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.

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!”

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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.

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.”

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 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.”

Mad Men s5e8: Lady Lazarus

“Have you seen those pictures of earth from space? .. Do they make you feel small and insignificant?”

image courtesy of TheBigLead

The concept of Suburban Alienation has been pretty heavily explored throughout Mad Men thus far, and it’s about to catch up with Don with nary a suburb in sight. We also see that Pete Campbell’s dull train rides are getting under his skin. He gets to know some doughy dolt named Howard; natch, he’s casually cheating on his disproportionately hot wife.

image courtesy of YouTube

After their onetime spontaneous bang and brief pillowtalk, Pete becomes consumed with this fantasy of Howard’s wife Beth. Maybe she does help him to see the world a little differently, inspiring him to think a touch deeper.. or maybe she’s just tapping into his innate desire to feel needed. And in a first for Pete, he learns that he’s pretty much powerless to hold onto her. Beth is a lady who is able to make whatever their faux-relationship may or may not be dissolve as naturally as rolling down her fogged heart-drawn car window. Pete feels just about as lonely as the Earth looks from space in that moment.

image courtesy of Uproxx

Beth echoes Trudy’s good looks, acts fairly frosty à la Betty, but is independent like Pegs. She exudes the same Betty vibes of a bored/trapped housewife with no legit access to her aspirations and passions, stuck in an episode all about just those things.

(And on a sidenote, seems like Beth has done this before– hookin’ randos at the train station. Get it, girl! Howard suuuuucks.)

Megan is pretty much Don’s dream lady, but in fulfilling all that junk for him she’s put her own shit on the backburner. Turns out she still wants to be an actress, and has been auditioning on the sly. Desperate to bounce from SCDP, she wants to pursue her dream but needs Don to OK it first. Don saw what happened with Betty not being able to follow through on what she wanted with her life, so he’s pretty quick to agree with Megan re:her quitting SCDP.

Rewind to the Codfish Ball with Don and Megan blowing up Heinz together, working flawlessly as a team/power couple that anyone would envy. That marriage/work moment is everything Don could have dreamed of and more, a sky-high blip from which things could only careen straight back down to hell.. and how.

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Unfortunately for Don, this dynamic is not designed to last; and realistically, what is she supposed to do, anyway? Work with him legit forever? Nope. Megan musters up the courage to deal with her feelings head on. She admits to both herself and Don that she doesn’t want to work in advertising (although she has innate talent), but she would rather be an actress and have her own career; one that’s separate from Don, which is totally normal. Feeling better at failing in an audition than she did succeeding with the Heinz idea says it all.

And how does Don react to the news? On the outside, he’s understanding and perhaps supportive. This is hundreds of miles away from how he would have reacted with Betty, even going so far as to admit to Roger that he doesn’t want Megan to end up like her; bitterly unhappy and unfulfilled because he held her back. (Don’t do what Donny Don’t Does, Don.)

Surface niceties aside, Don can’t help but feel a tremendous dogpile of deep disappointment, melancholy, and abandonment within his bones. When Megan leaves SCDP for the last time as an employee, sweetly ensuring Don she would see him at home, he stares down the empty elevator shaft and something feels acutely wrong. Though it’s not something he can articulate just yet, that backhand of existential dread hits him square in the solar plexus. It’s a mere moment, but you know things won’t be the same ever again. Stare into the abyss and the abyss stares right back atcha.

Rattled and lured by his office bar’s gravitational pull, booze is the way he chooses to deal with it for the time being. When Don takes that drink, he looks noticeably worried and a little weathered. A goddamned mess in contrast to how bright and happy he looked with Megan in their shared Heinz success, and even during that silly Cool Whip play-acting.

Not to mention that generally Don is the one who does the bouncing.. so when Megan splits, it throws him for a loop. The power dynamic shifts to her favour and he’s uneasy about it.

Why does Megan pick what is probably the least mainstream accessible track on Revolver? Because it’s what’s next, the ever-evolving culture that will pass him by if he doesn’t wake up; he’ll be a man out of his time. The 60s are about to explode into psychedelic fun mania both music and style-wise.

As the episode ends, Don picks up the record needle and abruptly stops the music. He shuffles to the empty bedroom in silence, back to being adrift at work once more. Megan’s been keeping him straight at the office, but what now? Will he lose Megan to a strange new acting world he knows practically nada about?

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Will that frightening moment be Don’s undoing? He’s been so Good(TM) up to this point.. Tomorrow Never Knows, indeed. Megan and Beth have bounced, leaving Don and Pete in their wake feeling equal parts isolated and confused. Time to get on with it and get with the times, fellas.

“Why do they give you a glimmer of hope in the midst of rejection? A little thread to hang on to, a misplaced word, a suggestion of the future..under a court of law, it would look like an accident, but it’s not. Why do they get to decide what’s going to happen?”

“.. They just do.”