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Mad Men: Episode 504 Mystery Date Commentary

This week’s episode of Mad Men is titled Mystery Date, a callback to a board game from the 60’s and 70’s.  Matthew Weiner and Company connect this innocent board game to a grisly murder – the mass killing of eight nursing students by Richard Speck in July of 1966.  It’s a commentary, by way of odd couplings, on the traditional role of women in society at the threshold of great social change.  In the case of Don, we see how his relationship to women in general, and Megan in particular, is evolving in the midst of this.

The episode opens with Don and Megan on their way to work.  He has a horrible cough, but he’s not sick enough to tenderly flirt with his wife, who has moved to the other side of the car to avoid his germs.

This sets the stage for what has turned out to be a steady stream of awkward moments, with Don running into old flames.  Andrea, a former freelancer – and lover – from the old Sterling Cooper, steps onto the elevator, and seeing Don alone, steps up to him.  “Don, my bad penny,” she says.  Don immediately introduces Megan as his wife.  Andrea steps off at the next floor, leaving Don to deal with Megan’s embarrassment.

The conversation stretches into the first part of their day, with Don at first trying to justify himself, as in the days of old.  But this is Megan, not Betty, and soon he is doing the right thing, apologizing for the position these encounters put her in.  Finally, she nails Don, telling him “that kind of careless appetite, you can’t blame on Betty.”  She stops him in his tracks because he knows she’s right.  “I married you,” Don says.  “And I’m going to be with you until I die.”  Again with the death talk.

Upstairs, Peggy and Ginsburg and Stan are already working when Peggy’s old buddy Joyce shows up with some gruesome crime scene photos of the Chicago nursing student massacre, with one girl surviving by hiding under a bed until it was safe.

They pass around the photos and a loupe, with Joyce pointing out the grossest photos with a macabre commentary, speculating on whether one of them will make the cover of the latest issue of Time.  The contact sheet is passed around, and the gang looks at the photos like young kids at something naughty.  That is, except for Ginsburg.  He immediately pushes the sheet away, not wanting to see anymore of the violent images than his first glance.  He lashes out at them all, including Megan, accusing her of being excited by the photos.  He shames them by calling the photos what they are – pictures of a violent crime against women.  Joyce teases him, Stan laughs, Megan is stunned, but Peggy feels convicted.

Ginsburg’s bucket of cold water breaks up the party, and provides an interesting counter-point to Don’s earlier encounter with Andrea.  Each of this episode’s mystery dates are set against a backdrop of violence committed against women.

Which brings us to Joan and her creepy husband Greg, who’s due back from Viet Nam.  Her mom Gail is still in town, helping with baby Kevin, and together, they plot the homecoming celebration, leaving plenty of opportunity for the couple to get re-acquainted.  Gail is the Queen of Irony in this episode, and the first of her words of wisdom is a chilling callback to Greg’s past crimes.  “He’s not used to listening to a woman,” she says, reminding us of – as Joan will him later – the night he raped his beloved on the floor of Don’s office.

Things seem to be perfect between them until Greg announces that he is returning to Viet Nam – not for another 40 days, but for a year.  The peace is shattered by Joan’s disappointment.  Greg tries to calm her, but she’s having none of it, calling the military a bunch of liars.  The irony is, it’s Greg who is the liar.

A curious inclusion in this drama is Sally, who is paired with Henry’s mother Pauline in this episode.  Sally calls Don at the office, complaining about the tyranny of a strict Grandmother.  This season, we get perfect French from Megan and perfect Teenager from Sally.  Kiernan Shipka, who just gets better and better as the years pass by, strikes a perfect tone as the put-upon teen, with equal amounts of sarcasm, arrogance and victimhood.  But Don is having none of it.  Sick with his cold and busied with a full schedule, he has no time for her nonsense, but their conversation illustrates the tenderness and complexity of their relationship.  His barking of orders at her is done with a wink, and when he coughs, she interrupts her rant to ask how he’s feeling.  They genuinely love each other, these two.

Don drags himself to a meeting with Stan and Ginsburg in which he lets Ginsburg make the pitch on a campaign for women’s shoes.  Ginsburg knocks it out of the park, impressing the client.  Don seems content to let his newest protégé bask in the limelight…to a point.

After the client says, “Sold!” they start to pack up their boards and go.  The client calls Ginsburg a genius and says that Ginzo really knows women, that his campaign really gets inside their heads.  Ginsburg denies the compliment by confessing how confused he is by women and that they almost pitched a campaign about Cinderella.  He launches into a story about their “dark” pitch.  It’s a great telling of a story of a woman being pursued by a man.  It’s creepy and dark.  The woman is the prey – a victim.  And the conclusion by Ginsburg is that, in the end, the woman wants to be caught.  The client, mesmerized by the story, says, “let’s do that.”

This sends Don through the roof.  Why?  Is it because of a break in protocol?  Does Don not want to be surprised?  I don’t think he’s worried about being outshined, or he would’ve done the pitch himself.  So, what’s the deal?

Ginsburg, though he distances himself from the story by saying it’s “dark”, tells a story that Don would tell.  It’s a perfect Don moment, except that it’s not Don who is doing the telling.  In this moment, Ginsburg is Don’s surrogate, doing a perfect Don maneuver, the impromptu pitch-after-the-pitch that safely puts forward the edgy – dark – idea.  And the client loves it, just as they usually love Don’s.

But here’s the rub.  In this episode, as we will soon see, Don is trying to distance himself from himself.  He’s trying to rid himself of some baggage, like a surgeon zeroing in on a cancerous cell.  That part is the womanizing Don.  The Don who can’t help but hit on every halfway hot woman who stumbles across his path – like the predator in Ginsburg’s story, or in the extreme, like Richard Speck.  Don’s trying to kill-off that part of him, but I keep waiting for him to slip.

So.  While Don may be getting on Ginsburg for showboating, warning him to give Don his ideas back at the office and not off-the-cuff in a presentation, I think Don’s reaction has more to do with Don’s struggles against his predatory nature.  The client even says, just before Ginsburg’s story, that he’d like to see a French girl in the commercial.  Hello?  Megan?  So, perhaps Don had a flash of him stalking Megan as Ginsburg tells the story.

Once Don is finished reaming Ginsburg, he excuses himself to make a call.  As he walks off, Ginsburg turns to Ken and says, “He’s such a decent guy.”  Ken tells him he almost got fired, just then, but Ginsburg disagrees.  And though Ginsburg is right about not getting fired, it remains to be seen whether he’s right about Don being a decent guy.

One last thing on that pitch.  It’s interesting that the client, who was sold on a clever pitch for the shoes, ends up changing his mind and going for the idea that is more primitive, more crude.  Even though these guys wear suits and have receding hairlines, they still respond to the atavistic urge to stalk.  All men have some Richard Speck in them – or at least some Don Draper – the show seems to be saying.

Peggy’s mystery date is set-up by another move in the Pete Campbell/Roger Sterling chess match that Roger is losing badly.

Pete stops by Roger’s office on his way out the door on Friday afternoon, reminding him that they have a Monday campaign review with Mohawk.  Roger plays it cool, but he’s totally forgotten to deal with the campaign.  Once Pete’s gone, Roger frantically searches for Ginsburg, who’s left early, feeling the sting of Don’s disapproval.  He lands in Peggy’s office, where she and Stan are having an end of the week drink and laughing at Ginsburg’s expense.  Stan treats Roger like a peer, as does Peggy when Roger attempts to bribe her into covering his ass.  It’s another few notches down the power & respect meter for poor Roger Sterling.

After admitting his failure and agreeing to pay Peggy $410 to save him, Roger leaves Peggy to pull yet another all-nighter.  Hours later, Peggy hears a thump that freaks her out.  She gets her things and investigates, and ends up finding Don’s secretary Dawn sleeping in the couch in Don’s office.  She’s there because of some rioting in the city, and after a brief argument, she agrees to go home with Peggy for the night.

At Peggy’s, they drink a little and talk about their lives.  Peggy, drunk from the earlier rounds of drinking, topped off with additional drink as she worked on Roger’s campaign, is sloppy.  As they talk, Peggy lets Dawn know that she was once Don’s secretary.  After further thought, she tells Dawn that they are alike.  She likens her situation as the only female copywriter to that of being the only African American at SCDP.  “We have to stick together,” Peggy says.  She asks Dawn if she acts too much like a man.  Dawn answers neutrally, and Peggy goes on to confess that she doesn’t know if she has it in her to operate in a man’s world.

Finally, it’s time for bed, and as Peggy is about to turn in for the night, she spies her purse on the coffee table next to the couch where Dawn is going to sleep.  Peggy is paralyzed briefly as she contemplates what to do about all the cash left in the purse unguarded.  She glances up and sees Dawn watching her.  There’s a beat before Peggy goes for the beer bottles, but the damage has been done.  The next morning there’s a note – left on Peggy’s purse – thanking her for her hospitality and apologizing for putting her out.  Ouch.

Prior to all of this, Don decided to knock out early and get some rest.  He gets home in the mid-afternoon, while Megan is still at work, and falls into bed, only pausing to kick off his shoes.  This has been a season of dreams.  First, we had Betty’s death dream last week, and then we have Don’s fever dream.  It takes place in two installments, both involving Andrea the freelancer.  In the first, she shows up at his apartment, ready for action.  He pulls her in, worried that Megan will see her.  He threatens to toss her over the balcony before showing her to the service elevator entrance at the back of the apartment.

