Mad Men s5e1 & e2: A Little Kiss

“You think he’s looking at your breasts?? He’s looking at my calendar!”

Hello hello, and welcome back! I’m really looking forward to writing about this season, because season 5 is where shit starts to get dark. Right out of the gate, there’s talk of death, intense bitterness, underlying messes, how nothing is as it seems.. with a nice dash of good old daddy issues and Fragile Man Feelings. We pick up a few months after the conclusion of season 4’s Tomorrowland, Memorial Day Weekend 1966.

Staking your own spot in the world is at the forefront of this episode, with our main characters desperate to mark their territory. Pete vs Roger (and the fight for an office sans support beam), Megan showing off her marriage (and dope-ass home), Joan finding her identity through work (and not just being a mother), Lane and his place in the USA.

image courtesy of Amoeba

There’s a lot of Don and Megan in this episode, and they’re both starting to realise exactly how little they actually understand about one another. Don, as he is wont to do, assumed Megan would be simple and uncomplicated; turns out she ain’t no Canadian Barbie, she’s a real person. Ssssssshocker. The man is seething over the surprise party she threw for his 40th, especially inviting everyone into their home and the iconic Zou Bisou Bisou. As a happy go lucky girl, Megan can’t fathom the idea that Don would never want a birthday party, much less a big ol’ surprise involving making him the center of attention.

“Don’t waste money on things like that.”

“It was my money, and you don’t get to decide what I do with it.”

“Well, could you please not use it to embarrass me again?”

“I know why you’re upset.. you’re 40!

“I’ve been 40 for half a year.”

“When is that gonna stop? Only you know that. This is your birthday now.”

“Fine, I don’t like my birthday. I told you, I never had it when I was growing up and I’ve never wanted it since.”

“You never had a birthday? Didn’t Betty ever throw you a party?”

“No, because I forbid it.  I don’t need to be the center of attention.”

“You love attention!”

Well, the good news is that Don was up front with Megan about his Dick Whitman. And we all know that Don loves attention as Megan astutely points out; but he covets control, and wants attention on his own terms. Tale as old as tiiiiiime..

image courtesy of AMC

Switching gears, Lane finds a dude’s wallet in his cab, within which is a photo of busty Dolores; when Lane rings the owner, she’s the one that answers. He’s very flirtatious on the call, the man Lane imagines himself to be, suave and daring. Reality slaps him in the face when a disheveled fat dude in a hat that looks like it got run over by the E train comes to pick up said wallet. Boner killer.

image courtesy of Tumblr

Lane’s pining for something he doesn’t have, something he got a taste of last season with his Playboy Bunny ladyfriend. He fancies much more than just being the office middleman. I feel like that’s a big part of why he lets everyone out of their contracts to create SCDP in the first place– he wants to be one of the power players, the execs who get the gal and the cash and the respect and the power.. much like Don supposedly has.

And instead he has his vaguely severe wife, piles of bills, and he feels powerless. The titty photo is what he longs for, but like much of everything else in his life, is denied him. His effervescent longing gives him the get up and go. Lane has always been a man who feels desperately out of place, ironically looking to Don who’s pretty much in the same boat. Little does he know it’s mostly an illusion of happiness on Don’s front.

That 40th birthday party is the ultimate illusion of happiness, partly shattered by Peggy throwing some particularly uncouth Heinz-related shade. We see Pete’s suburban dreamhouse in Connecticut, a city boy woefully out of place in the wood-paneled country. He really thought that he wanted the life Don had back in 1960, and now that he’s got it (complete with a near-identical hideous knotty pine kitchen) it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Trudy hasn’t quite yet returned to her effortlessly chic self post-baby, and as usual Pete has no earthly idea what he wants, just that he yearns for so much more of it.

Joan is at home with her newborn and mother in tow, yearning to head back to work and to feel relevant again. Being a mother isn’t enough for her to feel needed, to feel important; and the private barb SCDP throws at the racist Y&R hiring policy doesn’t help, thinking they’re looking to replace her.

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Looks like Roger and Jane’s marriage has run its course, with the amount of seething tension between them. Seems nice on the outside, but there’s no depth there.. more on this shocking story at 11. Roger is being rapidly outpaced by Pete at the firm in terms of bringing in new business, and he feels somewhat listless as a result.

