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'Mad Men' recap: The Bob Benson mystery solved, maybe

James Wolk as Bob Benson on

James Wolk as Bob Benson on "Mad Men." Photo Credit: AMC

And so Sunday night, the great mystery of "Mad Men's" Season 6 six is solved -- Bob Benson.

Let's quickly add up the "nots," as in the not-what-Bob-is (though some speculated he was): Journalist, spy, KGB agent (no one thought of that, but someone should have), corporate espionage craftsman.

Instead, Bob's just a prefabricated Potemkin suit -- not quite a grifter, though conceivably that, too -- who understood the power of a nice tie and hot cup of coffee.

Is he -- or more to the point was he -- gay, as last week's episode seemed to indicate, when he came on to  Pete in that presumably unguarded moment when their knees rubbed? He probably is, but it's more or less irrelevant: He was simply probing for weaknesses, an entry point, something, anything he could use against Pete when the time came for him to want to use something against Pete. As Pete noted with grudging admiration last night, Bob is better at what he does than what Pete does.

Instead, with the help of Duck, Pete turned the tables on Bob, and now has an ally who will prove invaluable.

Bob as the alter-Don -- another well-traveled theory? That too makes perfect sense because Bob like Don is a recreated soul -- a gestalt of several people patched together forming something entirely new, and better, and -- in the process -- obscuring the original person who no longer exists.

The recreated person -- reflecting the very business of spinning the benefits of goods and services -- has been the driving metaphor of "Mad Men" so Bob fits right in here.

Sunday night was mostly about Pete, though, that grasping martinet who in the end may have found the perfect soul mate (ironically enough) in Bob, who will take the buckshot in the face for him going forward. Pete's wise enough to know that Chevy would certainly eat him alive, much as it has done with Ken, so now he has a stand-in. Perfect.

Finally, one lingering question about Bob going forward: Will he in fact be back next season? Lots have noted that James Wolk's commitment to the CBS sitcom next season ("The Crazy Ones") will end his run here, but I wonder why that should be. After all, unless there's a production conflict, he could continue through the seventh and (possibly) final season as a recurring character.

I hope he does: There is still a lot to learn about our mystery man, Bob.


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