Tag Archive for 1960s

Mad Men Recap: “The Monolith” (Season 7, Episode 4)

I’ve been gathering a few people to watch Game of Thrones and Mad Men each week, and it’s interesting the way other people can change your perspective. When I was writing for California Literary Review, I think my editor enjoyed my pieces because I chronicled the reactions of the audience as lovingly as I wrote about the film. After last night’s episode, my friend Chelsea said with a considering expression, “That was kind of like a sitcom episode,” and she’s right. In “The Monolith,” problems are presented, problems are fixed, and we’re back to the status quo. It was a filler episode, which is common at this point in the season. But despite its easily solvable character dilemmas, it was a truly weird one. It is Mad Men, after all. It’s 1969 and everyone’s staring into the void, looking for answers. For some, the answers may lie in technology. Others search for a more organic sense of belonging, while still others just want a damn couch that isn’t full of farts. Basically, we’re all a bunch of monkeys gazing at a monolith.

Gazing into the infinite. Photo credit Justina Mintz/AMC.

Staring into the infinite. Photo credit Justina Mintz/AMC.

In the opening scene of Sunday’s episode, we drop in on a scene in which Pete describes the various destinations of choice for an upcoming trip with Bonnie. She spots George Peyton, a ghost from Campbell’s past who worked with Trudy’s father Tom at Vicks. Remember the Vicks drama? If I recall correctly, Pete’s shameless philandering lost SCDP that account. (Don’t shit where you eat, Pete.) Pete explains to a curious Peyton that he and Trudy are getting a divorce, and that Bonnie is his real estate agent (she’s none too pleased with this informal introduction). Peyton reports that Tom Vogel, Pete’s father-in-law, had a heart attack. “Who knew he had a heart?” George chuckles. Further, Peyton’s now working for Burger Chef. You can practically see the lightbulb ding into existence over Pete’s head; the guy knows how to use his connections. Meanwhile, the two men circle around their respective lady friends, both wearing ridiculous(ly awesome) ’70s dresses with feathers and fringe.

"This agency has entered the future!" Photo credit Justina Mintz/AMC.

“This agency has entered the future!” Photo credit Justina Mintz/AMC.

When Don comes into the office for his first official day back, he’s looking every bit the old Don Draper. His eyes are alert, his old but neat suit impeccably pressed; his hat rests in his hands. He disembarks from the elevator to discover the office has been evacuated, and rapidly. A phone dangles eerily from a secretary’s desk; he hangs it back up. On the second floor, he discovers the entire office in an impromptu meeting to announce a construction project: they’re putting in a computer. Cutler intones smugly, “This agency has entered the future.”

Unfortunately, in order to enter the future, they have to take out the Creative department lounge. Peggy mentions under her breath that Lou has no idea what he’s doing, and Lou says pragmatically that he’ll use that computer more than the lounge. Ginsberg gets a moment to shine; he feels (quite rightly) displaced. “Harry Crane took a huge dump and we’re cleaning it up,” he cries. With a maniacal glint, he asks Don to help him move the massive orange couch into the office he shares with Stan because “the other one’s full of farts!” Ginsberg climbs onto a soapbox and bellows a battle cry: “They’re trying to erase us, but they can’t erase this couch!” It’s all so very dramatic and very Michael Ginsberg. Read more

Mad Men Recap: “Field Trip” (Season 7, Episode 3)

Sunday’s episode of Mad Men took us on a number of trips, metaphorical and physical. The theme here is related to Megan’s repeated questions: “Where are you? Why can’t I reach you?” Sure, she’s asking about why Don is never there when she rings up – but at the same time she’s not. He’s mucked up his entire world, and try as he might, it’ll never be what it was. He’s adrift, searching for a lighthouse.

This episode also sees the return of our favorite trophy wife, Betty Francis, who despite hardly interacting with Don anymore, still shares their children (and interestingly enough she’s probably the worse parent). The other day, I got squinty-eyed and a little pissy about this Salon takedown of the series by a young(er than me) writer named Matthew Brandon Wolfson. Wolfson notes that we’re supposed to “soak in Betty’s poise while pitying her for her limited possibilities.” I beg your pardon? I pity Joan Harris for her limited possibilities (even though she did rather put herself in this position), but I do not pity Betty Draper. She’s no bombshell, not thwarted by her femininity; she’s a petulant, blank-faced child. The piece is worth a read (?), but I’ll continue to rebut it throughout this recap.

Betty Draper Francis is an utter child. Photo courtesy AMC.

Betty Draper Francis is an utter child. Photo courtesy AMC.

