Mad Men Season 5 Episode 13 Recap

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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

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 12 recap

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

-I don’t think there were any date clues, or even many cultural references. I might have missed them if there were, as I was slightly occupied by the Celtics playoff game. Best guess, it’s late January to mid-February, and if I was in early season form, I’d probably look at historical weather reports for New York City to find the Friday it snowed. The episode title, ‘Commissions and Fees,’ didn’t seem to reference much, except for the client request that ultimately lead to Lane’s demise. There was also the fun moment where Don said he didn’t want to go to a fee structure and referenced the decision to approach Joan last week. They shared a look. Sometimes the episodes revolve around the episode title, and sometimes they don’t at all.

-What an uncomfortable episode. The slow burn all season hinting at a suicide finally came to a head. Pete Campbell was the early favorite for jumping, Betty, Roger, and even Joan have been candidates, but the last several weeks, it’s been Lane alone. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly in which scenes, but a suicide has been telegraphed all season. To such an extent, actually, that I almost thought it wouldn’t happen. Yipes. I’m still unsettled by the episode.

-Oh, Lane. The episode started off promising for him, getting asked by the 4As (American Association of Advertising Agencies) to take on a fiscal role (with a trip to The Greenbrier). I immediately thought this would be a way for Lane to get himself some financial breathing room. And Rebecca was so excited about the news she bought him a car! In the end, undone by a request from Jaguar, the company he’d originally tried to bring in. They wanted to pay for the work, instead of paying a commission on the media SCDP was buying. I’m not sure of my advertising agency history, but I wonder if this was the beginning of a split in agencies (media planning/buying vs creative agencies managing the brand). In any case, Bert ‘took it upon himself’ to investigate the impact the switch would have on SCDP and found the check Lane had forged. It’s not clear exactly why Bert’s investigation would require looking at current statements because it would be more about projections, but whatever, they didn’t have Excel.

-After leaving Don’s office, Lane went to Joan. He’d lost everything, why not go for it? I think a lot of people have been anticipating someone jumping out a window all season, so the last scene before the commercial break of Lane looking out the big windows seemed like an obvious choice. And then the walk to the car in the parking garage was ominous, sort of like Batman’s parents getting murdered ominous. But the car sure was pretty, wasn’t she? Since we’ve heard for weeks that the Jaguars are beautiful, but unreliable, I assumed Lane wouldn’t be able to get the car started for his first suicide attempt. The deliberate snapping of his glasses was great, perhaps a last, futile, punch at the world that has been so unfair to him. Where did he get the hose? Where did he get the rope? And then how it actually happened. It’s amazing they were able to make the reveal so suspenseful with everyone knowing what had happened. Not showing the body for several minutes after we knew made it even more suspenseful. Well done. Goodbye, Lane.

-When Bert showed Don the check, Bert assumed Don had given Lane a bonus as a nice guy. Lane put up a brave front, trying to convince, or at least trying to imply to, Don he’d signed the check while drunk. Lane went through several stages. Denial, begging for forgiveness, pleading for mercy, anger (“Do you know how the rest of us live?”), and then acceptance. During the conversation, Don was thinking, ‘This could be me.’ He knew Lane must have been desperate to do what he did (“I’m giving you a chance to come clean.”), but he couldn’t be allowed to stay after betraying the firm’s trust. Lane made a point two times to say it was a thirteen day loan (“That was my money.”), but it goes deeper than that. He’d convinced everyone they were in good shape for a bonus, but they were only in good shape after securing additional financing. The fact that the money was to have been paid out as a bonus didn’t matter because they shouldn’t have had bonuses in the first place. “The next thing will be better, because it always is.” “I’ve started over a lot, Lane. This is the worst part.”

-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.”

-Look at Ken mixing it up and elbowing Pete out. Go Ken. I wonder how he feels about the pact now.

-Betty’s starting to drop more of the weight, which is nice because I know that’s important to her, but her and Sally keep fighting. I don’t really like Betty, but I don’t really like Sally either. Sally deciding not to go skiing, having tea (like a lady) with Megan, ordering coffee, and having an inappropriate conversation with Megan’s inappropriate friend, and then an illicit meet up with creepy Glen Bishop; she became a woman. (That was a weird shot of Sally pouring the sugar into the coffee, right?) It was a bit strange she told Megan and the friend that she didn’t think Glen liked her that way (did I catch that right?), and then she told Glen she didn’t like him that way. We’ve only seen Glen a bit, but there definitely wasn’t any indication he was being picked on (though it’s not really a surprise because weird kids end up getting picked on). He was pretty frank about getting bullied, and his honesty was kind of refreshing. It isn’t really what you should say to someone you’re trying to get with, though. (But neither is, “Are you kidding? The museum is right across the park.”) I think Sally just likes having a relationship with Glen because it’s secret and forbidden. She likes having something that she owns, controls, in her life that is so out of control. And now she’s a woman and, for a moment at least, there is peace at home. I don’t know what to make of Betty’s call to Megan, because it wasn’t quite as snippy as I’d expect. It was almost magnanimous, like she’d conquered Megan in the war for Sally. I’m afraid Betty is in for a shock.

-And then Glen has to come back for his bag. I did a paper on Nat Turner one time, too. It’s funny Megan makes him stay, because, what? And then it’s funny that Don offers to drive him back to school. I wasn’t really sure what instigated that. “Why does everything turn out crappy? Everything you want to do just turns into crap.” The scene of Glen driving was magic. Magic. I guess Lane and Glen are pretty closely tied in this episode. Both people constantly getting shit on by the world and not having any clue how to make it work. Hopefully Don’s kindness pushes Glen in the right direction.

