The Leftovers: a Nihilistic, Tighter Lost

What are the lies we tell ourselves every day? The lies that help us heal, move on, to feel okay? There’s a fuckton of those in the above shows.

Spoilers ahoy, kiddos. Time to yap for a bit.

image courtesy of The Verge

Alright.. I have an undying love for the show Lost. Is it a perfect series? Hell no, but it’s a show that crafted real characters, emotional drama, iconic moments, and a whole new world to explore. It’s aged really well, in my opinion. The Others! The Dharma Initiative! WE HAVE TO GO BACK! The numbers! What the fuck is in that hatch? THE CONSTANT. Time skipping to the 70s! Oof. I can go on and on.

The finale is polarising (and Across the Sea remains forever fucking awful), but I am firmly in the camp that loved the damn thing through and through. Such a satisfying emotional conclusion to these characters’ stories, and The Leftovers came to the same type of incredibly gratifying conclusion.

This show runs a touch contrary to Lost, depending upon whom you ask; the fascinating bits aren’t really the mystery itself, but rather how the characters live with said mystery, though Lost got there eventually. What’s the fun in laying everything out boilerplate, anyway?

The Leftovers has the typical Lindelof thematic strings; existential loneliness and finding purpose, daddy/mommy issues, daily lying to oneself, very handsome men crying, moving on and letting go, faith versus science, damaged people just trying to make it work. The tone is overall darker, and I feel like that’s a given. How would a world that suddenly and inexplicably lost 2% of the population evolve? Shit would be weird. As the episodes progress and it gets farther away from Perrotta’s source material, it becomes exceptionally more bizarre as it bursts and blooms into this wholly mesmerising viewing experience.

image courtesy of Giphy

As an HBO bonus, there’s titties and asses galore (and a commando jogging Justin Theroux in sweatpants). It’s a win-win at 28 hourish-long episodes. Lost had some definite wheel spinning going on in Season 3 (Jack’s fucking tattoos) and the first half of Season 6 (Christ, that trash temple, what the fuck). The shorter season structure on HBO allows a more efficient viewing experience, and more effective storytelling.

Simply put, both Lost and The Leftovers are about broken people trying to get on with it. Jack Shephard can’t let a single goddamned thing go, but he eventually gets his shit together and moves on (which is probably the most succinct summary you’ll ever find of that show). He saves the world and sacrifices himself in the process.

And unlike Jack, Kevin Garvey isn’t destined to save the world — only himself.

Does Kevin have something fundamentally broken inside him? Sure, none of his family departed, but it seems the Sudden Departure itself cracked him wide open. The metaphor manifests in the penultimate episode of the series, where Kevin literally faces his issues head on– his twin brother. He happens to have the nuclear football key planted inside of him, and Prez Kev has to kill International Assassin Kev in the process of getting to the damn thing.

Apparently, it’s the Fischer Protocol; an ethical deterrent for the President so he doesn’t blow up the goddamned world, since the prez has to kill the person who has the key in order to get it out. All orchestrated by Secretary of Defense Patti Levin, no less.

Let’s backtrack for a hot second. Patti, the monkey on his back, follows him around for much of Season 2 and in order to rid himself of her and move forward from that guilt, he has to kill her in this hotel world. First, she’s masquerading as a senator; he kills her, but apparently she’s got a double. Second, she’s a little girl– Patti at her most innocent, purest. Watching Kevin push her into a well is tough, heartbreaking. The third incarnation of Patti is her Guilty Remnant self, the one Kevin knew. He approaches each of these with empathy, but carries out his grisly task every time.

Oof. Typing that out sounds absolutely fucking ridiculous. But man, there’s a few episodes of The Leftovers that absolutely should not work on paper, but are pure magic onscreen. There’s a tinge of supernatural with Kevin’s ability to die, visit the other side, and return relatively unharmed. Season 2’s International Assassin and a tidbit of the s2 finale have him working through his issues in the ‘hotel world’, which is pretty much an in-between place; an afterlife. These episodes are the show at its strangest, emotional best.