Later, she awakens Don from sleep, having snuck back in the unlocked back door.  After Don protests, telling her he’s done, she reminds him of an indiscretion at Lincoln Center while Betty waited.  That’s all it takes for Don to slide back into Don-mode and fall into the trap.  Afterwards, as she is getting dressed, she suggests a hotel the next time.  Don tells her there’ll be no next time.  When she calls him out, calling him sick, he snaps and strangles her to death.  Once finished, he simply pushes her body under his bed with his feet before crawling back in and collapsing in sweaty, coughing heap.

It was all a dream, of course, but I couldn’t help thinking of the way Don felt up Bobbie Barrett in that restaurant after she threatened him.  The way he pushes the corpse of Andrea under the bed links him to the real-life Richard Speck and the way he victimized his innocent victims.  It will be interesting to see what Don does with this experience.  He seems dedicated to Megan in a way that we never saw with Betty, but we also haven’t seen him out of town on business, where it’ll be harder to keep his demons at bay.

That same night, Greg and Joan and Kevin and Gail and Greg’s parents go out for Italian food, to celebrate.  Joan has come to grips with what she has to do and is putting on a happy face and standing behind her doctor.  The problem is, Greg’s mom knows that Greg has volunteered to return to Viet Nam.  He wants to go.  As the evening unfolds, Greg’s mom can’t hold her tongue any longer and implores Joan to talk some sense to her son.  Joan’s initial confusion turns to white-hot anger as she realizes what’s going on.  It’s at this moment that another call back to a Joanie humiliation at the hands of Greg takes place.  An old Italian accordion player steps up to the table and begins to play.  Gail drives the point home by telling Greg’s parents that Joan plays the accordion.  Indeed.

Joan holds it together in Joanie fashion until they get home, when she goes off on him.  Rather than stay and work out the problem, Greg runs off to “have a drink with the boys.”  Gail tells Joan to get some sleep, but instead, Joan sits up all night, plotting her next move, and in the morning, announces to Greg and Gail that she’s done.  She wants to never see him again.  And just like that, he leaves.

In the middle of all this Joan/Greg drama, we cut back and forth to Sally and Grandma Pauline, bonding over the grisly murder in Chicago.  Grandma is on the couch eating Betty’s Bugles, a large carving knife at her side for protection.  Meanwhile, Sally is upstairs, reading the paper – pulled from the garbage – with a flashlight, under the covers.  She freaks out, and in a fit of desperation, seeks comfort from Pauline.

Pauline must be freaked too because she softens her hard line, and the two discuss the murders, with Pauline slowly talking through the details voyeuristically.   This murder has stirred old memories in Pauline.  Earlier, as she was explaining Sally’s need for discipline, she gave as an example her own father who, when she was a child, once kicked her across the room and into some furniture – just to keep her on her toes.  “That was for nothing,” her father said.  “Watch out.”  After Sally declared it pure meanness, Pauline agreed, but said it was great advice.

It’s also a window into what Weiner wants us to see as the situation that women faced in that time – a paternalistic culture that devalued women, seeing them sex objects, house keepers, or secretaries – creatures who sometimes needed a whack to keep them in their place.  And there’s a sense that even as Peggy confesses that she doesn’t know if she has it in her to succeed in a man’s world, things are about to change.  We know what’s just around the corner – that the formidable WASP strongholds are not only under siege, but about to be taken by women, jews, blacks, gays and on and on.  It may not be a perfect world we live in now, but it’s certainly not as exclusive.

Unable to conceive of sleep, Pauline bites a seconal in two, and from the swell of music, we are led to believe that this is only the beginning for Sally.

Night gives way to morning, and Henry and Betty finally return from Buffalo, stranded by the airline strike that has benefitted Mohawk Airlines.  Pauline is asleep on the couch, and as the camera pans back, we see that Sally has taken refuge from the horrors of Richard Speck under the couch where Pauline is sleeping.  It’s a poignant moment that captures perfectly the sense we have of Sally as a survivor of the carnage of Don and Betty’s marriage, Betty’s dysfunctional second marriage, and let’s not mention Glenn.

As Joan is sending Greg packing and Peggy is reading Dawn’s thank you note, and Betty is looking for Sally, Don is awakened by Megan, who brings him breakfast in bed.  We get the same overhead angle, where in Don’s dream, Andrea’s foot and hand stuck out from under the bed.  In the light of morning, there is no body, and Don is confused, unable to distinguish the dream from reality.  So real was/is the struggle.  He asks Megan where she was, and she tells him she was with him through the night, worried over his fever.

“You don’t have to worry about me,” Don tells her, re-committing to the battle.

The episode ends on a pan of Gail, Kevin, and Joan in bed.  Gail and Kevin sleep, but Joan is dressed and alert.  I expect to see her back at SCDP in episode 505, most likely pretending that everything is fine with her and Greg.  What’s interesting is that with all the talk of and staging of women under beds, we see Joan laying ON her bed, not cowering beneath it.

Mad Men: Episode 503 Tea Leaves Commentary

Last week, I wrote myself into liking the episode, after initial reservations.  Not so this week.  Episode 503: Tea Leaves was a strong return to form, well directed by John Hamm.  We catch up with Betty, who is more Shelly Winters than Grace Kelly this season, thanks to the real-life pregnancy of January Jones.  Death is hanging over this season thickly.  All that’s missing are vultures on the reception desk at Sterling Cooper Draper & Price.

The episode opens with contrasting scenes of Betty and Megan being zipped into dresses for separate social occasions.

It’s our first glimpse of Betty this season, and boy has she put on weight (this story line is out of necessity, due to January Jones’s pregnancy).  She has Sally and Bobby trying to pull the zipper of a powder blue June Cleaverish number, but they can’t get it.  It was Gone With the Wind meets John Waters.

Cut to Megan in a modish, loose-fitting dress unzipped to her butt.  She’s talking to her mother on the phone in French, and Don walks up and easily pulls the zipper.  No fuss, no muss.

And thus, one of the main themes of the episode is launched – middle-aged Betty, struggling with her weight…and her mortality.  More on that, later.

Next, Don and Megan have dinner with the guy from Heinz and his wife.  At first, we see how Megan handles the dog-and-pony show.  It’s bumpy, but it works.  It’s another contrast with Betty, who knew how to look pretty without interjecting her thoughts and opinions into the evening – she was very much be seen, but not heard.  Not so much with Megan, who just blurts out, when asked how they met, that Don was divorced.  You could almost see him wince.

But it’s the conversation that happens next that sets up the next big theme of the night – youth, and generation gap.  The Heinz guy and his wife have a laugh over The Rolling Stones and how much their daughter loves them.  But he wants to market his beans to the younger generation and comes up with a play on the song Time Is On My Side which doesn’t bear repeating.  Don’s not impressed, but humors the guy by saying he’ll check out their upcoming concert at Forest Hills.

A secondary, but hugely satisfying storyline is developed when we find Pete and Lane waiting in Pete’s office for Roger.  When Pete calls looking for him, he’s informed by a secretary that Roger thought it was in his office, forcing them to come to him.  It’s a passive-aggressive power play in their cold war that’s as silly as the old Spy vs. Spy cartoons of the same era.

The reason for the meeting?  Mohawk has been landed, and they will need a dedicated copywriter to deal with the load and make them feel special.  Both Roger and Pete seem to be vying to credit on bring them back.  Hmmm.

The new secretary, one of the African American candidates, ends up working for Don.  Her name is Dawn, and there’s much fun had with the punning possibilities.  Roger, predictably insensitive, refers to her once as the darkness before Don.  Sometimes, progress ain’t pretty.

Don and Roger bring Peggy in and give her the good news about Mohawk.  They compound the good news by putting her in charge of hiring the new copywriter.  The qualifications for the position are that this person must possess a penis.  “A good looking version of Don,” Roger tells her.

One last plotline – Harry comes up with the Stones tickets and takes advantage of the opportunity to impress Don by guiding him into the belly of the youth culture – to great comic effect.

It turns out Betty’s afternoons are spent on the couch eating Bugles and watching The Andy Griffith Show.  That is, when her mother-in-law isn’t dropping in and meddling.  The lady’s mission is to protect her baby, who’s none-too-happy about Betty’s constant refusal to join him at social functions.  It’s upsetting to him, and the mother-in-law thinks she knows why.  “You get comfortable.  You give up a little, then it gets out of control,” she says of the eating.  When Betty asks her if that’s what happened to her, she’s ready for her and explains that she no longer has a man to please.  “It’ll be easy for you.  You’re just one of those girls.”  Snap!

So Betty goes to the doctor and gets to the point.  The doctor points out that for middle-aged women (ouch!) it gets easier to pack on the pounds and harder to take them off.   When she presses for the recommended diet pills, he refuses to do it without an exam, explaining that rapid weight loss is usually psychological in nature, having to do with everything we’ve seen in Betty over the four previous seasons.

He starts feeling around her neck and finds something he doesn’t like and schedules her for a follow-up exam, sending Betty into a free-fall panic.

It’s at this point that I connected Betty’s mortality to the comments about Don from the season opener and saw the cloud of death hanging over this couple.  Two episodes in, and it’s getting pretty dark.

Betty gets home, but can’t find Henry.  She calls Don, who seems genuinely concerned for her welfare.  He does the typical ledge-talking until she finally tells him to “say the thing you always say.”  He tells her that everything’s going to be okay.  Even though she’s manufactured it, just hearing him say it is good enough for this middle-aged little girl, and she gets off the phone and goes about her business.  He, on the other hand, is haunted by the news.  Is it out of concern and some love for her, or is it a reminder of his own mortality?

