Mutually assured destruction

I spent Sunday night at a wedding. While I didn’t end up getting sick into an umbrella stand, I did spend Monday feeling the effects of staying up dancing until 3 a.m. for the first time since the last Bush administration. Then I drove three very long hours home.

It figures I’d miss the most eventful and fast-paced episode of the season.

When I finally collapsed on my coach late Monday afternoon, I expected another moody, gloomy episode, again focused on the urban decay of the late 1960s as reflected in our characters. We got 007 instead.

As a (former) reporter, I should’ve suspected one of the major plot twists from the episode title, “For immediate release” — words I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands, of times on press releases. Roger telling Don, “Close the door,” should’ve been the next clue. But like I said, my brain was mush. For what it’s worth: My husband, who pays about as much attention to “Mad Men” as to my other obsession, “Downtown Abbey” (his words), claims he saw the SCDP/CGC merger coming “from a mile away.” I really am losing my touch. (Why are you still reading?)

In any case: Everyone’s dissatisfied, no one is being honest about why they’re dissatisfied, and almost everyone is being impulsive.

Photo May 08, 9 59 37 AM

The Closer

We open with Roger, back to form (I LOVE IT) and using his mother’s death as a come-on. (In case I haven’t made it clear before — he is my favorite thing ever.) Herb, the Jaguar slimeball, refers to Roger in this episode as “Silver Bells.” I’m going to start using that. “I close, Pete. I close things.” Oh, Silver Bells. I’d say, “Never change,” but I know you couldn’t, even if you wanted to.

Of course, Roger isn’t just after sex (this time), just like no one else is really being honest. “I’m tired of rockets,” Gleason tells his partners, but it’s the cancer and the money worries that have him upset. “I’m tired of this crap,” Don tells Ted in the bar. That should’ve been the biggest clue of all. Last season, he declared, “I’m tired of all this piddly shit”* — just before Lane committed suicide.

Strange to see Joan, Pete, and Cooper conspiring at the beginning of the episode without their partners. What an odd group — I wanted to know how that collaboration came to be. But there was no time in this fast-paced episode for backstory. Joan, who became flushed at the idea of earning a million dollars in a public offering, seems angrier about Don dropping Jaguar than about the public offering being threatened. Was Joan upset Don dropped the account — or that his impulsiveness had robbed her of the chance to do the honors herself?

Don, true to form, hasn’t learned anything, as we see later when he boldly conspires with Ted to merge firms. He takes Joan’s “we” and twists it to fit his desires. I loved that this isn’t necessarily a black-and-white, good or bad decision. It may well be that the merger is exactly what the firms need to propel them into the next decade, but the way Don made the gamble makes it hard for anyone to accept. (As Cutler said: “I’m against this idea, unless it works.”) Or maybe Ken’s reference to mutually assured destruction** is actually a hint at what’s to come for the firms.

The development seems positive for everyone except Peggy, who is blindsided by the two men who have been most influential in her professional life (and possibly her personal as well). Don and Ted present the merger as if they’re hunters, bringing home the big game and dropping it at her feet, expecting Woman to be grateful of Man’s manliness. Here you go! Look what we got you! (My dog occasionally does this with dead animals or frozen bits of his own poo.) Peggy… doesn’t know what to think. Don tells her, “Make it sound like the agency you want to work for.” “For immediate release: The agency I want to work for doesn’t include you.”

Photo May 08, 9 52 47 AMObviously, her reaction is tied up in whatever it is that’s going on between her and Ted, whose line of thinking and action toes too close to Don’s for Peggy’s comfort. Peggy and Abe have turned the corner from young romance to domestic drudgery, and Ted has stepped in as Peggy’s fantasy. Whether this is by virtue of his seemingly impulsive kiss, or whether he’d already begun to occupy that space, we don’t know. Abe, God bless him, is trying, crawling around in coveralls and electrocuting himself for the sake of homemaking.

In this light, it’s strange to think back to Peggy and Pete’s fling and see how far both have come. Pete still thinks he’s God’s gift, boasting to Trudy that she’ll be sorry she rebuffed him, because “I have big things coming.” Pride literally came before a fall in this episode. (And glorious it was, but poor Pete had several, and seems to have more coming.)


