Mad Men s5e5: Signal 30

“Look, I’m just trying to tell you because I am who I am and I’ve been where I’ve been that you don’t get another chance at what you have.”

“Brave words for a man on his second time round..”

“Yeah, and if I had met her first, I would have known not to throw it away.”

Strap in, kiddos.. this is a good one. Lane tries his hand as an account man and fails miserably, but ends up punching the shit out of Pete. Kenny’s still writing, and this time it’s bizarre sci-fi! Don might actually be happy with his life, and the now-suburbanite Pete’s yearning for more as usual during his driver’s ed classes.

Now, it’s no secret that Pete has idolised Don since day one. The gorgeous wife and house in ‘the country’, kids and all the accompanying junk, suavely banging around and doing whatever it is that Men(TM) do.. Pete admires him, wants to be him. But when he eventually tries on the swinging dick Don of yore, he feels totally dead inside. Is that all there is?

image courtesy of Lesbohemia

On the other hand, Don glimpses his former life via Cos Cob Casa Campbell and feels claustrophobic as hell leading up to and during the Saturday night dinner party. Don’s more casual references to his past are enlightening– the horseshit remark to Kenny, etc. Maybe he’s finally starting to accept who he is now that he’s been honest from the getgo with Megan and she didn’t run for the hills.

Kenny’s wife Cynthia blows up his spot at said dinner party, outing him as a writer (still!); a point that Pete blabs to Roger later on. Proud as ever, Cynthia describes his story about a bridge between two planets, and how all it takes is one bolt being removed by a sassy robot to fuck it all to hell. Sort of sounds like Megan to Don in the office and at home, in life.

Megan bridges the Don to the Dick, and it seems like they work pretty well together and he knows it. He appears to be a different man now that he’s not married to Betty, on his way to ever improving and self-awareness. Megan’s sunny disposition certainly helps. Don implies as much to Pete in the post-Jaguar hooker party cab; he knows what he’s got with Megan is special and isn’t aiming to send it all to hell like he did with his first marriage to Betty.

Plus, he’s always liked Trudy (and this is saying a lot as Don doesn’t really like anybody), and everything looks so picturesque on the surface, so seeing Pete gleefully follow a ~lady~ to her private room must have been a little jarring. He can see that Trudy’s a rare lady, and that Pete could easily fuck it up and not even begin to fathom what he’s lost.

And let’s be real, anything less than too many high-fives putting Pete in the hospital was going to be disappointing with his mentality, so he took Don’s silence as some sort of quiet disapproval. I mean, the whole conversation and Pete’s over the top offense at Don’s lull was entirely based on his own projections. All Don did was say he hoped Pete didn’t keep making the same mistakes that he did, which is entirely valid. He even did that Man(TM) thing and absolved Roger from banging around-related guilt by saying “he’s miserable”, as if that’s some sort of excuse, but eh.

image courtesy of BurnThisMedia

Let’s backtrack for a hot second and yap about Lane and his shit. His wife Rebecca is still unhappy being in Manhattan, pining for Crown & Country, bringing reticent Lane to a British pub to watch the World Cup. And hey, England won in 1966! So it’s not all bad. Striking up conversation with her friends, he stumbles into a potential Big Deal Account with Jaguar cars (and the secretly enormously dirty old man Edwin). For a smaller agency like SCDP, having a car makes them a major player on Madison Ave.

Edwin is hesitant to really open up, and thus Lane fucks it up on their business dinner. Pete, Roger, and Don try to set it straight with lobsters and a casual visit to a classy whorehouse, at Edwin’s creepy “I LIKE PARTIES” open door. Don sits it out, casually referencing his upbringing to the madame of the house. Big stride for him not being so deeply ashamed of his impoverished childhood, I guess.

image courtesy of IMDB

As Pete’s the guy who’s always wanting, his lady of choice runs through a couple of scenarios before landing on him being her King. He’s always wanted more of what someone else has no matter what it is, and shit he plainly can’t have like that naive teenager in his driver’s ed class. Besides being entirely creepy, an age appropriate (and smokin’ hot) dude pops in and sweeps her away anyway. Another blow to his fragile masculinity, on top of when Don deftly swooped in to fix the exploding sink at casa Campbell, to the ladies’ applause.

