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Mad Men Season Finale Recap: I Am   Leave a comment



Season 5, Episode 13: The Phantom. Recap and analysis.

We open the close of Season 5 with Don numbing the pain of a rotten tooth. The cotton balls are darkened with tonic as Megan’s screen test reel arrives to cast a shade on her dreams. Marie Calvet is there. She insults Megan’s coffee-making and maybe it’s a good thing Megan doesn’t wait tables when she doesn’t work then. Don won’t see a dentist though his tooth is too tender to eat an egg. “It’ll go away. It always does,” he says of his toothache, but we always come back to a quote from the first scene of an episode by the end of it, and this is probably it.

The screen-test sellers were supposed to send Megan’s reel to agents, but didn’t and Megan gets down on herself. “It’s a great sin to take advantage of hopeless people,” encourages Marie, correcting it to something more tactful in her native French when Megan looks injured. Marie only does nasty things with her mouth.

Pete Campbell  sits on the train and Howard the life insurance salesman joins him. Howard’s wife Beth of Pete’s office fantasies, is with him. Howard says she’s off to visit her sister in the city before she gets up and leaves. Pete fondles her colorful silk scarf as it dangles out of a suitcase when Howard gets up to follow her. It’s pathetic. Don would be ashamed of you, Pete. This is not how it works if you’re a boss.

Harry Crane joins Joan in the office elevator, and on this rare occasion, the thing that sometimes isn’t there when you push the button that calls it is headed up. Harry inquires about rumors that SCDP is buying more office space that just opened on the floor above. He’s nosy. Complains about the office he was secretly paid $1000 to move into. Remarking that Joan didn’t want the now-empty office he was offered either is obnoxious and insensitive. Seems like he was just paying Paul Kinsey to go away when he acts like this.

Don thinks he recognizes someone getting onto the elevator. “Adam?” he says aloud, seeing the face of his long lost half-brother who hanged himself when Dick Whitman refused to let him re-enter his life. It’s almost a surprise that Don would only know two people who had hanged themselves, but the Don-centered catastrophes that preceded both Adam and Lane’s demises are certainly linked in Don’s mind. Hallucinations aren’t new to this series. Don’s seen his dead dad and told him to shut up. Betty saw her recently deceased father as she was going into labor with the child she’d name for him. Don choked an old flame to death just earlier this season.

Michael Ginsberg and Stan Rizzo are pitching Topaz panty hose. “Always less expensive. Never cheap,” announces Ginsberg and the client hates it. We’ve never seen Ginsberg struggle before and he doesn’t take the criticism well. “You say the word, you put it on their mind” says the client rightfully about using the word “cheap” in the copy. It’s true. It associates Topaz with cheap.  “Clearly it states the exact opposite,” Don tries to explain, but he doesn’t get it.

The client leaves unhappy and the only guy who knows that modifiers — even negations — are paid no heed by consumers. “Up to 50% off!” is true as long as nothing’s more than 50% off. Could actually be a markup, but all people see is the 50%. Don wants 100%, but Stan is “so bored of this dynamic.” The client complains that he wants a woman’s opinion and that that used to be a given at SCDP. Clearly a reference to Peggy, but does anyone besides Don miss having Megan at work?

Clara informs Pete that his sister-in-law is calling. “Hello, Judy?” answers Pete with a comical earnestness. He was ready to be concerned with what Trudy’s sister had to say. Beth answers and Pete sends Clara off for some fresh Life Savers so he can speak to his life saver in private. She says she wants to meet him at the hotel where she left him waiting last time and he tells her he expects to return the favor. Nobody believes you Pete. You can’t wait to have her and we know it. “This may be our last chance,” says Beth and though she means it, she also knows what saying that does to this man.

Peggy’s voice is ordering  Stan and Ginsberg around. Wait, that’s not right. It’s strange to see her working with Ted Chaough and not Don. As creative chief, it’s her job to annoyed at her juniors’ incompetence. Ted pops in and tosses Peggy a carton of unmarked cigarettes. “Smoke it, name it, sell it,” Chaough orders her after she says she doesn’t smoke. Ted’s familiar with her work having seen her book when he hired her at the diner so he knows her Popsicle copy was “take it, break it, share it, love it,” and I can only guess that’s what he’s playing at. How’s Paris, Peggy?

At the partner’s meeting, Joan Harris informs the others that the firm has had its best quarter on record. There’s more money than ever and projections tell her to expect only further improvement. They discuss the need for more office space and Joan names Harry Crane as the culprit preventing her from visiting the prospective new floor that morning. Lane’s work got them where they are and his empty chair sits at the conference table, drawing from Joan a solemn gaze. They can’t fill his empty office, but he’s given them the means to acquire more room. Peter has an appointment to get to and ditches the partner’s meeting giving Don his proxy. “We can do that?” asks Don as though he’d ever willingly give up an ounce of power.

Beth turns off the TV and answers the hotel door. She’s dressed in a pink sailor outfit, and did we mention Life Savers earlier on? She looks good. She reveals to Pete that she’s not actually visiting family, but being forced to undergo shock therapy that takes chunks out of her memory. “I’m very blue,” she tells Peter, at that moment still clad is candy pink. She talks about a kind of  “gray cloud” that blocks out her recollections and that she doesn’t want to forget Pete. Pete seems genuinely concerned, but then hesitates to embrace her, acting indignant and principled. We’ve seen Pete wait until he hears what he wants to hear before jumping into bed while at the brothel with Bazooka Joe from Jaguar. “Please. Please give me this,” pleads Beth and that’s what Pete wanted to hear, moving in to kiss her and sighing, “Oh God.” 

Megan and some foreign blond are sitting on the couch complaining that red heads are in demand. Someone calls the apartment and hangs up to Megan’s annoyance. Maybe they were calling for Marie who offers Megan’s foreign friend a “bon chance” on her way out the door. “She’s so elegant and encouraging,” a disgusted Megan is told. She knows that’s not how her mother is. The blond turns to Megan and straight up asks her to get her an audition for Butler Shoes’ Beauty and the Beast ad since SCDP is their agency. Megan agrees.

Pete and Beth have recently finished and lie together, a satisfied look on Pete’s face. “Don’t tell me you’re not happy right now,” says a dreamy Pete to Beth as she says she has to go back to the hospital. He wants to run away with her to California and he kind of really is copying Don at this point. “It’s full of sunshine,” he pitches, but Beth refuses. “I don’t know you and you don’t know me. We just happen to have the same problem,” Beth tells him. “We’re only sad because we’re apart,” replies a Pete who isn’t pondering what she’s pondering. “Oh, then I guess I was wrong,” surmises Beth with a sad look.

Five more minutes,” Pete refuses to let go though Beth is dressed again and ready to sail off into that gray cloud. She reclines and they cuddle together a few breaths more. Pete’s being pathetic and a horrible husband, but he’s so happy when he gets what he wants. He asked for much more — a new life across the country — but one more go with Beth is what he wanted. What he fantasized about in his office. Happiness is the moment before you need more happiness.

Don promises his tooth feels better as he returns home. Before dinner, Megan asks him about the Beauty and the Beast ad for Butler. She asks for an audition for herself. That blond foreign girl was just a girl from class, not a close friend or anything, but it still seems pretty desperate of Megan. “I thought you hated advertising,” a pouting Don asserts. “It’s not art,” and when did we decide Megan was an artist? I don’t know what Megan expected, but Don is always a bit cold when it comes to Megan and advertising, though she notes how hard it was for her to even bring it up.

Don has plenty of good excuses. He can’t ask the client to hire his wife, the SCDP guys who will be at casting know her, the girls who want this job are doing it for the money, which Megan married plenty of. “You don’t want it this way,” assures Don, and that’s his best defense against her request. But is there another way in acting? Don didn’t want Jaguar to be won with the help of prostituting Joan and is still upset about it. He knows Megan will feel better about landing her first acting gig without nepotism. Should have gone with that pitch first.

The phone rings. Megan refuses to answer. Don picks up and hears a bad French accent he mistakes for drunk. It’s Roger Sterling calling for Marie, but Don is none the wiser and puts Marie on the phone. He reveals his identity to Marie, but she continues to speak French until Megan leaves the room. “I’ve used up all the French I know,” a confused Roger says and Roger makes a habit of using everything up. Marie somehow knows what Roger’s up to and demands he lower his expectations if they are to meet. Sex is on the table, but nothing more. It’s a strange progression from Jane to Marie to coat check girls and back to Marie. She’s old. She’s wicked. But she knows about things. Enough to know Roger wants more than her body.

