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.

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

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.”

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Mad Men s6e1&2: The Doorway

“How do you get to heaven? Something terrible has to happen.”

Hi there, and welcome back! Mad hiatus up in here, but now we’re back in the room. It’s late December 1967, about 8 months since s5 left off; in those passing months, there’s a whole pile of facial hair and substantially less Brylcreem at SCDP. There’s also a 2nd floor! Hey-o.

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Don looks a little out of place as we enter the late 60s– that shot of him walking into the creative lounge surrounded by hair is a jolt, and lends some context to PFC Dinkins assuming Don is an astronaut. Even the ideas for ads are shifting; a concept like ~wholesome marital love~ as it relates to Dow oven cleaner seems positively Paleolithic as we edge closer to 1968. And I guess Leland Palmer let em in on a part of Dow after all!

Though it may be Christmastime, nearly every scene is tinged with the macabre; and as always, death is trailing just a few steps behind Don. We’ve got The Real(tm) Don Draper, Anna, his drunk father Archie, the Korean War, and now Vietnam saturating everything within reach. The doorman in Don and Megan’s building nearly dies.. thankfully resuscitated by Arnie. Nevertheless, Don is obsessed with what he ‘saw’ while he was faux dead, drunk and hot off the heels of a funeral.

And there’s the plain as day suicidal ideation of the Sheraton pitch.

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I dig that The Doorway parallels the pilot a touch. You think Don is growing to be at ease and well adjusted in his married life, even making what seems like a legit-ass friend (!) in the Good Doctor Arnie in his building.. and then there’s the reveal at the end, where he’s banging the guy’s wife, Sylvia. Oy.

The hat trick of making it appear as if Don is content and then dropping the concluding truth bomb is skilfully done. We’ve got the inverse of the pilot here, which reveals his picturesque family at his suburban home at the end; turns out all of that sprawling perfection is humming in the background of his city life/bonking Midge. And here, we’ve got this affair that lurks in the backdrop of his day to day.

image courtesy of Skift

In spite of being in Hawaiian paradise with Megan, Don appears to be in his own personal hell. Megan’s being recognised and signing autographs, and aside from the opening voiceover (reading Dante’s Inferno, fittingly), we don’t hear Don utter a damn word until meeting the drunk and unassuming PFC Dinkins in the hotel bar. They have a frank conversation, where Don listens more than he reveals; Dinkins references Army weapons with a splash of excited violence, eventually convincing Don to walk his bride-to-be down the aisle.

The Hawaiian Sheraton ad is unique in that it makes luminous sense to Don, but would obvi signify suicide and death to anyone else who doesn’t happen to inhabit his head. Dick Whitman shed his skin to become Don Draper, but to the scant people who knew him, Dick Whitman died. The ad evokes all kinds of imagery, but ultimately, can you truly change without dying? Roger seems to think you can’t, but Peggy and Betty suggest you can, slowly but surely.

image courtesy of Reddit

The funeral for Roger’s mother is a goddamned mess. Some overeager/hysterical rando named Bob Benson sent over a shitton of delicatessen, and some Great Aunt rolls in and gives an absurd fuckin speech which moves Don to vom. Roger tries to connect with his daughter after telling everyone to get to steppin’, but he’s discouraged and hurt that there’s nothing deeper there than surface cash-grabby hands for her husband’s flop endeavour, water from the River Jordan left behind.

Roger’s mother was a woman who made a Real Big Fucking Deal out of him, and yet he felt profoundly disconnected from her; but when the news of his shoeshine’s passing hits, he weeps in his office. Seems like Roger and Don are drifting through their days in a world they no longer recognise, unable to shake the belief that it all amounts to a big pile of nothing– just more doors, as Roger wryly tells his therapist.

On New Year’s Eve, we’ve got Don once again watching scenes from his life on a Kodak Carousel, feeling like an observer, detached. Still startled when a photographer tells him to be himself, and he hasn’t got the faintest idea of what in the fuck that means.

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And it turns out no matter how many doorways you walk through, there’s still shit you can’t change about yourself; like knocking on the back door of Sylvia’s pad to get it in. Wherever you go, there you are.

“People will do anything to alleviate their anxiety.”

Mad Men s5e13: The Phantom

“Stop being demure, you’re already on the bed!”

And here we are, another iconic season finale. Do people ever really change? Is that all there is? And so on. Will Roger drop acid with Marie? Will Peggy get her dolt copywriters to churn out good work at CGC? Will Pete get his existential dread in check? Can Don keep it in his pants? These are the days of our lives.

are you alone?? || image courtesy of RogerEbert.com

Turns out Beth is married to a total dick! Shocking, I know. Howard’s taking her to the city for shock therapy, and Pete happens to be on their Manhattan-bound train. They have an illicit bangarang in a hotel room, and Pete manages to sneak in a visit to non-remembering Beth to drop some truth bombs.