The true crown jewel of this episode is the partners meeting. That absurd hooker party blows up in Lane’s face in the form of CHEWING GUM [left] ON [Edwin’s] PUBIS, and he challenges Pete to a fucking fist fight in the conference room.. and proceeds to kick Pete’s ass.

Talk about a literal blow to Pete’s manliness, good godDAMN. Just as Lane struggles to feel relevant at SCDP in the day to day, Pete also wants to mean more in life. In the elevator, Pete tearfully admits to Don that he feels he has nothing. To see someone who is that cocky on the reg be reduced to this crying, bruised mess reminds us that everyone’s got their own shit going on below the surface.

Thanks to Pete ratting out Kenny’s writing to Roger (who predictably was less than pleased with Ken’s attentions being divided), he’s gotta come up with a new pen name. Kenny’s final scene with the monologue overlay gave off a sense of hope, in a way; deffo glad he’s sticking with the writing and finding that meaning in his life.

While Kenny and Pete have always have been at odds in the office (even though Pete is winning account-wise at work), Kenny is absolutely more fulfilled than Pete is at home which of course means a lot more in the long run. It’s something that Pete hasn’t found yet, because he’s missing the damned forest for the trees. So natch, he tries to undermine Kenny’s other professional pursuits. Woof.

I guess it was only a matter of time before Pete got punched in the mouth at that office.

The Man with the Miniature Orchestra, by Dave Algonquin.

There were phrases of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony that still made Coe cry.
He always thought it had to do with the circumstances of the composition itself; 
He imagined Beethoven, deaf and soul-sick, his heart broken, scribbling furiously while death stood in the doorway clipping his nails.
Still, Coe thought, it might have been living in the country that was making him cry..
it was killing him with its silence and loneliness.
Making everything ordinary too beautiful to bear.

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Mad Men s4e3: The Good News

“I could tell the minute she saw who I really was, she never wanted to look at me again. Which is why I never told her.”

Woof, lots to chew on in this episode. Anna Draper is dying (unbeknownst to her), Don’s last living positive link to Dick Whitman. In his vulnerable state, Don lets Lane see a glimpse of who he really is, even though it’s Sad Sack Drunk Don.

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YES, CALIFORNIA DON || image courtesy of Tumblr

Visiting with Anna is the only time we see Don truly relaxed. He actually enjoys human connection with her in a way we don’t really see otherwise. And hearing the awful news from her niece Stephanie (and then seeing him revert to Don Draper mode by taking charge with Anna’s sister), it’s just fucking devastating.

It’s enormously hard to see him struggling over whether to tell Anna the truth, given that he knows just how much a truth bomb can blow it all to hell. Maybe Don was afraid it would snuff out the most dear relationship he has  at this point, as his truth-telling ended his life with Betty.. or that maybe he believed that not knowing the truth would be a gift to her somehow, letting her enjoy her short time left in blissful ignorance. Anna is the only person in his life to love him unconditionally.

“Well, I saw something once, and I’m telling you.. it knocked me sideways. I started thinking of everything I was sure was true, and how flimsy it all might be.”

“You don’t need to see a UFO to know that.. that’s not a great way to think about things.”

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image courtesy of Tumblr

On the other side of the coin, I don’t know if Anna would have loved the ‘real’ New York Don Draper. She also didn’t have to deal with the consequences of Dick Whitman’s lies for a decade, the way Betty had to. Anna has never seen that side of him.