You know I would if I could,” Don tells Megan, being a good husband. She goes to the bathroom to cry in secret. Since Megan’s departure from the firm, she’s been on a downward spiral. She feels disrespected and has been unsuccessful and her self esteem has just eroded to the point where failed actresses are generally found. That’s not good and her acid-lipped mother is no help. Megan is falling.

Don walks into the office and sees Adam’s face again, this time on shoulders of some nameless freelancer. That’s twice. Joan is waiting in Don’s office and they’re not the same since her partnership. She’s come for comfort, to express that she feels guilty that the firm is doing so well since Lane’s departure, and wondering why he did it. “You can’t think like that, you’ll never get an answer,” assures Don, and it’s practical advice if not the most comforting. Joan is very upset and wonders what she could have done to prevent it.

“Nothing,” says Don. He’s made himself incapable of rendering other scenarios and can only move forward. “Why didn’t I give him what he wanted?” asks Joan, referring to Lane’s advances and suggestive comments. Since it got her a partnership and a car account for the firm, Joan thinks her sexuality can even stave off death. Maybe Herb Brennet from Jaguar told her that. Don loathes the thought. It is so easy for him. His tooth is really hurting him and Joan refers him to a dentist. There will be no drinks and offers to dance.

Megan won’t get out of bed. Marie chides her at noon that she hasn’t. Megan’s really unhappy. She asks her mother why she’s so supportive of others but is so cruel to her. “Because you are chasing a phantom,” Marie tells Megan in French. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical won’t debut until 1986, so Marie’s not just talking about a part on Broadway. She’s talking about Don’s favorite thing: happiness. And everyo9ne’s chasing it and it is a phantom, but Marie with her aging elegance and cheating communist of a husband, doesn’t believe in it. And she doesn’t want her daughter to have what she knows she can’t.

“Not every little girl gets to do what she wants. The world cannot support that many ballerinas,” says Marie without comfort in her voice. Megan reveals that she knows of her mother’s unhappiness and gets called an ungrateful bitch for the observation. “Thank God my children are not my whole life,” huffs Marie as she marches out the door. We know where she’s going but does she have other children?

Joan and Don agreed to payback the $50 thousand collateral Lane put up to his wife out of the life insurance policy pay out. Don arrives at the Pryce apartment and is greeted coldly by Lane’s wife. She’ll take the money, but she’s very sore at Don and the whole company because she blames them for Lane’s final deed. “You had no right to fill a man like that with ambition,”  she insists, telling Don what she thinks of her late husband. She confronts Don with the picture of some girl Lane kept in his wallet — Lane’s first theft of the season — and Don honestly tells her he doesn’t know anything of it. “Think of all the brothels you frequent,” Mrs. Pryce demands, and Don’s the wrong guy to bring up brothels with.

He’s nonetheless cordial and sincere in his apologies for her loss. Lane’s wife just doesn’t get it. It’s understandable that she’s grieving and lashing out at phantoms, but she’s always been aloof and unbearable. She seems to think that Lane had more than the fifty thousand in his name, which we know to be very untrue, and so that Don only helped himself by delivering a fat check and splattered with accusations of death and brothels, which happen to the conditions that brought him into existence. Lane committed suicide in large part because he was broke. This lady doesn’t get it.

Flip from the English Channel to the Campbell household. We haven’t seen Trudy in a few episodes and here she is, showing Pete plans for a backyard pool. “All this doom and gloom, I’m tired of it!” shouts Trudy as Pete is hesitant about the pool, suggestion Tammy could drown. Who doesn’t love Trudy? She’s always so positive. But she doesn’t recognize that doom and gloom is the substance of her husband. There’s a chasm a swimming pool can’t fill.

Roger and Marie tumble onto his hotel bed. She hopes that’s all it is, but knows there’s more. Roger tells her about Lane and philosophizes on death. “You’d have to be sure you were going someplace better,” surmises Roger in absolute rather than relativistic terms. He asks Marie to take LSD with him because he needs it again to “appreciate this place” since his enlightenment wore off. Marie tells him not to ask her for anything, making clear she’s only there for her own pleasure. Roger is not allowed to be her child.

Don returns home to a sad drunken Megan. She’s a mess and stumbles onto the floor. Don picks her up and puts her in bed. She’s falling apart. She wines about her mother abandoning her and Don wanting her to fail, so he tells her just to sleep it off. Marie returns and Don’s incredulous that she’d knowingly leave her own daughter alone like that when she’s obviously in need of support. Marie says it’s not her responsibility. “Take my advice. Nurse her through this defeat and you shall have the life you desire,” Marie advises and I think it’s both sincere and correct. Marie knows much of the world, but cares about no one. Don definitely hears her, but is then brought down in pain from his tooth. He relents and visits the dentist.

Don’s a stubborn man and has always been able to rely on his body. His wife, his work, and partner decisions have all been outside his control this season but finally his body betrays him. The dentist extracts the aching tooth and its roots extend far. Long in the tooth. I get it. Don hallucinates on laughing gas. For the third time this episode, he sees his brother Adam. “You’re in bad shape, Dick,” Adam tells him. “It’s not your tooth that’s rotten,” he reveals just so we’re certain he’s not talking about Don’s physical state in either case. Am I the only one who thinks Don’s been on the best behavior we’ve ever seen of him this season? His version of compassion was factored into both Adam and Lane’s decisions to hang themselves, and he hasn’t been as supportive of his wife as he could be, but he’s not doing any lying or cheating as far as we see. So it’s not actions, but heart where Don’s been deficient.

Don wakes up and is told to do a bunch of things for his recovery. For the second episode in a row, Don must wipe blood from his mouth, this time literally.

Pete visits Beth in the hospital and I’m guessing it’s safe to say she told him beforehand which hospital. The nurse announces Pete to Beth as her brother, agreeing that they have the same eyes. If not the same problem. Beth is cheerful and kind, but she doesn’t remember Peter. She had electrodes strapped to her brain, but Pete’s the one shocked at this. “I’m here to visit my friend,” says Pete in realization and as per the episode’s title, this friend is a phantom. He spills his soul to Beth, simultaneously realizing and articulating the source of his dissatisfaction with life. About his insecurities and need to know that he knows something young people don’t in exchange for his aging. That his family is a “temporary bandage on a permanent wound,” and that he’ll be fine, though never happy. Pete now knows himself better, but not what to do.

Don walks into a movie theater and sees the back of a haircut he recognizes. He’s not hallucinating. It’s Peggy. They hug. At first it seems like Peggy might be high again. We’ve seen Peggy here before, but I don’t know why Don’s here alone. I guess he’s not. He’s been a stranger even though Peggy told him not to do that when they last said goodbye. Don seems genuinely happy that Peggy’s doing well, but he misses her. “That’s what happens when you help someone. They succeed and move on,” he notes and while he’s talking to Peggy, Megan and the Butler shoe ad must be on his mind. Megan’s on Peggy’s mind too and she tells Don to say hi for her. She seems to really miss Megan and maybe it’s just the French connection.  “It’s not Paris,” says Peggy of her upcoming business trip to Richmond, Virginia and Paris is Peggy’s phantom. She’s still chasing it.

Howard meets Pete on the train and suggests they go get into some trouble since he’d rid of his wife. Pete knew he’d see Howard on the train and didn’t avoid him. He can’t help himself. He calls Howard disgusting and reveals that he’s been sleeping with his wife leading to Pete getting punched. He refuses to apologize when the conductor breaks up the fight and carries on a hilarious rant before getting punched in the face again and thrown off the train. Pete already lost a fist fight to Lane earlier this season and keeps getting beat down. He”s not a fighter. Or a lover.

Pete comes home bruised and battered, telling Trudy he fell asleep driving and ran into a ditch. That’s not true; he got punched in the face, but who said he’s talking about his injuries and not his life. The car doesn’t have a scratch on it. Trudy is so caring and loves her man. When she says “I can’t live like this” she means worrying about Pete and his condition when and if he comes home, but Pete’s thinking those exact words with only himself on his mind. She agrees that he needs an apartment in the city, knowing not what he wants it for. She wastes her love.