“He got involved with another man’s wife.”

“Why did he do it?”

“Well, all the regular reasons, l guess.. He needed to let off some steam, he needed adventure, he needed to feel handsome again. He needed to feel that he knew something.. that all this ageing was worth something because he knew things young people didn’t know yet. He probably thought it would be like having a few tall drinks and feeling very, very good. And then he’d go back to his life and say, ‘that was nice.’ When it went away, he was heartbroken. And then he realised everything he already had was not right either and that was why it had happened at all. And that his life with his family was some temporary bandage on a permanent wound..”

Let’s be real, none of Pete’s confession is breaking news. #thingsmensay and all that. What counts is that he’s facing the truth about his own shit both openly and voluntarily; nobody backed him into a corner. It seems as if he’s gone through his fancy bag o’Pete Campbell tricks; bitching, fantasising, banging around, pout-y resentful, etc etc.. and now there’s fuckall left to do but admit that he has some heavy shit to confront. It’s Pete Campbell conceding that he’s super damaged and confused, and it’s the most self-aware thing he’s ever done on the show to this point.

Megan is floundering with her auditions, and seeks out Don’s help to land a part in a Butler shoes commercial– he’s inherently reticent to throw her name in the ring, though he wasn’t bothered by the glaring nepotism of making her a copywriter at SCDP. And even though it sucks to tell her no, he has a point. You DO want to be someone’s discovery, not somebody’s wife. On top of that, her acting career also ain’t on his terms which he can’t quite grasp; that’s what happens when you help someone. They succeed and move on.

at last the 2nd floor is real! || image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Completely rattled by his laughing gas ghost Adam dentist visit, Don fucks off to the movies where he runs into Peggy. Along with his earlier visit to Rebecca Pryce to deliver a postmortem check, Don is reminded of how effortlessly the people in his life can leave him in the dust at a moments’ notice.

Both Rebecca and ghost Adam treat him with understandable hostility (“it’s probably difficult for you to believe, but it was even more than $50,000 that already belonged to him, so don’t leave here thinking that you’ve done anything for anyone but yourself” and “it’s not your tooth that’s rotten”.. fucking hell), but Peggy shows him genuine kindness and interest. Not everyone bounces after all, Don.

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While Don mulls over submitting Megan for the ad, I’m taken back to The Wheel. Looks familiar– here’s Don Draper in a darkened conference room as a projector flickers images of the wife who’s slowly but surely slipping away. But even though he never quite knew how to captivate Betty, in this instance he’s able to give Megan exactly what she wants; even if it leaves him feeling a touch used and distant from her.

Maybe Don does that favour for Megan out of wanting to show kindness to someone close to him, unlike the way he pushed both Adam and Lane away with both hands. He’s not great at being close to people out of straight up fear, but baby steps in the right direction can’t hurt, even if it’s not necessarily the right fix longterm. Popping Megan in for Butler has healed the problems in their marriage for the moment, that old temporary bandage on a  permanent wound, but now Don will probs be on edge thinking that Megan will bounce like Peggy. The transactional nature of his band-aid scrubs some of the joy from their marriage, in the same way that Joan can no longer take a particular type of pleasure from fending off flirty advances at the office.

Don begins this season doting on Megan and unable to entertain the idea of stepping out; shit between them ain’t perfect, but his visceral reaction to that fever dream says it all. And now, he ends this season walking off shrouded in shadows as Megan gains the spotlight in dazzling technicolour. Gimme an Old Fashioned.

image courtesy of Tom and Lorenzo

Even though Megan knows Don’s Dick secret, she doesn’t really know what he actually needs on any kind of deep level; it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love him, more that she simply doesn’t get the guy. He doesn’t know what he wants, but he is wanting. Lane’s suicide would of course have a profound impact upon Don for a few reasons, something she should have picked up on. And Don ain’t blameless here either– he obvi has trouble understanding women and what they want and need in a relationship. Sure, they have clear chemistry, but is it sustainable in the day to day?

~Are you alone??~

Asking a truly isolated guy if he’s alone, what a hoot.

Let’s see if Don fucks it all straight to hell. And as always, thanks very much for reading! I’ll resume with Season 6 reviews soon!

“You hate him because he voted for Goldwater.” || image courtesy of Tumblr

Mad Men s5e12: Commissions and Fees

“But what is happiness?? It’s the moment before you need more happiness.”

We all have good days that turn into bad ones, but some of us just can’t shake it. As much as it’s Real Life, the consequences of our own actions are sometimes too much to bear. Sometimes shit is just so devastating you can’t cope.. enter Lane Pryce and his illicit cash grab.

image courtesy of Vulture

We knew it was coming, but Lane’s been caught red-handed by Cooper, cancelled Christmas bonus check with Don’s faux signature and all. And we all know Lane is one proud motherfucker, so his chat with savvier than expected Don does not go well.

