All the books I read this year

Towards the end of 2014 I realized I wasn’t reading books anymore. Sure there was always a book “I was reading,” but that basically meant there was a book I had started months ago sitting next to my bed. I decided to start reading again, and because I document things, I decided to keep a list of the books I read in 2015. It’s dumb, but that was basically all it took for me to start reading again, and I read more this year than I have in the last 10 years combined, probably. Below is a list of all the books I read this year. I didn’t start tracking the date I finished the books until the middle of the year. I bolded the books I recommend you read.

My 4 favorite books of the year:
Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel
The Martian – Andy Weir
Undermajordomo Minor – Patrick DeWitt
The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt

1. 11/22/63 – Stephen King – Pretty good, fast read. My first Stephen King book in 20 years after reading most of them up to that point.
2. Deep Down – Lee Child – I like Jack Reacher books.
3. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn – Better than the movie. Pretty big twist, in case you haven’t read it.
4. A Wanted Man – Lee Child – I like Jack Reacher books.
5. Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel – My favorite book of the first half of the year! READ THIS.
6. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. – Adelle Waldman – I can hardly remember how annoying the main character was in this well-written book.
7. High Heat – Lee Child – I like Jack Reacher books.
8. Never Go Back – Lee Child – I like Jack Reacher books.
9. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – Ben Fountain – I remember liking reading this, and certain snippets of the story, but not much else.
10. Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel – I didn’t think I would like this, but I did!
11. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour – Joshua Ferris – I thought I would like this, but I didn’t!
12. The Vacationers – Emma Straub – This book had a trick at the beginning I really admired. Enjoyable vacation read. READ THIS.
13. Annihilation – Book 1 of The Southern Reach Trilogy – Jeff Vandermeer – Ugh! I did not like this.
14. Graveyard of Memories – Barry Eisler – I like John Rain books.
15. Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith – I liked the first three fourths of this book before the author decided to turn it into a trilogy. This could have been half as long if you removed all the super detailed and interesting info about the former Soviet Union. READ THIS. (Weakest READ THIS on the list.)
16. The Secret Speech – Tom Rob Smith – Not bad, but not great. I read this because I read the first one.
17. Agent 6 – Tom Rob Smith – Not bad, but not good. I read this because I read the first two.
18. The Martian – Andy Weir – This would have been my second favorite book of the first half of the year if I hadn’t read Station Eleven. READ THIS.
19. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng – I don’t know quite why this one was something I liked, but it was. READ THIS.
Not A Drill – Lee Child – I like Jack Reacher books.
20. Personal – Lee Child – I like Jack Reacher books.
21. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr – Eminently readable and excellent. Everyone will tell you to read this and I wouldn’t try to convince you otherwise.
22. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins – Not as good as Gone Girl or even as good as the Gone Girl movie, but I bet the movie of this will be pretty good.
23. Authority – Book 2 of The Southern Reach Trilogy – Jeff Vandermeer – Ugh. I read this because I read the first one.
24. Sous Chef: 24 Hours On The Line – Michael Gibney – It was alright.
25. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi – This was great. READ THIS.
26. Wolf in White Van – John Darnielle – This was good and not like anything I’ve ever read. READ THIS.
27. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloane – This was good. Very pleasant to read. READ THIS.
28. Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City – Choire Sicha – Interesting story telling style. READ THIS.
29. Moonlight Mile – Dennis Lehane – The most formulaic book I read this year?
30. The Farm – Tom Rob Smith – I read this because I read the author’s other books this year. It was better than Girl on a Train, not as good as his other books.
31. Tree of Smoke – Denis Johnson – This took forever to get into and read, but was interesting eventually.
32. Bone Clocks – David Mitchell – I can’t remember what this is about, but I remember not being very excited about it.
33. Sweet Tooth – Ian McEwan – I mean, it was well written, and sweet, but not terribly compelling.
34. Gray Mountain – John Grisham – I remember liking John Grisham books, but this was terrible. Was this the worst book I read this year?
35. Telegraph Ave – Michael Chabon (6/30/15) – This was fun to read, but took me forever to get through.
36. Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty (7/6/15) – Better than Girl on a Train, at least, and the setting sounded amazing.
37. Skippy Dies – Paul Murray (7/13/15) – Depressing story, fun to read! READ THIS.
38. State of Wonder – Ann Patchett (7/19/15) – This was fine.
39. This is How You Lose Her – Junot Diaz (7/20/15) – I read this in a day and a half. READ THIS.
40. The Sandcastle Girls – Chris Bohjalian (7/26/15) – I did not really like this book at all, but it could have been much worse.
41. We Others – Steven Millhauser (8/11/15) – I had Milhauser as a professor in college. A lot of these stories were familiar if you’ve read Martin Dressler. It took forever for me to get through.
42. Dark Places – Gillian Flynn (8/19/15) – I had to watch the movie trailer to remember what this book was about, and even then, I’m still not totally sure it worked.
43. The Gold Finch – Donna Tartt (8/26/15) – I had no idea what this was about before I started reading it, except that it was very popular last year. It was good!
44. The Metropolis Case – Matthew Gallaway (9/6/15) – I wanted to like this book so much more, but it was only alright.
45. Open City – Teju Cole (9/16/15) – Lots of people say this is the best book in recent history. It was good, but I wouldn’t go that far. Big twist at the end makes the book a lot more thought provoking.
46. Between the World and Me – Ta-Nahisi Coates (9/22/15) – What more can be said about the book topping most of the best of lists? READ THIS.
47. The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman (9/27/15) – Fun on vacation. READ THIS.
48. Absurdistan – Gary Shteyngart (10/5/15) – Not very fun, even on vacation.
49. Undermajordomo Minor – Patrick DeWitt (10/7/15) – My favorite book of the second half of the year! I enthusiastically recommend you READ THIS RIGHT NOW.
50. The Big Short – Michael Lewis (10/12/15) – He’s written this book before, and it’s still interesting.
51. Nothing Lasts Forever – Roderick Thorpe (10/15/15) – This is the book Die Hard is based on, which as a super fan, I was compelled to read. It takes place in the 70s, and the John McClain character is a grandfather. Surprise ending!
52. Acceptance – Book 3 of The Southern Reach Trilogy – Jeff Vandermeer (10/25/15) – I only read this because I read the first two. I wanted to like the whole trilogy, but I couldn’t.
53. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – Gabrielle Zevin (10/27/15) – This was very fun to read. READ THIS.
54. The Tiger’s Wife – Téa Obreht (11/7/15) – What a unique story! Borderline READ THIS, but hard to get into.
55. Make Me – Lee Child (11/13/15) – I like Jack Reacher books.
56. The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt (11/17/15) – I liked this almost as much as I liked Undermajordomo Minor. READ THIS.
57. Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests – Tom Shales, James Andrew Miller (11/28/15) – There were a bunch of interesting stories in here, but it was also super long, and sections dragged.