“Field Trip” starts us out in a smoky theater where Don Draper idly watches a film set in San Francisco. This is the same theater where Don caught Ted and Peggy on a date; it’s where he taught his protege to escape to when she needs to get away from the office. Once the movie’s over he returns to his “work day,” which means calling Dawn because he needs typewriter ribbon. Poor Dawn, recently promoted to head of the secretarial pool, is utterly swamped. Don is peevish about her assignation of a courier to bring him his supplies. “I didn’t make any plans. I was expecting you to come over!” he cries. Dawn reports that Alan Silver called from California; Megan’s manager, the slimy, slightly swishy guy from last episode, wants to talk to Don. Dawn, overrun by SC&P business, can’t connect the call, so Don resentfully dials up Silver himself. (Poor Don. Must be rough.) Alan reports that the stress is getting to Megan. She burst into tears after bombing an audition, then stalked a director. “I’ve seen it before,” Silver says. “You know her best!” Of course this dude would call the husband to quell what he sees as a hysterical episode.

Don, obviously, jumps on a plane to California to “fix” Megan’s problem. The stewardess greets him warmly as “Mr. Draper.” When he tells her he’s flying home to surprise his wife, she flirts with him gently as her massive blond pompadour bobs near the ceiling of the plane. “I’ve said it before – I hate her!”

The return of Francine, and wearing a pantsuit no less. Photo credit: Justina Mintz/AMC.

The return of Francine, and wearing a pantsuit no less. Photo credit: Justina Mintz/AMC.

Out in Rye, Betty Francis meets her old friend Francine for lunch. “How are things in real estate?” Betty asks. Francine responds patiently, “I’m a travel agent, Betty.” Francine is thrilled to tell Betty about her new job, for which she’s in the office three days a week. She reports happily that one of her customers says she “redefined his definition of first class.” While Francine continues to contentedly natter about work, Betty becomes increasingly disgruntled. “Being alone in the house all that time, I really needed a challenge,” says Francine, echoing the sentiments of a million housewives in 1969. She amends this with a sly smile: “Fine, I needed a reward.” Betty, raising one perfectly groomed eyebrow, says, well, I thought the kids were the reward. She finishes this with, “I dunno, maybe I’m old fashioned.” Do y’think so? Read more

Mad Men Recap: “A Day’s Work” (Season 7, Episode 2)

After last week’s premiere, which set an ominous tone for the final season of Mad Men, the writers reached out to pick us up and dust us off in episode two. Peggy and Pete are flailing about on opposite coasts, each experiencing ennui and scrabbling for purchase in their daily lives. Sally Draper is navigating her own transitional phase and handling it as gracefully as you’d expect from a 15-year-old. Dawn, Shirley, and Joan are shuffled about by the various men of SC&P while Cooper’s old-fashioned sensibilities hold up progress. Roger and Jim are at odds beneath a cordial surface. Out of everyone, though, Don Draper is most adrift.

Out to sea. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

Out to sea. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

The opening scene of Sunday’s episode calls back to the premiere with a time motif. Don awakens to his alarm clock on a Thursday at 7:30, stretching groggily. Moments later, he awakens again, this time at 12:34. Don’s discombobulated, out of time and place. In his apartment, he blankly stares at Little Rascals on TV, his face unshaven and his robe hanging open. He idly pages through Look Magazine, which features a headline about abortions (the contentious topic would’ve been ramping up toward 1973’s landmark Roe vs. Wade case). He passes a full-page ad that inquires, “How do you handle a hungry man?” while absent-mindedly eating Ritz directly from the box. He marks the level on a bottle of Courvoisier, tsking to himself – he’s drinking too much. A cockroach wanders by and Don just sighs. The time passes, and into the evening Don shaves and dresses, buttoning up his shirt and fixing his tie just as the doorbell rings.

Dawn steps into the apartment, but she can’t stay. She’s brought him Sweet ‘n Low and Coffee Mate since she noticed he was out. Likewise, she arranged for a Valentine’s bouquet to arrive at Megan’s house in California. Dawn’s another set of eyes into SC&P, and it’s making her uncomfortable. “I don’t mind keeping you aware of things, but there’s something about the money that makes it feel wrong,” she says. On her way out, she reminds him that the cleaning woman is coming tomorrow morning. She takes the money.

Our very own Don Draper, the hero/antihero of the series (this is debatable – there are those who think it’s been Peggy’s story all along), has gotten interminably sad. Without his work, without purpose, Don Draper is nothing. He can’t even handle the basics of his marriage and his home without help. It’s tough to watch.

