Category Archives: Mad Men

Mad Men – 4×12: I Quit…

Stuck in the middle with you (AMC)

Whether it was tobacco, SCDP, or fat little boys… it seemed as if though everyone had been forced to quit something on the latest episode of Mad Men. The word “quit” has such a negative connotation, though, doesn’t it? The little white flag. The surrender. The defeat. No one likes to be a quitter. Still… something about going gentle into the good night can also be a sign of softer, sweeter times. And who doesn’t need that around the offfice?

Episodes like this one remind me of how glad I am to have the patience and good sense to sit down, watch, absorb, ponder-on, and love this gem of a series. I’ve brought it up before, and I’ll bring it up again: people think Mad Men is slow and boring. But why? Because every line doesn’t deliver another twist in the story?? Right, except it does! Sure, it just doesn’t tell you right away what the twist actually is — that comes later — but every word spoken by every character is of the utmost importance to their state of mind and what their intentions are and the secrets they are hiding. [See: Sally’s game of GO FISH with her psychiatrist: “Do you have any threes?… Do you have any jacks?” What’s on her mind?] After all, the characters are what this entire show is about. Sure, its about the 60s and advertising and modernity and feminism and fashion, but more than anything else its about a specific group of people in a specific moment in time.

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Mad Men – 4×11: Taking it Seriously

“Lee Garner, Jr. never took you seriously because you never took yourself seriously.” – Cooper, to Roger

“I don’t want to make another mistake.” – Don, to Megan

_______________________________________________________________________________

Pete ponders a future with SCDP and a family (AMC)

Arghhhhh! Why?!? Where to even begin… What’s wrong with you people? When are you going to self implode already? I’m so grossed out right now at the thought of these characters living and working in their own filth for so long and fully aware of it, yet continuing to roll around in it. Roger is trying to get back with Joan, married again, but with a different wife than the first time he tries dicking her around. Don is sleeping with yet ANOTHER woman working “beneath” him, making three just this season and just inside SCDP! Disgusting. Oh and Stan trying his luck with Peggy for a second failed sexual advance! How hard is it to just keep your dick in your pants, gentlemen? Take yourselves a little more seriously.

 

We wonder why Lucky Strike is pulling out, do we? Bert Cooper said it best in that line to Roger. After all, American Tabacco are the only men pulling out of anything around here, if you know what I mean.

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Mad Men – 4×10: Coming Undone

Before anything, my sincere apologies for the extreme tardiness on this review, which hopefully is not yet irrelevant. Unfortunately, this blogging thing doesn’t pay the bills and I had to take care of things that do before getting around to it so… once again, pardon moi.

You can't tell but Roger isn't sitting, he's on his knees (AMC)

It’s. Going. Down.

That’s all I kept thinking throughout this week’s episode of Mad Men. Either Don or Roger or Joan or Lane or Pete or SCDP itself were going to fall apart. There was this freaky vibe that things were simply coming undone. And with all the characters that were involved (despite a missing Peggy), it felt that much more urgent!

I loved this episode more than any other yet this season. It wasn’t because of it’s sheer mastery or anything but — because I’m a masochist — for its suspense and how much it just caught me off-guard considering that all the events which put me in such suspense should have been more than expected already, by both myself and the characters.

If you’re living under a false name at the pinnacle of the Cold War, you might get caught.

If you’re having impromptu midnight sexcapades under the subway stairs in Harlem and off your birth control, you might get pregnant.

Or how about, if you tell your British father that you’re leaving your family for a “Chocolate Bunny”, he might bash your skull in.

We should have seen the blows coming. Literally.  Life catches up with you. You can only run for so long…

Don Draper

Seeing Don nearly crap his pants in fear this week was an even more surreal and unsettling experience than watching him break down crying in front of Peggy or get rejected by Faye and Pheobe-the-neighbor-nurse this season. Not everyone is going to want to sleep you and, yeah, who doesn’t need a good cry every once in a while? But fear is that one thing that a man should never project. Throwing up because you are so scared that you need to go home and hide? WHO EVER THOUGHT DON DRAPER WOULD COME TO THIS?

It’s so odd to think about, I can’t even discuss it  much longer. Cringe! Not even if it had been Tony Soprano would it have been this much of a shock because Tony was always a little vulnerable with his anxiety attacks and what-not. But Don… Don on the other hand… well, he might as well been a cartoon character when we met him back 1960. We knew people like that didn’t really exist but goddamn he made it look so believable, you just wanted to believe! Didn’t you? Yet he still somehow turns up the hero, getting those Beatles tickets for Sally at the last minute. Which, by the way, how scary was it to think he’d let her down, too? The writers did an amazing job putting that mini conflict in the episode because considering his family life, not getting those tickets would have been almost as big as having his identity discovered by the government!

And so the anti-hero is the pseudo-hero yet again when, by the episode’s conclusion, he’s also gotten Pete to throw himself under the bus for him somehow. Unbelievable. (Made Pete 100 times more redeemable of a character, by the by!) And then that look Don gave to Megan in the closing shot. I literally wanted to throw up. What. A. Creep! Why am I still so shocked? After everything that just happened, and everything that’s been happening since the beginning! Oh, what: He sees Megan as some mothering figure now that she’s (1) consoled Sally, (2) gotten her the Beatles tickets? Even that is his own bullshit. As Pete puts it:

“Why do they have to bring everyone else down with them?… No one knows except the honest people who have to pick up the pieces.”

