Your life will be an adventure.

“Time and Life,” “Lost Horizons,” and “The Milk and Honey Route.” My devotion to Mad Men is such that I even love the titles of the episodes. I scribbled some notes down a couple weeks ago, and now I can’t find the paper, but that’s progress, right? I’ll become a devoted blogger just as this thing is ending. I did jot notes last night, because I was too lazy to live-blog, and I found those. So here we go!

One week until the series finale! I have warned my better half that I’ll probably be emotionally devastated. I don’t generally cry during movies or TV shows these days, unless pregnant or newly postpartum — but Mad Men has choked me up twice during these past three episodes: When Peggy shared with Stan that she’d had a child, and when Henry told Sally about Betty’s cancer, and Sally covered her ears. Poor Sally, who wants so desperately to be adult, looked so childlike at that moment. Any of my loyal readers are welcome to come over and watch the show, with the understanding that 1) you must not wake the baby, and 2) you must not talk during the show. It’ll be a hell of a party. 😉

How interesting it’s been, over the arc of these three episodes, to watch the dismantling of the five partners — Ted, Roger, Don, Joan, and Pete — and everything they built. “Time and Life” was one of my favorite episodes in recent memory, largely because of the caper-style build-up to “save” SC&P one last time, only to the big reveal, in the end, that it wouldn’t work. Now, going into the finale, we have the likelihood that Ted and Roger may be the only of the partners left there.

Ted again is another worker bee in shirtsleeves, and he couldn’t be happier. Good for you, Ted?

Roger. Oh, Roger. Roger’s sudden appearance at the organ will go down as one of my favorite SC&P memories. (Even if, as some comments I’ve read suggest, the organ dirge and his comments about his heart condition foreshadow his death. He’s had a good ride.) He says exactly the right thing to give Peggy the confidence she needs to swagger into McCann-Erickson, while managing, one last time, to let Joan down. I loved the way Joan picked up Kevin’s photo before she left her office the last time; just a little visual reminder to Roger of that failure, whether or not Roger registered it, or cared. What is next for Roger? Well, most likely, more of the same. He lives on the surface of things, and I think he’ll continue, comfortably, if not happily, to be that way until his time is up.

As for Joan? I can’t say that I’m sorry her future won’t include a huge, public legal battle for what she’s owed. She has earned a break, whatever that looks like for her.

Peggy has so many sides; the side that keeps working in the dark, even though no one cares that she is. The side that gets drunk and roller skates through empty halls. My new favorite side, of course, is her slightly hungover entrance into McCann. I said in my last post that she envisioned a future for her career regardless of whether or not Don was in it, and it’s clear now that she’s on her way. I still hope we get some glimpses of her in the finale, though. There is so much more of Peggy that I want to see.

Let’s talk Pete Campbell. I wanted to applaud him when he told his (somehow even less attractive) brother, “It feels good, and then it doesn’t.” YOU FINALLY GOT IT. SOMEONE ON THE SHOW FINALLY GOT IT. I’m personally not convinced he’ll get his happy ending — Trudy could well change her mind between 4 a.m. and the light of day, and all this hinges on unreliable Duck Phillips — but, “Wichita is beautiful.” Isn’t it pretty to think so?

How sad, in retrospect, that Jim Hobart didn’t even let Don Draper finish what would most likely be his last pitch. To be honest, I kind of love where Don/Dick’s story line is going. Being Don, he’s trying to shed his Draper identity as fully and tidily as possible. His doing so — essentially disappearing — would disappoint me. Betty’s diagnosis may be the gravitational pull to draw him back into his old life (and maybe, unfortunately, his old ways). Perhaps it’s a good sign that even before Betty’s diagnosis, he was checking in regularly with Sally? I don’t have any delusions that Mad Men, in the finale, will manage to sketch Dick Whitman as a fully fleshed character that fully embraces the best parts of his old self — his creative work, his children — with whatever parts of Dick’s hobo soul that have been buried all these years. But I’m looking forward to watching whatever glimpses of the metamorphosis that we can get in one episode.

Selected notes from my stream of consciousness last night–

“LOL cannot imagine how un-fun the orchards with Dad Pete would be.”

“Is Betty dying?!”

“LOL at Pete slamming door in secretary’s face.”

