Mad Men s5e4: Mystery Date

“You know, there are some parts of town where we can run into some people I worked with.”

Hello, dark-ass episode! This episode is filled with nightmares, fever dreams, literal murder, shame, but not without a tinge of light at the end of the tunnel.

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As we all know, Don’s a guy with a whole lotta hangups. Even with our initial glimpses of Don on the show, he’s ~an adulterer~ though of course, we don’t know it just yet. You see him banging Midge in the pilot and hanging around at her Village digs, and that’s what we know of him. They have a chat like a couple would, he frets about work and being a fraud while she soothes and reassures during their pillow talk. Then as Caravan pipes up, he boards the train home to his idyllic suburban home in Ossining at the very end.. revealing his picture-perfect wife and 2 kids.

quelle surprise.. || image courtesy of Giphy

What starts to come into focus as Mystery Date unfolds is just how deeply ashamed Don is of his past fucking around, how intrinsically broken he is inside. This show has never really presented Don’s philandering in a good way, but there’s a pretty harsh fluorescent DMV floodlight blasting directly upon his bullshit here. Here’s a guy who hates himself, deep down.

Banging around with Midge, Rachel Menken, Bobbi Barrett, that annoying Palm Springs teenager Joy, the incredibly irritating Miss Farrell, tons of other randos like the remarkably uncomfortable elevator encounter Andrea.. he’s looking for someone or something to fix whatever the hell is wrong with him, and he plunges in hardon first. We know he’s never had a loving mother figure in his life which certainly doesn’t help.

That feeling of isolation and shame eats away at him, and he’s terrified that it’s some keystone part of his personality he can’t move past; marrying Megan was maybe a move to convince himself that it’ll be better this time around. He was unhappy while married to Betty, and you never know.. perhaps he’s right, Megan will save the day with her sunny bubbliness and her love for him. Maybe she’ll coax him and love him into fixing that part of himself. But hey, Don.. we create our own demons.

Ginsberg knocks a presentation out of the park for Butler Shoes Footwear, and natch, rattles off like a maniac about the idea of Cinderella being inherently dark; and it does make sense. Think about it– a woman with only one shoe desperately running, hobbling, to get the fuck away from a dark, imposing figure of a man. Ginzo describes the ad’s moneyshot with the chase, Cinderella’s shoe, as we see Andrea’s limp leg from under Don’s bed later.. juxtaposed against that sumptuous white carpet after he strangled her to death in his fever hallucination.

And Don frantically shoving Andrea’s body under the bed is the inverse of the oft-discussed Speck murders in this episode; instead, it’s a dead girl under the bed versus a frightened live one.

Because of Speck looming over everyone, there’s talk of people popping up at your door and what might happen. The soldier who crosses Joan’s threshold should theoretically be fulfilling a dream for her; Greg, her husband, back from Vietnam on leave, with less than a few months to go before he’s back home for good and they can be a family again.

But we all know Greg is more of a shit nightmare creep than a daydreamer’s hero. We know that he raped Joan on the floor of Don’s office. We know that he’s a wildly insecure manbaby, whom Joan married more for the expectation of a lady of her time than true love. We know that they’ve tried to make things work, with some nice moments here and there, but at the end of the day Greg is just the handsome face she settled for. Either way he’s her husband, and she’s relying on him to be home soonish and help her day to day make sense; instead, he volunteered to stay in Vietnam for another year because he feels “needed” over there. Fucking hell.

The surprise news is dumped on Joan at a classy Italian dinner with her mother and Greg’s distraught parents, immediately followed by some bro blaring an accordion to ease the tension. Last time an accordion made an appearance on this show was when Joan had to serenade a similarly uncomfortable trash dinner!

image courtesy of The New Yorker

So, Joan ditches said shitbag husband once and for all, thank fucking Christ. She has reached her limit of bullshit, and Greg and his microscopic dick can go and be Very Important(TM) in Vietnam. Good riddance, dead weight.

As the dawn of the next day arrives, it seems everyone’s waking from their nightmares, and probably none more than Joan. Don’s shit fever dream only lasts that night, whereas Joan is breaking out of one she had been living for years.