Okay, fine, who is Pete calling honest here: himself? It’s a little laughable, of course, but by the time he blames himself at the partner’s meeting to cover Don’s ass, you’ve got to give it to him that he’s not far off.

Joan and Roger

Joan contemplates her third abortion (AMC)

I’ve been putting some attention this season on how little the show has brought up Jane, Roger’s secretary-turned-wife, or shown her this season. But with the rekindling of love between Joan and Roger it would seem we have an answer as to why. I wanted to believe that Roger was happily-ever-after with Jane for so many reasons. First, because I like him so much and wanted him to be happy. Secondly, because I thought Joan was too loyal to ever reciprocate and smart enough to leave well enough alone. Thirdly, I wanted to believe that it was possible to get over wanting to be with someone when all that ever stood in the way was timing and circumstance. But most of all, it was that I didn’t want to believe that anyone else on this show would cheat. Not again. Not everyone! This makes Don, Betty, Pete, Peggy, Lane, Joan, and Roger all cheaters. Every last one of them, adulterous. Casual infidelity is a theme I’ve been working on in my own writing lately, and something I’ve always been creepily attracted to in film (i.e. Woody Allen, Adrian Lyne) and I have to actively fight my urges not to cheer it on so often that when I actually convince myself otherwise, it feels like a failure if the characters do so anyway. Don’t you just want some of these characters to be stronger than yourself sometimes? Sigh.

But alas, here you have it. It’s official that Roger and Joan have started an affair. I would be simply shocked if Joan had an abortion for a THIRD time in her mid 30’s with the looming possibility that she may become a widow in the very near future. Honestly, its stupid. We all know how much she wants a child, and while she wants a family even more, I don’t think its enough. So, its my opinion that she did not go through with the abortion. We’ll see what happens but I think Roger’s idea of her having it and going on as if though it were Greg’s, whether he comes back from Vietnam or not, was a fabulous idea. If she didn’t have the abortion, however, why wouldn’t she just tell Roger if he approves of the idea? Oh, I don’t know. She’d just be such a moron for going through with it! And you know how partial I am to Joan, I couldn’t imagine her going so much against her own heart. Okay, I’m moving on…

Lane Pryce

Lane in Love (AMC)

I’ve been such a Lane supporter since his introduction and I’m not sure just why but maybe its because he’s so… average. In that good way (not that Faye, way). He’s just a guy with no huge secrets, unlike so many of his co-workers, but with still enough heart, soul, and ambition that the relatableness factor gets amped up into overdrive. And you know us Americans, we can’t resist the charm of a good British accent.

Unfortunately, Lane is also not as strong as all these manipulative, cheating, sacks of advertisement shtick walking around SCDP. We knew this, no surprise there. But watching it play out: OUCH. Of course we love him even more for being so “progressive” and falling for a Black woman and being so darn cute about it, too, which makes it that much more difficult to watch him get kicked around on his “Hands and Knees” (as the episode is so appropriately titled). Will he really be moving back to England? Will he be convincing his family to come back? It sounded as though the father found the latter to be a possibility as well, so lets hope for that because Sterling Cooper Draper Campbell just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce

And speaking of that nice long name — looks like our characters aren’t all that’s falling apart at the seams. They just lost (1) Lucky Strike, (2) North American Aviation, and (3) possibly Lane Pryce! Are they bankrupt?!? Take a moment to consider that. Remember the episode where they reveal that Lucky Strike is 60%+ of revenue? Without them they are done. Finito. Toast. I think this season will end with lots of desperation, as if we hadn’t gotten enough of that already between Peggy, Don, and even that disgusting Duck cameo. Keep your fingers crossed, kiddies!

This Weeks Theme

Somebody help! I didn’t see it coming!” Yup. Like I said up top, we all should have foreseen these consequences. The only blow that really came from left field was Lucky Strike dumping SCDP, but everything else was just a ticking time bomb. Don begging not to be uncovered as if he’d never planned or thought of the possibility although he’s built a huge life based on lies. Joan begging Roger for an answer of which he gives her several, and she’s still unsatisfied. Lane begging his father to accept his decision and then just begging for him not to crush his hand. Let’s not even get into Roger literally pleading to that scumbag Lee Garner, Jr.: “Please, I’m begging you.” Desperate times call for desperate bitching and moaning, apparently. They all look like kids who don’t know how to wipe their own asses right about now, and if they don’t get their shit together… the USS Blankenship will only have been the first ship to sink.

Mad Men – 4×09: SCDP needs some SATC

First of all I’d like to say how sorely disappointed I was to discover that my supposedly genius title for this post (“Blankenship Down”) had already been used by 3+ television review sites by the time I posted mine so I had to change it. Gosh, was it that obvious? Sigh. I’m going to chuck it to “great minds think alike” and leave it at that.

Miserable girls of all shapes and sizes (AMC)

So, can we say funniest Mad Men episode, ever? No I’m serious, its never been this funny. Also, very very very un-Don-centric which was surprisingly welcome. We’d had just enough perpetual disaster and then “recovery” and then… is he really any better (?) stuff lately. I mean, I loved every minute of it but it was the perfect time for lack of Don insight, only to return next week with some major developments. Good call, writer’s room!

