Mad Men s2e13: Meditations in an Emergency

Season 2 finale. Lots to unpack, lots to talk about. We find ourselves around The Cuban Missile Crisis, putting the end of this season in October 1962.

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Betty awaits her doctor in his homey practice, perched perfectly upon the exam table. She looks fraught with nerves, and he confirms her fear; she’s pregnant. Jail sentence, dread. She expresses that this is a bad time, yet the doctor remains encouraging. Once she starts telling people it will feel right, yadda yadda yadda. She and Don are estranged, so this is literally the last thing she needs right now. Bets splits as soon as he runs out to find the space heater.

It’s a touch of bedlam at Sterling Cooper, everyone has to turn their numbers in early. Harry, Kenny, Sal and Kinsey pull the demoted Lois off the switchboard to get the scoop — Sterling Cooper has been sold to PPL! Lois is very dramatic in delivering the news. Transatlantic. Merger time.

Betty is at the stables, riding out her feelings. Once she dismounts her horse, she sees Don approaching her. Shocked, she maintains her cool. The most he’ll ever admit – “I was not respectful to you”, he sincerely expresses that he wants to be together again; Betty is relieved to have her suspicions confirmed, no matter how cagey that vague admission was. Borrowing a line from Helen Bishop, it hasn’t been all that different without him; Betty keeps her distance. Wise move.

Big difference from the Season 1 finale, which ends with Don longing for a warm family moment and mourning the loss of what he’d ultimately fucked up. Maybe now he feels the bona fide loss and actually wants the reality of a family, a connection.

As a nervous Pete imparts the bad news of Clearasil pulling out, Duck appears unfazed. Instead, Duck shares that he will be their new overlord post-merger. He wants Pete to replace him as Head of Account Services, and they share some fairly large glasses of gin. Pete is advised to keep it under his hat.

Don heads into the office, a sight for sore eyes. He sees Peggy’s new office and haircut, and a big ol’ pile of correspondence. True to form and entirely outraged that Don’s back in town as if nothing happened, Pete is wondering why in the hell he left him high and dry at their hotel in LA. Don spins it like he knew what he was doing instead of being impetuous, and Pete buys his compliments in his handling of meetings; Don expresses confidence that Pete is now ready to move on up. Music to his ears, twice in one day! A thing like that.

Getting the PPL merger news from Roger, apparently his little manpain jaunt to LA netted him $500k. Holy schnikes! That’s almost $4 MILLION today in 2016. What the fuck?

Betty is at the salon, which is currently filled with very nervous ladies. She somberly shares her news with Francine, who can recommend a lady doctor to take care of it if need be.

Heading into the city, Betty drops the kids off at Don’s hotel, declining his invitation to have dinner with them as a family. Lingering in front of a department store window display, she wanders in Manhattan with the mystery of Don.

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Shopping bags in hand, she takes a seat at a bar, orders a gimlet. A young proto-Don pays for her drink; she shoos him away initially, but later she corrals him into having a fuck in a vacant back room. A little role reversal; Don is playing family man with the kids, enjoying a meal and their company while Betty is an anonymous person at a bar, banging a rando. It’s the end of the world, after all.

Back in the world of Catholicism, Peggy is being admonished by Father Gill in the church basement. He’s laying on this guilt bullshit pretty strong, and Peggy stands up for her own personal beliefs– “I can’t believe that’s how God is”. It’s plain that she’s made peace with herself in her own way, Padre. Step aside.

Friday morning at Sterling Cooper, news of the merger is flitting around. There’s canapés in the fridge (fancy ones), the conference room is signed out all day.. everyone is on edge because of the news on TV and inside the office.

Confiding in Don, Pete drops the bomb that Duck is set to be the President of Sterling Cooper under PPL’s gaze. Let that marinate for a bit.

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At home, Betty receives a letter from Don.

Dear Betty,

I’m sitting in The Roosevelt looking at the backs of Bobby and Sally’s heads as they watch TV. I’m not letting them change the channel, because watching the news makes me sick, and they can see it.

I think about you, and how I behaved, and my regret. I know it’s my fault you are not here right now.

I understand why you feel it’s better to go on without me, and I know that you won’t be alone for very long, but, without you, I’ll be alone forever.

I love you.