The themes that spoke to me the most were about how we all cope in the face of loss and the glaring black hole of the unknown. What does it truly mean to be okay? Can we ever actually be okay again after a great loss, or is there just a new normal? Or is life just an emotional roller-coaster, where we vacillate between happiness and self-destruction to push it all away?

Take a gander at Kevin’s journey across the seasons. He’s a broken and generally dissatisfied guy, who is offered love, family, and peace at the end of both seasons 1 and 2, yet he invariably goes on to blow his happiness straight to hell. Then there’s Nora, for whom the idea of moving on and being okay after her family’s departure is an enormous source of guilt and conflict. Despite her departed husband being a shitbird, all she wants to do is wallow in those feelings, pushing Kevin away in the process.

image courtesy of HBO

On a grander scale, these themes manifest in the small-town apocalypses of seasons 1 and 2; how the societal sweater of Mapleton and Jarden progressively unraveled via the wildly conflicting coping mechanisms of their denizens.

Not unlike Jack and ~The Island~, Kevin craves returning to the ‘other side’ to feel powerful and alive, since he can’t seem to grasp that in his real life no matter how hard he tries. The whole series he struggles with just wanting to go home, to be with his family.. and once he gets there, it’s never enough. Kevin yearns for more, lying to himself along the way that what he already has is the key though he knows that ain’t true. Guess it took losing Nora and that great love for a decade and a half for him to get it together and see what was in front of him all along. He blew up his afterlife in the process and eliminated that escape.

image courtesy of Reddit

But hey.. did Nora go to that trash dimension and fuck off for ~15 years? Or did she make it all up as an elaborate method of moving forward and forgiving herself?? I’m still on the fence as to whether it’s an intricate lie she concocted to move on with her life, but goddamn. And either way Kevin would’ve believed her.

What a ride. It’s a beautifully written and executed show, real damn good, Perfect Strangers included. I’ll definitely be revisiting this one.

Mad Men s4e8: The Summer Man

“People tell you who they are, but we ignore it.. because we want them to be who we want them to be.”

Many moons ago when I was watching Mad Men as it aired, I realistically didn’t think anything could top The Suitcase. And then this fucking episode dropped. Holy noir, holy depression, holy introspection. Fuckin-a.

In the wake of Anna’s death and being a human H-bomb for entirely too long, Don is attempting to get his shit together. You know that Adam Carolla bit about how there’s always That Guy at the office who’s never felt more alive because he swims laps at 5am and makes us all look like assholes? Don’s trying that on for a bit, despite almost keeling over in the pool.

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image courtesy of Slant Magazine

He’s taken up journaling, in an effort to understand what the hell is going on inside his head. This is an episode where we get a rare peek into his internal monologue, through a series of film noir voiceovers.

“When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere, just ask him. If you listen, he’ll tell you how he got there. How he forgot where he was going, and that he woke up. If you listen, he’ll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel, dreamt of being perfect. And then he’ll smile with wisdom, content that he realised the world isn’t perfect.”

Don’s got a lotta feelings, writing his thoughts in an attempt to “gain a modicum of control” over how he feels, to come to terms with it all. The divorce affected him more than he’s willing to admit, having that Perfect(TM) world he created shatter all around him due to his deception. Anna’s illness and death didn’t help his mindset either, and not having a consistent baseline of a Home to return to leaves him in freefall. Dude’s gotta learn to love himself. You can get lost along the way, but the greatest relationship you’ll ever have is that one you share with your own damn self.

Peppered throughout is the notion of people who appear to have everything but actually have nothing. Tale as old as tiiiiiiime. We see Joan as this omniscient powerful lady in charge of it all at SCDP, but at the end of the day she gets cruelly ridiculed by disrespectful freelancer Joey and goes home to vile Greg who’s about to be shipped out to Vietnam.

In another display of how differently Peggy and Joan think and react, Peggy curtly fires Joey over the mess he made. Her approach was direct and that of a man (with Don’s advice “You want some respect? Go out and get it for yourself.”) whereas Joan sticks with the dated notion of “catch more flies with honey” and office politicking, thinking a dinner with a client would have sealed the deal instead. She’s learned to wield power through flattery and persuasion (on top of being gorgeous), but where has that really gotten her?