Before I get to discussing each character I’d also like to say that the final elevator shot of Joan, Peggy, and Faye (the redhead, brunette, and blond, respectively) and those lonely lovesick looks on each one of them… CLASSIC. Those are really the kind of moments I hope Mad Men will be remembered for when its all over: the pain mixed in with the almost comical.

Don Draper

Let’s get him out of the way, shall we? And speaking of, he sure got sex with Faye out of the way after all the b.s. about not being ready, too, eh? I’m not quite sure what the point was of having him say that in one episode and then starting the next episode with the two waking up together without any intended irony. Any thoughts? I assume the writers are trying to tell us that he’s treating her differently from the Alisons and Bethanys and Stephanies of late but it still doesn’t make sense for them to have him say that and having him fail without emphasizing that it was in fact a failure. They treated it very naturally. I mean, shouldn’t we at least have seen how they came to sleep together after what he said? They even showed it in the “Previously on Mad Men” intro. If you disagree I’d love to hear why you think this was done!

The rest was in regards to his relationship with Faye and Sally. More specifically his attempt to turn his relationship with each of them into a relationship with each other. And why? Because they are girls?! It’s been quite a few episodes since they’ve alluded to the earlier theme this season of “being old fashioned” but I think this is a great example of Don being just that. Of Don thinking that men cannot relate to women and women cannot relate to men a well as they can relate to each other (more later on how the women think the exact opposite)… even if they are total strangers! But wait, we know how much he values his close relationship with Peggy and surely its largely due to their similarities so, what gives? What gives is that Don doesn’t much think of Peggy as a woman — simply an “extension of himself” (you know, like Adam’s rib!) But worse, and more sexist even, is that he thinks women (even ones without children) have a better sense for another person’s children, even more than their own father! Now this doesn’t make Don a bad person, and I’m not saying it to criticize him in any sinful way, but it does show us how men of his generation thought about these things. My father is not American but he is in his 70s and therefore a man of Don’s generation, and I know he never felt as comfortable talking to me about my misbehavior as he did with my brother. Mainly that was left up to my mother. To this day he will not ask if there’s a problem unless I come to him with it, probably just out of not knowing how to approach it, as opposed to being the strict protective father that many of my friends with younger parents are used to. In this way, I can understand Don’s standoffish-ness, but unlike Don, my dad was not a man hoping to succeed in the modernity-driven advertising business or trying to start a new life and/or family in 1960s New York. Don’s in big trouble.

Joan Harris

I’m not quite sure much needs to be said about her behavior this episode, as it was quite simple. We’ve known for a long time that she’s less than satisfied with her personal life. We know she wanted a successful husband which would allow her to both be a housewife and a mother without financial or societal insecurity. Unfortunately, she “fell in love” with the wrong aspiring doctor, and whether she ever really fell in love with him or just loved the idea of him is hard to say but, certainly, if she did not think he would have a Dr. in front of his name she wouldn’t have agreed to marry him.

Anyway, now she’s childless, back at a job that she hates (though she didn’t used to hate it, she certainly does now), and her husband is being sent off to Vietnam. To say that things did not go according to plan is putting it mildly. She’s distraught for her husband, for the possibility that she may have to think of herself as a widow, the chance of ever having children (its too late to start over) — so in her panic she sleeps with fucks Roger. It is what it is. I wrote two weeks about their ship having sailed, and their timing being off, and that still stands. All this episode did was remind us how much worse off they are because not only are they unable to fully let go of what they lost in each other, but now they’ve both cheated on their spouses. Whether this will affect either one of them seems unlikely to me. They are two of the strongest and most forward-thinking characters on the show and for them to dwell on this and feel guilt over it is unlikely. Now, whether they will try to regain what they once lost in one another, is another story. Certainly Roger appeared open about his feelings. Do you think this will come to anything else? I wouldn’t be so quick to say that this is their last sexual romp…

Peggy Olsen

He came back! Kissing Closet Boy came back! Just last week I lamented my then-apparently incorrect belief that he had to return, so you can imagine my excitement when he (Abe) walked into the bar and onto my screen. Yay! Regarding their conversation, I didn’t quite understand what Peggy got so upset about when Abe jokingly replied to her anecdotes on sexism in the workplace:

“Alright, Peggy. We’ll have a civil rights march for women.”

Yes, sexism was bad back then but Peggy was trying to compare it in equal measure to the racism of the times and it just wasn’t. I know it can be stupid to compare evils but logically-speaking women not being able to join country clubs is not equally as serious as being forced to sit at the back of the bus, or attend a public school, or being mobbed and having your life threatened simply for straying for being Black. Either way, Abe didn’t fight her on it, he just made a little joke. Emphasis on the little. It was more like a comedic shrug. Her reaction was unfair. I didn’t realize how empowered yet, at the same time insecure, Peggy felt about being a female copywriter. To say that it would be as easy for a Black man to “fight his way” into her shoes the way she did is pompous and, frankly, incorrect. And then, the poor guy is so distraught about Peggy taking offense that he tries on her proverbial hat, heels, and purse, and goes on to write an article in defense of her very point! Yet again she treats Abe badly, and never even thanks him. Understandable that she wouldn’t want the piece published but to be that rude to him… twice? No, Peggy. Bad, Peggy.

