Mad Men Season 6 Episode 9 Recap

LovingYouWorstWay MadMen

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Still working on a different recap structure with David Jacobs. Some thoughts then a discussion.
First some thoughts:

-This episode had two “OH MAN!” scenes, Betty leaving the door open for Don, and Peggy stabbing Abe, which was reminiscent of the British executive getting his foot runover with a lawnmower. I’m not sure if we’ve ever had two “OH MAN!” scenes in a single episode before.
-Harry Crane is a master of ambiguity. “I feel strongly both ways.”
-There was a Don vs Ted battle to start the show. They got to a stalemate, and then Ted acquiesced and then Don did. It was definitely a biggest dick competition and no one really wanted to get in the middle of it. Later on, Don challenged Peggy and wouldn’t accept they could both be right, “There’s a right and there’s a wrong.” Peggy might be a little biased, “He’s interested in the idea and you’re interested in your idea.” But Don knows what’s going on. “He’s interested in his idea, don’t let him fool you.”
-“Who is that man?” Yes, Don, who?
-”The Better Half” is the title of the episode. Henry and Betty, Don and Megan, Don and Betty, Abe and Peggy, Roger and everyone, Pete Campbell and the firm, Pete Campbell and his family.
-While I got the sense, Don was just out on a conquest with Betty, he also got (gets) pretty sentimental immediately after sex. “Thinking about how different you are before and after.” “I can only hold your attention so long.” And Don asks, “Why is sex the definition of being close to someone.” But isn’t that pretty clearly how he gets close to people? “She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.”
-“Don Draper: Father of the Year.”
-Apparently Pete Campbell is the only one at SCDP who hasn’t broken a promise to Joan? “Only person there who hasn’t broken a promise to me.”

Aaron: Abe says Peggy is not a brave person, reinforcing an idea Don had brought up earlier in the episode. This is shocking because Peggy has always done a good job going after what she wants, and more importantly, getting it. She forced her way into copywriting, off the secretary desk, and got a job as copy chief at a new agency. That’s not brave? Do you think she isn’t brave? Do you think she’s changed? Has Peggy gotten complacent? Or is it possible that Don has heightened expectations for her and she hasn’t (yet) stepped up to the level he expects?

David: She’s definitely brave – she’s the pioneer of the show, not just moving to the UWS – but all of the things you said. Has she changed? Yes, because there’s only so much further she can move up, and so she’s more aware of Ted & Don as flawed peers than idols. Don is not the Carousel Don anymore. He’s not even contributing to the creative. He was writing product spots without the product, and he ended up giving half his company away to his biggest rival. And he is now butter, trying to sell margarine. It viscerally disgusts him to sell an imitation of himself. Someone said “Butter is fresh, Margarine is indestructible” – and that’s what Don is up against.

And I think Peggy sees that, and that’s why she’s pushing him. You still don’t buy the product spots with product thing, do you? Let’s get to when Peggy stabbed Abe. I did not see that coming, but she certainly was looking to jettison him.

Aaron: I don’t look at the merger as Don giving away half his company. He wanted one of the major auto-makers and this was the way to get it. Theoretically the billings from Chevy would be worth way more than half the business before.

Both Peggy and Abe were on something of an adventure, dating the other side. Abe trying to convert Peggy to the counter culture, and Peggy trying to turn Abe into something she can bring home to her mother. She also hasn’t historically made the best decisions when it comes to guys. From Pete to Duck (DUCK IS BACK!) to married Ted… I actually thought Peggy and Abe would make it a couple weeks ago when he was talking about their kids.

That last scene was great when she goes in to speak with Ted and he’s in rah rah creative mode. He went from the one still thinking about their kiss on Friday, to having moved on completely on Monday. He gets cultish when he’s excited. Then she goes out to the hallway and is caught in the middle between two men who have shut their doors on her.

David: Right, every door closes to her, and a brick is thrown through her window!

Aaron: There have been foreshadows to Don and Betty sleeping together again for about two seasons (the last meeting in the kitchen of their old house after it’s sold). One episode she hates him and says so, and the next minute she’s leaving her door open to him. I think it shows the shallowness of both of them. I think it shows that Betty is just feeling frisky and I think it shows Don just out on a conquest. It just had the extra charge of their previous experiences.

David: Yes, she was so intoxicated by being in a family situation with Bobby – the only child they both truly love (she doesn’t love Sally, he doesn’t love Gene). It’s Don’s last hurrah as a god, father Abraham, himself!

Aaron: You see so much more in the show. I don’t think it had anything to do with Bobby. I think it had more to do with their ‘strangers meeting in Rome’ game. Betty liked that she could do it and not get caught “No, I mean do I look like I’ve had three children?” Betty liked that she had Don’s attention.

David: I agree, that was there as well. Since now Francis is as absent as Don was (it appears). All the way down the make-out session in the back of the car. This show often returns to cars and masculinity. “Every time there’s a car here the company turns into a whorehouse…” Francis appeared to be faking it in the back seat of that black car (to me). But Don was driving his own car (of course). And was even able to cut through the BS Catskills directions and just say “follow me.”

Aaron: I have no idea what you’re talking about. Henry was passionately pawing at Betty because he got off on another man hitting on her. Betty just got off on the extra attention. I know you love Bob Benson, so you got some good screentime with him today. He’s escorting Joan to the beach. Is it a date? Or does Bob friendzone himself?

David:: …. I think the beach is lover’s territory. Bob wants to be her husband, and he must have a whiff of the fact that she saved his job.

Aaron:: WAIT, no one gives a shit about bob. this is about Roger. Roger coming over was hilarious. “Who are you?” Roger’s trying to be a father to the kid he had with Joan, so he spoils his grandson. I got the sense he bought the Lincoln Logs for his grandson, but his daughter wouldn’t let him in so he thought he’d bring them over to Joan. In any case, what’s going on with Roger?

David: Well, he is also beginning to feel a longing for family. His mother died, obviously, he knows about Pete and Don’s troubles, it sounds like he’s been sort of a deadbeat grandfather, so Joan’s so is his last option. And I do love it when Roger dresses up, but it also makes me think, “Uh-oh, what does he want this time?” Roger also probably wants to spend more time with his kids since Gleason passed away. I like the Lincoln Logs theory, too.

Can we talk about the scene were Abe broke up with Peggy was an all-time great IMHO? Was he stabbed with a broom handle attached to a kitchen knife?

Aaron: Yes. You don’t have one of those? I guess we can talk about it. I thought the stabbing scene was better. He just got brutally honest in the ambulance because he thought he was going to die. It was interesting to me that he projected all of the issues on to Peggy, though. He said she was the problem, she was the antithesis of his beliefs. Basically, “It’s not me, it’s you.” And that’s bullshit because if he was with her and believed that, then he’s the coward for staying with her. Wasn’t he then staying with her because she was safe?

David: Well, he might have been angry? She did stab him! Reading that New York Magazine article, though, I wonder if Abe would have been against living on the Upper West Side. It’s from 1969, but people in 1968 were certainly aware of gentrification as a social problem. And obviously her income made his lifestyle possible.

Aaron: ‘Now I have a great ending for my story.’

David: Great line, great line! I do NOT want to see Peggy and Pete get back together, but my spidey-sense is tingling. Which brings us to Duck. Shouldn’t it be obvious what happened to Vick’s? I think he was playing circumspect, and I don’t trust him. They wouldn’t bring him back for a tiny role.

Aaron: Well, what happened to Vick’s is his father in law saw Pete in a brothel. I don’t think that would be obvious.

David: Ah, I meant that it was family troubles. Because the relation would be known. You don’t fire your son-in-law’s firm when all is well. So Duck, I think, knows something.

Aaron: Duck reminds me of someone I used to work with. I did not like him at all. He also reminds me of one of the shallow characters… Basically all the account guys, and Harry Crane… I’ve talked about this before, I think, but how can Pete possibly be any good as an account guy? In the first couple seasons, we’d see great pitches to see Don has advertising chops. The closest we’ve ever seen of that is Roger bedding a stewardess so she could spy on traveling executives for him. Why?

David: OK, I think there are three questions here. Harry Crane, as far as I can tell, was simply early on understanding TV, and accidentally became good at it (with some earlier cues by Joan). Roger is not obviously great, but he’s incredibly charismatic, and I love his little tricks (like “water with an onion in it”). I am guessing that Pete is a miniature Roger, learning (and stealing) some of those tricks, but also getting people drunk and high, introducing them to prostitutes, etc. And since it was all on the company account, it’s washing away. But Duck is thin gruel, weak sauce, no moleste. There’s nothing there, which is why I am worried by his return. He’s like the grim reaper of plot. I did love it when he locked the dog outside, that was a moment of theatre that really illustrated what a terrible human he was.

Aaron: “Early on understanding TV.” but we don’t ever get to see him doing anything special. “Let’s do a musical special!” He’s early on understanding it because the writers tell us he is. Pete Campbell and Roger are superior account guys because the writers tell us he is. They actually show us Ted and Don being good at advertising (well, more accurately selling their ideas). It’s one of my biggest pet peeves of the show. It feels like cheap and lazy writing up against the good stuff.