Looks like Don is still trying to convince himself that the reason Betty cast him aside was his destitute upbringing, which ain’t the real root of the issue. Instead, he chooses to block out the reality that his lies had an emotional impact upon Betty for such a long time that at the end of it, she was legit yelling about how she had tried so hard to understand him and couldn’t, due to the way he entirely shut himself off from her. Oof. Don can’t take responsibility because he’s looking at things all wrong.

At the office, things are thankfully a little more normal. Allison appears a touch woeful about her New Years plans (going out with big group of girls) in contrast to Joan asking Peggy’s plans, seeming envious of the potential freedom of going out with ladies and having a blast.

And hey, how much longer before Joan dumps that absolute dickbag of a husband? It’s such shit to see the incredibly capable Joan in a relationship with a self-involved manbaby who treats her like an infant. She wouldn’t put up with that at work– look how she put Lane in his place re:flower fuckup. Watching her weep as Greg stitches her up, knowing it’s all a disaster and this dude doesn’t know a damn thing about her.. rough.

Coming into the office on New Year’s Day, Don is surprised to see Lane; they were both supposed to be on vacation, after all. These guys bond in the best way possible; getting loaded and heading to the movies to see some explosions with Gamera. That scene is a real treat with Lane shouting at some uptight lady in pidgin Japanese, surrounded by handjobs galore.. aces.

Lane and Don’s friendship is born in rather dire sad sack circumstances. They’re pretty different guys. Don is this confident suave guy who’s (supposedly) got it all figured out, and Lane is trying to find his place in the world, trying to stand out and not just be complacent and do what’s expected of him all the damn time.

“You remind me of a chap I knew in school. We followed him around in a pack, and he didn’t notice we were there.. He died in a motorcycle crash.”

Lane admires Don and wants to be liked by him, or even to be more like him. And Don is so lonely at this point in his life that he wants to be liked by literally anyone in that same dark headspace to understand him.

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image courtesy of MadMenWiki

At drunk man steakhouse dinner, Lane opens up that his marriage is on the rocks; shit sounds dire, and that bouquet of roses cockup didn’t help. Having learned from the nuclear disaster of giving Roger advice, Don holds back — Lane feels he should make some grand sweeping gesture, seeking Don’s approval. Instead, he paraphrases something Faye said to him during the SCDP Christmas party that clearly resonated.

“Is that what you want? Or is that what people expect of you?”

Pausing and staring at Don levelly, this is a thought that has never occurred to Lane. And this ain’t the first time we’ve seen Don internalise advice or an observation and pass it off as his own; in Season 1’s Nixon vs. Kennedy, Don responds to Pete’s hilarious blackmail attempt with “You haven’t thought this through”.. which is exactly what Rachel Menken countered with when he suggested that they run off and start a new life together. Like all of us, certain shit sticks with him and rattles around in his brain.

Aaaand, enter the high class hookers.

I think a crucial point in Don’s success as a married hot guy and his failure as a divorced guy is pretty plain; a married man offers nothing but a dick-go-round because he’s attached, while a single (even divorced) man could be a potential future husband and — as Freddie Rumsen reminded us — it’s not always wise to bang it out with a man if you intend to marry him. Women treat the no-future man a lot differently than they treat the maybe-future man. So, it’s not wholly shocking that Don keeps striking out; his status implies a different set of possibilities than it used to. He’s got an asterisk. When Stephanie asks him if he’s married or divorced, he wonders why he can’t just say he’s single and be done with it.

But generally, Don is struggling. It’s borderline uncomfortable seeing him make moves on women that appear uninterested. While he may have been on top of his banging around game the past 3 seasons, his perf family helped establish that part of him. He seems uncomfortable with being divorced, almost as if he’d rather be married and fucking around than single and searching.

“But nobody knows what’s wrong with themselves.. and everyone else can see it right away.”

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Gentlemen, shall we begin 1965? || image courtesy of MadMenWikia

Mad Men s4e1: Public Relations

“I can use my expense account if I say they’re whores!”