-Don

In the big meeting with the PPL guys, Duck expresses ~quelle surprise~ when Sinjin states Duck will be prez over at Sterling Cooper once the merger is complete. He makes a bizarre speech, yapping about media buying, pinpointed with incredible accuracy; Cooper correctly points out that Duck failed to mention their clients at all. Time to drop some bombs.

Don: “What? I think it sounds like a great agency, and I think Duck is the man to run it. I just don’t think I’ll be a part of it.”

Sinjin: “You don’t want to be a part of it?”

Don: “If this is the agency you want, Duck is the man for the job.”

Duck: “This is what I’m talking about, artistic temperament..”

Roger: “Don, is this really necessary?”

Duck: “It is. Because he loves this room, and hearing his own voice, and saving the day.. except this time he’s got to get with a team. You can either honour your contract, or walk out that door with nothing and start selling insurance.”

Don: [pauses] “I don’t have a contract.”

Roger: “We’re close! We didn’t think we needed one.”

Don: “Gentlemen, I sell products, not advertising. I can’t see as far into the future as Duck, but if the world is still here on Monday, we can talk.”

Once Don leaves the room, Duck makes a fucking mess of things and completely embarrasses himself in front of the PPL guys. Don gets under his skin. As Sinjin asks Duck to please excuse them, he knows it’s all over for him as prez. Adios, Duck! “He never could hold his liquor.”

Peggy is finally lulled into confession of sorts, sitting with drunkenly pleasant Pete in his office surrounded by panic. He confesses his love for her, expressing that she’s perfect, that he wants to be with her. Trudy doesn’t really know him. File under Things Men Say. She drops the bomb and tells him that she had his baby, and she gave it away.

This is the first time this is candidly said aloud on the show, by the way. It’s been alluded to, referenced, but never actually acknowledged by Peggy’s character or any of the other characters in such stark terms.

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Pete is stunned and has no idea how to react. He’s a captivating character for a million different reasons, but I love that he knows who he is, yet tries to valiantly escape it every single day. He’s had a privileged upbringing, not unlike Betty, and is trying to escape that inalienable truth along with his picture perfect marriage and absurdly domineering mother. He craves no expectations, no baggage due to his name, and sees that clean slate of sorts in Peggy. Turns out there’s mad baggage there too. Sorry not sorry, Pete.

Betty rings the office, wanting Don to come home. Just as the threat is neutralised, she lets him know she’s pregnant. They share a somber moment together, he reaches out his hand and she grabs it. Fade out.

“To not thinking about things.”

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image courtesy of MadMenWikia

Welp, that’s another season in the books. Thank you for reading and following along! You can see my reviews for all of these first 2 seasons over here. Next post will come after a brief hiatus. Gotta let Season 2 marinate. Happy Halloween, and seeya soon!

Mad Men s2e8: A Night To Remember

“She’s so much woman.”

Loud opening scene, with Betty taking out her aggression at the stables, running both that horse and herself ragged. This episode is the boiling point, the Hindenburg, the Titanic, the dinner party heard ’round the world.

Father Gill wants Peggy to design a flyer for the upcoming Catholic high school coed dance. She gets to be in charge of the pitch to the stuffy church ladies on the committee, and she handles it (and Father Gill) well. Peggy reminds them that the boy and girl dancing on the poster is a wholesome message that represents the “kind of handholding that leads to marriage”. Hilar. She also manages to respectfully fend off Father Gill’s guilt parade. He’s really trying to get her to yap about giving away that baby.. give it a rest, Padre!

Apparently, Maytag is sensitive to Communism and Harry gets in some shit with Duck over an ad of theirs that ran alongside a show featuring some Commie stuff. He really needs help with the TV Department, since the department literally consists of .. him. Joan to the rescue!

Joan really excels at the job and she’s pleased with herself – a glimmer of what Peggy felt in her early copywriting days. Her doctor fiancé Greg is a fucking dolt and wants to put her in the housewife box, not understanding why she would rather read scripts than be watching soaps and chowing down on bonbons. Sounds dull as hell, personally.

Through this gig, Joan receives a new form of respect and fulfillment in the office, something she never knew she wanted before. Much more recognition than at home, it seems.

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A couple of days after a great meeting with some clients, Joan is replaced by some bespectacled ginger; Roger makes the call that she’s got to get back to her actual job.