-Did you all see the super threatening commercials by AMC about Dish Network dropping AMC? Those were funny.

-There was no place for this, but I liked the line, “It’s all just gossip at a certain point.” What did I miss?

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 12 recap

David Simon: “Fuck the average reader”

This conversation between Nick Hornby and David Simon is almost 5 years old, but new to me (I think?).

On writing:

My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.

It’s all pretty great (read: bloggable (readable, too)), but this about Baltimore pride was funny:

If the ghetto dick-grab were known to me in 1985, I might’ve held on to mine when I uttered the following: “I’m from Baltimore. And I can tell you what ‘active’ means. It means we kicked his ass.” An empty moment floated through the crypt, and the other Americans on the tour just about died. At that instant, I felt it was a good thing I didn’t go on with what I knew, because Ross was actually mortally wounded at North Point by two Baltimoreans with squirrel rifles who crept through the brush and shot him off his horse, infuriating the British, who sent an entire detachment of Royal Marines to kill the sharpshooters, named Wells and McComas. (They are buried under a monument in the heart of the East Baltimore ghetto and have streets named after them near the fort.)

Via @weegee

David Simon: “Fuck the average reader”

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 11 recap

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

To paraphrase what one of the advisers said, everyone always talks about the episodes where nothing happens. Well, tonight, everything happened! Jeeze. This was a bigger episode, a fuller episode, there were more parts that made me squirm than usual. The episode was titled, “The Other Woman.” The title was ostensibly a reference to the Jaguar pitch, but also refers to Megan, Peggy, and obviously, Joan (because they are women, duh?).

-Well, people can start hating Pete again, I guess. That was a short ride on the Pete sympathy train.

-At the beginning of the episode, Peggy looks wistfully at the lunch of lobster from the Palms delivered to the freelance copywriters brought in to help with Jaguar. Don tells her she’s in charge of everything until Jaguar is done, but she’s still jealous. We see her totally nail an on-the-spot pitch to keep a business from canceling their ad sales, and then in one of the most disturbing scenes in the series, we see Don throw cash at her, hitting her in the face. It was an image, that to me, made it seem like Peggy was prostitute, and Don was her john, or her pimp. Heavy shit. She didn’t even seem too mad, just resolved to leave. This was all after Pete and Ken had been been told by the Jaguar dealer he wanted to sleep with Joan. Peggy’s pitch involves Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets to help her city (Joan, much?). Ken goes in to check on Peggy and brings up the pact which came up earlier in the year. I wonder if Peggy is going to help Ken get a job at CGC. And of course it’s CGC she’s going to, because that will hurt the most. She’s clearly talented, but part of her value to Ted Chaough is sticking it to Don. I wonder how that will be used. Don didn’t think she’d leave, thought this was a play for more money, and then was angry that she was leaving. I feel like he was mostly sad, though, because she was someone he knew, liked, and the rest of them, well, they’re beneath him. I don’t want to spend too much time on it, but Peggy’s walk out of the office was a very leaving-the-series walk. She looked back to see if anyone would come after her, but the only one who noticed was Joan (their relationship has always been fun). And very briefly, did you notice when the elevator opened, a wash of light across her face? Then she smiled and got in. The elevators are so symbolly this year. The whole show is so heavy handed this year. “I can never tell if you’re ambitious or you just like to complain.” “Why can’t I be both?” And also, “You really have no idea when things are good, do you?” And also, “Let’s pretend I’m not responsible for every single good thing that’s happened to you.”

-There’s always a lot of money references, but they seemed to be more striking this episode… Don throwing it in Peggy’s face, the negotiations with Joan, Lane and the bonuses, Peggy and Ted talking salary, Don asking Peggy how much she wants, they were all so loaded.

-The thing about Herb, the sleazebag Jaguar dealer, is that he was too slimy to proposition Joan on his own. He needed to make it a business thing (“Well, we wanted to be in the car business.”) and have it engineered by Ken and/or Pete. This has happened before, right? Joan being propositioned by a client? Pete got everything going, he didn’t seem too distressed to twist the screws. I think he knew she’d do it, and he just wanted to make it worth her while. “You’re talking about prostitution.” “I’m talking about business at a very high level.” (But what’s the difference, right?) And then later, “This is some very dirty business.” Joan is now a partner, and I’m curious how that will play out. Also, Joan, 5% of nothing is nothing. She at least got an emerald necklace out of it, the emerald was the favorite gem of Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Egypt. So that necklace wasn’t loaded or anything. And Herb’s a dummy, combining Helen of Troy (the face that launched a thousand ships) and the Sultan of Arabia (I think?). In any case, the scene of Don pitching the Jaguar as being the one beautiful, crazy, amazing thing you could finally buy, being interspersed with Joan being bought was pretty powerful, and then he intimated she should leave! What a dick. “Jaguar. At last, something beautiful you can truly own.”

-Don was nice to try to talk Joan out of it, and right that they wouldn’t want to be in business with people like that, (unfortunately, Joan had already done it, as we learn through another flashback). “You’re a good one, aren’t you?” However, I think a major reason he wanted to talk Joan out of it was because he wanted to save the day, he wanted to be the hero again. Did you see him walk into the office after the pitch? Like a cowboy. He thought he’d done it. And he had, but not cleanly. He’ll never know how much Joan had to do with it, and that destroyed him. Then Peggy destroyed him again. Dude is lost. The other thing about Don and Joan is that he was furious at Sal when Sal turned a client down. Fairly similar situation, but I’m not sure what’s changed in Don’s mind.