David: This is the Top Chef vs. Top Model/Project Runway dilemma. You can see the dresses, or the models, but you can never taste the food. It’s the same way with Pete & Roger, they never woo US, only minor characters. And your opinion about the account guys is fair, and I think ultimately Weiner thinks they and their kind are worthless, and that’s reflected in the treatment they get on the show.

Aaron: It’s giving the show a lot of credit, but I guess I’d buy that.

David: I loved this episode, and the last couple (on rewatch). I do feel like we are moving forward in time, which is ultimately what people want to feel from Mad Men (cue “Carousel YouTube clip”). Should we discuss the Megan/mentor scene? The writers are playing with the “mentor’s crush” dynamic between Ted & Peggy as well, but it felt flat to me.

Aaron: Yes, please do discuss this. Megan is another one who we were told how great she was at advertising, but it never really felt real.

David: I always got the idea she was NOT good at advertising, but Don flattered her and everyone was afraid to tell her the truth. And of course the same thing is happening in the acting world too, since he got her her first commercial gig. But ultimately Megan wanted advice from her mentor and her advice was “Here it is, make out with me and I’ll put in a good word with my husband!”

Aaron: Nah. We were supposed to believe she was actually good at it. “You’re a good actress on your way to becoming, well, at least a successful one.”

David: Could be, I don’t remember. But I was pleasantly surprised that she stayed loyal to Don. I guess part of the point is that she’s still naive, but I also can’t shake the feeling something bad is going to happen to her.

Aaron: Maybe she’s going to fall out of a window like Pete.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 9 Recap

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 8 Recap

MadMen NoTimeForArt

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Still working on a different recap structure with David Jacobs. Some thoughts then a discussion.

This was a weird one. The first 40 minutes were drug trips and flashbacks, and then we started getting to the meat of the episode. There were some funny moments, and pithy moments, but overall, I think this was a gimmick episode. It’s a good thing the series is ending next year, otherwise we’d probably be headed for a clips show soon.

-The episode title is “The Crash” referencing Ken’s car crash with drunken Chevy execs, the crash that comes after the agency’s 3 day speed binge, and possibly some darker themes as well.
-Finally Dr. Hex(?) asks what we’ve all been thinking, “What are you going to call this place?”
-“I hate how dying makes saints out of people.” Kind of a throw away line from one of the no name CGC creatives, but valid.
-“Do what you have to.” I liked this line, but can’t remember what it referenced.
-Stan tried to get with Peggy and she seemed to be willing to try it out, but it didn’t stick. Things could be going much better for Abe.
-Sally was reading ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at Megan and Don’s house. It’s a book about someone who makes a deal with the devil to further their acting career.
-Why is teenage Don Draper such a dork?
-“I’m your grandma.” Sally got social engineered by a burglar who made her eggs. What!? It ends up being doubly Don’s fault because he left the backdoor open, likely after visiting Sylvia’s door, and because, “Then I realized I don’t know anything about you.” Sally was rightly suspicious they were being robbed, but couldn’t be sure because she doesn’t know anything about Don. I imagine this will come up again this season.

David: Hi Aaron, nice use of “lugubrious” last week!

Aaron: I do what I can. Let’s get right into it. What the actual fuck?

David: So this week I’ve been thinking (and talking with friends) about how Weiner actually spends most of the show creating a mood. Obviously, the technical execution of the show, especially the set and costumes, are exceptional. But the show runners aren’t trying to make things happen, they’re trying to make you feel a certain way. We had the wonderful payoff of the merger and the Chevy merger, and then last weeks’ setback for Don – but this week threw me for another loop. I kept going back to Dawn’s comments a few episodes ago about how SCDP was a miserable place – now it’s even more miserable. Have we seen SCDP’s peak? I think so, and I have to say I hope so.

Aaron: Starting out with an easy one, huh? Did SCDP ever peak? It seems like they were on the verge of bankruptcy for a while and then they got their footing and rented an extra floor for appearances. Workwise, what have the highlights been? Beans? (David: LOVED the cameo of the beans artwork this week!) Your instinct is to ask these broad questions about the show as a whole, but our responsibility is recap the episode, so I ask again, What the actual fuck?

David: I know! It’s because we’ve been trained by these plot-driven shows to recap what happened. But I think we’ve been outflanked. There’s nothing but mood. In any case, you were right about Sylvia. Don is shattered, and it’s brought his life as a functioning adult to a halt. I didn’t see that coming.

Aaron: Is that a question?

David: I’m getting there! Last week Done was the master of the universe, getting Sylvia off on an unanswered phone call, and drinking Ted under the table. This week Cutler brings in a doctor to give them all a “boost” and he find himself incapacitated (“Even Chevy is misspelled”). Last week Ken Cosgrove was a “six foot Alan Ladd, this week he’s tap dancing on a broken foot. (Obligatory GIF.) We are all chasing the weekly plot summary, but the scene that most represents this season is Ted flying Don up through the clouds last week. Rain and turbulence, but even above the clouds Don looked like he was ready to retch. He’s lost control of his house, Megan is going to find out about the affair, he’s lost his ability to contribute to the Chevy account, and he even left Sally, Bobby, and Gene alone while a robber visited the apartment. Without reading the tea-leaves too deeply, this doesn’t end well for any of them. Two of the seven initials in SCDP CGC are already dead – I’m guessing we lose one more this year. I know you thought it may be Roger, but do you think there could be a season 7 without Don?

Aaron: No. If the series wasn’t going to end next series, then possibly. It’d be like when Dr. Doug Ross left ER and they’d groom other characters to take his place.

David: I don’t really think he’ll die (until the end of next season). I just want him too. He just writes himself out of everything, and he’s a burden on everyone who surrounds him. There’s still no Chevy in the Chevy pitch. And I don’t think this is coincidental anymore, because not only is the product not mentioned in the ad for Chevy (or “oatmeal?”), the product doesn’t exist! When Peggy calls him out, he rushes to Sylvia’s apartment.

Aaron: That was the drugs. I think he thought he was solving the Chevy issue, too, but you know how you can get hyperfocused on one thing when a sketchy doctor stabs you in the ass with speed? Here’s my question: Did you like this episode?

David: I haven’t liked any of the episodes this year, until I rewatch them (and yes, I know this sounds just like the angry nerd star trek videos). But I have to say, I loved it. The business is built on fiction, just like Don Draper’s existence. We’re seeing the fracturing of that. I’m guessing you loved Betty’s return?

Aaron: Betty is back on blonde, and also mean. Of her 10 or so lines this episode, two of them were inappropriately sexual. Commenting to Sally about her skirt “I earned it.” “On what street corner.” and saying Megan was working the casting couch. So why’s Betty getting smaller as a person?

David: I don’t know why she has to be so mean! Although I’m struck that perhaps Henry Francis is going to get killed, just as Bobby feared. OK, so other quick notes! I was disappointed there was no follow-up to the Rosen’s son in France. Presumably his life was in danger? It would be remarked upon. I would have liked more Ted this week, I thought he had some nice momentum going last week. And I missed Bob Benson too. I would have loved to see him on that speed cocktail. What would have happened to him? Back to this week, what did you make of Gleason’s daughter, Wendy, turning the office into a “whorehouse,” in the words of Don?

Aaron: I’m actually not sure Don was referring to Wendy when he made the “Every time we get a car this place turns into a whorehouse.” comment. He was definitely talking about Joan and Jaguar, but maybe he was talking about clients in general. More and more, Don feels put upon when the clients don’t like his work. Along those lines, he ends up having to do something he doesn’t want to do, he ends up feeling like he’s working for his money. So as Don’s ideas become less appealing to the clients, as he’s less able to sell the ideas to the clients, he thinks of what he’s doing as prostitution. On Wendy, though, the teenage daughter of a dead advertising exec? That was a pretty vivid foreshadowing of a road Sally could go down in a few years.

David: I think that Don used to feel like his work was meaningful, but he is losing it. Don is recognizing that his work and life are meaningless. I’m not sure there’s a deep meaning to the flashbacks – the point of the flashback was that Don grew up in a whorehouse. And now Don finds himself still in a whorehouse. This may be why he misses Sylvia so much – and as you note why he is so upset about Wendy. He believed that he was selling (and, in a way, producing) happiness. That’s over for good now, there won’t be another “Carousel” episode, I think that Don is gone. Did you miss Bob Benson? I missed Bob Benson.

Aaron: Nah. There are so many characters these days, Bob’s on the team that gets to be in 8 episodes with a small story arc in 3 of them. He’s a glorified Roger, Pete, Joan, Betty, Ted… I wonder if there will be some problem with him and Pete over Joan.

Aaron: I’m surprised you didn’t key more on Wendy’s line, “Does someone love me?” “That’s everyone’s question.” That’s pretty much the best way to describe the Don you see, right?

David: Yes, exactly. Everyone else is surrounded by real loss – the death of a partner or father – and Don is mourning an affair. I do worry there’s going to be a problem with Pete & Joan. They’ve been trading meaningful glances all season – but Joan is not getting what Pete thinks he’s sending. Hey, how much time passed between these episodes? Wasn’t Megan going to take a couple weeks off?

Aaron: Damn it. I usually try to keep track of that stuff pretty closely. I’m not sure if there were any clues at all. Interesting how they completely skipped over the RFK assassination, huh? Tell me what else you want to mention about this episode.