Still in the mood for cinema, apparently, Don watches Megan’s screen test at the office. During the movie and now, the physical Megan is nowhere to be seen. Don knows she’s a wreck and escapes to do these things anyways. He’d rather spend his time with the projection on the screen, a beautiful and confident woman, than the heap of mess at home. She’s stunning on the reel and Don smiles. “It takes us to a place we ache to go again,” said Don in the Season 1 finale as photos from his first marriage were projected onto a screen. Again, it’s late at night and he’s not home.

The partners head up the elevator to the new floor. Joan sprays a big red X where she wants the new staircase. Are we to see less of the sometimes-not-there elevator next season then? The space is empty and every partner gets to envision whatever he wants in it. The “limbo” dream state from the film Inception comes to mind. “I’m going to have the same view as you, Don” says Pete envisioning his new office, at least. The camera zooms out and shows each of the partners’ silhouettes against the unconstructed dream space.

Megan’s made up in some medieval  red dress, happy and excited. The Butler shoe ad is in production and Ken, Stan, and Ginsberg didn’t stand in the way of her casting. If she’s Beauty, Don’s obviously the Beast. What has he done? He saw beauty in a projection and cast his wife in a fairy tale. “You know I love you,” she tells him as she pecks him on the cheek. Don walks off the set. Then into a bar, ordering an old fashioned and lighting a cigarette. It’s like a flashback. Might not even be real.

A montage begins. Peggy coming out of the shower in her Richmond hotel room, seemingly pleased. She looks out the window expecting the Eiffel Tower and sees two dogs humping. It’s not Paris. Pete looks restful as he listens to his tiny orchestra through some headphones. The outside world is unimportant to him during his personal time. A buck naked Roger raises his arms and looks at his reflection. I can’t see anyone on the bed next to him, but we are to assume he’s on LSD, naked as he came into this world, looking for a reason not to leave it. Back to the bar where old school Don is approached by a pretty young blond. She asks for a light, and Don obliges knowing that’s not what she’s there to ask for. She drops the pretense and asks on behalf of her pretty young friend across the room, “Are you alone?” I think it’s a smirk that flashes, but before i can be sure, the credits roll.

We have to talk about Don, Marie, and Megan. Marie’s presence in this episode was unexpected and she’s there to make men feel weak and make her daughter feel hopeless. She’s pretty awful. She told Don to nurse Megan through her defeat and he will have the life he desires. Don didn’t ignore this advice. He gets Megan cast in the shoe commercial like she so desperately asked him to. Is this Don following or rejecting Marie’s advice? Does knowing she got this role because of her husband subject Megan’s confidence and make her ever reliant and waiting for Don? Or is this the “they succeed and move on” when you help someone thing as per Peggy? If Don did this to help Megan get her foot in the door to the acting business, he can only expect her to move on. Does that free him up to tell the girls at the bar that he is indeed alone?

It’s very difficult to take any Mad Men quotes that stand out as meaning only one thing. “Are you alone?” doesn’t mean then and there at the bar, or whether he’s married. In context, Don is being tempted with his old ways of infidelity. He’s thus far avoided it in this marriage, but as he was told in last season’s finale, he “only likes the beginning of things.”  Does a wife who gets her first acting gig through nepotism deserve his fidelity in Don’s mind? Is this the life Don desires? It’s the last line of the season and a question Don must answer himself with all the departures that happened this season. Is he alone, at work, at home, in his life and is he destined to be forever? We know Pete is, but Don’s not Pete. It’s a question we all need answered.

Megan got what she asked for — her husband helping her land a job. For the second time, but this time one she really wanted. But did she get what she wanted? She seemed genuinely happy to be shooting and appreciate of Don for doing that for her. But Megan has shown herself to be able to shift moods quickly from angry to horny and from hating Don and his orange sherbet to walking hand in hand with him into the office. With each character we have to examine what they want and what they ask for and to what degree happiness is the moment before they need more happiness. Don and Megan are the two main characters this season. Don had a specific intent in getting Megan cast as Beauty whether or not we can be sure of what it is right now. We’ll see if he gets what he wants. And if Megan does, post-fairy tale.

“Are you alone?” Don is asked.

“I am,” is the only thing I can hear him saying.

This was a great season! I can’t wait to see what’s in store fore season 6!

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Mad Men Recap: Across the English Channel   Leave a comment


Okay. I’ve watched it three times and enough time’s passed that I can talk about it. “Lane hanged himself in his office,” Bert Cooper announces to Roger and Don as they return from an impression-leaving meeting with the big wigs at Dow Chemical and find only the remaining partners. No one watching is as shocked as Don and Roger are because the episode’s almost over, and the message boards have fingered Lane for weeks as this season’s predicted suicide. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that it occurred before the season finale making us wonder what could possibly be in order for next week.

This is still Don’s show and as important an event as a partner suicide is, we’ll address it in that context.

Bonjour” an unfamiliar rival ad executive greets the barber as he walks into the parlor while Don gets his hair cut. On the surface, he does nothing but praise Don to all present for winning the Jaguar, but the subtle dig of calling it a big win for Don’s little firm sets the tone for that Dow Chemical meeting later on, which will demand further discussion.

Lane Pryce is eating an English muffin and meeting with the head of the 4A’s who appoints him to a position on their board. Lane’s told how although he sounds English, he’s thought of as an American by the 4A’s. Like the English muffin he’s eating. Lane is told how he saved the firm and turned them around after losing Lucky Strike and how that’s remarkable. It’s a good meeting and Lane accepts the appointment.

The freelancers from the Jaguar account are still around and Joan Harris has to remind the new office manager Scarlett to relocate them before her first partner’s meeting as a partner. “And there should be danish,” adds Joan as Cooper sighs with pastry-free breath. Is it too obvious to say that Scarlett (a brunette) is no replacement for Red?

It’s brought up that Jaguar has requested to be billed on a fee basis rather than under the traditional commission scheme. It’s explained that this would mean a calculated payment for work done instead of the 15% of media purchases — Don points out that if the client wants it, it can’t be good. Pete can’t wait til “new business” to announce that he got a call from Dunlop tires and when Scarlett suggests voting on the fees vs. commission issue, Don pouts that the conversation wouldn’t end if he left the room.

Betty Francis appears. She’s being nasty to her children as she packs for a family ski trip. Sally is being sarcastic and trades barbs with her mother until she demands to spend the weekend at her father’s with his nice, younger wife. “Do they ever taken you on vacation?” asks Betty sarcastically, expecting, like her ex-husband, that things don’t happen if she’s not present. Sally reminds her mother who took her to Disneyland.  As a decisive dig, sally adds “She lets me eat whatever I want,” which might be meant more to injure than as an endorsement of plain spaghetti.

Betty calls Don to announce that the Francis car will be dropping Sally off for the weekend and an annoyed Don has en even more annoyed Bert Cooper walk into his office wielding a slip of paper with Don’s name on it. It’s weird that the mostly inactive Bert Cooper uncovered this. Cooper accuses Don of giving Lane a bonus even though the partners agreed not to, assuming he went behind their backs with the checkbook the way they went behind his back with the Joan prostitution. “You can’t keep being the good little boy while the adults run this business,” says Cooper referencing that latter episode as much as this one.  Don doesn’t let on that he never signed that check and tells Cooper he’ll take care of it.

Lane is right and jolly as he’s called into Don’s office. It’s easy to forget by the end of this episode that it really did start off all compliments and prestige. Thinking Don wants to congratulate him, Lane holds his head high as he walks in and has a seat on the couch. “What the hell is this?” demands Don, showing Lane the check he forged.

Lane’s shocked. He denies wrong doing at first, trying to convince Don that he’s been loose with the strokes that confer his stolen identity of late. “We all sign lots of things” says Lane and Don has to be thinking about the aerospace account they lost because of that. “Is this the only one?” Don demands and he’s dead serious.

Lane admits his forgery, calling it a 13 day loan. He complains about the cancelled bonuses and tells Don that Don wanted the money for the Joan payment. “That was my money,” insists Lane, digging in. Don asks why Lane didn’t just ask for the money to which Lane responds “why suffer the indignation for a 13 day loan?”

“I’m going to need your resignation” Don tells him and Lane writhes at this development. He begs Don to reconsider pleading that he’d lose his visa and have to return to England in disgrace. “You embezzled funds and forged my signature,” recounts Don and it was any other partner but Don, there couldn’t be so much weight to the signature part.