“Betty, don’t be dying, just be pregnant?”

“BETTY’S GONNA DIE 😦 ”

“Learjet? That’s… ironic.”

“Don WOULD find a goddess by the pool.”

“Don doesn’t die, he goes to Oklahoma, and it’s worse.”

“LOL at Charming Pete.”

“Roy!”

“Oh my. Don is… sweaty.”

“Don! These men are not priests!”

“Will Trudy take her floral couch?”

“LOL at Don correcting that punk’s grammar again.”

“GO HOME DON.”

“Drive it like ya stole it, kid.”

The kids’ table

I’ve been reading a big ol’ book about WWII, and it’s basically 350 pages of vignettes; one brief anecdote after another, occasionally connected, but usually not. It’s interesting, but exhausting.

That’s how I felt about the first 45 minutes of this episode, and last week’s, too. Too many plots, too many glimpses, when really, I just wanted a meaty story. Finally, though, everything came into focus — and doesn’t Sally Draper wish it hadn’t!

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I’ll save that for last. Let’s start with my girl Peggy.

“It will shock you how much this never happened,” Don told Peggy after she gave birth to Pete’s baby in secret*. Over the years, I’ve felt a little shocked myself at how much it never happened. Both Peggy and Pete seemed to have developed a remarkable ability to bury that piece of their pasts.

I thought the tipsy moment they shared over was the perfect way to acknowledge that, yes, occasionally it does cross their minds. (I’m assuming it crosses Peggy’s more often.) Please note: This is not me condoning, in any way, shape, or form, the possibility of a rekindling of what could barely be called a “relationship” between these two. Peggy. Please. You can do better.

Ted seemed happy to be there, but when he returned to the table after making a call and intruded on Pete and Peggy’s private moment, he looked uncomfortable. In the full context of the episode, that moment seemed to be one of several that drove Ted away from the office and pushed him toward his neglected home life. His home life, from the glimpses we get, is not something to escape. Then again, neither was Don’s, or Pete’s, or any of the many other homes we’ve seen break up over the course of the show. Unlike those examples, though, Ted seems to realize it, and possibly not too late.

Was he ever in love with Peggy? It’s hard to say, based on the little screen time these two get. To me, it smacked of infatuation, by a guy with a history of getting swept up in new adventures and risks. He’s coming down to Earth. It amused me that he still had to make a  grand gesture to secure Don’s promise for the office battle to end. (Don, rightfully, has no idea what he’s on about, because of course, Don’s main battle is with his own demons, not Ted.  Can you imagine early Don Draper jeopardizing an account with GENERAL-FREAKING-MOTORS over a personal issue with his former mistress?)

Peggy doesn’t seem to be too hurt by Ted’s waning affection in the long run. I died at her late-night phone call with Stan. I hope she names her cat after him.

One thing I really liked about this episode was the theme of the innocence of children. Sally and her friend are obsessed with Junior Rosen; they completely miss the undertones of tension during the meeting in the lobby, when Sylvia arrives and sweeps him out of the building. Ted’s children, climbing over his back and eating cereal on their parents’ bed, seemingly serve as a reminder to him that here is where he belongs. They don’t pick up on any of the tension between their parents.

The best example is the final scene in the Draper apartment, when sloppy drunk Don stumbles in after his bender. Obviously, he hasn’t come to any conclusions about how to deal with Sally’s discovery. Julie and Megan continue with their dinner, assuming the war is about something else, ignorant to the major drama of the day. Sally has become an adult, yet Megan is lumped in with the innocent children.I really didn’t see the subplot of Arnold and Sylvia’s son being so important, in so many ways, until the pivotal moment when Sally looked up and saw… oh, poor Sally! I’m still not sure why Sylvia deserves so much of Don’s devotion, and maybe she doesn’t, and that’s just, finally, the fickle nature of love working on him. She alluded to this when she told him on the phone that he was better to her than she was to him.

Leftovers:

  • Bob Benson, I’ll tell you what I told Peggy: Please. You can do better than Pete Campbell.
  • At least someone loves Pete!
  • I sort of want to watch the earlier episodes of this season again, to look for glimpses of this Benson-Campbell infatuation. What exactly has Pete done to be so desirable?
  • Tom & Lorenzo make the weird connection that the two main gay characters on the show, Sal and Bob, have the same names as Sally and Bobby. Whaaa?
  • Did the doorman ever get his keys back after Sally dropped them in Sylvia’s apartment? (Practical detail that nagged at me!)

