Mad Men s6e5: The Flood

“You don’t have Marx, you’ve got a bottle. Is this what you really want to be to them when they need you??”

What up! Hello, hello, we are back in the room. Let’s get down to it, shall we?

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Don has no shortage of epiphanies, but has yet to actually commit to change in any concrete way. Like how his first concern is his mistress when the news hits of MLK’s assassination.. woof, bad look. Maybe the fact that Bobby sees Henry as more of a father figure will be a kick in the pants? Who the hell knows. All he knows of the world is what you show him, Don.

On one end of the spectrum, you have the Horror Movie America that is 1968, with that gargantuan cultural shift over the back half of the decade– as seen with the styles/hair, Peggy’s profesh rise, Dawn being hired, et cetera. And then there’s the people stuck in the same old holding pattern; or in Don’s case, falling back on that familiar pattern of banging around after a prolonged attempt to snap the hell out of it.

So it turns out Peggy and Abe are really wrong for each other, holy shit. She doesn’t get the UES apartment she really wants, while Abe sees the bright side; he imagines raising their hypothetical kids in a more ~diverse place~. K. Peggy is taken aback a bit and happy on the surface since he just revealed way more than he thought he did re:the longview, but also feeling backed into a corner. The age old She Should Be Happy about something like this even if it’s not necessarily what she actually wants. Societal expectations sure are a bitch, especially in 1968; ultimately, they have very different goals.

Ay yi yi, Pete Campbell. MLK is assassinated, and natch he rings up Trudy. Let’s be real, the guy just wants to go home. It’s that splash of self-motivated Pete Campbell Shit masquerading as magnanimous, tale as old as time. When he tells Trudy, “I don’t want you to be alone” he’s really saying he doesn’t want to be alone. Thankfully, Trudy stands her ground; Pete’s made his bed, vainly attempting to forge a connection with his Chinese food delivery guy.

SEETHING || image courtesy of 4plebs

And honestly, this is not to say he isn’t mostly correct in his yelling match with Harry.. but he ratchets it all to the next level because he’s ready to pop the fuck off as it is. Like the dearly departed Dr. King, an exceptional and gifted man, Pete feels as if he has been suddenly ripped from his family. But it’s only sudden to him– we could all see it coming from the fucking International Space Station. Don’t shit where you eat, Pete.

Man, Planet of the Apes is iconic; 1968 is a great year for movies. Don takes Bobby to see it to get out of the house, a tried and true method of dealing with tragic events. Between showings, Bobby chats with the usher about how people like going to the movies when they’re sad; they share a human moment, and Don sees his son in a different light, Bobby’s becoming a more fully formed individual. He’s picked out something Don himself does, inferred it, and Don is taken aback.

image courtesy of AMC

“I don’t think I ever wanted to be the man who loves children.. but from the moment they’re born, that baby comes out and you act proud and excited and hand out cigars but you don’t feel anything. Especially if you had a difficult childhood. You want to love them, but you don’t. And the fact that you’re faking that feeling makes you wonder if your own father had the same problem.
Then one day they get older, and you see them do something, and you feel that feeling that you were pretending to have.. and it feels like your heart is going to explode.”

His monologue about his kids is Don at his best and his most honest, a very rare combination– and to me, the most lovable and relatable. In spite of him and Betty arguing over Adult Shit like logistics, Don shows how much he loves his kids and understands them in his own way, bit by bit. And the feelings he describes about the emptiness and lack of engagement upon their birth and how a sudden blaze of terrifying love can kick in later and punch him square in the solar plexus make sense. Evolving as a man in the 60s; heaps of societal expectations there too. It’s a lot to take in, and Megan is quiet while she processes this information dump.

Brass tacks, I think it’s obvious that Don does love his kids a great deal– he’s not a fuckin sociopath, after all. He is, however, completely terrible at sustaining nearly any kind of healthy relationship for a long period of time. And Don being Don, he’s both emotionally perceptive enough to catch when he becomes alienated from his children, and sensitive enough to feel badly about it.. and hopeless enough to do not much of anything about it.

And even though Roger’s friend Randall is a goddamned lunatic, he has a great bit of burnout wisdom.

“This is an opportunity. The heavens are telling us to change.”

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Mad Men s6e4: To Have & To Hold

“Everybody’s scared there.. women crying in the ladies’ room, men crying in the elevator. It sounds like New Year’s Eve when they empty the garbage, there are so many bottles.. and I told you about that poor man hanging himself in his office.”

Tale as old as tiiiime; this is an episode about assumptions, about reality versus whatever the hell you invent in your head, with a splash of infidelity, as always. We get some good Joan time, some eerily persistent swingers, Don being a massive hypocritical flop person, Peggy’s ketchup v. catsup nonsense, the whole gamete.