Lane turns indignant, spitting that he’s never been compensated for his contributions to the company, only had to take the money because he owed taxes on the personal assets he liquidated to keep the company afloat after losing Lucky Strike, and never had the pay day handed to the senior partners when the British firm PPL bought Sterling Cooper. “I’m sorry. I can’t trust you,” says Don with finality, and again the signature comes to mind. “Can you imagine what would happen if a client found out?” Don counters to the suggestion that no one’s been harmed. Am I the only one that smells another Dick Whitman identity crisis brewing here with these quotes?

The next thing will be better, because it always is,” Don offers as parting encouragement. He shakes Lane’s hand and that’s the last he’ll see of him alive. But Don was showing compassion in a very Don way, knowing what it’s like to start over and assuring Lane “this is the worst part,” which has been true for Don. Don wasn’t cruel or overly harsh with Lane, given what could have happened and gives sincere advice about moving beyond this. But just that morning, Lane had been praised and appreciated for his work.

The next thing has always been better for Don, whether transitioning from a whore child farm boy to an untarnished discharged army lieutenant or from a childish and soon-to-expand wife to a younger, sleeker foreign model. Since losing Lucky Strike, it’s been unclear that the switch from the old Sterling Cooper to SCDP has shown the same improvement. This idea will run through the episode to the Dow Chemical meeting while Lane hangs.

Bonjour! started the episode, harkening back to when Don gave his speech about landing Jaguar. Don said they’d swim the English Channel and drown in champagne. We’ve arrived in France, and there’s nothing there for Lane. (How’s Paris, Peggy?) “Bon voyage” expresses Lane after getting kicked out of Joan’s office for crude remarks.

For some reason, Roger calls some hapless 25 year old coat check girl the day after. we’ll find later that his LSD bequeathed enlightening has worn off. Roger explains all it took was room service to bed the girl and Don chastises Roger for thinking so small. “I don’t like what we’re doing,” he announces, complaining about their small potatoes accounts and not even being able to give Christmas bonuses, which could have prevented the loss of a partner. He wants Chevy, American Airlines, and Firestone, not Jaguar, Mohawk, and Dunlop.

Don tells Roger to get meetings with bigger potential clients, as driven as ever. Where Pete would be happy with Dunlop, Don says Pete “still thinks small,” explaining Pete’s frustrations with Don’s old suburban life minus the parade of fawning side dishes. Roger is puzzled with Don’s renewed aggression, making Don admit he was discouraged by Ed Baxter’s assertion from the Codfish Ball that no American Cancer Society big shots wanted to work with him.

You used to love ‘no.‘” laments Roger. “‘No’ used to make you hard.” Don resolves to go after Ed Baxter, Ken Cosgrove’s father in law and Dow Chemical executive, the guy who told him not to go looking for clients within his little club. “Then fire him,” Don responds to Roger’s objection that Ken Cosgrove has already refused to go after family. Peggy’s gone, Don just fired Lane, and now threatens to get rid of Cosgrove if he doesn’t cooperate. With Cooper’s increased role this season, scolding Don’s love leave and investigating fee/commission arrangements, it’s the old guns taking charge now.

Sally arrives at Don and Megan’s apartment unannounced. Megan’s surprised and offended that Don didn’t call to tell her, but Don’s had a busy morning. “I hate her so much. She’s such a phony,” Sally says of her mother, setting us up for a tender moment later.

Roger invites Ken for a drink to break the news that they’re going after Ed Baxter. Ken doesn’t get fired. He makes a couple requests to not interfere with the courtship of his father in law. Roger offers him a partnership, which Ken doesn’t want. “I’ve seen what’s involved,” he explains, referencing the circumstances of Joan’s partnership, refusing to prostitute himself in any metaphorical sense. Ken demands to be on the account if it gets landed and two more things: 1) “Pete doesn’t go to the meeting,” with Dow and 2) “Pete doesn’t go to any meetings” with them.

Ken is being fleshed out as a genuinely nice guy. He’s grown up since the days of sexually harassing every secretary from Peggy Olson to Jane Siegel throughout the first couple seasons. He’s not interested in partnership and refuses to risk poisoning his relationship with his family over business. The opposite of Pete, he wields the pen, not the sword. Well, rifle — I was close there if you shoehorn Baz luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. The Pete/Ken rivalry hasn’t been very pronounced since Kenny returned, but Pete really needs to stop pissing off all of his co-workers. Maybe getting banned from the Dow account will teach him not to rat out co-workers for moonlighting as authors.

Don catches Roger in the elevator. “I liked that guy I saw today…I missed him” Roger notes of Don’s reinvigorated ferocity. We all missed him. His mistresses missed him…

If the workplace has injected Don with a dose of testosterone, at home awaits the opposite. A pre-teen who hates her mother and a wife who feels disrespected for being assumed a walk-in-accepting babysitter. Good thing Sally leaves before she gets her first period later in the episode or the apartment couldn’t take it. Megan whines at Don for not calling. Don tells her about Lane, the embezzlement and firing parts anyways. “You can’t tell anyone,” Don makes her promise and though he’s been able to trust her with the Dick Whitman secret, Don doesn’t yet know the burden of keeping this secret once it becomes known that Lane hanged himself.

Recounting Lane’s day so far: 4A’s chairmanship, fired, inappropriate remarks to his closest office friend Joan, and now he comes home very drunk. His wife insists on celebrating. He resists, but has no choice but to give in. Mrs. Pryce leads Lane through the garage to a brand new Jaguar she wrote a soon-to-bounce check for. “Go on, sit in it,” she prods and he will later, but for now he needs to throw up. The new expense seals Lane’s decision. Not a good Friday.

Saturday is skipped. Megan takes Sally out on Sunday. Megan wears a short skirt out even though it was snowing just two days ago. After a two-day drinking binge, Lane still refuses to drive the Jaguar assuring his wife “there will be plenty of time for that” and needs to get stuff done. Don and Lane are both seen working on papers in their respective living rooms. One to get new business, one to finish his up.

Sally and Megan meet Megan’s red headed (everywhere?) actress friend at a diner and have a more mature conversation than might be appropriate. Sally claims to have a boyfriend and we can only suspect that she’s talking about Glen Bishop, but that she’s only trying to fit in with Megan’s friend. She gets served coffee and pours more sugar into it to force a healthy man into a diabetic coma. She asked for the stuff adults drink, but she can’t handle its bitterness yet.

In the wee hours, Lane escapes from bed and goes to sit in the new Jaguar like his wife said. After he feeds a hose from the tailpipe through the front window. He snaps his glasses in half, and that’s a symbol he borrowed from a British novel about castaway children and a musical shell. The ignition stalls, ruining Lane’s plan. “They’re lemons. They never start,” warned Cooper months ago and it’s darkly humorous to remember.

Sally calls Glen and convinces him to visit her, since she’ll be home alone Monday morning. Glen is reluctant because it’s an epic poem for him to get there from his boarding school, but he gives in. They both have the night to imagine how it might go. They haven’t seen each other since Glen was shipped off to war against senior lacrosse douches at boarding school. Gatsby, meet Daisy.

You don’t look that different,” Glen tells Sally who had gotten rather dressed up to see him. He wears a thin mustache worth shaking your head at. They go to the museum and Glen tries several jokes on her, ranging from Teddy Roosevelt killing the animals on display, to fractured perspective on a buffalo family, to following up the suggestion that Sally might be hungry with  “want some caribou?” They’re not boyfriend and girlfriend and they know it after finally seeing each other. Sally runs away.

Don and Roger meet with Dow chemical, Don bringing the fire. Ed Baxter introduces them to other important Dow guys and notes Kenny’s smarts for not being there. After formalities, Don launches into a rant/pitch, dealing in fierce absolutes, insisting that though “success is reality, its effects are temporary.” Don doesn’t want 50% of anything, he wants 100% and won’t stop until he gets it. Take that, Occupy Wall Street. Happiness is just a moment before you need more happiness, after all. He certainly leaves an impression, but who knows if it was the right one. The next this has to be better.

Betty gets to taste a morsel of redemption as Sally runs into her arms and soaks in her motherly comforts. As she’s becoming a woman, she’s more her mother’s child than in the past couple years. Betty does well here. Her first triumph in a long while, and the first point won over Megan.

Scarlett brings the company books to Joan, noting that Lane’s not there and his office is locked. By herself, Joan unlocks the office, but can’t get it open, cringing at some awful smell. Next door in Pete’s office, Pete, Ken, and Harry are having a laugh when Joan bursts in, shaking with dread. Don and Roger aren’t around, who knows where Cooper hangs out. Those upper-wall windows that have been used for spying before allow Pete, Ken and Harry to see what Lane’s done. We don’t see it for the moment. Ken comforts a distraught Joan.