All the books I read this year

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 14 Recap

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap.

Episode title: “Person to Person” – People change, from one person to another, and people make collect phone calls.
Episode timing: Sometime around Halloween as evidenced by the Halloween decorations in Peggy’s office.

I want to start this week’s recap by saying thank you for reading! It’s been about a year since I posted on Unlikely Words with any regularity, really, it’s only been Mad Men recaps. I’m not really sure if I blog anymore, so there’s a semi-real possibility this will be my last post. That seems strange, I’ll probably post again, maybe tomorrow, but if I don’t this post is a fitting end. At least to the Mad Men recaps, which have been a lot of fun over the years. Even when Chris and I stayed up into the middle of the night to write them.

I thought it would have made sense to list a couple questions we were hoping to get answered before the episode, but I didn’t do that, so there goes that idea. The big question, I suppose, was would Don go back to NY? And, the answer is no. But maybe! Depending on how you look at the decision to use the “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” song, maybe Don got himself straightened out doing yoga and went home to create one of the biggest advertisements of all time. I suppose as the recapper, I have to say where I stand? I don’t know! It’s not very subtle, when the show always has been. If Don created the ad, wouldn’t showing him triumphant have been the way to do it? It’s too neat, it’s too simple, it’s too cute. I don’t think Don did it, but I like how they used the song to create the discussion.

