I lost my daughter to God, and my wife to the Devil.
Diana’s ex-husband is a jerk. Sure, he’s been through a lot. But he’s a jerk. And he’s a jerk Don knows well.
Don meets the daughter. Was he feigning surprise? It’s hard to understand exactly who Don is on this trip–he hallucinated Bert Cooper, after all. But he’s sharp enough to lie and sell, which, regardless of how very natural that is to Don, it still takes a crispness of the mind (as opposed to a crispiness), and we all knew it was Diana’s daughter the moment we saw her, so it’s hard to believe Don missed it.
Anyway that’s not the point. The point is, he has had a strong kinship with Diana. Their sorrow joined them, or something. But now it’s her daughter he connects with.
Hmm, let’s see. Here’s a child whose mother abandoned her, who is being raised by a father who likely resents how much she reminds him of his ex-wife; a bible-thumping, Jesus-toting, misogynistic meanie. We don’t know if he drinks and we don’t know if he hits but we know he talks smack about her mother with no attempt to keep his voice down–and we know this guy is a parent Dick Whitman knows something about.
At least the stepmother is kind, albeit misguided.
The daughter is smart–less wide-eyed, characterologically, than young BCD (Bowl-Cut-Dick) was. Dick was enamored of the hobo. This girl is looking for her prize–a bit jaded and guarded, like her mother.
And Don, confronted at the car, was wide-eyed again. Not with innocence, but with reactivated terror. For those moments, Dick was home again; unable to get the love he craves, unable to protect anyone, unable to be heard.