Roger and Don return from their meeting, joking about Don’s straddling the line between aggressive and crazy. No one seems to be around. They find the other partners and hear for the first time what’s happened. “We can’t leave him like that,” a stricken Don commands upon learning that Lane’s still hanging in his office. There’s something decent about that. He shoves his way through Lane’s office door and it was his stiff body that prevented Joan from opening it before.

We see the body hanging from the ceiling. It’s rigid and purple and it does make me sad. Don holds Lane’s cold body up while Pete cuts him down and Don lays him on the couch. We get one last look at his lifeless body, neither peaceful nor anguished, just very very dead.

Don returns home and is bemused to find Glen there. Glen was abandoned at the museum and had no idea what happened to Sally, upset and hanging at the apartment at Megan’s insistence. Glen reminds Don they’ve met before and tells him he’s waiting for his train. Megan promises to explain about Sally later and is reluctant to let Don take Glen back to school, but Don does.

In the elevator down to the garage, Glen asks “why does everything turn out crappy?” and though his life and day have been far from perfect, Don’s been through worse. “Everything you want to do, everything you think’s going to make you happy” turns out like crap, says the high school freshman. Don tells him he’s too young to think like that. Asks him what he wants to do, what he most wanted at that moment.

It’s dark out on the road as Don stares out from the car. Glen’s driving. Did he get what he asked for? Or was it something like control or freedom or to get away? Did he get what he wanted? Either way, he’s sitting in Don’s seat, driving Don’s car, and that’s as close as anyone else in this show is going to get to access to the Don Draper identity. Just ask Lane.

And who knows how things might have been different if that snake in a basket thing hadn’t been mowed down two seasons ago. RIP Lane.

Tidbits and Notes:

The dog that didn’t bark: Peggy left at a good time. There’s trouble ahead for SCDP. But not only did she not appear in this episode, but she wasn’t even mentioned by a single character. The silence was deafening.

Don’s ID: We’re forced to compare the forgery of Don’s signature — a perpetual forgery itself — to a situation in which the signature forged was someone else’s. There’s no comparison. Don’s been haunted by Pete with it, lost an account, and his first wife. Lane couldn’t get away with no punishment like he’d asked. It’s not easy for a middle aged husband and father to start over. Don expects him to. Don’s firmness with Lane is a reclamation of his identity, telling Lane to go find his own rebirth. Don will always move forward.

Thinking too small:  Lane didn’t get what he asked for or what he wanted. After Lucky Strike left, everyone was thinking too small. Jaguar, a small car account, played into the lack of Christmas bonuses that led to Lane’s demise, and now Don doesn’t want Jaguar, he wants Chevy. Don sees this and now he wants 100%.

Lane’s greatest hits:  5) Receiving said snake in basket 4) Gleefully getting fired by St. John. 3) The chocolate bunny 2) Night on the town with Don and their dates 1) Laying the smackdown on Pete.

Can’t wait for the finale.

Bon voyage.

Posted June 5, 2012 by Wada in Uncategorized

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Mad Men Recap: Partnership, Prostitution, and the Prodigal Peggy   Leave a comment


A meeting room full of unfamiliar faces struggles to overlay the illicit mystique of a mistress onto Jaguar. The lines are no good. Peggy meets a grouchy Don in the hall so he can sign off on non-Jaguar work and he tells her she’s in charge of everything that’s not a repackaged mistress. Roger bought lobster for the room of freelancers and Peggy’s subordinates. Ginsberg’s eyes explode as he lifts the cover off a tray of steaming crustacean. Is that Kosher?

Herb Brennet, head of dealerships for Jaguar, is not. He rather openly demands a dalliance with Joan as a necessary, but not sufficient condition for his endorsement of SCDP. Ken begins to note that Joan is married, but Pete stops him and brews a plan. Herb Brennet doesn’t just behave like a pig. Heavyset, balding, accent like  a union boss.

Don is really back in the swing of things, focused on work. He comes home exhausted and stressed. So much that he doesn’t take a second to think that telling Megan about the Jaguar = mistress pitch might make her feel insecure and upset, given the pieces of his past she knows about. She needs to read up for an important audition, but not in the bedroom.

Pete is ever the opportunist. Pitching copy directly to clients by the second episode, suggesting an urban market strategy for Admiral TVs, the pre-YouTube viral stunt for Sugarberry Hams. There’s nothing innovative about the world’s oldest profession so it’s more gall than inspiration on Pete’s part this time and the likeable weasel is losing that qualifier. Pete approaches Joan before any of the others arrive and she’s understandably appalled at his request that she prostitute herself. “What if it was Trudy?” asks Joan, not knowing he already tried that years ago to get his lame short story published. Weasel! Pete says something about Cleopatra and becoming a queen, leaving with the impression that he just needs to set the price high enough.

Peggy saves the Chevalier Blanc account by transplanting it to Paris. Peggy’s been into Paris since the Belle Jolie account that launched her career and a panorama of Champs Elysees hangs over Harry’s desk as she spins the “new” idea like she’s Keyser Soze. The way she rescues the ad is a nice boost for Peggy. She’s been neglected and now she shines with Don preoccupied.

A meeting of the partners to discuss ponying up to make Joan a queen kicks off with Pete briefly summarizing the situation. Don objects and walks out. The world doesn’t turn off when Don leaves a room and the partners agree to make Joan an offer. Pete tells Lane to extend the credit line $50,000, not knowing he already has for other reasons and can’t again.

The show’s dealt with prostitution before. It’s just that now really appalling because it’s not a red shirt, it’s our favorite redhead. And it’s not like Don has always taken a stand against prostitution — without it he wouldn’t exist. A whore was his Thanksgiving guest post-divorce, he bought one for Lane soon after, and stood by while the executives took Bazooka Joe to such a “party.”  Don’s against this because Joan’s his friend. After their moment in the bar last episode, it’s clear he respects her. That, and he really wants to know creative won this account on its own merit.

Back to the room of frustrated freelancers and Don, mindful of his wife, says they’re through with the mistress angle, leaving them to stew in confusion. In his office, Ken, Harry and Peggy give the good news that Peggy saved Chevalier Blanc, but Don is unimpressed, taking it for granted. Explaining that she just switched the scene from London to Paris, Don flings a couple bills in her face, barking, “You want to go to Paris? Go to Paris!” Peggy doesn’t cry, but lashes out at a Ken Cosgrove who was just trying to comfort her and reaffirm their pact. Don’s lack of appreciation shatters her belief in loyalty at SCDP.

Lane visits Joan with intentions that are a little unclear. Whether he has feelings for her or is just worried about his check forgery being discovered or thinks he can solve a lot of problems with one maneuver, I’m not sure. He tells Joan to forgo the $50,000 and demand a 5% stake in the company as a partner instead, saying it’s a better deal. Maybe that’s true, but the point is Lane is saying Joan needs to demand more money, not not to do it. Do we feel bad for Lane at all? The guy is writhing. Financially ruined. Not the courage to stand up to Pete this time. Tells Joan to take what she wants, since he didn’t get what he wanted when he became a partner, having never asked for it.

Joan was offended that the partners had a meeting about the arrangement, telling Lane “I don’t want them to know I was asked.” But now that it’s been discussed, she seems to have gotten over that, if she can secure her kid’s future. But if she goes through with it, not only will the other partners never forget how she became one herself, but I don’t think Herb Brennet is the tight-lipped type. It’s been mentioned on the show that advertising is a small world, word about Don’s proficiencies had gotten around by Season 2 and Bobbie Barrett, and things like the second sale of Sterling Cooper and the loss of Lucky Strike leaked out efficiently. Does Joan know what this does to her reputation?

Meanwhile, Pete reads Goodnight Moon to his baby daughter. It’s adorable. He can play the slimy pimp the office, then come home, hoist his daughter on his lap and sweetly lull her to sleep. Joan asked Pete how he’d feel if a client demanded Trudy — what about his daughter? Not sure I’d put it past him. Pete’s a major player in the advertising world now and has been the engine behind the Herb Brennet arrangement. But it’s going to come back to get him.

Working late, Megan and her friend drop by the office to visit. Megan pitches, “Jaguar: your problem, not mine,” before stealing Don away for a little pre-audition marital bliss. Megan’s friend crawls on the conference table making jungle cat noises to the delight of the men, save Ginsberg who’s distracted. “So she just gets to come and go as she pleases?” he asks exasperated, and it’s more likely he’s talking about Megan than the mistress the Jaguar isn’t supposed to be anymore. To our knowledge, Megan still owes him $15 in lunch money.