And while Don is left feeling wary of his wandering eye in the harsh light of day, Peggy is consumed with guilt and embarrassment over a split-second moment with Dawn and her cash-addled purse. And in fairness to Pegs, I feel like she was more worried about having a relative stranger in her house when she’d swindled Roger for so much cash that day (roughly $2600 in 2017 dollars!) rather than a race thing. Either way, that split second moment of hesitation with her purse on the coffee table as they said goodnight is something she can’t really bounce back from.. awkward.

image courtesy of Crasstalk

Joan lies on her bed next to her tiny baby and her mother, mulling everything over and wide awake. This isn’t the life she thought she’d have, and it’s certainly not the one she was sold, but at least she doesn’t have to worry about Greg and his bullshit Fragile Man Feelings(TM) anymore.

Can everyone break out of their bullshit? Can we ever really do that? Guess we’ll have to see.

“I mean, she’s running down this dark side street. And it’s outside a castle, so it’s got those walls and the cobblestones. And she’s running, but she’s only got this one incredible shoe for her incredible gown, so she’s hobbling, wounded prey. She can hear him behind her, his measured footsteps catching up.. she turns a corner; those big shadows.. And she’s scared. And then she feels a hand on her shoulder and she turns around. And it doesn’t matter what he looks like, he’s handsome at that moment offering her her shoe. She takes it. She knows she’s not safe, but she doesn’t care. I guess we know in the end she wants to be caught.

….See? It’s too dark.”

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Mad Men s2e5: The New Girl

An iconic episode, one of my favourites. The mystery of Peggy and Pete’s lovebaby is revealed, Peggy gets some great lady schooling from Bobbie, and Don miraculously manages to look debonair while wearing a sling.

Pete and Trudy are at the doctor, yapping about pregnancy, lack thereof, and all that crap. They are having issues conceiving a baby, though we know Pete is plenty virile. Pete brings up the then taboo idea of being one of “those childless couples”, and Trudy simply isn’t having it; she wants to have a family with him, and as she tearfully explains that idea, he gets it. The good news is that the doctor can blow up her ovaries, or do whatever..

Joan is engaged! The office is buzzing. Roger makes a crack about “relatively young love”, but she looks happy. He seems reticent, and Joan picks up that maybe he’s over the entire idea and concept of marriage, not just his wife.

“This is America. Pick a job, and then become the person that does it.”

Actual Don Draper realness in that quote right there.

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image courtesy of Blogspot

Bobbie is set to celebrate selling Grin and Barrett to CBS. Don goes to meet her at Sardi’s, and he runs into Rachel Menken (Katz) and her very boilerplate Husband(TM) Tilden. They have a strange interaction, it’s awkward and short; Rachel sees what he’s doing with Bobbie and appears disappointed, almost. Don is in a cloud of disenchantment and sadness after they run off to the theatre, so he and Bobbie drunk drive to Long Island to hit up her beach house. Always a great idea.

“God, I feel so good.”

“I don’t feel a thing.”

If there was one sentence that sums up Don Draper, it’s that. He’s constantly seeking out stimulation, something to shake him up and make him feel something, but at the end of the day it’s a flatline. It both motivates and paralyses him.

Natch, they get into a car accident. Don fails the sobriety test (the legal limit in 1962 was .15%! Jesus Christmas..), and comes up short on the $150 fine. Don rings a mystery woman, who is revealed as Peggy! She offers to let Bobbie stay with her to allow time for the black eye to heal, and these two women could not be more different.

Bobbie is generally insecure around Peggy, wondering what the real reason is that she’s helping her out. Bobbie offers a bunch of sage Lady Advice to her in the meantime, though Peggy fires back at her with shade at every turn.

Bobbie: “You have to start living the life of the person you want to be.”

Peggy: “Is that what you did?”

Bobbie: “You’re never going to get that corner office until you start treating Don as an equal. And no one will tell you this, but you can’t be a man, don’t even try. Be a woman. Powerful business when done correctly.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

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image courtesy of Mashable

We flash to Peggy in a hospital in 1960, all fucked up on tranquillisers. She can’t remember what happened clearly, and the doctor informs her that she’s had a baby. Peggy stares off into space in disbelief, or wishing to forget it entirely. Her mother and pregnant sister are there, appearing supportive.

At some point, Don comes to visit Peggy in the hospital and offers some sage Don Draper advice to her. After all, she essentially bounced from a job she was beginning to flourish at.. what’s the deal?

“Is that you? Are you really there?”

“Yes I am.”

“What are you doing here?”

“You got a promotion and disappeared.. your Christmas present is sitting on your desk. I called your house, and your roommate gave me your mother’s number.”

“Oh, God.”

“Your mother told me you were quarantined.. TB. I guess that was supposed to lessen my concern.”

“I’m sorry.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do they want you to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do.. Do it. Do whatever they say. Peggy, listen to me. Get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.”