  • Of course Roger’s notes are on a cocktail napkin. Ginsberg kills me — “You had to write that down?”
  • Megan would’ve merited more of a mention in a less busy episode. She’s turning herself inside-out, trying to make her marriage and her relationship with her mother work.
  • Marie’s subtitled snark at dinner was topped only by her casually hanging up, twice, on Silver Bells. I got the impression by her long looks at Don (and Dr. Rosen) during this episode that she suspects Draper’s been Drapering around on her daughter.
  • Ted and his turtlenecks!
  • And obviously — “I love puppies”







*Still one of my top-10 quotable “Mad Men” lines, now to be joined by “I love puppies.” Maybe sometime I’ll compile my list. Obviously, “That’s what the money is for!” is on there, too.

**Ken Cosgrove: “It’s mutually assured destruction. … It’s why I don’t worry about the bomb.” You just go on a-sailin’ through your charmed life, Cosgrove.

Thanks to friend Shelly for the GIFs!


Laws of motion

Uh, wow. So far my posts have come easily, but I have a feeling this one will be harder. Welcome to your weekly installment of WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN!?!!! After turning it over in my head for an hour before bed last night, I’m still not sure what I want to say, but I set my timer for 20 minutes, so we’ll see what happens.

Lane, obviously, is the place to start. Along with many others, I called that move awhile back, but it was still hard to watch (and surprising in its details). I am fortunate not to have had any close experiences with suicide, although I’ve interviewed a few surviving family members for news stories over the years. I think “Mad Men” told this story well: The inner turmoil that only bubbles to the surface in glimpses that can be chalked up by observers to “a bad day;” the unanswered questions. “It’s a resignation letter. Boilerplate.” What must his state of mind been, at that point? Was he trying to tell Don he was right? To torture Don? Was it simply one formality of by-the-books-except-that-once Lane Pryce? Don will draw his own conclusions.

I’m still feeling unsure about the necessity of showing the body. It had disturbing effect, that’s for sure. I thought a more powerful image, in terms of shock value, was Don reverting to his farm-boy ways and charging into that office to cut down the body. A full-on embrace of Lane was so different from the way he handled his brother’s suicide. I guess Lane’s body was a necessity to give us that image.

When I ventured onto Twitter after the show, a few messages I saw said, “That’s on Don.” Well, no, not in my opinion. Lane’s actions — his initial crime, his cover-up, his decision to take his life — those are his own, not Don’s. Don acted as a partner should, and really with more graciousness than he should have in the face of Lane’s “you took more than your share” accusations. Of course, there was irony in Lane forging the signature of “Don Draper,” a name that Dick Whitman stole in the first place, but one crime doesn’t excuse another. Should it have made Don more sympathetic? As he told Adam, Dick Whitman died a long time ago. (Feel free to disagree with me.)

In my opinion, Adam’s grievances with Don were much more legitimate than Lane’s. But again, Adam’s actions were still his own — not Don’s fault, as much as he might blame himself. Is his cutting down of the body indicative of how Lane’s suicide will affect him differently than Adam’s? Last season was so much about Don’s actions and their consequences: His stolen identity, his drinking, his recreational sex. This season has been Don’s reactions to others’ actions. We still haven’t seen enough of that, and I’m counting on a crazy-intense season finale of reactions: Peggy’s absence, Joan’s promotion, Lane’s suicide.

A few leftovers:

  • Speaking of Peggy, not a single mention this whole episode?! You owe me, Weiner.
  • Interesting dynamic between Don and Joan (and the rest of the partners, for that matter) during the opening meeting. Tell us how you feel, Don.
  • Oh, Betty. A hug! You can do it! Do Betty’s warm-fuzzies toward Sally still count if they were spurred out of her internal sense of competition with Don’s “child bride”?
  • As usual, I’m sort of “meh” on Sally and Junior Weiner’s escapades, but they did illustrate just how adrift Sally is. For all Don’s failings, his passive attitudes toward his kids might be the worst. Yes, he had a couple bad days of epic proportions, but even on his good days, Sally (and those other two) are afterthoughts to him. I’m not sure whether his offer to drive Junior Weiner home was an attempt to be more involved or simple to get the hell out of Dodge and distract himself for four hours, but I’m guessing the latter.
  • “What happened to your enlightenment?” “I guess it wore off.” Roger! I can’t quit you.

I went 10 minutes over my self-imposed time allotment, and I’m still not sure I said anything insightful. Set me straight in the comments. To my friend Michele: If DISH drops AMC, I’ll see you in your living room on Sunday night!