Stop kidding yourself

I’ll combine “New Business” and “The Forecast,” because, let’s face it, I’m not getting paid for this. Also, I had a profound thought about the show in the wee morning hours recently, and I forgot to write it down. I apologize for robbing you all of my brilliance.

In “New Business,” Megan cleans out Don’s apartment and checkbook. “I don’t want anything from you” — well, except all your furniture and a million dollars. My friend Kelly C. had a great insight about Megan, which I hope she’ll share at some point.

(Up for debate: Did Don ruin Megan’s life? Eh, I don’t think he did. He certainly disappointed her by not being what she thought he was, and he was an absolutely terrible husband, but in the end, he is just the fall guy for her own unhappiness. Maybe she will come to realize this in time.)

One of the criticisms that I’ve read on the show’s last season (last several, really) is that it’s indulging in story lines for minor characters that will have no time to go anywhere. /Sad Diana /Pima Ryan

I loved Megan walking in on Roger getting dressed in the empty apartment. Never change, Roger.

In “The Forecast,” Don picks up the recorder to ramble ideas for Roger’s speech. “Fourscore and seven years ago.” He’s back to spouting cliches; it reminded me of his drunken Life cereal pitch, “The cure for the common breakfast.”

“It’s supposed to get better.” Ouch.

His real estate agent sees right through him. Season 1 or 2 Don would’ve charmed his way right into her pants. Final-season Don disgusts her.

“It looks like a sad person lives here. He got divorced, spilled wine on the carpeting, and didn’t care to replace it, even for himself. This place reeks of failure.”

Don replies that a lot of good things happened there — do tell, Don! — and that he has a good feeling about things. Reeks of failure — and desperation. The optimism is telling, because it’s so unlike him.

In other news:

Joan meets the psycho handsome husband from “Double Jeopardy” and seems to think a relationship with him is a good idea. Okay, I might be prejudiced. He scared me a little when he lost his temper, but I don’t think he was supposed to. I think it was just Double Jeopardy Effect.

It’s so interesting to see how Joan and Peggy’s similar paths diverged. Joan tells the babysitter (but really, tells Kevin), “You’re ruining my life!” Peggy doesn’t have to worry about that; she could go to the pyramids, or anywhere she wants, but she won’t. She goes home to an empty apartment, while Joan has Kevin’s sweet voice telling her, “Bye bye.” I like that the show doesn’t pass judgment on either of them for their choices, or try to present one as better than the other.

(Slightly off-topic, but related to Peggy: Is there a reason that Peggy and Ted haven’t picked things up, now that he’s back? There’s no awkwardness, or else it seems glossed over… ? Did I miss something? Is it his mustache?)

One thing that stood out, for me, is how divergent Peggy is now from her mentor Don, who is so wrapped up in his own jaded life that he can’t have a constructive conversation with Peggy about hers. For so long, it seemed like their work lives would be forever intertwined. Yet, as Peggy is describing where she sees herself going, and what she wants to do, Don is nowhere to be found. He can take some credit for steering her, but honestly, she created herself. One more reminder to Don that he’s really just an empty suit.

Oh, hey! Glen’s back! This is what we’ve been waiting for! Said no one ever. He is a good vehicle for showing that Betty, under the polished exterior she has cultivated these past years, is still as childlike as ever inside. (She’s not as introspective as Don, though, so her failings aren’t eating away at her.) She can’t fool around with Glen… because she’s married. I think the viewing public could’ve come up with a few more reasons, Bets!

(My Facebook messages and texts were all hilariously similar versions of the same after this episode: “Glen!!!”)

Sally’s going on a bus trip. This seems like a good idea. “You’re just handsome! Stop kidding yourself!” It’s one thing when Mathis says it, but when Sally tells Don a version of the same thing? Damn.

My friend Kelly C. commented on the post for the last episode that Don will never find true happiness, because he doesn’t believe he deserves it. He tells Sally that she’s beautiful, and that it’s up to her to be more than that, but he’ll never take his own advice, because he thinks the battle is lost. The real estate agent tells him we have to find a place for him, and here Don stands on the brink again. But nothing will change.

I’ve long believed that for Don, mediocrity would be a fate worse than death. Is that where we’re heading? He loses (some of) his looks, his creative edge, his sexy wife, his showplace apartment, and what is he? In Megan’s words, “An aging, sloppy, selfish liar.” An alcoholic, middle-aged executive who flirts with his teenage daughter’s friends.

