Mad Men s1e13: The Wheel

One of my favourite episodes of this series, The Wheel is a sincerely magnificent episode of television. It’s nearing Thanksgiving 1960. Rachel Menken is on an ocean voyage to Paris for a few months, Don finds out via Cooper and his light ‘cowboy’ jab as Cooper knows pretty much everything. Don has no interest in joining Betty’s family for the holiday, and Betty doesn’t understand why he can’t make her family his, and is at her wit’s end. The struggle is real.

A visibly shaken Francine pops by, and confides in Betty that she’s found out that Carlton has been banging around in the city, and right before a huge family holiday to boot. Francine confides in Betty because she thinks she’ll know what to do, and Betty is alarmed at her implication. It seems so obvious to Francine on the outside, and if Carlton is doing it, what’s to say that Don isn’t doing the same?

bettyandfrancine

image courtesy of TomandLorenzo

(Real talk for a hot second though, who would fuck Carlton anyway? He gross.)

Betty knows deep down that Don is unfaithful to her and won’t admit it to herself, but for what? Out of pride? Wanting to keep up the illusion of the perfect life? She’s been told all along to want this and to be that perfect wife, but is that really any way to live life?

Self-deception never ends well, as reality will always barge in to fuck things up. She seeks out the phone bill to see if he’s been ringing any ladies, and instead finds a more intense form of betrayal. Don has been calling her therapist to get the scoop on everything she’s been yapping about during her sessions, keeping tabs. She’s both relieved and infuriated.

Doctor patient confidentiality wasn’t a thing in 1960, apparently. When Don comes home later on that evening, Betty tells him about Carlton, pointedly saying how awful it is to do something like that to the one you love, asking how can someone could do something like that to the one they love, to gauge his reaction.

“Who knows why people do what they do?”

iseeyouthrowingshade

I SEE YOU, DON.

Don immediately changes the subject to the whereabouts of their photo slides, and maybe they have an offscreen night of looking through memories together. Sounds nice on paper; but Betty knows it’s hollow because of what she’s found out re:Don’s calls to the shrink, and that their life will most likely be used as part of a pitch.

So naturally, Betty stirs the pot at her shrink’s office. She decides to drop the “my husband is having an affair” bomb not even yet admitting to herself that it’s true, but as she says the words she feels it. I love the crafty switch of her saying this to the shrink, and then at some point in the future Don will be calling him, so he’ll know that she knows. The seed was planted with Francine’s visit, and the wheels in Betty’s head start turning.

“The way he makes love, sometimes it’s what I want.. but sometimes it’s obviously what someone else wants. I suppose it means I’m not enough.. but maybe it’s just him.”

Absolutely spot on, Bets. She’s slowly coming into her own sort of sentience, gradually becoming the person who is strong enough to get on with it and get out of a bad marriage. Breaking out of denial is the first step, gotta yank your head outta the sand.

Let’s talk about the importance of photos in life for a hot second. There’s a scene with Don and Harry latenight in the office; Harry having told his wife about bonking Hildy for whatever reason so he now lives at SC, and Don having just learned his half brother hanged himself and promptly boozing it. They speak about cave paintings and photography, and how these are evidence of someone being there for future generations to see and to wonder. The impact of these things on the time to come.

My apartment is absolutely blasted with photos, its walls adorned nearly everywhere you look. Family, friends, people long gone and the places that I love, beautiful things. Anytime I feel discombobulated, all I have to do is glance at my walls and I am right back to where I need to be again. I am home. Photos are grounding; the very physical essence of connections you have with others, with places, with a time in your life. You can revisit it all.

And this Carousel pitch, it’s fucking iconography right before our eyes.

Fun fact: I have never watched this scene and not cried. Home run. To me, there’s nothing more innately human than seeking out those movie moments in real life, capturing them. Looking at pictures and knowing that whatever you’re doing is OK.. You are OK.