Pete wants an apartment in the city and Trudy won’t have any of it. Says his “love affair” with Manhattan is over. Not the most cohesive way to weave the mistress theme into it in my opinion. Show’s how detached Pete is from the suburbs and his domesticated wife. He’d do anything for a Jaguar right about now.

Apollo or Don, Mrs. Holloway? I don’t think her and Apollo, who’s wife won’t let him fix things at Joan’s apartment anymore, are “just friends” the way Joan and Don are.

Megan gets called back for the final round of auditions. She’s excited and makes Don promise to come visit. Don’s confused, thinking she’ll be in Manhattan. If she gets the part, she’ll be in Boston for three months. Don tells her to forget about it and she storms out, telling Don he’s only been supportive because he thinks she’ll fail. “You just keep doing whatever the hell you want,” Don yells at the door, assured that he’s the only one that can do that.

Joan makes the 5% demand of Pete and he agrees. The arrangement is made. I can’t believe it, or that it will go through. “He’s not that bad,” assures Pete. “He’s doing this,” Joan clarifies for him.

Don stands solitary in his office and goofball Ginsberg pops in to annoy him. He can’t get the mistress thing out of his head either, Megan dropping by the other evening seeming to have sparked one of his million ideas. Ginsberg recounts mulling “the asshole who’s going to want this car,” noting that what the rich douche bag has isn’t enough for him. A bemused “no duh” flashes across my brow as I hear it. Don wants to hear more and Ginsberg keeps on hammering the theme of not being able to own attractive things to one’s satisfaction.

The copy reads: Jaguar, at last something beautiful you can truly own. Don smiles and Ginsberg applauds himself. I guess I’m not the asshole who’s going to want this car because I think it’s his weakest copy yet, probably spun while fantasizing about his boss’s wife. But Don’s happy with it and catapults into prep mode like Tony Stark walking toward the edge of Stark Tower.

Freddy Rumsen’s back. He did some freelance for SCDP and moved on with the Ponds account he’d brought. If we think Roger or Don has passed their prime, look at Freddy. His skills are useless in 1966 and he’s bouncing around. There’s something sweet and fatherly about the way he calls Peggy “Ballerina” and he’s really looking out for her best interest as he suggests she leave SCDP for a better opportunity.

Peggy’s reluctant to seriously consider leaving at first, and that seems right. Freddy as good as got fired from Sterling Cooper for pissing his pants and passing out while he was supposed to be pitching, making way for Peggy’s promotion. He needs to drink copious amounts of coffee to fight his alcoholism. He makes it clear he’d love to go back to SCDP if Peggy leaves a hole there, so it’s not like he’s exactly doing great elsewhere. Granted we’ve never seen Freddy in his prime, we’ve seen his work as recently as last year, his copy being “old fashioned” and not very good. Why would Peggy take career advice from the less talented guy she stepped over to launch her copy writing career half a decade before?

Nonetheless, Freddy insists Peggy shop around for other offers and seems genuinely invested in her success. I’m not convinced at this point Peggy would actually leave, but she seems to take seriously Freddy’s assurance that Don’s a big boy, would understand, and even give the same advice if it wouldn’t hurt him. I want Peggy to be successful, but I’m not convinced Freddy is the right consultant to help her along.

Don starts putting on his hover boots and energy-beam gauntlets as Pete drops by to assure him that Herb Brennet has been placated. Don seems surprised when Pete points out that the conversation doesn’t stop just because Don leaves the room, and he rushes off to save the damsel.

There’s probably some cinematic value in the way the next couple scenes play out, but I’m not a fan of them. We’ve already been tricked into thinking a fever dream was real and dealt with non-linear storytelling centered around Don calling distraught from a HoJo’s this season. I guess what we’re supposed to pull out of this narrative twist is that from Don’s point of view, he got to Joan in time to stop her from selling herself, the doffing of his cap the equivalent of  Iron Man closing his face shield as he blasts off.

But actually, Joan had already gone through with it and returned by the time Don got there. She let him believe he had stopped her/saved her because she appreciates that he cares. Don won’t find out for a couple days that Joan is now a partner and we don’t know if he’ll ever find out how his timing was on that night.

I made those Iron Man comparisons because Don is in super hero form as he pitches Jaguar. He’s strong and handsome and compelling and confident — the Don we all want to be or else have. While he’s doing that, he has as much swag as ever. I still think the line is a boorish mouthful, but the Jaguar guys seem like it and the executives march back to the office with a pretty good feeling.

Don’s pitch is spliced with scenes from Joan’s night with Herb Bennet. He’s a big fat hairy blob of repulsion. Joan is cordial. She gets it over with. Bennet is like a stereotype of some disgusting powerful pervert and represents what’s under the hood at Jaguar. Easy connection.

Peggy, taking Freddy’s advice, sets up a meeting. With Teddy Chaough, whom we haven’t seen this year. I like that Chaough’s a character. Get to show ad men as obnoxious sleazes without any sympathy for them. He’s not exactly Venom to Don’s Spider-Man and now I’m not even using characters from a movie I just saw.

Chaough flatters Peggy, telling her how Clearasil complains the work’s not as good since they moved. It’s funny that he thinks Don thinks about him, telling Peggy she must have heard horrible things from him. Hey Ted, ask Ginsberg whether Don thinks about you.  Chaough’s a narcissist, but not in the same way as Don.”You don’t have to be like me” he says when making it clear he needs a writer and quoting Emerson. But Peggy is charmed by the recognition and flattery she never gets at home at SCDP.

Chaough uses all the cliches and homilies and formulas he says he didn’t see in Peggy’s book to get her attention. He tells her to give him a number. She writes something on a slip of paper and slides it to him. He scribbles something and slides it back. Peggy requested $18k and Chaough counter-offered $19k + Copy Chief if she accepted on the spot. Obviously it’d be a raise and for comparison’s sake Joan said $50,000 was four times her annual salary so she was making $12,500. How would it be to make $6,500 more than the big shot who bossed you around on your first day? To get that raise Don told you to stop asking for?

Peggy’s wow’ed by Chaough and says she thinks she needs a chocolate milkshake. I can’t be the only one thinking, “There Will be Blood.” We’re not sure what Peggy says after that, but the show is certain to close with it.

Megan went for callbacks and tentatively pivots as she’s immediately told to “turn around” upon entering the room. They need a look at her before they need to hear a word from her mouth, and we’re supposed to think about what Joan did. Megan doesn’t get the part and finds comfort in Don’s arms, telling him she’ll always choose him over acting if it comes to that, but she’ll hate him for it. These two have some conflict every episode and have thus far been able to reconcile by the end of the hour. As of now, I don’t see that pattern changing.

The day of the big announcement, Dawn alerts Don that Peggy needs to have a word. Before they can step into his office, a giddy Roger corrals the partners into his office after hearing calls were going out and two other agencies were rejected. Don is shocked that Joan steps in when only partners are supposed to be there. He can’t celebrate as Jaguar is delivered and the rest of everybody goes wild.

As Champagne pops in the conference room, Don takes Peggy’s appointment, processing. “I don’t want it like this,” he told Pete as he was told of the deal with Joan. Peggy needed more respect and opportunity but would she want it like this? Ginsberg was irate when he learned that Don left his Snowball copy in the cab, denied ever knowing if it could have been sold. Don did that to Ginsberg and now Pete’s done it to Don (well, it’s Ginsberg’s copy so maybe that’s twice now) not knowing if the copy — what validates these ad guys as creative apex predators — was good enough by itself. Pete’s assurance that the Herb Bennet-Joan encounter was merely a hurdle that had to be cleared so the copy could win the day isn’t any more satisfying than Don telling Ginsberg he took only one copy because going in with two looks weak.

Don insists he has time to speak with Peggy. “You really have no idea when things are good, do you?” notes Peggy, puzzled that Don refuses to celebrate winning the Jaguar account. If she’s really leaving, those words might soon be applicable to herself. The suggestion is that Don didn’t get what he wanted (creative vindication) even though he got what he asked for (the Jaguar account), and neither do we.

Don has a seat and Peggy starts off by showing appreciation for everything he’s done for her. Don fills in her “but,” and she announces that she’s accepted another offer. Don seems amused, thinks she’s playing a game. Angling for a raise or something. And he’s in a good enough mood to acquiesce.