Almost every character’s story centres around those fantasies of happiness. Let’s be real, we can all concoct a perf Happy Ending(TM) in our imaginations, but then we get to live with the messier (and oft disappointing) realities that come with it. Everyone coveted the gorgeous, immaculate white carpet Megan saw in that interior design magazine, but the reality is that they all wound up with the filthy version in Don and Megan’s place that survived that birthday party.

“Well, I want you to be happy. Somebody should be. You know, two weeks ago, Jane asked me, “Which one’s Mussolini?'”

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Mad Men s4e12: Blowing Smoke

“I bet I could get a date with your mother right now.”

Ah fuck, this is the episode with THE LETTER. Iconic Don Draper shit, kiddos.

image courtesy of YouTube

Turns out desperation truly reeks, as Don takes meeting after meeting and is met with continual rejection, a feeling he ain’t used to in the slightest. SCDP is teetering on the edge without Lucky Strike, and everyone in Manhattan seems to know it.

Hey, remember Midge? One of Don’s OG boho mistresses, she happily runs into him in the lobby of the Time Life building, but all is not as it seems. Don’s genuinely happy to see her at first, this familiar link to who he was just a few years back.

When he told her that he had been expecting to run into her in The Village, maybe he was hoping they would reconnect or have a catch-up sesh about all the seismic changes in his life this past year; he seemed crestfallen to learn how far she had tumbled, and that her reasons for seeking him out were motivated by cash. Ugh.

Turns out Midge is married to some idiot and lives in a real shithole now, with no use for a check. Said dolt lets it slip that she sought Don out and didn’t just happen to be in the Time Life building that day.. thanks, heroin.

Don gives her some cash for a painting, staring at it once he gets home, lost in the void. Maybe he’s not that dissimilar from the trapped junkie who sold it to him; someone willing to whore himself out for cash from Lucky Strike. Seeing Midge could be a partial wakeup call for him, maybe an extreme glimpse at what could’ve been had he not cut back on his boozin’ earlier this season.

image courtesy of Uproxx

Snapping out of the void, Don starts writing. After all, part of Don’s entire life mantra includes “if you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation”. Midge’s knob of a husband informed Don that the painting is an after-image– what she sees when she closes her eyes. Time to change the after-image of SCDP post-Lucky Strike.

Tearing the pages out of his sobriety journal, he’s set on moving forward and can’t seem to shed that dark period of his life quickly enough. In the process of creating this defiant statement, Don ditched an honest part of himself with his journal’s pages to make way for this very public (and fundamentally faux) declaration of independence.. looks like he’s done dabbling with authenticity for the time being. Nothing like splashing out for a page in the Times, huh?

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

I mean, GODDAMN. Natch, the other partners do not react well. Don didn’t sign their names, nor did he tell anyone about his plan. Then again, it seems to have done its job; the phones are ringing off the hook at SCDP, and it’s not all bad news.

Both Don and Betty act out of self interest in this episode, damaging others in their wake. Sally is growing up and becoming more of her own person, to Betty’s chagrin and vague confusion. Sally is absolutely a different person than Betty is at this point, and she has limited context for how to relate to her daughter outside of Dr. Edna’s sessions.

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Sally and Glen have stayed in touch, and sneak off to hang out in secret as kids sometimes do; Betty finds out and has a fucking meltdown. In a fit of bizarre jealousy over Sally and Glen, she announces to Henry that it’s finally the right time to move. Poor Sally.

Paired with Lucky Strike leaving, Don’s tobacco tantrum on a full page of The New York Times gets a lot of people laid off.. Faye Miller included. Time for all the partners to pay up, let people go, and keep the lights on. The junior partners have to put in 50 grand apiece to keep the company afloat, and Pete doesn’t have that kind of cash. Turns out it’s not that big a deal, as Don pays Pete’s share; a very generous nod to his discretion with that whole Dick Whitman mess.

“I heard from all my clients this morning, mostly out of morbid curiosity. But one thing’s for sure, they’re not talking about Lucky Strike anymore..”