David: I’m just uncomfortably drawn to Don. He’s Tony Soprano: if you just step back and look at what he does, he is horrible. But he’s surrounded by all these people we want to root for. Both Twin Peaks and the Sopranos (the two series I feel are closest to Mad Men in tone) had these dark, ambiguous endings, and I think we’re in for that with Don too. Can we go back to the spot that’s ostensibly about Sylvia? Did you like the episode? I forgot to ask you earlier.

Aaron: I liked parts of it. I laughed uncontrollably when Zac Galifinakis, I mean Stan, got stabbed in the arm. I didn’t like it as a whole, I thought it was gimmicky. Did you like it? It was weird, when Don called Peggy and Ginsberg in to talk about his breakthrough. He said it was bigger than selling cars, but… it’s not really clear what “it” is/was. Did he actually have an idea? Or was it just a script to get Sylvia to listen to him? I wasn’t really clear on that.

Aaron: I’ve been annoyed by Don the last two weeks about how he’s taking Sylvia dumping him. He’s Don freaking Draper. There wasn’t really anything in the previous episodes indicating he had such deep feelings for her, so… what’s the deal? I feel manipulated by the writers because they portrayed this as another of his affairs, but when it ended he’s suddenly crushed. If they wanted us to see it differently, they should have treated it differently. Maybe she’s representative of how out of control Don feels in the rest of his life (which is another season!). That is, the one thing he did have control over (for a couple days in a hotel) he doesn’t control anymore. “I want you to try to be happy.” “I’m feeling a lot of emotions, too.” And then, Don snaps out of it after the robbery. It’s like the crash after the weekend of working and the danger he put his kids in by leaving the door open snapped him out of it. This is Rock Bottom Don. Maybe we can expect big things from him the rest of the season.

David: I also thought it was odd how shook up he was, they didn’t quite pull that off (last week, I even denied he was). But I think you are right – although I also think the damage has been done – I don’t think they’ll lose Chevy, but we’re still not sure how they are replacing Vick’s/Clearasil, and other products. And what happened to the Joe Namath special? Surely that was a disaster in waiting.

Aaron: My sense is that they don’t need to replace Vick’s/Clearasil because they have Chevy. Cutler said Chevy was paying for all those weekend workathons.

David: I wish I’d been on record earlier about the Twin Peaks -> Sopranos (David Chase) -> Mad Men lineage. We’ve talked about i over IM. but this was obviously a Twin Peaks/Sopranos dream sequence episode. It’s a particular genre, a sort of lazy (but fun) way to make sure that the characters that need to have epiphanies. In fact, we can call this genre of episode “the epiphanator.” Anyway, Aaron, “are we negroes?” Why even have Bobby on the show if we’re just going to destroy him? Is the point that children of the sixties are idiots?

Aaron: I love Bobby. All he cares about is hair grease and watching TV.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 8 Recap

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 7 Recap


Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Still working on a different recap structure with David Jacobs. Some thoughts then a discussion.

First, some quick thoughts David and I didn’t get a chance to discuss.
-I didn’t know the phrase “The worm has turned” comes from Shakespeare.
-Pete has a rough go of it this week, between his mother’s Alzheimer’s/dementia, and literally not having a seat at the table, “I went to a meeting this morning and there was no chair for me.” Here we go again with Pete getting the sympathetic treatment. I get whiplash trying to decide if we’re supposed to like him or hate him.
-Title of the episode was “Man With a Plan” which is strange because I can’t really think of anything that went according to plan in this episode except Bob Benson’s sucking up to Joan. Maybe it was altruistic, and without guile, but it worked. “Every good deed is not part of a plan.”
-Guess we all thought Joan was pregnant, but it was just a cyst on her ovary. Not sure if anything will happen between her and Bob or if what we saw (him taking her to hospital, her saving his job) was “it” happening.
-Don hears a vicious fight between Dr. Rosen and his wife. It was the first scene(?), which I think is why I noted it here.
-“First day in school, are you nervous?” It’s annoying there was no indication of how the merged firm will look structurally. Who will have which role, etc. Peggy is presumably the highest creative, under Ted and Don of course, but beyond that, we don’t really know.
-Peggy and Joan. “How’s your little boy?” “How’s yours?” They always had a pretty weird relationship. Coolly affectionate maybe? Envy at the other’s strengths.
-The scene between Roger and Bert Peterson seemed mostly like an excuse to give Roger some great one liners. I don’t recall Roger having any reason to not like Bert previously.
-Don was enchanted by Mrs. Dr. Rosen’s, “I need you and nothing else will do.” That’s when the dom/sub plot formed in his mind.
-Peggy and Don back in his office having conversation. She still talks to him like no one else does, and I hope we get more of that. “He can’t drink like you and you must know that because nobody can.” But also, more importantly, “Move forward.”
-“Sometimes when you’re flying you think you’re right side up, but you’re really upside down.” Don won the margarine round, but Ted’s wins the Mohawk round. “No matter what I say, you’re the guy who flew us up in his own plane.”
-Don was crushed when the doctor’s wife dumped him, but even then, he’s trying to put his spin on it. “It’s easy to give up something when you’re satisfied.” It was an moment, because Don yelled at Pete last week about knowing when something was over.

Aaron: It seems as though the SCDP creative is much more of a motley crew. Stan’s bushy beard and Bieber hair. Ginsberg’s general weirdness. Compared to CGC’s buttoned up guy, one of whom is even a Republican. What do you make of that?

David: Well, it’s a lazy way to communicate that they are “more creative,” and all those CGC folks feel like redshirts to me. I liked Margie (Margie?!) and I am surprised they wrote her out of the show. But I think we’re headed to a Duck what-his-face situation with Ted, who’s already complaining way too much about the SCDP culture. There weren’t any work villains left in Don’s life post-Herb, so Ted is stepping right up.

Aaron: But CGC had been getting the clients/accolades, so I don’t think they’re less creative. I think they represent more of the older way of advertising instead of Stan and Ginsberg ushering in the type of person we know of as “creatives.” For instance, Ted was using a formula to figure out how to pitch Fleischman’s. Almost like advertising as science.

David: But didn’t his process come to nothing? I think the scene where they were “rapping” just betrayed how little his process worked. No ideas at all, and then the meeting ended.

Aaron: The contrast was pretty stark in how they portrayed the two styles of advertising. CGC and brainstorming sessions, SCDP is Don drinking in a room until he gets an idea.

David: I’m a little bit disoriented when it comes to Don’s arc – he’s just getting everything he wants over and over, and as Don famously said, happiness is just a moment before you want more happiness. But, I’m not sure why he feels threatened. They went out of his way to talk about how rich he was last week, but it’s always paired with how unhappy he is. Is there another way to tell this story again? I guess I wouldn’t even call it an arc, it’s more of a narrative pancake. What do you think?

Aaron: We better hope so. Don’s definitely in a different place than he has been in recent years. This season he’s neither on top of the world or underneath it. I actually don’t think I’m too concerned about the arc repeating because I don’t see it as so clearly repetitive as you do. He’s the main character of the show and I think you don’t like him very much, which is fair, but it’s not the same story every season with him as it is with Walt in Breaking Bad (1. Figure out how to get money. 2. Get money. 3. Lose money.)

David: It drives me nuts when the writers of Mad Men wink to the superfans, it just gets in the way of the narrative for me, and it’s distracting. But I loved the Gilligan Island’s conversation. Whereas the SCDP to Gillian’s character mappings were quite clear, now that there are more characters on the show, they just don’t match up anymore. And when Don connected the growing number of brands of margarines, I couldn’t help but wonder if he wasn’t talking about the growing number of characters on the show as well. Lots of meta-winks this episode. Megan talking about being written out of the show (as January Jones and others have been), the Gilligan’s Island chat, the news of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination being broken by Pete’s mother (I also assumed she meant JFK), and the deep background of the May ’68 Paris riots. The show (especially last week’s show) is rich enough without these distractions, in my opinion, and compared to last week’s episode absolutely nothing happened. Should we be worried? I hate to go there, but are we in a Lost season 5 situation, where the occasional great episode fools us into thinking this is better than it is?

Aaron: I don’t know, I don’t know. I want to believe I’m staying up late writing these recaps every Sunday night for a reason. In talking about TV, there are 4 tiers of program for me from lowest to highest. 1) The dreck I won’t watch. 2) The dreck I will watch, which has a span from drecky dreck to actually OK dreck. 3) Cable dreck, shows that are just better for various reasons from writing to acting, etc. 4) The unparalleled programs. The Wire, Deadwood, etc. I think the first season of Mad Men was absolutely in tier 4, maybe the first three seasons. The last couple have gone from tier 3 and 4. I look forward to watching it every week, but I’m not totally sure it’s as amazing as it used to be.

David: I’m feeling that too. So, was margarine a reference to the show feeling faked, or forced. I can’t imagine so, but it was the first thing I thought of. And that certainly betrays something not great. (I want to remark that the “It was our pleasure to serve you” coffee cups made a brief appearance last week, and they were indeed invented in 1963. So that was satisfying, but it’s not great drama.)