So grownup. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

So very. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

Sally Draper has transformed into a full-blown teenager. Her friends smoke cigarettes in her dorm room, gossiping about another friend’s dead mother. Everybody’s stoked to go off campus for the funeral because they an sneak away to shop for Pocahontas boots. (I’m actually shaking my head in consternation as I write this.) That lucky bitch whose mom died, she gets to stay out of school until Easter! “I’d stay here til 1975 if I could get Betty in the ground,” Sally says, dragging on a cigarette. (Snort. It’s awful, but can you blame her?) Read more

Mad Men Recap: “The Better Half” (Season 6, Episode 9) (5/28/13)

Poor Peggy Olson. She was doing so well, the last time we checked in on her. But in the world of Mad Men, no one gets to balance work, love, and happiness. It’s just not in the cards. (Let’s face it, it’s not easy in real life, either.)

Mad Men The Better Half Pete Campbell

Pete Campbell is in a bad place (again). Photo courtesy AMC.

The SCDP/CGC Creative team is still musing on Fleischmann’s margarine, and playing around with the pop psych advertising techniques that were appearing in the late ’60s. Ted insists that people will buy Fleischmann’s not in spite of, but because of its expensive price tag. There’s something to that, and advertising underwent a sea change in the 1960s as psychologists discovered the true reasons people buy stuff. As usual, Chaough is a little more progressive than Don. After all, he did say “Groovy” last week, much to Don’s chagrin.

Pete Campbell, still hankering for Don’s approval, says (rather petulantly),”Don, I agree with you.” Harry Crane is like, “eff this I’m out.” Don calls Peggy into the conference room to actually choose between his approach and Ted’s. She refuses. Honey, you can’t be Switzerland forever. Things just don’t work that way. She knows exactly what Don’s up to, and she lets him know it. Their relationship is becoming more complex and fun to watch as Peggy continues to climb the ranks. He respects her, and it’s refreshing. “Your opinion matters,” Don tells her. It’s a big statement, one that doesn’t come lightly to Mr. Draper. “Ted’s interested in the idea, and you’re interested in your idea,” she answers. “He never makes me feel this way.” “He doesn’t know you,” Don replies.

Mad Men The Better Half Betty

Here she is, Mrs. Francis, back to her old self. Photo courtesy AMC.

Betty Francis, who digressed momentarily into mundane housewifery and too much junk food, is back to herself, every inch the politician’s wife in a sparkly yellow dress, impeccably crunchy hair, and green eyeshadow. While Henry’s on the phone, a very classy gentleman tells her, “I’d like to be alone with you all night.” Betty, her face all icy goodness, first tells him he doesn’t understand, she has three children. This is not an answer to his request, obviously. She’s as good at cat and mouse as she ever was, and testing the waters appropriately. Always vain, she asks him, “Do I look like I’ve had 3 kids?” On the limo ride home, Henry lectures her, and appropriately enough she acts like a child (Betty has never been particularly mature). “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble,” she says, allowing him to clutch her chin and scold her. Their father/daughter dynamic is oddly sexual, and knowing that his wife is once again desirable evidently gets Henry in the mood for limo fornication.

In the West 80s, Abe was stabbed in the arm getting off the subway, and refusing to cooperate with the policeman. “This is a fucking police state,” Abe yells to Peggy after ushering the skeptical officer out the door. “It’s fascinating, the attitudes I’m encountering.” Peggy first treats him as though he has some weird variation on PTSD (which, I think, would’ve still been called “shellshock” at the time). He asks her (rightly) not to patronize him, to which she responds snidely, “I don’t care if I take a loss, I’m going to sell this shithole.”

Roger Sterling, unsurprisingly, has no idea how to be a father. When he takes Margaret’s son so the kid can have a “special day with Pop Pop,” Roger uses the child to flirt with the secretaries, then tries to impress Joan, and finally he takes him to Planet of the Apes. (This is an interesting juxtaposition, since that is the movie in which, a few weeks ago, Don Draper realized he actually loves his son.)

At Harry Crane’s grouchy suggestion, Pete sets up a clandestine meeting in his grungy apartment with headhunter and throwback Duck Phillips. Everybody’s seeing headhunters – so much cheating in this season. Pete, though, is really and truly floudering. When he tells Duck he just doesn’t think there’s more he can do at work, he gazes down into his whiskey with genuine sadness. Is it possible I’m actually feeling sorry for Pete Campbell? (Nah.)

At her job, Megan is playing two roles, sisters who want the same thing but go about getting it very differently. The maid, whom we’d already met, the cheating cheater that Don visited on set, is one half of this duo – and the other sister, evidently blond and named Collette, is also a cheating cheater. Infidelity: it’s the name of the game in season six.