Just as I was getting bummed out, Peggy and Stan rescued me with their banter.  She’s on the couch, pissed off at the mediocre portfolios wasting her time.  And then she finds one with “Judge not, lest ye be judged” printed on the outside.  She’s interested, then rewarded by some good work on the inside.  She shows it to Stan who’s also impressed, but tosses it on the reject pile.  The ensuing argument perfectly showcases not only their personality differences, but the difference between Peggy (and by extension Don) and the rest of the SCDP gang (and most of the world).  Stan advises her to stick with a mediocre candidate, lest she be working for him someday.  She rejects the advice, saying that she’s inspired by good work.  Stan tells her to suit herself, but that mediocrity makes for more restful sleep at night.  Technically, he’s right, which is why it’s a C- world that we live in.

Peggy brings in the clever guy, Michael Ginsburg, an obnoxiously neurotic striver, and he immediately sees through Peggy’s pretending to be the authority.  He knows of Don’s reputation, and asks about him often.  Peggy sounds like a 13 year old on her first babysitting gig, declaring her authority.  But there’s a weird chemistry between the two, an Abbott and Costello-ish quality about them that had me rooting for them immediately.

At the hospital, to have her tests done, Betty runs into an old friend who’s unaware of the divorce from Don or marriage to Henry.  After an awkward hello (the woman is in for her own cancer treatment), the old friend – Joyce – invites Betty to lunch.

At lunch, after some small talk, Betty makes a bold move for her.  She asks Joyce a personal question – what it’s like dealing with the cancer.  Joyce tells her it’s like being in the ocean alone, paddling, but getting further from the shore.  But rather than panicking, she says her mind goes to normal things.   She tells Betty “You get tired, and then you give in and you hope you go straight down.”

Betty shivers at the thought as a gypsy approaches them, asking to read their tea leaves.  Joyce laughs at the thought of having their futures read and gives the poor woman Betty’s cup.  The gypsy does her thing, looks into the cup, and declares that Betty possesses a “great soul.  You mean so much to the people around you.  You’re a rock.”  This declaration drives Betty to tears, and Joyce tips her and shoos her away.

Later, when Betty is in bed with Henry, who must have a lot of pent-up desire, she initiates intimacy, which shocks him.  This, after refusing to let him see her get out of the tub.

Later, she has a dream, which Henry later, unknowingly and perfectly links to Scrooge’s Christmas Eve journey, where she sees her family dealing with the aftermath of her death.  It’s cold, just as you’d expect from her, with Henry chanting “if, if, if….”  It’s a trippy experience that wakes her from her sleep.

As Betty’s dealing with the impending news from her side, Don is in a funk himself, but he keeps the news from Megan, still keeping lids on some of his compartments.

As Don leaves to pick up Harry for the Stones concert, Megan kisses him and tells him he looks so square that he has corners, to which he says that he has to look like a man.  Interesting.  This whole episode, I had Dylan’s “The Times They Are A’Changin’” running through my mind – the verse about moms and dads and getting out of the way if you don’t understand what’s going on.

The generation gap is further delineated when Don and Harry are backstage at the concert with groupies and other hangers-on.  It’s another odd couple pairing, with Harry contrasting Don’s studied cool with his painfully awkward attempt at trying to fit in with the kids with his turtleneck sweater and jacket and bushy hair.

As they wait for an audience with Allan Klein, the manager of the Stones, a couple of fourteen year old girls approach them, looking for cigarettes.  One of them teases the two, calling them Derwood and Mr. Kravitz from Bewitched.  Harry works and works to gain their acceptance, using references they don’t get until at last, one of the girls takes him off to find the band, leaving Don with the other.

I have to admit that I wondered where Don would go with this one.  Last season he would have bedded her, but this is another season, and Don’s got deep thoughts on his mind.  He’s paternal with this girl, and refuses to answer her flirts.  Instead, he first goes into clinical-always-working Don mode and asks her questions about why she likes the Stones and how she feels when she hears them.  On the one hand, I think “man, he doesn’t get it.  The Stones weren’t/aren’t a product being bought and sold.  They were part of a revolution – THE SIXTIES!”  But another part of me immediately responded “Oh, really?”

And this is where Don’s going to live, I guess, this season, in the gap of not understanding or dealing with the changes to the world at-large and his world that are happening.  By choosing Megan he seems to have instinctively put his chips all-in on the young, optimistic, new, and frightening reality, turning his back on the old.  But it doesn’t mean he gets it or is comfortable with it.

The young girl picks up on his line of questioning, seeing it for what it is, and asks him if he’s a psychiatrist.  When Don asks her what she knows about psychiatrists, she looks down, then asks for a business card, saying she’ll use it to get in to see the band.  Later, Don asks her what she expects to happen if she meets the band.  She gushes over Brian Jones.  Don pushes the point.  “Then what?”  He keeps on until she tells him that “None of you wants us to have any fun because you never did.”  Don snaps back, “No.  We’re worried about you.”  It’s both very touching and very much a dad kind of remark.

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this 14 year old girl who has Don Draper’s business card.

The night ends a failure.  Harry comes back bragging that he met the band, but instead met and signed the Tradewinds.  They have a nice moment in Don’s car.  Harry’s been smoking pot, and now he’s eating a bag of hamburgers meant for his family.  Don can’t get rid of him.  Poor, sad Harry.

The next morning, Megan wakes Don so they can go to Fire Island and hang with her friends.  He’s hungover and doesn’t want to go.  He has her sit down in a dramatic fashion that freaks her out (she knows his reputation).  When he tells her that it’s only Betty maybe having cancer, you can see how relieved she is.  But she’s a little bit pissed that he hid it from her.  He confesses that he didn’t know how she’d react.  When she brushes away his concerns, which sound like Betty, she takes the Don position and tells him “Come on.  There’s nothing you can do.”  It’s her version of everything’s going to be okay.  She reaches out her hand, he takes it, and follows her – content to let her do the thinking and worrying for once.

This is huge.  Again, it’s Don letting go – if just a little – of the clamped-down Don Draper who controls everything and trusts no one.  It’s a glimpse, perhaps, of the new Don Draper…of Dick Whitman.

We find out the date when we see Betty and Henry sitting in Adirondack chairs in front of Henry’s marvelous Hudson Valley mansion in the evening as the kids play with sparklers – it’s the Fourth of July.  And though there may not be explosions, the fuse has been lit on some big changes in this world.

Peggy is nervous about Don meeting Ginsburg, but the meeting couldn’t have gone better, which shocks the hell out of Peggy.  The Ginsburg in the meeting seems almost normal, aside from his plaid sport coat.  Despite that, Peggy tries to answer all of Ginbsburg’s questions for him until Don finally shuts her up.  Ginsburg defers to Don, appealing to his ego by citing Don’s Lucky Strike letter as an inspiration to him, and after an eloquent appeal, Don welcomes him to the agency, keeping Peggy behind to congratulate her.

As Don and Peggy leave his office, they find Ginsburg kneeling on a sofa, looking out the window of their high-rise office building with Roger.  It’s a weird picture that Roger turns weirder when he says “it turns out we both have a dream of throwing something out this window.”  For Roger, it’s probably Pete Campbell.  I have no idea what Ginsburg’s deal was.  But I couldn’t help going back to my wife’s prediction that Don will eventually take the plunge himself one day.  We’ll see.

The next day, Pete makes the announcement to the entire agency that Mohawk is back in the fold.  It’s a big production that he must have carefully planned, and in it, he took credit for bringing Mohawk back, of hiring the new copywriter, and of handing off the busy-work to Roger.  It’s a public humiliation that was lost on everyone but Pete, Don, and Roger.  John Slattery should win an Emmy just for the look he gives Pete in that moment – combination of hurt, shame, hatred and realization that his days as an alpha are over.  It’s Pete’s world now, an echo of Don’s youth storyline, except that Roger won’t embrace the new.  Rather, he tried to co-opt it by marrying young, but ended up hating Trudy just like he hates Pete.

Don follows Roger and they go to Don’s office to drink.  Roger vents his spleen, confessing that he feels as if he’s hanging from a ledge with Pete stepping on his fingers.  He goes on until Don springs his surprise about Betty.  Leave it to Roger to have the bottom line tastelessly figured out: Don – “Betty has cancer.”  Roger – “That would solve everything.”  Don give him a look, then he goes to the clichés – “She’s a fighter.”  Don – “Come on.”  Don, with on male to turn to, goes to Roger, a kind of father or big brother, and gets bullshit.  But then, Roger gets serious.  “Actual life and death.  I’ve given up on that.”  To which Don replies that he can’t do that.  Roger, confused and resigned or resolved to carry-on, gets up and pauses at the door to ask when it’s all going to get back to normal.

When Betty finally learns that her tumor is benign, she isn’t as happy as one would expect.  Henry’s happy and makes the Scrooge connection – that she’s been given a second chance.  But all Betty can see is that she’s merely fat…like Henry’s mom.  There’s no resolution, and their marriage seems more doomed that hers to Don.  There’s nothing real, no connection, no intimacy.  It’s a sham, and they both seem to know it while they’re powerless to do anything about it.

Later, when Don calls to ask about the news, Henry answers and is surprised to learn that Don knows.  He gives Don the news then blows him off, then lies to Betty about who it was.

Don is relieved at the good news, which relieves him of having to consider all of the implications of a world with no Bets.  Megan walks in, which cheers him up.  He’s glad to see her, declaring that she’s so optimistic.

The episode ends with two very touching scenes.