Aaron: We should talk a little bit more about Ted and Don. I like to think it’s not just going to be them battling the next season and a half. It’s hard to see where everything is going because we don’t know how the new agency is set up. We don’t know if they have parallel positions or what. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if they became a great creative partnership? Are we underestimating Ted? He’s getting Don’s charm offensive, “He seems more interested in me than he is in the work.” Ted got the advice to let Don have his way in the early stages, “Give him the early rounds.” and he’s obviously intrigued, “He’s mysterious, but I can’t tell if he’s putting it on.” And don’t forget, Ted got some hand back in the relationship during the flight.

David: I loved it when Peggy said “Move Forward.” It was obvious how quickly she picked up on Don’s misery, his emptiness, and that he was taking it out on Ted by drinking him almost literally under the table. But I think it’s going to be just this season – not the next as well. If they became a great creative partnership, that would be more exciting since it would be unexpected. There’s no way he can “win,” though, because it’s basically Don’s firm. I just don’t like Ted. But the last episode’s bar scene was one of the more perfect scenes of the entire series. So it would be a shame if their relationship is only a power struggle from here on out. When they realized that their Chevy creative was complementary, there was a real shared connection.

David: As above, I think it’s a little lazy to tell a story through references. There’s a nuanced but important difference in using historical context to set a mood and inspired a massive change in a character’s worldview, but sometimes I feel like major events like (say), the May 1968 riots in Paris are less than window dressing. Perhaps it shouldn’t have come up at all? And the second is the Sun Tzu quote, “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.” Because for better or worse, that’s been Don’s philosophy. He never competes, he just does what he does best. The show teases Don towards a realization that his life’s work doesn’t matter by juxtaposing his (and his neighbor and co-worker’s) struggles with 1968 in Paris (and will they get to Columbia?) and Bobby Kennedy’s assassination. His will be the body floating fown the river. Do you the writers have something that existential in mind for the series finale? Remember, Weiner comes from the Sopranos, which came from Twin Peaks – two shows with ambiguous (at best) finales.

Aaron: Gosh, that’s a big question. You make these huge declarative statements about how Don is realizing his life’s work doesn’t matter, and I’m not there yet. There was a huge contrast between how the show treated MLK’s assassination and RFK’s, which was shown quickly at the very end and then overtaken with dissonant music about coming together. The reason is the MLK episode was build up to a series reset, a throwaway episode, while this episode is the morning after and there’s too much to cover. On whether we’re going to get a bleak, dystopian, philosophically empty end to the series, maybe? I don’t think anything is being telegraphed ahead of time, though. 1968 is a gigantically tumultuous year, lots of change in lots of facets of life. Maybe the finale will be about change or about renewal.

Aaron: We’ve seen hints of dominant Don before on a couple occasions, but with Dr. Rosen’s wife (whose name I still don’t know for some reason) he seems to have overplayed his hand. What I don’t get is why he was so into her in the first place, and why he was so completely shattered when she ended it. Was it just because he doesn’t like to lose or not get his way?

David: Ah, I think he was trying to drive her back to Dr. Rosen. Because he overheard them arguing, and it was all about how the relationship was only about him. So he made their relationship ALSO only about himself.

Aaron: Subconsciously? I don’t think that’s what he was doing at all, but that’s a good point.

David: Oh, I thought consciously.

Aaron: Then why would he be so upset?

David: He wanted one more romp in the jungle. Or, she thought he loved him more. As he was losing power at work, he was asserting more power with Dr. Rosen’s wife. So once that outlet is removed, he only has Megan. Who, obviously, has some self-determination at this point, even affecting the plot of a popular show.

Aaron: The Don after she dumped him was the Don after he found out Mrs. Whitman in CA had died. When Jon Hamm is playing sad, he gets lugubrious. He closes his mouth and swallows audibly. It’s annoying.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 7 Recap

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 6 Recap

MadMen s6e6

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. This week, I wanted to try something new, so I invited David Jacobs to have a conversation about the show instead of a straight recap. Let us know what you think.

David: How important is money to the SCDP partners? They keep saying Don is “rich” – but is he? And aren’t Bert Roger supposed to be basically ultra-rich? I get that the IPO is exciting, but I’m surprised, especially after the Sterling/Cooper deal went bad everyone was eager for this.

Aaron: Bert and Roger are “fuck you rich,” while Don is just getting there rich. Pete’s probably on the same level, but this would be life changing for Joan. Roger wasn’t in the room with the banker. I think Bert is a collector, and that includes money, he’s also in legacy building phase, and bringing an agency public would be a big boost for his profile. I think Bert wants the IPO, but not for the money. Pete wants the IPO to prove he is somebody, and then for the money. Joan wants the IPO for the money. Roger and Don could care less about the money, while Don would probably actively oppose the IPO because it would give him a boss in the form of a board of directors. “I don’t think Don cares about money.”

David: A boss, and presumably, some scrutiny.

Aaron: Due diligence. Guess we ought to check if that’s an upcoming episode title.

Aaron: I noticed a lot of relationship ‘stuff’ this episode, Pete and Trudie, Pete and his father in law, Roger and his flight hostess spy, Don and Megan, Abe and Peggy, Peggy and Ted, Don and Ted, Pete and Don, Don and Joan, Marie and Arnold, Marie and Roger, Arnold and Don, etc. Was there more of that this episode or am I crazy?

David: There was definitely more. And the sex/advertising double entendres were also laid on top, especially “He’s a client for Pete’s father-in-law.” The show is best when the characters are suffering, with the exception of Dick Whitman’s trips to California. This season has been direct with it’s intentions, the characters you listed all voiced displeasure with their situations. Even Herb’s wife got some minutes talking about the puppy’s birth. It was such a dense episode that dinner scene may get lost, but it was actually wonderfully written and directed, from Don’s “I love puppies” to Marie’s cursing in French.

David: You noted last week that Don’s campaigns were all about the absences of the brand – no hotel in the Hawaii campaign, not ketchup in the Heinz campaign, etc. Once again, he proposes that the Chevrolet commercials not show the car (for a week!) and Ted’s “bend in the road” monologue is so much better Don practically surrenders on the spot. At this point, can we assume that pattern is intentional? And does it connect to Don’s professed inability to feel love, and can we connect that with your observation about the general malcontent of all the characters in relationships?

Aaron: I think we can assume we’re seeing Don’s advertising style, and I only wish time was endless so we could look back at previous pitches to see when this style developed. (I sometimes think about an idea I don’t have a name for. Basically, I’m assuming this is Don’s current style of advertising, but what if Mad Men is suffering from Studio 360-style writing. Remember how the show was OK, but the comedy sketches were awful? What if the people they have writing Don’s pitches are out of ideas and they’re not amazing, this isn’t a pattern, they’re just bad?) I don’t think it connects to Don’s love issue, because remember the carousel pitch. That wasn’t an absence of the product and he certainly wasn’t full of love when married to Betty. If you’re reading that differently, let me know. Rather than Don’s inability to feel love, I think it’s more about Don’s unwillingness to put something on a pedestal. He likes the new, the chase, but gets bored/complacent with something he already has. Did you see his glee in the first Chevy meeting, “No, it’s completely new.” He fired Jaguar because he was tired of them. Etc, etc, etc. Additionally, Megan was more attracted to Don when he was chasing something because it reminded her of the man she fell in love with (when he was chasing her).

Aaron: Don and Joan have always had a complicated relationship, maybe they recognize something of themselves in each other. The scene starting with Pete falling down the stairs (obligatory Pete Campbell falling down the stairs gif), into Don yelling about it being over (which he’s done at least once before), into Joan yelling at Don was one of the most powerful of the season. It was the scene that alerted me to the fact, “Hey, something’s happening in this season, finally.” Why was Joan so angry at Don for firing Jaguar? Why’d she attack him for getting rid of Herb and Jaguar? She didn’t do what she did for nothing, she did it to become a partner. “Because we’re all rooting for you from the sidelines hoping that you’ll decide what you think is right for our lives.”

David: Is it because she lost the IPO money (or thought she would?) Or because, perhaps, it confirmed her worst fears about Don’s lack of empathy. It’s a hard one. I’m sorry I don’t have more on that one! I’ve always thought he was the little soul of the organization. Skilled, but ultimately hollow of ethics and morals

Aaron: The organization has no soul?

David: Well, it has Pete. They’re fundamentally not honest people – Peter has always been the one to remind the audience “Hey, these are not people you want to be friends with!’ I think we’re seeing Don wake up, ethically. And that’s why he just can’t bring himself to put these objects in the campaigns. He is blocked on it, because he knows it’s a lie.

David: But I guess I meant to ask – where Joan’s behavior has perhaps been building up over the last few episodes (frustrations with Dawn, makin out with a stranger at Electric Circus, etc.) Pete seems to be zigging and zagging. Are there some tea leaves for us to read here? Or is he just the same as he’s always been?

Aaron: They’ve always done that with Pete, though. They’ll take 3 episodes to build sympathy for him, and then make him hatable again. Up and down forever. I’m not even totally sure he’s hatable here. His father in law basically dared him to tell Trudie. Pete ALWAYS wants to prove people wrong. His father in law sealed his own fate when he told Pete he’d do the right thing. For what it’s worth, I got the sense with Dawn and Joan that there was a different tone to her treatment of Dawn. I want to say it’s because Joan likes her.