Megan packs Don’s suitcase for his trip to visit Bobby at camp, and sends him on his merry way. Don pulls into a gas station to fill up, and is bemused by the attendant, who’s eyeing the derriere of an attractive blonde. When the lady leans out of the car again, it turns out it’s none other than Betty Francis, also on the way to visit Bobby at camp. “Are you lost, too?” she asks him; there’s more depth to that question than either of them realizes. Everyone on this show is lost.

Meanwhile, back in the office, Peggy is beginning to realize just how difficult it’s going to be to balance Ted and Don. After a presentation, Ted yells at Peggy for touching his hand, for smiling at him. She tells him she forgot about the kiss, and he replies he hasn’t. He’s “a boss in love with his protege.” It comes back to her assertion to Don earlier that Ted never makes her feel the way Don does – remember how, in the first season, Peggy briefly and embarrassingly propositioned Don? That was never meant to happen, but one imagines it stung – and Peggy’s feelings for Ted are jumbled with her feelings about Don and Abe, as well as her respect for him.

At camp, Bobby is ecstatic to see his parents, who are for once acting civilly toward one another (Don’s indiscretion, the one that allowed Betty’s kids to be held hostage by Grandma Ida, is evidently forgotten). Don, never the family man, finds himself very charmed by Betty’s interactions with Bobby. Bobby teaches mom and dad a new song about Father Abraham’s seven sons, and the Draper family, broken and busted such as it is, sings a children’s song while smiling at each other. It is one of the weirder (and more heartwarming) moments of the season.

Mad Men The Better Half Drapers

Father Abraham has seven sons, and the Drapers are acting weird. Photo courtesy AMC.

Don and Betty are, of course, remarkably similar. After putting Bobby back to bed, they find themselves at the same hotel. Both of them crave booze, and they have a drink together. Betty, visually and developmentally, is very much like her first season iteration. Smoking too much, reminiscing about a trip the two of them took Lake Champlain with Betty’s parents. As any pair of parents is prone to do, they discuss the oddness of trying to parent a teenage girl. Betty doesn’t understand her and says Sally’s more like Don, but Don says she’s more like Betty. Both are correct. “When I saw you earlier today, I…forgot how mad I was at you,” Betty says, and she leaves the hotel room door open. When he grabs her by the back of the neck, we realize that Henry’s controlling, patriarchal behavior is really what Betty wants…and it doesn’t need to come from her husband. For the second time, Betty asks a flirtatious man for affirmation. She’s forever concerned about what people see when they see her. Aren’t we all?

While Don’s off having sex with his ex-wife, Megan’s getting drunk with Arlene (one half of the couple who propositioned her and Don a few episodes ago). Megan, unsure where to turn, tells Arlene she feels lonely. Arlene kisses her. Megan accuses her of taking advantage of a compromising situation, and Arlene accuses her, rather gently, of being a tease.

“I’m thinking of how different you are, before and after,” Betty tells Don as they enjoy pillow talk after they’re done with the lovemaking. Betty knows she can only hold his attention for so long. “Why is sex the definition of being close to someone?” Don muses. “That poor girl,” Betty says of Megan, touching Don’s face while she says it. “She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.” In these moments with Don, Betty is anything but childlike. She is, in fact, wise. Sometimes we forget that Don and Betty were married for a reason, that they’re far more similar than they’d like to admit.

Back in the City, Megan has successfully turned down a woman’s advances in favor of her rapidly failing marriage, which is something Don doesn’t ever manage to do. When he returns, she’s on the balcony staring out into the city in a t-shirt and panties. “I missed you.” The sirens are actually drowning out her words for the second time in the episode. She can’t be heard over the noises of the city. In a surprise move, Don agrees with Megan. “You’re right, I haven’t been here,” he says, and hugs her gently. He was clearly hurt by Betty’s coolness to him the morning after, while eating breakfast with Henry. He knows not to expect anything else – and something tells me he’s not done sowing those oats. However, perhaps his tryst with Betty, ill-advised as it was, will convince him he needs to be better to his wife. (Doubtful, really – but it’s lovely to think of it.)

Mad Men The Better Half Pete Joan

No one can solve your problems for you, Pete. Photo courtesy AMC.

In another play for my sympathy, Pete asks Joan, “Do you feel my attention to business has been dilute?” Joan notes that she can’t solve Pete’s problems (a mother, son, job, and complex relationship), she has those problems. Indeed, she appears to be entering into a relationship with Bob Benson. They’re taking Kevin to the beach. Having been rebuffed (scolded, really) by his daughter after taking his grandson to Planet of the Apes, Roger makes another play to get into his true son’s life. He shows up at Joan’s door with a gift of Lincoln Logs (I loved those!). When he realizes what’s going on, Roger is upset. “I guess we’re all a little bit out of context right now,” he says. In other news, Joan tells Bob that Pete’s in need of a nurse for his mother, and Bob – who is entirely too good a character at this point, and I’m curious about his true motives – gets Pete the name of a nurse. “Is he Spanish from Spain?” Pete asks, taking the name begrudgingly. “Because otherwise my mother will refuse.” Oh, 1968. You’re great. “He’s very well bred,” Bob says, a slightly amused expression on his face.

