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.”

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.)

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!

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.