In the first, Ginsburg arrives home at a cramped and dingy apartment.  His elderly father sits in his chair, reading the paper, lamenting the passing of an old Redsox player.  Ginsburg announces that he got the job.  His father rises, comes to the kitchen, and says a prayer, in Yiddish, I presume, over his son that moved me to tears.  It was so well written and executed – the bare minimum in terms of information/exposition, but loaded with story and meaning.  Beautiful.

Finally, we end on Betty.  She has made Sundaes for her and Sally, who can’t finish hers.  After Sally asks to be excused to watch TV, Betty pushes aside her empty glass, and finishes Sally’s, as the showtune “16 going on 17” plays to close the episode.

 

You wait little girl

On an empty stage

For fate to turn the light on

Your life little girl

is an empty page

that men will want to write on

 

Will Betty take advantage of her second chance and take control of her life, at long last, or will she retire to the couch and give up?

 

Mad Men: Season Five Premiere Commentary

My memory of Gilligan’s Island is that every few episodes, the castaways would put on some kind of talent show that included a sexy show-stopper with Ginger singing something like I Wanna Be Loved By You in a Marilyn Monroe-esque sex-kitten style – usually sung to the Professor.  I never paused to consider the foolishness of such things because: a) I was a kid, b) it was Gilligan’s Island, and c) it was Ginger.

The premiere of season five of Mad Men had a similar vibe, reminding me of an episode of Bewitched or Gilligan’s Island, even though it was Megan and not Ginger/Joan who did the singing.  The question I keep asking myself is this – was it intentional, or has Mad Men lost its way?

The show opens in 1966 with a protest by African Americans and a few whites on the streets in front of Young & Rubicam, a rival agency to Sterling, Cooper, Draper & Pryce.   Some junior admen, tired of the noise the protesters are making, have some fun by dropping water bombs on them.  And thus, Mad Men does a cannonball into the back half of the 1960’s, where the social changes that have been mostly ignored by the Mad Men are lining up like protesters at a sit-in.

 

After this introduction, we are re-introduced to the SCDP gang.

Don is living in a fancy new apartment, with unpacked boxes, the kids visiting for Memorial Day weekend, and a fortieth birthday looming on June 1.  Despite this milestone, he seems content, happily making breakfast for the kids and making plans for how to spend their weekend together.  He’s like Uncle Bill in Family Affair.

Pete is living in Greenwich, taking the train to work as Don once did.  A conversation with a neighbor reveals that an improvement in Pete’s living arrangements hasn’t reduced the tensions in his marriage.  In fact, Pete’s angst has spilled over to his wife, the proof of which is that she hardly ever changes out of her robe – a cardinal sin in his world.

Joan has a baby (Roger’s, remember?) and is bickering with her mom, who has come to help with a difficult adjustment.  Doctor Greg is still not around.

Peggy, and the gang are up to their old antics, and she is still the den mother to clowns not too unlike the Y&R guys who threw water bombs on the protesters at the opening.

Roger is bored and hitting on secretaries and entertaining Pete’s clients while Bert is more marginalized and Layne is, well, Layne – awkward and out of touch with everyone, including himself.

The table set, we learn that Megan is planning a surprise birthday party where we get another roll call – this time of ghosts of Mad Men episodes past – when Megan reviews Don’s rolodex with Peggy, looking for people to invite to the party.  Peggy warns Megan that “men don’t like surprises,” but the warning falls on deaf ears.

 

A couple of things about Don stand out in this episode.

The first is that he seems content in his marriage and fancy new apartment.  Megan is working at the agency as a junior copywriter, so we’re left to assume that Don’s womanizing has taken a hiatus.  He’s so content that he seems indifferent to his work.  In a meeting with Heinz, when the client rejects a concept that Peggy has presented, Don waltzes in on cue, but fails to save the day.  Rather, he agrees with the client and promises to try again and do better.  Peggy is dumbfounded.  In addition to his indifference, Don doesn’t seem to be working a 40-hour workweek, coming in late and leaving early.

Worse than Don’s laissez faire attitude about work is a sense of impending mortality.  When he drops the kids off at Betty’s, at the beginning of the episode, he asks Bobby how old he’ll be when Bobby is 40.  Bobby replies that Don will be dead.  Wasn’t it Chekhov who said that if you show a gun in Act I it had better be fired in Act III?  After that, there are at least three mentions of Don being old, most of them coming from Megan.  After the party, Don says that it’s too late, when Megan suspects that the reason he didn’t like the party was because of his turning 40.  Too late for what?  In season one, my wife called her shot while we were watching the opening credits one night.  She predicted that the show will end with his death.  She may be right, but will it be a literal death, or a death to Don Draper/re-birth of Dick Whitman?

 

The two hardest working people at SCDP, the star-crossed former lovers Pete and Peggy, are as frustrated as ever.

Pete is being driven crazy by Roger’s meddling and a lack of an office commensurate to his sense of self-worth.  In fact, he calls a meeting where he lays siege to Roger’s hideously ugly office.  This sets off a funny exchange between the hapless Harry and Roger, where Roger bribes Harry to ceding his office to Pete.  Roger knows his days are numbered, but he’s not yet ready to give up the ghost.

Is it me, or does Pete’s house look a lot like Don and Betty’s old place?  As usual, he’s never satisfied.  He’s got a pretty wife, a house in the burbs, a daughter, and he’s partner, but it’s not enough.

Peggy has become a martyr, never missing an opportunity to kvetch about working yet another weekend…alone.  Don’s happiness has left her sour and disoriented.  After Stan nearly blows the surprise party plans, Peggy gripes about having to interrupt her weekend working for his frivolity.  “I don’t recognize that man (Don).  He’s kind…and patient.”  Stan says it galls her.  “No,” Peggy says.  “It concerns me.”  Peggy knows Don as well as anyone alive, but she can’t fathom and doesn’t like this fat and lazy version of her mentor.

 

The Party

This could be the watershed moment in the series.  After a flamboyantly gay black man gives the honkies from SCDP some instruction, we are taken to the hallway where 50’s clad Don is drunkenly and playfully kissing and fondling his wife Megan, dressed in a modishly short black dress.  It’s a picture of the generation gap.  And who, but who do they meet in the hallway, but Roger Sterling, Mr. WWII, late for the party.  What a nice touch of symbolism.

Snippets of conversation: Bert arguing the Domino Theory with Peggy’s radical boyfriend, Megan hanging with the band, the younger set smoking pot on the balcony, Peggy & Pete confirming once again that they are alike in their workaholism.  Pete: “I was taught that sex, religion, and politics are off-limits for party talk.”  Trudy: “What does that leave?”  Peggy: “Alcohol and work.”  Pete toasts her.

There is a stark contrast between young and old at the party, with Don landing squarely on the old side.  For the first time, he seems stiff and anachronistic, especially in the face of Megan’s song.

After the party, Don picks a fight with Megan when she won’t leave him alone to sleep.  It’s an a-hole move, and she takes it hard.

 

After the party, we get the business with Pete, Roger, Harry, and a bigger office.  We also get a sideline having to do with Layne finding a wallet in a cab.  After he offends a black cabbie, he becomes obsessed with the “girl” of the wallet’s owner.  It’s a very sad thing to see him flirting with this girl.

We see Don shaving with the gift shaving brush the kids gave him for this birthday, yet another connection to antiquity.

Joan sees Roger and Don’s prank ad aimed at Y&R and suspects that SCDP is about to get rid of her.  This prompts a surprise visit to the offices to see what’s up.  A new receptionist treats her like a stranger.  Roger treats the baby like one.

 

Later, Megan and Peggy have words over some kvetching that Peggy did to her and Don at the party that Megan believes may have set Don off.  She blames Peggy for the rift.  Once the hurt lands, Peggy apologizes for her behavior.  Megaon, who’s feeling the pressure of being Don Draper’s wife AND SCDP employee, blurts out “You’re all so cynical.  You don’t smile.  You smirk…Who wouldn’t want a surprise party?”  She doesn’t understand these people.  She asks if she can leave early, that she doesn’t feel well.  Peggy’s initial response is to ask if Don is mad, but once Megan leaves, she goes to Don and confesses her frustration and apologizes.

Don, upon learning about Megan’s emotional state, rushes home to see her.  After a bit of cold shoulder, Megan slips out of her robe and begins to clean, dressed only in black bra and panties.  Don tries to talk to her, but she refuses.  She calls him old.  He forces himself on her, and she gives him.  They make love on the filthy white carpet, stained from the events of the party.

After their sex, they share a tender moment and Don explains why he didn’t want the party, that he didn’t want his co-workers in his home.  His compartmentalization was compromised, and he didn’t like the loss of control.  Further, he goes on to renounce his work and declare that all he wants is her.

The episode ends with a series of vignettes of the main players, the creepiest of which involves Pete and a neighbor he rides into the city on the train with.  They are playing cards and talking about pools and bonuses.  The guy says he never trusts in Christmas bonuses.  After a pause he says he hopes he’s dead by Christmas.

Finally, the Y&R prank comes home to roost.  Dozens of applicants show up to apply for jobs at SCDP, taking the guys at their word.

And thus begins a new era at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, and Pryce.

 

Perhaps it’s not that Mad Men the show has lost its way – only the principal characters.

Mad Men Commentary: Episode 413 Tomorrowland

Mad Men’s first order of business has always been identity, and this fourth season – the strongest yet – opened with Don fielding a routine question from a reporter from Advertising Age: “Who is Don Draper?”