The opening scene has Don Mad Maxing his way the desert. Another reference to Don knowing about cars. Did you hear The Doors’ “Hello, I love you” playing? The next line being, “Won’t you tell me your name?” This was the first Dick Whitman heavy episode in a while.

When Roger fires Meredith, he says, “There are a lot of better places than here” then tells her she’ll land on her feet, a reference to everyone’s favorite theory about someone jumping out of a window.

Joan and Richard do cocaine while on vacation and talk about the future. He mentions something about her future being something to develop. When she decides on a new career, he leaves. She wanted him to stay, but not more than she wanted to build something of her own. “Let yourself have a future with me.” “You act like this is happening to you, but you’re making a choice.” “I can’t just turn off that part of myself.” Peggy has always liked Joan more than Joan liked Peggy, but I think Joan has always at least respected Peggy. To some extent, Peggy showed Joan it was possible to be more than a secretary. Joan knows Peggy is ambitious and wants to be the boss, so she offers her a partnership in Harris Olson. Peggy balks, so Joan founds Holloway Harris. “You need two names to make it sound real.”. Roger leaving money to Kevin probably made it easier for Joan to take the risk. Also, when Joan met with Ken, he said, “How’s the family?” and she says, “How’s Eddie?” Joan is a pretty good account woman, Ken is supposed to be, but doesn’t know her kid’s name.

Did you catch all the familiar lines? Peggy says, “A thing like that.” to Pete, something he used to say regularly. Harry said, “Don’t do that.” to Peggy, something Roger says pretty regularly. Peggy said, “I don’t even think about you.” to Stan, something Don said to Ginsberg in Season 5.

I don’t think I ever saw a color TV on Mad Men until 3 scenes in tonight’s episode. Is it because this is what the future looks like?

Goodbyes on this episode: Peggy and Pete, “Keep it up, you’ll be a creative director by 1980.”, Don and Betty, Roger and Joan.

Roger and Marie get married, “Yell at me slower or in English.” Roger has continued to be a part of Kevin’s life, taking him out from time to time, leaving half his estate to him. Roger and Joan hadn’t ever been quite so explicit, I don’t think: “Our beautiful little boy.”

Stephanie Draper isn’t living with her kid, kind of referencing Don not being there for his kids. “You don’t know what happens to people when they believe in things.” Don doesn’t believe in anything? I think what’s happening is Don’s trying to tell her she can move on from her kid, and I think Stephanie isn’t really ready for that yet. “You can put this behind you. It will get easier as you move forward.” This reminds me of what Don said to Peggy when she gave up her baby, “This never happened. It will shock you how much this never happened.” Incidentally, that was the first Mad Men quote I ever begged Chris to draw, and he did, 5 years ago this week. MEMORIES!

On the phone, Sally is assertive and making sense. Don starts to minimize what she’s saying, but she pushes back. I really liked Sally this year. “Take me seriously.” I wonder what happens to her. I hope she doesn’t get stuck taking care of Gene and Bobby forever. Betty and Don share a moment when Don calls, but I feel like it was glossed over a bit by Don not coming home. I felt like Betty’s cancer would bring him home, but she told him not to come back. “Don’t let your pride interfere with my wishes.” “You not being here is part of that.” She gave him the flimsiest of excuses to stay away, to not take responsibility, and he jumped at it. I didn’t expect Don to shirk his responsibilities. Not even his responsibilities, but to live his life. She gave him an out and he took it, which he does ALL THE TIME. I guess the Coke commercial thing might make sense in that it means he eventually does come home, which makes sense to me, but if that’s the case, why not just send him home in this episode?

Last week there was the scene of Don peeing cut into a bottle being poured. This time, it was Don drinking cut into Ken drinking. I never noticed these cuts before.

Peggy and Stan! That was great. “What?! What’d you just say?” This was cute. The whole scene was funny and cute. “There’s more to life than work.” Is this what Don knows or doesn’t know?

