Mad Men s5e7: At the Codfish Ball

“No matter what, one day your little girl will spread her legs and fly away..”

“.. Wings, daddy.”

Here’s some of that good old deep-rooted dissatisfaction and the ever-present yearning for more.. TALE AS OLD AS TIIIIIIIME. This pair o’themes are on display in this delightful episode. There’s a bunch of semi-fulfilled and partially crushed dreams here. Peggy comes to the realisation that she may indeed want to get married, and then .. sort of gets it but not entirely. Megan longs for creative success, subbing in advertising for acting, and when she really succeeds it still ain’t quite right. Sally gets to hit up the eventually disappointing grand staircase-less ball in the mod dress she wanted, but not the gogo boots and makeup.

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And of course we have Don, thinking he is about to pounce on the opportunity of a lifetime at said ball; he bags Heinz, but ends up being cast aside from the big corporate fish due to the reverberating consequences of The Letter. Natch, nobody wants to work with a guy who would fuck them dirty like that.

There’s Peggy and Abe, with her modern sensibilities in competition with her Catholic upbringing. When Abe insists on a dinner together, Pegs is rattled; sounds like bad news to me too. But Joan puts the marriage proposal bug in Peggy’s ear.. when it turns out all Abe wants to do is shack up.

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Peggy chooses to be with Abe because he’s modern and not like those other dolt dudes who expect her to be a certain way because of ~Society~, but now she has to actually live with the fact that.. he’s a modern guy. Grappling with being a modern 60s career gal on an explosive upward trajectory and the future she’s Supposed To Want is no easy task. But hey, moving in together is pretty awesome too– as Joan kindly points out, reassuring Pegs it’s the right choice for her.

Joan: “Sounds like he wants to be with you no matter what.”

Peggy: “I thought you were going to be disappointed for me..”

J: “I think it’s very romantic.”

P: “It is, isn’t it? We don’t need a piece of paper! I mean.. not that marriage is wrong or anything.”

J: “Greg has a piece of paper with the US Army that’s more important than the one he has with me.

P: “.. I’m sorry..”

J: “It is what it is.. I think you’re brave. I think it’s a beautiful statement. Congratulations!”

Obvi, the dinner at their newly minted shared space with Mrs. Olsen did not go well. And it’s not that shocking that the woman who claimed moving to Manhattan meant certain rape would be less than supportive of Peggy and Abe’s choice to live together In Sin(TM). Yikes on bikes. Admittedly, I think Peggy was trying to do the right thing and attempt to have an adult relationship with her mother where she doesn’t have to lie about her life, but some people are just stuck in their ways. Not much she can do about it.

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At a fancy client dinner, Megan gets wind that SCDP is about to be fired; she and Don close that Heinz deal expertly. It’s also probably the first time this season we see Don actually, you know, working. Fuckin’ finally.

Though she’s very talented at this gig, Megan definitely wants more; her father expresses his disappointment at her giving up the acting dream to this job and this shortcut life with Don. All Marxist and pretentious academic junk aside, Emile ain’t wrong.

You can see it on her face when Peggy is genuinely thrilled for her re:Heinz; Megan’s got some lingering discontent and indifference to the whole schtick. If this type of professional success is ‘as good as it gets’ according to Pegs and Megan feels this nonchalant.. that’s not a great sign of things to come. Here’s that enormous, central theme of the series.. is that all there is?

On top of all that– since she’s Don’s wife, the reaction is sort of overblown. Peggy even remarks on it, saying that when she did that very same thing with a great campaign that the men in the office didn’t really bat an eye. And the nightmare fight Don and Megan had in the previous episode stemmed in part from her wanting to be seen as more than Mrs. Don Draper, home and office wife who just does whatever the hell he says. If this happens again and she has another idea that’s not in line with what he’s thinking, will he have another fucking meltdown?

And Megan’s tag for Heinz, ‘some things never change’, is true of all our characters. Try as they may to throw on a fancy persona, they’re all the same people deep down. Don as the ever-glib brilliant adman who’s now happily remarried is still a human mess just below the surface. Roger is charming and magnetic as ever with Sally, until Marie catches his eye and he’s gone in a flash to get blown. Pegs wanting to shack up rather than get hitched, though at the end of the day maybe she DOES want to be married after all. Megan knocks it outta the park with Heinz, but deep down she would prefer to be IN that commercial.

Don really did fuck it up with The Letter, as Kenny’s father in law Leland Palmer succinctly points out. Don’t bite the hand, Don.