Sadly, this is grisly familiar territory for Don; it’s not the first time that a guy he knew has hanged himself as a near-direct result of Don telling him to get on with it and leave. Before Lane Pryce, there was of course Adam Whitman. Don’s motivations as well as the circumstances are super different, but the endgame is identical; Dick Whitman imparts some hobo code ‘run away’ advice and both of these guys instead choose to violently exit the world.

And the punch is that Don was truly doing do the right thing for Lane, giving him an elegant exit with a resignation– obviously trying to course correct after Adam.

Adam & Lane || image courtesy of Tumblr

Don really thinks he did the decent thing for Lane here, and he’s not entirely wrong. When that type of trust is broken, natch Don cannot keep working with him; letting him resign sans scandal is miles better than outing his embezzlement and shady shit to the partners, much less ringing the coppers. Trying to do him a favour and send him off on a semi-OK note, Don gives Lane a variation on the speech he gave Peggy in the mental ward back in s2 about moving forward from absolute shit circumstances.

“I can’t go back to England like this. What will I tell my wife? .. What will I tell my son?”

“You’ll tell them that it didn’t work out, because it didn’t. And you’ll tell them the next thing will be better, because it always is. Take the weekend.. think of an elegant exit. Cooper doesn’t know anything.”

“l feel a bit light-headed.”

“That’s relief. I’ve started over a lot, Lane.. this is the worst part.”

Seems like good advice on how to get on with it, but Lane ain’t Pegs and he certainly is not Donald Draper. Peggy has enough common ground with Don to make that hobo code a part of her aesthetic and make it work to her advantage. Look at her bounce to a better profesh situation as soon as the opportunity presents itself; however, Lane is not particularly equipped to do the same.

Take a look at the guy. Lane is a middle manager– the moneyman hemming and hawing over payroll and Jaguar’s fee versus commission structure, treated as a malleable marionette by PPL, seen begrudgingly as a necessary evil by the SCDP partners. The kicker is that whenever he strives to achieve more in life beyond his predetermined glass box, he gets beaten down.. quite literally by his crust-ass dad’s cane.

(Also, anytime I think of Lane Pryce’s father I think of Mr. Burns’ mother..)

Brass tacks– handsome and determined Dick Whitman could start over; Lane Pryce cannot. Don’s schpiele to Peggy gave her life a clean slate, but his speech to Lane instead brought his to a screeching halt. He’s got more at stake than Peggy did as well. Don’t forget that Lane is in the USA on a work visa, has a wife and apartment in Manhattan, kid in a good NYC school.. no wonder he thought it was all over. Being stripped of his visa would fuck that all to hell like your prom date; briskly and thoroughly. How could he return to England under those circumstances?

Trying to off himself in the surprise Jaguar he and his wife can’t afford (unbeknownst to her) and having the damned unreliable thing not start was a bitter touch.

Even though Don was of course never as close to Lane as he was to Adam, nor was he as arctic in his rejection, the parallels are suffocating. Insisting upon going into Lane’s office to prevent the guy from dangling up there alone until the coroner makes his appearance, I get the vibe that he’s attempting to deal with lingering memories of his departed half-brother. After all, Adam was long dead before Don even knew about it.

If you don’t learn anything from your past, you’re absolutely fucking doomed to repeat it. And though Don tried to do it right with Lane, at the end of the day he cannot control anything other than his own shit; a hard pill to swallow for sure.

I leave you all with this Don Draper iconography directed at Leland Palmer and Dow Chemical. Once he essentially sacks Lane, he yearns to move onto the big leagues account-wise, to think bigger than Lane ever did. And let’s be real, he ain’t wrong; what IS happiness? The moment before you need more happiness. Nothing is ever enough.

“Ed Baxter told me the Lucky Strike letter poisoned us with all those companies.

“What? Why didn’t you tell me that?”

“Because l wrote that letter.”

“You let that wax figurine discourage you??”

Mad Men s5e11: The Other Woman

“At last: something beautiful.. you can truly own.”

And we’re back in the room! Hello hello, and welcome back one and all. This is a bonkers balls to the wall episode. Let’s yap about our female characters– the three ladies Don can’t control, and he doesn’t like it one bit. Pegs bounces from SCDP to work for the very handsome Ted, Joan takes matters into her own hands with Herb (vile pun intended), and Megan’s auditioning with the possibility of bouncing to Boston for a show. As they’re trying to bag Jaguar, Don’s back in his old car salesman gig for a beat.

image courtesy of Imgur

I dig the way this episode centres around how Don’s predicament creating a pitch for Jaguar mirrors his feelings about ownership and power playing a role with the important ladies in his life. It’s intertwined with his tangible relief when Ginsberg finally comes up with The Pitch, an exhale and a smile. Of course! But that look of satisfaction on his face maybe shows how, secretly (or not), Don might miss being able to Truly Own his ladies on some level. Ginzo’s pitch speaks to Don in the inmost way.

