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.

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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 s4e9: The Beautiful Girls

“It’s a business of sadists and masochists, and you know which one you are.”

This episode rattles me every damn time I watch it. Seeing Joan, Peggy, Faye and Sally all struggle with being put in a box and told what to do is infuriating and sad.. yet entirely too relatable even as a modern lady. Oof.

Like a tiny hobo, Sally hitches a train to the city to see Don; it does not go well. A kind judgmental stranger pops her to SCDP, and in a panic, Don shoves Faye in her direction. Turns out she’s not good with kids, much to Don’s chagrin.

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Women in this era were made to feel like horrible people and general failures for choosing not to have kids, and especially for not being good with kids. Hell, women today still get the same sort of shite judgement but it comes in more insidious forms masquerading as Encouraging(TM); “you’ll change your mind”, “you’ll be maternal when you have a baby”, “it’s different when it’s yours”, “what kind of guy would want to stay with a girl who doesn’t want a baby?”. Fun fact: these are real life sentences said to me by real life men (and women), all of whom I swiftly told to fuck off.

Anyhoo!

“These domesticated suburbanites still have a primitive desire to get their hands dirty, but they have become so removed from nature that they can’t. They don’t know how to hunt, or swing a hammer, or fix their cars.”

“You mean like these two!”

“Actually, no.. I’m from Vermont, and Don’s a competitive fly fisherman.”

“What our findings show is that this demographic will spend a good amount of money for the satisfaction of being useful with their hands. Ladies love a man who’s good with his hands..”

There’s a nice splash of irony when Don is meeting with the Fillmore Auto Parts guys. Faye is rattling off research about how men want to feel like they’re Real Men(TM), getting their hands dirty and all that junk, since the suits we know don’t tend to do that often. Just as she’s not a Real Lady for not being great with kids, men can be viewed as lesser than for not being able to fix shit. However with the dudes it’s more of a joking context, versus the reality of women being judged pretty harshly.

Sally is super unhappy at home, and who could blame her? She doesn’t get along with Betty in the least, she misses her father, things just aren’t right. Don has no idea how to really connect with her, and popping Faye into that Woman(TM) mould doesn’t really work.

It’s striking how much Don is using Faye, and it really hit me over the head watching it now. Back when this initially aired, everyone on the damn internet was ALL UP ONS Faye and Don ending up together, and I remained as indifferent and skeptical as Sally. The way he treats Faye is absurd. Watch my kid, make me a drink. What’s going on at that other ad agency? Tell me. It’s pillowtalk subtle, but it’s definitely undermining what she does professionally and he still, a tiny bit, doesn’t take her seriously.

Speaking of disrespectful trash, Peggy gets a drink with Joyce and hey, Abe pops in! Good god, Abe. He’s a journalist, an opinionated know-it-all type, and admonishes Peggy’s very real concerns about equality for women versus the Civil Rights movement. Pegs isn’t one to take it on the chin, and puts him in his place for trying to tell her how she should feel.. cause fuck that noise.

Granted, I feel a lot of this Abe guy is just being awkward and jamming both feet in his mouth in the process but nonetheless, Pegs splits. He tries to apologise (somehow) by writing a literal fucking manifesto; Peggy is mortified, since it’s taking down her profession. In the days following, Abe is clearly on her mind, radical nonsense and all; has she met her opinionated, overconfident match?

At least he’s got better bone structure than Mark.

But man, the fact that Faye doesn’t magically “fix” Sally’s outbursts or offer any insight cements the idea that she’s nothing more than a fling for Don, and she rightfully calls him on it at the end of the episode. Woof. Don definitely needs someone to help him understand his kids better since he seems to be quite shit at it on his own.

Oh yeah, and during Sally’s surprise visit, Miss Blankenship fucking DIES. Jesus Christ.. and she dies at her desk. It’s a bittersweet scene with some good comedic punch, but Bert and Roger are clearly upset. Roger had a bang with her way back when, Bert knew her for most of his life.. very sad.

