Mad Men s6e7: Man With A Plan

“My mother can go to hell, and Ted Chaough can fly her there!”

Don sure needs to be in control, huh? Jesus Christ. He’s an insidious prick to Ted, does a whole dominant thing with Sylvia, all to feel some modicum of control in the chaos of the merger. Didn’t quite think that one through, apparently. At least Roger got to fire Burt Peterson again.

One of Don’s central traits is his endless yearning for freedom while also craving control over his life. I mean, the guy reinvents himself at every available turn, what else were you expecting? He’s consistently isolated as a result. People flit in and out of his life all the time, he’s seemingly never Not surrounded by people, but because he doesn’t truly connect with anyone he’ll always be alone.

image courtesy of Tumblr

Natch, we spend our lives thinking we’re the lead in our own movie. Truth of the matter is that nobody thinks about us as much as we fucking do, but we all intrinsically understand that we’re a part of something larger. Don doesn’t really get this. And yeah yeah yeah– it’s a show, he’s the protagonist, our beloved antihero, but he elevates himself to this bizarre mountaintop where he cannot fail, he can only Be Failed. Good way to avoid responsibility, if that’s your bag.

The way Ted settles in for a margarine rap sesh with his colleagues as opposed to Don sitting alone brooding in his corner office says a lot; these guys are night and day, camaraderie and spitballing versus fear and lofty expectations. Don expects everyone in his life to be a skosh like Sylvia in that lovely hotel room; waiting with bated breath for him to appear and liven shit up. Instead of collaborating with his coworkers, Don wants to be the guy who drops that Perf  Lightbulb Idea(TM) in a moment of pure clarity and meaning, blowing everyone’s fuckin socks off with his brilliance.

image courtesy of Tumblr

As a faux olive branch, Don brings some booze to Ted’s office under the guise of yapping about margarine. What he’s really doing is drinking Ted under the table to assert some sort of dominance, and Peggy is of course grossed out by Don’s behaviour. It’s funny though; as much of a brilliant, mysterious and imposing figure Don may be at the office, Ted will forever have one on Don because he was the one who flew them to that Mohawk meeting. And that’s just suave as hell.

image courtesy of Giphy

Sylvia dreamed that Ted’s plane went down, and that she returned home, back to her life after being adrift. Don of course immediately twists it to mean that she missed him– what’s that about everyone being unbelievably fucking self-involved? As she definitively ends their ongoing affair, Don’s façade crumbles. Dude is grasping at sand.

Of course, Don is entangled in his Alpha Man(TM) horseshit and cannot grok the real meaning of what Sylvia is telling him. At this moment it’s incredibly striking how plain it is that Don is a guy without a real home; he brings his ‘change the conversation‘ work ethos home, and his personal relationships suffer as a result. So while Sylvia feels a great deal of comfort in returning home, Don feels nothing. As Megan talks about her day, his mind reverts to TV static.

As Don zones out, Peggy is busy building a life with Abe in a truly terrible apartment building. We’ve got Pete attempting to care for his mother while trying to get back into Trudy’s good graces. Bob Benson is trying to connect with Joan, who wants her son to thrive in a post-Greg world while navigating a complicated relationship with her mother; Don doesn’t seem to see the value in these sorts of human connections because the moment shit goes remotely sour dude is out the fucking door.

After all, in the very same episode where he split with Betty, he formed a new ad agency. Damn, dude.

“God, you’re a real prick, you know that??”

“Damn it Burt, you stole my goodbye!”

Mad Men s6e6: For Immediate Release

“You’re just Tarzan, swinging from vine to vine!”

Time to blow up some relationships. Peggy and Abe (by way of Ted), Don and Joan with Jaguar, Pete and Trudy/Tom with a big olllll prostitute, and SCDP with The Merger. Hey Lieutenant, want to get into some trouble??

image courtesy of Youtube

Dr. Rosen is disillusioned that he didn’t perform the first heart transplant in the USA, and Don offers the faux advice of ‘you make your own opportunities’. That’s a real lofty point of view– natch, the rich handsome guy can afford to take absurd chances and do all that shit, but when it comes to someone like Dr. Rosen or Pete Campbell, it’s not that simple. Don is indeed a guy who can swing from vine to vine, get on with it, and fail mostly upwards– but everyone else won’t be so lucky.