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And here’s Sally wanting to be more grown up, but then sees something TOO grown up when she walks in on Roger getting his knob enthusiastically schlobbed by Marie. Pretty much nobody but Roger’s had a good night at this ball.

image courtesy of The AV Club

Ringing Glen, he’s at the communal phone of his boarding school in absurd flasher gear of a winter coat (and apparently nothing else) on the phone to Sally, asking.. How’s the city?

Dirty, indeed.

“He’s at Dow Corning– they make beautiful dishes, glassware, .. napalm..”

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Mad Men s5e6: Far Away Places

“Look at me. Everything is okay. You.. are okay.”

Time is all outta whack with this episode, with three separate looks at the same 24 hours through the eyes of our characters. We’ve got Peggy’s total shite day, Roger on LSD, and Don and Megan’s HoJo’s mess. They’re all disconnected from their partners for different reasons. Peggy has a long, lousy day that starts with an Abe fight and stretches on as Don has a nightmare night that seems neverending.. while Roger is having the time of his life on drugs.

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Turns out that while Don is currently doing his best impression of 1963 Roger, Peggy is now 1960 Don.. and I love that both Peggy and Pete are trying to be the New Don(TM) and failing in different ways. Stressed about work, she’s on the outs with Abe. Her Heinz presentation takes a nosedive and she tries on the strangely hypnotic Draper Stubborn Man(TM) routine to shit results. Taking another page from the Draper playbook, she pops out for a movie and gives a stoned handjob to some rando with awesome pants.

Unlike Don, however, she’s brought back down to earth by Ginsberg and his Martian/concentration camp origin story. The well-off over-educated guests at Roger and Jane’s fancy LSD party yap about whether or not the truth is the same on other planets, but we of course know that Ginzo’s truth is the same no matter what. His origin undoubtedly amplifies his eccentricities, and his Martian spin to make everything seem less awful is telling.

“We’re a big secret.. they even tried to hide it from me. That man, my father, told me a story I was born in a concentration camp, but, you know, that’s impossible. And I never met my mother because she supposedly died there; that’s convenient. Next thing I know, Morris there finds me in a Swedish orphanage. I was five. I remember it.”

“That’s incredible.”

“Yeah. And then I got this one communication, a simple order: Stay where you are.”

“Are there others like you?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t been able to find any.”

Peggy’s history isn’t a tragedy akin to this level, but she’s probably more like Michael Ginsberg than she realises. Affected by his story, she rings Abe and they reconcile, so at least someone is on the right path.

(On another note, Don isn’t that dissimilar from Ginsberg re: the origin sense. He, too, never knew his mother; and for all he knows, maybe she wasn’t even a prostitute. That information came from his stepmother who didn’t like him very much in the first place. Ginsberg chooses to believe he’s an actual Martian, and Dick Whitman ran with Don Draper as soon as he got the chance.)

On a somewhat lighter note, looks like Roger’s marriage to Jane is imploding, shocking absolutely nobody. As a last ditch effort at reconnecting with her husband, she wants to take LSD with him, to share an experience and maybe gain some clarity; and hey, it does exactly that. The next AM, their marriage ends on a surprisingly sad note– Jane knows that Roger simply doesn’t like her anymore. Bummer, but for the best. Roger’s obviously been unhappy for awhile, and it’s better to let go of a lie and get on with it.. even if he hemorrhages cash in the process.

just in case shit goes south.. || image courtesy of TheBigLead

Rewinding a second to that disaster Heinz pitch.. Peggy transports paternalistic Raymond back to the past for a beat; yet he dismisses the idea under his erroneous assumption that this generation of young people gives no fucks about nostalgia. Natch, she argues that they do (which is true), and perhaps with Don’s help she could’ve helped Raymond see that; instead, it implodes spectacularly and she gets the boot from the Heinz account.

When Don attempts to take Megan out of the office and back in time to the Howard Johnson’s with that goddamned orange sherbet, it’s his own wistfulness and sentimentality he’s fixated upon– and not any real childhood memory of hers.

image courtesy of BetterWithPopcorn

That HoJo’s is a good site for illuminating a touch of the generation gap between Don and Megan; Don, ever axiomatic that Megan would adore the damn place, is let down by her honesty. It makes sense he’d dig a camp, shiny place like that, too– for all of Don’s slathered on sophistication, he also intrinsically connects with the mainstream kitsch absurdity of midcentury America.