-Megan is the third woman of this episode. She’s got an audition for Little Murders, a play/movie about a woman marrying an emotionally unavailable man. Hmmm, I wonder what that references. Here’s the famous wedding scene from the movie. Her callback… As she walks in, there’s the shot of the three guys on the couch, and it was so skeezy, just that shot. And then another shot of them and they ask her to turn around. I couldn’t tell if she was there just for them to ogle, or if she actually had a shot at the role, but either way, it was pretty dirty. The tension between her and Don is still pretty high at times. He’s still not used to her deciding on things for herself (“Just keep doing whatever the hell you want.”). She ran off again, but Don was more OK with it this time because he had to go to work anyway. And what’s the deal with Ginsberg and Megan? He’s kind of a weirdo, huh?

-Lane’s gambit continues to get more convoluted. This week, he basically gave away 5% of the company to keep a bubble around the $50K line of credit he got last week, and that was to hide about $2K he took? Jeeze, Lane, think more long term! Signs are currently pointing to him to be the one throwing himself out the window, but Don, Roger, and Pete, have all been in the running this season.

-And I think I still left out a billion things because of how much was in this episode.

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 11 recap

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 10 recap

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

-We are flying! It’s Christmas already (“I love Christmas in Manhattan”). Or almost (Roger is drinking to celebrate Pearl Harbor Day, so it’s 12/7). And the episode title is ‘Christmas Waltz’, a reference to the song The Christmas Waltz which played at the end of the episode. I don’t know what this had to do with what we saw this week, though. I noticed a lot of different relationship interactions, which might reference a lyric in the song, “It’s that time of year / When the world falls in love.” I think naming the episode America Hurrah, the name of the play Don and Megan saw, would have been too obvious.

-This episode featured more of Lane, Harry, and Joan than we’ve gotten in a while. Lane is in deep shit for paying taxes to the US instead of the UK. I’d guess he didn’t pay taxes to the US either, but no way of knowing. I hadn’t realized until the ‘scenes from next week’ last week, that Lane hasn’t been on for a while. There was some conversation while watching this week that Lane would be the one to throw himself out a window (not Pete, as the advisers anticipate). In any case, Lane is broke, has been broke, and still hasn’t told anyone. He has a tax bill of $8K, and concocts a plan to have SCDP borrow $50K on a short term loan so that the firm could pay out bonuses. His plan is somewhat derailed when one of the clients halts all work, delaying the partners’ bonuses. Someone will find out. I liked the deliberateness of the check forging scene. It’s emblematic of the series, and it was notable it was Don Draper’s signature being forged, as he’s living a forgery.

-The return of Paul Kinsey as a Hare Krishna was just one of those scenes. I think we saw him earlier this year at Don and Megan’s party, but he wasn’t Krishna, and he wasn’t as heavy. Am I misremembering that? He’s lost and ended up at a Hare Krishna temple. It’s interesting. Mother Lakshmi definitely represents the culty aspects of HK, while Paul represents the naive devotee (though they like him because he’s a great recruiter). Lakshmi saw Harry, well, Paul’s relationship with Harry, as a threat. “I’m trading the only thing I have.” In one of the surprises of the season, Harry looks out for his old friend and gives him $500 to get him out of town (some of the money was likely leftover from Roger paying him to switch offices), and away from the Hare Krishna temple. Harry saw Paul as a reflection of himself, realized they weren’t so different, realized it could be him adrift, and decided to help (“It will all seem like it happened to someone else.”). At the same time, the frantic chanting did impact Harry, too. Also, Kinsey is STILL in a turtle neck. Remember the pipe? I liked Peggy giving Harry cold ass advice about what to do.

-I thought the Hare Krishnas were a good contrast to Don, who is also clearly adrift. He doesn’t care about work, or the work. Every time he’s alone in the office, he’s lying on the couch. Last week, the only thing that got him motivated was beating Ginsberg. Also, at times, he seems ambivalent about Megan. He’s happy with her, but maybe not as happy as he’s told he is, every episode by someone different. This week it was Joan. (“The car does nothing for me.” “That’s because you’re happy. You don’t need it.”) The play Don and Megan see is America Hurrah which debuted in November of 1966 and in some circles is regarded as the play of the 60s. Don didn’t care for the message. He appears to be souring on advertising, and doesn’t need a play reinforcing that. Maybe he’s not souring on advertising, he’s sensing the world changing, he’s sensing his work won’t be as revered as it’s been. And then, a rousing speech at the end of the episode, pepping up the troops, and himself. I wasn’t moved by the speech, and the nodding approval of the partners first, and then the employees, seemed a heavy handed way of showing the impact of the speech. Instead of us feeling the impact, we’re given cues by the ensemble. We don’t feel moved, but we know we should be. This happened last week with the forced laughter at the lame Pepsi Snowball pitches. Maybe Don is pushing himself back into the work.

-Joan got served! And then she freaks out at the moron receptionist. I liked Don and Joan roleplaying in the Jaguar dealership (“Look at your watch.”), and I think they liked it, too. They have such a close relationship, and they flirt. Boy do they flirt. I think Don truly cares for her, as a friend, and that’s nice to see. I’m not sure what the implications of Dr. Harris divorcing Joan are, but it’s interesting she hadn’t taken any steps towards that. Also, we found out Roger was sending her checks to help. I wonder if she’ll start taking them now. Don’s flowers are certainly going to spur Roger to increase his pursuit. “My mother raised me to be admired.” I liked Don trying to get Joan to get with the guy at the bar. “Poor me, I struck out.”

