Tag Archive for Mad Men

Mad Men Recap: “Time Zones” (Season 7, Episode 1)

This season of Mad Men is its last; in all senses of the word, time is running out. Time is running out for the Madison Avenue lifestyle, the clock is ticking on the 1960s, and time is running out for our characters to fix what they’ve broken. As Freddy Rumsen remarks in the opening scene of Season 7, “This is the beginning of something,” but in fact this episode is the beginning of the end.

Despite their leaps forward in seasons past, Peggy and Joan are both struggling. Don’s drowning again, and Kenny Cosgrove is totally flipping his shit. Everybody’s dozing off, waking up late, remaining stagnant when they should be moving forward, and checking their watches as they do it. Time is of the essence in this episode, and it sets a distinct (and distinctly depressing) tone for the season. Last season launched the latest fan theory: Megan Draper as a doomed Sharon Tate, the late wife of Roman Polanski and victim of the Manson Family in 1969. Matthew Weiner is rarely so transparent, and as such I doubted the veracity of the theories – but this episode seems to give them more ground.

Rumsen still blends into the background. Photo credit AMC.

Rumsen still blends into the background. Photo credit AMC.

In the first scene, we get a close-up of none other than Freddy Rumsen, briefly studying some notes then launching into an earnest, thoughtful pitch for Accutron watches. The protagonist of the commercial “looks like Steve McQueen,” but wears a suit and tie. “This is a business man,” Freddy tells us. It’s “you, late 20s, shaggy, the youthful colleague. Staring at his watch as muffled conversation swirls around him.” Weiner films the scene as we’re used to him filming Don Draper – close, intimate, addressing the camera and thus, the audience. We’re the targets of this pitch. The Accutron pitch pits the Youngs against the Olds, an adept reflection of the cultural shift in the late 1960s. It’s on point, which is far more than anybody expects from Freddy “I pissed my pants” Rumsen. “Accutron: It’s not a timepiece, it’s a conversation piece,” he finishes, his eyes narrowed, face glowing. Peggy, of course, wants what Peggy wants. She ditches Rumsen’s brilliant pitch in favor of her own work: “Accutron: It’s time for a conversation” sounds more elegant to her.

I would wear everything Peggy is wearing here. Photo credit Jordin Althaus/AMC.

I would wear everything Peggy is wearing here. Photo credit Jordin Althaus/AMC.

And here we leap into the fray with Roger Sterling. A telephone phone rings, the sound reverberating about a darkened apartment as various nude people pass the phone to a duly naked Sterling. It’s his daughter Margaret calling, of course; no one else would be in touch with Roger – and he’s not terribly thrilled to hear from Margaret, either. When you’ve severed all your ties, being summoned makes you suspicious. He agrees to a brunch, but only if there’s vodka. After he hangs up, a naked girl about Margaret’s age props herself on her elbow, smiling. “I feel like we really got somewhere last night,” she says. All the drugs.

Lou Avery, the new Creative guy who replaced Don, is pretty deplorable, as it turns out. I mean, Don is deplorable, but he’s our antihero. A gent who comments on the race of his secretary by asking derisively, “What do we have here, Gladys Knight and the Pips?” is not someone we are built to like in the 21st century. He nitpicks Dawn (a woman of color in a sea of white folks), ignores Peggy (a woman in a sea of penises), and is generally a dick to everybody else.

Ken Cosgrove, he of the science fiction novels and the ability to compartmentalize, to stay out of the Madison Avenue fray, is wearing an eye patch (I assume due to the car accident with the Chevy team last season) and screaming at his help while Clara looks on sheepishly. He sends Clara to get him a buttered roll (really? a buttered roll?) and invites Joan into his office. He’s popping a pill direct from his shirt pocket; wonder what it is? Joan brings him the Avon file and says they’ve got another one to attend to: Butler Shoes. Kenny, who’s totally bogged down and upset, tells Joan to “make it go away.” It’s notable that in the first scene she’s in, Joan is walking up the stairs, wearing her power color of regal purple. She’s always walking up the stairs in this episode. Read more

I’ve redecorated. Help warm my (metaphorical) house!

Big things are afoot. In the last few months I’ve decided firmly to take my own happiness, my few belongings, my space (both physical and online), and my work, and shape it into something that makes me feel proud and comfortable.

Needless to say, I’m a little extra antisocial and more depleted than usual. On top of moving and assembling actual furniture, figuring placement of decorations and lights, and deciding (yet again) to renew the lease with my less-than-ideal landlady, I’m also studying for a huge exam that’ll help me obtain a three-letter title (and hopefully more mobility and more money). Finally, I’m revamping this place (which has a much better landlord). The redecoration process has been lengthy and unexciting – but it is nearly complete.

Just in time for the final season of Mad Men, I’ve archived all of my recaps of seasons 5 and 6 (and holy shit, do you guys remember just how trippy season 5 was?). Likewise, all my recaps of The Walking Dead are up, starting from a blog after the series premiere and continuing all the way through to this Sunday’s episode. Finally, use the navigation up top to browse through old movie reviews; they’re loosely categorized for search purposes. I only put up the ones I want to show you. It’s kind of like rearranging my downstairs bookshelf so that the pretty hardcovers, the “sophisticated” Salinger, Oates, and Chabon are on display. The Charlaine Harris and Stephen King books reside upstairs (and are dogeared because I love them).

I’m no graphic designer, but in preparation for Mad Men I’ve pasted up some temporary wallpaper that’ll make your eyes twitch (like so many of the color combos of the 1960s did). I also made my hair purple, because you know what? I feel purple.

Settling is for suckers.

Settling is for suckers.

So come in, please, and make yourself comfortable. Make yourself a martini. Do take a tour. It ain’t much, but it’s home. For now.

The Game of Thrones discussion / short radio silence

They say when one door closes (i.e. California Literary Review closing up shop), another opens. Indeed, when I approached a number of other publications about writing for them, I got great feedback. Thanks to CLR, I’ve built a portfolio that has been readily available and easily linked (up until June 18th, when the website goes down entirely). I’m in the process of transferring four years of work, about 200 pieces, the majority of them from 2010 when I was holding up the entire Film & TV portion of the website by myself, to this site. It is time-consuming, nostalgic, and slightly liberating – but with my actual job picking up recently, it’s overwhelming.

I wrote a piece on Mad Men and Game of Thrones for PolicyMic, and it got quite a bit of attention. The comments were largely intelligent, contradictory, and made very good points. Because I’ve been tired and scatterbrained, I probably didn’t make the argument in as concise and clear a way as I could have. And there are trolls everywhere, of course. My skin has gotten pretty thick in the last four years, but it’s worth noting that being called names and told you’re wrong by even a few commenters is pretty rough.

After the first piece, they were anxious to hear more from me, so even though I’ve been braindead and scattered this week, I wrote a companion piece about Game of Thrones only, in which I responded to the commenters’ (often valid) criticisms of the original argument. It’s really a great experience to be able to engage with people in an active, intelligent community. It’s also stressful as fuck. I currently get emails every time someone comments, and I almost don’t want to open them because I just don’t have the energy to take on the internet right now.Beauty and the Beast 2017 movie download

It might be that, after I watch this week’s Mad Men (yeah, I’m THAT behind in life) and write a brief recap/opinion piece on it here, I’ll need to take a break for awhile. I’ll be setting up this site, playing around with navigation, and adding articles and reviews as they come. I may not be writing for a few weeks. I hope you’ll stick with me while I’m making the transition.

Over and out.

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?