Step outside the box and think about where that all came from for a second; so much of it is, weirdly, about a clean slate. All of that hopeful, sparkling Formica light at the end of the war tunnel. His generation wanted to move forward from the war (well, wars..), and start over in a gorgeously maintained modern home with all the bells and whistles. The American Dream(TM) that continues to attract Don, in spite of his present allergy to the suburbs.

To someone like Megan who grew up with this sort of thing as the norm, she might view the HoJo’s as gauche or trying too hard to be a Fun(TM) place when really, it’s a place you stop on the way to somewhere more exciting. Expressing her real opinion on the (obvi vile) orange sherbet, Don is upset, probably more than he should be.. because who literally cares? Sherbet blows.

But of course, that Howard Johnson’s represents the idealised version of Tomorrowland for Don. Maybe he hoped Megan would see it that way with him as a sort of ‘second honeymoon’, a chance to reconnect. Too bad it got fucked up.

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Looking at it from this end, it seems as if Don and Megan aren’t supposed to ‘work’ after all. Similar to Roger and Jane’s tenuous union, Don truly wants (and I think needs) Megan on some level; he just doesn’t Get her. She’s miles away from Betty, she stands up for herself and is her own person; she’s a thoroughly modern gal. Megan giving her real input is ten kinds of jarring to Don. And is she “allowed” to like to work? Apparently not.

It’s deffo certain that Don isn’t done evolving just yet. After all, we’re always changing and growing. Megan may covet the illusion of their marriage and the man Don presents himself as, but she is also true to herself. Shit’s in competition with one another. She loves Don, yet she does not understand him entirely. They have that bitter argument, and Don roars off in the Cadillac, since a hobo told him once how great it is to run.

In Mystery Date earlier this season, Don capitulates to temptation in his dream, yet also sees Megan as his salvation upon waking, complete with the majestic halo of warm light. He’s probably putting too much on her shoulders to keep him in line, without truly knowing her. A big ol’Band-Aid for his swinging dick.

However, as Megan said, every fight diminishes what they have together. If you take a peek at what they’re fighting about, there’s absolutely a basic misunderstanding between them. She blurts a pretty hurtful insult his way about his dead mother, knowing how awful it was as it flew out of her mouth, and maybe also not knowing to pull back on the throttle a bit with that shit. He storms off but eventually turns back around to find she’s gone, and as the hours pass into the morning he becomes sick with worry that he truly fucked it up or unspeakably worse.

What in the hell does he want exactly? What their marriage represents, or does he really want her as a person? For Christ’s sake, is anything ever going to be enough?

That chase around their gorgeous apartment shows how out of control Don really feels, it’s totally unsettling to watch him unravel like that. None of this shit is good, kiddos. It was like watching a terrible, uncomfortable version of their kinky cleanup sex play from the season premiere.

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Cooper, apparently seeing more than he is seen these days, astutely puts Don in his place with a few choice words. Love leave, indeed; he ain’t wrong. Get your shit together, Don.

“Howard Johnson’s, huh? I love the colours, the atmosphere.. the clams..”

Mad Men s5e5: Signal 30

“Look, I’m just trying to tell you because I am who I am and I’ve been where I’ve been that you don’t get another chance at what you have.”

“Brave words for a man on his second time round..”

“Yeah, and if I had met her first, I would have known not to throw it away.”

Strap in, kiddos.. this is a good one. Lane tries his hand as an account man and fails miserably, but ends up punching the shit out of Pete. Kenny’s still writing, and this time it’s bizarre sci-fi! Don might actually be happy with his life, and the now-suburbanite Pete’s yearning for more as usual during his driver’s ed classes.

Now, it’s no secret that Pete has idolised Don since day one. The gorgeous wife and house in ‘the country’, kids and all the accompanying junk, suavely banging around and doing whatever it is that Men(TM) do.. Pete admires him, wants to be him. But when he eventually tries on the swinging dick Don of yore, he feels totally dead inside. Is that all there is?

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On the other hand, Don glimpses his former life via Cos Cob Casa Campbell and feels claustrophobic as hell leading up to and during the Saturday night dinner party. Don’s more casual references to his past are enlightening– the horseshit remark to Kenny, etc. Maybe he’s finally starting to accept who he is now that he’s been honest from the getgo with Megan and she didn’t run for the hills.

Kenny’s wife Cynthia blows up his spot at said dinner party, outing him as a writer (still!); a point that Pete blabs to Roger later on. Proud as ever, Cynthia describes his story about a bridge between two planets, and how all it takes is one bolt being removed by a sassy robot to fuck it all to hell. Sort of sounds like Megan to Don in the office and at home, in life.