*I forgot all about another of Don’s lines in Peggy’s postpartum scene: “Move forward,” the same words Peggy used on him earlier this season.

Talk amongst yourselves!

So groovy now

Last week, Don pulled the ultimate “change the conversation” move. Sunday, we started to see the consequences. It starts with Ted’s introduction to Don’s unorthodox work ethic. (Had Ted asked “coffee chief” Peggy Olson about the merger before steamrolling ahead, she might’ve warned him.)

Don strolls into the first joint partners’ meeting late, as usual. (Hilariously, not as late as Pete Campbell.) Our first clue of his inertia should be his bemused eyebrow lift at Ted’s, “Fleischmann’s. Groovy.” Groovy is not in Don’s vocabulary.

Photo May 13, 11 06 44 AM“He’s mysterious, but I can’t tell if he’s putting it on,” Ted describes Don. The fascination is mutual. Ted doesn’t realize everything about Don is put on, even his name; Don doesn’t know how to react to this interloper that he himself invited into the conversation.

“Ted’s a pilot.” Is there nothing the new kid can’t do? Well, he can’t drink like Don, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Peggy points out. Peggy, for her part, seems to gain confidence with each scene, beginning with her unabashed “I’m for Bobby” and ending with her bold directive to Don: Move forward.

He does everything but, at least until the final minutes of the episode. Don lets himself live out every Madonna/whore fantasy he has with Sylvia, apparently with no thought that there might eventually be consequences. When she finally breaks off their relationship, his tortured* “Please” sounds pathetic and out of tune with the nature of their raunchy interactions. (There was an Internet-famous reel of Don Draper saying “What” a couple years ago. I imagine the “Please” reel would be much shorter.)

I need you.” “Take off everything for me.” Sylvia is every self-centered fantasy he has, until suddenly, she isn’t. The bubble pops, and Don’s back in a bleak world where Kennedys are being assassinated and his business is changing faster than he can keep up. Even when it seems like he’s having a moment of brilliance, his idea is pedestrian: romanticized Dorothea Lange farmers putting margarine on pancakes? Neil Armstrong will walk on the moon next year, and Don’s still in the Dust Bowl era. (ETA: The commenters on tomandlorenzo.com, and the TLo, rightfully pointed out to me that the farmhouse scene was the standard of margarine commercials for years to come. They see this as a sign of Don’s ability to tap into the American mainstream, not his lack of creativity.)

I loved the callback to Ted’s words in the final song of the episode, and especially loved it with the image of Don and Megan on the same bed, but far apart — I think it’s so groovy now that people are finally getting together. Don is a man alone, at work and in his personal life.

Leftover thoughts, and I have a lot of them this week:

  • Burt Peterson is back — oh, just kidding! “Remember Ken Cosgrove? Like a six-foot version of Alan Ladd?” I felt a little bad for Burt, but not bad enough that I didn’t enjoy watching Roger fire him so elegantly.
  • “Now I see you’re about my height.” Ginsberg!
  • “Yes, Peggy, we risked our entire company just so I could have you in this office complaining again.” Don, of course.
  • Joan: “I’m glad you’re here.” Peggy: “Well, I’m glad you’re here.” At least someone’s happy to see Pegs!
  • Peggy: “I just spoke with Dawn.” Ted: “Black or white?” (Speaking of Dawn — where was she?)
  • How delightful was Ted giving up his chair after Pete takes the secretary’s? Outclassed and emasculated in a single sentence: “Moira, take my chair.”
  • Pete’s brother, Bud: “Maybe we can get the paperwork started.” I guffawed, but poor Pete has a lot on his plate right now, and he’s not handling any of it gracefully.
  • Ted’s hilarious slang, in addition to “groovy,” included “rap session,” “free associate,” and “yeah, man.” He manages to be so artsy and so dorky at the same time. (I guffawed again at his reaction to the copywriter who says he’s voting for Nixon: “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you have any hope?” :::headdesk:::)
  • What does it mean when Megan is talking and her voice fades out and the music swells?! That can’t be good.
  • Because it bears repeating … Don: “Peggy, he’s a grown man.” Peggy: “So are you. Move forward.”