Joan is married to a gormless asshole who’s about to be blasted off to a humid hellhole. Her office is mostly used as a thoroughfare, and she feels that disrespect radiating towards her in the day to day on top of being at home, with Greg creepily trying to talk her into having a bang despite not being in the mood.

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image courtesy of Amy’s Robot

Peggy’s approach sends a clear message, and viewing it through 2017 eyes, makes the most sense to me. Sadly Joan feels undermined by this approach, but times are changing. She’s a sharp woman, she’ll figure it out.

Most obviously, Betty sees Don as the guy with everything when we know (along with Francine) how completely lost and fucked out he’s been since the divorce.  When she and Henry see him in the city on a date with Bethany, Betty invents this entire narrative in her mind that he’s out living some crazy awesome life when the reality is anything but; dude is eating Dinty Moore from a damn can. We’ve all been there, running into an ex and feeling entirely raw in spite of the actual reality before us.

Arguing with Henry about it grounds her a little bit, and he’s right to be pissed off; she can’t let something as simple as seeing the guy out somewhere obliterate an entire evening. Time to grow up, Betty; look at your life now, appreciate what in the hell you’ve got. Get on with it.

In the nuclear winter of it all, Don gradually begins to get back on the horse. “I want to wake up. I don’t want to be that man” — he knows he needs to change. The guy even has a pair of vaguely successful dates with the aforementioned one-dimensional Bethany and more on point Faye. He feels less drawn to Bethany because he knows her type; been there, done that. Faye is a little more on the level.

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image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Don is making an effort to booze it less in the office, in an attempt to reconcile the effects of the mess around him. He knows he can’t go to his son’s birthday party that weekend, for he is not welcome at that house. I love that Don’s voiceover highlights the parallel between he and baby Gene; “Conceived in a moment of desperation, and born into a mess”.

And yet, the only time he seems truly happy (including Bethany’s tryhard taxi blowjob) is when he’s holding Gene in his arms at the birthday party. Betty even happily brings him to Don without the typical dramatics; it’s a nice moment, rare for this season thus far.

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image courtesy of MadMenWiki

I always read the ending as Betty ended up ringing Don and inviting him to the party as a gesture to Henry that she’s indeed moved on. She’s trying to, at least. Francine’s comments about Don having nothing to lose, i.e. Betty has “won”, sort of neutralises him a touch in her eyes. Even though he’s not really the Only Man she’s ever been with, but whatevs.

Does Don miss that life? Who the hell knows.. it was mostly smoke and mirrors to him anyway, it left him with the thoughts of “is that all there is?” eating away at him every night and with every rando he banged, just as it echoes in his life now albeit louder. Either way he’s lost that part of his identity and is trying to be at peace with himself, bit by bit. This is a decent start.

“We’re flawed, because we want so much more. We’re ruined, because we get these things, and wish for what we had.”

 

Mad Men s4e7: The Suitcase

“My uncle Mac said he had a suitcase that was always packed. He said, ‘A man has to be ready to go at any moment’..

“..Jesus, maybe it was a metaphor.”

Where do I even begin with The Suitcase? What can I say? It’s probably my favourite episode of the entire series, one of the best for sure. I’ve got a lotta feelings here.

In life, who truly knows us? Sure, you can be close with people, but you’re never inside their head. What happens when the last vestige of who you really are through a human connection fades away? The hell do you do next?

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image courtesy of Tumblr

Peggy and Don both terrified of the phone and what news is on the other end. Stephanie rings and leaves word from California, and Don knows it’s not good news. Picking up the phone, he hesitates.. and picks up a bottle instead. Here we go.

It’s Peggy’s birthday, and drunkass Duck is on the line, begging her to meet up and throw him a bone via manipulation.

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I SEE YOU.

Megan and Peggy have a fun interaction in the ladies’ room; the forward thinking Megan compliments her for being 26, lets her know that she’s doing a-OK in life. Whereas Trudy emphasises that “26 is still very young”, reminding her that she’s unmarried and without some baby. Woof. As Trudy goes off with Pete to enjoy her evening, Peggy goes back to Don’s office to wrap up. Or maybe not.