(I also love that Don does exactly what he tells Peggy not to do in a pitch, re:using Latin and sounding like a Valedictorian..)

Pete’s father in law is really hammering him to knock up Trudy, which is sort of terrifying and wildly inappropriate. As he sits down with Pete and states that he wants to treat him as a son, Pete takes this to mean some new business; after all, the guy is an exec at Vicks Chemical, and he wants to look good for Don and Duck. Having a baby isn’t exactly on Pete’s radar right now, and instead, he gets Clearasil.

Don loops in Peggy for Clearasil, and Pete is pissed.. Don therefore promotes her to Junior Copywriter. The way she wrangled the radio auditions with Kenny is pretty impressive as well– here’s a woman finding her way in a man’s world, and owning it.

At the same time that she gets a new office and promotion, she gets a baby she doesn’t want, and it belongs to Pete Campbell. Christ on the Cross, this is my actual real life nightmare, being on an episode of TLC’s I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant. The way she acts about learning she’s pregnant in the ER and how she acts post-birth are telling; she’s far more interested in getting on with her life and getting back to work and her new copywriting job. Her name is Don.

mmnope

No thx.

image courtesy of Imgur

There’s this elaborate fantasy of the man Don wants to be, but back here on earth it’s stark, desolate; false starts and empty promises. He portrays such an idealistic existence in the Carousel pitch, but the reality is that he’s disconnected and unreachable to those that should be closest to him. He learns his half brother committed suicide via a phone call with an uninvolved hotel manager. His lover has bounced on some Euro cruise. He’s cruelly alienated his wife.

donbettynye

image courtesy of Imgur

Betty undeniably has nobody to talk to, so when she spots Glen in the bank parking lot, she expresses her profound sadness to him. It’s upsetting to watch; her desperation and longing to connect with someone is palpable. When the show began, her and Don’s marriage was ostensibly broken beyond repair, and now the cracks are turning into canyons.

bettyglen

“Adults don’t know anything, Glen..”

image courtesy of Imgur

Don is a man living on the outskirts of his own life, a truly isolated guy on the outside looking in, but this season finale shows that perhaps he yearns for something deeper. Coming home alone to an empty house with Betty and the kids already gone for Thanksgiving, he slumps on the stairs as the idea of his loving fantasy life evaporates. He knows it’s his own damned fault.

He started this episode not wanting to spend time with his family and being flippant about joining Betty and the family for the holiday, and he ends it being unable to spend time with his family. As much as this guy wants to escape all the time, he profoundly yearns to come home to a place where he knows he is loved.

Is it too late? Can he really connect with Betty and be a legit family? Can he be a damn person already?

don_thewheel

image courtesy of Imgur

Time for a brief hiatus between seasons. But fear not, I shall return! Thanks for following me throughout Season 1 of Mad Men. More to come.

And hey, you can find everything I’ve written thus far over here. Adios for now!

Advertisements

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.”

petevsdon

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.

whocares

DING DING DING

image courtesy of Tumblr

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 s1e11: Indian Summer

Fun fact: I loathe unseasonable warmth. Hate it. The irony that I live in Los Angeles, a dusty city in the midst of a 5 year nightmare drought, is not lost upon me.

In Indian Summer, a heatwave appears to be shaking everyone’s baseline.

Adam hangs himself. He’s wearing a nice suit, and leaves behind a pile of Don’s cash. This is awful not just from a death standpoint, but from the idea that we don’t know a hell of a lot about Adam yet to understand the ramifications of his desperate act. He came to the city to reconnect with his long lost half brother, and it turned out that that man wanted nothing to do with him. Devastating.