Everything is uneasy, but in the midst of it all, Megan lets Don know that she ‘gets’ the letter and what it symbolises; one of the few times that day that Don breaks his Draper façade. And, Megan is the other person in the office aside from Peggy who comes to Don with something resembling a positive reaction, some form of understanding what exactly it is that he’s trying to pull. It feels different that day at SCDP.

And she’s right, Don does stand for something.. even if it’s through the guise of an ad rooted in a self-serving motive.

“I thought you didn’t go in for those kinds of shenanigans.

Mad Men s4e10: Hands and Knees

“I just want some warning.”

“Why? What are you gonna do?”

“Whatever I have to. You can run the agency without me.”

Oof, this is a loaded episode filled with people hiding shit. Don and his Dick (identity), Roger losing Lucky Strike, Lane’s marriage implosion, Joan’s abortion.. it’s all a legit mess.

image courtesy of Imgur

Remember North American Aviation? Well, Pete’s done his due diligence and is very slowly coaxing them to SCDP as a client. However, this entails working with the government which is bad news for Don and his whole desertion thing.. you know, that. Pete is spot on to resent Don for needing him to kill the NAA deal, but he also seems to envy Don for not feeling more guilt about who he really is and what he did in Korea.. yet we see peppered in the episode/series how wholly crippling that weight still is, years later.

Pete: “I was thinking about this, and I know it’ll be uncomfortable, but if we have to, we can ride it out.”

Don: “Are you crazy?”

Pete: “This many years later? It must be past the statute of limitations.”

Don: “It’s desertion. There’s no statute of limitations.”

Pete: “I thought nobody cared about these things.”

Don: “What am I supposed to do?”

Pete: “I don’t know.. you’ve been doing it for years. I don’t have to live with your shit over my head.. You know, I signed this account after you disappeared in California. It’s taken three years, but I’ve grown it from cocktails to $4 million.”

Don: “Get rid of it.”

This is a far bigger deal for Don than when Pete found out, because Pete was just a smarmy jerk who wanted to wield that intel to get promoted; at best, Don could lay the smackdown as he did in Cooper’s office, and at worst, he could go full on hobo and Pete wouldn’t give enough of a shit to send the coppers after him. Sorta moot all around, and the old Sterling Cooper would have survived sans Don. SCDP is another story, since Don is pretty much the figurehead and face of this agency.. his loss would radiate.

These G-men are the real deal, and they interview Betty who covers for Don much to his intense relief and sweaty panic. The FBI has mad resources and no hidden agenda à la Pete, and should they happen to uncover Dick Whitman while conducting a routine hunt for Communist ties, he’s up shit creek sans paddle and he knows it.

Post panic attack, Don tells Faye that he’s tired of running. Then, true to form, wholly dismisses her (and Pete’s) suggestion that he should try to face the music and hope that the years passed would somewhat mitigate the penalty. The fly in the ointment is that this gigantic secret is one Don will never really escape no matter how hard he tries. Dick Whitman is dead as far as the US government and military are concerned, so he’s Don Draper until he dies, always looking over his shoulder, waiting for someone else to come blow it all up. His secret is a core part of his identity and his day to day.

Even though Pete can’t see the damage and assumes Don lives scot-free, that ain’t reality. Sounds fucking exhausting.

It was clear how much he yearned for Betty to love him after she learned the truth, and how relieved and relaxed he was around Anna who knew everything, yet Don is underwhelmed that Faye has accepted the truth so simply.. or the edited for content, semi-enhanced version he told her. There’s deffo distance between them in the final scene, and after Faye splits for the day, Don finds himself really seeing Megan for the first time. Cue Beatles cover.

(And how cool is it that Sally gets to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium?? SO BOSS)

*Fun real life tidbit: this is the song I walked down the aisle to at my wedding. Hey-o!*

Not entirely unlike Don, Lane has been running away from his life at breakneck speed. Granted it’s nowhere near as extreme, but he’s obvi chosen the USA over his family. Lane seems to really dig it in New York, and who could blame him once you meet his absolutely terrifying father.