-Maybe it’s just on Comcast in Boston, but in several of the episodes this season, I’ve noticed the audio not being quite synced with the action on the screen. There’s not a whole lot more annoying than the dialogue being about a millisecond off from the mouths moving.

-Roger, who spent most of the episode drunk, had some great lines: “Oh, you’re done with your bombing.” “What’s the hurry, Harry?” I thought What’s the hurry, Harry would have been a reference to Harry Truman, but couldn’t find anything. Only thing I could find was a 1968 book with that as a title. Pete has some good ones, too: “I don’t know how to drive a stick shift.” “You would have kissed me on the mouth.”

-“Does your wife burn for you?” I thought romantic relationships were touched on in a variety of ways in this episode. Joan getting a divorce, Lane keeping their financial situation from Rebecca, Paul and Lakshmi, Harry and Lakshmi, Joan and Don roleplaying at the Jaguar dealership, and again at the bar, and of course Megan and Don. I don’t quite know why Megan was so mad. I think I caught something about how Megan thought Don wanted her to think he’d left work before noon and wanted her to worry (about him cheating). This is probably what I was supposed to think, but that point, Don purposely testing Megan, could have been made clearer. Megan is impulsive (hitchhiking home from Howard Johnson’s, throwing a plate of spaghetti), and maybe Don just likes a little crazy. The scene started to go in the direction of the first or second episode where Megan was yelling and Don told her how things were going to go. That was creepy and I was glad it didn’t go that way this time. I don’t expect Don to take it, but he seems bemused enough to go along with this for now. It feels off, doesn’t it?

-“Prepare to take a great leap forward.”

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 10 recap

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 9 recap

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

We’re in the week before Thanksgiving, the season is moving along. I remember seasons past hitting Thanksgiving pretty hard, but this season it was more in the background. I had the sense that the first couple episodes were going a week or two weeks at a time, but the last couple episodes have jumped 6 weeks or more from the previous episode. Matt Weiner is committed to getting us out of the 60s.

-Betty’s back, Hi, Betty. It looks like she lost some weight, which I know was important to her, so I feel glad for her. And she’s in Weight Watchers. Incidentally, Weight Watchers was founded in 1963 and was owned by Heinz from 1978-1999. How’s that for a tie in? We’ve seen Betty’s nastiness before, but this was the first episode where we can say it was driven by hunger. In the first scene, she’s eating a piece of toast, a couple cubes of cheese, and a grapefruit in the dark. Realizing now that maybe she was eating late at night as opposed to early in the morning? She’d be doing this to count the meal on the next day’s points, like she did with the bite of Henry’s steak. (‘Bite of Henry’s steak’ not a euphemism.)

-Dark Shadows is the title of this episode, but I don’t think it refers to the new Johnny Depp movie, or even the 1960s TV show, which was something of a supernatural soap opera. There have been dark shadows on the proverbial horizon all season, all series, really. Some nods to the title in this episode, Betty eating in the dark, Don working in the dark, Betty eating in the dark again (shooting the whipped cream into her mouth and then spitting it out), Henry cooking in the dark, Roger and Jane kissing in the dark, the smog warning on Thanksgiving. Winter is coming. The smog warning seems especially important.

-“Look at all these voices, look at all this talent.” Don’s starting to feel threatened by Ginsberg in a way he’s not been threatened by Peggy or other copywriters. This is why he was working late and didn’t get Sally her dang colored pencils. From the “Shit I Have to do” folder, Don knew what Ginsberg was going to pitch and worked hard to come up with something to beat it. Don was only able to match Ginsberg’s idea, though, so he had to leave the Snowball-to-the-face in the cab. Obviously this burned Ginsberg, but no one will sympathize because they got the sale. The Ginsberg/Draper competition will be interesting here on out. (An aside, the pitches on the show continue to be mediocre. This episode it was reinforced when people laughed at the ideas for Snowball, twice. The ideas weren’t funny, and the laughter came off as hollow. The idea for Manischewitz of the wine boxes under the bus seats was pretty good though.)

-“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Ginsberg quotes this after his pitch has seemingly been chosen by the team to be shown to the client. It’s from the poem Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. While Ginsberg quotes the line correctly, it’s misused in this context, though, because of the theme of the poem. Stan reinforces this by telling him, “You should read the rest of that poem, you boob.” Ginsberg is saying, look how great my work is, while the poem is about how nothing lasts, even, and especially great and mighty things. Great and mighty things like America in the 50s, SCDP, Don Draper, etc, etc. Pretty bleak, and a perfect poetic reference for the show. The advisers think the poem was about the most important thing in the episode, and I tend to agree. The poem was referenced earlier in the episode by Peggy in her Snowball pitch.

-Sally’s family tree is another dark shadow looming. And now someone else knows a little more about Don’s past. So Betty’s been big for a while, but we still haven’t seen her and Don interact in person this season. We don’t know until Don says something about her fat face that he knows she’s fat. Betty’s obviously nervous about going up to get the kids and being seen. She’s also, apparently, curious about the apartment. What’s interesting is the kids weren’t brought down because Megan wanted to look good for Betty, too, and was changing. “Well, you’ve seen most of it,” Megan said coolly, though I’m not totally sure why she would mind so much. In any case, Betty saw the nice note Don wrote to Megan about light bulbs (“Lovely Megan, I went to go buy a light bulb. When I get back, I’ll see you better. Love, Don.” DARK SHADOWS) and needed to lash out about that and Megan looking good without a shirt and about having to eat celery, so she told Sally about Anna Draper. “Don’t forget your father’s first wife.”