Resolutions

I didn’t blog about last week’s episode, and in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t try to figure it all out, because it worked much better with the season finale. (I’d like to say that was my long-term plan, but unlike “Mad Men,” I don’t have one.) I’m scribbling down my thoughts now in a hurry, and I wish I had more time to think about it. Now that the season is over, I want to rewatch it again. And then maybe I’ll finally delete the episodes from the DVR. (Sorry, honey.)

So, “wow.” That was my first reaction to the season finale.

Remember so long ago, when the season began on a beach in Hawaii, our lovers bathed in golden light? Nearly all the major scenes in this episode happened in the darkened bedrooms, bars, jail cells, and conference rooms, including the one in which Megan, the one who has tried to look past all Don’s demons, has finally had enough.

I know a lot of people never liked Megan to begin with, and I’ve been sort of on the fence, but now I’m finding I’m a little reluctant to see her go. As a foil to Don, one who spoke the truth to him when he needed to hear it, she has been a welcome character.

Megan has been an outsider in so many ways. At SCDP, she was the exotic flower who brightened up the lobby. To Don’s kids, she was the calming governess who sang in French. (At least she was, until Sally hit puberty.) Now she’s finally realizing she’s an outsider in her own marriage. Of course, we saw in the finale how out of touch she is with who her husband really is. “You can have one before dinner,” she tells him as he pours an evening drink. Does she not realize that he’s been drinking since he wakes up? Or is she just burying her head? Whatever the case, when he plainly states, “Megan. I love you,” it’s too little, too late.

The escalation of Don’s alcoholism in this season has been hard to watch, as it has been every time he falls off the wagon, but it really rings true. “Don has difficulties” was the hilarious understatement of a synopsis provided for this episode. I felt a little bored last week during the penultimate episode. I was not bored this week; instead, I felt tense the entire time. I have heard some people were disappointed there wasn’t a huge surprise, but to me, Don finally reaching some level of self-awareness was a surprise! Sorry to those of you who were hoping Megan would get whacked!

Betty breaking down on the phone and Don calling her “Birdie” — arresting. Don’s meltdown in front of the Hershey’s executives — heartbreaking. But the moment that really struck me was when he looked right at Dawn’s face as he was leaving the office before Thanksgiving and called her “Sweetheart.” It was as if he finally noticed her… and everyone around him. Everyone he’s stomped all over — Ted, Peggy, his children, Megan, Stan, most recently.

He shows up for the emergency Thanksgiving meeting on time, to the surprise of the partners. The Twitterverse was irritated that Joan and Roger stayed silent, but what has Don done for them lately? Don and Roger stayed silent in an earlier episode when Harry basically called Joan a prostitute for how she landed Jaguar; later, Don fired Jaguar and expected Joan to kiss his feet. What has Don done for his old pal, Roger? Well, he vomited into an umbrella stand at Roger’s mother’s funeral. Roger knows where his bread is buttered, and right now, it’s with aligning himself with the majority.

The mystery of are-Peggy-and-Ted-or-aren’t-they was finally revealed. Ted obviously was familiar with Peggy’s apartment, and he took off that dress like he’d done it before. I think Don, like Ted, has been revealed as a true-to-life character this season. Usually through little hints: his need to take risks, his intolerance to alcohol (at least in relation to Don), his interactions with his wife and kids, his remark to Don about his father trying to quit drinking. I was a little afraid he would try to ship Peggy off to California, but he took the high road, or at least the highest road left to for a man who really is trying, desperately, to do the right thing. His explanation to Peggy that she would be glad he’d made the decision might end up being true, but it is no less chauvinistic, as Peggy rightfully pointed out.

This season has really focused on Peggy’s love life, which, I’ll grant, is really entertaining. (She stabbed Abe!) I’m really hoping the next season will show more of Peggy the creative worker. Obviously, the shot in the final moments of Peggy in a pantsuit, Drapering in Don’s chair, points to that. But “Mad Men” has fooled us before. A friend of mine pointed out (via Twitter — yo, Brian!) that Peggy’s really going to hate Don now for sending Ted to California in his place. They say looking good is the best revenge. Peggy looks good; Don looks like hell. Peggy smells like Chanel No. 5; Don smells like the bottom of a jail cell. Peggy’s sitting in his chair; Don’s been sent packing, at least until he gets his shit together. I’d say she might go on hating him, but she’s certainly on track to best him. Peggy has been mimicking Don all season. Remember when she was house-hunting and looked out over the bright city, and a few scenes later, Don looks off his dark balcony?