Even as the sirens drown out Megan’s pleas for Don’s love, Abe is busily trying to convince Peggy that they’re in the best possible place for them. She can’t handle the danger. “Maybe we’re not cut out to be pioneers,” Abe says, admitting that maybe they didn’t make the right choice. Someone has thrown a rock through the window, and Abe has been stabbed getting off the subway. Instead of allowing the police to do their jobs, Abe, forever the counterculture instigator, tells Peggy she’s a fascist for trying to cooperate with them.

After Abe leaves her at home so he can work, Peggy hears a commotion. She goes to the window with a bayonet, and when she’s surprised by an “intruder” in the house, she accidentally stabs her boyfriend with a bayonet. In the ambulance, dripping blood and sweat, blue-faced, Abe tells her all the things he’s been meaning to. “You’re a scared person who hides behind complacency. I thought you’d be braver because you’re in advertising. Your activities are offensive to my every waking moment. I’m sorry, but you’ll always be the enemy.” Well, why don’t you tell us how you really feel? We’ve known for awhile that this relationship was unlikely to work out – but this minor, violent explosion was unexpected.

Mad Men The Better Half Peggy

Peggy is also in a bad place. Photo courtesy AMC.

The next morning, Peggy arrives at the office looking like complete shit. Dark circles stain her eyes, her unwashed hair hangs lank around her head. She approaches Ted first, telling him firs that “Abe was stabbed,” then that he was going to be fine, then, “It’s over, we’re done.” Ted reacts with eerie good nature. “It’s Monday morning, Peggy!” he cries, smiling. “Let’s get to work!” Don tells her promptly to round up the troops for the Monday meeting, and the two of them close their office doors. The two most important men in her life (or at least, the most important ones she hasn’t accidentally stabbed) leavePeggy standing, stunned and alone, on the opposite side of two closed doors. This, the writers are telling us, is what not choosing a side gets you.

All things considered, this episode presented a lot of information and didn’t really give us a hint as to what we should do with it. Don and Betty have hit a point in their relationship where they’re able to interact again, which is great. However, only one of them knows that sex is “the definition of being close to someone.” Megan is alone, lonely, and unable to be heard. Peggy Olson suffered the most this week – but I suppose we knew that was coming. It’s certainly a blow, considering how well she handled last week’s office shenanigans. You get knocked down, but you get up again, I guess. Such is the way of the Mad Men ‘verse.

For more Mad Men recaps, please join me at the soon-to-be live site musingonmedia. I’ll be continuing to write there, as well as with a number of other publications.

In the comments, share how you felt about this episode!

Mad Men Recap: “Man with a Plan” and “The Crash” (Season 6, Episodes 7 and 8) (5/22/13)

Well. Mad Men just got weird, huh? This happens about the same time every season; picture the guy who lost his foot to the lawnmower blade, or Roger Sterling tripping balls. The show’s been struggling with how to portray the transition from the 1950s toward the Summer of Love, and drugs and sex have played a large part, obviously.

I’m still running on the idea that during the show’s lengthy hiatus between seasons five and six, AMC slashed The Walking Dead‘s budget in order to cater to the demands of Weiner and his cast, but as a result the network stipulated that everything be just a tad simpler for the average viewer. It aggravates me – part of the reason Mad Men has always been good (nay, brilliant at times) TV is that you have to think. The last few seasons have basically opened each episode with a clear theme and then played it straight into the ground. Maybe it’s because I’m a total film nerd, but I love to analyze…and the writers have made thematic analysis nearly unnecessary. Womp womp.

Then, about once a season, they air an episode like Sunday’s “The Crash,” and I feel like I’ve been smacked upside the head (and I love it).

Two weeks ago, the episode began with the first day of the SCDP/CGC merger. In other words, it began in total chaos. It continued to loop back around itself, drawing comparisons to previous episodes, prior situations. Mad Men does the time warp again!

Mad Men Season 6 Joan Peggy

Peggy Olson, Coffee Chief. How times haven’t changed. Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

At the Drapers’ building, Sylvia is shrieking at Arnie about money, that he isn’t taking care of her, and Don shuts the elevator door on that argument. In the office, the SCDP/CGC execs are making tough decisions about how to compartmentalize the newly merged staff, both physically and mentally. Joan is truly happy to see Peggy, we notice. This scene is pretty warm and fuzzy – these women should’ve been friends for ages, but their mutual interest in power, and the vastly different ways they’ve gone about getting it, have kept them from expressing true kindness to one another.

