Matt Ern Columnist
Mad Men- “Collaborators” Grade: B +
Pete Campbell didn’t have much to do in last week’s premiere; he pops up in a few scenes and delivers one-liners before fading into the background. If one was to make assumptions about Pete this season from that episode, he might seem happy. But “Collaborators” gives Pete a lot more screen time, and shows that he’s just as much a sad sack as ever. While Don’s affair with his neighbor Sylvia continues nicely, Pete’s attempt at an extramarital encounter blows up in his face pretty quickly. He seduces a neighbor, but her husband catches on quickly and violently chases her out of the house. When she turns up on the Campbell’s doorstep, Trudy is less than pleased. She admits to Pete that she’s known what he’s been up to for a while and only suggested he get a separate apartment in Manhattan so that he could be more discrete with his affairs. But now that he’s had the audacity to sleep with a woman on their block, she wants him out of the house and a divorce. Despite all the crappy things Pete does, I’ve always felt sorry for him. All he wants in life is to be like Don, but he will forever fall short of that. Last season’s excellent “Signal 30” was a great example of the Don/Pete parallel, and “Collaborators” is a worthy follow-up. While Pete’s marriage falls apart, things couldn’t be going better for Don. The universe seems to be throwing Sylvia into his lap when Megan and Sylvia’s husband both have to cancel their dinner plans and Don is left alone with her. She admits she has some reservations about their affair, and she doesn’t know how Don can sit in a room with all four of them like nothing is wrong. But Don puts her in her place in typical Don Draper fashion. In fact, Don’s never been more on top of his game than this episode. At work he’s standing up to clients he doesn’t like (annoying Pete in the process), and at home he seems to have both Megan and Sylvia. All of this seemingly good fortune only begs the question, how long will it last? Is Don really happy? Probably not. While Trudy stands up to Pete and calls him out on his affairs, Megan spends the episode trying to tell Don about her miscarriage. Don’s apparent “having it all” lifestyle is at the cost of his wife’s happiness.
Community- “Intro to Felt...” Grade: B
To say this episode is weird or crazy would be an understatement. It’s outright bonkers. The premise is very similar to the stop-motion Christmas episode, but with the added task of explaining away Chevy Chase, who left the show around this time of production. He recorded dialogue for the episode, but is never actually seen in it. I’m not sure if the idea for puppets came about as a direct result of Chase leaving, or if it was planned all along. My biggest complaint is that the episode doesn’t nail the genre quite as well as the Claymation Christmas one did. The Christmas episode is one of the most emotional episodes the show has ever done; it was also the most creative, being the first time the show attempted to pull off a genre episode in another medium. “Intro to Felt Surrogacy” feels more like a cheap knock-off, and that works against it when what could have been a decent emotional climax is undercut. We’re treated to a strange story about the group crashing a hot air balloon in the woods and being drugged. It’s a very whimsical premise, but an episode done with puppets almost demands something strange for the characters to be singing about. As far as the hot air balloon goes, I think it works well with the genre, but things go awry at the very end. While they’re all out in the woods, they each reveal their darkest secret and then panic because they think the rest of the group is judging them for it. In fact, no one remembers anyone else’s secret until the puppet therapy session. Jeff’s was the only one that really had some resonance (though Shirley’s was close), the rest were all kind of silly or farfetched. The idea that he would let down a kid and symbolically become like his own dad packs a lot more of a punch than Annie cheating on a test or Britta revealing she doesn’t vote. The episode could have been a success if it allowed Jeff’s big character moment a little more time to breathe.