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.

image courtesy of Den of Geek

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.

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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!”

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Mad Men s6e3: Collaborators

“I know there’s a part of you that’s glad to see me!”

“And I know there’s a part of you that you haven’t seen in years.”

Man, there’s so much infidelity everywhere! Pete’s doing his best impression of a sloppier Don, cool ketchup vs uptight beans, Peggy at CGC vs Stan at SCDP, and obvi, Don and Sylvia.

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Don is on autopilot at the office as well as at home with Megan. The guy is way more engaged selling The Don Draper Experience to Sylvia at dinner— except for when he’s expertly tanking Herb’s dickbag flop ideas for Jaguar. And thankfully, Joan hits Herb with a barbed greeting to show exactly where she stands.

The whole Sylvia thing feels different than Don’s other myriad affairs. He seems exhausted by it all at this point, slumped in the hallway outside of his apartment. The endless push and pull, the relentless longing.  And let’s be real.. there’s nothing Megan can realistically do to stop him from needing other women. He’ll seek out something more, something intangible.

It’s clear that the more a lady comes to actually know Don, the more she accepts and loves him for who he is and not in spite of it, the less Don wants to be with her. He prefers ladies– and people in general– who don’t know him. Megan knows about most of his covert junk, so he can’t realistically pretend to be anything other than himself with her; and there’s nothing that guy loathes more than being himself.

images courtesy of Giphy

In lighter news, Pete bangs Stage Five Clinger (and suburban neighbour) Brenda and shit blows right the hell up in his face. Fleeing her husband and screaming to be let into the Campbell’s house, poor Brenda is bloodied and Pete is understandably on edge as Trudy drives her to a hotel. Now, Trudy ain’t no Betty; proclaiming that she knew what she was getting into with marrying Pete, she’s understandably pissed off that he’s shitting where he eats and banging around the neighbourhood. Tacky, Pete. Trudy confidently gives him the boot, so it’s time for him to live some sad sack bachelor life in the city.

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Turns out Megan had a miscarriage after Hawaii, and confides in Sylvia who immediately averts her eyes. Good old Catholic guilt. Megan feels like a horrible person for being grateful in a way, since being pregnant and having the subsequent baby would derail her career; she’s also not sure she wants a family, and in 1968, that isn’t something that women really talk about save for hushed tones. Gotta love those age-old societal expectations.

When Megan comes clean to Don, he can’t face the unmitigated intimacy of the raw hurt and emotional turmoil that Megan is going through, especially since he just wandered in fresh off a bang in the Rosen’s maid’s room. It’s too close to the chest, and could potentially draw him out of his carefully compartmentalised world. Although he has genuine concern for her wellbeing, there is something incredibly stilted, almost perfunctory about his reaction.

As an aside, a lady going through a miscarriage ain’t just some walk in the park either; Don must be astonishingly checked out not to notice that something was really going on with Megan. Oof.

image courtesy of Tom & Lorenzo

This contrasts directly with Don’s look of tacit empathy, warmth, and concern when Joan states ‘he’s here’ upon Herb’s arrival, as she helps herself to a drink. That exchange felt so intimate, so genuine in comparison.

When he tells Sylvia he simply doesn’t think about their bonking to explain how he can have a nice dinner with their respective clueless spouses, it echoes that advice he gave Peggy post-baby. But in this episode’s context, it’s a touch shadier. For Pegs, it’s an empowering speech; time to get on with your life and don’t let a single event define you. Here, it’s just sort of gauche.

And honestly, I don’t think he’s necessarily sick of banging around and lying– this shit is Don’s modus operandi extraordinaire, even down to his fucking identity. He does all of this as he lives and breathes, but everyone has a tipping point. Maybe he’s beginning to splinter at the edges, unravelling just a touch.

The end of this episode reminds me of season 1 and Sally’s birthday cake. The man really doesn’t feel at home anywhere.

“Now I understand– you want to feel shitty right up until the point where I take your dress off.. because I’m going to do that. You want to skip dinner? Fine. But don’t pretend.”