In the morning meeting, Pete Campbell doesn’t have a seat. Ted Chaough’s secretary Moira gives up her chair, and Ted gives up his for Moira, perching uncomfortably on the radiator as Pete sits comfortably next to Moira. Oh, Pete. You’re a hot mess as always. At home (at least, in his seedy, raunchy apartment – a “pied-à-terre”), he’s wrestling with his senile mother, who doesn’t know what year it is half the time.

Just to show us what year it is, and how our characters are reacting, the SCDP/CGC team takes on an account with Fleischmann’s Margarine. “Groovy,” says Ted, and we cut to Don’s bitchface at that ridiculous slang term. Get with the times, Don. As we’re looping around, time is oddly fluid. Roger fires Bert (SCDP’s former head of accounts) again, and enjoys it just as much the second time. Unfortunately this means poor Bob Benson is in imminent danger.

Mad Men Season 6 Sylvia head scarf

“I need you, and nothing else will do.” These are exactly the words Don needs to hear. Photo courtesy AMC.

A call from Sylvia tugs at Don, even in the midst of the merger. “I need you and nothing else will do,” she tells him repeatedly. He stashes her in a hotel room, much as Pete stashes his mother in his pied-à-terre. Although Sylvia clearly gets off on Don’s dominant behavior, she also resents it. “I can talk about whatever I want,” she says when he admonishes her for speaking Arnie’s name. At his command, she grabs his shoes for him and kneels to put them on his feet; a guilty Catholic doing penance. Sylvia, sweaty and tousled in bed, touches herself even as she follows Don’s orders.

When Don doesn’t show up to the Margarine meeting because he’s too busy commandeering Sylvia, Ted Chaough asks Creative to free associate. How very 1960s. Peggy, who spouts trivia about the origin of margarine, is the apple of Ted’s and Stan’s eyes. When Don shows up late, Peggy and Ted are understandably miffed. Chaough gives him a slight dressing down, and Don slams the door in his face like the child he is.

Now that Don has reasserted control over Sylvia, he reasserts it over Ted by pouring him whiskey after whiskey in the name of “camaraderie.” Ted can’t keep up with him, and Don knows it. He’s frightened and impressed by Ted’s “formula” for coming up with answers to creative quandaries, and Ted wonders why Don doesn’t have a formula aside from booze. After Don’s gets Chaough stinking drunk in the office, he feels like he’s the king again. Gross, Don.

Mad Men Season 6 Joan Holloway

There were no photos of Joan dealing with her ovarian cyst in the ER with Bob Benson, so I’ll substitute this one. I’m sure the real Joan Holloway would want it that way – and hey, who doesn’t want to look at this warm smile? Photo credit Michael Yarish/AMC.

In a brilliantly edited sequence, a knock on Sylvia’s hotel room door puts a sexy red (the color of whores in Don Draper’s mind) dress in her hands; a knock on Joan’s office door reveals her (an occasional prostitute) in a very distressed state. Bob secretly escorts her on his arm out the front door. At the ER, she tells Bob he should go home. He says, “I don’t have anywhere to go.” Cringe. However, his ingenuity saves the day – he tells the nurse she drank furniture polish (oh, stupid women, forgetting to check labels!) to get her past the waiting room. A bit later, Bob stops by Joan’s house to check on her. When her mom comments that he’s adorable, Joan says, “He’s too young…he’s worrying about his job.” Gail says, “Honestly, Joan, every good deed is not part of the plan.” It is indeed something Joanie should remember…but it’s a difficult task for someone who’s been taken advantage of. As a result of his gallantry, she tries to save his job, but doesn’t succeed. Could this lead to a romance? Now that Bob doesn’t have a job anymore, he’d be free to court Joan. And he is adorable.

Ted Chaough and Don aren’t sure what to do with one another, but they recognize each other. Peggy pops into Don’s office unannounced, and he actually knows he’s in trouble. Peggy Olson is one of the only people in Don’s life who has the power to make him feel truly badly. Don lost Peggy, and he used Chaough to get her back. She knows it. “I hoped he’d rub off on you, not the other way around.” When Don, in typical fashion, says that Ted’s an adult, Peggy speaks the words we’ve all been thinking: “So are you. Move forward.”