Bland boyf Mark is surprising Peggy with dinner at a fancy Italian place.. and has invited her mother, sister/brother in law, and roomate along for the ride. Equal parts awkward and infuriating, Peggy finds out as she delays the dinner repeatedly to help out with Samsonite. When he reveals he’s there with all those people she can’t really stand, Peggy is enraged. 

Has this guy learned a good goddamned thing about her during their time together? Not bloody likely, but it’s also unclear what she’s offered; after all, she was doing a virgin impression for him at first. They break up over the phone.

I feel like I understand the aspect of Peggy that is a little tonedeaf to other people’s feelings, because I can certainly be like that in life. Pegs is whip-smart and can be very kind and empathetic, but she can also be oblivious, especially when it comes to other people’s subtle reactions. It’s clear that she wants marriage and a family in the abstract, as these things she Should Want(TM), but the actual realities of being in a long-term relationship are too much for her. She feels more drawn to her career and the office than she does to Mark, and let’s be real, Mark sorta blows anyway.

Peggy knows Don at least as well as Anna, and I think just a shade better. The details of how Dick became Don don’t matter as much as who Don is now due to all those deets. She’s seen him at his best and at his worst. I don’t think Anna ever really did, since California was Don’s New York palate cleanser. On the west coast, he was neither Dick nor Don, but sort of a hybrid; the person he might have been if not for the intense self-loathing and running. And I’d say it’s a lot harder to know and love Don in New York than that vaguely breezy California guy. But Peggy does.

And we’re right back to The Hobo Code, with Uncle Mac’s escapist advice ringing true to Don. But come on.. you can’t run forever, as much as you may try. Your problems will follow you everywhere if you don’t face that shit head on and fucking deal with it. It’ll hit you all at once.

Both Don and Peggy have painful memories that bubble up in mental reruns, things they’d rather forget, just like the rest of us. It’s revealed that Peggy witnessed her father’s violent death, just as Don did. Two people who know each other exceedingly well can articulate entire paragraphs by saying very few words. They sort of dance around what they’re trying to say, but the other person understands it intrinsically.

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image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Peggy lets him know that her mother thinks he’s the one who knocked her up in Season 1, since he was the only person who visited her in the hospital. People make fun of her at work, assuming she got the damn job by banging Don. Humiliating and sad, but Peggy persists. The evolution of Peggy and her creative career is absolutely fascinating. And it’s worth noting that Don is interesting because of his past, but Peggy is interesting because of her future.

Meanwhile, Drunk Duck pops to SCDP to take a shit in Roger Sterling’s office, mistaking it for Don’s like a truly gross maniac. In one of the best drunk sad sack man fights ever (spurred by Duck referring to Peggy as a whore), Don badly throws a punch and Duck then throws him to the ground, boasting about killing a bunch of people in Okinawa. Jesus Christ dude, simmer down.. why you gotta make it weird?

Apologising for Duck’s behaviour and about how long ago all that gross sex was, Don doesn’t judge. He gets it.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

Waiting to ring Stephanie and get confirmation of what he knows must’ve gone down is killing him. Anna is such a special person to him, and Peggy can see he’s clearly in pain. The thing is, Anna needed Don/Dick at that point in her life. Her husband was dead, and she was alone.. and then she tracks down Don and he’s just as alone and in need of a connection. It would take a far more cynical person than Anna to turn him in once she heard him out all those years ago.

I think what’s so great about Don and Anna’s friendship is that it’s a mutual relationship where each is able to get something from the other and give something in return. A sense of comfort, no judgement, ease. Being faced with the reality of these things disappearing in her death is haunting Don.

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image courtesy of MadMenWiki

With Peggy asleep beside him on the couch, a vision of Anna appears to Don. She’s holding a suitcase and smiling, radiant, as she walks off. Don finally rings Stephanie around 5.30a, confirming the worst; Anna passed away in the night. Putting the phone down and making level eye contact with Peggy, he wholly falls apart, sobbing.

“What happened?”

“Somebody very important to me died.”

“Who?”

“The only person in the world who really knew me.”

“That’s not true.”

