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.”

 

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Mad Men s2e10: The Inheritance

“It’s not easy for anyone, Pete.”

An LA trip is looming! Looks like Pete and Kinsey are going to Los Angeles, due to a hookup from Crab Colson. Time to hit up the JPL Rocket Fair. The Space Race is on!

Trudy is strongly suggesting her and Pete adopt a baby, and he ain’t having it in the least. His WASPy mother certainly won’t have it, after Bud let that tidbit ‘slip’; Pete retaliates by cooly letting her know her assets are in the toilet on his way out. So bitter, but his parents never seemed to treat him all that well anyway.

Betty’s dad had a stroke, turns out it isn’t the first time either. Thanks, Gloria. Betty phones Don and they drive to NJ together the next day, keeping the appearance of normalcy as best they can. Gloria answers the door in an outrageously absurd cocktail dress with a mammoth foofy hoop skirt, 1955 incarnate.

Every scene with the Hofstadts is strange, with an easily detectable tense undercurrent between everyone. It’s a family on paper, but there’s no discernible warmth to speak of; Betty is excluded from things here, just as she’s excluded from her own life by Don. Maybe her father Gene — apparently a strict, traditional guy.. fining his kids for small talk — is what she wishes Don would be like around their kids. (Y i k e s….)

Her family resents her for moving out of NJ, but it doesn’t seem like they’ve given her any reason to stay. Her brother William is a fairly unpleasant guy, making jabs about New York and Don having mad cash. Rude. He also sheds a little light on how Gene’s been acting as of late, apparently he’s been ‘off’ for a while now. They are both concerned about Gene, and show it differently. Betty slips into the childlike loving daughter persona, excited about milkshakes and the like, whereas William tries to be in charge.

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image courtesy of BurnThisMedia

But Gene’s got Don’s number, and berates him in an outburst during puzzle time.

“Who knows what he does, why he does it. I know more about the kid who fixes my damn car. Nobody has what you have. You act like it’s nothing. He has no people! You can’t trust a person like that.”

That night, though they share Betty’s childhood room, Don gets to sleep on the floor. They disrobe in silence, and a few hours later, Betty comes down to the floor with affection. She realises she holds the cards right now, and uses it to her advantage. They have a midnight bang on the floor, and Don wakes up alone in the AM.

Gene is all mixed up at breakfast, and mistakes Betty for her (dead) mother and gropes her right there in front of everyone, the harsh morning light filtering in. Everyone is in shock, Don is completely horrified; good lord that’s a lot to handle. Gloria insists they have another doctor’s appointment lined up. Good GOD.

Thankfully Viola shows up to talk some damn sense. Turns out Betty’s childhood nanny still pops in to take care of the house, and Gene. Instead of just acting like things are normal when they’re anything but, Viola sees through it.

Viola: “He’s very very sick.”

Betty: “You don’t know how nice it is to hear someone say that.”

Viola: “The minute you leave, you’ll remember him exactly the way he used to be. It’s all good outside that door.”

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image courtesy of Coco hits NY

Viola reminds Betty that it’s her responsibility to take care of her husband and her children, for they are hers. It’s OK to move forward and to love what you have, to remember the better times, but all it does is remind Betty that everything is in shambles. She breaks down and cries, truly at a loss.

Back in Ossining, Don gets the boot from his house; Betty curtly tells him that they were only pretending. Things are still as they were, so he heads to the office a day earlier than expected. Everyone is throwing a baby shower for Harry, another guy who’s uncertain about the reality of kids as much as Pete.

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image courtesy of Imgur/my own nonsense

Bert Cooper pops into the shower for one of the more bizarre moments of the day.. and everyone raided the store room with ‘gifts’ for Harry and Jennifer’s impeding arrival. Kenny gifts him with a massive stack of Playboys, as you do.

(Offices in the 1960s aren’t that dissimilar from offices today; any excuse to have a party where you eat some form of trash cake from the grocery store.)

Don changes up the plans and decides he’s heading to LA with Pete, axing Kinsey from the trip. Roger gives him his blessing with a vaguely icy exchange; things aren’t exactly healed there just yet.

Joan gets to publicly ask for Kinsey’s credentials back during the baby shower, and relishes it. Kinsey frames it well to Sheila, trying to mend their spat earlier in the week when Pete let it rip that he was headed to Los Angeles. He made it sound like it was his idea to ditch the LA trip (LOL) and ends up heading to Mississippi to fight for civil rights alongside her, likely irritating the shit out of everyone around him.

Everyone’s loaded on punch post-shower, heading home for the day, yet Pete lingers. He’s a little tweeked about flying to LA since his father died on American Airlines Flight 1, but that’s not really the root of his issue(s). He may never truly grasp why he doesn’t get what he feels entitled to, and on top of that, he may never understand how grim it is for everyone who doesn’t have what he has in the first place. Pete’s got some privilege, everyone. Peggy handles his “woe is me, first world problems of the now” drunken schpiele fairly perfectly. She is friendly and cordial, actively listening, but keeps him at arms’ length. Probably a good idea, Pegs.

Hey-o, Glen Bishop shows up at casa Draper, having run away from home a couple of days ago. Glen has been crashing in Sally and Bobby’s playhouse in the back yard. He hasn’t seen Betty for ages, and is in need of some kindness and attention. He insists that he’s there for her– “I came to rescue you. We can go anywhere, I have money!” His name is Don, etc.

