Mad Men s3e10: The Color Blue

“The truth is, people may see things differently.. but they don’t really want to.”

It’s a touch before Halloween. Don pops over to Suzanne’s for a bang, and later we see him looking slightly guilty as Betty expresses worry and that she thinks he’s working too hard. He’s really milking that Hilton excuse to sneak out every night to get it in.

The Aqua Net ad idea is pretty similar imagery-wise to the upcoming JFK assassination, though the characters of course don’t know that yet. Peggy is doing well at work, freewheeling creatively and pissing off Kinsey in the process. She’s really talented, and that raw talent is something he just can’t crack. Go Pegs!

Missing the mark as usual, Kinsey assumes her perceived brilliance is due to the fact that she’s Don’s favourite; but Peggy knows that’s not the truth. This is proven later on in the episode during the Western Union idea exchange with her, Kinsey (and his lost idea), and Don. Kinsey is one of those guys who carefully curates this image of himself as the smartest guy in the room, and he works to be the most cultured and intelligent guy he can be; and when it’s consistently chipped away, he becomes deflated. Kinsey ain’t a bad guy– he just needs a reality check, and to find his real vocation, a place where he fits.

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In the midst of a bang, Suzanne’s epileptic brother Danny shows up unexpectedly, and Don has a weird fucking meltdown about it. While he’s determined to sneak out, she insists on introducing him. Reminded of his own brother Adam, Don visibly stiffens, then shows him a little kindness with a handshake and well wishes. Danny is similarly down on his luck, and looks to Suzanne for help and guidance and she happily obliges. As soon as Don splits, Danny calls a spade a spade, talking shit about Don being arrogant and upset that his plans with his sister were interrupted. Suzanne chooses to see it as Don being secretive.

As Lane rehearses his speech for the upcoming Sterling Cooper 40th Anniversary Party, London rings to let him know that Sterling Cooper is once again for sale. Turns out the party is more of display. As a result, Lane has to charm Bert into attending by playing into his inherent vanity. And hey, it works!

But now, Lane sees his superiors for the smarmy dicks they really are; they had no interest in his future, nor any sort of personal investment in the company as Lane has. That’s a pretty big matzah ball for Lane to grasp. Maybe once Guy MacKendrick got his ass run over by a John Deere PPL re-examined hanging onto Sterling Cooper.

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The dryer is rattling, and Betty fishes out a pair of keys.. oh shit, will these open that desk drawer that’s been thwarting her for a season?? AND OH FUCK, THE KEY WORKS!

Equal parts relieved and fretful, Betty unlocks the drawer. There’s an astounding amount of cash, along with a beat up shoebox. Cautiously opening it, the box reveals a plethora of old photos with Don labeled as Dick, a pair of dogtags, old timey photos of his family, a Deed to a house in California, a Divorce Decree to an Anna Draper.. it’s all too much.

Of course, we all know how the pieces fit together– but to Betty, there’s no context for this secret information overload. She had a sneaking suspicion that Don was hiding something (or things) from her, but surely nothing as big as all this.

As everything washes over her, Betty goes wan as Carla brings the kids home. It’s all so overwhelming, as if an H-bomb has been dropped on 42 Bullet Park Road.

In this episode, I feel a little more for Suzanne as a character, Don’s intense hard-on for Good and Wholesome mommy issues galore aside. Previously I wrote her off as your run of the mill Thirst Trap(TM), but maybe she’s simply on a different level than the other emotionally repressed characters; she’s inherently more open, and contrasting with everyone else we encounter on this show, it seems like she’s totally fucking bonkers.

Suzanne manages to swing a job for Danny, to help him out; a foreign concept to Don who pushed his own brother away (and unknowingly nudged him towards a noose) back in Season 1. And perhaps reflecting upon sins past, Don offers to drive Danny up to his new job in Massachusetts.

Danny ain’t as grateful as Don had expected, though. Then again, Danny is living Don’s hobo dream; drifting from place to place, figuring shit out as he goes.

“I know what’s waiting for me at that place. I’m 25 years old, Don.. I don’t want to be cleaning toilets until I die. Just pull over.”

“Hold on– I’m older than you, and I’m telling you it seems bad now.. but you can still change things.”

“Pull myself up by the bootstraps?”

“Does that just sound stupid to you?”