Harry Crane, A World Class Boob, fails to see that she’s fucking brilliant at that job. Joan had never previously understood Peggy’s ambitions (and even made fun of her for it), but now that she’s had a taste of something more and having it taken away, she’s let down and disappointed. Maybe Greg is right, it is her job to walk around the steno pool and get stared at all day.

(Side note, Joan may only be a senior secretary at this point because it’s 1962; today, she’d be running that place. Obvi.)

Enter Heineken! Aimed at bored suburbanites and therefore women entertaining in the home, fancy housewives in upscale suburban towns are the target. Once again, Don uses his own life in his work. Time to hit the Hudson cash belt. Not coincidentally, the Drapers are having a dinner party that weekend to bring in Crab Colson from Rogers and Cowan, with Duck, Roger, and wives.

Betty is cleaning the dining room in anticipation of said dinner party and slowmo Hulk smashes a squeaky chair in a fit of rage. Everything is falling apart. She’s so angry and has no earthly idea how to deal, how to cope. I bet fixing that damn chair was on Don’s to-do list, like the electrical outlet he probably didn’t get around to fixing either.

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image courtesy of The Golden Closet

The night of the party, there’s Betty’s Wonderbread dress. She is every bit as gorgeous and immaculate as you’d expect her to be, on point, true Grace Kelly. She buys Heineken, unbeknownst to her that Don pegged her as the target demographic. Everyone shares a laugh at the private joke, Duck explains, and Betty is understandably PISSED. Here’s her idyllic suburban life, beginning to come unraveled; this cushy life that she was always told she should want, on display, ends up being the butt of a joke and a bet to win.

Once everyone’s gone for the night, shit gets real. Something innocuous or silly can set a person off, and the deeper meaning behind the argument emerges and the white hot resentment comes pouring out. She fires the first shot as she switches off the TV.

“You embarrassed me.”

Of course, Betty is really irate about Don’s indiscretions, this is just the trash cherry on top of a Staten Island landfill; a slap in the face showing that he has no regard for her as a person deserving of respect. Spending the better part of a week making sure everything was set for the party, for what? Turns out she’s the punchline, their suburban life the setup.

She tells Don she knows about Bobbie, about the affair, and Don counters with a chilling “Fine, Bets. What do you know?” Real aggressive gross man shit right here.

“You think you know me? Well I know what kind of a man you are.”

The next morning, Betty begins rifling through all of Don’s shit, glass of red in hand. His suits, every pocket imaginable, his desk drawers; and there’s nothing but taglines written on cocktail napkins. He hides his tracks well. Betty struggles to understand why he would want to stray from the life they created — even though she, too, knows it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Over at Sterling Cooper, Don is with the Heineken guys; Duck brings up that Betty got the beer for their dinner party unprovoked, that Don’s little experiment worked. That she’d created this whole evening with dishes from around the world, with Heineken placed next to the fine China and polished silver. Embarrassing. Of course, the Heineken guys eat it up.

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image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia

Don comes home to the apocalypse, to find Betty still wearing her dress from the previous night. Just the night before, Betty was a flawfree woman, the perfect wife and hostess. Now she’s in bed, surrounded by his crumpled suits, defeated, the wreckage of the day strewn about. She’s not yet waving the white flag, but came up with nothing concrete in the house. Natch, Don is still lying; “I didn’t do.. anything.” But she knows he’s full of shit, and his face says it all.

Sleeping in the lounge, a freshly showered Betty wakes him up. “Now you look me in the eye, you never do that. You never say you love me.” Don denies this and says he does these things all the time. He’s such a talented storyteller and liar that maybe he believes his own bullshit, the image he’s created, at this point. He looks genuine, and hurt.

“I don’t want to lose all this.”

The next afternoon, Betty sees that Utz ad with Jimmy Barrett, frozen for a moment. She phones the office and tells Don not to come home. “I don’t care what you do, I don’t want you here. I don’t want to see you.” Don is taken aback, but understands. He looks crestfallen. Long time coming, Betty. Don doesn’t have a current booty call in his rotation either, so he’s relegated to sleeping at the office.

At the end of the day, everyone is removing their armour solo. Joan rubs her sore shoulders, Peggy has a bath, Don loosens his tie and sits in the Sterling Cooper breakroom with a Heineken, staring into the abyss. Quite the contrast from the banging opening of Maidenform.

And then, Father Gill strips down and belts out some Peter Paul and Mary.

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