It’s a question that has stalked Don like a predator, and in last night’s season finale, Don seized on an answer that I don’t think anyone saw coming.  The episode was titled “Tomorrowland,” but it could have easily been called “Bizarroworld.”

As the episode opens, we find Don in bed, awakened by Faye, who has to leave on out-of-town business.  Don is nervous about his meeting with the American Cancer Society.  She assures him that they loved his letter (the open letter in the Times) and they’ll surely love him.

Unconvinced, he tells her he has a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, and this is where Faye shines.  She cuts to the chase and gives it to him straight:

“Listen.  Maybe it’s not all about work,” she tells him.  “Maybe that sick feeling might go away if you take your head out of the sand about your past.”

“You know it’s not that simple.”

“Of course it isn’t.  And you don’t have to do it alone.  But if you resolve some of that, you might be more comfortable with everything.”

“And then what happens?” Don asks.

“You’re stuck trying to be a person like the rest of us.”

Don takes Faye’s sage advice to heart, but we won’t see how it’s applied until much later.

Meanwhile, Joanie delivers some mail to Lane, who has an announcement.  I had to replay Lane’s speech, due to be being distracted by a bigger announcement – Joan’s tummy.  It was confirmation of what everyone I know of has been hoping for, and aborted abortion.

Oh, and Joan was promoted to Director of Agency Operations, a title-only promotion.

At the meeting with the American Cancer Society folks, Don is asked why he wrote his open letter.

“Well, most of it was in the letter, hopefully,” he tells the gathered old moneybags.  “But I think, in my heart, it was an impulse.  Because I knew what I needed to do to move forward.”  Remember that exchange.  We’ll be coming back to it later.

Don aces the meeting, and gets them to agree to explore a relationship further and a future date.  Upon returning to the office, he and Pete gather Roger and Ken for a strategy session.

Roger’s greeting upon their return: “So, did you get cancer?”

It turns out that a board member of the Cancer Society is a big shot at Dow Chemical, and Ken’s future Father-In-Law is an executive at Corning, a division of Dow.  Pete and Don and Roger pressure Ken into arranging a foursome at a local golf club, where the board member can be invited and influence can be further exerted, but Ken recoils from the using of his personal relationships for personal gain.  He nobly stands up to Pete’s haranguing, and excuses himself to manage the 30% of SCDP’s business he services.  Message sent and received.

This exchange brings to mind another great theme of this season – work and its relationship to identity.  Don and Pete and, to a lesser degree, Roger (not to mention Peggy and Joan) have always put work before all else.  To them, it hardly registers as a choice.  It’s just what you have to do to make it in this world.  But in this episode, we see Ken as decent and fair, a pleasing antidote to the workaholism that dominates SCDP.

And then there’s Betty.  True to her word, Betty is boxing up her family’s possessions and moving them to a new house in Rye.

Glen stops in to say goodbye to Sally, having waited for a moment when Betty is gone.  Carla gives in to Glen’s request to see Sally, knowing full well how Betty feels about him.  But she sees what we know, that there is nothing sinister in this relationship.

Glen knocks on Sally’s door and asks if she’s decent, something he no-doubt copied from home.  They have their goodbye, and we learn that Sally and Bobby and Gene are going to California with Don while Betty and Henry get the new house settled.  Glen asks Sally to bring him back something from Disneyland.

Betty enters the kitchen as Glen is leaving, and they have an ugly exchange in which he tells her that just because she’s sad doesn’t mean everyone else has to be.  Betty turns her childish anger on Carla, not only firing her but insulting her multiple times in the space of a few moments – the kind of hurt that no amount of apologizing can undo.

As this is going on, Don is meeting with his accountant, making plans for the future.  Don is yet again worrying, but the accountant soothes him, encouraging him to “enjoy the harvest and plant some seeds.”  As Don’s phone rings, he adds, “Don’t you want to come home one day and see a steak on the table?”

The call is from Betty, informing Don that she’s fired Carla, which – surprise! Surprise! – puts a huge wrinkle in Don’s California plans.  Carla was to help with the kids.

Though it’s never spelled out, we’re left to wonder how conscious Betty is of her actions.  The evidence is damning.  As with the power play move out to Rye, to “win” against Sally, Betty seems to have no reluctance to pulling out all the stops to maintain even the slightest illusion of control.

Don, to his credit, is determined to take the kids to California, and it’s in this decision that Betty’s maneuver will ultimately backfire.

Don puts Megan on the job of lining up childcare, but it’s a patchwork quilt that seems like a logistical nightmare.  In a flash of inspiration, Don gives Megan his “gotcha!” look and asks her how much she makes a week (funny question, since he’s her boss).  Before you can say “The Sound of Music,” Don, the kids, and Megan are checking into a nice hotel in sunny California.  Uh oh.

Go west, young man!  And woman.

While Don is in La-La land, Peggy’s friend Joyce brings her a present in the form of a fragile model named Carolyn Jones (not THAT one), who’s just been fired from a shoot.  Harry Crane, seeming more and more the lecherous old man, creepily hangs around, hoping for a chance to be the big shot mentor.

Peggy learns that Carolyn has been fired from a job for Topaz Panty Hose – along with the agency – and before you can say “L’eggs” she’s hatching a plan with good-guy Ken that involves working hard over the holiday (Labor Day?) weekend for a chance to pitch some much-needed business.

Out in California, Don comes in from a day of meetings for find Megan and kids in a state of pure bliss.  Gene sleeps while Sally and Bobby sing Don a French lullaby Megan has taught them.  Megan goes to her own room, leaving Don to have some happy Q-time with the kids.  Weird, right?

The next day, Don leaves Gene with Megan and takes the kids to see Anna’s house, where they meet Stephanie.  Naturally, the kids are drawn to the painting that Don and Anna did the last time he visited.  Sally asks who Dick is, and Don tells her the truth…sort of.  “Well, that’s me.  That’s my nickname, sometimes.”  Another baby step towards living out in the open.

Don sends the kids out to play, and in their moment alone, Stephanie gives Don something that Anna wanted him to have.  It’s the engagement ring that the real Don Draper gave her.  It floors Don, who doesn’t feel as though he should have it.  Stephanie insists, and he tucks it away into the breast pocket of his sport coat, stunned.

Don asks Stephanie what she’s going to do.

“I don’t know.  That’s the best part.  I’ve got my whole life ahead of me.  So do you.”

Don and the kids return to the pool, where Megan looks like Jackie O in the pool with little Gene sitting on the side.  The kids shuck off their clothes, swimming suits used as underwear for just such an occasion.  They beg Don to join them, but he declines, saying he’s beat.

Up in the hotel room, Don ponders what has just happened, and unexpectedly, he returns to the pool and does a huge cannonball, a west coast baptism performed to the song “Hot Dog.”  He seems genuinely happy, as do the kids and Megan, thrilled at his presence.

Later, he and the kids are planning their assault on Disneyland, the following day, when Megan stops in with a friend to say good bye for the evening.  She’s stunning in a black dress, and Don has that I’m-gonna-#%@*-you look on his face as she leaves.

As the scene closes on this moment, which will certainly be a highlight for the Draper kids, Bobby announces, “What about Tomorrowland?  I don’t want to fly in an elephant.  I want to fly a jet.”

Next, we see Henry Francis, all serious and probably wondering what went wrong, when Betty returns from showing the old house.  It’s easy to empathize with Henry, monstrous as Betty can be, and we take his side as he chews her out for her treatment of Carla.  His confusion is palpable as he tries to make sense of her erratic actions and explanations of them.

When she claims that all she wanted was a fresh start, he says more than he may know when he tells her, “There is no fresh start.  Lives carry on.”

When she accuses him of not taking her side, he gets the final word when he tells her, “No one’s ever on your side, Betty.”

Just as the Francis marriage appears to be unraveling, a new romance is brewing in California.  When Megan returns from her night out, Don goes to her room, claiming to want to go over the plans for Disney.  She calls him out, but invites him in anyway.  They end up out on the balcony, make some small talk, then make out.

This time, it’s Megan who sounds the caution, and Don is the one to make assurances, telling her he’s been thinking about her so much.  Caution averted.

There’s this cool transition between Don and Megan ending up in bed, where Betty goes to Sally’s nearly empty room and lays on the bed on her side and stares off into the night.  Cut to Don, on his side, staring into Megan’s eyes.  Though Don and Betty are divorced, these two are far from through with each other.

That said, Don is caught up in the moment and asks Megan if this is what she thought of when he asked her to come with him.  She confesses that it was the very first thought.

Even though it was obvious these two would end up in bed, what wasn’t obvious to me was how Don would respond to Megan.

He tells her, “You don’t know anything about me.”

“But I do.  I know you have a good heart.  And I know that you’re always trying to be better.”

“We all try.  We don’t always make it.”

Aside from them being naked, this could have been Dick and Anna talking.

Don pushes on.  “I’ve done a lot of things.”

“I know who you are now.”

Don asks if he can see her again the next night.  He needs to know if this is just a one-night stand, like back in New York.  Megan assures him it’s not.

The following day, the last in California, Don and Megan and the kids are eating at what looks like the same diner as the last scene in Pulp Fiction.  Sally and Bobby bicker, and in the process, a milkshake is spilled.  Don starts to erupt, but Megan swings into action, daubing up the mess and announcing that there’s no use crying over spilled milkshakes, something Betty never would have shrugged off.  Every one is silently amazed at this new presence in their midst.  Tense bodies go loose with relief.