Weirdly, Lane tries to rub his father’s nose in his choices with a trip to the awesomely decorated Playboy Club to meet his ladyfriend Toni. Even Don is in tow in a sad non-recreation of their night out, maybe an attempt to recapture that booze-fuelled magic. Everyone can tell that Lane is trying to show off, which is equal parts super awkward and sad. Turns out he’s dating a Bunny.

image courtesy of Tom and Lorenzo

Back at Lane’s place, his father coldly (and violently) orders him to come back to England to resolve things one way or the other with his wife and son. In a vacuum, he ain’t wrong– Lane can’t just leave it all hanging in the balance, but there are more subtle ways of getting the point across without a fucking concussion.

So here’s Lane.. languishing on the floor, bludgeoned into calling his father “sir.” In this moment we see the origins of that PPL organizational man; this is where the man whom St. John could count on to blindly follow orders without hope of reward came from, his origin. And as much as Lane imagines himself to be this confident, hedonistic and progressive American, he’s still capable of being rattled to his core by his father and forced to obey.

Roger has a boozed up dinner with Lee Garner Jr, where he lets the bomb drop that Lucky Strike is moving on. This ain’t good news for SCDP, since Lucky makes up most of their financial stability which is super precarious.. oy. As Roger goes through his Rolodex, he discovers most of his contacts are now as irrelevant as he seems to be at SCDP. Time to get your shit together, Roger.

On top of that, Joan is now knocked up from their sexy alley encounter. Joan had been set from the start to go through with the abortion as the pragmatic option, but thinking on their past together, she drops her guard for no more than a few seconds; testing the waters to see if Roger would want to keep the baby and they could maybe be together. She swiftly gets popped right back to reality when he immediately responds with “of course not”, the scandal of it all, etc.

Where she was serene and friendly just moments earlier, there’s a hard edge to the rest of their discussion as Joan accepts that this what she’s stuck with; Roger Sterling will never be the man she needs him to be. Some things are better left up to wondering ‘what if’. Gotta get on with it in the real world.

image courtesy of Tom and Lorenzo

Natch, Lane is too mortified by what went down to admit to the other partners the truth behind his leave of absence and returning to London. Roger blows up at Pete for ‘losing’ North American Aviation, but it’s really all about his own shit with Lucky Strike. And then there’s Don, defending Pete, while absurdly relieved he won’t be investigated further. Mess.

But hey, The Beatles tickets came through, Don’s not gonna go to jail for the rest of his life for the time being, Joan ain’t gonna have a lovechild and lie to garbage Greg.. it’s not all bad. Not just yet, anyway.

image courtesy of Tom and Lorenzo

“We’re dead, you know that. The question is when..”

Mad Men s4e6: Waldorf Stories

“Make it simple, but significant.”

Ever wanted to see a drunk fucked out version of the iconic Carousel pitch? Welcome to Life Cereal and the Clios. We get a peek at Don’s advertising origin story, the introduction of the nude Stan Rizzo, Roger’s writing a book, and.. Don is back to being a human landfill. Ah, shit.

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“I GOT DIS” || image courtesy of Giphy

Everyone’s seeking out some sort of credit. Don laments that it’s been so long since Glo-Coat premiered that it feels like he didn’t even do it anymore.. and apparently this is a half-truth. Turns out Peggy came up with the initial idea and Don slapped the old west gimmick on it to make it Iconography(TM), and she’s feeling forgotten. Granted, that’s what he literally does as a Creative Director, but Peggy still wants a nod.

Eternal chip-on-shoulder newbie Art Director Stan complains that his last agency didn’t give anyone credit where credit was due. And of course, Pete Campbell worries that everything he’s worked his ass off to build at SCDP will be eclipsed by the return of Kenny and his haircut.

And then there’s Roger, who wants credit for discovering Don all those years ago at the bottom of a box of furs– though that’s not entirely true, either. Roger writing his memoirs is pretty great, because he likely knows the book may be shit. He doesn’t even have anything particularly profound to write about, no real story to tell; he’s just seeking validation that he offers some kind of value.

We all wish we could rewrite history to suit our own narrative, but shit doesn’t always pan out that way.

“Donald Draper”, a persona invented by Dick Whitman, is rapidly disintegrating in an Olympic-sized swimming pool of booze. What we saw in the “I got this” apocalypse Life Cereal meeting was Dick himself handling a pitch; his sweaty, overtly keen cockiness can be seen shining through the shattered fragments of Don Draper’s Mysterious & Suave(TM) persona.

