The slow but steady deconstruction of Don Draper continues in this episode, as his one true refuge is suddenly ripped out from under him.
It hasn't been shown often, but we've known since the second season that Don has maintained a strong relationship with the real Don Draper's widow. If anything, it is the one place where he has always been able to shed the skin of Don Draper and be himself: Dick Whitman. But throughout his time as Dick in the first half of this episode, that refuge slowly disintegrates, as he finds himself shifting into his Don Draper persona all too easily, and perhaps permanently.
Would Dick Whitman have sought solace in the arms of a college girl like Stephanie? It's possible, but it felt more like his false world intruding on his true existence. Anna's cancer is practically another metaphor: with Don Draper's life falling apart at the seams, even his tenuous grasp on his true self is being devoured by the abyss.
The net effect is that very soon, Don will no longer have anyplace to escape his Don Draper persona. Instead of being a matter of choice, it will become a matter of necessity. How that realization will come and what the fallout will be might not become apparent until next season. This season certainly seems to be about the process of breaking Don apart to his fundamentals.
Ironically, Don's initial response seems to be rather nihilistic. Upon finding Lane reeling from a personal crisis, he all but leads the repressed man down the garden path. Despite his many claims to the contrary, Don is absolutely pushing Lane into certain decisions and choices. For at least a little while, Lane is acting a little bit like Don Draper. And while it's often very funny, it's also a bit disturbing.
There was also a rather substantial subplot for Joan, which was much appreciated. Oddly, her rapist of a husband Greg was depicted in something of a favorable light, which may have been an intentional ploy to counter expectation. But his impending muster to basic training and then likely deployment to Vietnam ties into the historical realities of 1965.
But it may also be another example of how Joan, herself a woman who puts much stock in her appearance of absolute control over her world, is constantly dealing with the reality below the surface. Joan has always been about keeping up appearances. Is Joan being set up to have her own artifice stripped away and the truth revealed?