David: I hate to go out of order here, but I am fading. I am SAD about this merger. I felt like we were just getting into Ted & Peggy as a real rival to SCDP. And their work was better. (Especially Peggy’s HUGE FUCKING Heinz bottle.) Now I feel like we’ve lost something in the show before the arc ran it’s course. This would have been all fine as the season finale. But it’s too soon for me. What do you think? Ultimately, Peggy wanted SOME self-determination, and not to have money thrown in her face (per the teaser)

Aaron: Well, the teasers are always useless. I thought this was the best episode of the season. I thought there were three great scenes: Joan yells at Don, Don and Ted in the bar, Ted and Don breaking the news to Peggy. There were also huge arrows pointing at this happening with SCDP about to come into money, and CGC about to need a lot of money. I hate jerking the show off, but this type of thing happening mid-season is an excellent for viewers because now we get two mini-seasons. I hope it doesn’t turn into Friday Night Lights Season 2 Episode 1. Last week had all the makings of a set up episode. Now there are so many questions. What’s the structure of the new company? What’s the name? Will all these characters become main characters? Will they buy out extraneous partners? Specifically, I’d like to hear your thoughts on what’s this mean for Peggy? What’s this mean for Joan? What’s this mean for Pete?”

David:To your list of great scenes, I’d add the dinner scene. Mad Men is best when it’s about what’s unsaid (which is why it’s so frustrating when all the characters narrate their feelings, or find poop in the stairwell). For Peggy: She’s back to square 1. She’s surpassed her mentor, and now she’s back working for him again. The result of her beating him was a return. Not good. For Joan: What Harry Crane says to her face, everyone thinks behind her back. And when Don, who is supposed to be her great supporter, fires Jaguar without a second thought, that’s made even more clear. For Pete: He got this amazing validation from Bert this episode. But he’s immediately reminded that Jaguar & Vic’s – the two big gets, had nothing to do with his charms/account management. I wonder how Ted will treat Joan.

Other thoughts from the episode:
-In the first scene it seemed a little like Pete and Joan were flirting. Is she the only one who doesn’t think he’s a creep?
-It’s never been totally clear what Roger does for the agency and it’s taken halfway through season 6 to see one of his tricks. That was pretty cool, wish they’d made him seem more useful earlier.
-Marie had some great lines: “Do you want my flowers, I’m quite done with them.” “You talk like a woman who’s been married for much longer than you have.” “She’s the apple that goes in the pig’s mouth.”
-There were some indirect and obviously direct ties to the episode title, “For Immediate Release.” The indirect ones were about sex.
-Abe and Peggy. Ted and Peggy. Didn’t get a chance to go over this is the recap, but yeah.
-Did you notice Roger using the shoeshine kit he got earlier in the season?
-“They designed it with a computer.”
-“It’s one thing to want something, it’s another to need it.”
-Don and Arnold in the elevator talking about fate.
-“Unless this works, I’m against it.”
“Make it sound like the agency you want to work for.”
-May 17, 1968.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 6 Recap

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 5 Recap

MadMen Maniacs

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Our baby, Campbell Grace finally came this past Wednesday, so I may have watched this week’s episode in a partial vegetative state. I guess this was the episode for it, though because plot wise, not much happened.

-I can’t remember an episode of Mad Men where a single story took up so much of the episode. I guess what they were doing was using the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr as a foil or pivot for a few different characters. I didn’t feel it was super successful, did you? Without knowing what they were going for, I guess I can’t judge that too much. I hate to say it, but I think Don’s secretary, Dawn, had a bigger role last week to set her up for this week and possible future episodes.
-I guess I was surprised at the response to the assassination, how shaken everyone was. We’re only a few seasons away from Roger doing a blackface routine at a party, and now it seems al the characters have completely evolved on the race relations front. (Except for Harry Crane who was more distressed at lost advertising revenue.)

-In the first two episodes of Season 5, Pete had two instances of looking uncomfortable around racism. Tonight his outburst seemed to have more to do with his own situation, but it would be pretty tight if the writers were knowingly making Pete the most comfortable around various races on the show, but only dropping evidence of this once or twice a season. Pete is spiraling, trying to make smalltalk with the Chinese food delivery driver and trying to set the groundwork to convince Trudy to let him come home. While there’s no doubt his argument with Harry Crane was partially about MLK, his last line about MLK’s family drives home the point that this was about his own family. “It’s a shameful, shameful day.”

-It’s curious the characters for whom they choose to focus on and provide backstory. For instance, this week we found out Michael Ginsberg is a virgin and is a wreck around women, but we’ll never find out anything more about Stan. I don’t know what the Ginsberg story had to do with this episode or this season. Any ideas? Maybe to show the Men of Mad Men, aren’t all handsome and suave, there is some vulnerability there.

-Peggy has a tax problem and she’s going to solve it with some interest payments on a new condo. There were some funny moments with the real estate agent when she assumed Abe was the money behind this purchase. The Second Avenue Subway mentioned as the boon to the condo’s price still isn’t completed yet, so maybe it’s a good thing Peggy didn’t get that apartment. The biggest part of this plot line was Abe guilelessly discussing Abe and Peggy’s future children. It was a really sweet moment seeine how Peggy responded to that. “I’m going to Harlem in a tuxedo.”

-Ethan from Lost is now a trippy insurance salesman named Randal Walsh trying to push the advertising envelope. I’ve got no idea either, except Roger’s still experimenting. “This is an opportunity. The Heavens are telling us to change.” I saw Don consider this for an extra beat.

-This episode was titled The Flood, but the only direct reference to a flood was Ginsberg’s father, “In the Flood, the animals went two by two. You, you’re going to get on the ark with your father.” Did you catch anything else?

-I noticed this week a commercial with a voiceover by Jon Hamm. Is that new? Also, Christina Hendricks has been pitching scotch all season.

-Awkward meeting between Megan and Don and Arnold and his wife. And then Don calls DC to check on them? Come on, Don, settle down.

-The hug between Peggy and her secretary and Joan and Dawn contrasted nicely. There’s real warmth between Peggy and her secretary, while Joan and Dawn are still trying to figure each other out, though. Don did seem genuinely concerned for Dawn, though. Peggy’s secretary: “I knew it was going to happen. He knew it was going to happen. But it’s not going to stop anything.” That could be about Don.

-I can’t really remember much of this from the earlier seasons, but I feel like newspapers/radio/TV are being used for expository and dating information more consistently this year. It was used a significant amount tonight.

-I’m not going to by into a Bobby story line until they promise not to change the actor again. We’ve had the same creepy Glenn forever, why can’t we stick with the same Bobby? In any case, Bobby can’t allow for the wallpaper to be uneven and gets punished for his obsessiveness. I think this was supposed to show his steely steadfastness to details, he is his father’s son, but they’ve never really illustrated that specifically for Don, so what do I know. I did love Bobby in the movie theater, though, first when his mind was absolutely blown by Planet of the Apes, “Jesus!” and then when talking to the movie theater employee, “Everybody likes to go to the moves when they’re sad.” It showed a compassion and empathy never exhibited in Betty (except for with Glenn and the violin girl) and hardly exhibited in Don. That was a sweet moment, too.

-Setting up Don’s speech on fatherhood, which is especially poignant to me as a brand new father. “I don’t think I ever wanted to be the man who loves children.” “And you act proud and excited, hand out cigars, but you don’t feel anything.” Don’s never really loved his kids (which is going to make it harder for Megan down the road), or more accurately, has never really lived for his kids. And one of the first times he does feel true parental love for Bobby is after Bobby’s kindness to the man in the movie theater, “You feel the feeling you were pretending to have and it feels like your heart is going to explode.” But then this is all turned on its head because Bobby’s biggest fear is his step-dad will be shot. Don acidly clarified Henry isn’t important enough to be shot, but is clearly stung. That juxtaposition was one of the best of the season.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 5 Recap

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 4 Recap

Mad Men art

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Guess the baby never wants to come out, because it’s still not here.