In this instance, I think this is really stellar advice. I know that Don is ultimately just trying to get her back into the office and doing his thing, but I feel that he knows a bit about her as well. He knows that she wants to succeed at advertising, not be a housewife; he knows she’s different from the rest. He sought her out to remind her of the importance of getting on with it, to let go and to move on with life. What the doctors are saying and the judgement doesn’t matter. He sees a bit of himself in her and wants to bring that out.

At home post-accident, it sounds like Don recommitted to his marriage at some point. Betty is understandably upset that he didn’t phone the house after his accident, but he plays it as that he didn’t want to worry her and call so late. He has high blood pressure, and thinks the booze and the meds didn’t make good bedfellows. Betty offers a sensible response.. “You should call me. I’m your wife. You promised you wouldn’t disappear like that anymore.”

Peggy takes Bobbie’s advice to heart, and point blank asks Don for her bail cash she loaned him. The flaw in moving forward is that sometimes you forget it almost entirely. She thanks him, and calls Don by his first name; he’s clearly taken aback. Good for you, Pegs!

At dinnertime, Betty withholds the salt with their meatloaf dinner. When Sally asks why, Betty replies that it’s because they love him. Upon hearing this, Don stares off to some far away place.

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image courtesy of Fanpop

“I’m sure glad I don’t have problems.”

Mad Men s1e12: Nixon Vs. Kennedy

Ah shit, it’s Election Day 1960! There’s a party in the office where Harry bangs Hildy, Kenny peeps Allison’s undies, and Kinsey’s blowhard yet charming play gets a very dramatic reading. Wonderful.

Don is a man forged from being on the run from his own past, and he’s honestly never stopped. We almost see two distinct people with Don Draper versus Dick Whitman, but the reality is that they are one in the same. He’s an isolated, terrified guy ready to blast out of his escape hatch at the drop of a hat.

“You haven’t thought this through.”

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image courtesy of Hubpages.com

Watching Don put up this tough guy front only to be sincerely threatened by Pete’s “I KNOW U” speech is nuts. As soon as Pete leaves his office, Don’s entire demeanour crumbles and changes.

When you think a glimpse of who this ~mysterious Don~ really is will come through, some sweaty maniac emerges at Rachel’s apartment pleading with her to bounce from Manhattan posthaste. That’s unfortunate. Thankfully Rachel is pragmatic and sees through his rambling nonsense and shuts it down immediately; she calls it like it is, and compares him to a knobhead teenager for jumping at the gun to Run Away Together(TM). She ain’t wrong.

Truth be told, Don’s literally never given a second thought to his actions; the man is compartmentalised to a fault. As soon as she brings up his children it’s plain the idea has simply never dawned on him.

“You haven’t thought this through.”

During the Election Night festivities, someone vommed Creme de Menthe in Peggy’s trash can, and she is not pleased (I wouldn’t be either, Pegs- it’s gauche). To top it off, someone jacked her cash out of her locker during the election day party the night before– rude. Don is already on edge from Pete being in his office uninvited, so after he comes back from Rachel’s rejection to see a weepy Peggy in his personal space the guy is immediately pissed off.

Her complaint to the building sadly ended with a janitor being fired, and she’s upset about disrupting an innocent person’s life. This is a notion that’s literally never fucking occurred to Don Draper. Suddenly, he gets an idea.

Steeled from being shot down by Rachel, Don goes and puffs his chest at Pete, standing over him in the dark.

“I thought about what you said. And then I thought about you, and what a deep lack of character you have.”

I mean, DAMN. He then lets Pete know he’s going to hire Duck Phillips as Head of Account Services, who will be one of the more ludicrous characters in the seasons to come.

So, he calls Pete’s bluff and they go to Bert Cooper’s office together, Pete thinking dropping the bomb about Don’s Dick identity will somehow result in a promotion. Bert Cooper has the most realistic response imaginable, and Pete’s smear campaign is squarely halted.

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DING DING DING

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Cooper’s been around the block, and he knows that at the end of the day, this isn’t a massive deal. But don’t think that means he won’t keep this little factoid knocking around in the back of his mind for future gain. After all, one never knows how loyalty is born. How and Why did Don end up at Sterling Cooper, anyway?

Turns out Dick Whitman is a goddamned klutz and literally (accidentally) blows up the real Don Draper in Korea. I love that this story is the most ridiculous thing imaginable, and not some hard boiled noir story of identity change.. after some firing from the enemy and battering down in a ditch, Dick was just scared out of his fucking mind and drops his lighter, which starts a chain explosion. Incredible.