Like Sterling Cooper dumping Mohawk to chase American Airlines, CGC had to dump Alfa Romeo to chase Chevy. Turns out Don just happened to fire Jaguar at the right time, even though it means the secret IPO the other partners have been working on is shelved.

Brass tacks, Don is a guy who’s always looking for the fucking escape hatch in literally any situation. Musing with Ted over latenight booze in Detroit, he figures the solution to the current crisis at hand is to combine with CGC; it somewhat mitigates the Jaguar disaster and gives them both a real shot at Chevy. If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation. Shake it up.

Remember, Don only likes the beginning of things. The guy’s got a hardon for GM’s futuristic Computer-Designed car, which is certainly the Mustang killer. There’s no photos, it’s a totally new design; all of this is what he likes best, that buzzing feeling of Pure Promise, without any pesky reality to bring it back down to earth. Too bad the Vega turns out to be a big old hooptie. And natch, Don assumes he’s made the right decisions here because, of course, he’s the one who thought of them.


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When the Jaguar news hits SCDP, Joan deploys a big old Truth H-bomb and puts Don on notice. As much of a scumbag Herb is, Don hasn’t experienced nearly as .. much of him as Joan. And she ain’t wrong; if she could deal with him, anybody could. Dissolving the relationship with Jaguar so hurriedly, coupled with Don assuming it’s The Right Decision for everyone leaves Joan cold, thinking she did all that for nothing. It’s self-serving and fuckin rude as hell to boot.

As a matter of fact, nobody seems particularly chuffed to see Don in this episode, which is funny because he’s supposedly Our Hero, Our Flawed Protagonist. Pete bristles at him declining dinner together (and later yells at him while falling down the stairs), a stunned Peggy winces at the news of the merger (and then Don has her write a goddamn press release about it), and I’ve already mentioned Joan.

iconic TBH || image courtesy of Giphy

Here’s Pegs, she’s made a new life for herself– new apartment in a changing neighbourhood, working for new agency with a renewed sense of pride in her job. Her handsome-ass boss even kissed her, ooh la la. And bam, Don is back at it trying to forcibly merge all the above with her old life.

Both Peggy and Joan have had Some Bullshit heaped on them due to Don, and here he is attempting to smooth things over.. but in a way where he’s neither welcome nor asking what they want or need; vine to vine. Akin to his marriage(s), he uses the people around him to build a life that makes him feel good about himself, without really knowing or giving a shit about what in the hell these people want or need. Natch, it’s all destined to be a big old mess out of the gate.

image courtesy of AMC

Holy fucking shit, how about Pete Campbell running into his father in law at that whorehouse?  What Pete continually fails to account for is that he’s not Don Draper. He’s married to Trudy, a lady who is generally indifferent to how her disinterest in him has only made him long for her more. He doesn’t have that Draper Charm(TM) nor the charisma.

Pete can’t reinvent himself at every turn; though he doesn’t show it too much, slights and little jabs affect him too much. Back on that LA business trip, Don wanders off to Palm Springs with the Hot Idiots while Pete stayed at the hotel working his ass off. Pete’s a guy who tries incredibly hard to win your favour, while Don naurally assumes you’ll hand it over without batting an eye.

Assuming mutually assured destruction, Pete goes to Kenny for advice on the father in law spotted with a prostitute question. It blows up in his face; Tom has a shitfit and pulls Vick chemical’s business. And when Pete goes to tell Trudy about all of this as some bizarre trump card, he tells her that her father has left him no choice.

But, as Trudy astutely points out, Pete has always had a choice. He just keeps fucking it up and making bad choices. Pete’s overt audacity lacks the critical pairing of Don’s Teflon façade with an otherworldly ability to bounce back from sobering defeats with a plan that sounds juuuust crazy enough to work.. followed up with never bothering to ask anybody if it’s what they might want. Works for Don, but not for everyone else.

“What was your fake name again? Curious George?? You’re a riot.”

Mad Men s6e1&2: The Doorway

“How do you get to heaven? Something terrible has to happen.”

Hi there, and welcome back! Mad hiatus up in here, but now we’re back in the room. It’s late December 1967, about 8 months since s5 left off; in those passing months, there’s a whole pile of facial hair and substantially less Brylcreem at SCDP. There’s also a 2nd floor! Hey-o.