Speaking of non-secrets, apparently Megan is only allowed to succeed on Don’s terms; he has a Fragile Man Feelings meltdown when she tells him she may be spending a bunch of time in Boston for a potential part. But hey, Megan shows from the very start that she refuses to be owned by Don; she pops round to SCDP in her audition dress for a bang during latenight Jaguar work. Megan is the one who initiates said office fuck sesh, and chose to leave advertising for what she really wanted to do with her life.

When Don is confronted with the idea that she might actually be successful, he’s backed into a corner, shouting “Just keep doing whatever the hell you want!” as she leaves the damn room. Good lord.

At the office, Don’s been acting like a dick to Peggy and taking her for granted; she’s had enough once he literally throws cash in her face. What a fucking insult.

Let’s be real, she works her ass off; where’s her goddamned lobsters from The Palm? When she shares good news about a successful pitch on the fly, Don literally throws money in her face as a way to take her down a peg for joking about an on location trip to Paris. Time to take a meeting with Teddy Chaough and split for CGC, to a place where she will hopefully garner more respect.

As Peggy gives her notice to Don, he legit cannot believe she’s splitting. It’s a strange mix of pure ego, regret, and true disbelief. His face goes from an “ahh, you must be fucking with me!” grin to “punted in the solar plexus” heartbreak. Shocked he can’t own Pegs nor keep her around, he figuratively throws more cash in her face, offering whatever salary she wants. But hell no; she refuses to be treated like that, no matter the price, and extends her hand for a farewell shake. Don kisses it and she cries silently; dude is seething once she leaves.

image courtesy of AMC

And now, moving swiftly along to Joan and Herb, the planetary Jaguar creep from NJ. I mean, this is a man in a bathrobe whose idea of foreplay is fervently exhaling “lemme see ’em”. Oy fucking vey.. file under ‘Things Men Say(TM)’.

He insinuates to Kenny and Pete that they will for sure win Jaguar’s business in exchange for a night with Joan; and Herb knows the power he wields. This is no small thing– a car on Madison Avenue means you’ve arrived.

Shocking absolutely nobody, Pete is the one to approach her openly with a business proposition, because of course he is. Is it right to put Joan in that position? Absolutely fucking not, but the other partners seem to be nonplussed, although a little scandalized. Don is the only one who voices an ‘absolutely not’ opinion. And ultimately, Joan does agree; she made up her own mind.

“We’re talking about a night in your life. We’ve all had nights in our lives where we’ve made mistakes for free!”

“You’re talking about prostitution.”

“l’m talking about business at a very high level. Do you consider Cleopatra a prostitute?”

“Where do you get this stuff??”

“She was a queen. What would it take to make you a queen?”

“l don’t think you could afford it.”

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Lane’s role in this whole thing is a mess. I love the guy, but good lord. He brazenly manipulates Joan to hide his embezzlement and the Christmas bonus shitstorm. Her potential 5% stake in the company would keep the Christmas bonuses afloat in lieu of the lump $50k in Pete’s offer; after all, Lane already extended their credit line without telling the other partners. Honestly– Lane’s not wrong, a partnership is a far better deal for Joan in the long run, but SHIT is it coercive. Dude is obvi desperate to cover his ass.

As smarmy as Pete is, at least he didn’t beat around the bush; he approached her as an equal, laid it out, and got on with it. Was it ideal? Nah. It’s deffo twisted, but Pete didn’t ply her the same way Lane did. He was direct in his own Pete Campbell way– he didn’t approach her out of ego or his ideas of How Women Should Act(TM) either. And when Joan comes back to him with Lane’s partnership notion as her choice, Pete balks but relents once he realises that she ain’t wrong.

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Looking at you, Don. When he’s at Joan’s apartment attempting to save her from her assuredly sweaty fate, he says a number of things that sound supportive at face value– even though the deed was already done, unbeknownst to him. His words, though kind, fall under a bit of his How Women Should Act(TM) thing, and it’s deceptively insidious. Sure, Don is “one of the good ones”; but you can still see the shock creep across his face when he pieces together what transpired, in spite of him telling her not to do it. (TALE AS OLD AS TIIIIIIME)

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Joan and her (albeit reticent) bang with Herb is the crowning jewel of a woman he cannot control, nor own. Oof.

“The conversation doesn’t end just because you leave the room.”