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image courtesy of Fanpop

As the morning stretches on, SCDP is back to the usual bustle. As he shows her an idea for Samsonite, Don holds Peggy’s hand for a beat, subtly acknowledging their night. The gesture alone speaks volumes as they both take a moment.

“I know what I’m supposed to want, but it just never feels right.. or as important as anything in that office.”

Mad Men s4e4: The Rejected

“You can’t tell how people are going to behave by how they have behaved.”

ATTENTION! I have an urgent and horrifying news story: Don continues to be entirely obtuse. More on that at 11.

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Lucky Strike call realness. || image courtesy of Imgur

During a particularly prickly conference call with Lee Garner Jr, Don receives a letter with a photo from Anna and relaxes for a hot second. Note how Don now has photos on his desk, a callback to Conrad Hilton’s criticism from Season 3.

This episode focuses a lot on Peggy and Pete, and how wildly their paths have diverged. These days, Peggy is largely confident and happy with who she is; she gave up Pete’s baby and that life she’s ‘supposed’ to want to pursue something she actually wants — a life of her very own. She’s an influential part of SCDP, works hard and has a lot to show for it. She’s in a place where her confidence and earnestness are revered, and finds fulfillment in her career. Sure, her new friend Joyce seems “pretentious” according to SCDP receptionist Megan, but Peggy dreamily responds with admiration to that remark.

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image courtesy of TomandLorenzo

That Kool-Aid is powerful, though. Even with all of this good shit, she still tries on Faye’s engagement ring while the focus group is in full swing (to Don’s amusement). And when she hears Trudy and Pete are gonna blow out a baby, it understandably throws her for a bit of a loop. Her mixed feelings aren’t regret or ~feelings~ per se, but rather just a lot of emotion that came back to the surface after being dormant for so long. It’s complicated. Et cetera. It’s like when an old ex gets engaged, and you pause for a beat. You don’t give a damn about that guy, but it’s still dissonant for a second.

Trudy’s pregnancy takes Pete entirely by surprise, especially since he got the news dropped on him by the father in law when he was supposed to be firing Clearasil. Pete had no interest in adoption, and wasn’t sure he wanted a kid in general –- probably due in part to his own dysfunctional WASPy upbringing, and a tinge of the betrayal he felt from Peggy’s confession in Meditations in an Emergency –- but when he learns that he’s knocked up Trudy, he realises that, like the wife he truly needs and learned to love, it is indeed something he yearns for in his life.

Pete and Pegs may work in the same place, but they are in two distinctly different worlds. That shot of them catching each other’s gaze from different worlds through the glass SCDP doors is weighty; she’s heading out with her fun, colourful bohemian friends, he’s with the old money crowd in suits. Gotta live your truth.

In the focus group for Pond’s, there’s a fucking enormous meltdown of entirely too many lady feelings. Faye tries valiantly to get the girls to yap about the ritual and treating yourself to prove that Peggy’s pitch is the right way to go, but it all goes right back to Freddy’s hysterically dated marriage-centric idea. The only one who responds to Peggy’s idea is Megan, who shares a story about her mother’s AM routine.

And when Allison eventually cracks, Don squirms in his seat.

Good god, that man is fucking obtuse. Finally admitting they had a bang after Allison backed him into a corner, she states that she’s going to resign her position, requesting a letter of recommendation. And being the world class shithead that he is, Don tells her to write one herself on his letterhead and he’ll sign it; now, this ain’t an uncommon practice, but GOOD LORD, Draper, can’t you see that she’s desperately trying to get you to recognise her value in some capacity? Allison responds by hurling an object across the room at him in anger.

“I don’t say this easily.. but you are not a good person.”

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image courtesy of Celebuzz

This explosion of emotion and noise is another symptom of a Don who ain’t very good at being Don Draper right now; he’s full on human mess edition, sitting alone at the office until the soothing hum of the floor waxer lulls him home. When he gets to his apartment, he begins typing a letter to Allison, apologising and saying “my life is very”.. stopping dead. Very what? A raging tire fire? Mortifying? A dumpster apocalypse? Oof.

Whatever his life may be at this moment in time, and the important people in it, is very much not something he had planned to be living when we see him in the pilot.