When Don was in the seminar and everyone is communicating without talking, the lady pushes Don.

Everyone wanted one last Peggy Don scene. Don had never said goodbye to Peggy so he called her when he was lowest. Remember he called her after his car accident in New Jersey? “I messed everything up. I’m not the man you think I am.” Peggy asking Don, “What did you do that was so bad?” She knows he is hard on himself, but doesn’t know why. So we finally get to find out what Don feels guilty about. “Broke my vows. Scandalized my child. Took another man’s name and made nothing of it.” Is it this last one that bugs him so much? He got a chance for a new life and keeps screwing it up. Is that what he’s running from? Not being the man he wants to be? I don’t even know anymore.

“People just come and go, and no one says goodbye.” “People are free to come and go as they please.” This means something, but I’ve run out of time. (The perils of writing a recap when your two year old could wake up anytime within the next 4-7 hours.) Leonard, too. Leonard also means something. I wasn’t wild about this scene, first of all because, come on. Second of all. Don feels a connection with him, but I don’t buy it. For everything Leonard its, a forgettable office worker and family man, Don is not. Or maybe the point is that it doesn’t matter what your status is or how much everyone pays attention to you, you can still be lost. You can still be the food on the fridge shelf that no one picks. “You don’t even know what “it” is.”

The final scenes, Pete and family getting on the plane, Holloway Harris blowing up major, Sally doing dishes while Betty smokes in the dark, Stan and Peggy, and Don doing yoga and hearing about the new you.

Last song: In Perfect Harmony.

So did Don make the ad? Did Peggy become an art director? Do Roger and Marie make it? What happened to Pete in Wichita? Did Joan succeed? Did Harry Crane get what he deserved (an ass kicking)? Did Sally make it?

Goodbye, Mad Men.

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 14 Recap

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 13 Recap

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap.

Episode title: “The Milk and Honey Route” is probably a reference to the 1931 Nels Anderson hobo piece.
Episode timing: I can’t imagine Don’s been on the road for a whole month, but that’s about the timing for the last few episodes.

I can’t believe we’re one episode from the finale and they’re adding new story lines. It’s unconscionable! And it makes me think we’re not really going to get a neat conclusion for Don.

The first scene is Don being pulled over with questions about his identity. I thought it was funny he was in a suit and tie while driving across the country, that was the first clue the scene was a dream. It’s been frustrating the last few years that Don’s identity storyline hasn’t been part of the show, so on the one hand, I’m glad it’s back to being discussed. On the other hand, it’s frustrating to ignore this big topic for two seasons and then come back to it.

Betty has terminal cancer and the kids at college call her Mrs. Robinson. This is a blockbuster, but the amount of time we’re allowing for these write ups don’t really allow for spending a lot of time on it. Shows not in their final season would usually spend an entire season on something like this. Shows in their final season don’t have that luxury and bring it up in their second to last episode. Henry Francis is a fixer and reacts as he knows how, by trying to fix it, the unfixable. He goes to Sally to ask for her help and Sally ends up comforting a crying Henry. Betty is more realistic and says she knows when it’s time to give up. That said, Betty’s final instructions to Sally where funny because of how vain they were. The personal note to Sally at the end was nice, though, and wistful. “I know your life will be an adventure.” To me, Betty’s cancer feels a little bit like they’re setting up a reason for Don to have to come home. Finally something not about advertising/money. He’ll need to raise his kids. Far fetched? Maybe. (The shot with Henry Francis alone in the kitchen was a nice shot.)

Don at the hotel reminded me of Don in California with Anna Draper. Mostly, I guess, because of how he was fixing things, the typewriter, the Coke machine. Remember when he was working on the cars? He’s not that handy in New York, is he? Also, if he’s so handy, why couldn’t he fix the TV? Don was reading the Godfather and got the Andromeda Strain from Andy. Also, when he was checking out the woman/girl at the pool, she was reading The Woman of Rome, which I took as a reference for when Don and Betty went to Rome in season 3. Remember she went down to the bar and they pretended not to know each other while he picked her up. The needy part of Don is still there, as evidenced by him inviting Andy to stay for a drink, even after Andy extorted him for the whiskey. It hadn’t been said explicitly before, but Don acknowledged he doesn’t have to work anymore. He also talked about advertising in the past tense, so he’s definitely not going back. “Wyatt thought you ran away.” The line from Don and Sally’s phone call where he said, “You have no idea about money,” was probably true, but a little out of place, no?