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Don looks a little out of place as we enter the late 60s– that shot of him walking into the creative lounge surrounded by hair is a jolt, and lends some context to PFC Dinkins assuming Don is an astronaut. Even the ideas for ads are shifting; a concept like ~wholesome marital love~ as it relates to Dow oven cleaner seems positively Paleolithic as we edge closer to 1968. And I guess Leland Palmer let em in on a part of Dow after all!

Though it may be Christmastime, nearly every scene is tinged with the macabre; and as always, death is trailing just a few steps behind Don. We’ve got The Real(tm) Don Draper, Anna, his drunk father Archie, the Korean War, and now Vietnam saturating everything within reach. The doorman in Don and Megan’s building nearly dies.. thankfully resuscitated by Arnie. Nevertheless, Don is obsessed with what he ‘saw’ while he was faux dead, drunk and hot off the heels of a funeral.

And there’s the plain as day suicidal ideation of the Sheraton pitch.

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I dig that The Doorway parallels the pilot a touch. You think Don is growing to be at ease and well adjusted in his married life, even making what seems like a legit-ass friend (!) in the Good Doctor Arnie in his building.. and then there’s the reveal at the end, where he’s banging the guy’s wife, Sylvia. Oy.

The hat trick of making it appear as if Don is content and then dropping the concluding truth bomb is skilfully done. We’ve got the inverse of the pilot here, which reveals his picturesque family at his suburban home at the end; turns out all of that sprawling perfection is humming in the background of his city life/bonking Midge. And here, we’ve got this affair that lurks in the backdrop of his day to day.

image courtesy of Skift

In spite of being in Hawaiian paradise with Megan, Don appears to be in his own personal hell. Megan’s being recognised and signing autographs, and aside from the opening voiceover (reading Dante’s Inferno, fittingly), we don’t hear Don utter a damn word until meeting the drunk and unassuming PFC Dinkins in the hotel bar. They have a frank conversation, where Don listens more than he reveals; Dinkins references Army weapons with a splash of excited violence, eventually convincing Don to walk his bride-to-be down the aisle.

The Hawaiian Sheraton ad is unique in that it makes luminous sense to Don, but would obvi signify suicide and death to anyone else who doesn’t happen to inhabit his head. Dick Whitman shed his skin to become Don Draper, but to the scant people who knew him, Dick Whitman died. The ad evokes all kinds of imagery, but ultimately, can you truly change without dying? Roger seems to think you can’t, but Peggy and Betty suggest you can, slowly but surely.

image courtesy of Reddit

The funeral for Roger’s mother is a goddamned mess. Some overeager/hysterical rando named Bob Benson sent over a shitton of delicatessen, and some Great Aunt rolls in and gives an absurd fuckin speech which moves Don to vom. Roger tries to connect with his daughter after telling everyone to get to steppin’, but he’s discouraged and hurt that there’s nothing deeper there than surface cash-grabby hands for her husband’s flop endeavour, water from the River Jordan left behind.

Roger’s mother was a woman who made a Real Big Fucking Deal out of him, and yet he felt profoundly disconnected from her; but when the news of his shoeshine’s passing hits, he weeps in his office. Seems like Roger and Don are drifting through their days in a world they no longer recognise, unable to shake the belief that it all amounts to a big pile of nothing– just more doors, as Roger wryly tells his therapist.

On New Year’s Eve, we’ve got Don once again watching scenes from his life on a Kodak Carousel, feeling like an observer, detached. Still startled when a photographer tells him to be himself, and he hasn’t got the faintest idea of what in the fuck that means.

image courtesy of Pinterest

And it turns out no matter how many doorways you walk through, there’s still shit you can’t change about yourself; like knocking on the back door of Sylvia’s pad to get it in. Wherever you go, there you are.

“People will do anything to alleviate their anxiety.”

Thoughts on Mad Men s7e6, “The Strategy”


Bob Benson and his shorts need a beard! image courtesy of Vanity Fair

Well, the penultimate episode of this faux-“season” did not disappoint. When I reread my notes for this episode, I found that I scribbled down a disproportionate amount of quotes from the characters alongside my thoughts. This episode has loads of strong character moments, and truth be told, if this happened to be the end of the series I would not have been let down. I was reminded of the greatness that is the s4 episode “The Suitcase”, arguably one of my favourite episodes of the series. “The Strategy” is rife with Hemingway references, Don/Peggy bonding, tantrum Pete cramming bottles into cakes, Bob Benson’s gloriously awkward beard proposal to Joan, Megan’s fondue pot, and above all, the idea of family.