Pete deserves his own mention. “NOT GOOD, BOB!” instantly made it on my short list of favorite quotes (which I’ll share sometime soon). I also giggled inappropriately at his, “She always loved the sea.” Those sentimental Campbell boys. Pete’s problem has conveniently taken care of itself, apparently, and the poor guy can’t even decide how to feel. How sad is he now, though? His mother’s things are being piled up in the living room where he never even spends his time; his daughter will barely know him. What sort of empty life will he have in California? Most likely, the same sort of empty life he’s had in New York. As Trudy pointed out, at least he’s starting to realize it now.

The final shot of the episode, of Don showing his kids where he grew up? I loved it. Made up for any shortcomings this season (and really, I don’t think there were too many, although I’m sure some will disagree). I loved that it ended on a hopeful note, but my optimism doesn’t really extend to the final season. Don with his life together? Well, that doesn’t seem very dramatic. Maybe it’d be shocking in and of itself.

I might come back and add more thoughts as I think of them. In the meantime, a couple tidbits:

Really, no Ginsberg in the finale? What’s all that been going, then?

Friend Amy pointed out that Bob Benson’s frilly apron deserves a mention!

Thoughts? Love, hate, ambivalent — and predictions for Season 7?

 

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!

sally keys

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!

Whiskey in your water

What in the holy name of Anna Draper was that? No guarantees, but I’ll try to be a little more sophisticated than I was in my text message to dear friend and loyal reader Michele:

Photo May 20, 10 08 03 AM

My husband wasn’t paying enough attention during “The Crash,” to my tastes, so I turned to the loving arms and equally hysterical arms of Twitter. I don’t know about you, but about the time Minny Jackson showed up in Don’s apartment, I was

Let’s look at this sequence of events in the cold, sober light of day.

  • Don is exhausted, in mind and heart.
  • Don, a 40-year-old man, chooses to take the injection from Harry Hamlin’s quack doctor, despite not knowing what’s in it.
  • Don trips the trippiest trip that ever was tripped.*
  • Don flakes on the Chevy account.
  • Don’s obsession with Sylvia leads him to leave his home unattended (and his door unlocked, in hopes she’ll return?) and the safety of his children is compromised.

All these actions begin win Don. But when Don returns to earth, presumably feeling even more exhausted in mind and heart, he lays the blame at the feet of everyone else:

“Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse.” 

Conclusion: Don still doesn’t understand that actions have consequences. The Tin Man discovered his heart, though, so that’s something?

Part of me felt that a lot of this goes back to Peggy. I’m not saying that Peggy is a stand-in for Sylvia or anything like that. We saw that Sylvia is a twisted mother figure to Don, down to the headscarf she wears at home that matches the headscarf in the soup ad that became Don’s obsession. 

But as the shot took effect, Peggy, touching Ted’s arm in comfort, was Don’s last sober sight. Don hasn’t been the same since Ted and Peggy came on board and Don saw the way she had slipped into the role of caretaker to Ted — presumably without the adversarial undertones that came with her similar relationship with Don. Her dynamic with Don has changed, and he can’t seem to handle it. “Change isn’t good or bad. It just is.” Season 3 Don laughs in Season 6 Don’s bewildered face. The world is changing, and Don’s bad trip show he’s not up for that ride, either. Peggy sees this, and I feel like there’s a sense of longing on both their parts for the old days. She seems regretful that the relationship has changed, but resolute.

I’m curious to know what others thought of this episode! As disorienting as it was, the more I think about this episode, the more I think it was great. It had an undertone of sadness that couldn’t be eclipsed, at least permanently, by any pharmaceuticals.

Uncategorized observations:

  • Peggy Olson is always the classiest person in the room. This time, it’s when she refused to bad-mouth her departed boss. “I liked him.”
  • Peggy and Stan!?** I wanted it to happen, but I didn’t, and was so relieved it didn’t happen, and

  • Betty is back to blond and skinny. “Henry is running for office!” Yes, sweetie, we assumed.
  • Clearly Megan as Maria von Trapp is long gone, but she didn’t deserve Betty’s “casting couch” dig.

*What kept running through my mind was Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come” (written, as so many good songs are, by Randy Newman). “Don’t know what it is, but I don’t wanna see no more!”

**Groupthink:

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!