*Someone give this man his Emmy already!

ETA: I just read TLo’s take this week, and as usual, I love it.

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.

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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.)

Leftovers:

  • 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!

Our fathers

If my last post seemed uninspired, it’s because it was! Fortunately, I liked this episode, “The Flood,” as much as I’ve felt ambivalent about the rest of this season.

Peggy, at a launching point in her personal life and career, stares out the window; she wants to be on the Upper East Side, despite her supposed indifference when Abe suggests other neighborhoods. Again, she’s mimicking Don, whether consciously or not, as we realize when she tells Megan at the awards dinner, “We might be neighbors.”

Peggy looks over the city on a bright, light-filled day; Don contemplates darkness from his balcony as sirens wail and a nation grieves for another man killed in the same setting, a thousand miles away.

I was talking to a friend recently about the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The Garden of Exile outside the building is a concrete cage of sorts with tall concrete pillars that appear straight but are actually off-kilter; the ground is crooked in a subtle way, creating a disoriented and unsettled feeling to anyone stumbling around its paths. That’s sort of how this episode felt after the announcement of King’s death interrupted the early, mundane moments. When “Mad Men” gets tone right, it really gets it right. The tone here was unfamiliar, unsettled, awkward. It’s a crude and violent new world that Don doesn’t like, as we saw by his reaction to Roger’s trippy client*.

Awkward in the way none of these white people, no matter how sympathetic they are to the civil rights cause, know how to react to the few black people who inhabit their insular world. Joan’s rigid hug to Dawn was the most perfect example of this, but we also saw it in the more subtle way the black characters did not act exactly as expected. Peggy’s secretary behaved about as her employers thought she would; Dawn didn’t.

Peggy baffled me a little in this episode. (I think she was supposed to.) She communicated so much nonverbally; the look with Ted after he is booted from his chair by Abe (whaaaat does that mean?!); the sort of moony face behind Abe’s back while she’s sitting on the couch, contemplating having children with him. I don’t really see that relationship lasting (and maybe she’s already got something going on with Ted), but it seems like they have reached that level of familiarity and comfort that makes it difficult to move on. I can’t decide what Peggy wants and wonder if she even knows.

They may be on the same level, but the styling of the show has not so subtly suggested they’re drifting apart this season. Abe didn’t fit into the fancy corporate dinner this season; last season, he could’ve made it work:

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I will never get tired of this GIF

The ongoing theme of parenthood and particularly fatherhood really interested me. Don finally notices Bobby** as a person in the movie theater (and how Don-like was his breathless little, “Jesus!” comment?) But Don maintains that Megan is “better with them.” Hey, Draper, guess what? It doesn’t matter if you didn’t immediately “love” your children — you had them, you have to figure out how to raise them. That’s the social contract. His teary and surprising confession to Megan really moved me, but it also speaks to his immaturity; he’s spent so much time taking care of his needs — his women, his alcohol, his career — that it’s just now occurring to him that he maybe ought to think about parenting. (And even then, it’s less recognizing his own failings than blaming them on his father.) It wasn’t unusual for a man of his class and generation to be a detached parent, but he has completely checked out, and he’s just seeming to realize it as one child is basically grown and another is well on his way. He has such a great parenting style when he actually tries; I loved the way he gently but humorously shot down Bobby’s concern about Henry, and that must have been heartbreaking for Don to hear.

A commentary I read suggested Don’s introspection was prompted by his sudden and consuming worry about Sylvia in D.C. I disagree with this; I felt like he was worried about Sylvia, and continued to be worried, until suddenly he realized maybe he should be focused on his actual life. As he stumbled through the dark halls, I thought at first he was in the back halls of the apartment building, checking on Sylvia; I was surprised he was checking on the children. (But then, I’ve been wrong before.)

Megan again showed remarkable poise, encouraging Peggy in her home-buying endeavor, taking care of Don’s kids, trying desperately as always to understand him. On fatherhood: I couldn’t figure out at the beginning of the episode how she could’ve been so quick to forgive Don for his hard words on the set of her show. Then we heard her conversation with her Canadien père, and there it is.