Ah, Miss Blankenship! A bright spot in this episode. As always, Joan reads between the lines and understand exactly what Don needs and gives him an hysterical older lady secretary to replace Allison. 

The research has come in, and sure enough.. Pond’s should be linked to matrimony. Sigh. Don brings up a good point arguing for Peggy’s vision for the Pond’s campaign over Freddie’s. Maybe this is a campaign so new and bold that people don’t yet have a context for it; there are women who feel this way and they’re simply not being reached.

(But hey, look at Megan from that focus group! She not only kept her shit together the whole time, she also related to the idea, showing that Peggy’s pitch and Don defense of it are on to something.)

“Why are you being so hostile? You think I’ve never had this argument before?”

“Because you go in there and you stick your finger in people’s brains and they just start talking just to be heard. And you know what? Not only does it have nothing to do with what I do, but it’s nobody’s business!”

Christ.. way to dropkick a hornet’s nest, Faye. Don is such an intensely private weirdo who won’t share jack shit about himself on principle, so he’s lashing out. He doesn’t like his creative process being fucked with, he doesn’t want anyone knowing a damn thing about him, and he certainly believes that past behaviour is not always predictive of future behaviour, implying he’s living proof.

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I SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING. || image courtesy of ONTD 

But.. it’s true when it comes to Peggy, Pete, and Ken, and most of the other significant characters in this episode. They have changed and evolved, right along with the world here. They do some shit in 1965 that their 1960 selves would definitely not have ever believed. They’ve rejected parts of themselves from before, whether for better (a more adult Pete, a bolder more confident Peggy) or worse (a drunk sad sack Don, a stressed out Kenny). The evolution of these characters is equal parts fascinating and true to life.

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image courtesy of TomandLorenzo

Peggy heading out to the warehouse art haus video party in Washington Market and snogging new guy Abe in a closet during a police raid is absolutely NOT something 1960 Peggy would have done.

In the closing scene with the elderly couple in the hallway, Don pauses before closing his door. The wife is ambling up the hallway to her husband in their door, emphatically asking if she got pears. This is a life Don doesn’t think he’ll have a shot at anymore, that bizarre sort of intimacy and deep connection with another person. I mean, he deffo won’t if he keeps up this convoy of drunken mayhem and getting slapped by hookers. It’s no way to learn how to be actually intimate with anyone.

“Hello, 1925. I’m not gonna do that.”

 

Mad Men s3e10: The Color Blue

“The truth is, people may see things differently.. but they don’t really want to.”

It’s a touch before Halloween. Don pops over to Suzanne’s for a bang, and later we see him looking slightly guilty as Betty expresses worry and that she thinks he’s working too hard. He’s really milking that Hilton excuse to sneak out every night to get it in.

The Aqua Net ad idea is pretty similar imagery-wise to the upcoming JFK assassination, though the characters of course don’t know that yet. Peggy is doing well at work, freewheeling creatively and pissing off Kinsey in the process. She’s really talented, and that raw talent is something he just can’t crack. Go Pegs!

Missing the mark as usual, Kinsey assumes her perceived brilliance is due to the fact that she’s Don’s favourite; but Peggy knows that’s not the truth. This is proven later on in the episode during the Western Union idea exchange with her, Kinsey (and his lost idea), and Don. Kinsey is one of those guys who carefully curates this image of himself as the smartest guy in the room, and he works to be the most cultured and intelligent guy he can be; and when it’s consistently chipped away, he becomes deflated. Kinsey ain’t a bad guy– he just needs a reality check, and to find his real vocation, a place where he fits.

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image courtesy of BurnThisMedia

In the midst of a bang, Suzanne’s epileptic brother Danny shows up unexpectedly, and Don has a weird fucking meltdown about it. While he’s determined to sneak out, she insists on introducing him. Reminded of his own brother Adam, Don visibly stiffens, then shows him a little kindness with a handshake and well wishes. Danny is similarly down on his luck, and looks to Suzanne for help and guidance and she happily obliges. As soon as Don splits, Danny calls a spade a spade, talking shit about Don being arrogant and upset that his plans with his sister were interrupted. Suzanne chooses to see it as Don being secretive.