Vin Diesel won’t stop yapping about FAMILY in these movies. image courtesy of The Grio

As an aside, I adore The Fast and the Furious franchise in all of its magnificent, totally entertaining absurdity. As last night’s Mad Men emphasised the unconventional family you choose in life, I couldn’t stop thinking about Vin Diesel’s incessant parroting of the word “family” in those movies. Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming..

Let’s start with the triumphant return of Bob Benson. I love this handsome weirdo, I can’t lie. He flies in from Detroit with some Chevy execs, and they’re apparently still just as out of control as when they shot Kenny’s eye out. Roused by a phone call in the middle of the night, Bob has to go bail out one of his Chevy colleagues. It turns out Bill is a closeted homosexual and gets his ass arrested for an attempted beej on an officer (REALLY), and Bob picks him up. The cab ride proves to be fruitful, as he lets Bob know that GM wants to take Chevy’s advertising team in-house for their doomed shitbox Vega. However, Buick would be approaching Bob with an offer soon.. so there’s that. Splendid. Bill also indicates that his wife is cool with him totes banging dudes on the side, and strongly insinuates that GM prefers the quintessential family man with a wife at home, the kids, that fence, etc. Does this archetype even exist anymore in 1969? More on that later..

This gives Bob an idea. He should ask his BFF Joan to marry him! Of course! He’s beloved by her and her rude mother, he can act as a father figure to Kevin, they could buy a mansion in Detroit, what could go wrong? Bob’s a fun guy with a lot to offer, but Joanie knows she deserves more.

Now. Bob’s engagement ring box is nowhere near as creepy as Ginzo’s nipple gift, but this scene is almost as awkward. Bob proposes (I was screaming), and confused, Queen Joan turns him down. She’s put in a super weird position, but handles it with grace and eloquence as only Joan can. She knows he’s obvi A Gay (which is extremely difficult in the 60s), and wants him to seek happiness and love with his preferred sex, and not just to have a beard and call it a day. How is that living? I mean, we all know that Bob Benson is Don Draper Lite, but Joan doesn’t know that. Her words seem to strike a chord with Bob, because she really cares about him, and a sham marriage wouldn’t do anything positive for either of them.

Joan and Bob have a nice friendship, and she lets him down really easily. Joan knows exactly what she wants, and she won’t be swayed from her own path in life. She’s done enough for the agency in landing Jaguar, and money as a lure is no longer appealing to her at this point. She’s accepting of Bob’s sexuality, and encourages him to seek love instead of an arranged easy way out. Their scene is strangely sweet in a way. He lets her know about Chevy jumping ship, and her concern immediately shifts to her career and future.

Plus, who in the fresh hell wants to live in Detroit?

Megan is in town from LA, as is Pete with Bonnie in tow. It’s funny seeing how being in New York affects them individually. Pete reverts to being a smarmy prat, but who can blame him? He sees his daughter once a year, and she doesn’t know who he is. Trudy is avoiding him, and Pete picks a rude fight once she gets home from a date, and eagerly jams his beer bottle into her shitty cake. It’s no roast chicken being launched out of an apartment window á la s2e12’s brilliant “The Mountain King”, but I’ll take it. It’s almost like being back east affected Pete in a way that he could not have imagined in the least.

During their secret shady conference call with Ted, Pete and Lou say that while they love Peggy’s pitch for Burger Chef, they insist that Don deliver it and instead, with Peggy playing the “mother” role. Hey, glass ceiling! Rude that they’d undermine her like that and go full-on traditional, saying that she’s the emotion and Don’s the authority, when it’s actually the other way around; Peggy rightfully corrects those motherfuckers. Plus, Pete telling Pegs to play the mother is SUPER awkward. Hey Pete, remember your gross lovechild?