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 Drunk mess Don, high on the Clio win and a million old fashioneds, jacks an idea that idiot Danny came up with.. though Danny actually ripped it from Alka Seltzer. Cure for the common ‘insert word here’. I mean, it’s way better than “Enjoy the rest of your Life….. Cereal!”, but it’s certainly not as hilarious. What a fucking gauche mess; Don is lightyears away from his more masterful pitches.

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image courtesy of Fanpop

After ordering Stan and Peggy to be sequestered to a hotel room all weekend to work, it’s time to head back out and celebrate. Don’s bender starts off sort of hilariously (and with a patriotic blowjob), but rapidly devolves into sad mess territory. He fucks it up by blacking out for what appears to be an entire day and sleeps through to when he’s supposed to pick up the kids in Ossining, waking up to an understandably pissed off phone call from Betty. And he’s in bed with a rando lady he doesn’t recognise.

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“I’ve made a huge mistake.” || image courtesy of Fanpop

This Don Draper, cowering from a lady he boned in his goddamned bathroom, is not the guy we know. But then again, he’s been incredibly off his game. The mystery diner waitress even calls him Dick.. Christ on a cracker.

Lord knows things get stuck in my head all the time, and I don’t know from whence in the fresh hell it came; Peggy strikes that creative chord with Don when she finally reaches him at his Hiroshima apartment regarding The Cure for The Common Breakfast.

Don does not acknowledge Peggy’s work on Glo-Coat; but then again, we only have her version of how it went down and it’s entirely possible that she’s blowing out her role just as much as Roger does when yapping about how Don came to be at Sterling Cooper. At the end of the episode, Don does let her talk to him like he’s the subordinate re:Danny cockup, and she gets to enjoy having the power position with Stan. So, Peggy’s making strides bit by bit.

Grown-ass men acting like children, and the ladies have gotta keep em in line. TALE AS OLD AS TIIIIIIME. Look at the way Peggy handles Stan and calls him on his shit; working nude in a hotel room just to call his bluff, but at the same time, they bond and he learns to respect her a little more and be less of a dick. Look at how Joan sarcastically calls out Roger’s mopey mood; miles away from the gleeful girl who was so impressed with him and his Mink.

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image courtesy of Todoseries

During his bender, turns out Don lost his damn Clio at the bar. Roger retrieves it, and wants Don to admit that he couldn’t have done it all without him. Don doesn’t even say that, but vaguely acknowledges Roger’s role in the whole thing.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

Just like young enthusiastic Don bugging Roger like a fly on shit, Danny is overeager and eerily persistent in getting what he wants. And just like Roger back in the day, Don can’t recall ever being that outwardly tacky or hungry to grab an opportunity.. though we know better. It’s also funny to see the tonedeaf Don of yore with Roger, completely shit at reading his audience when he innocently inquires if he ever needed to be cut a break.

Both Don and Danny snag their jobs because the man they’re trying to impress gets too fucking blotto to realize what in the hell they’re doing. Up, up, up the ladder of success!

“Award or no award, you’re still Don Draper.”

“Whatever that means.”

Mad Men s4e5: The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

“Christ on a cracker, where do you get off??”

This is one of those episodes that seems light on the outside, but there’s so much to dig into. Oof. Realistically, just how long can you hold onto a grudge? How long can you continue to define yourself by something that happened literal ages ago? How long can you use those prehistoric events to justify trash actions today? What does that garbage do to a person? Taking a closer look at Roger and Betty in this episode, this sort of shit is all on display.

Let’s take a moment for Miss Blankenship, because I love her in general, but also because she’s an excellent foil to Don. The guy treats people so fucking poorly sometimes; showing him tolerating generally harmless gaffes by this hapless bat he’s been saddled with humanises him a touch. He can’t just fuck off to California every week. Miss Blankenship’s weird hidden talent of transforming the guy from Don to Dick for a hot second is pretty great.