Cutting to the office, there’s some wonderful bits of Don and Peggy’s fledgling relationship in this episode. Ahh, The Relaxicizer! As it’s a product aimed at ladies for slimming purposes, Freddy suggests bring in Peggy as the guys seem more than a little clueless. Enter Peggy in her fat suit, and Don sees a glimmer of potential when she asks if she can change the name of the product. She brings this thing home, and learns of it’s masturbatory benefits.

peggy_relaxicizer

Dafuq?

image courtesy of Contemplatingmedia

Peggy goes on some trash date with an idiot. It’s becoming clear that she’s not like other girls her age, and she’s on this date seemingly as a formality to please her mother.  She chats about her job and work a lot, which turns him off. It’s funny to think that perhaps she started working at Sterling Cooper to meet a husband, but has ended up on a totally different path discovering something she really enjoys.

Their entire exchange is bizarre, it’s like they’re just shouting facts at one another. He makes some dickhead jab that she’s not as hot as ‘those Manhattan girls’, and Peggy leaves this schmuck with a sick burn.

“Those people in Manhattan? They are better than us, because they want things they’ve never seen.”

Enjoy your free Wise potato chips in hell, guy!

Back at the office, Don digs her pitch, and Peggy is proud of herself. That scene shows how the men of this era infantalize women; when the ‘real’ benefits of the product come up in code, it’s implied that women simply cannot achieve sexual satisfaction without the touch of a man; a point which Freddy Rumsen almost decks Kenny over, when it’s slipped in that his wife has one.

Speaking of infantalized women, enter Betty. It’s hot as hell outside for October, and she encounters an absurdly attractive door to door aircon salesman. He’s like Don 2.0 — a bright-eyed handsome salesman, completely saturated with Brylcreem. She lets him into the house to hear his pitch, but thinks better of it and shoos him away. Later on, Betty relaxicizes on the dryer, and fantasizes about having a bang with said Don 2.0.

Against better judgement, Roger comes into the office for a Lucky Strike meeting, way earlier than he should have been doing much of anything post-coronary. Bert thought he would restore faith in the agency by saying Roger could make it, but Lee Garner Sr. called his bluff.

Due to her discretion, Don and Bert call in Joan to put some slap on his face, and she thinks he might be sentimental with her for a beat but he just says she’s the finest piece of ass he ever had. Disappointing, and G R O S S.

(See also, #thingsmensay)

Aaaand, in the midst of holding a delicious pastrami sandwich, Roger has another heart attack. Mona rightfully says, “Go to hell, Bert”, as he’s taken away on a stretcher. Yikes.

After Roger is wheeled out, Don goes into Roger’s office to have a chat with Bert. He makes him a partner, and Pete Campbell is watching with an eagle eye. Thinking that Don will be moving up, Pete wants to snag a promotion. Pete vacillates between admiring, idealising, and loathing Don.

Pete: Tell me when they come out of there, will you?

Hildy: Sure. I’ll just sit here and watch the door. That’s all I’ll do.

Pete:WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE TALKING TO??!

God bless Pete’s extravagant outrage at absolutely fuckall.

Don Draper seems to give a lot of advice that only realistically applies to Don Draper. Telling Peggy to be more like a man about what she wants re:raise, telling Adam to start a new life with the pile of gifted cash, and more examples to come. This shit makes sense in the context of someone who’s essentially concocted and moulded their life as Don has, but does it really apply to anyone else?

Don grants Peggy her raise, and they both split for the day. Trying to imagine having the corner office and the big man desk, Pete creeps in Don’s office when a mysterious package gets delivered. Like a complete fucking weirdo, he takes the box home with him. We know that it’s from Adam. Shit is about to get real.

don_package

image courtesy of Contemplatingmedia

We close with Peggy’s new BFF, The Relaxicizer.

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.

rogertwins

“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.

donrachel_uncomfortable

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 s1e9: Shoot

Ah, smarmy Jim Hobart. This indecent prune of a man will be a recurring theme, gnawing at the edges of Don’s professional life. In Shoot, he tries to get to Don via casting Betty as a model for Coca-Cola.

donandhobart

image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia

Oh hey, it turns out Betty used to be a model in Manhattan! Makes sense that’s how she and Don met, being that they’re separately obsessed with image and all that. Adding to the image, she never liked giving the clothes back, and lets her shrink know that was always the hardest part of modelling for her.