-We’re in March, 1968 with the announcement of Robert Kennedy’s campaign, the announcement of Johnson’s non-campaign (cute moment between Roger and Bert), and an NYU student protest against Dow Chemical recruiters. This pace ties with last year with about a month in between each episode.
-We got some Harry Crane and Joan stories in the episode, and neither of them are very happy. Harry continues to feel slighted and jealous of Joan, and Joan, despite her status, still isn’t very respected or well-liked.
-The episode’s title, ‘To Have and To Hold,’ caused me to look closely at different ways marriage was represented in the episode. (‘To Have and To Hold‘ was also the best selling book of 1900, but I defy anyone to read the Wikipedia summary and connect it to this episode.) We saw it in the first scene with Heinz Ketchup Timmy, Dawn’s friend getting married, Megan’s love scene, Megan’s co-workers inviting Don and her to swing, Joan’s friend cheating on her husband. It’s an overall terrible depiction of marriage in the late 60s.
-Right away, there’s double infidelity. Don, Pete, and Timmy from Heinz Ketchup are meeting in Pete’s apartment behind Raymond’s (Sauces, Vinegars, and Beans) back. Timmy used the meeting as an excuse to stay in the city and see a woman, not his wife. He makes this clear by creepily taking his ring off on his way out. “I don’t need much of an excuse to come to Manhattan.” (Also, adults with y sounds at the end of their name are OK as long as it’s not Timmy.) This is also Don being unfaithful to his client, Raymond, and I’m not totally sure how Pete convinced him to change his mind. And then Pete and Don share a special moment with Pete offering up his bachelor pad for Don’s use. It’s like he got a quarter through saying it and realized it was a bad idea, but he couldn’t stop. “Well, it’s available to you if you ever need to spend the night in the city.”
-Don’s secretary, Dawn, went to meet with friend/sister? who is getting married. Dawn’s the maid of honor, but can’t find a date. (Always the bridesmaid, never…) Mad Men’s continued avoidance of race issues in the 60s has been a thorn to many critics. It’ll be interesting to track Dawn this season to see if she’s the only view into this side of the 60s. She also described the life of a non-principal at SCDP, “Women crying in the lady’s room. Men crying in the elevator.” We never really do see how the worker bees live, but tonight at least, Dawn got some good lines. “It sounds like NYE when they empty the garbage.” “I don’t care if everyone hates me here as long as you don’t.”
-Joan has a friend visiting from out of town which gives us a chance to check in on her. Both her friend and mother make much of her title at the firm, but when Joan tries to fire Harry Crane’s secretary, we get an illustration of how much power she really has. SCDP is willing to let her do her thing and manage things as she sees fit, and they were happy to get Jaguar as a client, but they also need to be mindful of what Harry brings to the business. I don’t know if they’ll ever make him a partner, but mostly because Sterling just likes playing with him. I thought the shot of her in the cab while her friend and the manager were making out, replicated almost exactly in the club – Joan set apart, sitting up straight – but then willing to be seduced, oh gosh end this run on sentence. Anyway, that shot made me think of Joan at SCDP. Alone and unhappy, but up for it. Joan’s friend came in from out of town to see what it was like to choose career over family and… “I’m really not you, am I?”
-This episode did focus more on the women characters, Joan, Megan, Dawn. We even got to see Peggy pitch.
-Megan was bound to do a love scene at some point if she continued to get bigger roles, and did you really think Don was going to like it? He starts off gruffly accepting, “If I wasn’t your husband, I would be happy for you.” And then Megan pushes it a little further, “Honey, I can tolerate this, but I can’t encourage it.” Don came to watch the scene, and it wasn’t just a love scene, it was a character betraying his entire family, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but the guy was a cartoonish version of Don. So… Don, a guy playing someone else, was watching his wife playing someone else while she made out with a guy playing him. That’s a lot to take in.
-Besides the obvious and comedic, two things stood out for me in the swinger dinner with Megan’s writer and castmate. Don’s been an actor his entire life and he’s now married to an actor and here is at dinner with some. “I could cast you.” “I’m sure he’s a man that plays many roles.” The second quotation is just one of what is basically a weekly reminder of how Don is not who he says he is. The second part that stood out was Don saying he was agains the war. I’m not sure if it was just the company he was in or he actually believes that, but I’m not sure how prevalent that opinion was among the NYC businessmen of the late 60s. Not sure how many of them smoke dope in a room with tinfoil on the windows, either, though.
-Harry Crane’s office is ridiculous, but at lease he has the window he coveted for so long. For what it’s worth, his $22K salary in 1968 has the 2013 spending power of $149,003.60. Thus making his bonus worth another $150K or so. Not bad, Harry. Harry continues to have a giant chip on his shoulder, and I’m of two minds. Either it’s unwarranted because he’s not good at his job, or we just don’t see how successful he really is because of how the character is written. I’m going to go with unwarranted based on how SCDP treats him. They give him enough to keep him wanting more. “I was different than you, Mr. Crane, in every way.” “Should we fire him before he cashes that check.”
-The pitches to Heinz. It’s clear Don’s ideas only work on certain clients and others either need more coaxing, or something else to convince them. For their pitch to work, Timmy from Heinz would have had to be more confident in his brand. Interestingly, Peggy’s pitch gave him everything he said was missing from SCDP’s – the bottle, etc – and neither of them got the account. So it seems Timmy just wanted to be wooed. [Update: J. Walter Thompson ended up with the account, which wasn’t quite clear]. Peggy intro’d her pitch, “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation” the same way Don discussed his idea with the Madison Square Garden team in Season 3 Episode 2. “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”
-There was a neat parallel in Don’s pitch, using a customer’s imagination to sell ketchup, and when he went to the set to watch Megan’s scene to avoid having his imagination run wild. “If you can get into that space, your ad can run all day.” Megan did get into that space and it wasn’t sitting well with Don. “You kiss people for money, you know who else does that?” Another prostitution reference that was maybe supposed to go in last week’s episode.
-Mrs. Rosen is praying Don finds peace and I’m too tired to think about it.

What did I miss?

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 4 Recap

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 3 recap

MadMen DoingSomethingYouLove

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. We’ve got no baby yet, so I’m still doing the recaps. We’ll see about next week.

I didn’t immediately know what to write about tonight, but I’m starting to center around 3 major themes from tonight: prostitution, advertising, and war. First let’s get some plot details out of the way.

-Megan had a miscarriage. She didn’t want to tell Don because she didn’t necessarily want to scare him away by bringing up the conversation about whether to have kids or not. Ever helpful Don does not answer one way or another. “You have to know I want what you want. Is that what you want?”
-Peggy is still having a hard time managing people, this time getting management advice from her secretary. I wonder if this will continue all season. And getting pranked/hazed by her employees. I was surprised, naively perhaps, that her employees would prank a superior in this manner. (Also, did that firm get Clearasil last year when SCDP got Dow Chemical?)
-Don and Mrs. Rosen continue their dalliance and talk about their feelings. When Don feels her pulling away, he seems even more attracted. To me there were huge similarities in his “You want to feel shame right up to the point I take your dress off” speech and when he forced his hand up Bobbie Barrett’s dress (also in a restaurant.) Don goes after these women who have rebellious streaks, but not too rebellious. Don seems to want to be found out, a trait he’s exhibited consistently in the series.
-Pete uses his Manhattan bachelor pad to seduce a woman from down the block. Her husband abuses her and Trudy finds out about it. This leads to a conversation where she acknowledges she knew about Pete’s philandering. “It’s all about what it looks like, isn’t it.” Pete also seems like he wants to get caught.
-Don and Pete, Don and Pete, Don and Pete. Their stories are so entwined. Pete wants to be Don, wants to live like Don. Don maybe sees that in Pete and despises him for it. “Why can’t you just follow the rules?” Dunno, Pete, why can’t you?

-War, advertising, and prostitution were big tonight. Advertising compared to prostitution, prostitution on its own, advertising compared to war, war on it’s own, advertising on its own. Advertising has often been compared to prostitution, and it was tonight in various ways. Intimations to prostitution have come up previously, and comparisons to advertising, but right now I can’t remember where war themes were so abundant, both metaphorically, and literally in the radio accounts and the conversation with Rosen at dinner.
First the references to prostitution:
-It’s in Don’s nature to be hamfistedly helpful, so him whipping out a wad of bills to give to Mrs. Rosen after they finished probably didn’t have too many undertones to it in his mind, but I was surprised how willingly she took it. I think if I was sleeping with my neighbor and she offered me money, I’d at least make a joke about it.
-Don moving in to a brothel with his uncle and stepmother(?). I got the sense that this era’s flashback would be present throughout the season…
-‘Just a Gigolo‘ playing at the end of the episode. (David Lee Roth covered this later on.)
-The Jaguar/Joan storyline came back as well.
-Pete saying, “It’s all about what it looks like, isn’t it.” could be describing prostitution or advertising, in the same way as Don’s “I wish you handled the clients as well as you handled me.” And Pete again, “I really have to get back, can you move it along a little.” Her time was up.
-The title of the episode is The Collaborators, the name given to war-time citizens who cooperate with invaders, but what do you call the people you work with? This was just the beginning of the war references.
-It’s the end of January, 1968, and the Viet Cong have just launched the Tet Offensive. (District Attorney Garrison was on Carson on 1/31/1968. Here’s audio of the interview. The Tet Offensive occurred when a cease fire was signed for the Tet New Year. Trudy signed a cease fire with Pete by letting him get an apartment in the city and then he ambushed her.
-When Ted Chaough gave Peggy the Heinz account to research, pretty much everything he said compared advertising to war. “He’s not your friend, he’s the enemy.” “This is how wars are won.” “Blow their mind.” Except for one part where I picked up a prostitution reference, “Maybe you need a friend more than you need a job. I didn’t know that, I’m in advertising.”
-But then this, “Your friend’s mistake was underestimating you,” which was talking about Don as much as it was talking about Don as much as it was talking about Stan. (If I ever have to micro-analyze a Ted Chaough paragraph, I will be upset.)
-“This is Munich” comparing the Jaguar/SCDP relationship to the appeasement of the Nazis is about a clear war reference as you can get, while Roger Sterling’s ‘self-immolation’ comment was a hair more nuanced. Was Roger just saying Don had burned up, or was he saying Don’s protesting the client’s idea was similar to the protesting Vietnamese monks. In the third season of Mad Men, Sally saw a news report about a self immolating monk, so it’s ground Mad Men has covered before.