Faye Miller

Here’s a character I’m not particularly excited about. I mean she’s fine: smart, pretty, sociable, kind. Nothing really wrong with her except… that there’s nothing really wrong with her! I’m used to characters with several layers of depth (i.e. Joan, Peggy). And if its a character that’s just honestly themselves most of the time (i.e. Roger, Pete) they’re either funny or arrogant or confused or some other trait that makes them worth watching. What does Faye really have going for herself? She’s just herself and might have a few issues about not having kids, and she had some ex-boyfriend that she kicked out, and she wears a wedding ring to ward off suitors but… that sounds like 10 different girls I know. Also, to have her be the one that Don is actually thinking about making things work with is anti-climactic. It’s not like I’ve been waiting for him to hand out the last red rose or anything but the fact that he would have to settle back down with someone was implied very early on in the season, and though it’s not spoken of or touched upon often, we know its there — or at least I’ve felt it.

We didn’t get to see any of Faye’s interactions with Sally when she took her back to the apartment and I’m wondering if that, too, wasn’t a bit of a mistake. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had originally written that scene and cut out (probably at the same time that they decided not to write a Don-and-Faye decided to sleep together scene) but this gives me hope in my blah-ness over her because it may be a hint that the writers aren’t too worried about giving Faye lots of screen time. They’ve already implied two important scenes with her instead of showing them so, perhaps she won’t be around for very long. After all, does SCDP really need a psychologist? Yeah, they probably do but no one except Lane really knows it.

Finally, I’d just like to point out that Faye represents a different version of Peggy. A more feminine version, what with that blond hair and those big eyes… she looks like Marilyn, but isn’t that kind of flirt. Just like Peggy she’s focused on her career above anything else and simply hopes that within that world the right man will “come along”. This is a concept which modern-day girls such as myself are very familiar with, but we have to remember that Peggy and Faye are in-between a generation which still actively searched for the man of their dreams (see: Joan) and one that did not (see: Stephanie). Interestingly enough, Faye keeps her New York/Bronx-ish accent while Peggy doesn’t retain her Brooklyn one (“a few more of these and it’ll come out“). I found the choice to keep her accent a bit puzzling at first (and it is a choice, by the way) being that the New York accent isn’t exactly as classy as the image Faye tries to keep up, but I believe it must come from an honest place. Unlike Peggy (and despite advertising herself as off-the-market) I don’t think Faye is all that devious after all. Don will be the one to break her heart, not the other way around. She’s a lot weaker than she pretends to be, which is probably why I don’t like her as much as the other girls, and also because behind that weakness there doesn’t appear to be anything evil (see: Betsy), which would at least be interesting. In other words, she’s not as exciting.

Sally Draper

Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper (AMC)

Oh man, Kiernan Shipka. First of all you must read this interview with her (Q&A Kiernan Shipka – AMCtv.com) to realize why she’s so damn good: she’s smarter than me and she’s only 10! I know we often underestimate the intelligence of children, and this might be the case, but I have to wonder if I talked like this when I was 10 years old. Doubtful. Emmy nomination? Yes, please.

(SKIP IF YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT NYC HISTORY: Also, I’m kind of obsessed with any Subway references on Mad Men since I live in New York City and ride the subway multiple times a day, every day. Plus, I’m a history nut. For example, when in S3 Peggy talked about the cane on the seats on the subway ruining her stalkings last season I freaked out (can you believe the seats were made of cane in the 60s?!?!). In Sunday’s episode Sally is “riding between carriages trying to avoid the conductor because she didn’t have enough money“. First of all, we call them carts now; second of all, if the space between carts back them looked anything like it does today that’s a bloody death wish! You can easily fall straight down into the tracks underneath the speeding train, especially being that small! Lastly, did a conductor come by and sell you a ticket the same way they would on an Amtrak back then? So cool!)

The only thing we really learned about Sally here, is that she has begun to resent her mother in a very serious way. Not sure if any of you watch In Treatment, as very few people actually do, but I’ve been addicted since S1, back when there was a 12-year-old girl named Sophie from divorced parents who tried to throw herself into moving traffic. Sally reminds me a lot of this girl except a little younger. In her sessions with her psychiatrist, (SPOILER ALERT) Sophie realizes that she’s been punishing her mother for sticking around and raising her meanwhile praising and adoring her cheating and neglectful father simply because it meant she wouldn’t have to go “home” when she was with him. Going to see her dad was like an adventure, and what she was truly running from was the empty feeling of having only half a family. Not as if Betty is mother of the year, but like I’ve said before, she’s the one taking care of three children while Don is out getting drunk and hitting on college-aged girls.

[And finally, a moment of silence for Ira Blankenship — you old hellcat, you!]

Sunday Night’s Theme

No matter who broke your heart, or how long it takes to heal, you'll never get through it without your friends. (HBO)

Female companionship. Who does a woman have to confide in in 1965? Carrie Bradshaw would say that there’s no one like your girlfriends, but Carrie is a long way from 1965… she’s still in the womb.

“Oh I’m not shocked by your lesbian hi-jinx, I just hope you know you can never do what a man can do [points at his penis].”

Joan has “lost [her] best friend, as she revealed last week. She asked Greg who she would talk to once he was gone, and so when he is, she seeks companionship in Roger. Also, remember how poorly she treated Peggy last week after Peggy tried to befriend her by firing Joey. No thanks, girlfriend.

Faye doesn’t appear to have many friends, and is looking for a companion in Don Draper, but little does she know she’s barking up the wrong tree. She also fails miserably in trying to connect with Sally.