Megan bridges the Don to the Dick, and it seems like they work pretty well together and he knows it. He appears to be a different man now that he’s not married to Betty, on his way to ever improving and self-awareness. Megan’s sunny disposition certainly helps. Don implies as much to Pete in the post-Jaguar hooker party cab; he knows what he’s got with Megan is special and isn’t aiming to send it all to hell like he did with his first marriage to Betty.

Plus, he’s always liked Trudy (and this is saying a lot as Don doesn’t really like anybody), and everything looks so picturesque on the surface, so seeing Pete gleefully follow a ~lady~ to her private room must have been a little jarring. He can see that Trudy’s a rare lady, and that Pete could easily fuck it up and not even begin to fathom what he’s lost.

And let’s be real, anything less than too many high-fives putting Pete in the hospital was going to be disappointing with his mentality, so he took Don’s silence as some sort of quiet disapproval. I mean, the whole conversation and Pete’s over the top offense at Don’s lull was entirely based on his own projections. All Don did was say he hoped Pete didn’t keep making the same mistakes that he did, which is entirely valid. He even did that Man(TM) thing and absolved Roger from banging around-related guilt by saying “he’s miserable”, as if that’s some sort of excuse, but eh.

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Let’s backtrack for a hot second and yap about Lane and his shit. His wife Rebecca is still unhappy being in Manhattan, pining for Crown & Country, bringing reticent Lane to a British pub to watch the World Cup. And hey, England won in 1966! So it’s not all bad. Striking up conversation with her friends, he stumbles into a potential Big Deal Account with Jaguar cars (and the secretly enormously dirty old man Edwin). For a smaller agency like SCDP, having a car makes them a major player on Madison Ave.

Edwin is hesitant to really open up, and thus Lane fucks it up on their business dinner. Pete, Roger, and Don try to set it straight with lobsters and a casual visit to a classy whorehouse, at Edwin’s creepy “I LIKE PARTIES” open door. Don sits it out, casually referencing his upbringing to the madame of the house. Big stride for him not being so deeply ashamed of his impoverished childhood, I guess.

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As Pete’s the guy who’s always wanting, his lady of choice runs through a couple of scenarios before landing on him being her King. He’s always wanted more of what someone else has no matter what it is, and shit he plainly can’t have like that naive teenager in his driver’s ed class. Besides being entirely creepy, an age appropriate (and smokin’ hot) dude pops in and sweeps her away anyway. Another blow to his fragile masculinity, on top of when Don deftly swooped in to fix the exploding sink at casa Campbell, to the ladies’ applause.

The true crown jewel of this episode is the partners meeting. That absurd hooker party blows up in Lane’s face in the form of CHEWING GUM [left] ON [Edwin’s] PUBIS, and he challenges Pete to a fucking fist fight in the conference room.. and proceeds to kick Pete’s ass.

Talk about a literal blow to Pete’s manliness, good godDAMN. Just as Lane struggles to feel relevant at SCDP in the day to day, Pete also wants to mean more in life. In the elevator, Pete tearfully admits to Don that he feels he has nothing. To see someone who is that cocky on the reg be reduced to this crying, bruised mess reminds us that everyone’s got their own shit going on below the surface.

Thanks to Pete ratting out Kenny’s writing to Roger (who predictably was less than pleased with Ken’s attentions being divided), he’s gotta come up with a new pen name. Kenny’s final scene with the monologue overlay gave off a sense of hope, in a way; deffo glad he’s sticking with the writing and finding that meaning in his life.

While Kenny and Pete have always have been at odds in the office (even though Pete is winning account-wise at work), Kenny is absolutely more fulfilled than Pete is at home which of course means a lot more in the long run. It’s something that Pete hasn’t found yet, because he’s missing the damned forest for the trees. So natch, he tries to undermine Kenny’s other professional pursuits. Woof.

I guess it was only a matter of time before Pete got punched in the mouth at that office.

The Man with the Miniature Orchestra, by Dave Algonquin.

There were phrases of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony that still made Coe cry.
He always thought it had to do with the circumstances of the composition itself; 
He imagined Beethoven, deaf and soul-sick, his heart broken, scribbling furiously while death stood in the doorway clipping his nails.
Still, Coe thought, it might have been living in the country that was making him cry..
it was killing him with its silence and loneliness.
Making everything ordinary too beautiful to bear.