After Gleason advises Ted to take Don’s hit like a man, so to speak, Ted flies Don to upstate to Mohawk in his own plane, in a rainstorm. This is one of those times when the writing could’ve been a little less obvious. Ted Chaough pilots them into the sun above the clouds. He puts on his sunglasses and tells Don, “Sometimes when you’re flying, you think you’re right side up but you’re upside down. Gotta watch your instruments.” Ted is back in control – and this time, of Don’s life. Don knows it. He picks up the book he took from Sylvia before leaving her in that room by herself. “No matter what I say, you’re the guy who flew us up here in his own plane,” he says to Ted. Truth. One hopes the dick-measuring contest won’t last much longer.

When Don returns to Sylvia in her hidey-hole, she’s no longer interested in being his whore. She’s taken off the red dress, put on her sensible jewelry and old-fashioned frock, and tells him gently that it’s all over. She means it. Don, in an odd twist, begs her to stay. Back at the Draper abode, Megan is talking, but Don can’t hear it. Pete’s mom tells him about Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, but Pete says, “That was years ago, Mother.” His mother laments, “They’re shooting everybody.” Let’s do the time warp again!

Sunday’s episode opened on a startling scene of, well, “The Crash:” Kenny Cosgrove struggles with the wheel of a car with a bunch of hooligans, waving around guns and putting their hands over his eyes. Of course, they get in an accident; it’s like one of his adventure novels, without the sci-fi element (whatever happened to Cosgrove’s erstwhile writing career?). When he walks into the office, Cosgrove has a cane and a sliced up face. Everybody is tired and miserable, and they look it. It turns out the hooligans were from Chevy, and they didn’t like the latest pitch either.

At home, Don isn’t sleeping; instead he’s standing outside the Rosens’ door, chain smoking and eavesdropping. Don panics a bit when he gets a call from” Dr. Rosen.” On the other end of the line, it’s Sylvia, who tells him in no uncertain terms that he’s got to leave her alone. The two of them are stuck with each other; their lies have entangled them. It seems a situation of mutually assured destruction; however, the last time someone thought he was safe due to the fear of mutually assured destruction, Pete Campbell lost Vick’s Chemical – because of a whorehouse.

Speaking of whorehouses, this episode is punctuated with Don’s flashbacks. When, in his vaguely ill state of distress and exhaustion, he has a coughing fit, he remembers clearly a childhood illness and the whore who took care of him better than his stepmother ever could. When he awakens from a long nap, Cutler ushers him into his office, where a hack doctor is giving everyone a shot. An “energy serum,” a “complex vitamin superdose of B vitamins” and “a mild stimulant.” When Don leaves the office, Cutler and Stan are actually foot-racing manically, their eyes glittering.

Mad Men Season 6 Cutler Stan

Not everyday behavior at SCDP/CGC…we hope. Photo credit Jordin Althaus/AMC.

Just to make the afternoon a little trippier, Ted reports that Gleason has died. On the stairs (those stairs are becoming the centerpiece of the show), Don feels the drugs kick in. He sees Peggy with Ted and loses it a little. This is a man who absolutely cannot stand being out of control – and Peggy is not under his thumb anymore. He has another flashback to Amy, the whore who cared for him when he was sick with a chest cold.

Basically, at SCDP in this episode, everybody’s out of his damn mind while Peggy and Ginsberg, the (relatively) sober ones, are trying to come up with actual ideas for Margarine. Stan comes up with 666 ideas, but Ginsberg mentions Vietnam before he can tell them about his brilliant thoughts – “You just flushed a toilet in my head!” he cries; we don’t know it yet but Stan’s cousin was recently killed in action, and he’s really in a bad place.

THIS HAPPENED:

Like I said, everybody’s out of his mind. Gleason’s daughter, a hippie chick who’s telling fortunes and propositioning Don, brings yet another trippy element to the weekend. She asks him to think of a question; he doesn’t contradict her when she says everyone’s silent inquiry is, “Does someone love me?” She puts a stethoscope on Don’s chest, and says she can’t hear anything. “I think it’s broken,” she says, and Don asks if you can hear a broken heart. She obviously means that the stethoscope is broken…but that line of dialogue, the double entendre, certainly does make us feel like we’re on drugs.

Don, who can’t get his thoughts straight to save his life, asks Peggy to get into the archives and look back at 1958-1959 for a soup ad. She turns to Cutler and says, “Do you see the mess you’ve made?” Again, she’s one of the only women who can tell these guys what they need to hear. When Don locates the ad, he has another flashback to Amy, feeding him soup in a headscarf. “Because you know what he needs,” the ad copy reads, floating above a graphic of a woman feeding her son soup…in a headscarf.