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On the DL, Don yearns for someone to love Dick Whitman; but because of how he lives his life, he shoots himself in the foot before he can even get it near the door.  He will continue to establish relationships that undermine the very idea that anyone could ever love Dick; they don’t even get a chance, because he’s operating as if Dick Whitman died. To Don, that part of his life symbolises poverty, negative damaging shit, feeling worthless, low self esteem, not being respected or noticed. Don Draper is the inverse; urbane, strong, cultured, fuckin rich, overconfident. Obvi he’s still Dick in his private moments; but imagine the man we’d see if he had grown from those formative Dick Whitman attributes instead of killing it all off to start anew.

I feel like when Don realises that someone has fallen more for his invented persona — fanciful high society for Betty, ingenious adman boss for Megan — than for who he really is, he suffers the most and lashes out.. in spite of not actually being his whole goddamned self around either of them.

I SEE YOU. || image courtesy of ONTD

Even the way he perceives both Betty and Megan is deeply flawed, and it’s really coming to a head with Megan and her career momentum. She’s doing a ~love scene~ with some rando on her soap and Don ain’t pleased. Independent Megan is establishing her own career and ain’t the housecat that Don’s pigeonholed her to be. The love scene is one thing, but what really grinds his gears is that she’s doing this shit on her own. Megan’s got some agency; and when good things inevitably come her way, Don can’t deal with it. The more she advances with acting, the less she’s his little vixen in the palace on Park Avenue and more of an actual fucking human being. IMAGINE THAT. Fuckin fragile man feelings, good god.

image courtesy of Giphy

Speaking of which.. Peggy’s stepped out on Don, popping over to CGC and apparently also in the running for Heinz Ketchup, thanks to Stan’s trust in her regarding Project K.. not a great look, but it’s business I guess. Surprise! Don listens through the door to hear her pitch (rather than ‘letting his imagination run wild’). Since he can’t realistically do much about it in the profesh world and isn’t going to have a shitfit in front of Pete, Stan, and Ted, he instead takes it out on Megan.

Don’s always banging around to find something, to solve something, hoping to achieve some sort of peace or resolution within himself; even Sylvia tells him she prays got him to find some damn peace. This also makes me think of the s2 premiere, and when he mails that copy of Meditations in an Emergency to Anna.

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

Joan’s BFF Kate is in town, helping her recalibrate a touch. Both that visit and an argument with the persistently tonedeaf Harry Crane, she’s reminded not only of what she did to reach this position, but of all the flop assumptions everyone makes about her. Harry clearly knows about Joan’s night with stank-ass Herb, and has invented an entire world in his head where it’s the Single Reason Joan belongs in that partners meeting, when it’s fucking obvious exactly how important Joan has been to both Sterling Cooper and SCDP.

Self-important Harry even imagines that Joan has gone straight to the other partners to drop a dime on him, when of course she would never bother them with something so utterly trivial. Don’t get it twisted though, dude’s got legit beef– he started the television department from the ground up, and that’s a big achievement. However, he’s got nobody to blame but himself for not advocating for a partnership when the time was right. When Harry brings up what Joan did in the dark, everyone is pretty rattled; they’d rather focus on her boss professional skills than Herb.

image courtesy of TheTVCritic

Post-Electric Circus club night out, Kate reminds Joan that what she’s achieved isn’t an everyday thing; it’s a really goddamned impressive position. It doesn’t matter how it happened, but it matters that she’s there now. With a refreshed perspective, she hands over some of her less glamorous duties to the super capable Dawn. Fuck yeah, Joan– delegate that shit.

“Believe it or not, ‘my daughter is a partner at a Madison Avenue advertising firm’ is something I enjoy saying!”

Mad Men s5e3: Tea Leaves

“They know I’m going to the doctor a lot, and they know I’m sick, but I’ve always been in a bad mood, so I joke with Hank.. he should just tell them I got hit by a car. It’d be easier to deal with than saying goodbye.”

Ahhh, the old looming threat of being replaced, that static humming fear inside all of us. This episode has Betty and her health scare, Roger vs. Pete, the generation gap with Don and a Rolling Stones groupie, and Peggy with new hire Michael Ginsberg.

Apparently, so much of Betty’s past energy was expended pushing and pulling at Don’s inexorable mystery that when she lets go of that rope.. she really lets it all go to hell. And though she may look different from season 4 (mainly to work around January Jones’ pregnancy), she’s still herself; habitually negative, insecure, and indelibly myopic. She’s just as unhappy and unfulfilled with her housewife life, even though she’s married to faithful Henry. Don’t forget that emotionally, Don let Betty stay a little girl; he let her have her temper tantrums and get her way, since he was getting his way too. It’ll take some time for her to acclimatise and work through those literal years of garbage treatment.