Mad Men s5e7: At the Codfish Ball

“No matter what, one day your little girl will spread her legs and fly away..”

“.. Wings, daddy.”

Here’s some of that good old deep-rooted dissatisfaction and the ever-present yearning for more.. TALE AS OLD AS TIIIIIIIME. This pair o’themes are on display in this delightful episode. There’s a bunch of semi-fulfilled and partially crushed dreams here. Peggy comes to the realisation that she may indeed want to get married, and then .. sort of gets it but not entirely. Megan longs for creative success, subbing in advertising for acting, and when she really succeeds it still ain’t quite right. Sally gets to hit up the eventually disappointing grand staircase-less ball in the mod dress she wanted, but not the gogo boots and makeup.

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And of course we have Don, thinking he is about to pounce on the opportunity of a lifetime at said ball; he bags Heinz, but ends up being cast aside from the big corporate fish due to the reverberating consequences of The Letter. Natch, nobody wants to work with a guy who would fuck them dirty like that.

There’s Peggy and Abe, with her modern sensibilities in competition with her Catholic upbringing. When Abe insists on a dinner together, Pegs is rattled; sounds like bad news to me too. But Joan puts the marriage proposal bug in Peggy’s ear.. when it turns out all Abe wants to do is shack up.

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Peggy chooses to be with Abe because he’s modern and not like those other dolt dudes who expect her to be a certain way because of ~Society~, but now she has to actually live with the fact that.. he’s a modern guy. Grappling with being a modern 60s career gal on an explosive upward trajectory and the future she’s Supposed To Want is no easy task. But hey, moving in together is pretty awesome too– as Joan kindly points out, reassuring Pegs it’s the right choice for her.

Joan: “Sounds like he wants to be with you no matter what.”

Peggy: “I thought you were going to be disappointed for me..”

J: “I think it’s very romantic.”

P: “It is, isn’t it? We don’t need a piece of paper! I mean.. not that marriage is wrong or anything.”

J: “Greg has a piece of paper with the US Army that’s more important than the one he has with me.

P: “.. I’m sorry..”

J: “It is what it is.. I think you’re brave. I think it’s a beautiful statement. Congratulations!”

Obvi, the dinner at their newly minted shared space with Mrs. Olsen did not go well. And it’s not that shocking that the woman who claimed moving to Manhattan meant certain rape would be less than supportive of Peggy and Abe’s choice to live together In Sin(TM). Yikes on bikes. Admittedly, I think Peggy was trying to do the right thing and attempt to have an adult relationship with her mother where she doesn’t have to lie about her life, but some people are just stuck in their ways. Not much she can do about it.

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At a fancy client dinner, Megan gets wind that SCDP is about to be fired; she and Don close that Heinz deal expertly. It’s also probably the first time this season we see Don actually, you know, working. Fuckin’ finally.

Though she’s very talented at this gig, Megan definitely wants more; her father expresses his disappointment at her giving up the acting dream to this job and this shortcut life with Don. All Marxist and pretentious academic junk aside, Emile ain’t wrong.

You can see it on her face when Peggy is genuinely thrilled for her re:Heinz; Megan’s got some lingering discontent and indifference to the whole schtick. If this type of professional success is ‘as good as it gets’ according to Pegs and Megan feels this nonchalant.. that’s not a great sign of things to come. Here’s that enormous, central theme of the series.. is that all there is?

On top of all that– since she’s Don’s wife, the reaction is sort of overblown. Peggy even remarks on it, saying that when she did that very same thing with a great campaign that the men in the office didn’t really bat an eye. And the nightmare fight Don and Megan had in the previous episode stemmed in part from her wanting to be seen as more than Mrs. Don Draper, home and office wife who just does whatever the hell he says. If this happens again and she has another idea that’s not in line with what he’s thinking, will he have another fucking meltdown?

