‘Mad Men’ Recap: R.I.P. Bob Benson’s Smile and Ken Cosgrove’s Eye (Season 6 Episode 12)

Credit: Jaimie Trueblood/AMC

Long before his affair with a shock therapy patient, his plight with driving school, and his various half-hearted expressions of emotional unrest with his country’s civil state of being, Pete Campbell was a man of singular purpose: to out Don Draper. To out him for whatever bloody, mangled secret he was keeping locked up in his desk drawer. Imbued with hubris and that upper class New Yorker entitlement, Pete understood it to be his very right, and destiny, to see to it that Don fell from his plateau, and that he himself would scoop up the remnants of this shattered crown. It was how we met Pete — the story that, among his earlier forays (like getting Peggy pregnant), established him as a unique entity among the sleaze balls at Sterling Cooper. He wasn’t just another wrinkled suit jacket strewn upon the office decor, catching as much loose change and bodily fluids as could be hoped for. He was another animal entirely. A snake among weasels.

Pete’s story comes full circle with Bob Benson, the antithesis of Don Draper in just about every way other than nomenclatural rhythm. The all-smiles Bob has pervaded the SC&P office with an attitude remarkably ambitious and subservient alike: eager to do anything for anyone, happy to take on whatever tasks are placed before him, terrifically wary of stepping beyond his bounds. The perfect employee. The perfect cover.

And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for that meddling libido.

See, while Pete had plenty of reasons to bring upon Don’s comeuppance — with motivations landing in the realms of both personal and professional — he might have happily left Bob to his cagey devices were not for last week’s fleeting lapse in self control on the part of the chipper young buck. A knee nudge alone was enough of a trigger to launch Pete back into his early series turn as an ad hoc private eye (this time with Duck Phillips seated sternly at the other end of the phone, gathering files for the vigilant sleuth).

Credit: Jaimie Trueblood/AMC

This week, Pete uncovers only a few bits and pieces of Bob’s nebulous past, with the truly startling reveal being just how much of it remains a mystery. Having lied straight through his résumé, interview, and every conversation he’s had while at the firm, Bob has masked a past steeped in shame (he worked as a servant or some such otherwise seemingly innocuous thing… but again, it’s how much we realize we don’t know that’s all the more jarring) with a can-do, people-pleasing attitude (the exact opposite approach that Don took in masking his shame-steeped past), blowing the whole thing when he finally succumbed to trying to please himself. A tragic unraveling: the one undermining folly of this hard-working, generous, kind-hearted go-getter turns out to be his sexuality. Cruel, Mad Men. Didn’t you slam Sal with the same fate way back when?

And although Pete drops his weapons, agreeing that Bob’s takedown is a futile toil at best, we can’t imagine that the ostensibly sweet natured liar will be let to rest alone with his secret after this grin-waiving affair. Pete can’t be trusted, nor this industry (hell, the entire world of Mad Men is sinister). If Bob Benson does indeed return for Season 7, we should expect him in a different form altogether.

But while secrets are kept deep beneath the surface in one corner of the SC&P office, they’re brimming at sea level in another: Don and Megan, still operating “smoothly” despite last week’s slip-up, catch Peggy and Ted on a movie date. The office festers in discomfort and account relationships suffer as the two of them flirt childishly, Ted backing Peggy’s pitches with inflated support. Earning the scorn-turned-condescending sympathy of Don, the relationship risks dissolving into enmity next week: Ted, by nature, falls victim to Don’s judgment, turning in on himself and becoming a proverbial amoeba by the end of the episode. Peggy, on the other hand, is invigorated. She’s livid with Don for not only tampering but for destroying the “good man” she considers Ted to be, landing Don once again (didn’t this exact same scene happen once before this season? Sure feels like things are getting a bit monotonous here…) in the trenches of his war with Ted for Peggy’s idolatry. And all this after he’s just won the orange juice blitzkrieg. Don, for a veteran, you don’t really have the best battle strategies.

And now that we’ve waded through the meat of the episode, we can sink our teeth into the dessert: Ken Cosgrove getting his f**king eye shot out by two gun-waving clients. Is there any more to say on the matter? It acts primarily as a catalyst for the Pete/Bob story, forcing the two men to take on the account in Ken’s leave. Otherwise, it’s just pretty gosh darn bonkers. Like that time they drove a zamboni in the office and chopped up somebody’s foot bonkers. Remember that? The good old days?

Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter | Follow hollywood.com on Twitter @hollywood_com

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