Duck Phillips. Duck Phillips. Duck Phillips. For all his ridiculousness, he does seem kind of masterful as a recruiter. He “bumped into” Pete on the elevator and let Pete think he was going to help with Don. Pete was the prize, though, and Duck knows just what to say to him to get him into the job. I can’t tell how many levels this goes, whether Hobart was working with Duck to make this work. That would make sense to me. Pete’s million dollars is twice what Joan had. It was pretty clear that Pete and Trudi would get back together based on her reappearance in recent weeks. It’d be funny if Pete, the villain from the early seasons, ended up with the only happy ending. Why was Pete, “Always looking for something better, always looking for something else” ? Because of Dad. But maybe he doesn’t have to be always looking, maybe he can recognize what he has as good enough. I had a hard time imagining Pete’s brother as a Casanova, though. In the Pete/Trudi reconciling scene, she says something about his eyes “With respect to whatever is happening in your eyes,” and then he does, too, “Say yes with your voice not just your eyes.” That wasn’t an accident, but what does it mean!! “I remember things as they were.”

So Don goes to the American Legion fundraiser and tells people, I think for the first time since Anna, what happened in Korea (leaving out a big detail). “You just do what you have to do to come home.” (Another hint at Don headed home? But where is home?) (Initially, while watching this scene, I thought the WWII vet implied they ate the German soldiers. My first thought was, how Dick Whitman had eaten Don Draper’s identity. I couldn’t figure out if “bounced” means ate, so I didn’t include it.) The money for the fundraiser gets stolen, and everyone thinks Don is a conman that stole the money. Incidentally, he is a conman, but this was about as honest as he’s ever been. What’s that say about who he is? That, even at his realest, people think he’s fake. Don connects with Andy, he has an opportunity to steer him clear of his life, making it obvious that the double life Don leads hasn’t been hunky dory. “I know you think you know how to hustle.” “If you keep it, you’ll have to become somebody else. And it’s not what you think it is. You cannot get off on that foot in this life.” Don gives Andy the Cadillac as a way to start his life. “Don’t waste this.” As far as first steps go, a Cadillac is nice, but he’ll have to sell it, right?

Last song: Buddy Holly

An aside, but the “Don Draper is DB Cooper” theory gets more legs with the Pete to Lear Jet story and also Buddy Holly playing to see us out.

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 13 Recap

Inspiration for Shawshank Redemption recaptured 56 years later

Not totally sure why this guy was the inspiration for the movie since he seemed to deserve to be in jail, but, well, you know.

After seven days of surveillance, they confronted Cox with a mug shot of a much younger man, dated Feb. 26, 1959.

“He said he hadn’t seen that guy in a long time,” said Maj. Tod Goodyear of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, which assisted in the stakeout. “Then he admitted it and basically said, ‘You got me.’”

Inspiration for Shawshank Redemption recaptured 56 years later

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 12 Recap

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap.

Episode title: “Lost Horizon.” Maybe based on the 1933 novel by James Hilton, which was the origin of Shangri-La.
Episode timing: Well, they’ve moved into the McCann building. Don was supposed to be driving Sally to school. And Bert Cooper said he wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the summer, so… August? September?

This was a really bleak episode for something that takes it’s title from where Shangri-La originated, jeeze. I guess it’s a pretty bleak series. We knew this.

So the troops have mostly moved over to the McCann building. Seems like for a while (a couple seasons) each episode has been a month after the previous episode.