Sally clearly has begun to hate her mother and can’t talk to her, so she seeks out her father to bond with. She also shuns off Faye, who she has no interest in.

Peggy’s tries to connect with, Abe, who doesn’t seem to “get her” and so she’s left alone again. Her best (and perhaps only) friend might be a woman but ironically, she’s a lesbian. This is no coincidence.

Noticing a pattern here? Women lonely in their own minds with all the issues about what it means to be a woman in these times but no other women to talk about it with… and they do it to themselves! They continue to seek out men as their counterparts, well knowing that those men will have an even harder time trying to understand them. Delusions of grandeur. I hate to sound like a bra-burning feminist but Carrie Bradshaw has done my generation a world of good by emphasizing the importance of female comradery — a little something that the SCDP women of ’65 could have used.

Mad Men – 4×09: Mad Dissatisfaction

Dear Abby, I need your help...? (AMC)

Yes! Yes, Don is trying! He’s really trying! Okay so everyone is trying, but Don in particular recognizing the need for change in his life is a huge advancement. Now, of course, everyone is also pretty much failing but, hey, acknowledging the existence of a broken spirit is the first step to putting the pieces back together again. Also note what a significant change in attitude this represents in comparison to the 1960 versions of these characters who were all so incredibly careless and clueless regarding the severe consequences of their decisions way back when. Sunday night’s episode, “The Summer Man”, had us deeply involved in the lives of four of our characters: Don, Betty, Joan and Peggy. Don and Betty took part in one drama, while Joan and Peggy took part in the other, yet each character also had their distinct moments of lone self reflection within their respective conflict. Each one wondered, deep down: What do I want?

Don Draper

It isn’t made clear in the episode if there is an actual reason as to why Don has decided to turn all “Dear Diary” on us, but I’m not going to lie, I felt it was a tad bit too obvious in its narrative for an episode of Mad Men, which has always been able to boast its ability to move the story forward with minimal verbal exposition. It’s not a huge deal, and it obviously won’t become the future format of the series, but I personally find reflective voice-over thoughts from the main character (which is different from voice-over narration) to be a sign of a weak visual storytelling ability (i.e. that’s the biggest flaw with a show like Dexter which I love but whose overuse of V.O. feels like a spoon feeding). For this one episode of Mad Men, however, I can deal. It just freaked me out a little as I’m not using to being inside Don’s head. His thoughts have always been the untapped source from which all magic flows and being privy to them is a tad unsettling — creepy almost.

Moving on, but still related to the journal, it was shocking to hear the opening line:

They say as soon as you have to cut down on your drinking, you have a drinking problem.

Not only was it the opening line of the entry but of the entire episode, which was also odd being that the words “drinking” and “problem” never seem to be heard in the vicinity of one another within the walls of SCDP or Sterling Cooper before it, and certainly never from Don. As the episode went on we saw how much Don was beginning to struggle with drinking less or not at all, to the point that even when it didn’t look like the presence of alcohol bothered him it began to bother me. When he opened that can of Budweiser in front of his TV set or when he ordered the Chianti during his date with Dr. Miller, I wanted to grab him by the neck and shake him and yell “Don’t do it!” It’s funny, once you know someone is so close to figuring it all out, I guess it becomes that much more frustrating when they don’t. It’s sad but I don’t think Don even thinks of beer and wine as alcohol, not consciously, which is most likely the reason why he didn’t have the same kind of weird out-of-body experiences in those moments as he did in his office when he and the creative team were drinking whiskey. (That moment was also an odd deviation from business as usual on Mad Men.)

Oh and seeing Don at the gym, and then walking into the office with a duffel bag instead of a briefcase with a rock n roll song playing in the background…? Again, things I’m just not used to. Matthew Weiner co-scripted this episode himself so I can’t really blame these oddities on a lack of control from the head-honcho, which begs the question: what was the deal?

Moving on to Don’s three important dates of the episode: Bethany, Dr. Faye Miller, and Jean Draper-Francis.

Bethany, poor thing is madly in love with Don just as any 20-something girl would be, and I can admire her honesty in telling him so instead of getting dicked around just wishing and hoping that eventually he’d love her. This is what a woman 5-10 years back would have done. Bethany herself points out that they come from “different generations” (a little more out of the norm in-your-faceness here) and we understand just what she means, although we don’t live in those times, because we remember that young women were not like this in season 1. So does Don. They didn’t “push as hard”, haha. Nice way to put it, Don. Yes, women used to let you use them up and ask no questions meanwhile you knew they wanted more from you but you never had to worry because they’d never push. I enjoyed watching Don squirm in his seat uncomfortably during this dinner, for a change. Instead of feeling sorry for poor Bethany’s unrequited affections, however, it was Don who should have been embarrassed. Yes, even if she blew him in the backseat of a cab. She knew just what she was doing with that.