Meanwhile, back in New York, Peggy and Ken have a meeting with Topaz.  Ken lets Peggy do the talking, and in Don Draper fashion, she melds preparation with improvisation and impresses a tough New York businessman.  Things are looking good for ending SCDP’s losing streak.

On the morning of their return, Don is dressed for work, sitting on the edge of his bed.  Megan stirs.  He’s been up for hours, thinking.

Don tells her, “I feel like myself when I’m with you.  But the way I always wanted to feel.  Because I’m in love with you, Megan.  And I think I have been for a while.”  After these words are uttered, he produces Anna’s engagement ring and presents it to Megan.  And proposes.

Megan is flustered, and as she gathers herself, we learn what Don has been thinking.

“Did you ever think of the number of things that had to happen for me to get to know you?  But everything happened, and it got me here….  What does that mean?”

Of course, after that speech, Megan could only say “Yes!”

After a quick call to Megan’s mother in Montreal (in French), they decide to announce the engagement that day to the folks at SCDP.

Don gathers Roger, Lane, Pete, and Joan and tells them that he and Ms. Calvais are getting married.

“Who the hell is that?” Roger asks.  Joan tells him it’s Megan.  “Megan out there?  Well, let’s get her in here.”

And with that bit of Roger Sterling humor, the congratulations begin, with Lane being the first to step forward and wish Don and Megan the best.

At about the same time, Ken finds out the good news about Topaz and rushes to tell Peggy, giving her the lion’s share of the credit.  Poor Peggy.  They rush to Don/Daddy’s office, only to be upstaged.

Ken is genuinely happy for Don and Megan, but Peggy squeezes out a smile as thought she’s trying to get the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube.  “You must be so happy,” is all she can muster.

They tell Don their good news, and he’s all back slaps and atta-boys, but his thoughts are obviously elsewhere.

Peggy sends Ken on his way, closes the door, and faces Don.  “Wow.”  Don tells her he appreciates her concern, and steps in a big ol’ pile by telling Peggy that Megan reminds him of her, that she has the same spark.  He finishes the botch-job by telling Peggy that Megan admires her as much as he does.  Peggy hugs him, then gets the hell out of there.

Joan seems to be waiting for her when Peggy barges into her office.  “Whatever could be on your mind?” she asks, a smug grin on her face.  A weird thing happens here.  She does her Joan-thing by predicting that Don will make Megan a copy writer, not wanting to be married to a secretary.  This sends Peggy over the edge, of course, as Joan intended.  But when Joan tries to put the cherry on the sundae with her comment about having learned a long time ago not to get her satisfaction from this job, Peggy calls her on it.

And then they share a laugh.  At long last, Joan and Peggy are like sisters-in-arms.  Joan even shares her own humiliation, having gotten her promotion-with-no-pay…and no announcement, either.

And then there’s Faye.

It’s Megan who finally gets Don to stop procrastinating and make the call he’s been dreading.  Nice, how Megan knew all about her.  It’s as if she got revenge on Faye from their little catty exchanges last week.

So Don calls her, and she immediately senses that something is up.  He asks her to coffee, but she tells him to just get to it.  And when he does, the tough façade crumbles as the pain of his confession sinks in.  She asks who it is, but Don dodges the question.

Faye pulls herself together enough to get in a couple of nice digs.  She asks Don if he’s going to write a letter to the Times, saying that he doesn’t like her.  Unlike with Peggy, he has the good sense to shut up.

She goes on to say what could very well be another prophecy, that Don only likes the beginnings of relationships.

And with that, Don hung up on what may have been the best thing he had going.  Faye was unvarnished, harsh truth.  She accepted Don’s transgressions, even as they swept her decision making up in them.

She was clear-eyed about his need to move on, and he took that advice to heart.  It just seems that the choice he made was for yet another story book image, like his marriage to Betty, of what a marriage/family should look like (consummated at Disneyland, in LA, in California, where Americans go to recreate themselves as easily as one would change a hairstyle or trade in a Buick for a Corvette), rather than a challenging equal of a wife who would push rather than pamper.

And remember Don’s response to the lady from the American Cancer Society about why he impulsively wrote his open letter?  Well, his response to her seems to hold as well for his proposal to Megan – he did it because he knew what he needed to do to move forward.

We’ll see whether it was the right impulse soon enough, I suspect.

That evening, Joan tells Greg everything that has happened, but all he’s interested in is whether her pregnancy (she’s evidently told him that the baby is theirs) has enlarged her breasts even more.  Once she assures him it has, he’s ready to go and goof off with his buddies, like a freshman rushing a fraternity.

Finally, Betty and Don meet at their old house.  Don is there to show the house to prospective buyers.  Betty seems to be there for the sole purpose of seeing Don.  She’s softer and prettier than she’s been all season, much like the old Betty from two seasons ago or more.

It seemed obvious to me that she was at the very least wanting to flirt with Don (but I suspect she had something else in the back of her mind, even if only subconsciously).

They talk without jaws clenched for a change.  Betty asks Don if he likes the new house.  He admits that he does.  He finds an old bottle of something, Scotch perhaps.

She asks, “Remember this place?”

“I do.”

“It’s different.”

“Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“I don’t know, Don.  Things aren’t perfect.”  She’s lowered her guard.

But Don isn’t game.  “So you’ll move again.”

“So much change.  It’s made everything difficult.”

She’s trying, but Don finishes the moment off by telling her of his engagement.  She composes herself and congratulates him.  It’s a painfully sad moment.  Another miss for these two.  The doorbell rings, breaking the spell once and for all.  They part ways – him to the front door and her to the back.

The show closes mysteriously with Don and Megan in his bed in the Village, and as Sonny and Cher sing “I’ve got you Babe,” Megan sleeps while Don glances out the window.  What is he looking for?

Will he follow through with Megan, or will he leave her as soon as the newness wears off, as Faye predicted?  Did his trip to California help him deal with some of his baggage from the past, to the point where he is stuck trying to be a person like the rest of us?  Or was it all just a fairy tale?

Only tomorrow knows.

Mad Men Commentary: Episode 412 Blowing Smoke

In this week’s episode of Mad Men, Don and Peggy have yet another of their family squabbles.  Peggy offers some unsolicited (and sound) advice to stressed out Don, who is having none of it, as usual.  Finally, she throws a Don-ism back at the master – “If you don’t like what people are saying, change the conversation.”

Once again, Peggy originates the “kernel” of a great idea that Don runs with and adds his own brilliant spin.  Except this time there’ll be no Clio award.

Changing the conversation can simply be that, or it can mean blowing smoke, as the title of the penultimate episode of this season suggests.  The gang at SCDP are stressed to the breaking point, especially the partners.  Secretaries and copy writers can get jobs elsewhere, but the partners have invested more than their egos in this enterprise, and with the flight of paying customers, it’s coming down to the partners taking out lines of credit just to keep the lights on.  No one likes the conversations that are taking place at SCDP.

The episode, well directed by John Slattery, opens with Don having lunch with an executive from the Vinegar, Sauces & Beans division of Heinz.  This is the same account that Dr. Faye compromised herself for to make Don happy.

But it ain’t going well.  Despite an obvious rapport and an understanding that the executive appreciates, it’s no dice on getting the business – at least for now.  Don pushes and uncovers the barely hidden objection.  Heinz wants to wait six months to give SCDP a shot.  Why?  To see if they’re still around.  Don loses his cool a little, and pushes once more for “yes.”  Nothing.  When Don resorts to a discounted price, the client rises to leave, assures Don that the business will come his way IF he lasts, then suggests that Don sticks to ideas and leaves the deal-making to the account guys.  Ouch!

Back at the office, the top brass meets with a consultant to discuss the future of SCDP.  The consultant, a fat, balding, old man with a smug demeanor paints a picture that everyone gathered knows all to well.  Roger fires off a trademark Roger line – “we know there’s a spot on the lung.  You don’t have to keep poking your finger in it.”

The consultant outlines a plan of action that sounds good.  Based on SCDP’s past success with Lucky Strike – 25 years of expertise, to be exact – they should pursue other tobacco brands.  The cherry on the tobacco sundae is a meeting with Philip Morris – about to launch a new woman’s cigarette to replace the re-branded for men Marlboro –  orchestrated by the consultant.  Backs are slapped.  Assurances are proclaimed.  And Slattery shoots a nice little montage of the SCDP crew responding to the current situation – a bit of confidence in the agency/Don mixed with navel gazing self-interest.

Meanwhile, out in the burbs, Sally and Betty Draper are having a kind of Freaky Friday thing, with Sally looking more like the mature half of the duo than Mom.

Sally visits with Dr. Edna, who tells Sally how proud she is of controlling her anger.  Sally is doing so well, that Dr. Edna suggests they cut their meetings back to only once per week.  All this is done over crazy-eights, as if these were two friends playing cards on a weekday while the kids were at school.

But is it genuine?  Sally is meeting with Glen, the creepy neighbor kid who broke into the house and vandalized it to get back at Betty for Sally.  Glen asks Sally if Dr. Edna has told her kiss her Mom’s ass (or blow smoke), as his doctor did.  Sally assures Glen that Dr. Edna isn’t like that, and again, she seems so self-possessed.  Is this a pose, or has Sally achieved some new level of maturity?

At another of their secret-but-innocent meetings, Sally goes deep on Glen by asking him if he ever noticed the Indian lady on the box of Land O Lakes butter?  She holds a box with a picture of her holding another box with yet another picture of her holding a box….  Glen says he wishes she hadn’t mentioned that, and you can already see them in the not-to-distant future, sharing similar discoveries over a joint.  Or maybe not.