Don’s new office is about the same size, or maybe even bigger. The first thing he does is test the windows will throw the suicide theorists into a tizzy. Don then goes up to see Hobart and Ferg and gets pumped up. He’s getting welcomed to the club, apparently, and he seems to take a shine to it. Unfortunately, Hobart and Ferg seem to have given the same speech to Ted Chaough (Don hears the same thing said to Ted that was said to him about “taking them up a notch”). So what does that make Don? How many white whales does Hobart have? Also, Conrad Hilton might be back! In the meeting with Miller, Don realizes how much of a part of the machine he is. The meeting is made up of only half the creative directors at McCann. Ted is buying into all this, but is still amused at Don walking out of the meeting. I thought the image of Don looking out the window in the meeting was pretty corny. The VP of Connelly Research has eyes that are very close together.

Seems like this may have been the Goodbye to Joan episode. She’s getting a settlement of $250K to leave McCann, so I’m not sure what else there is to see. She got a bum rap and hit the McCann glass ceiling pretty hard. The episode started with Joan’s welcome wagon at McCann, two copywriters hoping to work with her. “If it’s in it, near it, or makes you think about it, we’re on it.” Joan takes a pass at asking Don for help in the elevator, though she hints at something being wrong. She asks Ferg for help, maybe thinking she still had juice. Ferg takes it as an opportunity to hit on her. Then she takes it to Hobart who, actually seems to be kind of a dick. She was going to take McCann to court, but Roger made her see the sense of settling for half the money that’s owed. $250K in 1970 money is about $1.5 million in 2015 dollars, so she’s still doing pretty good. “Who told you, you got to get pissed off?” “I thought you were gonna be fun.” Ferg is a slime. When Roger has to convince Joan to take the money, she obviously feels like she’s giving up more than half her money. At SCP, she was making a career and getting gratification from her than her looks for the first time. McCann took that away. “”It’s only about the money.”

It occurs to me that this may have been the Goodbye to Roger episode, too, though I hope not. He and Peggy drinking in the SCP office was a fun romp (especially the Peggy rollerskating around the office). Roger needed someone to talk it all out with, to say goodbye with. “We all have regrets.” “No, I did it, I just needed a push.” He tells Peggy a story about the Navy, he was scared, and just needed a push. I’m not totally sure how this applies. If I had more time, I bet I could figure it out. Who knew Roger could play the organ! Peggy walking into the office with the sunglasses, cigarette, and painting was pretty awesome!

Something else occurred to me during the Peggy/Roger scene, though. SCP wasn’t great for women or minorities, but it was certainly better than McCann. Joan and Peggy were able to grow their roles at SCP, but we’ve already scene Joan pushed down, and Ferg hinted Peggy would be, too. They think Peggy is a secretary and can’t even get her office set up. In any case, “You’re very amusing.” Roger’s secretary, Shirley, implied that SCP was an alright place to work.

This couldn’t also be the the Goodbye to Betty episode, is it? When Don goes to pick up Sally, she’s reading a Freud case study, “Dora,” which is about a woman diagnosed with hysteria, with loss of voice as a symptom. Telling!

So than Don decides to Racine (Hey, Bert!) looking for Diana, but “she’s a tornado, leaving a trail of broken bodies behind her.” Don wants to find her because, “she seems so lost.” I don’t know if I realized before that she’s the female Don Draper. Or rather, the messed up Don from a few years ago. I don’t really want to talk about this very much.

The scene where Don is about to pee, and then a quick cut to Roger pouring a bottle, I see what you did there, Mad Men.

Why is the SCP office in such shambles? I understand everyone just moved out, but I don’t understand why ceiling panels are missing.

Freaking Harry Crane.

Last song: Ground Control to Major Tom, I don’t think Major Tom ever did come home.

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 12 Recap

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 11 Recap

Chris Piascik Mad Men illustration
Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap.

Episode title: “Time and Life.” (Time Life Building) I’m exhausted and this might be sloppier/less informative than usual.
Episode timing: No clue! When are applications due for Greenwich Country Day?

So, Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) directed this episode. I think this was his first. There were a few really great shots (Pete and Ken in the opening scene, Don, Roger, Ted, Joan having a drink in Don’s office, and the partners after the Hobart meeting.), but I don’t know if that was his doing.