“She was born in 1898 in a barn, she died on the thirty-seventh floor of a skyscraper.. she’s an astronaut.”

image courtesy of ONTD

Ah, poor Ida. Feeling the immediate pang of life being too short, Joan agrees to have dinner with Roger at their old out of the way place which doesn’t seem so nice anymore since the Bowery’s turned into a toilet. After getting mugged, they have a filthy alley fuck high on adrenaline. It’s a good distraction for them both, at least. Roger is evidently bored in his marriage to Jane, and Joan’s shithusband is about to be popped off to Vietnam. She doesn’t regret the bang, but she wants to respect her marriage. Fair enough.

But man, do I love their banter.

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Megan steps it up and works hard to cover Don’s desk as well as reception. When faced with the reality of returning home to Betty, Sally has a horrifying meltdown causing everyone to come running; faceplanting in the process, she hugs Megan and tearfully admits that she knows things won’t be OK. Ugh, heartbreaking and unnerving. Sally’s sadness and helplessness is palpable, radiating to everyone within earshot.

As the elevator doors close, we see the faces of Joan, Faye, and Peggy. It’s like the curtain closing on a play; who are these women in the office versus their real lives? What do they really want at the end of the day? They all want more out of life, that’s for damn sure.

image courtesy of MadMenWiki

“Men never know what’s going on.”

Mad Men s4e1: Public Relations

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

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

“Who is Don Draper?”

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

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image courtesy of Imgur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia

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

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

Mad Men s3e13: Shut the Door. Have a Seat.

“You come and go as you please.”

Here we are at the Season 3 finale, and it’s a fucking good one. Right out of the gate, Conrad Hilton lets the A-bomb drop that PPL and Sterling Cooper are being sold off to McCann Erickson effective January 1st, and Don ain’t pleased. Who the hell wants to be a cog in the massive McCann machine? Looks like Jim Hobart is back to haunt Don.

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image courtesy of Bustle

This episode is peppered with flashbacks to his childhood, where the farm isn’t doing well. Archie is attempting to make a deal, and outright refuses to settle for less than he’s worth; he splits from the co-op he’s involved with, telling everyone to get the fuck out. Looks like Archie and Don have something in common after all.

Urging Archie to sell his crop for fuckall, he angrily complies with Abigail’s wishes. As he’s getting set to give it all away, he’s killed by that horse as Dick watches on in the night; should’ve stuck with your guns, Arch.

As shit falls apart, Don scrambles for an idea to make it all come back together again. He’s not gonna end up like his father. Ironically (or probably not), Don seems to be at his professional best when his personal life is a complete mess. He’s equal parts intensely focused, enthusiastic, and pissed off, abuzz with anxiety; he wants to build something of his own and pleads his case to Bert and Roger.

“You’re not good at relationships because you don’t value them.”

Shots fired from Roger, and he ain’t wrong; Don is shook. He admits defeat with Hilton, he’s certainly no account man; Don needs Roger and his talents along for the ride. It’s revealed that he does, however, value his relationship with Roger. Bert (taking a page out of Lane’s book) seals the deal for Roger to join up with them via a vanity jab.

At home, Betty bluntly lets Don know she’s made an appointment with a divorce lawyer. Trying to minimise her feelings again, he treats her like a child by saying she’s had a rough couple of weeks. Super slimy shit, Denial Don.

Don: “Forget it. I’m not gonna let you break up this family.”

Betty: “I didn’t break up this family..”

Get this motherfucker to the Burn Unit.

Betty and Henry meet with his attorney, who reveals a magical divorce loophole.. looks like they’re headed to Reno to establish residency and get on with it. Henry, in order to not drag things out, insists that he’ll provide all she could ever need in life; he doesn’t want her owing Don anything. An incredibly kind gesture, one that Betty is not accustomed to.

A clean break.. and then drunk Roger lets the fucking bomb slip re:Betty’s new sidepiece and Don ain’t pleased. He’s drunk, pissed off, and truly nasty to her; they both know he crossed the line. Ugly shit. Marriage over.

