I watched this episode twice to see if my initial impression of it as an uneven attempt stuck. (It did.) That said, it was hard not to love moments, if not all, of “Christmas Waltz.” The tableau of Don and Joan in the bar — perfection. Two throwbacks, because that’s what they are by the end of 1966. The Hare Krishna subplot did more than offer a cheap sight gag. It showed how much the world has changed, for better or worse. (I’m tempted to believe the show’s writers are leaning toward worse — think of the contrast between greasy, grungy Lakshmi and polished Joan, glamorous even after her hissy fit.) Even Don’s Ali Khan joke was out of date, but somehow perfect.
Lane’s cooking the books. The sum total of my knowledge of British taxes comes from Keith Richards’ autobiography and the song “Taxman,” but Lane is neither Stone nor Beatle. So where did this subplot come from? Out of nowhere, it seemed to me, but maybe I missed a cue farther back in the season. (It happens a lot!) I’ve always had a hard time caring about Lane as a character, but I’ll miss him when he’s gone. Yes, I’m officially switching my S5 Death Watch to Lane Pryce. Embezzlement (or whatever the technical term is) by one who has always been straight and narrow seems much more a motivator for bailing on life. Pete’s got an Updikean* dissatisfaction with his life, but we already know he doesn’t consider adultery an enormous moral failing.
A few other thoughts: Roger! You know I love you. But grow up already. “Now it’s some other lucky girl’s turn.” Way harsh, Joan, but not unjustified.
Back to Don a moment: What is it with this show and spaghetti? When I was packing for vacation yesterday, I put Season 1 on for background. Betty’s making spaghetti. Now, here’s Megan offering the same food (and another justified freak out), but I get the impression Megan’s spaghetti just tastes better. She threw her plate, yes, but we saw her being an adult twice this episode: ignoring Don’s remarks after going to the theater, and forgiving him for being late and eating with him. (Well, watching him eat.) She told him honestly how she felt, and Don looks bemused. This scene in so many ways draws contrast to Fedora Don of the smoky bar. Megan is fresh and modern to Joan’s coif and va-va-voom. The apartment — which Don literally has trouble navigating — is modern to the extreme, almost ahead of its time. Don’s old ways don’t work here. Welcome to your new, grown-up life, Don Draper.
*I made up this word.
Tell me your thoughts in the comments!