Sometimes I try to think of how SCDP would operate under 20th-21st century HR in the workplace. Megan quitting, to try again to become an actress, is one of those times. Only two people seem to support her next endeavor, Don and Peggy for different reasons, though both are a bit flummoxed when she reveals she does not like advertising as she originally stated in Season 4. Did she ever love advertising? Was it to get closer to Don? Or was it like Stan (who has quickly become one of my favorite side characters) talked about how it can be monotonous that despite all of the labor and creativity you get one major result: Heinz Baked Beans. The only bad words that the copy-writers can say is Ginsberg mentioning she never had money on her for lunch (calling back to Megan asking Don for cash on behalf of her parents last episode) but they move on accepting that Megan was not in an enviable position for herself or for any of them.
The rest of SCDP have a different view and it seems to reflect the fan divide about Megan. It did not help that the marriage isolated her to where she was only comfortable giving Don the ideas and not being seen as a joke when it was just too much of a Catch-22. Harry and Pete were always sure she has always complained to Don about them when, in fact, she never told Don about their interactions with her including Harry’s sexually lewd comments about her from the premiere episode. Joan is also pretty cynical about Megan with the passive aggressive move of having her last lunch be with the secretaries than with creative or just the copy-writers (Peggy for her part wants them to just have lunch together informally in the future). Megan always seemed a bit afraid of her, such as when she actively was trying to avoid Joan’s return to the office with her baby. But her fears seemed a bit earned when Joan has pegged her as Betty 2.0 or another Jane, in one of many meta moments in the episode, while Peggy believes Megan can succeed as one of ‘those’ girls. Peggy defends Megan even as we saw her so angry about the fact that Megan was stepping out of work and lying to make play auditions.
Some people believe Peggy sees Megan in Don’s image but the Don-Peggy relationship this season is so different as shown in their argument after their failed ‘performance’ for the Cool Whip account. The argument shows how they view Megan from completely different perspectives. I fully believe that Peggy is being truly honest with her opinion on Megan just as much as how proud she was when Megan saved the Heinz account. Don came into advertising thanks to some cunning and skills that got his foot in the door when it would otherwise have been impossible and Peggy pretty much grew up in the business and still has a lot of growing up to do. It is a shock to both of them that somebody would find their work boring, especially in the case of Don when he built his new marriage around work. This episode feels like a beginning of a test for Don’s tolerance for the relationship.
Don wants to make this marriage work. That means it cannot be like anything the Betty relationship was. So Megan knows his whole history and she already knew about his reputation for adultery and boozing, Don has remained faithful. This is a marriage trying to be about honesty and openness to the point where Megan, after being prodded by Peggy and to a certain degree that conversation with her father at the ball, tells him her actual feelings about work and her aspirations. It is shockingly honest, such as believing her failure at the audition felt more right than the triumph of the Heinz account (which I think she was so willing to save because it did make Don look good). Don accepts it but he is a bit skeptical about how much this can work for her, but he just wants her to be happy. But what happens when there are no call-backs, no Megan at work, and that Don’s distaste for “Tomorrow Never Knows” is akin to Megan’s distaste for orange sherbet? I am still not sure Megan’s fulfilling occupation will ultimately be in acting but how long will it take to have her be fulfilled and whether or not her fulfillment will wither her marriage or make it stronger. Was Don staring at the empty elevator shaft for real or was it simply his imagination? Can he really chase her around ever again after he let her go in this instance? Or should he just alert maintenance about that elevator shaft issue?
We jump to the Pete story that mirrors not so much the leftovers 50s suburban anxiety that Mad Men started with but more in the proto-70s The Ice Storm suburban anxiety where there were swingers and key parties. Pete and Peggy have mirrored Don this season but in the way Don was dangerously projecting onto Megan the look of an angel in “Mystery Date”, Pete is gazing at the depressed housewife Beth, inexplicably married to the bumbling Howard, with a feeling there can be something more, further exacerbated by the fact she closed the door on an affair. And then she just seemed to reel him in for more when she made that heart in the foggy window to him. Considering the darkness of the character the previous seasons and now there is just seems to be dread with any story involving him. There is also his moment with Harry that shows a man really in a bad state of mind beyond just having somebody on the side. Is he the falling man? It seems too obvious for Pete to be the one to go but maybe his yearning for control will further make him not in control which will be his undoing that does not necessarily make him the one who is ‘gone’. I am not sure about Beth’s deal, her introduction into Pete’s life was a little too perfect, but I definitely think she is not long for this world. Then again, there are several candidates in the Mad Men Death Pool.
Is this season all a red herring about death? Is it just the symbol of how the 60s bottomed out? I do not mind the heavy-handed symbolism of the season as the decade became more transparent and open than subtle and hidden. The firm is working with an account where its representative would have made Sal Romano look straight. I wouldn’t be surprised that for the firm to live, survive, and maybe even thrive that they are going for more of the alternative accounts than just the regular bread and butter. But it feels like with the changing times, somebody is left behind whether by their own doing or somebody else. There has not been a major character in the show who has fallen beyond Sal getting fired and retiring to a gay club. But will somebody die? Actually die or symbolically die? Is Don the symbolic falling man because he seems lost and over his head at the agency becoming modern and that his one life-line at work who would have his ear is now gone? I feel like this episode is going to be a call back to everything that is going to happen next.
In other meta-related themes of the episode. AMC and Mad Men had a well-publicized dispute over costs. SCDP was trying to get a jingle to sound like The Beatles because they could not afford the real thing. Megan tells Don, who cannot tell The Beatles for a 30 year old song, to play the trippiest song on Revolver to show how different they sound from A Hard Day’s Night (or 1965 at Shea Stadium for that matter). The residuals for that alone now provides us with why a lot of the episodes are at SCDP and the Draper love-shack.
Third straight episode with no Lane Pryce. This needs to change.
Betty and Henry make an appearance next episode. Are we finally going to get a Betty-Megan interaction?
I want this episode to be Elisabeth Moss’ ‘For Your Consideration’ episode. Just for ‘Pizza Town!’.
I keep on thinking that making Ken’s father-in-law Leland Palmer, his wife be Alex Mack, that my next TV nostalgia callback would be his mother-in-law be an awesome TV sitcom mom (I’m thinking Joanna Kearns). However, I was not expecting Rory Gilmore or Mr. Belding making appearances.
Very little Roger, though his moment with giving Pete the skis was perfect, and the darkness of the episode showed through though Peggy obviously had the most comic moments of the show.
Michael Ginsberg became the second character to say the F-Word on the show followed by Roger last season getting very angry with Pete who is taking the fall for Don over their deal falling through with a defense contractor.
Another episode callback. Don lying awake looking away as Megan rests on him after telling him about her aspirations. It felt like the end to ‘Tomorrowland’ where Don still felt a little anxious and uncertain after taking the big step to marry her. This is another step minus the lavender haze of newlyweds.
Thinking we are in late October to early November on the show. It feels like an early onset on winter with a cold monsoon.