Pete’s former life on the east coast is a goddamn mess and it’s getting to him. Something about that city seeps into Pete’s headspace like toxic goo, and he becomes neurotic, defensive, and condescending. Bonnie isn’t safe from it either. Pete’s been hinting here and there that she should play the more traditional role with him, but she gives precisely zero fucks about that housewife life. She’s sharp as a tack and sees right through his shit – “Don’t try to fuck your way out of this”. DAMN, girl. Shots fired. She then splits for LA early; Bonnie ain’t got time for that shit, she’s got houses to sell.

Pete is bound by the gravity of his name in that city, and in LA he’s simply free of it. He can be his own man. LA is the first thing he’s had of his own; he’s building something for himself rather than standing on the shoulders of his parents, throwing his name around, or being forced to rely on Trudy’s family. Pete may be struggling, but he’s finding himself and making his own way. As an east coast transplant in LA myself? I get you, Pete.

The way Pete acts reminds me of a nostalgic feeling I can’t quite place. It’s that feeling you get when you go home at Christmastime, and you’re living in your childhood home for the week or however long you’re there. You’re sleeping in your old room, sometimes your posters and knickknacks are still around, and things are just sort of.. off. At any age, you’re transported back to that fucked out headspace of being a kid/teenager, and you find yourself sometimes doing strange things like you did when you were a kid. Pete is for sure experiencing a lot of this in his former home in Cos Cob, and in his old stomping grounds of Manhattan. Being back east activated his asshole switch just a little bit.

Megan is more of the same, though far less brash than Pete. It’s clear that she’s not comfortable in Don’s part of the country and is working hard to get every last piece of herself moved out to the west coast, fondue pot and all. As Megan is tearing the apartment apart in search of her things, Don finds a newspaper from the day JFK is assassinated in 1963, and pauses for a beat. After all, this is the day that Betty decided to leave him and end their marriage.

Megan plays the good wife and sets up a lovely breakfast on the patio for Don, but it’s almost an illusion, an act. Her big/awesome LA hair is gone – she’s been wearing falls to add length. Instead, she sports her natural elongated bob in New York. The funniest part of this is that she’s so eternally thirsty for Don’s gaze, yet she misses all of the very clear signals that he wants her to move back to New York. He wants her there, and it’s plain to see that she has no interest in moving back east; this is a massive thing that he’s overlooking, as well. They seem to barely communicate – when Megan showed up to surprise him at work, one of the secretaries didn’t even know that Don was married. Awk.

Next week is the midseason finale; the hysterically vague episode description says “Don is troubled by a letter”. That better be divorce papers, girl. Just end it already, that marriage is disintegrating rapidly. Ironically, the likely reason Don won’t move to LA is that he truly wants to dig his heels in and repair his life and relationships in New York from the ground up. Too bad he’s neglecting his marriage as a result.

Let’s get to the real meat of this episode, the Don/Peggy stuff. These two have a rich history and are forever tied together in their creativity, their struggle, and ultimately their misery. They have more in common with each other than they think and I am so, so happy with this episode. I love when Don and Peggy fucking get along like normal-ass people. Though Peggy is at first antagonistic towards Don for thinking of another Burger Chef pitch on the fly and thus starting the chain reaction of her rethinking it, he manages to diffuse her anger with.. kindness and understanding. That’s certainly new. They spend Sunday in the office together, working on Burger Chef and bonding, just like in “The Suitcase”. This episode doesn’t have drunk Duck Phillips barging in trying to take a dump on Roger’s bizarre modern white furniture, though.

Peggy’s original Burger Chef idea is, for lack of a better word, dated. It focuses on that wholesome nuclear family with the mom feeling guilty about feeding her family maaaaad burgers, and how to create an ad that will give her permission to hit up fast food for dinner on the reg and annihilate that guilt (Ameri-caaaaaa). Lou, ever the dinosaur, loves the archaic idea of the mom asking the dad for permission (since that’s what people do) and making Burger Chef an a-OK choice for dinner. Ugh.

Watching Don and Peggy figure this out is magical. I liked the visual switch of roles too – Peggy is in Don’s old office, with his old desk placed in the spot that he hated from that photo shoot in s6. She sits at that desk, while Don sits across from her. Peggy is expecting anything other than kindness and honesty from Don when she asks how he does it – what’s his creative process? How does his brain work? What does he have to worry about? His answers are striking and stark; “That I never did anything, and that I don’t have anyone.” Heartbreaking and so completely relatable. Don being that honest and open with her is a huge step forward.