As she’s telling the story of her relationship with Don and moving to the suburbs and suddenly feeling so old, she begins to talk about her mother harping on her appearance. And then, ironically, how much her mother hated her modelling, even calling her a prostitute. Jesus, lady..

Seems like life suddenly moved really quickly for Betty. One day, she’s got a lucrative fun career and life with friends in Manhattan as a model, then the next she’s engaged to Don, moving to the suburbs, saddled with kids and immediately defined by others as the stay at home mom and wife.

“You’re angry at your mother”

Betty is incensed, torn about how to feel, what’s ‘right’ versus reality. Her shrink speaks some truth, and she knows it. Alas, she’s not ‘supposed’ to feel that way about her mother.

“She wanted me to be beautiful so I could find a man. But then what? Just sit and smoke and let it go til you’re in a box?”

Is that all there is? Huh. Betty misses modelling, her own life, something greater; she wants to feel and be more than she appears. She’s living in a strange dollhouse, and wants out in some way. Never having had the opportunity to define herself, she’s craving something deeper.

In office news, Peggy busts an enormous hole in her skirt with the rip heard ’round the world, which is pretty much the worst feeling ever. Joan lends her a dress and some unsolicited “advice” in the form of wondering how she’ll get close to men if she’s (GASP) not slim! And how she assumed Peggy was only writing in an attempt to get close to Kinsey. Ay yi yi, Joan. These women have very different outlooks on life.

Later on, Pete decks Ken for making a comment about Peggy’s big fat ass. Class act, that Pete Campbell. Kenny had it coming!

In some of the worst CGI ever created (second only to LOST), Polly somehow bites the neighbour’s dove pigeon in mid-air.

As compared to this trashterpiece, from LOST‘s fifth season..

Horrendous CGI aside, this guy is a maniac and scares the shit out of Sally and Bobby, threatening to kill their dog. What an asshole neighbour.

thatescalatedquickly

image courtesy of KnowYourMeme

Jim Hobart mails Don the proofs from Betty’s photoshoot, using it as leverage to get him to come work for McCann. Knowing that he’ll stay at Sterling Cooper and what this will mean for Betty, he’s disappointed by this lowbrow move. Don goes to chat with Roger and emphasises how he wants to stay where he is. This is also the first time we learn that Don works at SC with no contract, something he would unlikely be able to swing at a bigger agency. They talk cash, and when Roger asks why, Don simply responds, “I like the way you do business”. No shady shit.

Don: “If I leave this place, one day, it will not be for more advertising.”

Roger: “What else is there?”

Don: “I don’t know, life being lived. I’d like to stop talking about it and get back to it.”

Roger: “I’ve worked with a lot of men like you, and if you had to choose a place to die, it would be in the middle of a pitch.”

Don: “I’ve done that. I want to do something else.”

Done and dusted.

It’s heartbreaking watching Betty at the end of the photoshoot, finding out the news that her photos won’t be used. Don of course knows the real reason, and Betty spins it positively to him at dinner, trying to assert some sort of control over the situation. He does his best to keep it light by emphasising that she already has a job, and that’s being a wonderful mother.

Don says some lovely, heartfelt things to the tune of “I would’ve given anything to have a had a mother like you. Beautiful and kind, filled with love like an angel”. As flattered as she is, this is the last thing Betty wants to hear, and she lets it marinate.

The next morning, she’s back to the mom routine and is pretty over it circa ~1pm. As quickly as she was defined as this mother and housewife, she’s annoyed that she had no say in the matter. She is angry with her mother.

Shooting at her garbage neighbour’s pigeons, here’s a lady taking out her aggression and attempting to take control. Iconic.

bettyshootingpigeons

image courtesy of MadMenDaily

“Eventually you come up here, or you die wondering.” Prophetic words from Jim Hobart. Seeya in a bit, weirdo.