Faye’s date was a bit shocking simply because I didn’t think it would ever happen. I thought they would finally make a woman truly unconquerable for Don, just to prove a point both to him and to the audience. I guess I was wrong. It was a bit of a let down, despite enjoying their chemistry, since I don’t particularly love her character (I think it’s the actress) and since I was counting on Don receiving as many blows to his ego as possible to bring him down to earth and help him recognize that he couldn’t just always get his way simply based on looks and charm alone. Plus, he’s hit on this woman several times in creepy and cocky ways which make her less respectable for still dating him after all of it. Just saying… Also, I wasn’t a huge fan of the cheesy Aesop fable she tells at dinner. The obviousness train rolled into town a bit too hard this episode. I was, however, thrilled to see Don take Faye home and not sleep with her despite her advances and his clear desire to do rip her clothes off and throw her down. Self control, check! Perhaps he’s already been brought down to earth through all the less than dignified occurrences of recent months. Plus, he only had wine at dinner, right? So maybe that’s all it takes. Good boy.

Still, the most successful date Don had in this episode was the one with his son, baby Jean. He showed up! Sober! He’s on the right track, now if only he could find a way to stay on it. I don’t think that it’ll be possible to do so without some outside help in staying sober (perhaps from Peggy? Faye? Betty?!?) because if we’ve learned anything about what Don needs since we met him, it’s people. Do you think he’ll join AA? Roger would collapse.

Peggy Olsen

For all her creativity, candidness, and accomplishments, Peggy is surprisingly dependent on the acceptance of others — I mean, she’s a leader, not a follower. Ironically, her choice to be a strong leader by firing Joey was just a pathetic attempt at having Joan like her, and have the boys respect her. She failed in a huge way on both those ventures, unfortunately for her. She’s so clueless and needy by the end of this episode that she actually gloats about it to Joan. She’s got to start learning from those older than her about how to just basically be a badass instead of a mousy ex-secretary. Despite that, Don was right when he told her:

Believe me, you do not want me involved in this. People will think you’re a tattle tale. You want some respect? Go out there and get it for yourself.

The only problem there is that when gaining people’s respect is your main objective in firing a person, it’s going to show, and its going to backfire. And that’s when this happens:

Joan: “All you’ve done is prove to them that I’m a meaningless secretary and you’re another humorless bitch.

This is going to be a significant problem in the office moving forward. Particularly with Stan who has already butt heads with Peggy and resents her showing him up back at the Waldorf. Then again, I think Joey had something when he joked around that Stan was in love with Peggy, but this may add more fuel and resentment to the fire than anything.

By the way I’m so disappointed that we never again saw the guy that Peggy made out with in the closet at the raid in Greenwhich that time! I was sure he’d be back. Damn.

Joan Holloway

I think that since I’ve always personally been in awe of Joan and that hair and that body and that self-confidence, I may have missed out on the point in time in which she became a tad outdated. I also forget she’s older than just about every other woman on the show: older than Trudy, Alison, Peggy, Betty, Bethany, etc. If people are giving 26-year-old Peggy shit for being childless, Joan must seriously look like a dried up dinosaur.

It’s so hard though, to keep track of the “changing times” and morphing cultural perceptions on Mad Men, and for this reason I can understand why some people just can’t watch the show. I admit its exhausting if you’re not willing to put in the work, because that’s exactly what it can be. Perhaps you’re a baby boomer reading this who finds the show far easier to follow, but for a 23-year-old Hispanic girl from South Florida, if you don’t remember the feeling and flow of the era, its sooooo easy to get lost in the perception game. I bring this up because Joan got lost in the context of all this for me, and trying to decipher if she does in fact look like some whore in a brothel to these guys or just a voluptuous bombshell is near impossible to predict if you’re neither living in 1965 with them, or you never did.

That being said, the manner in which Joey treated Joan and the words he used to insult her in her office were something I was highly unprepared for. Joey is a different kind of sexist asshole than those of the late 50s and early 60s. One that does not exalt women for their beauty yet undervalue their intelligence and autonomy like the Rogers and Dons and Freddies. Instead he treats them like garbage straight out and forthright from resentment because they dare attempt to be on the same level as a man yet continue to use their physical allure to their advantage in getting there. In other words, Joey is a hater and a sexist of the worst kind. I’m glad he’s gone.

Betty Francis

Well well well, it looks like someone isn’t over her dreamy ex-husband just yet. After all she dumped Don after assuming she could not love him if he technically wasn’t who she thought he was. Now that some time has passed, she’s seeing that Don isn’t so different from the man she always knew, flaws and all (some heightened and more frequent), may have started to affect her confidence in her decision to leave him. She loved Don, but she loved more who she thought he was, so when he wasn’t that… it was over. But what if she really did love him? Well, I’m not so sure about that just yet. Quite honestly, I just think that she suffers from what Woody Allen calls “chronic dissatisfaction”. She is selfish and spoiled and wants the best of every world all at the same time. She wants the kids, she wants the stable husband, she wants the young and hot husband, she wants the freedom to live the single life he gets to, and so on and so forth. Betty is insane and the sooner she realizes that, the sooner she can do something about it..

Last Night’s Theme

The one thing all these stories had in common was a case of I-can’t-get-not-satisfaction, as the Stones so loudly reminded us. Joan can’t get respect OR friendship at work, but she doesn’t care so much about that, it’s the fact that she’s got to put up with their shit because her husband can’t support her and now that’s he’s being drafted she’ll have no one else to talk to except co-workers. It’s also quite dissatisfying that she can’t have a baby from the fear that she may end up a single mother once Greg is drafted and possibly killed. Peggy can’t seem to get respect OR friendship at SCDP either, the difference being that this actually bothers her, and of course she doesn’t even have the husband or killer looks to fall back on that Joan has. Betty can’t be satisfied in a good marriage or a bad marriage, she’s unhappy and unsatisfied no matter what her situation. Don’s most obvious dissatisfaction problem seems to be sobriety itself. Don does not feel satisfied unless he feels the whiskey flowing through him, and by attempting to deprive himself of alcohol he is certainly not satisfying his desires. However Don is also dissatisfied with Bethany’s beauty and honesty somehow — and on a physical level that cock tease ended in zero satisfaction as well. One would hope that Don’s relationship with baby Jean could turn into something that could satisfy Don’s desire to regain and maintain his family.