But Peggy’s not playing games. She indicates she’s serious and gives notice. Don offers to surpass whatever number she can imagine, but she says that’s not what this is about and she’s really leaving. Throwing money in her face didn’t work for Don earlier in the episode and it’s not working now, even if under more respectful terms. Maybe that part sets in as Don realizes this is for real. He’s in shock. The vein in his forehead is anguished and confused.

Where are you going?” he asks. “Cutler Gleason and Chaough,” she tells him, without embarrassment. “Perfect,” says Don, showing vulnerability, but refusing to say the horrible things about Chaough that Chaough thinks he does.  Maybe it is perfect — maybe Peggy can’t do much damage to SCDP over at CGC and Ginsberg and his million ideas can hold the fort down for Don. But it’s emotionally wrecking and we know it.

Don just had the shock that his heroic rescue of Joan’s distressing damsel wasn’t as dashing as he had thought. Then the next blow is delivered that his number one deputy that has always been his young charge is now switching sides and joining the bandits. There’s disorder in this sheriff’s town and he has no control, just when he thought he reclaimed the reins. He’s lost Betty, he’s lost Anna, Megan quit working, the Joan he took out to test drive the Jaguar is no more and Peggy has defected to the guy who fancies himself Don’s nemesis. Is actress Megan really enough now? What does his new lady friend Jaguar have to say about that?

Joan probably doesn’t know what she’s given up to become a partner after 13 years with Messrs.  Sterling and Cooper. Stuck without prospects the whole time. She watched two of her secretaries, Peggy and Megan, become copy writers within a year. Megan married Don and she can be a rich flailing actress while Joan married a failed surgeon who prefers it in Vietnam. With Chaough’s offer Peggy gets another promotion and now makes 150% of Joan’s salary. I don’t know if a 5% stake in the company is as valuable as Lane says it is, but look how she got it. She can’t seem to get anything the way she wants it and look how easy it seems for these other women who have real career prospects or a real successful husband. Given that, was this inevitable if Joan was ever to move up?

Joan watches Peggy leave the office, not celebrating, not knowing she’s really gone. She seems to think she’s gotten what she wanted, the partnership, and Peggy is left out the way she was left out from the lobster-fest at the episode’s beginning. That’s not what this is. I just watched the Les Miserables trailer so it’s fresh in my mind, but Joan has this Fantine thing going. A prostitute, yeah, but to take care of her kid in the absence of a father, holding onto crushed dreams.

Peggy didn’t get what she asked for ($18k), but got what she wanted (another $1,000 and validating Copy Chief title Don would never grant her) from Teddy Chaough and so here we go. She’s really felt slighted by all of SCDP this entire season. Though it’s mostly been Don’s lack of appreciation, she also thought Ken was having meetings in violation of their pact and was mad at Roger hiring Ginsberg on the side after she had performed well for him in that capacity. It’s really not about the money, which Don didn’t understand when he offered top dollar. It’s about respect for Peggy, which Don undermined for the last time when he so flippantly broke the news of Joan’s partnership.

That being said, it’s hard to be confident that that’s what she’ll find at CGC. All the SCDP guys have their character flaws for sure, but (save Pete, maybe) they’re sure to be saints compared to Chaough and company. He seems not to have Don’s talent, which probably enhances his dislikability. Maybe “Copy Chief” is really just a title Chaough intends to invent when his plan to steal Mohawk Airlines from SCDP comes to fruition. Chaough used flatttery, not respect to woo Peggy, and she won’t find appreciation with him.

Peggy’s always wanted to go to Paris. “Chaough” isn’t French for anything, and the CGC offices aren’t in the Eiffel Tower.

AND IF that chocolate milkshake Ted got her spills, Megan won’t be there to clean it up since she’s not one of his children anymore.

Posted May 31, 2012 by Wada in Uncategorized

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Mad Men Recap: Catch Lane if you Can   Leave a comment


As odd as it felt watching an engorged Betty’s hedonistic indulgence in a morsel of Thanksgiving stuffing to terminate last week’s Mad Men, it’s even more strange conceiving of this week’s episode, Christmas Waltz, as a Christmas episode. We’re laying heavy blame on that delayed production schedule, but this has been a great season so far, so let’s dive in.

Across the Pond
We open in the wee hours with Lane Pryce receiving a phone call from Jolly Old England informing SCDP’d pugilistic Englishman that he needs to come up with $8,000 in two days to stay out of jail for the taxman cometh. The come-up-with-absurd-amount-of-money-in-just-a-few-days-or-else premise is a familiar device and we can expect Lane to take several shots to the balls as he tries to Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge his way out of this one.

Cut to Harry Crane being enlightened by a secretary I don’t recognize that a “Mr. Kinsey” demands a meeting, and the last time we saw our creatively limited leftist friend Paul, he was fuming that Don took Peggy along to the new agency and left him hanging out to dry. If he makes an appearance, it’s a surprising return for a show that has no problem parting with undistinguished also-smokeds. Lane bursts in and demands Harry’s  media revenue projections and Harry reminds him that though they look good, they’re just projections. “You can’t predict the future, Lane,” he says in frustration, and we’ll see if he’s willing to put money on that by the end of the episode.

From Projections to the Past
Harry walks into an incense-soaked studio where exotic quilts hanging from clotheslines stand in for doors. An out of shape man dressed in filthy robes, head bald save a short pony tail is telling some guy about oneness or something. Turns out this is Paul Kinsey and man, has his life taken a turn for the worst. We knew he was a proud liberal and mediocre copywriter, but to have become a full-on Hare Krishna seems a bit outlandish. Harry shows our surprise. Paul is joined by a pretty white girl called Mother Lakshmi and Harry applies Occam’s Razor. “Oh, I get it,” says a droll Harry as the epiphany hits.

I’m not going to lie, the Hare Krishna thing didn’t do anything for me. I thought it implausible that Harry, seemingly under no influence of any psychedelic drug, starts chanting and having, as Roger would say, “an experience,” and Roger needed LSD to do the trick. Mother Lakshmi whispers seductively in Harry’s ear and he later reports having a vision of his daughter and cognizance of his lifelong connection to his emasculating wife. What I can draw from it is that in one scene, he’s moved on from media projections to cult-induced visions and whatever his dissatisfaction with his domestic situation, Harry wants to move forward. Paul imagines starting a family with Lakshmi out West, soliciting a Star Trek script to Harry hoping he’ll pass it along. Paul’s pitiful state is making me sad.

Don gets Dragged to a Play
Let’s check in on the Drapers, shall we? Megan Draper, now an actress, drags Don to some pretentious play called “America Hurrah,” exploring the frontiers of nuance as a character declares ads promoting American consumerism literally makes him sick. the subtext is not lost on Don. Upon return home, Don alerts Megan that he doesn’t appreciate the time and money he spends supporting less than novel attacks on his livelihood, Megan responding that the play didn’t go too hard on advertising.  “No one’s made a stronger stand against advertising than you,” retorts Don, injecting more tannins than necessary. Don’s been well-behaved this season, but he still uses any excuse to act out.

Catch Lane if you Can
Lane obtains another $50,000 line of credit for the firm and claims it as a surplus at a partner’s meeting, suggesting Christmas bonuses. Pete announces they’re back in the hunt for Jaguar and Don wants to wait on the bonuses. Lane disagrees, but is nevertheless overridden, while Pete gets no credit for clawing his way back into the picture for a car account, Bert Cooper calling them lemons. All are sour.

Lane needs the money now, so he sneaks into the office after hours to forge a check. I can’t help but think of Catch Me if You Can, the real life events of which run concurrently with Lane’s shenanigans. It makes Lane look all the worse that as he’s committing check fraud, a teenage Frank Abagnale is doing it glamorously all around the world, milking bigger aeronautic cows than SCDP client Mohawk Airlines. He’s an amateur, but if the movie is any indication of the time period’s check fraud detection, Lane may have some time to straighten it all out.

The corporate checkbook Lane is cooking requires signatures from two partners, and Lane forges the signature of a long dead army lieutenant who was killed in Korea. Is it really a big deal to fabricate the forgery of a forgery? It’s unfair to blast Lane for forging “Don Draper” to get out of a desperate situation, because, well, Don did the exact same thing and we’ve always let it slide. Don may very well discover Lane’s embezzlement, but if his crime is misusing that particular identity, Don’s thousands of times more guilty.