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image courtesy of BurnThisMedia

Once Sally and Bobby get home, she does the right thing and rings Helen Bishop knowing she’d be worried about him. Betty endures his child wrath as he spots his mother in the foyer, feeling betrayed and shrieking that he hates her. Betty responds calmly with, “I know”. Maybe it’s some catharsis for her, some link to the way she thinks Don feels about her. She accepts it.

After things quiet down, Betty and Helen Bishop have a moment in the kitchen. Helen admits her shortcomings as a mother in the wake of her divorce and new boyfriend carousel, which compels Betty to share the news with her. After all, Helen is a divorcée; Betty confides in her that Don isn’t living with her anymore. She’s unsure if it’s forever at this point.

Helen: “Is it over?”

Betty: “I don’t even know.”

Helen: “That’s the worst. For me, it wasn’t that different without him there.”

Betty: “Sometimes I feel like I’ll float away if Don isn’t holding me down.”

Helen: “The hardest part is realising you’re in charge.”

On the plane, and true to form, Don just wants to watch the city disappear behind him. Time to get the hell out of Dodge for a bit to recalibrate.

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image courtesy of Fanpop

(Fun fact, the guitarist from The Tornadoes is George Bellamy– the father of Matt Bellamy of Muse fame. Not bad!)

Mad Men s2e2: Flight 1

Turns out that Boho Paul Kinsey lives in Montclair, NJ! Fun fact, Montclair is a completely fucking charming place. Shoutout to The Wellmont!

Kinsey introduces his girlfriend Sheila to Joan, and they have a loaded exchange. Joan feels that Kinsey is a phoney, smoking his pipe and living out in Jersey, dating an African-American grocery store clerk to make himself appear more interesting. Is that really true, though? Joan seems to think so, yet there’s sincerity from Kinsey and how wounded he is by her savage words. Kinsey gets Man(TM) revenge by tacking up a copy of her driver’s license with her birth year circled. Oh, the humanity!

Peggy is snogging some square, isn’t impressed, and heads home alone.

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image courtesy of Imgur

The question of Peggy’s lovechild hasn’t yet been answered at this point, but this episode offers some insight into her family and home life. Her mother and sister appear to be loving people, but consistently make subtle (and not so subtle) jabs at her. Pegs is clearly cut from a different cloth, and they don’t really know what to do or how to relate to her other than imploring/badgering her to be a certain way.

Her mother is a devout Catholic, making up excuses as to why she hasn’t been attending mass with them for however long. People are asking after her, and Peggy quietly shuts it down with a simple “it doesn’t mean the same thing to me that it means to you”.  It’s implied that her father is dead, her mother telling her that he would’ve wanted her to “light a candle for him”, perhaps in regards to her mystery baby.

The absent baby appears to be more a metaphor for the more “accepted” domestic lady Peggy is trying her hardest not to be, despite the fact that she’s been schlepping a vacuum all over the city.

On her way out, Anita tells her to say goodnight, and she freezes momentarily. There’s a few kids in a room, along with a baby. Peggy is visibly uncomfortable.

When I first watched this episode in 2008, I thought perhaps that baby was hers and it was being raised by her sister.. at the end of the episode, Peggy is at mass with her family. When they all go to receive communion, Anita hands off said baby to Pegs and he immediately starts wailing. As I experienced an anxiety attack, Peggy stares off into the distance, willing herself to be anywhere else but that particular location.

Rewind a bit.

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image courtesy of Imgur

So, Pete’s Waspy dad dies in the American Airlines Flight 1 crash into Jamaica Bay. He’s conflicted, as they did not have the best relationship (mad props to Vincent Kartheiser for his nuanced performance in these scenes). The fact that his father is insolvent sheds some light on his haughty rejection of Pete’s plea for financial help. It’s all oysters, travel, and club memberships.

He seeks some fatherly compassion from Don, and instead gets some general life advice. Pete is a guy who’s overall very competent and on top of things, yet he still has these flashes of naïveté.

“Go home and be with your family.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s what people do.”

“Is that what you would do?”

“.. Yes.”

Woof. Don has no genuine emotional reaction to this whole thing, and it’s not just because he never really had parents. He defaults to what people expect of him, and passes this along to Pete.

Turns out Duck knows a guy at American Airlines, Shel Keneally. Sounds like they got blasted together during their days in London. Looking for a fresh start, they’ve given Sterling Cooper a wink in the wake of this crash and the ensuing PR nightmare; Don is tasked with the shit job of firing Mohawk Airlines, a small company to which he yearns to be loyal. Mess.

In fact, the only fatherly compassion Pete gets in this time of need is from Duck, and Pete then uses his father’s untimely death for business purposes. May as well try to make something positive out of it? Campbell senior did not appear to give Pete much of anything while he was alive, maybe he figured this would be a way he could finally do something for him posthumously.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

That night, Don goes home to his family, and it’s tense as hell. Betty’s booked in Francine and suddenly fat Carlton for cards, and he ain’t pleased about it. His interactions with Betty are curt at best, save for when their friends are in the room and he’s suddenly fascinated by her. She publicly complains that Don isn’t firmer with the kids, after Bobby sneaks down to grab some more candy post-bedtime.

They have a bizarre conversation about Carlton, as Don observes that he’s “put on a few” and Betty launches into a whole schpiel about how he should be showering Francine with love after what he put her through. Don shuts down and tells her “Look, Bets, I’m not going to fight. I’ll say whatever you think I should say, but I’m not going to fight with you.”

Good lord.