Mad Men – 4×07: Suit-case of the Blues

Is it totally melancholic of me to say that weeping to Mad Men felt like the perfect way to spend my Labor Day morning? Sigh. And speaking of, if last week’s CLio’s/Emmys match-up wasn’t enough of a coincidence, this week we had an episode full of Peggy laboring when she shouldn’t be, just in time for Labor Day weekend.

You know you're cute as hell (AMC)

I don’t use a rating system for episodes because, frankly, I find that attributing numbers, stars, and tomatoes as symbols for one’s level of approval to be obsessive, absurd, and ultimately arbitrary; but if I did, Sunday’s masterpiece would have been a five star kind of deal. It was one of the absolute best episodes of the series to date. So much so that I almost don’t even want to discuss its parts and just let it be. That might also be a result of the episode being strictly confined one thing: the delicate yet intense ebb and flow of Peggy and Don, (i.e. Peggy & Don). Their dynamic was so omnipotent over everything else in the episode that appearances from other character (despite some of my personal favorites like Trudy and Duck and Joan) had minimal-to-no impact on the story, or tone, or those characters themselves… at least on first viewing.

Peggy and Don. Don and Peggy. Like two peas in a 60’s pod bubble chair. I’m going to go through this episode, not in the usual character segments, but chronologically (as the night went on) so as not to break up the episode so much and just re-live the fantastic unraveling of conflict and emotion which made “The Suitcase” such a pleasure to watch.

The First Blows: No Touchdown and Duck Soup

Fittingly, the blows start with Cassius Clay. Then, the Joe Nameth Samsonite pitch. And FAIL.

Don doesn’t like it. It’s too obvious and lacking that special creative spark which they are so well known for, I can understand, but I thought: he’s so critical of her… STILL! Don is head of “Creative” but treats Peggy as though she is, solely blaming her for the failed Samsonite pitch. He’s her boss and she’s their boss, but in the end what’s the difference between the Don and Peggy? They both come up with the ideas and they both have to approve all those below them, the only difference being that Don has his name on the door, veto power, and 10 years experience. Well, it is what it is and she’s going to have to learn to accept it and even appreciate it in the long-run. This scene is a great place to start the episode, as the differences and similarities between these two are what it turns to be all about.

Duck tries to lure Birthday Girl Peggy into quitting SCDP and starting a new firm with him (“I need you, baby“), but much to her disappointment the gesture turns out to be nothing more than Duck’s newly unemployed attempt to stay afloat in a glass of Don Draper’s whiskey. But I asked this last week and I’ll ask again: if Don doesn’t get his act together, is this who he’ll become? Are the writers trying to scare us into the possibility of this? Duck as the Ghost of Christmas Future? I believe it.

Meanwhile, Stephanie in California leaves an urgent message for Don. He knows what it is. We know what it is. He can’t go through with it so he starts drinking. Drinking to forget about calling her. Later, drinking to have the strength to call her. There never seems to be an excuse not to drink. (Roger’s meeting with the President of Alcoholics Anonymous in this episode was no coincidence, of that I assure you.)

Roger: “That man Eldridge killed a man with a motorboat! You know what gets you over something like that? Drinking!”

The Second Blows: Bathroom Birthday and Step Into My Office

Shortly after Megan congratulates Peggy on having accomplished so much at the tender age of 26, in waltzes a very pregnant and glowing Trudy to (ahem) “assure” Peggy that “26 is still very young“, and of course she’s referring to child-bearing. (Oh Trudy. The irony! If only, she knew.) Well, you win some, you lose some… but who’s playing? Here again we have the timeless and endless female predicament: Why can’t we have it all? However, not every woman suffers in trying to find a way out from that catch 22 — not today and not in 1965 — but Peggy certainly does. Exhibit A:

As she tries to make her way out of the office, Peggy is called in by Don. It would appear that the rest of the creative team is aware of her stupidity in going to him. At first I thought they laughed more so because they were glad it wasn’t them that got called, but thinking about it in retrospect I believe it was equally as much about the fact that Don would never let Peggy out of there, specifically. Peggy is forced (but is she?) to stay and delay her birthday Dinner with Mark (and unbeknownst to her, family + roommate).

It’s the details that make Matt Weiner’s writing so magical and worthy of the praise and awards it gets him. For example, when Peggy storms back into her office to retrieve the Samsonite portfolio for Don she’s dressed to go: coat on, hat on, purse in hand. Annoyed, she takes off her hat and begins to remove her coat — but stops herself, putting the hat back on and walking into Don’s office fully dressed as a sign to Don that she is still ready to walk out the door. (SIDENOTE: It’s late May in New York City, why is she wearing a coat?) I don’t know what’s worse, though: Don not noticing, or the fact that Peggy did so just as much to remind herself that she had to walk out the door. Peggy has to force herself to do things she does not desire to do but which will get her the personal life she desires:

I mean I know what I’m suppose to want but… it just never feels right. Or as important as anything that’s in that office.

