“When God closes a door, he opens a dress.”
Roger Sterling is into youth and staying young, and this episode makes that pretty evident. Even the 1960 election that’s on in the background, John F. Kennedy versus Richard Nixon, drives that idea home. Does Kennedy’s youth in this era and his familial advantages make him entitled as a result?
Don relates to Nixon more than nouveau riche Kennedy, which is telling. He views Kennedy as the new kid on the block who effortlessly has it all, versus Nixon the self-made man, the guy who became Vice President six years out of the Navy. “Kennedy, I see a silver spoon. Nixon, I see myself.”
Don’s meeting with Menken – Rachel and father – is more of the same; talking about how to modernise their department store and how much more advantageous the new, ‘younger’ version is.
This is the first appearance of an important character, Betty’s father, Gene. He’s got a new ladyfriend Gloria, and though Betty is distressed by the quick changeover, Don dismisses her concerns with the fact that he was previously married for 4 decades. He’s an old guy, he needs a woman’s touch, et cetera– someone to take care of him, from a pragmatic point of view. Don seemingly doesn’t give an emotional connection like what Gene may have had with his wife another thought, and Betty isn’t happy to have her concerns shrugged off.
Joan seems bored of Roger’s last minute idea of getting together over Labor Day weekend, unflappable as always. Even when her roomate Carol comes onto her and clumsily confesses her love, Joan is serene as ever. This is a woman who is generally not rattled by anything or anyone.
Seeing a sliver of Joan’s private life is illuminating. “These men, constantly building them up, and for what? Dinner? Jewellery?? Who cares!” She’s out to have fun and enjoy the city, and is encouraging Carol to do the same. They’re two young girls living in the city, after all!
They bring home some fossils they met at the bar, and where Joan is playful and going with the flow, Carol is stiff and very much sullen. Those dudes are pretty ratchet though, so I can’t blame her.
Double sided aluminum has done a casting call, and since Freddy Rumsen is an Archaic Man of the Time, it’s all young twin 20-something girls. Roger and Don go to pick out a pair to charm for the evening, and end up with these ladies.
“Now, look far away and visionary.”
image courtesy of Photobucket
At one point Roger’s talking with Mirabelle about his daughter Margaret, not understanding why she’s so angry. He can’t seem to connect with his own teenage daughter, but here he is unloading all of this on an actual 20 year-old.
Roger has a heart attack sometime during round two with her, and she frantically calls for help. Don shoos the twins away, and once the ambulance arrives to take Roger, he’s deliriously asking for said 20 year-old. Don grabs him by the hair and slaps him across the face, reminding him that his wife is Mona.. true bro shit right there.
In the hospital bed, Roger seems genuinely remorseful and broken. He goes on about energy and the human soul, and true to form, Don has no real response for him other than asking “what do you want to hear?” Oy. Then Roger sees his wife and daughter. He’s greeted with love and immediately breaks down into tears, and Don doesn’t know how to process any of it.
The phone call Don has with Betty right after his friend has a heart attack mostly revolves around her trivial complaints about Gloria. This pretty much launches him directly at Rachel’s apartment.
Joan finds out about all this from Bert Cooper, as she goes to the office in the middle of the night. This is the first time you see Joan really react to something – she tearfully types out telegrams to Sterling Cooper clients, as Bert dictates.
Bert: “Don’t waste your youth on age, my dear.”
Joan: “He’s just a friend.”
Bert: “That’s not what I’m talking about.”
Shots fired from Cooper! He read between the lines.
Not to get too Cronenberg, but there’s a few remarks about skin; Roger remarks on Mirabelle’s skin (translucent), later when he’s had his heart attack Don remarks that Roger’s skin seemed like paper. Fragile. Shaken at Rachel’s apartment, Don accuses her of looking right through him.
Don blows his emotional load all over Rachel in the afterglow. Turns out they’ve both got mothers that died in childbirth, though Don’s upbringing is infinitely more dire. This is the first time he’s talked about it aloud on the show, and he chooses to share it with Rachel in lieu of Betty. Lots of Fragile Man Feelings.
Well, this looks like a completely normal way to lie down.
image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia
At this point, it appears that Rachel might draw some more depth out of him and help him to reform some of his views, but NOPE. Don appears to be nearly static as the series goes on – every character and every thing around him eventually changes, sometimes radically, yet he stays the same. Don is the black hole.