-Did you notice Don and Megan have a color TV? I believe that’s the first we’ve seen on the show.

-Sally was a total B most of the episode, and Megan teaching her to fake cry on command is going to end up biting her in the ass. All Sally wants, though, is Don’s attention, and when she finally gets the story from him, she seems mollified. “Your mother doesn’t care about hurting you, she just wants to hurt us.” Remember, Betty is having a Thanksgiving dinner of a bite of stuffing, a schmoo of gravy, and one Brussels sprout. Cut her some slack.

-Don was angry about Betty telling Sally and was going to call Betty and Megan was prescient, she didn’t want to give Betty, “The thrill of having poisoned us from 50 miles away.” As much as Betty was a fairly predictable character, I continue to be impressed by Megan. I also liked Sally putting it back in Betty’s face. Betty was dying to know how her lashing out was received, and Sally played it perfectly.

-Roger continues to have comedic scenes, with Bert talking about selling Manischewitz without Pete, with Ginsberg asking for ideas. And he continues to use money to get what he needs. For the third time, he paid an employee at the office to get work done, and he bought Jane an apartment to get her to come to the Manishewitz dinner. At work, it’s to show how feckless he is. It’s a bit heavy-handed, though, that this has happened in a full third of the episodes this season after never having happened in the past. Roger did seem upset about christening Jane’s apartment, but I have a hard time taking her feelings seriously because she seems super shallow. “You get everything you want and you still had to do this.”

-Oh, Pete. You thought you had the New York Times Magazine all wrapped up and it was going to be so amazing Beth was going to come into the office naked. “I forgot you. And then I saw you in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.” Roger’s line when Pete was telling them about the profile was funny. “You shouldn’t start with the Mayflower.” “Don’t wake me up up and throw your failures in my face.”

-Other quotes, “Am I the only one who can drink and work around here?” “I feel bad for you.” “I don’t think about you at all.”

What’d I miss?

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 9 recap

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 8 recap

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

In October of 1966, Lyndon Johnson toured the West Pacific for 17 days, visiting 7 countries. In two scenes, when Megan told Peggy she was quitting, and when she cooked dinner for Don, there were radio news on in the background. I think this might be a nod to America beginning to be collectively aware/interested in what was happening in Vietnam, but not yet discussing it regularly. Not sure why else there’d be two undiscussed references on the same topic. The other date reference is The Beatles album, Revolver, which came out in early August 1966.

And we’re back to using episode titles for thematic guidance. This week’s title, Lady Lazarus refers to a 1962 poem by Sylvia Plath. The poem alludes to oppression, death and rebirth, and a phoenix, and the episode was jammed with related references.

-It’s pretty clear now that Megan has replaced Betty on the show. I know the scenes from next week showed Betty, but I imagine we’re not going to see very much of her until Sally gets a little older. This was another Megan episode, and I’ll mention it again, but this is not Don’s season. Megan declares she doesn’t like advertising, which has been building for a while now. The title of the episode refers mostly to her, oppressed by the job, being reborn (again) as an actress. When she told Don she needed to quit, she was wearing a firey red dress from earlier in the day, referencing the phoenix. At the beginning of the episode, she felt like she needed to hide it from Don. We’re supposed to think she’s cheating, especially when she involves Peggy in the lie, leaving the office dressed for dinner. The scenes of Don calling in were interesting. We get to see what he’s like at home by himself (watching TV and going to bed early). Don, Peggy, and Megan riding up an elevator together the next day is one of those quintessential Mad Men scenes.

-When Megan goes down in the elevator for her lunch, it’s a symbolic following of her dreams. Don lets her go and immediately presses the down button, maybe to follow her? When the door opens, he looks down into the guts of the building. Taking a big leap, the elevator shaft represents to Don what would happen if he followed his own dreams (whatever they are). And yet, he doesn’t seem to be too concerned she’s doing it, at least publicly. “I don’t want her to end up like Betty, or her mother.” “She’s not disappearing, is she?” “No she’s not.” The Beatles song Megan tells Don to play, Tomorrow Never Knows, has an early refrain, ‘It is not dying.’ Interesting because of all the death references today and this season and this series. In the scene immediately after Don listens to these words, we see Megan in acting class, acting dead. Heavy.

-Peggy is disappointed, but tonight’s episode at least explains Megan’s lack of enthusiasm last week when Peggy mentioned that type of thing was the best you could expect. That statement probably impacted Megan more and differently than Peggy intended. “You’re taking up a spot and you don’t even want to do it?” I’m not really sure why Peggy is so disappointed, except that maybe Peggy felt like another woman around would make it easier for her. “2nd wives, it’s like they have a playbook.” “I think she’s good at everything. I think she’s just one of those girls.”