Well, here we go again. The agency is changing! Ohnoes. It’s as if this hasn’t happened once a season since… I don’t know. The agency is getting adopted, absorbed, eaten, swallowed, dissolved by McCann Erickson. “They waited so long, I thought we were safe.” The Partners see this as a bad thing, McCann tries to spin it as something good. “I shouldn’t have to sell you on this. You are dying and going to advertising heaven.” I don’t know what to think! From Ted’s perspective, someone else will be in charge and he’ll be able to just work. Roger’s losing his agency and namesake, and Joan, as far as I can tell, is thinking only about that meeting from earlier in the season where Peggy and her were sexually harassed. “Need you to be the voice of the bright side.” “For the first time I feel like whatever happens is supposed to happen.” “They don’t know who they’re dealing with.” I’m not really sure what Don thinks except he generally does not work well with a boss so we can guess. It just feels redundant, this storyline, and I wish there could be some tension and something happen, without it being more agency upheaval.

(I think Harry Crane was somehow a partner at one of the previous agencies and decided not to sell or something, this makes me chuckle.)

The Partners come up with a plan to keep the agency together by moving to California with the conflicting accounts. “We’ve done this before.” They all feel pretty, pretty, pretty good about it, butttttt Hobart cuts them off and says they’re coming to McCann and that’s it. (“I shouldn’t have to sell you on this. You are dying and going to advertising heaven.” This was just one meeting in tonight’s episode that did not go as planned. Roger and Pete try to convince Ken to move with them. Pete and Trudi try to convince Greenwich Country Day to accept their daughter. (This was funny in that the headmaster kept giving different reasons why he wouldn’t accept her, but the real reason is a centuries-old feud between the Campbells and the McDonalds.) And The Partners telling the agency that they were being absorbed, and them being comically ignored. Basically, no one’s buying what they’re selling anymore. They’re out of touch, which is about the worst thing you can be as an advertising agency. It seems sudden for them to have lost it so quickly, maybe they’ll get it back at McCann.

The other seemingly big storyline was Peggy telling Stan about having a child. Pete sees a kid hug Peggy and gets a look. He remembers. I thought the baby was living with Peggy’s sister at one point, but that is hazy. “You do what you want with your children, I do what I want with mine.” “I don’t know, but it’s not because I don’t care. I don’t know, because you’re not supposed to know, or you can’t go on with your life.” “You don’t know lots of things about lots of people.” Peggy’s mad at that lady for yelling at her, but won’t let Stan judge her for the decisions she makes. It’s complicated and I guess I don’t have a ton to say about it.

I say it every other week, or maybe more, but I can’t get over the fact that the “Don Draper is really Dick Whitman, and shh, no one knows,” storyline isn’t a storyline anymore. There are subtle references every now and then, but it’s just not a source of tension anymore. Why?

Don and Roger messy at the bar was fun. Roger mentions how there will never be anymore Sterlings because his daughter is his only child, like he was. “No more Sterling Cooper, and no more Sterlings.” Obviously, the loss of the Sterling Cooper agency hurts for this reason. Don says something about aspiring to be like Shakespeare or something, and Roger says this drive is what he envies about Don. Don says he envied Roger not having to have this drive. Just a quick little scene about being born rich and born poor, I guess.

Lastly, if you’re still reading, when Don starts to tell The Partners about moving to the west coast, he shuts the curtains. Joan tells him to open them to keep the calm. This struck me as a nod toward transparency being the right way. I wonder if this is a recurring theme I haven’t noticed before, or if it’s a new theme to keep an eye on.

Last song: Money Burns a Hole in my Pocket by Dean Martin

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 11 Recap

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 10 Recap

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap.

Episode title: “The Forecast.”
Episode timing: I didn’t pick up on anything. Is this being left purposely vague? Presumably it’s sometime in May/June since Glen is finished with college and Sally is going on a trip?