He swaps dogtags with the smouldering hulk of Don corpse out of pure fear-based instinct. As he’s taking the body playing the role of Dick Whitman to his family in PA, he sees his stepmother with Uncle Mac and Adam on the platform. He stiffens for a moment of unadulterated panic as Adam recognises him on the train, but since he’s just a kid, Mac dismisses him pronto.

Some 50’s broad hits on him at that moment, being real insensitive about “that boy in the box” might I add, and he realises that being in some new persona could be of great benefit. He can be anyone he wants to be in that instant, and thus, Don is born.

Next up is the Season 1 finale.

Mad Men s1e10: Long Weekend

“When God closes a door, he opens a dress.”

Roger Sterling is into youth and staying young, and this episode makes that pretty evident. Even the 1960 election that’s on in the background, John F. Kennedy versus Richard Nixon, drives that idea home. Does Kennedy’s youth in this era and his familial advantages make him entitled as a result?

Don relates to Nixon more than nouveau riche Kennedy, which is telling. He views Kennedy as the new kid on the block who effortlessly has it all, versus Nixon the self-made man, the guy who became Vice President six years out of the Navy. “Kennedy, I see a silver spoon. Nixon, I see myself.”

Don’s meeting with Menken – Rachel and father – is more of the same; talking about how to modernise their department store and how much more advantageous the new, ‘younger’ version is.

This is the first appearance of an important character, Betty’s father, Gene. He’s got a new ladyfriend Gloria, and though Betty is distressed by the quick changeover, Don dismisses her concerns with the fact that he was previously married for 4 decades. He’s an old guy, he needs a woman’s touch, et cetera– someone to take care of him, from a pragmatic point of view. Don seemingly doesn’t give an emotional connection like what Gene may have had with his wife another thought, and Betty isn’t happy to have her concerns shrugged off.

Joan seems bored of Roger’s last minute idea of getting together over Labor Day weekend, unflappable as always. Even when her roomate Carol comes onto her and clumsily confesses her love, Joan is serene as ever. This is a woman who is generally not rattled by anything or anyone.

Seeing a sliver of Joan’s private life is illuminating. “These men, constantly building them up, and for what? Dinner? Jewellery?? Who cares!” She’s out to have fun and enjoy the city, and is encouraging Carol to do the same. They’re two young girls living in the city, after all!

They bring home some fossils they met at the bar, and where Joan is playful and going with the flow, Carol is stiff and very much sullen. Those dudes are pretty ratchet though, so I can’t blame her.

Double sided aluminum has done a casting call, and since Freddy Rumsen is an Archaic Man of the Time, it’s all young twin 20-something girls. Roger and Don go to pick out a pair to charm for the evening, and end up with these ladies.

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“Now, look far away and visionary.”

image courtesy of Photobucket

At one point Roger’s talking with Mirabelle about his daughter Margaret, not understanding why she’s so angry. He can’t seem to connect with his own teenage daughter, but here he is unloading all of this on an actual 20 year-old.

Roger has a heart attack sometime during round two with her, and she frantically calls for help. Don shoos the twins away, and once the ambulance arrives to take Roger, he’s deliriously asking for said 20 year-old. Don grabs him by the hair and slaps him across the face, reminding him that his wife is Mona.. true bro shit right there.

In the hospital bed, Roger seems genuinely remorseful and broken. He goes on about energy and the human soul, and true to form, Don has no real response for him other than asking “what do you want to hear?” Oy. Then Roger sees his wife and daughter. He’s greeted with love and immediately breaks down into tears, and Don doesn’t know how to process any of it.

The phone call Don has with Betty right after his friend has a heart attack mostly revolves around her trivial complaints about Gloria. This pretty much launches him directly at Rachel’s apartment.

Joan finds out about all this from Bert Cooper, as she goes to the office in the middle of the night. This is the first time you see Joan really react to something – she tearfully types out telegrams to Sterling Cooper clients, as Bert dictates.

Bert: “Don’t waste your youth on age, my dear.”
Joan: “He’s just a friend.”
Bert: “That’s not what I’m talking about.”

Shots fired from Cooper! He read between the lines.

Not to get too Cronenberg, but there’s a few remarks about skin; Roger remarks on Mirabelle’s skin (translucent), later when he’s had his heart attack Don remarks that Roger’s skin seemed like paper. Fragile. Shaken at Rachel’s apartment, Don accuses her of looking right through him.