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So much in this episode to unpack. I’ll save the Virgin Ginsberg and his father for another day. The other “father” reference that really struck me was Pete, angrily shouting at Awful Harry (TM) that Martin Luther King was a father. That’s our Pete, absolutely rotten, until suddenly he isn’t.

*Giggly, stoned Stan makes my day.

**That misaligned wallpaper would’ve annoyed the CRAP out of me. I feel ya, Bobby.

Just a Gigolo

What’s your favorite “Mad Men” episode? Most fans, I imagine, have a favorite episode, or at least, a favorite moment. I know I have many. I can’t imagine any part of “The Collaborators” falls into either category, but maybe someone will disagree with me. I watched this episode Monday morning and felt like it cast a pall over the day — and we all know how Monday turned out, unfortunately.

We’re treated to more of the same heavy-handed symbolism of Season 5. Don gives a woman money after sex. What does it mean?! Perhaps it has something to do with this flashback, in which we learn Don lived in a bordello and watched, through a keyhole, as his pregnant stepmother prostituted herself? Well, then. I think I get it.

Speaking of pregnancy, Megan reveals (to Sylvia — of all people!) that she has recently had a miscarriage. Don begins the scene by actually saying the right things. Then he just makes me mad. Megan expresses that she wants children someday, but she’s not sure of the timing. Don says, several times, variations on “Whatever you want.” We learn nothing about what he wants — but even if he told us what he wanted, would we believe him? I get the impression Megan would, and that’s sad, considering his mistress’s bed isn’t even cold as his wife is telling him about her miscarriage.

I’m interested in the parallels between Don and Pete in this episode. At the beginning of the series, Don tended to keep his affairs in the city and his wife in the suburb. Now they’re only a floor apart. The weight of it is showing on his face, especially as he collapses into a heap at his front door. Even the bedroom scenes look more like drudgery than romance. I’m waiting for his Roger Sterling-style heart attack during coitus.

Pete. Just when I start to think he’s not such a cad, he hisses at the battered woman bleeding on his floral-print couch, “What did you say to him?” Again, the romance of the Mad Man’s affairs has given way to seedy rendezvous and Pete Campbell offering “peanuts and cheese crackers.” Blech. More drudgery.

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Season 1 flashback — Don & Midge

Remember Season 1, Don and Midge bantering as they rolled around the white sheets in her light-filled, Bohemian apartment? Her little Holly Golightly men’s tuxedo shirt? She would’ve stabbed Don with a paintbrush if he’d lured her to a dive and offered nuts and stale crackers. Pete may think he’s of the same school, but he’s not…

…as evidenced by it all blowing up in his face (yet again) and Trudy’s memorable ultimatum. Go, girl? I have a hard time cheering her on, when essentially she’s committing both of them to a love-less marriage as long as her husband keeps his affairs in the city. But the similarities between Don and Pete in this episode make me think Don could soon face a similar blow-up. I have a feeling Megan will handle it differently than Trudy, although I’m not sure what to expect.

Peggy, looking especially sophisticated in some bold jewel tones and kicky prints, shrugs off a sexist prank (not the first, certainly not the last) and again spars with Stan over the phone. Why does Stan give away the Heinz tip? It was unethical of Peggy to share it, sure, but we’ve see how ethics work in this business. Ted Chaough (who I just spotted the other day in an episode of “Friends,” as Monica’s sous-chef!) pops in, and we still can’t decide if he’s into Peggy for her work or more personal reasons. I’m struggling to care. He’s a slimeball, and that’s saying something, because the competition is fierce in Peggy’s world.

It felt like we ended this episode right where we started. I imagine there will be some shaking up soon. So much more to say, for instance, about Sylvia and her interesting moralism and “Catholic guilt.” (I’m familiar with the concept!) I’ll save it for another day, because I’m sure we’re not done treading that road into the dark wood.

My favorite recappers: TLo on style and substance.

Some kind of astronaut

Oh, hey, Internet. I was too busy Sunday night drinking gin and tonics and trying to figure out what the hell was going on to write a blog post. I was too busy Monday recovering from gin and tonics (and doing work I actually get paid for) to analyze my reactions to that dreary little double episode.