They talk about how the traditional family is dead; everyone watches TV at dinner now, nobody sits down to a nice meal and has conversations anymore. How can they make this work in 1969? Peggy breaks down because she is simply exhausted. She’s done the work, gone above and beyond, but none of it feels right. She doesn’t know what she’s doing wrong, and then it clicks – change the conversation. What’s a place you can go where there’s no TV? Those people with whom you share a meal, with whom you break bread? Whoever you’re sitting with is family. Every table at Burger Chef is the Family Table.

The traditional 1950s Leave it to Beaver-type family unit is rapidly eroding. SC&P has to switch gears to advertise to this new normal, they have to evolve to keep up with the times. Just look at the characters here – Joan is a divorcée single mother with her own mother living in her apartment and has just been proposed to by her gay friend. Don and Megan are clear across the country from one another. Pete is still married on paper, but has essentially been ejected from his family by Trudy. Peggy is single, just turned 30 (“Shit.. when??”), living alone in her apartment in an up and coming neighbourhood. She’s estranged from her family because of her modern ambition and intelligence, and her mother and sister don’t understand her in the least. The people they’re trying to reach with the original Burger Chef pitch simply don’t exist anymore.

This episode is remarkable. While dancing with Peggy to “My Way” (of course), Don finally realises that he gets to choose his own family. He’d never really been alone if he’d bother to not be a complete narcissistic dick all the time. That scene with them dancing is one of the sweetest scenes in this show’s history; these are two people who truly care for one another, who are connected. Don is genuinely encouraging of Peggy’s talents and plays the supportive role to her very well, in an honest attempt to repair his relationship with her and move forward. He realises that she isn’t his competition, and instead wants to be her friend and colleague. He wants to collaborate and create shit with Peggy already. Move forward. Evolve.

This episode closes with an actually perfect scene – Don, Pete and Peggy all sharing dinner together at Burger Chef. These characters are all orphaned in their own ways, and now they are their own family. Pete tries his damndest to get Don back where he belongs at SC&P, a younger brother sticking up for his big brother. Peggy is at her wit’s end and Don helps her, coaxes brilliance, and talks to her frankly like a father figure. It’s a quick little scene but it’s immensely satisfying to see them enjoying one another’s company. So much Norman Rockwell and Edward Hopper realness.


A Clean, Well-lighted Place. image courtesy of imgur

Hemingway’s short story “A Clean Well-lighted Place” is about a deaf old man who enjoys staying in a café all the live long day and night for the companionship. It’s a pleasant environment where he can have the coveted illusion of togetherness, so he doesn’t have to face that despair – the ever-present “nada” of life. There is a waiter who understands this man, who gets that many people are affected by that very same problem, countering the other waiter who’s super dismissive and blasé, and wants to go to bed already. The protagonist is presumed to not have anyone in his life, so he makes his own family to a loose extent, just like our characters here. Peggy, Pete and Don have seen and gone through some dark shit, so it’s natural that they seek out friendship and solidarity in one another now.


One last bit – Meredith clearly gets her “winking eye alcohol suggestion” blatant wink faux talent from Lucille Bluth. Obvi.

images courtesy of Tumblr

OH! I almost forgot. Man, Cutler really has a humongous boner for Harry Crane and that damn computer. In light of the Chevy news, he seems pretty focused on making Harry a partner, an idea which both Joan and Roger reject (Don has his back for obvious reasons). Bringing in some massive computer does not a partner make, but Harry’s always been ahead of the curve when it comes to media. He’s intelligent and knows what he’s doing and has proven himself for at least a junior partnership. I guess he deserves it, but I bet he’ll be a smug dick about it all the way to the market.

And finally.. Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” dropped on June 14th, 1969. That means we’d better see the fucking moon landing next week, Weiner. I also want to see Ginsberg! Glad he was at least mentioned this week, but I definitely miss his crazed self on my screen.. not to mention Queen Betty and Sally. I’d even settle for freaky-ass Glen, I hope he didn’t get drafted; though that peculiar guy might feel right at home in Vietnam.

I will be out of the country when the midseason finale airs, so next week’s thoughts will be delayed until I can watch it! If any of you motherfuckers spoil it for me, I will lose my damn mind. Til next time!