-Actors acting as actors is always funny, but Don and Megan were pretty good as the couple from the Cool Whip commercial. And Cool Whip is a funny product for this because it’s fake just like everything, right? So incredibly bleak. Life is supposed to be sweet, but instead, it’s artificial non-dairy dessert. “Tell them Megan’s sick. Peggy will do it.” Peggy can stand in as Don’s professional wife, even her name is similar to Megan’s. How am I just realizing this now? In the Cool Whip pitch, Peggy freaks, and sabotages it for some reason. Whenever Peggy freaks, Don gets this look like he has no idea what to do or how to handle her. The scene of Don with his eyebrows raised, cigarette pack out, Ken, and Peggy, was another quintessential Mad Men shot. Why do you think Peggy is so mad? I’m too tired to write it all out.

-And now Pete. I’m not sure why, but I don’t hate him as much as everyone Chris does. He’s so pathetic. His desperation is deepening, though, like a teakettle beginning to whistle. I didn’t pick up on it last week or the week before, but Pete’s gun got mentioned, eep. Alexis Bledel from the Gilmore Girls is a good object for his obsession, a bored and complicated housewife, likely much like Trudy, but new, different. He drives her home, and somehow takes her shutting the car door in the middle of a conversation as an invitation for sex. She left the door to the house open, somehow knowing that her shutting the car door would be the perfect invitation. The 60s were weird. She doesn’t want a new partner, though, what she wants is someone to invite themselves over for dinner and kiss her passionately in the vestibule while her husband is getting some papers. She wants a thrill. Pete wants a thrill, too, but he wants more. He’s such a puppy. The eyes/Earth thing might be a bit early for them to discuss, because it doesn’t seem like there were color photos of the Earth like she was describing until 1967. Yhere was a lunar orbit photograph of the Earth released in August of 1966, but it was black and white.

-Harry and Pete’s interactions were funny. “Why do they get to decide what’s going to happen?” “They just do.” This dialogue contrasts with Joan and Peggy talking about 2nd wives having a rulebook. Doesn’t really paint women in a flattering light. Pete is going on about being lead on, and I couldn’t tell if this was meant to reference his perspective on forcing Peggy to have sex in season 1. Beth isn’t helping matters with the heart drawing on the car window.

-Harry is something like the dopey Sterling this season. His scenes are almost always comedic, but more because of the situation than the lines. And Pete carrying skis was hilarious.

-Some interesting quotations I didn’t have a place for: “More trouble than it’s worth.” “When did music become so important?”

-And finally, shame on you Mad Men. If there’s one thing I feel like I can depend on, it’s continuity. When Beth and Pete are talking on the phone, there’s a pearl, not part of her string of pearls, maybe another necklace, that changes positions several times during the conversation. Is it too much to ask for someone on the show to spot that? GIVE ME PERFECTION!

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 8 recap

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 7 recap

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

I’m hoping this recap gets done quickly, and I apologize in advance for any lapse in memory, analysis, or grammar. This weekend I put together the Boston Bacon and Beer Festival, and I’m exhausted. It’s a good thing I acknowledged last week my reliance on episode title for thematic guidance, because this week, “At the Codfish Ball” doesn’t help at all. Best I can tell, the title refers to a song in the 1936 Shirley Temple movie Captain January. One tenuous connection, Sally hates fish, but eats it at the ball they go to.

-My sense for the theme of the episode was generation to generation, pretty much the theme for the pitch, but also parent/child relationships. The idea is basically, things don’t change from mother to daughter, etc. This was illustrated obviously with Megan’s pitch and the inspiration for the pitch, making spaghetti for Sally and Bobby. I also saw it in Peggy looking to Joan (who is still wearing a wedding ring) for advice on dinner with Abe, and then with Peggy again when she was telling Megan to savor her success (Something like, “It’s as good as this job gets.”). Megan’s parents’ scenes fit this, as do Sally and Bobby being left alone with Henry’s mother.

-So…Creepy Glen Bishop is back, what a sketchball. First he’s in a helmet on the phone, and then a parka. It seems like he and Sally talk pretty regularly. He looks like he’s aged much more than Sally, and times are tough for him because his summer romance has hit the skids. I don’t know why he was back, except to let us know he’s still in the picture.

-Megan’s parents visiting, dad Emile is an academic, and mom Marie falls asleep with lit cigarettes and blows aging advertising executives (“We should have everything we want”). They don’t get along great, “I see she’s convinced you she’s particular. I am proof she is not.” Emile is a Marxist and is disappointed Megan appears to be settling. “You’re just like your mother.” This parental disappointment was evidenced also, with Peggy’s mother who thinks Peggy is also settling or selling herself short. I thought the whole moving in together was filmed and acted in the way… Well, if you watched the scene in the restaurant on mute, you would have assumed it was an accepted proposal. And if you watched the scene in the apartment on mute, you would have assumed they were telling Peggy’s mom for the first time. Peggy’s mom hinted at some tension when she raised an eyebrow at Abe eating ham, but then seemingly denies that has anything to do with it. I wonder if she’s more worried about Peggy living in sin than Peggy getting hurt (again). Their arrangement is from a new generation, keeping with the theme of the episode. “This boy will use you for practice.”

-“Every daughter should get to see her father be a success.” It was also excellent to see Pete charm Emilie’s pants off as evidence of what he does everyday.

-It was nice to see Mona back, I hope she’s in more of the rest of the season, and Roger has definitely got his groove. I hesitate to say got his groove back, because I’m not sure we ever saw him like this. He’s on fire. “My whole life people are telling me I don’t understand how other people think and it turns out it was true.” “I thought you married Jane because I got old, but it turns out it was because you had.” “Lots of people who haven’t taken LSD already know that, Roger.” Roger and Sally at the dinner was really funny until it wasn’t, and the scene of Sally opening the door to see Roger and Megan’s mom was reminiscent of the first scene of the season when Sally opened Don and Megan’s door to see Megan sleeping naked.

