Despite Mad Men’s Season 5 partly being about moving to the future there have been constant reminders of the past, from Megan and Peggy checking off names of side-characters from the earlier seasons for Don’s birthday party in “A Little Kiss” to even just ‘the past’ of characters literally and figuratively creeping up on them. But then you have the actual physical characters from the show’s past showing up on your television that can only give you a ‘WTF?’ reaction. Midge and Duck Phillips were last season’s instances of ‘Where are they now?’. This past episode it was Paul Kinsey and boy, does he have a whole story to tell.
The Harry helps Paul get the fuck out of Hare Krishna and dodge to California was one of the weaker sub-plots because of the ridiculousness beginning and ending with Hare Krishna (and just the visual of Paul Kinsey in Hare Krishna). But the sub-plot made Harry seem caring if still very horndog-ish (getting caught in a web of weirdness and possible STD transmitting with a gal name Lakshmi), out of his element, unaware and naive as he has always been. His kindheartedness probably still scratches the surface of Paul’s existential problems of needing to be in the in-crowd and throwing money at it a la Roger Sterling makes me wonder if Paul can be saved. But the gesture for a character like Harry and the way he has been portrayed the last two seasons does make me think the act does come from a good place of where the character was in the first two seasons.
We move on from characters out of the past coming back to characters who are growingly showing how of the past they look and feel. Roger’s ridiculousness in relation to Pearl Harbor Day, and that it fell to mostly blank stares, shows he is still of a different generation and experience, particularly the trauma of his Navy days, and that he is beginning to use the LSD trip as a crutch to prove his sudden, better worldview. For people like Don and Joan who have known him for years, and appearing to have heard many different iterations and pronouncements of this trip, it has gotten old. Roger’s control in this episode post-trip seems to be gone and for Don and Joan they experience, or are still experiencing, the loss of their control.
For Don it is the post-Megan SCDP where even she is not buying that ‘it is not the same without her’ when she knew he loved working in advertising before they even met much less saw each other in a romantic light. She takes him to the play America Hurrah, a real play that makes advertising its punching bag, figuring he has said worse things about his own job but she still finds a wounded child mad that she left the advertising world and a void in their marriage. He says the office misses Megan at the bar (and note Joan’s silence to that declaration) but really, he misses her. I am guessing they work around a schedule that Roger planted the seed in him coming home quite early, another indicator was with Pete being ever the concern-troll telling Don he may have to work past 5:30, before she went to auditions or classes. For Megan this seems like a ticking time-bomb, and her physically violent reaction to their dinner as he comes home drunk extremely late shows her heightened anxieties about that, as when they met she saw a brilliant but volatile man who had issues with control and alcoholism (remember, he told her as his secretary to count the glasses). Given that he did this with Joan and that they played the game of husband and wife with Jaguar yet none of this was thrown back at Don by Megan, because he was being honest, and that it was about work makes me think the issues of fidelity are not the point of contention. It is the fact that Megan also wants Don of the past back. The guy who loved work, won the Clio, and earned his creative director reputation instead of getting eye-rolls and side-eyes from the copy-writers in creative because he sleeps in his office, has half-assed pitches, or leaves the office early.
For Joan’s past it is something that points to her femininity and changing role as the dame of the office. Last season her voluptuousness seemed to be forgotten with the sexist copy-writers and even the long-stays who once saluted her bending over. The issues with Joan and control is that she often does not take the route we often associate with her reputation as a character. Having Kevin pointed to what is still expected of her just as marrying Greg and she willingly gave into those choices. Yet in both situations, she found herself itching to go back to the office because she had no such control. No matter how terrible the workplace was for women, especially for her, she earned a reputation as a no-nonsense gal who got respect and fear from both sexes. But when Greg turns the tables and becomes the first to file for divorce, it crashes down on Joan that those choices she made were terrible and even before that news, she refuses to cave into Roger’s idea of supporting Kevin because she has no control over that either.
So when my television nearly exploded with the amount of chemistry between Don and Joan at the bar, I found myself believing this was not even fan-service or turning into something more than just this moment. It was two kindred spirits trying to find their standing in the present while reflecting on their pasts. And they definitely looked like people from the past. Don’s fedora definitely aged him.