To frame this a a thematic issue, in the aftermath of Don’s Season 4 identity crisis, all SCDP executives now have access to elements of the composite Don Draper entity. Peggy tries to assume Don’s dominance pitching Heinz beans. Pete is living Don’s unhappy suburban life with the same kitchen cabinets, albeit less devoted side dishes. Don is having as much trouble as anyone assuming the role of Don Draper. Lane’s just taking the name, and again, it’s been done.

Don and Joan: Christmas Waltz or Two to Tango?
Pete tells Don he needs to do some field research on Jaguar, bemused at his lack of excitement that should come with landing a car. “Maybe you and I should go as a couple,” quips Don as Pete harks back to a time when Don might kiss him at the news. The gay overtones flash *Sal!* across the mind, what with the return of Paul Kinsey putting us in the mindset of unlikely comebacks. It’s a tease from Matthew Weiner — that’s as much Sal as we’re going to get. In any case, Don uses the “take someone other than your actual wife to test the Jag” template effectively when he encounters an irate Joan.

Some idiot receptionist allows a strange man to call for Joan Harris and upon her confirming her never-doubted identity, she is served with divorce papers. Conditioned to expect only flowers when she’s needed at reception, Joan loses her cool at the cruel surprise and condemns the poor receptionist to a fiery plane crash. Don whisks her out of the office with an idea. No, not that.

Remember when Lane laid the smackdown on Pete? Did you notice that Don pulled a veil across the windows before the fisticuffs? It was too literal for me, Draper drawing curtains. He watches Lane slap “The Pryce is right, bitch” on Pete who suffers a mini-breakdown in the elevator where Don very Donnishly tells him, “It’s going to be okay.” I have this theory that Don getting the curtains symbolized his momentary transformation into the Don with the declarative power to still the fraught. It happens when he does any kind of draping.This time, as Joan wipes her tears, Don drapes his jacket around her sultry shoulders and into the elevator they descend to test drive a Jaguar.

They waltz into the posh dealership a handsome couple, looking like the types who shouldn’t be kept waiting. As the salesman approaches, his jacket still around her, Don whispers “Look at your watch.” Maybe that’s supposed to indicate the type of impatience that will throw the salesman off balance, but not for the sake of interpretation. As Joanie looks down at her wrist, it’s not just a watch, but a time machine that, fueled by the power of an illicitly test-driven Jaguar XKE, takes Don and Joan to a time without a Vietnam War or Quebecois second wives.

Don, dapper fedora atop, shoots the breeze with Joan at a choice midtown bar. She laments the time they came from, the one with a husband who prefers deployment in the jungle and the realities of being a single mother. A time when only flowers could await her at reception. She doesn’t get to talk about this to anyone much. Don, warping away from 1966 with her, is the handsome charming rake we remember he is.

He congratulates her on her divorce, pointing out her ability to now move on, promising something, someone better. “You found someone perfect,” says Joan, tempting Don to challenge the notion. “I did,” says Don about his wife who has no idea where he is. The chemistry between these two is electric, but platonic. That’s how things are between these two. There’s hope, but not happiness.

Give me some change. I want music,” says Joan, and for some reason Don thinks she’s talking to him and she’s asking him for coins to insert into the jukebox. A waggish gentleman is watching Joan and they speculate who he is, who he has waiting at home (again, Don doesn’t call his own wife). Don says the man appeared here because he doesn’t know what he wants. Joan assures Don he knows, implying it’s not what he asked for.

The Negron Complex
Back at the Office, Mother Lakshmi seduces Harry, revealing after the fact her purpose is to keep Harry from drawing Paul away from the Krishnas, since he’s their best recruiter. Harry can’t believe she slept with him under false pretenses and she responds that was her only leverage. “But you already gave it away,” surmises the puzzled professional TV negotiator, and gets his glasses smacked off for the observation. He promises to tell Paul the truth that his script is crap.

Harry asked Peggy to read Paul’s Star Trek teleplay titled “The Negron Complex,” which is some awful cocktail of slavery, Hare Krishna, and broken dreams. Peggy is unsympathetic. Harry tells Peggy he knows it’s lame, but it was really hard for Paul to write that script. “Then he shouldn’t be doing it,” quips Peggy and is she talking about former copywriter Paul’s writing or former copywriter Megan’s acting? We need to see Peggy collect the win she’s been denied all season thus far.

Harry meets with Paul again under Lakshmi’s orders to crush his Hollywood screenwriting dreams, but Harry has other plans. He concocts lies about NBC loving the script but legally unable to purchase or acknowledge it, preserving Paul’s ego. He hands Paul a plane ticket to Los Angeles and $500 to start a new life there, without Lakshmi’s and the Krishnas. He tells Paul that’s where his future is, either lying or having changed his mind from the beginning of the episode when he told Lane the future was something he couldn’t predict.

I don’t even like Paul (who acknowledged earlier in the episode that no one does), but this may be his best shot. There was one other time a Mad Men character was reacquainted with a down and out person from his past in a diner, handed him a wad of cash and the demand to leave New York. That was Don, rediscovered by his long lost brother Adam, and Adam committed suicide shortly thereafter. Can we expect better for Paul?

The Flying Spaghetti Monster
Don leaves Joan to do with her evening what she will, kicking the Jag into high gear, trying to squeeze the thrill out of it he couldn’t before. He stumbles home, unaware that his his wife fuming at the dinner table, ready to pounce. No, not like that. He thinks so and tries so, but “that’s not what this is,” she fumes. She throws a plate of food at the wall echoing Joan’s earlier plane crash, and demands to know where he was, asking a salient question.

Why did you want me to think that?” cries Megan, and we immediately realize Don has no excuse. He knew to call, he couldn’t stop telling Joan how he missed Megan at work, yet he didn’t call. It has to do with something Bobbie Barrett told him a long time ago and he relayed to Joan at the bar. “I like being bad and going home and being good,” and I guess that’s what he thought he was doing. But the time machine warped him back to the present. He can’t use rationale from Season 2 anymore. He eats the plain spaghetti Megan’s had in the oven for him. “Do you want any cheese?” Asks Megan, and Don, supposing that’s what the moon is made of, says that he doesn’t.

Lane Strikes Out
Right before the Christmas Party where bonuses are to be announced, Pete comes in with bad news. Mohawk is suffering a strike and though they’re still flying, they’re suspending advertising, eliminating the funds for partner bonuses. The partners agree that they’ll forgo bonuses so everybody else can enjoy one. Presumably Lane agrees because some bonuses will help disguise his check fraud more than no bonuses would. His manner of speaking doesn’t convey to the company what he means when he says they’re getting bonuses and the partner’s aren’t, so Roger has to put it succinctly.

Don, not concerned about spending too much time at work anymore, gives a saber-rattling speech about how they’re going to land Jaguar. “A great leap forward” he promises, also promising tons of unpaid overtime. He really rouses the troops though, as only Don could, predicting they’ll “Swim the English Channel and drown in Champagne.” And something about escaping England and all that strikes a nerve in Lane, who looks beleaguered in his closeup as the credits roll.

Christmas Bonus(?)
I love the theme this season of “Giving X what he/she asks for vs. giving X what he/she wants.” It showed up in Don and Megan on the white carpet, Peggy’s pitch to Heinz, Roger and Jane, Peggy and Abe, and now in the bar conversation between Don and Joan. I expect it to show again in the season finale.

Harry seemed to genuinely be concerned for Paul, not immediately dismissing his script, and even putting up $500 of the money Roger gave him to switch now-Lakshmi-defiled offices with Pete. With the exception of Joan, who never really left, returning characters tend to do poorly on this show.

Speaking of Joan, Don felt her a much more suitable test-drive partner than Megan seeing how big of a stand against advertising Megan took and how car shopping represents the consumerism her friends’ plays despise. That paves the way to make some contrasts between Megan and Joan.

Joan: Curvy, Sterling Cooper holdover, left the agency and came back, before she had the baby Megan doesn’t seem to want. Megan is the thin former actress/receptionist/secretary/copywriter and current actress whose departure seems more permanent than Joan’s. Under different degrees of willingness, they’ve both sung songs in French in front of strangers at their own homes. Megan serves Don plain spaghetti, Joan gets served. They’re two very different women, but Don has never expressed interest in Joan and seems devoted to Megan.

Given Lane’s predicament, will Ginsberg be getting a Christmas bonus?

Posted May 22, 2012 by Wada in Uncategorized

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