And Megan’s tag for Heinz, ‘some things never change’, is true of all our characters. Try as they may to throw on a fancy persona, they’re all the same people deep down. Don as the ever-glib brilliant adman who’s now happily remarried is still a human mess just below the surface. Roger is charming and magnetic as ever with Sally, until Marie catches his eye and he’s gone in a flash to get blown. Pegs wanting to shack up rather than get hitched, though at the end of the day maybe she DOES want to be married after all. Megan knocks it outta the park with Heinz, but deep down she would prefer to be IN that commercial.

Don really did fuck it up with The Letter, as Kenny’s father in law Leland Palmer succinctly points out. Don’t bite the hand, Don.

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And here’s Sally wanting to be more grown up, but then sees something TOO grown up when she walks in on Roger getting his knob enthusiastically schlobbed by Marie. Pretty much nobody but Roger’s had a good night at this ball.

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Ringing Glen, he’s at the communal phone of his boarding school in absurd flasher gear of a winter coat (and apparently nothing else) on the phone to Sally, asking.. How’s the city?

Dirty, indeed.

“He’s at Dow Corning– they make beautiful dishes, glassware, .. napalm..”

Mad Men s5e6: Far Away Places

“Look at me. Everything is okay. You.. are okay.”

Time is all outta whack with this episode, with three separate looks at the same 24 hours through the eyes of our characters. We’ve got Peggy’s total shite day, Roger on LSD, and Don and Megan’s HoJo’s mess. They’re all disconnected from their partners for different reasons. Peggy has a long, lousy day that starts with an Abe fight and stretches on as Don has a nightmare night that seems neverending.. while Roger is having the time of his life on drugs.

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Turns out that while Don is currently doing his best impression of 1963 Roger, Peggy is now 1960 Don.. and I love that both Peggy and Pete are trying to be the New Don(TM) and failing in different ways. Stressed about work, she’s on the outs with Abe. Her Heinz presentation takes a nosedive and she tries on the strangely hypnotic Draper Stubborn Man(TM) routine to shit results. Taking another page from the Draper playbook, she pops out for a movie and gives a stoned handjob to some rando with awesome pants.

Unlike Don, however, she’s brought back down to earth by Ginsberg and his Martian/concentration camp origin story. The well-off over-educated guests at Roger and Jane’s fancy LSD party yap about whether or not the truth is the same on other planets, but we of course know that Ginzo’s truth is the same no matter what. His origin undoubtedly amplifies his eccentricities, and his Martian spin to make everything seem less awful is telling.

“We’re a big secret.. they even tried to hide it from me. That man, my father, told me a story I was born in a concentration camp, but, you know, that’s impossible. And I never met my mother because she supposedly died there; that’s convenient. Next thing I know, Morris there finds me in a Swedish orphanage. I was five. I remember it.”

“That’s incredible.”

“Yeah. And then I got this one communication, a simple order: Stay where you are.”

“Are there others like you?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t been able to find any.”

Peggy’s history isn’t a tragedy akin to this level, but she’s probably more like Michael Ginsberg than she realises. Affected by his story, she rings Abe and they reconcile, so at least someone is on the right path.

(On another note, Don isn’t that dissimilar from Ginsberg re: the origin sense. He, too, never knew his mother; and for all he knows, maybe she wasn’t even a prostitute. That information came from his stepmother who didn’t like him very much in the first place. Ginsberg chooses to believe he’s an actual Martian, and Dick Whitman ran with Don Draper as soon as he got the chance.)

On a somewhat lighter note, looks like Roger’s marriage to Jane is imploding, shocking absolutely nobody. As a last ditch effort at reconnecting with her husband, she wants to take LSD with him, to share an experience and maybe gain some clarity; and hey, it does exactly that. The next AM, their marriage ends on a surprisingly sad note– Jane knows that Roger simply doesn’t like her anymore. Bummer, but for the best. Roger’s obviously been unhappy for awhile, and it’s better to let go of a lie and get on with it.. even if he hemorrhages cash in the process.

just in case shit goes south.. || image courtesy of TheBigLead

Rewinding a second to that disaster Heinz pitch.. Peggy transports paternalistic Raymond back to the past for a beat; yet he dismisses the idea under his erroneous assumption that this generation of young people gives no fucks about nostalgia. Natch, she argues that they do (which is true), and perhaps with Don’s help she could’ve helped Raymond see that; instead, it implodes spectacularly and she gets the boot from the Heinz account.