As Lane rehearses his speech for the upcoming Sterling Cooper 40th Anniversary Party, London rings to let him know that Sterling Cooper is once again for sale. Turns out the party is more of display. As a result, Lane has to charm Bert into attending by playing into his inherent vanity. And hey, it works!

But now, Lane sees his superiors for the smarmy dicks they really are; they had no interest in his future, nor any sort of personal investment in the company as Lane has. That’s a pretty big matzah ball for Lane to grasp. Maybe once Guy MacKendrick got his ass run over by a John Deere PPL re-examined hanging onto Sterling Cooper.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

The dryer is rattling, and Betty fishes out a pair of keys.. oh shit, will these open that desk drawer that’s been thwarting her for a season?? AND OH FUCK, THE KEY WORKS!

Equal parts relieved and fretful, Betty unlocks the drawer. There’s an astounding amount of cash, along with a beat up shoebox. Cautiously opening it, the box reveals a plethora of old photos with Don labeled as Dick, a pair of dogtags, old timey photos of his family, a Deed to a house in California, a Divorce Decree to an Anna Draper.. it’s all too much.

Of course, we all know how the pieces fit together– but to Betty, there’s no context for this secret information overload. She had a sneaking suspicion that Don was hiding something (or things) from her, but surely nothing as big as all this.

As everything washes over her, Betty goes wan as Carla brings the kids home. It’s all so overwhelming, as if an H-bomb has been dropped on 42 Bullet Park Road.

In this episode, I feel a little more for Suzanne as a character, Don’s intense hard-on for Good and Wholesome mommy issues galore aside. Previously I wrote her off as your run of the mill Thirst Trap(TM), but maybe she’s simply on a different level than the other emotionally repressed characters; she’s inherently more open, and contrasting with everyone else we encounter on this show, it seems like she’s totally fucking bonkers.

Suzanne manages to swing a job for Danny, to help him out; a foreign concept to Don who pushed his own brother away (and unknowingly nudged him towards a noose) back in Season 1. And perhaps reflecting upon sins past, Don offers to drive Danny up to his new job in Massachusetts.

Danny ain’t as grateful as Don had expected, though. Then again, Danny is living Don’s hobo dream; drifting from place to place, figuring shit out as he goes.

“I know what’s waiting for me at that place. I’m 25 years old, Don.. I don’t want to be cleaning toilets until I die. Just pull over.”

“Hold on– I’m older than you, and I’m telling you it seems bad now.. but you can still change things.”

“Pull myself up by the bootstraps?”

“Does that just sound stupid to you?”

“How do I explain this? I can’t do anything that you can do. Everyone knows, sooner or later, that there’s something wrong with me. They’re kind and they try, but then when I come to with piss in my pants, they stare at me like I’m from another planet. I am afflicted, okay? It’s not a question of will. I can’t change that.”

Another curveball thrown at the Don Draper “just move forward” mantra. Natch, Don throws some cash at the guy as he lets him out of the car, but not before imparting his card with a little support and insight.

“I swore to myself I would try to do this right once. I want you to call me, if you ever need to. And I want you to remember, if something happens to you.. your sister will never forgive herself.”

Baby steps, I guess.

Sitting up until 2am with that shoebox, Betty slowly realises Don isn’t coming home yet again. Accepting defeat, she places it back in his desk drawer, locks it, and puts the key back in his robe. Startled by his phone call the following morning, she’s apparently supposed to be dressed to the nines and ready to be shown off at the Sterling Cooper 40th later that evening.

En route to said SC 40th, Lane is totally nerve-wracked and stuck in traffic. Thinking it’s the traffic that’s getting him down, Rebecca tries to soothe; Lane lets her know they’re selling the company, and she takes the news with glee, wanting him to take comfort in returning to England. Nope. Lane is a man who has done nothing but obediently follow orders all his life, and he’s sick of it. There would be no place for him at the company in the event of a sale and he knows it.

sc40thdonandbetty

image courtesy of PopSugar

As Roger makes a speech lauding Don’s work achievements and character, Betty looks equal parts heartbroken, betrayed, and pissed off. And we know that Roger ain’t too chuffed to make that speech either. Cue thunderous applause.

“Well, he knows how to leave a room.”