The following points don’t really tie to the above.
-The firm gets introduced to the Heinz Ketchup account, but is instructed to ignore it. Ken doesn’t know why, but Don explains it says they have to, “Dance with the one that brung ya.” It’s crazy how loyal Don is to the clients (Mohawk Air) while knowing only infidelity in his marriage. He has more control over his professional life and can live it the way he feels like he should live his personal life. For some reason, he’s not able to do this.
-I liked the line, “It’s the Coca Cola of condiments!”
-The Jaguar plot about always saying yes to Herb was contrasted by the Pete / Trudy conversation which included, “I have never said no to you.”
-This recap took a little longer than usual because I spent time trying to track the origins of “blow their mind,” “dance with the one that brung ya,” and “x is the y of z.” Seems like all of those would have been in use in the 60s, but maybe not in heavy rotation.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 3 recap

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 1 and Episode 2 recap

Don Draper astronaut by chris piascik

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. This season should be an interesting one for the flash recaps as my wife and I are expecting our first child to be born sometime between now and Episode 3. There will still be illustrated recaps on a weekly basis, but from time to time, they may be written by someone other than me.

-That was a startling fade in. Who did you think it was going to be getting resuscitated? I thought it was clumsy how they eventually came back around to that scene, maybe too quick of a cut from present to flashback. Almost certainly on purpose as they do. Jonesy the door guy had a heart attack or something and after being resuscitated by Arnold Rosen, was back at work when Don and Megan returned home. Rosen asks, “Jesus, what’s his real name?” and maybe Don imagines himself dying without anyone knowing who he is.

-Before the premier, there had been plenty of speculation about when this penultimate season would take place. There is every year Part of the speculation is because people want to know how far the show will get into the 70’s. Part of the speculation is because Matthew Weiner guards the timeline of the season so jealously. So everyone was right. We’re about to be in 1968. (The first heart transplant, joked about on the Tonight Show, was in October 1967.) You get your Summer of Love, the assassinations of MLK and RFK, and coming up at the end of January, the Tet Offensive. At least ONE of those things will be featured this season.

-Just a quick catch up on where everybody is at the moment. Don and Megan are a few more months into their marriage, and Megan is a regular on a show called To Have and To Hold. Betty is a little heavy, though not as heavy as last year, and her and Henry have taken in a ward of some sort. Sally’s 14, and has a deeper voice. Bobby is, again, played by a new actor. Roger (sideburns!) seems smitten with a 29 year old, and Peggy is busy putting out fires. We didn’t get an update on Pete (except for his sideburns and continued hairline recession) or Joan.

-The problem with titling an episode ‘Doorways’ is that every single doorway in the episode takes on monumental importance. On the other hand windows, doorways, elevators have always had lots of importance on Mad Men. Here are a couple of the more memorable doorways: Betty tearing her coat on a hook in the doorway of the house at St Marks, Don and Megan coming in after vacation, Jonesy coming out of a doorway, Sally closes the door on Betty.

-Don was reading Dante’s Inferno on the beach in Hawaii. Dante, you may recall, passes through the Gate of Hell (a doorway), which has the inscription, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Heaven and Hell, or fire and ice, were referenced several other times in the show: Hawaii is like Heaven, Jonesy “checking the steam,” Betty getting pulled over because it was so icy, Roger’s daughter wanting him to invest in refrigerated trucks, “Heaven’s a little morbid” during the pitch.

-Don’s watch didn’t work when they were on the beach because time literally stands still in Hawaii. If you want to be like Don and Megan, you too can stay at the Royal Hawaiian.

-Don met a PFC Dinkins on R&R from Vietnam who was in Hawaii to get married. “You some kind of astronaut?” “One day I’ll be the man who can’t sleep and talks to strangers.” Somehow Don ends up giving the bride away, and they exchanged lighters it’s revealed during a scene where Don was peeved at being photographed. The lighter had the inscription, “In life we have to do things that are just not our bag,” which has actually never applied to Don. Exchanging the lighters really shook Don, as if the two of them had exchanged lives. The photographer says, “I want you to be yourself,” and obviously this is difficult for Don. (Eugene Dinkin was a PFC stationed in France. He went AWOL in Nov 1963 and showed up in Geneva talking about a plot against JFK. Just an aside.) In 2003, Phil Kline researched the poems GIs inscribed into their Zippos and included the ‘not our bag’ quote above. That phrase wasn’t on the internet anywhere else until last night.

-The Francis house is always, always so dark, and all the scenes from this week were no exception. I guess it would be dark if you had to live with Betty. I’ve been writing this next sentence for 15 minutes and I am moving on. While, Betty graphically details a rape she encourages Henry to commit of a 15 year old girl staying with them her eyes have this crazy look. The look says, “I’m kidding, but not really, Henry, I’m jealous of this violin player, don’t don’t get any ideas and I don’t know how inappropriate talking like this is because I’m a sociopath.” But then also, “It makes me feel so much.”

-Roger’s in therapy this year, which replaces dictating his book as the device to just let him expound on everything and anything. He mentions the doors and paths and windows and gates, but says they’re all the same, and they all close behind you. He hardly reacted to his mother’s death, but sobbed when he found out about the shoe shiner. Sort of a cliche, but I’m OK with it for the glimpse into the real Roger. “Talk to Joan, she’ll know what to do.”

-“I smell creativity.” Stan and Ginsberg are still there, along with another dude and another woman.

-Glad to see Peggy playing a big part. She’s pitching clients (or calming them down in emergencies), and still coming up with good copy. “You’re good in a crisis.” We already knew that, Ted. One thing I noticed was both Abe (he’s been around a while now) and Ted subtly mentioned Peggy’s management style. Abe said she shouldn’t be so mean, and Ted said she should have let people go home. I can’t decide if this was done to show that Peggy’s over her head (unlikely), or to show she’s sort of clueless about how other people work. She works tirelessly and expects her bosses not to sugarcoat things, so why doesn’t everyone? I like how her and Stan still work late together over the phone.

-“This is my funeral.” It was as if Roger was throwing a party, not a funeral. I’m don’t know why Don got so drunk at the funeral, but he started to lose it it when Roger’s aunt emphasized the word “Wit” and “Man” in her eulogy. “Roger Sterling, no matter what you do, everyone loves you.” Roger thought it was hilarious his mother left all her money to the Zoo and someone else can leave a comment below about the significance of the jar River Jordan water.

-“So, you’ll still love me if I’m a lying cheating whore?” Don’s cheating. Again. This time with the (older?) wife of his new friend, Arnold Rosen. (Did you see the look on his secretary’s face when Don introduce him as a friend? Like, “Uh, you don’t have friends.”) Don feels bad about the cheating, but it hasn’t stopped him yet. The two men, Draper and Rosen, are fascinated with each other’s professions. Rosen said something like, you get paid to think about the stuff people don’t want to talk about, and I get paid to not think about it. “Please don’t compare what I do with what you do.” Rosen made several comments comparing their two professions and Don kept avoiding it. People will do anything to alleviate their anxiety.

-But anyway, Don’s cheating again. He does his best work when he’s brimming with self-loathing, so that’s good for Sheraton, I guess. I can’t imagine we’re back to self-destructive Don, since we’ve already seen that, or maybe I just hope we’re not back there. I guess more on this next week.

-The part where Don asked Stan if the ad made him think of suicide and Stan saying that’s why he liked it.

-A brief mention of Bob Benson, a new ass kissing character to keep an eye on.

-There were a lot of different references to photographs/pictures this week: The slide show of Hawaii (itself a reference the carousel of the first season), Rosen came to get a camera, the firm’s partners being photographed, Betty showing a picture of the missing girl.

It did snow in NYC on 12/31/1967.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 1 and Episode 2 recap

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 13 Recap


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

Thinking about the finale earlier this week, I figured one possibility for tonight’s episode would be some sort of resetting. Last week was the Season 5 finale, and tonight was to get us ready for next year. I’d call it denouement, which is appropriate because of all the French in the episode, but this was less final resolution and more new beginnings. 10 years from now, after the end of the series, I wonder if we’ll look at this season as the end of the first epoch of the Mad Men series.

-Let’s start with the ending. Maybe I was looking for it, but I got a strong sense that the last few shots were hints at which direction the characters are headed. Don’s headed for trouble, walking away from Megan as the opening strains of ‘You Only Live Twice‘ a James Bond theme by Nancy Sinatra begins to play. He goes into a bar and orders an Old Fashioned, recalling the first scene in the series, and remember the kind of man Don was in the first season. The firm, bursting at the seams, is headed up, literally to a higher a floor in their building. They must have gotten rid of the extraneous second floor from last season. Roger is experiencing additional spiritual awakening. Pete’s getting his wish to move back to the city, partially, and Peggy is watching dogs hump in Richmond. The song choice at the end, is as important as ever, with the show and all the characters ending the second stage of their lives.

-The title of tonight’s episode was ‘The Phantom.’ A whole mess of things fit: the prank calls (Roger, you dog), Don’s tooth pain, Don seeing his brother, Pete’s suburban sexpot Beth, Trudy’s dream of the suburban life, Lane’s influence over SCDP even though he’s gone, Megan’s ambition. I think the true phantom, though, is Don this season. He’s not the person we’ve watched all season, and next year we’ll be seeing either old Don or a new Don, but it won’t be this Don. I wonder how Megan will take that. I don’t know if fidelity in marriage is Don’s most important personality trait, but it is the easiest to use to illustrate this point. A couple times this week, I thought about something I wrote about last week’s episode.