When Don attempts to take Megan out of the office and back in time to the Howard Johnson’s with that goddamned orange sherbet, it’s his own wistfulness and sentimentality he’s fixated upon– and not any real childhood memory of hers.

image courtesy of BetterWithPopcorn

That HoJo’s is a good site for illuminating a touch of the generation gap between Don and Megan; Don, ever axiomatic that Megan would adore the damn place, is let down by her honesty. It makes sense he’d dig a camp, shiny place like that, too– for all of Don’s slathered on sophistication, he also intrinsically connects with the mainstream kitsch absurdity of midcentury America.

Step outside the box and think about where that all came from for a second; so much of it is, weirdly, about a clean slate. All of that hopeful, sparkling Formica light at the end of the war tunnel. His generation wanted to move forward from the war (well, wars..), and start over in a gorgeously maintained modern home with all the bells and whistles. The American Dream(TM) that continues to attract Don, in spite of his present allergy to the suburbs.

To someone like Megan who grew up with this sort of thing as the norm, she might view the HoJo’s as gauche or trying too hard to be a Fun(TM) place when really, it’s a place you stop on the way to somewhere more exciting. Expressing her real opinion on the (obvi vile) orange sherbet, Don is upset, probably more than he should be.. because who literally cares? Sherbet blows.

But of course, that Howard Johnson’s represents the idealised version of Tomorrowland for Don. Maybe he hoped Megan would see it that way with him as a sort of ‘second honeymoon’, a chance to reconnect. Too bad it got fucked up.

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Looking at it from this end, it seems as if Don and Megan aren’t supposed to ‘work’ after all. Similar to Roger and Jane’s tenuous union, Don truly wants (and I think needs) Megan on some level; he just doesn’t Get her. She’s miles away from Betty, she stands up for herself and is her own person; she’s a thoroughly modern gal. Megan giving her real input is ten kinds of jarring to Don. And is she “allowed” to like to work? Apparently not.

It’s deffo certain that Don isn’t done evolving just yet. After all, we’re always changing and growing. Megan may covet the illusion of their marriage and the man Don presents himself as, but she is also true to herself. Shit’s in competition with one another. She loves Don, yet she does not understand him entirely. They have that bitter argument, and Don roars off in the Cadillac, since a hobo told him once how great it is to run.

In Mystery Date earlier this season, Don capitulates to temptation in his dream, yet also sees Megan as his salvation upon waking, complete with the majestic halo of warm light. He’s probably putting too much on her shoulders to keep him in line, without truly knowing her. A big ol’Band-Aid for his swinging dick.

However, as Megan said, every fight diminishes what they have together. If you take a peek at what they’re fighting about, there’s absolutely a basic misunderstanding between them. She blurts a pretty hurtful insult his way about his dead mother, knowing how awful it was as it flew out of her mouth, and maybe also not knowing to pull back on the throttle a bit with that shit. He storms off but eventually turns back around to find she’s gone, and as the hours pass into the morning he becomes sick with worry that he truly fucked it up or unspeakably worse.

What in the hell does he want exactly? What their marriage represents, or does he really want her as a person? For Christ’s sake, is anything ever going to be enough?

That chase around their gorgeous apartment shows how out of control Don really feels, it’s totally unsettling to watch him unravel like that. None of this shit is good, kiddos. It was like watching a terrible, uncomfortable version of their kinky cleanup sex play from the season premiere.

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Cooper, apparently seeing more than he is seen these days, astutely puts Don in his place with a few choice words. Love leave, indeed; he ain’t wrong. Get your shit together, Don.

“Howard Johnson’s, huh? I love the colours, the atmosphere.. the clams..”