Why does Don get the top-tier women, and Pete get the head cases? Of course, Don is devilishly handsome, but this is what gets their attention, not what brings them to the party. The answer is that Don takes these women seriously and truly likes them. Pete has sex; Don has relationships. So, women as diverse as an artist, a researcher, retail heiress, teacher and educated doctor’s wife fall for him. He is real and he is passionate. Pete sees women as sexual objects; his growth is stunted, and his bourgeois wife is incapable of helping him grow up; she is a more ruthless, less psychotic Betty Draper Francis, brought up to maintain the veneer of polite society.
The difference between the impact of Pete’s infidelity and the potential impact of Don’s is equally stark. Trudy feels humiliated; Pete’s dalliance is disturbing because it is with a neighbor and exposes her to neighborhood ridicule and pity. Trudy does not expect fidelity, only discretion. Their marriage is essentially a business arrangement, but Pete is not aware of the ground rules, and their respective families are too WASPishly discrete to tell Pete what he should have learned by observation. Silvia’s and Don’s infidelity, when discovered, will have emotionally devastating results, as Megan and Arnie will feel totally blind-sided and betrayed. Megan seemed to be the right choice for Don at the time; she was the easygoing anti-Betty, but she cannot compete with Sylvia, the archetypal mother/whore. Even Megan’s miscarriage fails to move Don. The miscarriage does bring out Sylvia’s maternal feelings and Catholic guilt, but even visions of the awaiting Inferno cannot drive her from Don.
Peggy’s thoughtless comment to Ted will lead her to a treacherous act, which may adversely impact Stan and send her to the Ninth Circle of Hell along with Don and Sylvia.