And of course:

I hate dating. I’m terrible at it…

Both these revelations come later on in the hour, but are relevant as the explicit counterparts to the implied actions of the first half.

The Third Blow: Self-Inflicted

An hour later, and after discovering that everyone she knows is waiting to surprise her at dinner, Peggy finally informs Don that its her birthday and that she’s leaving. Yes, Don is drunk and an asshole for forcing her to stay so long past her hours and so late into the night, but he’s right in that she should have told him it was her birthday. I ask myself, why didn’t she? The truth is, yet again, that she wanted to be there. Make no mistake about it, there is no conflict in what Peggy wants, only what she does. She really did want to be in that office with Don coming up with new ideas for Samsonite.

Here’s the thing: Peggy made the ultimate personal sacrifice for her career: giving up her child. It seems to me that anytime that the option to give up something personal for the sake of her job comes up again, she is too afraid to do it, as if it would invalidate that original sacrifice. If it turns out that at some point she screws up her professional life for the sake of her personal life she would have to once and for all accept the guilt of her actions as they would appear to have been in vain and for nothing after all, which is a possibility she simply cannot face right now. And so, time and time again she will choose Don over a real life because he represents what she gave up (after all, he was there) and its significance as “the right thing to do”. The day she finally decides otherwise (the day she marries, the day she has a child, etc.) will not be as happy a day for Peggy as one may think, instead it will be the day when the truth about her life unravels in front of her and a life lived in secret will cripple her, just like they did to Don.

And so she decides not to go to her birthday party at all. It may not have been a great birthday, and Mark may not be the right man for her, and the people present may have driven her up the wall, but it would have been the right thing to do.

Peggy: “Yeah? Well maybe you should have dated [my mother]! She’s never even had a job.

Did she really just say that?

Mark: “Maybe I should have invited Don. You never stand HIM up.

We could go back and forth about Don and Peggy’s argument regarding Glo Coat and the CLio’s and thanking her and where the idea came from all day but I am personally of the opinion that Don came out on top there. Or as Peggy likes to put it, “you win… again.” He’s right, it’s her job to provide ideas and she’s young and she’s all upset about getting a thank you but after all “that’s what the money is for.” Peggy begins to cry and its not about Mark, its this line that makes it so:

You’re young. You will get your recognition. And honestly, it is absolutely ridiculous to be two years into your career and counting your ideas. Everything to you is an opportunity. And you should be thanking me every morning when you wake up, along with Jesus, for giving you another day.

My apologies but he’s right. She’s so young. She will get her recognition. She has to let the man use her and kick her while she’s down a bit, and not because she’s a woman but because she’s just not high enough on the totem pole yet and that’s the way it works. It’s the cycle of the professional life: your boss was probably someone’s slave, and now it’s your turn. Last week we saw all the begging Don had to do get into Sterling Cooper in the first place, so we know this. That’s life. Unfortunately that obsession with validating her professional life is too strong for Peggy and makes her emotional about it.

That aside, Don just compared himself to Jesus, but he has the nerve to scoff at Cassius Clay for calling himself Muhammad Ali. Hypocrisy, well noted.

Men, To Your Corners

The brief time out that follows I’ve watched three times already. Roger’s diary:

Ida was a hellcat? Cooper lost his balls? Roger is writing a book?

A good time to turn to Don for a moment as he reveals so much about himself. Throughout the episode, culminating at the Greek diner and then the bar, he has told Peggy:

  • “I grew up on a farm.”
  • “I saw my father die too, got kicked by a horse.”
  • “I never knew [my mother].”
  • “…I was in Korea… I saw some people get killed.”

I can't tell the difference anymore between something that's good and something that's awful (AMC)

This followed by Duck calling Peggy “just another whore” and Don swinging for him, well knowing he was not going to win. I think that spoke volumes to Peggy about Don and what he stood for. She may not know that his mother was a whore, but it was enough. She does not see Duck home, but instead walks him out and stays with Don who tells her about the dreaded phone call he must make and apologizes for embarrassing her.

T.K.O

This was the point in which I started to turn into a puddle of mush and tears. The Ghost of Christmas Past this time, in the form of Anna’s ghost. It’s funny how whenever someone cracks a joke at a really sad moment I crack and cry:

She left her body to science. She said she wanted to get into UCLA Medical School, tuition free.

And this is the moment when the whole episode comes together. Don breaks down for the first time since I can really remember, though I think it may have happened on a smaller scale once before. He tells Peggy what has happened instead of shunning her off and swallowing his tears as he would do had this happened in front of anyone else. The only person that every really knew him has died. But “that’s not true.” Waaaaaah!

Just as I’d composed myself and the rest of Frat Row had begun to blow whistles in Peggy face, up walks Peggy and into Don’s office. Yet again. Willingly. Here’s his idea, and she’s as hard on him. Just as hard as he is on her. One in the same. But this is why they are good together and here’s a relationship where personally and professionally they can both say they got it right. He goes for her hand, and not the other way around which made such an impact on me that it would be Don to recognize the need to acknowledge their love for one another. It was as if Anna was in the room with him, and had taught him something quite valuable though she may not be around anymore.

Open or Close“, Peggy asks.

Open“, he responds.

Between these two, yes. But will they ever open themselves up to the rest?

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