Because everybody’s wasted, Ginsberg throws a dart at Stan, and it promptly lodges in his arm. Peggy, who’s only drunk, not speeding around on amphetamines, makes him wash it. She’s wasted, he’s wasted, they’re all wasted. Why isn’t my office like this? She’s taking care of him – much like Don is fantasizing about being taken care of. Because none of the men in this show seem able to compartmentalize, Stan leans over and kisses her. She fends off his advances quite pleasantly and with aplomb, but she kisses him back nonetheless. He reveals that his cousin was killed. So many dead boys. He unsuccessfully tries to cajole her into sleeping with him, and she picks up his hand from his kene and tells him she’s had loss (this is a direct reference to the loss of her child). “You have to let yourself feel it. You can’t dampen it with drugs and sex; it won’t get you through.” He tells her, “You’ve got a great ass.” She turns and says softly, “Thank you.” Who’d’ve thought, five seasons ago, Peggy Olson would be fending off genuinely respectful office advances (unlike that roach Pete Campbell’s initial advances in every way); who would have believed she’d be so graceful in her sexuality? It’s a little unconvincing and adds to the episode’s off-kilter feel.

Mad Men Season 6 Bobby Sally Grandma Ida

No, kids, you’re not Negroes. New York City is just not a place where you leave the back door open. Photo credit Jordin Althaus/AMC.

At the Draper apartment, Megan tries everything to get Don home, but ends up leaving the kids alone for the evening while she pursues her career. Sally is reading Rosemary’s Baby when she hears a noise. There’s an elderly black woman in the house, looking through their belongings. She tells Sally she’s their “Grandma Ida,” who raised their daddy. Obviously she’s a con woman, but Sally, who knows nothing about her father’s upbringing, takes forever to figure it out. “He still handsome? Your momma still a piece of work?” The woman uses brilliant leading questions. Both of these things are true – and they’re true of a lot of families. Bobby tells her where to find Don’s four gold watches. Just as Sally picks up the phone to call 911, he asks excitedly, “ARE WE NEGROES?!” (I can’t even write it without giggling – and I’ve watched the episode twice and had to pause here because that question is so ridiculous and strange…and in keeping with the rest of the episode.)

Don, in his drug-fueled haze, comes up with the most brilliant idea ever…only it isn’t. No one understands what he’s trying to say – except, maybe, Ginsberg. “No, I don’t have time for art!” Don exclaims as he exits the building. In the hallway, Cutler silently draws Peggy’s attention to Wendy, who’s slowly riding Stan on his couch. Peggy makes Linemouth face and announces she’s going home. Everybody’s on drugs, people are fucking openly in the office (because that’s exactly what this is); everyone’s preoccupied with whores and death…and Peggy Olson is taking it all in stride.

Don walks into his building with some harebrained scheme about opening Sylvia’s door and telling her how he really feels, only to find his entire family, including Henry and Betty, in his apartment. Betty shoots out a bunch of stinging barbs about Henry’s future (“Did you know Henry’s running for office!?”), Megan’s irresponsibility (“She’s off on the casting couch”), and Don’s lies (“What does he tell everybody, he’s at work?”). In the face of these, the drugs, and the realization that his mistress/whore is next door while his ex-wife and wife are angry with him, Don passes out. This leads to a final flashback: Amy tells the proprietor of the whorehouse that she took Don’s/Dick’s cherry, which results in Abigail beating him with a wooden spoon, screaming that he’s trash. He was punished for losing his virginity, he was punished for his mother’s absence; he was beaten by a whore for having sex. This is how Don became Don. We didn’t really need it to be shoved in our faces, but if any episode was up to the task, it was this one.

Megan apologizes for her part in the hostage situation debacle, but it was actually Don who left the door open – quite literally, he left his family open to attack from malicious strangers because of his affair. When Sally tells him on the phone she actually doesn’t know anything about him, he reveals that it was his fault. A small bit of good parenting on the part of a man who recently admitted he doesn’t love his own children.

Mad Men Season 6 Ted Chaough

Don’t even ask what happened over the weekend, Ted. Also, love your suit. Photo credit Jordin Althaus/AMC.

When Ted arrives back in the office, he wonders just wtf happened over the long weekend. “Chevy is spelled wrong!” he cries, confused. Don says he’ll remain on Chevy as a consultant, as Art Director – but nothing more. “Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse,” he says, and turns his back, leaving Cutler and Chaough to stare after him quizzically.

To Don, every woman is either a mother figure or a whore. If Don isn’t in control, no one is. He lost his virginity to a whore (no surprise), he’s sleeping with a woman now who doesn’t really want to be his whore (no surprise), and he’s got some mommy issues to work through (really no surprise). In other news, SCDP/CGC has some kinks to work out, some power struggles and dick-measuring to get beyond, and if indeed they succeed at repping the doomed Vega, they’re all headed to hell in the proverbial handbasket.

How did you feel about the last two episodes? How about Don the Dom? What about Kenny Cosgrove’s crash and literal tap dance?