work the account. While his superiors are thrilled, they tell Don that the only way this whole thing is going to work is if he signs a three-year contract, that includes a healthy raise. Don sees this not as a kind reward, but an affront to his freedom. Also, he wants to be in the position of power, and if he signs away the next three years to SC, he will be powerless.
In an attempt to get Don to sign, Roger calls his house, under the pretense of looking for Don, but really to put a bee in Betty's bonnet (why can't she wear more bonnets?) about getting Don's John Hancock on the contract. After Don already had it out with Roger in the office, he sees this as another slight, and an aggressive one at that. Once Betty gets the call, she's on the offensive, not only because she is continuously left out of Don's professional life, but because the whole thing reminds her of his dirty, no-good cheating ways.
After barging out and driving down the street with glass in hand, Don picks up a couple of hitchhikers who give him drugs. God, the '60s looked fun! You can just climb in your Cadillac with a highball glass full of some brown booze and run into a bunch of drugged out hippies who will climb in your car and get you fucked up on reds! They might even let you watch them screw in a dirty motel room.
But the literal attack Don suffered was nothing compared to the attack he made on himself. While in a boozey barbiturate haze, he sees the specter of his father telling him that he isn't a real man because he doesn't do real work and is a no-good cheating bum who takes off on his wife and kids for drug-fueled sexless three-way romps. At Gawker, we know something about sexless three-way romps, so take it from us.
The oddest attack of the evening though came from Sally's naughty teacher. Even though she drunkenly called the house to flirt with Don two episode's ago, now she seems to be immune to his advances. He denies he was making them, but she was way too hot in that killer green sleeveless number of hers for Don to resist. "You're all the same, with your drinking and philandering," she says to him. Of course she's right, pointing out how he not only shares the same vices as the other fathers but is dressed the same as they are. Of course, Don defends himself, because he sees himself as different, but her affront makes him realize that he is no better than the plaid-shirt wearing lemmings who live next door.
This realization is the spark for the rest of his behavior. Don has spent his life trying to fit into a suburban idyll, but it's not what he really wants at all. He wants to be fun and dangerous and untethered—hence his reluctance to sign the contract, strike at Betty, and sexless three-way romp with the hippies. In the end though, Don is no better than Jon Gosselin, with his dirt bike and Ed Hardy shirts, trying to rebel against the inevitability of middle age.
Taking It Out on Peggy:
When Randy Teacher puts Don in his place, the only arena where he can take out his frustration is at the office, where he schools Peggy when she asks to be assigned to the Hilton account. She asks the same thing that Pete asked earlier in the episode, which Don met with a calm "land a new account and it's yours." When Peggy asks for the same thing, he has a seemingly irrational outburst at Peggy because she is a woman. While he may be right to tell her to focus on her work, he does so in a way that puts her down because of her gender, saying that she should be happy she's something more than a secretary and doing a job that is fit for man.
What is really regrettable is the way Peggy handles the insult, by falling under the sway of another man. Duck takes advantage of the fragility of Peggy's self esteem by showing her a little bit of approval and easily coaxing her into bed, a move that seems poised to have disastrous results.
Don's Defeat: In the end, a few choice words from Bertram Cooper and Don's war against attacks on many fronts is over. Cooper sternly reminds Don that he knows who he really is and the unspoken threat of embarrassing him with the information gets him to put pen to paper. Apparently keeping up the illusion of his Camelot identity is more important than his freedom. The only way that Don can make himself feel better about the loss is to stick it to Roger, when he says he doesn't want to deal with the offensive partner from now on.
After a wild defense, Don has been successfully caged by Conrad Hilton, by his employers, by his wife, and by the random slutty teacher who wouldn't let him pat her on the bum. Of course this is not a tiger who wants to play in Siegfried and Roy's magical advertising act, and Don's claws will be swiping at the bars in no time.