Don blows his emotional load all over Rachel in the afterglow. Turns out they’ve both got mothers that died in childbirth, though Don’s upbringing is infinitely more dire. This is the first time he’s talked about it aloud on the show, and he chooses to share it with Rachel in lieu of Betty. Lots of Fragile Man Feelings.

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Well, this looks like a completely normal way to lie down.

image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia

At this point, it appears that Rachel might draw some more depth out of him and help him to reform some of his views, but NOPE. Don appears to be nearly static as the series goes on – every character and every thing around him eventually changes, sometimes radically, yet he stays the same. Don is the black hole.

Mad Men s1e6: Babylon

It’s Mother’s day! Don is not fully engrossed in breakfast-in-bed-for-Betty, and promptly falls over while reading the funny papers on the staircase. Somehow, he narrowly avoids death. This falling-backwards-down-the stairs-thing is my actual nightmare, by the way.

He then reminisces about Adam being born, as we glimpse Uncle Mac and the gawky kid Dick Whitman once was. His stepmother named Adam after ‘the first man’ which is just so clever.

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S H A D E

image courtesy of TheWrap.com

Mother’s Day is sort of bittersweet for Betty, whose mother died semi-recently. When she tries to open up and express what she’s feeling, a totally normal thing to do within the confines of marriage, Don shuts it down with his fucked out views on grieving, alluding to it as “extended self-pity”. Jesus Rollerblading Christ, that’s dark. Please refer to Sophia Loren’s face, above.

Here is the start of delving into Betty’s obsession with appearance. Clearly her mother instilled these ideas in her head from the getgo, and as a result she’s very concerned and insecure about ageing. Don is dismissive for all the wrong reasons and looks bored, which is always encouraging (once again, please refer to the flawfree Sophia Loren). He tries to turn it all into a bang sesh, and Betty flips the script, attempting to reel him in with reminders that she’s only for him. Don looks taken aback and a little irritated.

This is the first episode where we see Joan and Roger together, in the hotel afterglow. Their relationship seems comprised of witty banter, though you can see that he does care about her. She’s flippant about their whole arrangement, being pragmatic and knowing that it won’t last. Unflappable as usual.

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image courtesy of BasementRejects

And hey, here’s the first appearance of Freddy Rumsen! Good god is this guy delightfully insulting/tonedeaf about women. Fun fact: when it looks like someone is drinking too much in 1960, that person is a certified lush.

Peggy is discovered for her creative prowess in the Belle Jolie brainstorming session, which really launches her character arc. Joan is clearly semi-bored by the brainstorming sesh, snark all the way. She’s really unlike anyone in that room and knows it; it’s the same idea with Peggy, though different in the execution. Peggy is thinking of ways to write for the product, whereas Joan is just enjoying being in charge. Peggy doesn’t want to be one of 100 colours in a box, and she’s starting to find her footing and her voice.

Joan is irritated that Peggy was recognised for her budding talent re:copy. Of course, Joan has been recognised in the office, but I’d guess not necessarily for anything like that. More behind closed doors, no shade intended. Their unconventional lady kinship will grow throughout the course of the series.

Working on an account, Don needs to know more about Israel and Jewish history than he can infer from Exodus and history books. Natch, he rings up Rachel. He is uncharacteristically super tryhard during his ‘working lunch’ with her– he’s nervous and not put together, being overly complimentary, and Rachel is having precisely none of it.

They speak about Israel, as Don is trying to find something real and unsentimental. He can definitely relate to exile, and that’s about it thus far. Rachel leaves him with a lot to chew on. She refers to Israel as “more of an idea than a place”. And, utopia/utopos; meaning the good place, and the place that cannot be. A perplexing and captivating idea, reality for all walks of life.

Later, she rings her sister Barbara to chat about Don and whatever potential may possibly exist. Wise beyond her 28 years, she methodically maps out bits and pieces of what could or could not be.

“Sometimes, things come. Good things, but there’s no future in them.”

Since he couldn’t get it in with Rachel, Don heads to the Village to see Midge. Watching him in the dim beatnik bar is pretty amazing. He seems a little more at home around those types somehow, he’s funnier and a touch more real. “I blow up bridges.” Midge’s friend refers to advertising as perpetuating the lie, and though Don follows up with a snarky response, he doesn’t entirely balk at the idea.

Don: “People want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone.”

Roy: “When you say people, I have a feeling you’re talking about .. thou.”

Preach it, proto-hippie.

The ending of this episode is pretty fantastic. You can’t help but feel the loneliness and isolation seeping from these characters.