Lane is let into the conversation, and doesn’t yet know that PPL is being sold along with Sterling Cooper. Incredulous, he rings London to find out what’s up. Saint John confirms that PPL is indeed being sold as well, and realising that he would be left to flap in the wind, Lane is ticked that he hasn’t been considered beyond a cog in a gigantic machine who will statically “prove himself irreplaceable”. Man, fuck PPL.

In a moment of great storytelling, Lane’s indubitable authority to fire anyone at the firm was set up way back in the season premiere. And this is the lightbulb moment, the one Don was trying to crack.. in one fell swoop, Lane can sever Don, Roger and Bert’s contracts by giving them the sack. There’s a partnership on the table for Lane, and the negotiations begin.

“Well, it’s official: Friday, December 13th, 1963.. four guys shot their own legs off.”

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image courtesy of IGN

And thus Don pulls off another hobo move, a truly great escape.. by managing to trash the contract that’s vexed him.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

Time to snag some accounts, which means it’s time to see faux sick Pete Campbell at home. Admitting that Pete has been ahead of the curve on loads of things, and that he’s a valuable person to have on board for the new firm moving forward, Don and Roger implore him to come along for the ride; Pete agrees, finally receiving the recognition he’s wanted since the pilot. Like everyone else on earth, Pete wants to feel valued.

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image courtesy of Vulture

Before getting everything firmly in motion for the new agency that weekend, Don and Betty have to tell Sally and Bobby about their divorce. It does not go well, with Don attempting one last time to shape the narrative to his own reality, saying it’s only temporary. “Nobody wants to do this.” No shit, Don.

Completely failing at getting Peggy to jump ship and go with him on Friday, Don follows up at her apartment. The first time around he essentially ordered her to come with; he’s been such an aloof haughty dick to her this whole goddamned season, it’s not shocking that she turned him down. Having that horrendous conversation with his kids humbles him just a touch, and it dawns on him that he doesn’t want to see important people in his life slowly slip away because of his own shit actions.

“Do you know why I don’t want to go to McCann?”

“Because you can’t work for anyone else.”

“No.. because there are people out there who buy things, people like you and me, and then something happened. Something terrible.. and the way that they saw themselves is gone. And no one understands that.. but you do. And that’s very valuable.”

“Is it?”

“With you, or without you, I am moving on. And I don’t know if I can do it alone.. will you help me?”

“What if I say no? You’ll never speak to me again..”

“No. I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you.”

That’s how you get Peggy on board, Don. Gotta be genuine. He knows they are alike; they’ve both had experiences that set them apart from the crowd, that make them see the world a little differently as a result. He understands and appreciates Peggy, and he manages to salvage their relationship in that moment.

Watching all of this come together is nothing short of magic. Getting the old team back together (with Joan!), albeit pared down, is done in a series of jazzy sequences like those of a good heist flick. This entire season has shown some very strained relationships at Sterling Cooper, making this reunion and these character reconciliations have real weight.

As everyone sits down to sandwiches via Trudy, Don rings Betty; the tone is entirely different from the last time they talked. He’s apologetic and an actual human person, emphasising that he won’t fight her in the divorce. He hopes she gets what she’s always wanted, the fulfillment and emotional support he completely failed to provide. Looks like that jab about valuing relationships really sank in.

“Good morning! Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, how may I help you?”

Will the future be better than the past like Roy Orbison croons in the closing scenes? Here’s hoping. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce will assuredly be a different agency with a forward-thinking point of view; after all, it’s a pivotal moment of the 1960s.. it’s time to get on with it.

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image courtesy of Tumblr

That’s all for 2016 here! I’ll resume with Season 4 posts in the New Year.. and here’s hoping 2017 is less of a fucking dumpster fire. Check out what I’ve written here Mad Men-wise thus far.. and thank you all so much for reading! Happy Christmas, Festivus, Hanukkah, and all that junk.

“Very good! Happy Christmas!”