“Dreary” doesn’t usually come to mind when Hawaii is the setting. As someone who spent a beach vacation last year reading about the Battle of the Somme and the advent of modern warfare*, I appreciated Don’s heavy beach reading. My reading, though, was “for fun,” or at least, for personal enrichment, motivated by my own curiosity. Does Don read without outside motivation? We’ve seen him read for pleasure, I guess — John Le Carré, Frank O’Hara. But the last time we saw him read something this deep, it was Exodus, for Rachel. (Remember Rachel?) It shouldn’t have surprised me to discover, in the end, that the pretty doctor’s wife was behind Dante. I was surprised anyway.

I’m getting ahead of myself. I started this blog last year when all my water-cooler talkers had moved away, and I had quit my job, so I didn’t have a water cooler to hang around anyway. There were several instances in the last season when I felt a sense of urgency about writing a reflection. I didn’t feel that after the Season 6 premiere, probably because we’ve been down most of these roads before.

“The Doorway” was like a sad-off. Think it can’t get sadder? Here’s middle-aged Don Draper, tossing his cookies into an umbrella stand. Think it can’t get sadder? Here’s Roger Sterling, trying to recover from his temper tantrum (“It’s my funeral!”) to make an authentic gesture — handing his daughter a jar of water from the River Jordan — but she just wants to talk about Roger’s money, and leaves the jar on the couch when she rushes away. (Roger turns down Jane’s offer to return his mother’s ring so that he can give it to Margaret, and instead, gives her something that actually has sentimental value. After hearing her investment-opportunity pitch, I think Margaret would’ve just pawned it anyway. But is that any wonder, for a daughter whose father has been so emotionally detached all her life?) But wait! Here’s Roger, finally sobbing into a shoe-shine box. He does feel!

It gets sadder! Here’s Betty, picking her way through a fallen-in hovel to look for… oh, wait. I don’t care about this subplot. Seriously, who is this girl with the dead mother? I hate it when TV shows drop in characters whose only purpose is to be a catalyst for another character’s actions, so this diversion irritated me. On the bright side: No Glenn!

Where can Betty’s character go, realistically? I’ve read some commentary that the creepy teen-rape comments she made to Henry seemed to indicate she’s clinically unhinged. I think she’s just desperate for attention and gets her rocks off being shocking — and how many ways can a suburban housewife be shocking? Has early mid-life crisis, dyes her hair? Oh, my stars! Maybe Betty will zzzzzzzzzz.

Oh, sorry, I nodded off there.

What else? Peggy is Don 2.0; improvements include bug fixes (fewer crashes!) and less chemical dependence. I loved her phone conversation with Stan.

The men are hairier than usual. Abe’s mustache made me legitimately laugh out loud.

I didn’t talk much about Don, did I? We know what’s in his future. Or do we? He, for his part, is obsessed with his future — at least, his future beyond this world. He’s awfully young to have given up on this life already, but then, so were Lane Pryce and Adam Whitman. So many times, I’ve thought Don was reckoning with his past: When Betty found his box, when he came clean to Faye. Megan knows, too. But their knowing isn’t enough, obviously; the stink of his past follows him around like that damn Zippo lighter. Remember this Don Draper? He’s so far removed from that image as to be nearly a different person.

In any case, 1968 was one of the most fascinating years in American history. Gruesome, exhilarating, hopeful, heartbreaking. I can’t wait to see where the show takes it. Tell me what you think!

Leftover thoughts:

  • The first episode of last season saw this. Compare it to the New Year’s party at Don and Megan’s in this episode, a season later; glamorous Megan, sitting around on New Year’s with a bunch of people years older than her who are complaining about how much college costs. And her husband is sleeping with one of them! She’s not long for this lifestyle.
  • We didn’t get any Increasingly Bad Decisions of Pete Campbell in this episode. Looking forward to more of those.
  • And more Joan, please.
  • Have I mentioned I love Peggy?
  • In case I missed anything.
  • ETA: Thought that occurred to me after I wrote this post: What if all the death foreshadowing is not about Don, but about Betty? “My mother’s dead”… the cop telling her he didn’t want to have to scrape her off the highway in a shovel. I’m not sure suicide is her bag, but she certainly makes enough reckless decisions that an accident wouldn’t be unlikely, as we saw again in this episode. (You read it here first.)

*To End All Wars. It’s a great book! I like to party.