“How do I explain this? I can’t do anything that you can do. Everyone knows, sooner or later, that there’s something wrong with me. They’re kind and they try, but then when I come to with piss in my pants, they stare at me like I’m from another planet. I am afflicted, okay? It’s not a question of will. I can’t change that.”

Another curveball thrown at the Don Draper “just move forward” mantra. Natch, Don throws some cash at the guy as he lets him out of the car, but not before imparting his card with a little support and insight.

“I swore to myself I would try to do this right once. I want you to call me, if you ever need to. And I want you to remember, if something happens to you.. your sister will never forgive herself.”

Baby steps, I guess.

Sitting up until 2am with that shoebox, Betty slowly realises Don isn’t coming home yet again. Accepting defeat, she places it back in his desk drawer, locks it, and puts the key back in his robe. Startled by his phone call the following morning, she’s apparently supposed to be dressed to the nines and ready to be shown off at the Sterling Cooper 40th later that evening.

En route to said SC 40th, Lane is totally nerve-wracked and stuck in traffic. Thinking it’s the traffic that’s getting him down, Rebecca tries to soothe; Lane lets her know they’re selling the company, and she takes the news with glee, wanting him to take comfort in returning to England. Nope. Lane is a man who has done nothing but obediently follow orders all his life, and he’s sick of it. There would be no place for him at the company in the event of a sale and he knows it.

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As Roger makes a speech lauding Don’s work achievements and character, Betty looks equal parts heartbroken, betrayed, and pissed off. And we know that Roger ain’t too chuffed to make that speech either. Cue thunderous applause.

“Well, he knows how to leave a room.”

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Mad Men s3e6: Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency

“I bet he felt great when he woke up this morning.”

Reconcile! The British are coming! Potential dual position in London and New York for Don? Kenny rolling into the office atop an actual John Deere riding mower?? All around an intriguing episode where nothing is as it seems.

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The British are coming for an inspection, around July 4th nonetheless. Nobody knows the purpose of this visit, but it’s reverberating as a Big Deal(TM). Could Don be courted for some crazy dual position in London and New York? Don’s casual conversation with Betty later that evening, discussing a potential jet-setting life together in London over chicken salad, is the most relaxed we’ve seen them as a couple on the show thus far. Flirtatious, even; Betty happily opens his beer, they appear to be interested in one another.

Bert is tired of Roger and Don’s manpain fight bullshit, and forces them to kiss and make up over a close shave.

“Part of the problem with Mona.. is that one day, she just started judging people. I’ll tell you right now Don, I don’t like being judged.”

Fair enough, Roger. Message received.

The PPL visit happens around Joan’s last day at Sterling Cooper. Looks like Greg has convinced her that he’ll be the alpha in their household, but it turns out he was not selected for the lucrative resident doctor position like the proper fuckup he is. Turns out he’s a shit surgeon and is super dramatic about this outcome, choosing to go dark on his wife ignoring their dinner plans to booze it in a bar alone for ~12 hours. Manpain central, and as she shuts off the lights for the night, Joan looks positively fed up.

PPL has arrived, and here’s Guy MacKendrick! He’s some young, stupidly charismatic asshole with great teeth in the Don Draper grey flannel suit uniform, but without the mysterious depth. Feelings in the office are ghostly and tense. Turns out that PPL wants Guy to come in and run the show, effectively replacing Lane (who will reluctantly be shipped off to Bombay), and thus keeping Don in a holding pattern.

This restructure is presented to Lane as some sort of faux reward for being a cog in the machine. Natch, Lane is not at all pleased to hear this news, as his wife and son have just gotten settled in Manhattan; but his concerns are belittled. “Don’t pout. One of your greatest qualities is that you always do what you’re told.” Really fucking demeaning, but Lane takes it in stride. You get the vibe that he’s heard all this before, he’s accustomed to it.

There’s a bigwig meeting about the reorganisation. According to the overhead projector, Guy is the new COO, Roger is left off of the diagram entirely (an alleged oversight), and Harry is the only one who gets a promotion. Mess. Meanwhile, Don doodles the American flag.

Guy delivers a heartfelt and hollow toast to Joan, who weeps. Her life is a mess, and Sterling Cooper offers her a valuable and vital respite; and soon enough, it seems she won’t even recognise the place. And in the midst of this nightmare, Conrad Hilton’s office rings Don, much to his total surprise. When Don vaguely recognises him upon officially meeting, he feels a little dumbfounded.