Welcome back, and welcome to 1964! It’s nearly a calendar year from where the Season 3 finale left us, and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has an actual office that isn’t a hotel suite; they’ve got some cool new digs in the cushy Time Life building. Maaaaagic.

“Who is Don Draper?”

Bombing out in an interview with Advertising Age, Don supplies glib bullshit answers to the reporter’s pointed questions about his work and who he is, pretty much saying fuckall. Shocker. The problem with this approach is that he’s no longer just that stupid talented mysterious guy in the corner office, he has to be the fucking face of SCDP; a creative figurehead, the man behind the curtain. And we all know how much Don loves talking about himself.

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image courtesy of Imgur

But hey, Don is in a great place professionally; he’s legit blowing up. He’s calling the shots and running things his way, making a lot of money, and he’s got acclaim for the Glo-Coat commercial.. all the while his personal life is a raging tire fire, burning into the eternal night. Seems like Don is at his best in the office when shit at home is a mess.

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no time for your shit. || image courtesy of Tumblr

His attitude in meetings is more aloof than ever, while being incredibly sharp; the way he shuts down those Jantzen prudes is outta control, he’s got precisely no time for garbage at this new agency. This guy is forward thinking and takes risks, and he’s lost everything he ever (thought) he wanted in his personal life.

Our characters are exploring new terrain all over this episode, slowly adjusting to the new normal. Betty now has a mother-in-law (a hard-ass woman at that) and an extended family; she’s also got a more attentive husband and is learning how to be a person sans Don. She’s overly harsh on Sally during Thanksgiving dinner, still not quite sure how to navigate that relationship.

Understandable growing pains and lots of negative shit are to be expected, but Hank Frank takes it all in logical stride; he really loves that difficult woman. They even have a bang in the car, harkening back to their first kiss in Betty’s car. YEAHHHHHH

Going on a date with the poor man’s Betty, Don is vaguely bemused with Bethany. Brass tacks, homegirl is an idiot, but she’s young so I guess she gets a pass? Maybe? Ah well. Roger and (mostly) Jane seem determined to set him up with someone, just because.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

Dating doesn’t seem to suit Don at all. Skipping out on Thanksgiving at Roger and Jane’s and no plans with the family, Don’s plans include being mounted and slapped in the face by a hooker. Looks like he bones this lady on the reg, indulging his own self-loathing with a healthy dash of mommy issues.

His personal life really seems a lonely mess, and he’s boozin’ a lot, even for him. When Peggy needs bail cash for the ladies she and Pete paid off to fight over a ham, Don takes it all out on her unsuspecting bland boyfriend Mark, whom she brought to lessen the inevitable blow.

Joan has her own office, and is still the consistent go-to for everything. Glad she’s getting some recognition as the person who steers the ship, though she shouldn’t be getting sunburned tit Harry Crane a coffee. And it’s nice to see Peggy argue right back with Don when the Sugarberry Hams stunt goes south, her confidence is awesome to see. Roger is back in the saddle and full of beans, Pete is more secure in his footing.. everyone seems to be moving forward at a pretty brisk clip working together, conference table or no. Even Allison is back!

However, Don’s shite interview in Advertising Age has real consequences for the firm; being in such a small space equals his actions have actual meaning, something that is clearly not a thing to Don. Ya fucked it up. He takes it out on the straightlaced Jantzen guys by blowing up their meeting, and immediately rings Cooper’s guy at the Wall Street Journal to have a redo of that interview. Taking that feeling by the balls, he is cocksure and rewrites history ever so slightly to sound fucking awesome to this guy. Way better.

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image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia

So, what’s it going to be? Comfortable and dead, or risky and possibly rich? Sounds like a mantra to me, looking at how Don has evolved. SCDP sure seems intensely personal to him, especially for a man who won’t reveal a damn thing about himself. Let’s see what happens!

“You know something? We are all here because of you. All we want to do is please you.”