Don making Lane come clean was a wake up call to Don. His life could change at any time, just like Lane’s. He could get caught in his lie. This brought him into Roger’s office on fire. “I’m tired of this piddly shit.” He’s tired of settling. He’s tired of not going for it all. The scene at Dow Chemical’s office was another example of Don selling. He’s the best because he’s the best at convincing the client to take the idea, not necessarily because it’s the best creative. He had some great lines in that meeting (“But, what is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness.”), classic Mad Men. To a certain extent, he could have been talking to himself with the whole not settling spiel. He had a lot, a beautiful wife, kids, etc, but before Don didn’t settle for having a lot, he wanted it all. I wonder if he’ll now cheat on Megan. I think this was my favorite scene of the season. “What happened to your enlightenment?” “I don’t know, wore off.”

The last scene of the show strongly implies Don isn’t going to settle for what he’s got anymore.

-Incidentally, one aspect of seasons 1-4 Don that didn’t play a big role this season was Dick Whitman. Megan knows something about Dick, probably not all the details, but enough, that it keeps some of the pressure off of Don. I’m curious if Phantom Don, calm Don, faithful Don, keeps Dick issues (I said that) at bay. If my theory proves right and there’s a different Don next year, will his past be more of an issue for him? And if so, how will Megan deal with Don’s secret. This question becomes especially more dicey after seeing Megan steal the role her friend asked her to help her get. A foreshadowing quote: “All I want is an audition. I’d ask you who to sleep with, but I don’t think you’d like it.”) Don keeps seeing Dick’s brother Adam everywhere (in the elevator, in SCDP, in the dentist’s office), which is another hint at Don’s sense that the past may be catching up on him. Again, the Dick Whitman pressure is not something he seemed to feel for most of the season. I could probably write 500 more words about all of this right now.

-Don’s got a ‘hot tooth,’ which is basically an infection. If you have one, don’t go as long as he did before getting it checked out. The dentist said something about an abscess, a hole, which is fairly symbolic. Don almost had a literal hole filled with bacteria in his body. “It’s not your tooth that’s rotten.” His soul? “Don’t go, don’t leave me.” Is Don feeling alone?

-Megan’s having a tough time, with not getting any roles. She paid for a screen-test from one of those scams in the back of a newspaper, and it turned out exactly how you would expect. Megan seemed fairly realistic about the prospects of it working, but she’s desperate. I don’t think we know if she’s awful or not, but she’s starting to think she might be, and her mother certainly thinks she is. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” “Because you are chasing a phantom.” (!!!) “Not every girl gets to do what they want, the world could not support that many ballerinas.” “Thank God my children aren’t my whole life.” “This is what happens when you have the artistic temperament but you are not an artist.” I was trying to figure out if there was a pattern to when Marie spoke French and when she spoke English, but I didn’t get one. Don is embarrassed that Megan is so unhappy, so he blames Marie. She’s not even taking that. “She left my house a happy girl.”

-The entire ‘advertising as art’ debate gets a serious rehash in the discussion about whether Don could get Megan the role, or at least an audition. I think Don wouldn’t admit it, but he does see what he does as art, but Megan definitely doesn’t. She left SCDP because she wanted to pursue her dreams of acting, and Don sees commercial work as a cop out. It’s almost as if he doesn’t believe what she believes, he just wants her to have more conviction. “You’re an artist, aren’t you?” Or maybe he just didn’t want to be put in that position. Chris’s drawing from Season 4 Episode 4 is especially relevant to this conversation. I really liked the line from early in the episode, “It’s a great sin to take advantage of hopeless people.” It’s a fairly succinct and cynical view of what advertising is. I was jittery during Megan and Don’s last scene together, Don walking away from Megan’s commercial, her in the light, him in the dark. She’s taking part in advertising instead of art. Maybe she’s less interesting to him now that she’s not going after something. She’s come around to his point of view that advertising has value, and now she’s no better than Betty was when they first met. Maybe her commercial shoot was the final nail in the coffin of this season’s Don.

-That scene of the partners looking out the window on their new floor was one of those Mad Menesque shots that happen every couple episodes.

-You should know, Pete, that the conductor punching you in the nose, was for all of us viewers. You’d somehow earned some bit of sympathy in the middle of the season, and then you pooped all over it. The conductor punching you was our revenge. Pete is a deeply unhappy man, grasping at anything, the scarf on a piece of luggage, for instance. He thinks Beth is his path to happiness, and she could care less about him. I got the feeling her amnesia in the hospital was fake, but it doesn’t matter. She doesn’t want him in her life. He’s a fling to her, but he thinks she’s the one (“fresh Lifesavers”).

-Did you catch Pete using the word permanent twice: “His life with his family was a temporary bandage on a permanent wound.” “I don’t know Trudy, it’s awfully permanent.” He doesn’t want to be tied down, so he uses his daughter (“Tammy could drown”) as a cudgel. In the end, after his second ‘car accident,’ Trudy relents and lets him get his apartment in the city. Trudy is giving up a little. The swimming pool was a last chance to make Pete happy at home, the apartment might make him happy away.

-Pete and Don have always sort of played off one another. Earlier in the season, I mentioned a couple times how Pete and Don seemed to have switched places. I didn’t pick up on it too much the rest of the season, but tonight it was back, flashing bright. Pete mentioned wanting to run away to LA with Beth, something Don did in an earlier season (more than once?). “I’m going to have the same view as you, Don.” Replace ‘view’ in that sentence with ‘outlook’. And then Pete literally putting Don in charge of his vote, if only for a moment, “Don, I give you my proxy.” (“We can do that?”)

-Lane’s empty chair cast a shadow (way to be heavy handed) over the latest partners meeting to such an extent, Joan felt like she had to give voice to his conservative position. Despite this, he was only lightly mentioned in this episode, and I think we’re moving on. Don has lingering guilt over his part in Lane’s suicide and makes sure a check quickly gets cut for $50K (about $345K in today’s dollars). It’s pretty clear he’s trying to assuage his guilt, and Rebecca sees right through him. If Don is being consistent, he’ll feel he’s done his part, done all he can do, and he’ll wash his hands of it. He doesn’t like to be shouted at or made to feel badly, and that’s all he’ll get from trying to do anything else. Another great line from tonight, “You had no right to fill a man like that with ambition.”

There were some inflation calculations done a couple weeks ago to determine Peggy’s $19K salary was worth $131K. Using that math, Lane’s $175K insurance policy is worth around $1.2 million.

-Someone should make a Supercut of all the Mad Men elevator scenes. Why hasn’t this happened yet?

-Last week in an interview, the actor who played Lane, said something about Peggy leaving the show which was interpreted as implying Peggy was leaving permanently. Her appearance tonight doesn’t necessarily refute that completely, but her interactions with Ted Chaough and seeing the inside of the agency lead me to believe she’ll still have a recurring role. And she was already missed at SCDP in the meeting with Topaz stockings, the client she brought in. Don, happy to run into her at the movie, can’t help but continue to say shitty things. “That’s what happens when you help someone. They succeed and move on.” Peggy brought up Megan a couple times, but I’m not really sure why. Was she fooled or by phantom Don? Or not fooled? The questions could go either way. Peggy’s interest in Megan is something I’ve had a blindspot for all season. Peggy seeing two dogs having sex outside her hotel in Richmond… Probably just a completely random shot to get Mad Men recappers like me to write sentences like this one.

-At first, Roger was the phantom, prank calling the Draper residence over and over, until he could get Marie on the phone. Not sure how he could have expected that to work, but it did. And, boy, did it work. I guess Marie would be a perfect person for him to end up with, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Last week he said his enlightenment wore off, so he needed some more LSD to get it going again, resulting in a NYPD Blue-level full butt nude scene. He said something about Lane’s suicide and how you’d have to be pretty sure where you going was better than here, and his opinion that maybe here is the best place. It’s a pretty atheistic outlook, which is interesting because her husband being an atheist is purportedly why Marie was in New York.

-Don watched Megan’s screen-test, and to me, it felt… Nostalgic. He was watching her and remembering what he liked about her (her looks), but since the film was silent, he didn’t have to worry about listening to her. Was he saying goodbye to that Megan? Was he remembering what he liked about her?

-I didn’t really pick up on it during the episode, but in writing this recap, I seem to remember it being around Easter time, in which case, all of the resurrection and rebirth stuff should be included in everything.

-It’s too late, now, to write up thoughts on the whole season, and I don’t really know what I would say. Because of how I think about things, and this weekly exercise, I experienced the season on a very episode by episode basis. The theme of violent change that was so apparent in the first half of the season tapered off. It was hit so hard episode after episode at the beginning of the season, it’s probably got to be counted as a theme. This was the most different of all the seasons, the most adventurous stylistically. Will future seasons gravitate back to the style of seasons 1-4, or will we be bashed over the head Sunday night after Sunday night for the next few years?

This was the longest of all the recaps this season. Thanks very much for reading!

What did I miss?

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 13 Recap