“Apparently you don’t have long chats with everyone.”

Peggy, in limbo between the worlds of the steno pool and the copywriters and not wholly fitting into either just yet, yearns to be a meaningful part of Joan’s last day. “I don’t want you to think I never listened to you, but it’s just.. we can’t all be you.” Poignant and true.

These women could not be more different, but they fight the same battles and want some of the same things. Peggy imagines that Joan is off to get what she always wanted in life, but Joan is beginning to have second thoughts; this is a massive change, and she secretly wants stay in the workforce. Joan is a woman who’s admired and revered in that office, she’s great at her job; and Peggy longs for that sort of status someday as well.

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There’s a lot to say, but it’s cut short by a fucking hot mess. Smitty is on that John Deere mower riding it around the goddamn office.. and then, dolt Lois mounts it which is of course a complete DISASTER. Bye bye, Guy’s foot. Joan saves the day with a tourniquet, ruining her dress in the process; but she manages to save his life.

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Roger finds it all pretty funny. “Right when he got it in the door.” Secretly relieved that this shit is over and he’s relevant again at the agency, Roger nonchalantly moves forward. And hey, Lane will remain in New York! Deus ex machina at work; Don, Roger and Lane are all silently relieved. The status quo is restored.

“Believe me, somewhere in this business, this has happened before.”

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Don and Joan share a moment at the hospital waiting room. You can sense there’s a deep history there; they’ve worked together for so long and seem at ease with one another. As the PPL guys show up, they lament that Guy’s career was tragically cut short; he’s lost a foot, he’ll never golf again. Love that dry British wit, but good fucking god. Lane senses the depth of what’s gone down, and knows that PPL will find another way to ship him off somewhere else.

“I feel like I just went to my own funeral.. and I didn’t like the eulogy.”

At home, Betty tries to relate to Sally about baby Gene. Sally seems scared of the new baby, refusing to be around him. Betty makes up a sweet little story, and gifts her a Barbie doll from her baby brother;  Betty emphasises that he wants to be her friend. Close-up on side-eye Barbie as Betty leaves the room.

Turns out Sally is completely terrified of baby Gene, believing he’s a reincarnated version of her dearly departed Grandpa Gene. Don spots the Barbie doll in the bushes outside the house, and innocently places it back on Sally’s dresser. When she wakes up late in the night and sees the dead-eyed Barbie staring back at her, she starts screaming at the top of her lungs in fear. “He’s not supposed to be here anymore.”

Blaming Betty, Don is pissed that she named the baby after her father, a man whom he did not like and vice versa. She retorts, “It’s what people do, Don. It’s how they keep the memory alive.”

After the midnight hysteria quiets down, Don has a nice parent moment with Sally, showing her that there’s nothing to be afraid of when it comes to baby Gene.

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“This is your new brother. And he’s only a baby, and we don’t know who he is yet, or who he’s going to be.

And that is a wonderful thing.”

Touching, really. Who is this baby? Where will he go, what will he choose to do with his life? How their relationship evolve over the years? There’s only room for love at this point. Solely love and hope can exist at this juncture, and those are two of the most important things in life.

“Well, that was strange.”

Mad Men s2e11: The Jet Set

“Cheers to our guest.. to not being carried out in a box.”

Ah, post-bang poetry by Jane, partially inspired by being 20 years old, mostly inspired by drugs. Roger wants to marry her, he believes Jane is the key part of life he was always meant to have. Mona is gonna give him hell in the divorce proceedings.

Duck has been at Sterling Cooper for about 2 years now, and is expecting a partnership in return for his work with them. Roger does not agree, tells him to go out and make it rain if he wants to move up in the ranks.

So, Duck takes a meeting with Sinjin Powell, an old Putnam Powell and Lowe buddy from his days living in London. He falls off the wagon straight into a gibson, then takes their temperature on buying out Sterling Cooper. Duck knows Roger is in a compromising position as Mona is about to bankrupt him, so he’ll be able to force their hand. He wants to have Creative reporting to him, as President Duck. Fascinating..

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Like his luggage (no thanks to TWA), Don is lost. Squinting by the pool in the stark Los Angeles sunlight, Donald Draper grey suit uniform intact, he looks distinctly out of place. He chides Pete for treating it as vacation, and tells him to go out and make some connections pre-rocket fair, really make an impact. Once he’s changed into some new clothes, he sees a vision of Betty at the bar, breezing right past him.