And what’s up with Sally paying such close attention to packaged food?  Is this some sort of nod to her old man, with whom she is more partial?

On the flip side of all this deepness and maturity is Betty, who also pays a visit to Dr. Edna, whom she has come to depend on for some sense of security.  And in stark contrast to Sally, who’s been praised for controlling her anger, Betty launches into a bitch session against Henry, recounting an argument where she slammed doors to punctuate a point, only to find that Henry hadn’t heard her.  She compares him to Don, but Dr. Edna sees through all of this.

When notified of the recommendation to cut Sally’s sessions down to only once a week, Betty makes it about her and panics.  She needs Dr. Edna way more than Sally does.  When Dr. Edna suggests that Betty see a colleague, Betty says it all when she asks, “Why can’t I talk to you?”  If you didn’t get that, then let Dr. Edna help – “I’m a child psychiatrist.”  To be fair, who wouldn’t want to talk to Dr. Edna once or twice a week?

Another woman who used to sleep with Don figures prominently in this episode.  As Don leaves work, who does he bump into in the lobby of the Time-Life building but Midge Daniels, the greeting card artist/hippie he was sleeping with back in season one, when we first met him.

Pleasantries are exchanged.  She learns that he’s divorced.  He learns that she’s married, but it’s a marriage of convenience, not passion.  He compliments her looks, but she squirms and says she’s skinny – a starving artist.

Don tries to evade a “drink,” but Midge persists, eventually playing on his square sense of chivalry by confessing that she’s lost her purse and has no train fare home.  Don relents, and a weird scene is played out in the shabby apartment of Midge and her husband, a struggling playwright.

Midge excuses herself, and the husband launches into a desperate sales pitch, seeing Don as a mark.  Don admires the painting, but is non-commital.  This leads the husband to up the ante by offering Midge as part of the deal, saying there’s nothing she won’t do to close a deal.  Don recoils at the vulgarity of the offer, and in that moment we see a mirroring of what Don has been through earlier with the executive from Heinz.

The husband also lets it slip that Midge didn’t just bump into Don, but tracked him down, seemingly for the purpose of getting into his wallet…via the fly of his pants, if necessary.  If this wasn’t bad enough, Don learns that Midge and her husband have a heroin addiction that neither of them can or will kick.

Don buys Midge’s painting, and gets out of her apartment as quickly as possible, but not before she tells him, “I’m glad you haven’t changed.”  We’re left to wonder whether this is a blessing or a curse.

This is significant.  Midge is/was an artist, someone Don respected.  It’s safe to say that Don considers himself, if not an artist, then something approaching one.  Regardless, he uses words and images to tell a story and evoke an emotion, arguably not too unlike what the artist does.  Midge becomes a mirror, reflecting back the ugliness in Don’s life.  This point is made stronger a day later, when Don sits in front of Midge’s painting for a long time, absorbing the “after image” until he is moved to do something about what he sees.

The next day, we find Don in his office, nervously pacing and reciting verbal warm-ups.  It’s not the Don we’re used to seeing.  This is more like Korea-era Don/Dick Whitman.  But the preparation and warm-ups are for naught.  As Don gets word that the partners are in the lobby waiting for Philip Morris to arrive, he joins them as the consultant steps out of the elevator alone.  There will be no meeting.  SCDP was used as leverage against another agency.

Bert herds the partners into an office, where panic ensues.  Harry and Ken sit in the next office wit their ears to the wall as the bosses resort to name calling and chicken-littlery.  Finally, Don calls the spade a spade by saying that the reason non one  will really do business with them now is that they reek of desperation.  This quiets them all down enough for Lane to announce a plan that is the lesser of evils – the senior partners must contribute $100K each and the two junior partners, him and Pete, will contribute $50K each.  That, along with a series of brutal firings, will be enough to keep them afloat for six months – that magic number that keeps being flown around as the gestation period for resuming business with SCDP.

All but Pete takes this news in stride.  Being new to this level of accountability, along with a brand new baby and a job offer from a dreaded rival, Pete waffles.  $50K is a big, bitter pill for him to swallow, and after a heated exchange with Don and a fight with his wife, Pete seems at the end of his rope.  He’s actually sympathetic in this case.  He’s been busting his hump bringing in accounts, one of whom had to be jettisoned for Don’s safety, while Roger can’t manager the one client in his book – their cash cow.

When Pete goes to Don for some sort of explanation or assurance (and hasn’t he learned better by now?), Don has nothing for him but a barked exhortation to get Don in front of a paying client.  Not willing to accept that answer, Pete asks Don why he’s being punished for the sins of others.  At this, all Don can say is that they are all being punished equally.  And with that, Pete is whisked out of his presence.

Enter Peggy, who steps forward on behalf of the staff, wanting to know what Don would have them do.  This is a testament to the respect that Don still wields that when everything else is in flames and ruin is quick approaching, his team is ready for action.  But Don has no orders or answers.  He seems content to sit and let the burning building collapse on him.

But not Peggy, who’s been thinking about their conundrum.  She throws out ideas that Don craps all over (including changing their name, which seemed like a very good idea – and one that looks increasingly likely), until she lobs his own mantra back in his face, a la changing the conversation.  That said, she turns and leaves Don to his anger – no smoke blower she.

At the end of the day, Don returns home to find #4, Midge’s painting, waiting for him like a guilty conscience.  He starts to throw it away, but stops and sets the painting on the couch and grabs a chair and sits and stares at this thing, soaking up the afterimage of Midge and what her life has come to – and where Don’s life is surely leading.

Later, when it’s dark, Don goes to his writing table and rips a bunch of scribbled over pages from the journal he keeps and tosses them in the trash.  It’s as if he’s making a fresh start, and when the narration kicks in, we know that it is indeed a fresh start.

“Why I’m Quitting Tobacco” is Don’s Jerry Maguire moment, and although many see this as a cynical ploy, I think there is sincerity in Don’s words.  Pete will characterize it as throwing a temper tantrum on the pages of the New York Times, which is a fair assessment.  Even Don would characterize it as such (or maybe even as blowing smoke, if not blowing Lucky Strike), but as we’ve seen with his other writings, there’s depth to the man, despite the deep flaws.

The next morning is weird.  Don gets up early and swims laps and seems to have the peace of just.  And there’s this weird dichotomy.  The rank and file ad people look at him anew, as though he’s just slain Goliath.  Even that smartass Stan gives him an oh-so-faint tip of the cap as they run into each other in the hallway.  The old Don is back.

Megan, too, can hardly contain herself, but first let’s deal with the partners.

The partners storm into Don’s office like angry villagers hunting for witches, only needing torches and pitchforks to complete to picture.  Don is greeting by jeers and accusations, especially from Bert who totally loses his cool – ultimately and hilariously resigning his partnership by calling to a random employee, “You!  Bring me my shoes!”

Each has their say, but it’s Roger who seems somewhat sympathetic to what Don has done, if only for the sense of theatre.  I think Don believed that he would be greeted as a hero, and as his bile rises, he tells Pete, but it could’ve been directed at them all, “If you don’t understand it, you shouldn’t be in the business.”  It’s the difference between the visionary and the drone, the leader and the led.  It’s what Don brings to the table. And they don’t get it at all – he’s completely changed the conversation.

But they think he’s just blowing smoke.

When Don arrived, Megan mentioned that an Emerson Foote had called.  This is interesting, and could be the next “real” person, a la Conrad Hilton, to show up in the series.  Foote is one of the iconic figures of advertising, famous, among other things, for resigning the American Tobacco account, which constituted 20% of his agency’s billings – and counted Lucky Strike among its brands.  Foote became a vocal opponent of tobacco advertising, and served in the Johnson administration and the American Cancer Society at about the time that Don pens his manifesto.  We’ll see what happens.

Throughout the day, the fallout of Don’s actions impact SCDP in unexpected ways.  Where calls weren’t being returned in the wake of Lucky Srike, now everyone wants to talk to/about SCDP.  Don has created buzz.  He’s hijacked reality by spinning the Lucky Strike decision as one of conscience, not business as usual.

Another unintended consequence is the resigning of the SCDP account by Geoffrey Atherton – Dr. Faye’s employer.  Don expects anger from Faye, but instead, she seems to hold him in even higher esteem, wanting to take their relationship out in the open, now that professionalism isn’t an issue.

Earlier in the episode, when Don and Faye meet, we see Megan through the glass of the board room – a perfect triangle.  When Faye shows up to tell Don of her company’s decision, there’s this icy vibe coming from Faye, as if she knows what has happened (and how could she not, unless her olfactory senses weren’t functioning the night Don found her on his doorstep after his tryst with Megan?).  The final touch is when they finalize dinner plans and Faye tells Don to “have your girl make the reservations.”  Don seems clueless, but we know that she knows.

The one person whom Don seeks out for feedback is Peggy, of course.  We hope he’s learned his lesson and gives her credit for sparking the idea….  Yeah, right.  When he asks what she thinks, she withholds her praise by throwing another of his philosophies back in his face – “I thought you didn’t go in for those shenanigans?”

As a way out of the SCDP mess is just beginning to come hazily into view, Betty sees a way out of her Dr. Edna problem.  She catches Sally with Glen and completely overreacts, accusing Sally in thought, if not actual words, of doing inappropriate things with Glen.  And with Glen’s track record, you almost sympathize with her, except that she overplays her hand.

When Henry shows up unexpectedly early for dinner, Betty plays her card, telling Henry – in Sally’s presence – that it was a bad day, that the neighborhood is going downhill, and that they should move.  This news brightens Henry, but sends Sally running off to her room, where she clutches the keepsake left by Glen on the night of his vandalism.