On the quest for diet pills, she has a legit health scare; some sort of node on her thyroid that could be cancer, and everything in her world understandably screeches to a halt. What would happen to the kids? How would they remember her? God forbid her dinosaur mother in law and ‘teenager’ Megan raise them.. ay yi yi, Bets.

I know everyone reacts differently when they’re faced with something frightening, but she’s still so threatened by Megan that she refers to her as Don’s girlfriend instead of his wife.. not a good look. And it ends up that Don is the one to remind her of how the kids might react to the news. The fact that Don is her first call is pretty telling; she knows he’ll tell her what she wants (and needs) to hear, that everything is going to be OK.

It’s not all bad, and she does come back down to earth for a bit; the way Betty cuddles with Gene as she and Henry look on at Bobby and Sally running around with sparklers is a very Norman Rockwell moment in time.

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When she heads to another doctor for a biopsy, she runs into an old friend on her way out; turns out she’s going through cancer treatments, and Betty is morbidly curious about what it’s really like to be that sick.

“I’m sorry, but I have to ask you.. what is it like?”

“Well, it’s like you’re way out in the ocean, alone, and you’re paddling.. and you see people on the shore, but they’re getting farther and farther away. And you struggle because it’s natural. Then your mind wanders back to everything normal.. What am I gonna fix for dinner? Did I lock the back door? And then you just get so tired, you just give in and hope you go straight down.”

“.. That’s horrible..”

“No one’s ever asked.”

Pretty terrifying, honesty. How’s that for some light fucking afternoon tea conversation?

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But even when Betty receives the good news that she’s out of the woods with a clean bill of health, she manages to twist it into putting herself down as “just fat” .. instead of being clear of fucking cancer. And here’s Henry, intensely relieved that he will get more time with his wife; he truly loves that difficult woman. Time to gain a little more perspective, Bets.

When it comes to Roger, he’s pretty much already been replaced by Pete in most ways (save for the name in the lobby). Despite that reality, he still resents Pete.. and Pete’s Mohawk Airlines lobby antics don’t help that shit. Roger has the inherent natural charms of an account man, whereas it’s a little obvious that Pete has to work a lot harder for it. Just a little kick in the teeth there.

image courtesy of Screenrant

And let’s face it, Roger practically coaxed Pete to step up because he became so goddamned complacent in the first place with Lucky Strike.

“Your plate is full, and, frankly, Mohawk is going to insist on a regular copywriter. Someone with a penis.”

“..I’ll work on that.”

In a similar vein, Roger pushes Pegs to hire the whacked out Michael Ginsberg (whom Stan prophesies will surpass her in the talent department) mostly due to the fact that he’s a guy, which suits Mohawk’s oldtimey copywriter needs. Though Roger knows that the times are changing, he doesn’t necessarily dig it.

Back in the 1960-set pilot, it was a joke to Roger that the agency might have a Jewish person in a meaningful role– and now in 1966, he acknowledges to Peggy that having a guy like Ginsberg on board “makes the agency more modern”. Ginzo himself is a transitional figure as well, more adapted to the current times; for example, Michael is leagues apart from Rachel Menken’s immigrant father, or even his own father, who reacts to news of his new job by reciting a blessing in Hebrew.

(And suggesting they get hookers, but that’s beside the point..)

No matter which way you slice it, Ginsberg is a talented guy, and Peggy feels good about hiring him because she wants to work with talented people; shit’s inspirational. She saw a little beyond his encyclopedic eccentricities, and his portfolio is one of the only solid ones that were sent in. Mentioning The Letter to Don certainly didn’t hurt his chances at the job.

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Turns out Don is much more at home charming an older lady like Heinz guy’s wife than he is at chatting with Bonnie backstage waiting for the Rolling Stones; but Don also zeroes in and hits a nerve in a way that she feels the need to step away from him for a moment, transparently asking to give his business card a whirl on the bouncer. At the end of their interaction, you can tell that the new generation doesn’t necessarily understand the people they will eventually replace either. She complains that older guys like Don don’t want her to have fun “just because you never did”, to which he quips, “No. We’re worried about you”.

The way Don handles Megan re:Betty being sick is pretty fascinating as well. Apparently, at the age of 26 she can’t understand how death works, and what that would mean to him? Try again, Don. He wields it when he’s conveniently too consumed by the idea of meeting up with Megan’s friends and she sees through it immediately; a different gal than Betty, for sure.

“You know, back in Pittsburgh, everybody is pretty much who you expect them to be.”

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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