Just then, Don encounters some absurdly attractive Eurotrash nomads. There’s Willy (with a very complex name), his wife Rocky, and a young lady named Joy. They seem magnetically drawn to Don, but when Pete shows up they can’t get away fast enough. A thing like that!

The rocket fair has begun, and it’s The End of The World presentation. Don and Pete watch slides about missiles being launched at the USSR, about how the USA could knock out the entire country if need be. “Total annihilation”. Don is wholly rattled by this idea, this intense escalation.

Back in the sunshine, Don runs into the exceedingly young (and aptly named) Joy at the valet pool. Suddenly, he decides to take her up on an impromptu trip to Palm Springs to some stunning, palatial flophouse she and her hot companions are crashing at; Pete is left poolside with some potential clients. He’s really up shit creek in LA, because the guy can’t drive.. thanks for that, Don. And there’s no taxi that will take you to Pasadena, Pete.

Once they arrive in (very hot) Palm Springs, Don falls over poolside. He’s collapsed from heat exhaustion, and comes to surrounded by Euros in expensive threads. “Who are these people?”

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Dinnertime. Don makes the mistake of verbally assuming they’re all well off, and is met with dead silence. He fits in with them aesthetically, but the actual lifestyle part of it? Not so sure. Are they con artists? Gypsies? Simply evading taxes? On the lam? Don impresses them when it comes to the city capital word game, at least. Then Joy locks onto his face like Alien in front of everyone and then drags him inside for a bang, claiming she’s 21 when he asks.

Who makes out at the fucking dinner table, anyway? Teenagers, that’s who. Gross. Damn kids.

Like most teenagers acting more Grown Up, Joy is pretty much intolerable, with her “I like sex” tryhard garbage pillowtalk. She talks about school in vague terms, and Don picks up that she’s younger than 21 but at least in high school. And then, it’s revealed that Willy is her father making everything infinitely weirder, during a morning-after still-in-bed conversation with him. “I make beautiful babies, don’t I?” He doesn’t want people thinking he’s old. How about N O P E.

Word gets out that Kurt and Peggy are going to see Bob Dylan together, much to everyone’s surprise and delight. Is it a date?? Adorable. While he gets a good natured ribbing, Kurt doesn’t see the humour and casually lets it drop that he’s a homosexual. Record scratch. Most are shocked, Sal raises an eyebrow then averts his eyes, there’s some bizarre homophobic comments, and Peggy isn’t ruffled. They keep their date. Sal is hurt by Kenny’s instant aversion to Kurt’s admission.

Kurt heads over to Peggy’s place. She lets him know that if he would rather take a man to the concert, she gets it; “I don’t know why I pick the wrong boys”. Sensing she needs some friendly advice, Kurt lets her know she’s a touch old-fashioned in the looks department, gesturing at her bangs and curled ponytail. Peggy is sort of resistant, but then she lets Kurt hack a a bunch of her ponytail off with a pair of kitchen scissors. And what do you know, it looks great! Much more modern. Fresher start for Pegs.

Joy invites Don to run off with her and her band of nomads, and though it’s realistically what he yearns for in life, he’s hesitant. Methinks he’s a man who wants to do it on his own terms. A gentleman shows up with a little boy and girl, and Don is suddenly brought back to a splash of reality, his own kids and marriage. The guy is going through some shit, referencing attorneys and how awful everything is. Holding a cracked glass in the pool, Don knows he’s gotta split.

Duck receives a box of Tanqueray, presumably from Sinjin over at PPL. Chewing on a lifesaver, he heads to Cooper’s office to share the news. Putnam Powell and Lowe want to open a New York office to service the American clients, and Sterling Cooper is just the place to do it. Bert is exceedingly pleased that the man he’d heard so much about has finally shown up; looks like Duck needs the sauce to be a more effective, ballsy businessman.

The next morning, Don rings someone from Palm Springs. He identifies himself as ~Dick Whitman~ to the caller. He notes down an address in the very back of Joy’s copy of The Sound and The Fury, tearing out the page after. Where is he headed?

Back home in Ossining, Don’s suitcase shows up at the front door. Nobody’s home.

“He likes having you around. You’re beautiful, and you don’t talk too much.”