-When Sally showed off her new dress, boots, make up, it was kind of a coming out as an adult, or wanting to. (Her statement about there not being any stairs at the dinner implies she had a vision of walking down the steps into everyone’s attention.) Her outfit reminded me of what people in the 60s thought future clothing would look like, with the boots and sparkly material. This ties back to the kid from the pitch on the lunar module eating beans. Sally dressed as the future, and Don looked and saw Sally’s future or something. “Your little girl will spread her legs and fly away.” Nowhere else to put this, but noting Sally lied about how Henry’s mother tripped. Also, how do you break an ankle tripping on a phone chord? A knee, maybe.

-Peggy coming to Joan for advice on Abe. They’re hard friends, more like allies, it’s a weird relationship. “Someone dumped you?” Joan opened up to her slightly. Also, I thought Peggy’s sly smile when leaving Joan’s office was just a great shot. “I think you’re brave. I think it’s a beautiful statement, congratulations.”

-We got to see Don pitching again this episode, always worth it. Again, he doesn’t necessarily have the best ideas, but he’s the best at selling them. “It’s the future, it’s all I ever wanted.”

-Megan really is a great character. I wonder how long into the show she’ll get before the writers start making us hate her like we hate Betty. “You’re good at all of it…I was just gonna scream in his stupid face.” I can’t really tell why she wasn’t super psyched about getting Heinz. Do you have any thoughts? “I’m getting to experience my first time. This is as good as this job gets. Savor it.”

-“How could they trust you? After you bit the hand.” I don’t know if this is going to have bigger meaning in future weeks, or if it’ll just shut the door on Roger’s gold mining. It’s a sentiment that was brought up previously, maybe by Bert Cooper, maybe last season, but it was also the second time Don’s character/personality was brought up as a negative this episode (also by the wife from Ray from Heniz). Is THIS going to come up again?

-Great last line. “How’s the City?” “Dirty.”

-And no Betty…?

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 7 recap

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 5 recap

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

“Everyone in this office has wanted to do that to Pete Campbell.” First of all, this episode’s historic references: The title of the episode, Signal 30, comes from a 1959 Driver’s Education movie with mangled cars and bodies. Pleasant film. On July 30th, 1966 England beat West Germany 4-2 in the finals of the World Cup. In overtime, England’s was awarded a goal on a ball that hit the crossbar and shot straight down. This was controversial. On August 6, Braniff Flight 250 crashed in Nebraska. On August 1st, Charles Whitman killed 16 people and injured 32 more, in an incident at the University of Texas. I’m not sure if there’s more references than usual this year or if I’m relying on them as a way to start the recaps.

-Don continues to be in the background as other characters’ story lines are highlighted. This episode it was mostly Pete and Lane with a little Ken/Ben Hargrove/Dave Algonquin. Not shocking for Don? He didn’t want to go to Pete and Trudi’s. Shocking for Don, he grinned like an idiot at baby Tammy Campbell and then told Megan he wanted to make a baby. He’s in a great place, seemingly, and Pete resents him. In the first or second episode, I wrote about how Pete and Don had traded places, and that theme was addressed again tonight with the dinner party in the suburb and the visit to the brothel. The cab ride was also a good contrast between them. “Roger is miserable, I didn’t think you were.” “You don’t get another chance at what you have.” “And if I had met her first I wouldn’t have thrown it away.” Pete is ruffled, drunk, and embarrassed. Don is together. This exact contrast happens again at the end of the episode in the elevator. Pete’s beat up and lost, “I have nothing, Don.” Despite not being a central part of the episode, Don did have some great lines.”She got this far on subterfuge. “Saturday night in the suburbs, that’s when you really want blow your brains out.” “It’s too bad your husband can’t close a deal like this.” “I’m timing this for when we arrive. I want to hit the doorbell with my chin.” “No one grows up wanting to be in advertising.” “I’m too drunk for you to drive.””Let’s make a baby.”

-This season, also, Don talks more about his past, to brothel proprietors: “I grew up in a place like this,” and to dinner party companions: “You miss the horseshit, huh?” There was a bit of this earlier in the season, too. I liked the interaction between Don and the madame. He definitely looked totally comfortable.

-Pete Campbell, Pete Campbell, Pete Campbell. He’s so reviled a character, I find myself feeling sympathetic towards him. Creepy Pete in a high school driver’s education class hitting on a senior. Smug Pete mocking Lane. Clumsy Pete making the sink worse. Arrogant Pete testing out a prostitute’s talents. Deflated Pete riding down an elevator with Don. For the second time this season, he was threatened with violence from one of the partners, and this time there was no way for him to weasel his way out of it. I used ‘weasel’ in that previous sentence because that’s how Mad Men recaps are supposed to talk about Pete Campbell. Can’t be avoided. His driving classes were predicted at the beginning of the season while on the train. His seatmate mentioned taking later and later trains and also driving back and forth as well. The dripping sink, obviously, is a metaphor for Pete’s current status. He’s being driven mad at home, and to a certain extent, at work, too. He thought he had fixed it, but he’d made it worse, and Don had to put it back together again. I guess this shows some jealousy or envy of Don by Pete. Does Don have what Pete wants? Is Pete jealous that Don put his past life behind him and recreated himself? What are Pete’s passions besides dancing the Charleston? If he could recreate himself, who would he be? Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.