In a shortened season, the mid-season malaise tends to happen at an accelerated pace. I don’t feel like much has happened last week or this week. Or, maybe stuff has happened, but not the kind of stuff I pick up on for these recaps. Hard to say!

In any case, this episode is all about the future, as made obvious by the episode title, “The Forecast.” Don’s task for the episode is writing a speech for Roger on what the future brings. He’s stumped and asks Ted Chaough, Peggy, Meredith, Sally… Anyone. “Let’s assume that it’s good, but it’s gonna get better. Supposed to get better.” After thinking about it for 15 minutes, let’s go out on a limb and say Don’s never looked to the future, never been able to, never had a reason to. At the same time, part of Don’s trouble “painting a picture” of the future is his dissatisfaction with his life/advertising. Don seems to be looking for something outside of advertising. More than advertising. He still doesn’t think what he does has much value. It’s why he responds to Ted (a pharmaceutical account) and Peggy’s (to create a catch phrase, something of lasting value) dreams the way he does. They’re valid, but because they’re based on goals in an advertising career, they’re cheap, or cheaper than real dreams. Which Don doesn’t have anyway, or can’t access.

Joan, on the other hand, dreams of charming Richard Burghoff / Bergoff. CHARMING with a capital MING. Joan is still a cool customer, much savvier than she comes off, but she still wants love. Richard wants her, but not to be saddled. “You’re such a disappointment.” “This is not how I saw things. I have a plan, which is no plans!” Joan remains frustrated by her son, “You’re ruining my life.” This felt like they were tying up Joan’s story, the way they tied up Megan last week. That said, I’m hoping for some Roger/Joan closure. “I don’t want to be rigid, it makes you old.”

Creepy Glen Bishop is back, baby, and there’s chest hair for everyone. He’s joining the army because he wants to impress Betty, or rather, he flunked out of college, and he thought if he joined the army, he could get with Betty. I’m half surprised Betty didn’t go for it. Didn’t she let him watch her pee before? Jeeze, Betty. You already said he’s “a fine young man.” “I feel safe because I know you’re mine.”

Don’s selling his house, which means… something. His real estate agent looks like Pete Campbell’s LA real estate girlfriend. She’s having trouble selling the empty shell of a condo because it reeks of failure, “It looks like a sad person lives here.” This seems a bit heavy handed, actually. Don sees the empty house and sees opportunity, thinks of all the stories you can tell with a blank slate. The real estate agent just sees it as a hard sell. Don’s “Sold a lot uglier things than this,” and, “That’s the best opportunity in the world.” Basically, Don’s an empty shell, just like his apartment. He’s always thought this was best (“opportunity”). Some people are beginning to point out that this chameleon act, empty shell lifestyle is not a good thing. In fact, it’s sad. Mathis and Sally both make this point explicitly during the episode, “Anyone pays attention to you, and they always do, you just ooze everywhere.” Come to think of it, I think this is what the episode is about, this is the big take away. “Don’t blame your failure on me” is what Don said to the real estate agent, but in other words to Mathis.

Sally and Betty seem to have made a certain kind of peace, “This conversation is a little late, and so am I,” “Everything’s a joke to you,” but it might just be her maturing and biding her time. A little birdie who I watch with every week thinks it’s interesting/good that Don’s relationship with Sally has been explored way more than his relationship with Bobby. Sally is an interesting character with depth, Bobby and Gene are just there. “You’re a very beautiful girl, it’s up to you to be more than that.” This is Don telling Sally that she can be like Betty, pretty and boring, or like him, pretty and successful. Right?

-Did you notice Don told Meredith he’d get the coffee himself so he could get two doughnuts and have an excuse to go into Ted’s office? I thought that was cute, but I don’t know why Don didn’t just ask Meredith to get him two doughnuts. Do you ever feel like there’s less to actually do, but more to think about?”

-Lou Avery is in California, still trying to sell his comic.

-When Sally’s friend was hitting on Don, he told Sally he didn’t want to embarrass her, but it seemed wildly out of character for him to go about it like that in front of Sally. He’s vain, but not THAT vain.

-Last song playing is The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack. Fitting.

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 10 Recap