Roger Sterling has always been shown as a guy who doesn’t take life (or himself) too seriously, the life of the party and the guy who knows everyone and loves to schmooze and joke around. Apparently, the notable exception to this rule is World War II. When Pete brings up that he’s landed a meeting with Honda, a Japanese company, it’s meltdown city. Roger wholly rejects the idea of doing business with them, and almost fucks their chances entirely by acting like an asshole in the meeting to boot. Awkward.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

But hey, it’s nice to see Bert Cooper take an active role in something besides preserving the carpets. His extremely intimate knowledge of Japanese culture and customs contrasted well with his confusion over the march on Selma.. “They got what they wanted. Why aren’t they happy?”

There are tons o’reasons a guy like Cooper would grow fascinated with Japanese culture while generally shrugging off vast portions of his own culture. Remember that Cooper is an Objectivist; a large part of it may be due to that adoration of authority and order at the centre of so many of those guys and gals.

Through that, a theme of the episode emerges as well; utter goddamned frustration when someone is unable to force one’s will onto the people around them. Roger hits the fucking ceiling when Don and Pete decide to follow the Honda exec’s orders and not his own. Betty is absolutely livid when Sally asserts her independence and cries out for attention by cutting her own hair. Don is pissed when dear sweet Teddy Chaough grabs control of the narrative Don is building with SCDP.

That confrontation with Roger and Pete is intense, with Don in the middle. It was fun to see Pete echo Don’s sentiment from the s3 finale in this episode: “The rest of us are trying to build something.” Don knows Pete’s in the right. Lashing out and “wrapping himself in the flag” of Lucky Strike providing most of the company’s cashflow, Roger wants to cut Pete down for bringing in new business and shifting the importance off of him ever so slightly.

He’s gonna have to get over that bullshit real quick if he wants to keep the lights on.

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image courtesy of NYTimes

As Betty finds a shrink for Sally, she connects with Dr. Edna– an older woman who obviously sees through Betty’s façade. Betty smiling at the dollhouse says so much; here’s this perfect little life in this perfect little house, a husband and wife with 3 kids, a life that she still yearns for on some level though she knows it ain’t real.

Sally craves her father’s attention desperately, and has no clue how to get it; and she probably needs attention in general, to be acknowledged. What Sally feels matters, and Betty is perhaps starting to get that; the effect of the divorce on her matters. Sadly, Betty was more of a prize to her mother who paraded her for show; she’s still got a lot of anger and resentment there. Slowly but surely, Betty is trying to evolve.

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image courtesy of AVClub

At home, Henry is helping her with her transformation, but the vibe is sort of bizarre. Sometimes his interactions with her sound more father/daughter than husband/wife. When he helped settle the fight between Betty and Sally it sounded as if he could have been talking with two siblings about getting along. It’s almost as if Henry has stepped in as a faux father to the whole bunch, Betty included.

While many dislike Betty as a character, she is such a significant illustration of the consequences of the position women were put in at the time. I’ve written about it before, but with no real options open to Betty other than becoming a mother and housewife, she (obvi not happy with either) turns bitter and spiteful as she struggles under those limitations. Remember how free and herself she felt in Rome? Sadly, not reality.

To this point, Betty has not been able to garner a foothold in any world outside the home that has been slowly suffocating her. It’s way too easy to blame her for not going out and forging her own shit, but we’re in a super different world today; the constraints on her along with so many women of that time are vast. The expectations for ladies like Betty are super fucking problematic and sky-high, and the people around her get hurt as a result when she lashes out against said expectations.

Similarly clueless on how to help Sally, Don reveals a tiny bit about his situation to Dr. Faye Miller.

“Well, I can’t say there’s any evidence to support this, but I’m pretty sure that if you love her and she knows it, she’ll be fine.”

And that kitchen discussion between Don and Faye is damned impressive to watch. Take a look at the timing of when Don chooses to open up to her.. he offers absolutely fuckall about his personal life until he’s poked into hers, and discovered that she’s living her own faux life with the fauxgagement ring to discourage dudes from hitting on her.

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image courtesy of MadMenWikia

And Don is in enough of a personal crisis that even he needs to talk to someone about it, even if he doesn’t directly come out and say what’s happening to a T. He wants to be a good father to his kids, but has no earthly idea where to start. Shit’s complicated. But ironically, this is the most on point we’ve seen Don this season to date, craftily out-maneuvering indecently handsome Ted Chaough of CGC for the Honda account. Capery and all!

“Please tell me I missed everything.”

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image courtesy of Junkee