-Cos Cob, CT. “No bakeries, no Greenbergs…” Oh, Trudi.

-Befitting the title of the episode, there were lots of driving references: The driver’s ed classes, Megan telling Don he was driving to Pete’s, Don doodling a noose next to the note ‘Traffic Meeting’, Megan driving home, Pete telling the cab driver he’ll have to drive him to Cos Cob, CT (about 30 miles outside the city). Where are we going?

-“Then, pretend I shall.” Well done, Lane, NOW you can be American. Or at least the Mad Men version of an American. Lane and his wife went to the pub to watch the World Cup finals with other British people. While there, he gets a chance at the Jaguar account. He wants to pretend to be an account man, but he’s terrible at it. He has trouble relating to everyone, actually, and that’s no recipe for sales. “Cooper speaks British.” “You’re a grimy little pimp.” I think Lane thought the Jaguar account would be something that was his only, which explains his anger at losing it, but the fight… I guess he’d been bottled up forever and he just needed to pop. Riveting analysis right there, huh? Well, remember how Cynthia said Ken predicted the Texas sniper with his story about the robot killing all the commuters? Why did he do it? “Because he’s a robot…” Maybe Lane snapped after one last insult from Pete and was tired of being a robot? So you can tie the sniper to Lane. You like that better? “If they try to make you feel different than them, you are. That’s a good way to be.” “I just seem to find no end to my humiliation today.” Or ever my friend, or ever. Don’t be the guy caught with chewing gum on his pubis.

-Ken’s writing still, and has written enough to collect 20 stories and meet a wife. I don’t remember the story that he had published (season 3?) being science fictiony, though. Incidentally, Kurt Vonnegut worked early in his career in public relations, which is almost advertising. I’m not sure why, but I don’t think Pete was the one who told Roger about Ken’s writing. It doesn’t seem like Pete is on good enough terms with Roger to even bring it up. It’s not going to stop Ken, though, he’s just going to kill Ben Hargrove. And the pact with Peggy. Was that new? “If I go anywhere, you go with me.” I’d like to know more about this pact.

-I don’t think we’d ever really seen Roger showing ANY type of knowledge about business, so it was refreshing to see his ‘how to’. An account man who can tell creative exactly what to put in the RFP would certainly be valuable, and Roger must have been deft at collecting this information during dinners past. Roger explained to Lane how to get the other party to open up, to connect on a level outside of business, but Lane just couldn’t do it. He was thwarted over and over. “Just let him talk.” “Then you’re in a conspiracy. The basis of a “friendship”.” I also liked, “Be nice to the waiter.” This was Roger at his finest, just as him comparing his writing to Ken’s was him at his lowest. “When this job is good it satisfies every need. Believe me, I remember.” I’m not totally sure you do, Rog.

-“You don’t stop a war before an election.” Bert’s political advice was prompted by Don saying something about Johnson ending the war before the election. Kind of strange they’d be talking about the election 2 years before it happened. What is this, now? Were presidential elections always 3 years long?

-I think the last thing to talk about is turbulence and violent change which has been a theme throughout the entire season. Pete’s driver’s ed Lolita was talking about this week, “Things seem so random all of a sudden and time feels like it’s speeding up.” She was talking about how her parents might not let her go to college because of the violence (she mentioned the sniper and the Chicago nurses from last week). Maybe Don’s not been too much in the lead this season because his life is not currently in upheaval. I’ve never really thought about violent change as an overarching theme for the show, but I’ll have to consider it more. It’s definitely being highlighted weekly this year, though. Also, Pete, stop being a creep.

What did I miss?

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 5 recap

David Simon is sorry

It’s interesting, the response generated pretty much any time show runners discuss their shows, especially if the shows are beloved shows like The Wire. We own these shows now, not the creators, actors, etc, so anything they say can be taken the wrong way. This phenomenon of a transfer of ownership always fascinates me and it was illustrated again yesterday when Facebook bought Instagram. It’s a good thing for a brand/product for this to happen, it means people care enough to invest personally, emotions and feelings, in what you’re doing.

Last week, The Wire creator David Simon was interviewed in the New York Times seemingly criticizing people for showing up to watch The Wire 4 years after it went off the air.

The number of people blogging television online — it’s ridiculous. They don’t know what we’re building. And by the way, that’s true for the people who say we’re great. They don’t know. It doesn’t matter whether they love it or they hate it. It doesn’t mean anything until there’s a beginning, middle and an end. If you want television to be a serious storytelling medium, you’re up against a lot of human dynamic that is arrayed against you. Not the least of which are people who arrived to “The Wire” late, planted their feet, and want to explain to everybody why it’s so cool. Glad to hear it. But you weren’t paying attention. You got led there at the end and generally speaking, you’re asserting for the wrong things.

In an interview with Alan Sepinwall, Simon clarified his comments.

And through a miscommunication — probably my fault, I have no way of knowing — I have apparently told everybody that I don’t want the show watched except on Sunday night at 10 o’clock, which apparently is the exact opposite of things I’ve been saying in interviews for years. It is contradictory of everything I’ve said before. I’m reading it in the paper and I’m not making sense to myself. Sorry. My bad.

Turns out his comments had more to do with the recent Grandland.com The Wire character tournament.

The comments I made that seem to critique viewers who found “The Wire” late were not so intended. I thought, when I made that remark, that I was speaking to the reporter not about viewers in general, but specifically about folks pursuing the recent bracket-tourneys about best characters, shows, scenes, etc.

Via David

David Simon is sorry