Betty’s victory is that she has proof that Sally isn’t “cured,” that she still needs her twice a week visit, and thus Betty’s, to the doctor to get fixed.  Sally knows her Mom is blowing smoke, but will Dr. Edna?

Finally, we have the partners, reassembled with Joan for a regular board meeting.  They’ve agreed who will be fired, and the list has been divided among them for notifications and severance.

In the midst of this glum news comes word of a call from the aforementioned American Cancer Society, who wants to talk about a possible campaign.  Pete is unimpressed, as it means free work.  But the others see it as prestige and access to the Society’s influential board.  It’s a ray of hope.  A toe-hold.  Something.

As the meeting breaks-up, Pete calls Lane to him.  As Roger leaves, he gets the last laugh – “Well, I’ve got to go and learn a bunch of peoples’ names before I fire them.”  When he’s gone, Pete confesses to Lane that he cannot come up with the $50K.  Lane is confused.  “Don paid your share,” he tells Pete.

Stunned, Pete steps into the hallway, to see Don leading Danny Siegel into his office.  They share a glance.  Don nods.  Pete raises his glass in solidarity, then moves on.

A moment later, Don emerges with a composed and professional Danny.  They shake and Danny leaves.  Don pauses before calling the next victim.  He looks around at the carnage.  Women sobbing and consoling one another.  Men sagging under the weight of their boxed possessions and stalled-out hopes.  It’s a very bad day at SCDP.

But they’re alive – still drawing breath, still blowing smoke.

Mad Men Commentary: Episode 411 The Chinese Wall

This week’s episode of Mad Men, “The Chinese Wall”, seemed like an opportunity for us to catch our breath and for the stage to be set for the season’s finale, which is coming in what, one or two episodes?  But first, what is a Chinese wall?  The term got its start in the financial world, but has been extended to refer to any barrier that restricts the flow of information within an organization.

This week, the cat is let out of the bag on Lucky Strike.  Roger has been acting as a Chinese wall, keeping the news of the impending loss from everyone at SCDP.  Ken Cosgrove, while on a date with his fiancé and future in-laws, runs into a rival from BBDO, the firm that has won the Lucky Strike account, who informs him of the bad news.  Ken tries to resume his meal, but in this world, it’s business before pleasure, and he runs off to find Pete Campbell, who’s at the hospital awaiting the birth of his second child (the first being w/Peggy, of course).  Pete follows Ken’s work-first lead and the two of them call Don and wind up in Roger’s office with Bert for a late night summit meeting.  Losing this account is akin to getting a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, so it’s all hands on deck.

Roger is the last to arrive, and pretends to call Lee Garner Jr.  With his thumb pushing down the receiver, he play acts at learning of the loss of the account.  After a heated exchange, he tells the men that he’s been hung up on.  Don immediately volunteers to go with Roger to North Carolina in the morning, but Roger rebuffs the offer, saying he’ll go it alone, knowing full well that the trip is doubly impossible, since he’s known about this for a week or two.

SCDP is in crisis mode.

As the pressure mounts, we see the principals in the firm tested, each in his own way.  Roger handles his by compounding his fraud by only pretending to fly to NC.  His call to Bert and the boys, the following day, is made not from the offices of American Tobacco, but from a nearby hotel room.  Roger’s fate as a totally irrelevant relic of a bygone era is all but sealed in this episode.  A mirror of this is represented in the death of a rival account man from a competing firm, a man with as WASPy a name as Roger’s – David Montgomery.

As everyone else in the firm is scrambling to protect the remaining accounts from a panic-induced flight, Roger sits in the same hotel room, drinking and feeling sorry for himself.  It’s all he knows.  Later, when he calls Joan and confesses, she’s obviously disgusted at his admission, and we can sense her respect for Roger (and thus, her romantic attraction) quickly fading to pity and perhaps anger, for now she is a Chinese Wall, if she chooses not to rat out her lover.

But at least Roger gets the best lines.  After paying a surprise visit to Joan at her apartment, in which he is rejected, Roger gets his coat and hat and pauses at the door.  “So that night we were mugged, that was the last time? [pause]  I wish I’d of known.”  Why, to savor the moment or take a bullet?  Bert gives what may be Roger’s epitaph the following day when he tells a defeated Roger, “Lee Garner never took you seriously because you never took yourself seriously.”  Touché’.

In the meantime, Bert and Don rally the troops, along with one of Lane’s lieutenants from accounting.  Don keeps the full impact of Lucky Strike’s departure from the staff, assuring everyone that even though the cash cow has died, everything will be fine.  Because Don is so highly revered, the staff seems to accept the news as a minor setback.

At the end of last season, Don led the rebellion that gave birth to SCDP, and in this episode, he is accountable for the failings of the firm.  Roger is as good as gone.  Bert is passé.  Lane is in London.  Pete is not ready for prime time.  And despite snapping unfairly at Pete at the loss of Glocoat, he handles himself fairly well…that is, until it comes to his women.

After a long day of being rejected by fleeing clients, Faye pays Don a visit to check-up on him.  As they talk, he asks her how she copes with rejection.  When she mentions angry clients, he asks which ones, meaning he wants some insider information.  Faye bristles at Don’s impropriety, offended that he would cross that line.  The scene quickly devolves to a fight in which Faye storms off into the night, but maintains her integrity…and dignity.

24 hours later, Don is wrapping up yet another rough day when Megan, his beautiful French Canadian secretary refuses to take no for an answer when she offers to help him work late into the night.  She out-Dons Don in this scene, smoothly seducing him (not exactly heavy lifting when we’re talking about Don Draper) by assuring him that their fling means nothing beyond that moment on that couch (we’ll see about that.  Can you say “Jane Siegel”?).  She’s done her homework, even going so far as to say that she, like Don, only judges people on their work, with everything else being sentimental.  Don, of course, is game.  Nothing clears Don Draper’s head like a one-night stand.

The cosmic check comes due on the Megan decision later that evening when Don finds Faye in the hallway of his apartment, leaving a note for him.  It may be a break-up note.  Fay invites herself in, and we find out, instead, that she’s compromised herself.  She’s brought Don a meeting with Heinz.  And with that decision, that toppling of the Chinese wall, we see some of the dignity leak out of another character.  The message is brought home when Don and Faye end up on the couch in the exact same pose as Roger and Jane from a scene or two earlier.  It’s a beautiful mirroring act.  Roger cares nothing for Jane, of course, and we’re left to guess that it’s the same for Don and Faye, a good woman who genuinely cares for Don, but who has sold herself out for him.

Speaking of Jane, after Megan and Don’s fling, there’s a cut to Jane at home, waiting on Roger.  This paring means something – is it that Megan, like Jane, is a conniving climber, looking for a trophy husband?  Perhaps.  She said she wouldn’t run weeping out of the office after her one-night-stand.  I think her grasping of Don’s arm, followed by warning against drinking too much might be a clue as to whom we’re dealing with.  She makes an implicit promise to be discrete – to keep this information to herself.

And then there’s Peggy.  In this episode, we see Peggy reach an important milestone in her career, but it’s as if it’s merely a footnote to the larger drama.  Indeed, Peggy spends the episode cut off from the rest of the SCDP action, in her own little bubble on the outside of the fear and drama that has come with the Lucky Strike bombshell.  While everyone else is running around putting out fires, Peggy is happy-go-lucky, taking the pressure of giving a solo pitch in stride, suffering the constant hazing of Stan with good natured aplomb, and knocking her pitch out of the park, despite having lipstick smeared across her teeth.  Sometimes walls punish.  Sometimes they protect.  For example, by not knowing that she had the lipstick smeared on her teeth, Peggy had no self-consciousness.

Though she’s only in a few scenes, the one’s where we see Peggy are priceless: the relaxation exercise with Stan, designed to loosen her up before the big pitch (and give Stan an opportunity to steal a kiss); the meeting with Danny, where Peggy does her own take on a Don Draper poetic finale to a presentation.  And of course, her lipstick smeared pitch.

Finally, there’s the funeral scene, where Bert, Don, Pete, and Freddy Rumsen have gone to troll for business.  It’s a beautifully constructed moment.  Montgomery’s widow and daughter sit next to the dais, glum and vacant.  Two speakers give remarkable speeches that are designed to be testimonials of what a great guy Montgomery was, but what we learn instead is that he spent almost all of his time away from his family.  One man tells of the time Montgomery missed his daughter’s fifth birthday (cut to Pete, missing the birth of his own daughter) to win the Buick account in Detroit.  Montgomery compensated with a thoughtful present.  Another man told of the thimbles Montgomery collected in England while away on business, yet another male-oriented testimonial to the man’s sensitivity – that somehow, the tokens that Montgomery purchased should be sufficient substitutes for having the actual man present in the lives of his wife and daughter.

And it’s here that the meaning of the Chinese wall is expanded, I think, to include the barrier between work and home.  Don and Pete and Ken and Pete’s father-in-law have all, like the deceased Montgomery, put work before family, and only Don seems to grasp this during the eulogies for the dead rival.  And seeing that Don recognizes this on some level is what is so infuriating about the man.  There is depth to him, for sure, but he can’t pull himself out of the muck and mire of the bad decisions he can’t quit making.

And so, at the end of the episode, as Don sits on the couch, a mirror of his hollow mentor, we can only guess at his state of mind.  Is he repentant of his transgressions against Faye, or is he only sleeping, having moved already moved on, if only in his mind?