Don is a bit of a romantic, especially drunk, quoting the infamous Bobbie Barrett, putting on a fedora, and reminding Joan of her beauty of a certain time period by mentioning Aly Khan, the husband of the great redhead sexpot of the 40s and 50s, Rita Hayworth, because of all of the flowers she received from admirers. The last bit was the most heartfelt and kind, topped off with Don finally giving Joan his admiration with flowers, but Don also mentioned his respect and fear of her at work because of how she carried herself. Joan needed that talk after nearly murdering the clueless receptionist but she maintains a realistic outlook when Don is trying to help find her ‘a date’. She knows it is very unrealistic for a woman her age, with a kid no less, to start looking for that special someone.
And no, I do not think Don and Joan are going there because I am pretty sure cities and households will explode because that chemistry is TOO MUCH. Moments like the ones they shared are not too far off the Peggy-Don moments. I like when the show is not too incestuous with their ensemble and I think Don knows not to touch either Joan or Peggy, especially if he ever realizes that both Roger and Pete marked that territory. He almost is too brother to both of them for me to feel comfortable with that.
The end of the episode marked that old Don has risen again with a pep talk to get Jaguar. Was it more Joan or Megan who pushed this new Don back into the spotlight? Was it both? I think somewhat. With the Mohawk account stalled, getting Jaguar becomes all the more imperative for SCDP. But can this Don last or is this a New Years Resolution Don?
Overall, this episode was an old-school, inviting breather of the past even though now for one of our characters, Lane Pryce, we now have a possible incendiary situation that could catch more fire over time that possibly takes more than one person down. But that is just speculation on my part. It is good to see relationships and work-place stunts be apart of the program again.
I wonder on what grounds did Greg file for divorce. Did the math finally add up to Kevin not being his child?
Scarlett, the secretary. I don’t think she is going to be that significant even though speculation ran wild why they were suddenly showing her because new secretaries always seem to be involved in everything. Seriously, if there were a secretary that deserves major stories it is Dawn.
It is not that Hare Krishna itself is ridiculous (except it kinda is). Paul in a priest collar is a ridiculous enough thought. Paul being devout in any religion much less a cult is a joke that just writes itself.
Between Joan’s outbreak and Megan’s spaghetti splatter, no prop was safe this episode.
So Megan and Don having role-playing angry sex is a thing. Their neighbors must love that. Now if Don, although he was very sauced, got confused by her smashing food possibly meaning this was foreplay then I am very curious about how dark, dirty, and deep their games got. Still convinced Don leaving work early meant going home to a lot of that. Megan needs to hone her acting in some way, I guess.
Peggy had maybe one little appearance with Harry but what we have now learned is that she is surrounded by current and former co-workers heavily invested in Sci-Fi.
Speaking of Sci-Fi, Paul’s Star Trek script in retrospect is terrible and insensitive (much prefer Ben Hargove) but for the time period even the people who supported diversity as Gene Rodenberry and other sci-fi writers had….. interesting takes on racism allegories about space.
The next episode being called “The Other Woman” alone is giving me shivers. More than “Lady Lazarus”.
In many ways Don’s pep talk further enflames Pete’s Don envy. He seems to be the only guy going after clients and yet he can never have that much control or believability in that room.
Lane forging checks through Don’s name. An excellent twist on the Don Draper avatar but now I am doubly concern for both Lane and Don being found out. Hell, Don finding Lane out may possibly bring out the “Mystery Date” side of him. Lane better hope this only reaches Joan.
Come on, the moment you realized it was Paul you realized that a certain part of the Mad Men viewing population is demanding the return of Sal Romano next.
That’s Chekhov’s Jaguar XKE cum red herring that I thought for sure Don would wreck in a drunk driving accident. But then he returned it and it was just him acting even more pathetic in The Draper Love Nest. The man is of many contradictions and him saying a car doesn’t do it for him is a stone-cold lie.
Obligatory Joan as Hulk Smash gif: