A Dog Playing the Piano

digit and Nevada's dispatches from the indifferent universe

Things, a Story of the Sixties*: Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 14: ‘Person to Person’

*With apologies to Georges Perec

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun’s going down

whose secret we see in a children’s game
of ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

––Robert Duncan, Often I am permitted to return to a meadow

 
…Though I was wrong,
Still, as the loveliest feelings

Must soon find words, and these, yes,
Displace them, so I am not wrong
In calling this comic version of myself
The true one. For as change is horror,
Virtue is really stubbornness

And only in the light of lost words
Can we imagine our rewards.

––John Ashbery, The Picture of Little JA in a Prospect of Flowers

‘Hello I Love You’. The Doors classic soundtracks Don’s automotive return from Utah’s Salt Flats, but there is no avoiding the truth here: This is the end, beautiful friends. Roger here delivers the meta moment: ‘You get to a point in your life where it’s the last chapter.’ The dying princess and poisoned apples of penultimate episode heralded the nature of the closure: a fairytale ending, happily-ever-afters for (nearly) all. ‘I guess somebody finally got their timing right.’ Everybody did, Joan, everybody – except Betty. Even Don, finally, like Meredith and the cats scattered liberally over the episode’s walls among the winking Halloween ghosts and jack-o-lanterns, reaches the conclusion of his fall into the existential abyss and lands on his feet – then assumes the lotus position among the lotus eaters and uncharacteristically cracks a grin. ‘Did everything fall apart without me?’ he wonders rhetorically, inadvertently alluding to the fragmentation of the credits finally embodied in the chaotic end of SC&P. No, everything is OK. Sometimes you have to go to pieces to find your inner peace – as some sign on the wall of some seventies encounter group probably read. ‘Does hugging feel honest?’ Well, maybe, but ‘[we] thought you were going to open it up’ – peel back the onion, show the skull beneath the skin, fully reconcile with the past, break on through to the other side. So what just happened? Hell of a shaker at 130. A thing like that!

It is like this: two episodes back, the devil, in the corporate personhood of McCann, won – and nobody minds at all, even if, in the grimly listless person of a dying Betty, he is brazenly giving a flavour of what he can do. A thing like that! Peggy, ironically chained to her desk by Samsonite, cannot do lunch with Harry and Pete and so, fortuitously, has the touching person to person goodbye with the latter that feels right – in which the thing never to be alluded to – their abandoned son – is not alluded to – unless you count Pete giving Peggy something else to look after: a tiny cactus, which seems, when you think about it, a suitably prickly memento of himself. ‘I’ll be back. That thing better be alive.’ It is all warm bonhomie, mutual regard and encouragement. He is going off to the plum Learjet job in Wichita and she, he assures her, to creative directorhood in a distant 1980 (putatively achieving ascendancy coevally with Thatcher and Reagan), where people will brag about having worked with her. The future is always better than the past (except when the past is far enough gone to assume the honeyed glow of nostalgia – and the future turns out to be Thatcher and Reagan). ‘It’ll get easier as you move forward.’ In the heartland, Don may be repeatedly catching desperate thieves for whom a few hundred dollars are a big score, but Manhattan’s gilded palaces are just getting more gilded.

The embarrassment of riches is so embarrassing that some here even find themselves spoilt for choice – rather as Pete did over Learjet. Newly minted millionaire Joan could be frolicking in the surf somewhere, living out the salacious fantasies of the dead Lane Pryce. But ‘I’ve been to the beach,’ she tells Peggy, with a curtly dismissive flick of the hand, her mind on bigger fish than the ones she can catch at Key West, Coney Island and Old Lyme. Her business dinner with Kenny has given her her door into the future. Harry once asked her to brief his new hiring on the work she had been doing as a fill-in. Now, again, a man asks her to give work to another man when she knows she can do it herself, but this time she can take control. Facing the choice of an opulent sunlit retirement with Richard and starting a production company, she opts to answer one of the episode’s key phone calls, accepting the insistent ring of business opportunity and reluctantly letting Richard go. (Don’t you love him as he’s walking out the door?) Now she asks Peggy to come with her and see their names on another door, not ten or fifteen years from now but right away – and thus sets up another gilded dilemma. Peggy is flattered, so much so that she seriously considers the offer, but being at McCann seems to work for her as it did not for Joan. ‘Women love it here,’ Jim Hobart taunted Joan, and it is clear that Peggy does and has already landed on her feet. Not only that, but Stan the Man is there and wants her to stay. Joan’s offer ultimately triggers Stan’s confession of love to Peggy – in another key phone call. Peggy, it seems, gets to have both the love and the money.

Minutes before, she had been experiencing another telephonic eruption of suppressed truth from the other important man in her life. Don, on a cliff at the edge of America, deserted by Stephanie at the hippy retreat, seemed closer to the metaphoric edge than ever before, the closest precedent being the North American Aviation background check panic attack when he revealed his secret identity to Faye Miller. This time he gives less away, but even so there is a sense that Catholic Peggy has become father confessor through the confession box-like invisibility of the phone. Throughout the episode, the person to person calls have acted as conduits for these little truth explosions, Sally telling Don about Betty’s cancer and Don and Betty sharing a moment of great tenderness. And Stan, as he says, has always found it easiest to talk to Peggy on the phone: ‘I miss you and I call you on the phone and I get the person I want to talk to.’ But finally, it seems that the deepest connections are when the persons come together physically, when a body meets a body: Don and sad, lonely Leonard hugging hard in the encounter group and, finally, Peggy and Stan kissing. Is this true? ‘Does hugging feel honest?’ Well, at any rate, ‘You can’t frame a phone call’ – Peggy’s old ad copy long ago observed, pinning down the ephemerality of the medium, its ghostly lack of physicality, its attendant yearning.

‘Desperately in need of some stranger’s hand / In a desperate land.’ That yearning for physical presence is quite possibly the episode’s golden thread – the wounding sense of absence that even the characters’ increasing wealth may not be able to salve. It is no more persistently scrutinised or deeply felt than in the context of motherhood. Peggy long ago made her decision to abandon her child, but is not, as we know, at peace with it. Stephanie, in a parallel situation, is unresolved. In the encounter group, a double for Don’s stepmother tells her that, as a motherless child herself, she knows that Stephanie’s son will spend his entire life waiting for her to walk through the door. Don tries to advocate denial as he once did successfully with Peggy – ‘It’ll get easier as you move forward’ – but the tearful Stephanie’s not having it: ‘Oh Dick, I don’t think you’re right about that.’ She leaves him stranded at the retreat, perhaps to go directly to her child, and he experiences his crisis. Perhaps it is true, it never has got easier. He has tried to live the life he was supposed to, advertising’s wholesome technicolour nuclear family dream while all the while repeatedly drawn back by his fatal attraction to dark, melancholy women. He has told the women who deserted their children – Peggy, Diana and Stephanie – it was OK – as he has probably tried to tell himself his mother’s absence was. It has all left him alone, the message driven painfully home by Betty on the phone: when she dies, she wants things to carry on as normally as possible for the kids – and that means him being absent. Absence, absence, increasing the heart’s froideur.

That, surely, is why, in the encounter group, Leonard’s soliloquy so touches Don. Ostensibly they could not be more different, Don the perpetual centre of attention, Leonard feeling perpetually overlooked. But they meet at Leonard’s line, ‘It’s like no one cares that I’m gone.’ Don looks up. As Dick he has been gone for decades and no one is even left to care. Now, Betty has told him Don is no more wanted.

Leonard’s dream is about being left on the shelf, a product, it seems, perpetually shut back into the cold and darkness of a refrigerator. What is absent for him? What he wants, some vital grain of charisma or meaning, is almost impossible to say: ‘You don’t even know what it is. You spend your whole life thinking you’re not getting it, people aren’t giving it to you. Then you realise, they’re trying and you don’t even know what “it” is.’ Leonard? Not to worry. “It” is Coke. Coke is it. It’s the Real Thing.

Don knows how to be chosen and to get products chosen. He knows it as if instinctively, but the key to it is absence, here, making the heart grow fonder after all, the wound he referred to in the Carousel pitch, that creates the yearning, the desire. Don said to Peggy that a good ad comes from the creative’s feeling about the product. He grew up without healthy loving relationships so the only sweet thing in his life was a Hershey bar. The happiness that a billboard screams is what young Dick saw as a child: the vast people and objects projected onto the skyscrapers of the titles is like a child’s view of a roadside billboard. When he can, he builds a life that looks like an ad: the beautiful model wife, two children, one of each, a dog, a suburban house with a shiny red door, a fridge full of beer and a new car. And he’s an ad man because he is his own greatest creation or perhaps it’s the other way round. He is full of want so he knows how to use that and sell the remedy. He cannot build or maintain a healthy relationship with people, but because his childhood longings were fulfilled by products, because chocolate meant love, he can imbue things with feeling: he really means it when he says happiness is the smell of a new car.

Anna once gave Dick a Tarot reading. The soul of the world card said that he was part of the world and that every living thing was connected to him; the only thing keeping him from being happy was the belief that he was alone.  Amongst a crowd of people on a golden cliff top, after a group therapy session where he hugged his sobbing doppelganger, he achieves enlightenment: the boy who found solitary happiness in a Hershey bar finds global connection in a Coke bottle as a man. The pitch, back in NYC, should virtually write itself: ‘I went to California and all I can tell you is, I experienced something… something real. This is it. This thing at the back of your mind that you don’t know how to get to. This is what people are hungry for…thirsty for. This…thing. The real thing.’ (Turns over card) ‘Coke is it.’

Don has previously used the word ‘thing’ prominently in another important pitch: Jaguar, in which he referred to the car as ‘this thing,’ and the payoff was, ‘Finally something beautiful you can truly own.’ Ginsberg, who wrote the line, had imagined the ads in the pages of Playboy among the beautiful, unattainable women. The selling point, then, becomes sexual sublimation, but, even more than sex, the product is supposed to fulfil the advertising promise ‘really satisfies’ – for good and all, the object of desire to end all desire. What kind of Thing can do this?

Before we consider an answer to this, let us pause to return to motherhood and to another key word associated with desire: ‘Love,’ here repeated almost to excess by Stan and Peggy. Many years before, the last time Don went AWOL in California, Peggy achieved her first success independently of Don. The ad was for Popsicle: ‘Take it, break it, share it, love it,’ and featured a sainted bountiful mother, complete with halo, bestowing popsicle communion upon her lucky offspring. ‘Well, I can tell you,’ the acquiescent client admitted, ‘we wanted something with the word “love” in it.’ Ken lied at the time that Don had approved the work, but would he really have done so? Subsequently, repeatedly, he has nixed the word ‘love’ in ad headlines, protesting that it is overused. It seems that, like Joan, he had bigger fish to fry: the Thing, the Real Thing.

For Lacan, extrapolating on Freud, the Thing is that which is outside language and the unconscious, impossible to imagine or attain. We might think also of Kant’s Ding-an-Sich, the thing in itself, reality unshaped by human perception and, therefore, for Kant, equally unimaginably, bearing no relation to time and space. Except that Lacan’s formulation goes further: the Thing is, in the words of nosubject.com (see link below), ‘the prehistoric, unforgettable Other – in other words, the forbidden object of incestuous desire, the mother. The pleasure principle is the law which maintains the subject at a certain distance from the Thing, making the subject circle round it without ever attaining it.’ A thing like that! No sainted mothers or love for Don then, perpetually returning to the beds of the lost, dark, melancholy women. ‘“Father?” “Yes son?” “I want to kill you. Mother, I want to…”’ The Thing – or its later mutation in Lacan, the objet petit a – is the more potent matter for the ad man because it is the fundamental driver of desire, the impossible object, the attainment of which seems promised but ultimately thwarted by the objects we pursue, the things that Don has been peddling to fuel the sixties’ consumer boom.

But now we have not just the Thing, but the Real Thing – as if the Coke copywriters really had been taking tips from Lacan way back at the end of the 60s when his work was barely available in English. For Lacan, the Real is another synonym for the Thing, that which is neither symbolic nor imaginary and thus is never truly known. Lacanian philosopher Slavoj Žižek has written about the end of the ‘60s counterculture that it dissolved in a series of misguided, Quixotically futile attempts to get to the Real, whether via radical violence, sex, drugs or, as here, mysticism – attempts, as it were, to break on through to the other side and live in total, radical truth. Lacan again: the subject ‘cannot stand the extreme good that das Ding may bring to him.’ Perhaps, in the non-linguistic moment of a hug or the chanting of the name of God (Om), Don really did experience the Real. And perhaps its unbearable, monstrous good is also why he ultimately retreated, turning it into advertising’s quintessential expropriation of the counterculture – complete with his own taboo word: ‘I’d like to build the world a home and furnish it with love.’

Like Tony Soprano, he has taken the therapeutic insight and turned it only into better, more effective corruption. But how much can we blame him if he so utterly fails to find what he wondered about in The Suitcase: ‘another way out of here’? McCann has been pursuing Don almost since the start and, as such, has played the role of dark, demonic, monster antagonist. But this is false signposting. It is not that McCann is not the devil, but the devil was always already present at Sterling Cooper, the gilded cage maker, in Lucky Strike, United Fruit, Dow and the combination of forces that led to Lane’s suicide and Joan’s prostitution. No wonder everyone, even Joan, goes merrily on to their happy endings after being swallowed by the beast McCann.A thing like that. The Thing that ate… Things have changed for women and ethnic minorities, but in the base below the structure of society, everything is the same. The former advances, despite the hopes of ‘60s changemakers, having had no material effect on the latter at all. At decade’s end, the troubling, more intractable than anticipated question is whether capitalism, its corruption, cruelties and killings, is as inescapable as language itself or as inevitable as death. ‘The west is the best.’ ‘Whither goest thou, America?’ ‘Driver, where you takin’ us?’ The end.

Time Stamp  

Peggy’s good old desk calendar shows 29th and 31st October 1970.  She has the Life Magazine October 30 issue in her office with Dick Cavett on the cover and headline story on The Big Conservative Pitch and the rise of Reagan.  The final scene in Joan’s apartment shows a large calendar for November 1970.

 

Callbacks

  • Stan tells Peggy to stop looking over her shoulder (for a better job opportunity) because there’s more to life than work and she accuses him of having no ambition. Back when Sterling Cooper’s California office was being planned, Stan told Don he wanted to head it and build it.
  • In Severance, Ted wanted to do an ad that said, ‘There are three women in every man’s life.’ Here, Don makes three phone calls (two of them identified as person to person calls): to Sally, Betty and Peggy. But there are also now three women who abandon their children: Peggy, Diana and Stephanie.
  • Roger’s sacking of Meredith is surely his kindest and most reluctant ever. From Sal Romano onward, every one of his acts of severance has been performed with an offhand callousness, sometimes verging on sadism, like a spoilt prince – or an irascible playing card queen, perhaps – ordering executions. The other notable examples are Burt Peterson (twice), Ken Cosgrove and, though Joan stopped this, in one fell swoop, Dawn, Shirley and Caroline. Meredith is, arguably, the one who’s come closest to deserving sacking, though she’s lately seemed highly competent.
  • Once again (see Andy last episode), Don spots the thief: this time it’s the Stephanie look-a-like he sleeps with in Utah at the start. And, again, he ends up giving the thief something.
  • Peggy’s line to Pete, ‘A thing like that,’ is, as all long-term viewers will know, her quoting one of his catchphrases. Here are some instances: Pete: What do you have to be nervous about? Peggy: Nothing. Just I think Mr. Rumsen is presenting my copy today. To the Belle Jolie people. Pete: Hm. A thing like that! and Pete to Don in LA: I just saw Tony Curtis in the mensroom. Don: Handing out towels? Pete: Tony Curtis, Don. A thing like that!
  • Betty: ‘I want to keep things as normal as possible and you not being here is part of that.’ Two episodes back she said Sally being independent was normal and that so far, in her reading of Freud, she hadn’t encountered anyone normal.
  • As noted in the article, Joan’s dealings over the Dow film are very reminiscent of her first non-secretarial work reading scripts for Harry. She’s being asked to find men for work she knows she can do herself. When Richard says she’s starting a business, she says it’s just a few little projects, playing down the big money involved for a start and recalling the way she told Greg the script-reading was ‘a hoot.’
  • Holloway-Harris is a scrappy start-up (albeit a well-resourced one) operating out of an apartment like SCDP starting in a hotel suite.
  • The image of Don in the racecar called back to his conversation with the hot rod guys when he was staying with Anna.
  • People are free to come and go as they please, the receptionist tells Don. He has always done that himself. Ginsberg noticed Megan did this, which led to his idea for Jaguar.
  • Peggy is still working on the Samsonite account. And she argues to get back Chevalier.
  • The dress Peggy wore for her grand entrance to McCann is hanging on the back of her door and the Fisherman’s Wife print is on the wall (although the octopus has been joined by cats for Halloween).
  • The season started with Freddie being Don in the Accutron pitch where he says Om as the sound of the watch and ends with Don chanting Om.
  • Roger’s Milton Glaser poster (see Culture and Products) calls back to the Season 7 poster by Glaser himself and to Roger’s LSD hallucinations.
  • When Joan has her first hit of coke she says she feels like she’s just been given some very good news. She has a similar expression to all the young people in the Coke ad.  There is a previous episode called The Good News: Don is in California with Anna and hears about her cancer.  The ‘good news’ was a college friend of Stephanie who woke up and had found Jesus.
  • Don tells Stephanie, ‘You weren’t raised with Jesus. You don’t know what belief does to people.’ In The Hobo Code, he told the Belle Jolie client he didn’t want to work with him because he was a ‘non-believer,’ adding, ‘I’m not here to tell you about Jesus. You already know about Jesus, either he lives in your heart or he doesn’t.’ In both instances, he’s defending a sort of relativism, but this time the client’s not buying: Stephanie affirms that the thing that made her cry in group therapy was true.
  • Sally and Bobby speak to Gene in the way that Betty and Don would.  Calls back to the scene in the playhouse where the kids sounded like their parents.
  • Betty at the end is at the table smoking, just as she was in her last scene with Don, but the contrast is awful: with Don she was reading Freud and full of optimism. Here she’s reading the paper and looks miserable.
  • We can’t tell for sure if Stephanie’s living in Anna’s old house, but the wall colour, which Dick/Don once repainted part of, is identical. EDIT: moose&squirrel BTL has the answer: ‘Don sold Anna’s house in the season 4 finale. Although it did look a lot like Anna’s house, the porch was much smaller at Stephanie’s, as was the living room. Plus I believe that Stephanie was living in LA, and Anna’s house was in San Pedro.’
  • Visually, at the end, Don is unchanged from the pilot. His shirt was a little crumpled as he sat on the grass at the end but he could have walked right from the pilot into that moment.  Our first shot of Don was his back in a dark NY bar and our last was face-on in the Californian sun.  Everyone else has really changed to look at as well as internally. But now Don, who has appeared so old-fashioned, in line with his drink of choice, looks like a call-forward: yuppies on yoga retreats.

 

Notes

  • Here’s that nosubject link on the Thing.
  • Meredith will be fine, she’ll land on her feet. ‘I always do,’ she says. Halloween cats are everywhere on the McCann walls and in Joan’s kitchen. It begins to seem that this is the meaning of the falling man in the credits. He’s a cat – with nine lives?
  • It’s Toasted, the toast is burned and Betty is toast.
  • Joan tells Peggy her company needs two names to seem real. Don had two names and isn’t real. Coke, a.k.a. Coca-Cola, has two names too. And it’s the real thing.
  • Pete’s cactus was to take to Kansas.  People in NYC don’t know the difference between Kansas and Arizona.
  • Sally’s not going to Madrid. She’s not going to be rid of the mad (men).
  • Sun salutations at Don.
  • The Mad Men colours of black and red were McCann colours all along. Roger is wearing them in his office; Peggy wears them at her lunch with Joan (indicating her desire not to leave). Stan kisses Peggy in the final montage and together they are wearing the McCann colours
  • Don in jeans.  First time we’ve seen that since he’s been an adult?
  • Roger is splitting most of his fortune with his grandson Ellery and Kevin.  Kevin really is a ‘little rich bastard’. Really rich and literally a bastard.
  • Stan tells Peggy there’s more to life than work. Joan tells Richard she can’t shut off the business part of herself. Marie tells Roger her relations with Emile are not his business.

 

Motherhood and parenting

  • Marie tells Roger to go sleep in the sofa like a mother telling off a child. Later, Roger calls Marie, whose name already sounds like this, ‘ma Mère,’ in Paris.
  • Roger tells Joan about Marie: I met her through Megan Draper. She’s old enough to be her mother. Actually, she is her mother.
  • Roger’s daughter, Margaret, is ‘lost’ and seems to be out of his will.
  • Roger and Joan: ‘And I don’t want it to put you in an awkward position when some man you used to work with leaves your son a small fortune.’ ‘It would be a relief to know that no matter what our beautiful little boy is secure.’ ‘Good. Get over here. Little rich bastard. He really is, I guess.’
  • Roger and Caroline talk about Marie in code but Meredith knows ‘she’s Megan’s mother.’
  • Marie tells Roger that her children love it in Canada so he will learn to love it.
  • Richard tries to get Joan to consider moving out of NYC and says ‘you hate your mother’. Joan says she doesn’t hate her. Joan’s closing scene has her mother, Kevin and babysitter: her family.
  • Don is shoved in the chest by a woman old enough to be his mother.  It’s how he makes her feel – because he was ignoring her and staring at Stephanie, probably jealously, as she touched faces with a handsome hippy.
  • Roger and Joan share a moment as proud parents of Kevin.
  • Pete carries Tammy into the Lear Jet.
  • Don calls Sally and she demands to be taken seriously. She has to tell him that her mother is dying.
  • Don calls Betty to say he wants to come home and take care of the kids but she says the children should go to her brother and his wife after she is gone ‘What they really need is a woman in their life. A regular family.’
  • When Don gets to Stephanie’s house: ‘I called your folks. They told me you were in town.’ ‘Uh-huh. And they sent you here for what?’ ‘They didn’t tell me anything but your address. Patty’s pretty mad I gave you money.’ ‘Well, that’s more than she did.’ Stephanie says her parents told her that she shouldn’t have gotten pregnant. She should have loved being a mother. Her child is being raised by his grandparents and father, Ronnie.
  • Don to Peggy: I scandalised my child.
  • Pete gives Peggy the cactus saying, ‘Do you want this? I already have a five-year-old.’
  • Here’s the group therapy exchange ‘I feel like everyone’s judging me. Like I’m a little girl and my parents are looking at me the way that they look at me now. You shouldn’t have dropped out of school. You shouldn’t have been with a lowlife. Shouldn’t have gotten pregnant. You should have loved being a mother.’ ‘Life is full of “shoulds”.’ ‘Yeah, but I made a mistake, and I just want to get it together now.’ ‘So you can be with your baby?’ ‘What? No. See? They are judging me.’ ‘Why don’t you tell Angie how it feels to hear her say that?’ ‘It makes me feel small and insignificant, Angie.’ ‘What I feel when I hear about your baby is sadness. My mother left, and I can tell you that your baby is going to spend the rest of his life staring at the door waiting for you to walk in.’
  • Sally takes on the mother’s role now that Betty is too sick, showing Bobby how to cook and wearing rubber gloves. Peggy’s ad for Playtex gloves reminds us that Sally is too young for motherhood and the man that, at least in the world of ads, is always somewhere in the picture: ‘It’s because Playtex is strong enough to protect a woman’s hands. Through her fingertips, she can dry the tears of a child or feel the warmth of her husband’s skin. Playtex protects a woman’s touch.’
  • Don can’t save his mother – he never could.  Now his children can’t save theirs.
  • Man leading the meditation at the end: ‘Mother Sun, we greet you, and are thankful for the sweetness of the Earth. The new day brings new hope. The lives we’ve led, the lives we’ve yet to lead. New day, new ideas, a new you. (chime rings) Om.’ New ideas indeed.

 

Person to Person

  • Person-to-person calls were operator assisted calls in which you didn’t pay unless the named person answered. The ones here are  Don to Betty and Don to Peggy.
  • Or it could mean transformation from one person to another: Don to Dick, Dick to Don, as happens here, and the change experienced by all the show’s character over 10 years.
  • Don also calls Sally, directly.
  • The retreat encounter sessions include person to person interactions including the mother-figure who shoves Don away.
  • Don’s hug with Leonard is very person-to-person.
  • Stan declares his love for Peggy and she realizes she loves him over the phone after years of phone conversations.

 

Uses of ‘person’ in the script

  • Operator: I have a person to person call for Betty Francis from Donald Draper.
  • Joan on Greg: No, he’s just a terrible person.
  • Male encounter group leader: Look at the person nearest you. What does that person make you feel? Now, find a way, without words, to communicate that feeling to the other person.
  • Operator: I have person to person call for Peggy Olson from Donald Draper
  • Stan: And I miss you and I call you on the phone and I get the person I want to talk to.

 

Suitcases

  • Roger : meeting with Sears, and Don has been using a Sears bag, now a Penney’s, as his suitcase
  • Marie is a ‘package with all the luggage,’ delivered to Roger’s apartment.
  • Peggy is about to shoot Samsonite and still has the abstracted suitcase image prominently placed in her office.
  • From Marie’s bedroom tirade, the only word Roger catches is ‘suitcase’ (valise).
  • Pete and Trudy have suitcases as they board the jet… but they are too posh to carry them now.

 

Secrets

  • The race guys think Don has come from Detroit to steal their secrets.
  • Roger’s secret plan to keep Meredith on until Don returns.
  • Caroline talks in code about Marie. Roger tells her it’s unnecessary.
  • Betty is keeping things hidden from the children, unsuccessfully. Sally and Bobby are similarly trying to keep them from Gene.
  • People reveal inner anxieties at the retreat.
  • Don confesses his sins to Peggy.
  • Stan tells Peggy he loves her and has for a while and Peggy realises she loves him.

 

Culture and Product

  • El Mirage for land speed records.
  • Hello I Love You by the Doors
  • The beer in the first scene with the mechanics is Schlitz. A cheap beer at a time when beer was a strong class indicator in America.
  • Roger’s flying to Chicago: Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Sears Roebuck and The Chicago Ad Club.
  • A Milton Glaser poster in Roger’s Office to add to his Seymour Chwast. Stan has Seymour Chwast’s motorcycle print in his office.
  • Here are the rules Meredith will have used to translate, with some effort one must imagine, Roger’s speech into Pig Latin. Or, for the cognoscenti, Igpay Atinlay.
  • Roger is staying at the Stanhope. OK, this probably really is a coincidence, but this is the episode where Stan expresses and realises his hope.
  • Here’s some interesting stuff on the link between cocaine and Coke. It’s also worth pointing out that in 1970, before the full deleterious effect of it on the likes of David Crosby became apparent, cocaine was still widely seen as fairly benign.
  • There’s long been a rumour that Coca-Cola was behind the red and white outfit of Father Christmas.  Although Coke did use Father Christmas in its ad campaigns for many years, the outfit pre-dates that.  Just to tease, there’s a large, bearded man at the retreat who’s wearing a bright red jump-suit and white turtle neck.
  • The McCann creative round-up: Del Monte, Roman Meal (purveyors of pane but not circenses) and Diamond Walnuts.
  • Esso Research and Engineering is over. This might relate to the change of name from Esso (SO for Standard Oil) to Exxon in 1972.
  • Peggy says Harry’s talking as if she, he and Pete were the Three Musketeers. OK, neither of us have actually read this, but Wikipedia points out that the musketeers, as upholders of the established order, are not necessarily the good guys, which seems generally relevant here.
  • They broke the Land Speed Record right up in Bonneville.
  • Joan and Richard have been to Key West, Florida. Very appropriate for Halloween: ‘It is said that the island was littered with the remains (bones) of prior native inhabitants, who used the isle as a communal graveyard.’ It’s Spanish name was Cay Hueso, meaning ‘Bone Cay’.
  • Kevin’s eating Cheerios and watching Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street. Later he watches Huckleberry Hound.
  • Don’s Sears bag has been replaced by an almost identical one from Penney’s, another big department chain.  It might have been a little more upscale than Sears but neither is fancy.  What’s shown on the bag was known as their ‘Funky P’ logo. It became JCPenney’s in 1971.
  • Du Maurier taste like le shit. Named after the actor Gerald Du Maurier, father of Daphne.
  • Joan can’t go to Old Lyme to look at a boat with Richard. Named after Lyme Regis.
  • Nathan’s Frankfurters wants to show Joan around. The original restaurant is indeed at Coney Island, but, as Joan says, ‘It’s a business meeting,’ so most likely in Jericho, New York. The original Jericho, in Palestine, may be the oldest inhabited city in the world.
  • The Campbell’s Learjet L1965L
  • The Odd Couple was on Don’s TV.
  • Roger and Marie are in Paris: he’s reading the Herald Tribune, she’s reading Le Monde.  Finally, someone got to Paris.
  • Peggy: ‘McCann’ll take you back in a second. Apparently it’s happened before.’ Is there a historical story here? Anyone?
  • I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing was really written for Coke and McCann and really did result from a travel experience, though to Ireland, not California. The location for the shoot was actually just outside Rome, Italy. It first aired in July 1971.
  • Om
Advertisements

Drums Along The Trail: Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 13: ‘The Milk and Honey Route’

Baudelaire was
driving a Model A
across Galilee.
He picked up a
hitch-hiker named
Jesus who had
been standing among
a school of fish,
feeding them
pieces of bread.
“Where are you
going?” asked
Jesus, getting
into the front
seat.
“Anywhere, anywhere
out of this world!”
shouted
Baudelaire.
“I’ll go with you
as far as
Golgotha,”
said Jesus.
“I have a
concession
at the carnival
there, and I
must not be
late.”

––Richard Brautigan, The Galilee Hitch-Hiker Part 1

Wherever you hang your hat is your home, the saying goes.  So what do you do if you have neither a hook to hang it on nor a hat?  This was one of very few episodes where we didn’t see Don wearing his hat. Hatless in Alva. The state’s OK but the milk of human kindness, the state beverage, turns sour in the residents once the sun goes down.

Don looked happier than he has in a long time, sitting alone at the bus stop in the middle of nowhere, somewhere, anywhere, etc.  Carless, hatless, jobless, wifeless, he has just about gone full hobo – except for all the money in his bank and his new NYC apartment.  Is he like Roger’s daughter Margaret who, becoming Marigold, ran off to turn on and drop out but all the time had a haystack of money to fall back on when peeling potatoes on the doorstep loses its shine? Don’s been on the road for a couple of weeks but he hasn’t gone missing.  He’s sending postcards of two-headed cows home and calling his children.  So it doesn’t feel as though he has really dropped out; it’s more a leave of absence. But the impulse to lighten the load remains strong.

Getting home is the name of the game, say the drunken Vets who welcome a stranger amongst friends only to ambush him in a case of, ironically, mistaken identity.  Don has committed many sins, including actual crimes but he is not a petty thief and so far has no need to be.  Haunted by the nest of blue-eyed men he killed and may have eaten, a WWII vet kicks off the kind of storytelling that helps with PTSD and guilt and lets Dick say out loud what happened in Korea: how he killed Don Draper and got to go home.  And he is forgiven for doing the unthinkable by men who have done the unthinkable too: you just do what you have to do – to come home.

But sometimes the moment also comes to leave and leave for good. Pete, initially furiously resistant to a drunk, desperate Duck Phillips’s headhunting efforts and their power to wreak chaos in his new life at McCann, suddenly sees the potential of letting go: he can become a Learjet marketing man, resettle in Whichita and rebuild his marriage. ‘I’ve learned to believe people when they tell you it’s over,’ Betty tells Sally, explaining her refusal of treatment that can probably only be palliative for her metastasising lung cancer.

‘Knock ‘em dead, Birdie!’ This may have been Don’s bye bye to Birdie, his last words to the woman who shot at the neighbour’s pigeons, cigarette hanging, glamorously dangerous from her lips. (Who would ever have thought of there being a Betty/Peggy parallel?!) Betty’s diagnosis was a shock and it was not. In episode that began with Don’s dream of the law finally apprehending him, this felt like a similar arrival of nemesis. Henry tells Betty she has always been lucky and Don began the series shilling for Lucky Strike. Ever since the pilot when Don found a way to keep advertising the brand despite the new restrictions, it has been somewhere in the background. ‘Did you get cancer?’ shouted Roger to Don after his meeting with the anti-smoking lobby. Cancer killed Anna and Rachel. A cancer scare frightened Betty into calling Don and nightmarishly imagining Henry’s life without her.  Now, oddly, it has brought her peace. She accepts she is dying and wants not to go down swinging, but let it take its course.  She wants to lie elegantly ‘intact,’ more fainting couch than open coffin, beautifully dressed, made up with her lipstick (she was never one in a box of a hundred), hair done, like Snow White: poisoned.  She really will always be younger than Don.

She wants to go home from hospital after the brutal indirect prognosis and once she has accepted it she wants to do the things she wants to do – like Joan who didn’t want to go to places she didn’t want to go to with Richard.  She wants to keep going to school, because that is what she always wanted. She knows what she wants to wear when she is dead.  The woman rarely in control of her life is now totally so in the manner of her leaving it.

She is shows a touching faith in a daughter with home she has often been in conflict, praising her for what once seemed to her a problem – dancing to the beat of a different drum – but also  passing on responsibility. Henry is not going to be able to handle things. He is not handling them now, despite his tough, take-charge pursuit of the best available medical care. He tells Sally it is OK to cry, then breaks down himself.  He, understandably, cannot keep up with Betty’s almost unnerving jump to acceptance.  She is taking her own road and doing it her way.  Sally’s much desired trip to Spain looks unlikely now and she maternally takes Baby Gene on her knee at home. There is going to be some sad and rapid growing up.

Young men on the battlefield cry for their mothers and Dick, whose childhood was so bad that war seemed better, called on that memory of longing for home, as Don, to sell slide projectors, as Peggy later used it to sell burgers.  Sometimes we don’t appreciate home until we have to go.  Joan was homesick for SC&P last week and Roger, clearly, felt much the same. Romantic memories can be golden but Trudy can’t use them to cover what her marriage to Pete was really like. He seems genuinely to want to move on and be better, to start over, but even at the moment or total rapprochment, in saying that he has always loved her and only her he is forgetting or denying his relationship with Peggy. In the Hobo Code, with which this episode links over and over again, they have pre-work sex on his office sofa and he tells Peggy that Trudy is a stranger to him.

Guidance is internal, said the NASA technician to the Apollo astronauts in Waterloo.  ‘How do you know when something’s a real opportunity?’ Pete asks his brother. Betty, learning to follow the rhythm of her own drum simply knows what she wants. Dick/Don seems to too, and it is less, not the relentless more that Pete refers to talking about his Dad’s insatiability, echoing Bill Phillips in the Miller meeting last week: ‘You have to offer more, or in this case, less.’

There has been a sense that the split Dick/Don identity was a way of coping with the trauma of his childhood and war. ‘Things happen very quickly when people die,’ Betty tells Sally.  Dick may have run away from home on the sort of impulse that resonates down the ages with young men like Glen and Suzanne Farrell’s brother and, in this episode, maid/messenger Andy, all of them echoes of Don’s lost younger self. The decision Dick made in the seconds after the real Don Draper was blown apart changed everything. In a moment of trauma and shock he made a new life for himself from the grisly remains of someone he barely knew, because, as the vets assure him, getting home is the name of the game.  All’s fair in love and war? Has Don’s whole series’ arc involved his journey home to himself?  Are we nearly there yet?

Among Mad Men’s multitudinous throng, one character has had no attachment to this ideal: the hobo who visited Dick Whitman’s childhood house and told young Dick/Don that he used to have all the trappings of home, but gave them up because he could not sleep and death came for him every night. Now he has no home and wherever he is he sleeps like a stone. ‘The Milk and Honey Route’ is a hobo term for a trail with rich pickings, a reference that led us back to the earlier ‘Hobo Code’ episode to see how it spoke to this one. What emerged in the earlier episode was a meditation on truth. Peggy there makes her debut, in absentia, as a copywriter with the Belle Jolie ‘Mark Your Man’ campaign, pitched aggressively to a skeptical client by Don with appeals to subjective, non-absolute truth – ‘I’m not here to tell you about Jesus. Either he lives in your heart or he doesn’t,’ and to individualism and ownership: women want choices and they want to tell the world they are unique and have made their choice and chosen ‘him’ and he is hers (rather, we may infer, than ‘Him’ whose love is for all). In the same episode, Bert invites Don into his office to tell him they are the same – both radical Randian individualists, indifferent to the little people upon whom their hard work depends. Don then spends an evening with some decidedly non-hard-working little people: beatnik girlfriend Midge and her friends, with whom he debates truth, defending advertising’s untruths with more relativism: ‘there is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent,’ but goes home and wakes his son specifically to tell him he will never lie to him (even though the very surname he has given him is a lie). We get some indication of where his struggle arises in the memory of the hobo, an intelligent man who seems ready to defend communism until he notes Dick’s mother’s hostility to it. In addition to refusal of home, he tells young Dick about the hobo code: a set of symbols left on fenceposts outside houses to indicate what hobos can expect there: good eating, a vicious dog, tell a sad story, a dishonest man. Dick’s dad promises the hobo money for a day’s work, then, when the work is done, withholds it. After the hobo leaves, Dick finds the Whitman fencepost already scratched with the sign of dishonesty. The hobos had marked this man: the elder Whitman, whom we see in a later episode going against the farming co-operative, seems the real, uncompromising personification of Cooper’s sociopathic individualism. This is itself a lie, a denial of human interdependency, of the contribution and work of supposedly non-hard-working little people. And as long as you defend it, you are a marked man.

But this leaves us with no clear road map for our characters. Don, here among what might be termed the little people – the vets – calls them, to Andy, the maid/messenger who robs them – ‘animals.’ Perhaps this is because joining with the collective does not have to mean – should not mean – accepting the mob’s basest instincts: tawdry stripshows, say, racist jokes or beating up the wrong guy to try to force a confession out of him. Betty, likewise, has had to find her own truth in order to die on her own terms, even if she has not always lived on them. Pete, for his part, seems finally to be liberating himself from emulation, of Don and his father, irascible men who were always attractive to women and always acted on it. He knows he loves his wife and child now and this is more important than competitively trying to prove he can keep up with the other guys’ infidelities. Contrary to the simplistic right-wing stereotypes, the collective does not have to mean loss of individualism; its dialectical debates even depend on it. ‘It’s time for a conversation.’ Conversely, as we saw so clearly in the Miller meeting last episode and the copywriters’ reference to ‘the Soviets’, high capitalism has its own dead conventionalism – fueled by advertising’s homogenised standards of success and the good life.

Perhaps the whole point is that the road map should not be clear (and perhaps that is also why Don’s is snaking all over the place rather than making a straight line to some supposed promised land in California). Perhaps that is why, rather than offering young Andy the thief up to the mob, he helps him get away and even gives him his car, or why Pete, after resisting Duck so strenuously, suddenly sees that he is offering a real opportunity. Perhaps that is why Betty takes the decision, for the good of her family, to face her cancer’s consequences without aggressive surgeons or calls to Rocky’s office. Moments come when even the most ruthless agents of chaos should not be resisted – even, perhaps, at a certain point, death. Pack that suitcase.

Perhaps, finally, the Milk and Honey Route is the road of truth and, as for any hobo, that means keeping your wits about you, being ready to make counter-intuitive volte-faces, not just following other people’s maps or truisms – or advertising slogans – and never being in a rush to surround yourself with the material and psychic trappings of home.

Time Stamp
Pete and Trudy are talking on Thursday October 1 1970, we think, from her wall calendar.  The Flip Wilson Show that Don was watching as his TV failed was Thursday, October 1. Betty’s letter to Sally is clearly dated October 3 1970 (Saturday) and Sally is reading it the next day at school? Fortuitously, the 1970 calendar has the same day/date as 2015 – a nice piece of MM mirroring. Don has  been at Motel Sharon for six days on the Saturday of the vets’ night which seems to be October 3. So he arrived about Sunday September 27. He left NYC about 10-11 days earlier.

The Milk and Honey Route
“The original milk and honey route was a railroad from Salt Lake City southward through valleys of Utah … This was the greatest feeding ground for hobos. “ The Milk and Honey Route (1930) – Dean Stiff aka Nels Anderson

The Road to Roam, a Hobo road song:
We hear the merry jingle,
The rumble and the roar,
As she dashes through the woodland,
As she creeps along the shore.
We hear the engine’s whistle
And the hardy hobos call,
As we ride the rods and brakebeams
On the Wabash Cannonball.

Friendship

  • Trudy’s disquisition on what she expects of friends to her friend Sherry.
  • Friendly’s chain of family restaurants
  • Inside the Reception of the Sharon Motel there’s a little sign on the wall : two men with a sedan chair:  “Come, dear old Friends/ Drive up in state/ Your welcome extends/ Both early and late.”
  • Pete and Learjet guy Mike Sherman: ‘ Someone who can rap his [fraternity] ring on the table and let everyone know they’re with a friend.’
  • Vets: ‘We’re just strangers,’ but, later, ‘You’re among friends.’
  • Buddy Holly

Red, white and blue

  • Betty when she collapses at college
  • Andy’s uniform
  • Don’s swimming trunks
  • The stripper at the Vets’ do had a stars and stripes costume but with a lot of gold. Red, blue and gold are the Comanche Nation colours. (maid/messenger Andy said he was ⅛ Comanche, which is why he didn’t drink).

Hustling and bargaining

  • Henry/Betty over her treatment. Henry also might be said to be going through the Kuebler-Ross stages of grief, in particular, bargaining and anger.
  • Sally/Betty over Betty’s treatment
  • Sally/Don over financing the Spanish trip
  • Motel owner/Don over staying longer and fixing the Coke machine
  • Andy/Don over payment for alcohol and books
  • Motel owner/Don over donation for the kitchen fund
  • Duck/Pete over Learjet
  • Pete/Trudy over dinner and the future
  • Learjet/Pete over the future
  • Vets/Don over the missing $500

Then, finally, without being asked, Don just gives away his car to Andy. Actually, all the hustlers here do OK.

Honesty and not speaking

  • The vets make repeated reference to Don not saying anything. They thank him for it, but later tell him he’s not allowed to say he doesn’t want to talk about the war. Later they beat him up with a phone book to try to get him to speak about the theft of their money (possibly a comment on the US army’s recent use of torture).
  • Betty doesn’t want to tell her kids about her cancer yet. When Henry tells Don, she tells her not to tell her brothers.
  • Mike Sherman wants a dinner with wives. Pete and Duck contemplate Pete bringing Trudy and pretending they’re not divorced. In the end, Pete doesn’t show up for the dinner at all and gets his big offer from Learjet by not responding.

Travel

  • Sally wants to go to Spain. It sounds good to Don too and it underlines how much he’s spending on her which links to the Red Foxx routine Don is watching on TV.
  • Richard wanted to travel and Joan couldn’t or wouldn’t in the previous episode.
  • Pete and Trudy imagine a life of limitless private jet travel. Jet set!
  • Don’s route : Route 35 to 40 and 89 to the Grand Canyon. If Don’s headed for California, he’s by no means taking the straight route. Wyoming to Kansas, where he wakes at the start, is slightly in the wrong direction and a long way south. He tells Sally he’s going to the Grand Canyon (Arizona), but then, instead of heading west straight to that, ends up further south and east again in the northern part of Oklahoma. In the Hobo Code after Don smokes dope with Midge and co he says, ‘I feel like Dorothy. Everything just turned to colour.’ He’s not in Kansas anymore.

Luck

  • Motel weekly rate is $37; daily $6.  Don says: one night at a time; I’m an optimist.  He ends up paying nothing but it’s not a cost-free stay.
  • Henry tells Betty she’s always been lucky. Calls back bitterly to Don’s work for Lucky Strike, a cigarette company, now that Betty’s cigarette habit is killing her.
  • Duck tells Pete he is charmed (and it won’t last). Pete describes the offer of his Learjet job as having supernatural origins (referring perhaps to his recent Panglossian statement to Joan, after the final McCann takeover move, that he now believes that ‘whatever happens is supposed to happen.’)

Home

  • For the vets, getting home is the name of the game.
  • Don was home from Korea by December 1953.
  • Don says he killed his CO and got to go home.
  • Sally is brought home from school.
  • Betty wants to go home from hospital.
  • A two-bedroom house in Whichita, Duck claims, costs $100.

Cold/snow

Is all this a reference to ‘Wichita Lineman’ and its reference to the possibility of snow?

  • Don asks Sally if it’s getting cold yet.
  • Don has a picture of birch trees in the snow on his motel wall.
  • The WW2 vet’s story had more snow coming.
  • Duck needs one placement to get himself through winter.

 

Mirroring

  • Don’s seen a two-headed cow in Wyoming. In New York, Learjet man Mike Sherman has just eaten the best steak he’s ever had and Pete says it’s from Kansas – where Sherman and Learjet are based. Don is offered leftovers of a roast at the Sharon Motel in Oklahoma.
  • Duck pleads with Pete for old time’s sake. Pete does the same when asking Trudy to be his date at dinner.
  • Betty is breathless; Pete tells Trudy to catch her breath.
  • Betty is dying; Trudy and Pete are starting life over.
  • Don will be permanently separated from Betty; Pete will reunite with Trudy.
  • Don has left McCann; Pete says he’s happy there, but is now leaving too – and following Don out west.
  • Betty’s at Fairfield University; Don is near Fairview.
  • Both times a TV is shown, it’s with black performers in prominent roles.
  • Sally has a peanuts calendar and Pete says Learjet is peanuts to McCann.

 

Culture and Product

  • Opening music on the car radio in Don’s dream  is, of course, Merle Haggard’s Okie from Muskogee. Don then goes to Oklahoma. The later spoof, Asshole from El Paso, made famous by Kinky Friedman, mentions Lone Star Beer, which Don and the Vets are drinking at dinner.
  • Closing song: Everyday. Is it a worry that we end with a Buddy Holly song in an episode in which Pete and Trudy are contemplating extensive private plane use?
  • Harbour Lights’ (more nauticality!) is playing when Don fixes the Royal Typewriter.
  • Andy, the maid/messenger, is one eighth Comanche. Comanche means ‘enemy’ in another local language.  They had a huge horse culture and rustled horse and cattle and people.  Lots of horse images here and Indian imagery decorating the motel.
  • The Veteran’s Association stripper scene was very very redolent of Altman – a trend that Paul Ewart (BTL) has been mentioning for a while now.
  • Pete and Tammy have been to Lyman Orchards.
  • The students register Betty at the hospital as Mrs Robinson. The Graduate came out in 1967.
  • Pete calls Tammy Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman’s alternative identity is ‘Diana’ and one of her weapons is a lasso of truth. She also has an invisible airplane and a purple ray able to heal injuries, all of which could be relevant here. Created by psychologist William Moulton Marston in the ‘40s, he was inspired by some unconventional progressive thinking and she became a feminist icon, as related in the link above. “Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world,” Marston wrote.
  • They are going to Friendly’s.
  • Don is drinking Coors beer.  It’s a political statement as well as a beer.
  • There’s Old Crow Whiskey on the Vets’ table.
  • Hill’s Coffee cans have been seen before.  Now one is the Vets’ ‘fine jar’.
  • Sally has a Tab. This is turning up in every episode.
  • Lincoln Center: Pete pretends he’s going to make a donation. Or perhaps, for a centre for the performing arts, the pretence is the donation.
  • Radio station: KOMA
  • Alva is the town named on the Vets’ caps and on the side of the tow-truck. It had a PoW camp in WW2 for Nazi leaders, Gestapo agents and extremists. Its website shows a water tower with a pattern of galloping horses.
  • McCann could run rings round Carson Roberts, says Pete. This was LA’s largest ad agency until it merged with Ogilvy and Mather in 1971. Another sign of the advance of the big beasts through consolidation.
  • Learjet’s Mike Sherman: ‘I told Duck I was looking for a real knickerbocker.’
  • Wichita. ‘In the 1920s and 1930s, businessmen and aeronautical engineers established a number of successful aircraft manufacturing companies in Wichita including Beechcraft, Cessna, and Stearman Aircraft. The city transformed into a hub of U.S. aircraft production and became known as “The Air Capital of the World”. Beechcraft, Cessna, (both now part of Textron Aviation) and other firms including Learjet, Airbus, and Spirit AeroSystems continue to operate design and manufacturing facilities in Wichita today, and the city remains a major center of the U.S. aircraft industry.’ The notorious Koch brothers are from Wichita.
  • Learjet.
  • Don is reading The Godfather, the book of ‘the Don,’ of course, and another story of a man with a changed name (‘Corleone’ was given to the young Vito Andolini by an immigration official).
  • For further reading, Andy dredges up old copies of Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain (1969) and James Michener’s Hawaii (1959). Could be Don’s itinerary. The former is set in Arizona, where he’s told Sally he’s going next.
  • The glamorous woman by the pool (who looks like Don’s type) is reading The Woman of Rome by Alberto Moravia 1947, describing Rome under Mussolini.
  • Pete’s staying or living at the Carlyle Hotel.
  • Don is watching the comedian Redd Foxx on the Flip Wilson Show which had its first episode Thursday September 17 1970. Here’s the full clip from the episode Don watches on Thursday October 1 1970.  Late in it, Foxx says he’s just made a ‘great swing through the south west’ and talks about the different language they speak there.
  • Someone shouts out that they should be paying Don because he was in the 7th Infantry.
  • Sally has a Peanuts calendar.  This might be the cover, but we can’t find the cartoon or work out the caption. Sally and Henry are in the same positions, head-wise, as Linus and Lucy.  Pete says the Learjet’s a tiny account. It’s peanuts to them.
  • Pete has a Raisin Bran box on his desk. ‘In 1944, the District Court for Nebraska found: The name “Raisin-BRAN” could not be appropriated as a trade-mark, because: “A name which is merely descriptive of the ingredients, qualities or characteristics of an article of trade cannot be appropriated as a trademark and the exclusive use of it afforded legal protection. The use of a similar name by another to truthfully describe his own product does not constitute a legal or moral wrong, even if its effect be to cause the public to mistake the origin or ownership of the product.”’
  • Duck asks who’s going to win the World Series this year? It was won by the Baltimore Orioles, playing against the Cincinnati Reds.
  • We can’t identify the movie or show Pete’s watching on his hotel TV when Duck arrives. Anyone?

General notes

  • Hürtgen Forest was the site of a famous WWII battle.
  • There was a cut between a Pete and Don scene where ‘career’ became ‘Korea’. ‘Tell you one thing about Korea. They can keep it.’
  • Pete’s office is still full of nautical things including a Globe full of booze, which Duck goes for immediately: Duck’s world?
  • Sherrie says it’s admirable that Trudy hasn’t poisoned Tammy against Pete.  As they stand next to a big bucket of apples (Snow White).
  • Sharon is another unisex name, in Israel anyway.  The Rose of Sharon is the common name for two quite different shrubs.  It’s also the national flower of South Korea! It was also the name of Grapes of Wrath character who helps a starving stranger. For the vet who’s named his motel after his wife, home and marriage are all one.
  • He tells Don, re his typewriter repair job, ‘My wife caught you being handy.’ Typical folksy speech for this part of the world, but also sounds a bit like being caught thieving.
  • In April 1970, Congress passed a law banning the advertising of cigarettes on television and radio effective January 2, 1971.
  • Speaking of nauticality and death, as we often have, there is a thing called the necronautical society.
  • In the background when Sally’s talking to Don there’s a poster in psychedelic-looking writing reading ‘Biology Club’. In the scene at college when we realise there’s something wrong with Betty, there’s a poster in similarly psychedelic writing reading ‘Chemistry Tutoring.’
  • Why is Pete living in a hotel?
  • This episode went out on Mother’s Day in America.
  • There’s a fox hunting print behind Learjet guy at his dinner with Pete as he hunts Pete down as a new hire.

 Callbacks

  • All this talk of airplanes – along with the plane flying past the Empire State Building last episode – reminds us that the dream-wraith Rachel told Don he’d missed his flight in the season half opener (7.8). Also, given that airplanes appear to be Pete’s future, we might remember that his father died in a plane crash – and all this while Don is in horse country: his father was killed by a horse.
  • Don flicks lit cigarette out of the window when his car breaks down reminding us of all all those fire refs lately (My Lai, zippo lighters). The vet dinner is a benefit for a guy who burned down his kitchen.  In the Hobo Code Freddie describes Don’s verbal assault on the Belle Jolie guys: Don walked around the village three times and then set it on fire.
  • Also in the Hobo Code, Bert said Don is Randian; Later, in 7.7, Don convinced Ted to sign the McCann deal for the sake of others, for Pete and Joan and SC&P. He gives away money and his car in this episode and money for a car to Midge in S1.5. Ayn Rand had lung cancer, although she didn’t die of it.
  • The Hobo in S1.5 does work with the promise of future payment, knowing he’ll probably be cheated.  Don books a motel room with the promise of future payment, expecting to pay, does some free DIY and leaves without paying after being assaulted.
  • Pete doesn’t want to meet Liz Taylor or Danny Kaye.  In The Hobo Code, Elliot from Belle Jolie had had had a drink with Robert Mitchum.
  • More from the Hobo Code: the beatniks, somewhat absurdly, tell Don, ‘Toothpaste doesn’t solve anything.’ Here, Pete puts toothpaste on Tammy’s bee sting because he has no baking soda. Both are indeed accepted remedies.
  • Sherrie, Trudy’s tennis friend looks very like Bonnie, Pete’s LA girl friend but he doesn’t pay her much attention. She’s a Betty type but it seems Pete may have overcome his envy of Don, which takes us right back to the pilot, and be finding his own way.
  • Don tells Sally she has no idea about money. Betty said it to Don because he grew up poor.  And he’s given a lot away: left $2m at McCann it seems.  That still leaves him with $3m, after the $1m he gave to Megan.
  • ‘You did what you had to do.’ ‘What did you do?’ – a nearly precise echo of Peggy’s conversation with Stan when she was telling him about her baby recently.
  • The word ‘late’ has come up several times recently which made Nevada anxious.  Sally teased Betty that she was ‘late’, i.e. perhaps pregnant.  Now Betty will be.
  • One of the vets tells a racist joke (about penis amputation), in which one of the doctors consulted is Japanese. Adds to lots of recent East Asia references and veteran Roger’s hostility to the Japanese.
  • Don has a Sears bag. Pete was going to get Joan into a Sears meeting last episode.
  • Mike Sherman from Learjet: ‘I told Duck I was looking for a real knickerbocker.’  The word’s Dutch origin and its use among NYC aristocracy calls back to New Amsterdam episode (in which Pete and Trudy acquire their apartment thanks to Pete’s family name and history).
  • The Woman of Rome by Alberto Moravia, calls back to Betty’s Italian days and Souvenir, when Don and Betty go to Rome and she looks so fabulous.
  • The Hawaii novel links to Don’s idea that Hawaii is the jumping off point and this is morbid and maybe heaven is morbid.
  • In S4.13 Tomorrowland, Don comes back from the American Cancer Society Board and Roger shouts to him, ‘Did you get cancer?’ In S5.3, Tealeaves, Betty has a thyroid cancer scare.
  • Pete with a Raisin Bran box on his desk reminds us of his grungy apartment where he had little eat except cereal.
  • Duck’s at Grand Central, drunk in a phone boothe. In Hobo Code  Don mocks the beatniks ‘leaning against a wall in Grand Central pretending you’re a vagrant.’
  • Henry tries to give Betty the usual Draper reassurance: ‘You’re gonna be just fine.’ But this time she’s not buying it – even if she once again has a doctor consulting with her doctor on her behalf, as Don did with her psychoanalyst.
  • Andy is maid and messenger, one of many gender confusions in the show.
  • Don got mugged in a motel once before by two young con artists.
  • Betty falls upstairs; Pete fell down.

 Meta stuff

  • Trudy turns the light off making it look like another power outage/failure like Don’s TV.  Betty turns off Sally’s light later. It all calls back to lights out at SC&P last episode.   Ed commented, ‘That was subtle.’ So subtle we missed it. One by one, they’re turning out the lights.
  • Betty: ‘I’ve learned to believe people when they tell you it’s over. They don’t want to say it, so it’s usually the truth.’
  • Also maybe: ‘…you are charmed, my friend.’ ‘Good night, Duck.’ ‘I’ve been there. It doesn’t last long.’

Heaven and Hell: Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 12: ‘Lost Horizon’

‘Often I have thought of the day when I gazed for the first time at the sea. The sea is vast, the sea is wide, my eyes roved far and wide and longed to be free. But there was the horizon.  Why a horizon, when I wanted the infinite from life?

‘It may be narrower, my horizon, than that of other men. I have said that I lack a sense of actualities – perhaps it is that I have too much. Perhaps I am too soon full, perhaps I am too soon done with things.’

––Thomas Mann, Disillusionment

 

And then I went to work for McCann-Erickson – one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world. And it towered high into the sky and had hundreds of prestigious clients and immense clout with the newspapers and its employees walked up and down the hallways in the most fashionable clothes you could imagine and beautiful coloured abstract paintings broke the torpor of its grey grey walls. And as I sat there in a meeting for an exciting new low-calorie beer, hearing about the key demographic’s generic representative, I said to myself… ‘Is that all there is…to heaven?’

Last episode, Jim Hobart told the partners they were dying and going to advertising heaven. Perhaps that really is what McCann is – if you see heaven as something like the immense grey bureaucracy imagined by Powell and Pressburger in A Matter of Life and Death, its drab institutionality unmitigated by the bright paintings or the young creatives dressed for Woodstock. The copywriter ladies who descend on Joan as she arrives refer to the organisation’s own bureaucratic staff as ‘the Soviets,’ neatly encapsulating the fact that you don’t need an anti-capitalist dictatorships of the proletariat to deliver you up to depersonalisation. Don finds this soon enough in the Miller meeting, a room full of identical men hearing about a man of ‘very specific qualities’ – except that ‘there are millions of these men.’ And what is heaven if not depersonalisation? Certainly McCann’s immense size and power might at least pretend to offer the dissolving limitlessness that Thomas Mann’s alienated hero, inspiration for ‘Is That All There Is?’, unsatisfied even by the sea, so craves. Certainly, in this monstrous sublime, the horizon is gone. And so Don, Hobart’s Moby Dick Whitman once again eluding the harpoon, unseduced by McCann’s promise of omnipotence, ups and leaves, just as the hero of Lost Horizon ultimately chooses to reject Shangri-La’s lack of limit to life’s horizon and return to the world of mortality.

Or perhaps we should say, the way Christ rejects the devil’s promise of earthly power and chooses to sacrifice himself. Perhaps that is why Don’s exit from the Miller meeting is preceded by a vision of the cross on which Christ chose to die: an airplane trail intersecting with the spire of the Empire State Building, echoing his previous troubled stare from the window of his office at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Then, making an unscheduled appearance in Racine, Wisconsin in search of his lost melancholy waitress paramour Diana Bauer, he is told by her angry husband that Jesus can save him: ‘Ask him.’ And then he goes off on the road to St. Paul, as if seeking the Pauline road to Damascus conversion, having earlier met the ghost of Bert Cooper in his car and invoked On the Road.

What are the chances of redemption?

Joan’s grim forebodings about McCann from last week are proving well-founded. No accident that she received no blue-chip client: she has decidedly not been given one of the most prestigious jobs in advertising: ‘We need to keep those clients otherwise what would you do around here?’ says Ferg Donnelly. She is still just working on her old clients, now trying to reassure them that things are the same even though everything has changed. She is, for a start, getting no support from loathsome account guy Dennis, who has not read the briefs she stayed up all night preparing, puts his foot in it, so to speak, by suggesting golf to a wheelchair-bound client, then gets angry with Joan for getting angry with him.

Don, hearing about her ‘bumpy’ start in the elevator, offers to ‘interfere,’ but she says she’ll handle it. ‘Of that I am certain,’ says Don, but Joan seems, in fact, less assured than we have ever seen her – and well she might. Ever since her prostitution to Herb Rennet, it must have been a matter of perpetual suspense to her whether her sacrifice would be worth it, but even before that, years earlier, she was seeing work she knew she could excel at being given to men. Raised to the level of ‘account man’ at SC&P, millions richer from the McCann buyout, she briefly saw the promised land. ‘I’ve got the job I always wanted,’ she told Richard when they first met. McCann has dropped a bomb on this and brought back all the old hurtful objectification, multiplied ten-fold.

Mr. Bauer’s ‘Ask him,’ line seems to echo throughout Joan’s storyline. But who to ask? She has already turned down Don’s help and seems reluctant even to tell Richard about her problems. When she turns to senior McCann account man Ferg Donnelly, it becomes clear he blithely expects his assistance to incur sexual perks. Distraught, she tells Richard, ‘It’s a big place and I asked the wrong person for help,’ but it gets worse. When she takes it to the top, Hobart backs his guy and turns nasty, confirming her fears of not being taken seriously at McCann by making it clear he thinks her partnership must be a sexy golddigger’s payoff: ‘I don’t know if somebody left it to you in their will.’ Finally, Roger turns up and tells her to take Hobart’s deal: fifty cents on the dollar for what they still owe her to never see her face again. He may be right that this is the best she can do, but still: no wonder this former caryatid of the gender status quo is now looking for help not to men but the standard bearers of a new kind of woman. Even with Richard’s sinister hoodlum offer of help from ‘a guy’ in her quiver, in Hobart’s office she turns instead to Betty Friedan and the ACLU, threatening Hobart with visits from both. The women copywriters reassurance that their ladies’ club is ‘not women’s lib,’ is no reassurance to her.

Perhaps if there is hope for redemption here, ‘women’s lib’ is where most of it lies. In Rye, Don finds Betty in the kitchen, recently enrolled on her psychology post-grad, happily reading an early Freud case study. ‘Dora, a case of hysteria,’ was just about to come under serious fire from feminist critics for its claim that Dora – another alias; real name, Ida Bauer – was secretly excited by her sexual abuse at 14. Dora’s main ‘hysterical’ symptom was the loss of her voice and the feminist point is that Freud, in this early exploration of the so-called talking cure, robbed her of it a second time. Betty, at least, for the moment, seems to be finding hers: ‘I’ve always wanted to do this,’ she tells Don happily, having just politely brushed off the likely sexual come-on of his shoulder rub. Again, a woman who was once, as model turned housewife, literally the poster-girl of old-fashioned gender roles, now seems to be revealing a more cerebral self. Will her achievement of her head’s desire be any more secure than Joan’s?

Elsewhere, Peggy’s role is also much at issue. Her office unready at McCann, her boxes sent back to SC&P, she pitches ad hoc camp at the old, now half-dismantled homestead – or boat, as Roger later calls it. While Meredith sits at Don’s desk at McCann, Ed the art director sits at Peggy’s at SC&P making phone calls in Japanese. She hands him the rolodex and asks him to make a secretarial phone call,  he complies, but then, as art director, does not do the ‘one thing’ she asks, then affably quits. Roles are slipping around like penguins on an ice bank. Marcia, Peggy’s secretary, turns up at her apartment with the news that McCann think she is a secretary. Meanwhile Joan is invoking Peggy as an example of a woman accepted as a boss, but Donnelly tips the wink: Peggy’s copy supervisor (or is it chief?) role at McCann will not last. So much for Pete’s prediction that they might need her ‘forever’, or her headhunter’s advice that she stay three years.

She appears to be facing the least certain future of all. So why, when she finally turns up at McCann, does she do it with such swagger, shades on, cigarette hanging out of the side of her mouth (the very image of Nevada!), an obscene Japanese print on show under her arm? The answer seems to be in the last of these items. Inveigled by Roger into a farewell SC&P heavy drinking session the day before, complete with live organ recital and rollerskating, she is presented by him with this relic of Bert’s old Japanophilic office. ‘It’s an octopus pleasuring a lady,’ explains Roger, stating the obvious, ‘put it in your office.’ Peggy demures, echoing Joan’s anxiety: ‘They won’t take me seriously. You know I need to make men feel at ease.’ ‘Who told you that?’ he scoffs, ‘So now I gave you something…’ And maybe he really has: the jolt she needs to stop tiptoeing around, soft-peddling herself, perhaps the necessary reminder that she really is no longer a secretary. ‘It’s a business of sadists and masochists,’ Ida Blankenship once told her, ‘You know which one you are.’ Now she is advancing on the heart of the McCann beast like a copy chief Miss Whiplash.

Will it work? Is there anything she can really do against her certain fate, laid down by the angry gods of McCann? ‘It’s a big place,’ said Joan and we eventually saw just how big and how dark its heart, Hobart boasting threateningly that any attempt to land it with a sexual harassment scandal would die on the vine because they control the New York Times. ‘We could get them to print “Mein Kampf” on the front page.’ Talk about denying a woman a voice. Are we finally seeing the people, hymned by Bert back in series two, who really run things in America? And given the darkness of the heart in question, is there not something of a double bind in women’s need to challenge its exclusion of them by forcing it to let them in?

But while Peggy goes in and Joan leaves under duress, Don has decamped, pursuant, it seems, upon a dream of redemptive freedom that America, in its shiny car in the night, seems nearly at the end of. Kerouac, one of the progenitors of the dream in the ‘50s, had died the previous year, spitting up blood, partly caused by cirrhosis of the liver. Even before that, fellow beat writer William Burroughs had remarked that in the end On the Road simply became another way for advertising to sell us a million pairs of Levis. Will riding the rails really be a solution for Don?

What are the chances of redemption? What would it cost? Whither goest thou, America?

 

Time Stamp

The National Organization of Women March in NYC was Wednesday August 26 – Joan doesn’t say how long ago it was but it’s happened. Don walked out of a meeting on Wednesday so it’s possible Joan’s meeting with Hobart was Thursday August 27 or perhaps September 3. Don’s ‘white whale’ meeting with Hobart is the day before the Miller meeting, which was a Wednesday. But that day, a Tuesday, looks like their first day at the office.  Betty had had registration ‘yesterday’, Tuesday. Sally is going back to school, which is usually after Labor Day, which was September 7 1970.  So perhaps we start on Tuesday September 8, the day after Labour Day?

EDIT: moose&squirrel BTL adds this: ‘About McCloud, it started with a TV movie in February 1970 but then did not air a regular episode until September 16, 1970, so the time is at least a week after Labor Day.’

Culture and Product

  • Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. Or, as Betty’s edition has it, Dora, an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. Dora/Ida related a dream to Freud about being in the family house and it catching on fire and her father carrying her out – like the beginning of ‘Is That All There Is?’
  • Miller Lite. Well anticipated on the blog last week, LL!
  • Moby Dick. Jim Hobart told Don he was his ‘white whale.’ Not sure what this says about the former’s mental stability.
  • Bedlam Roger says the sailors jumping from the ship was Bedlam.  It also links to the madness theme in On the Road.
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac. ‘Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?’ quotes ghost Bert, despite saying he’s never read it. And of course, the famous quote is, ‘The only people for me are the mad [our italics] ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time.
  • Ulithi Lagoon, an atoll in the Caroline Islands!
  • The view from Don’s new office is St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The entry we’ve linked to tells us: ‘Bishop DuBois reopened the chapel in 1840 for Catholics employed at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum and in the general neighborhood.’ Could refer to the theme of voicelessness and not being heard.
  • The hands at the window moment obviously refers to this contemporary, but old-fashioned looking ad for McCann (Truth Well Told), but also to the falling man.
  • Truth Well Told plaque on the wall.
  • Here’s the explanation of the use of ‘Quagmire’ in Ed’s spoof Dow ad: Quagmire Theory, the (we think, questionable) idea that the disaster of Vietnam had been unavoidably arrived at by a series of incremental steps, each seemingly necessary and harmless in itself – perhaps a bit like the way the company’s ended up being taken over by McCann.
  • The My Lai or Son My Massacre, to which Ed’s spoof Dow ad refers, happened in 1968, but wasn’t known about until November 1969. The villages in question were burned by the GIs. The massacre resulted in the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group, a Pentagon task force the work of which suggested strongly that atrocities like My Lai were far more common than originally imagined.
  • Don is living at the Plaza while his new apartment is made ready – organised by Meredith.
  • Don’s new office is rather like his old one but with dark wood panels. It smells of Airwick. Or rather, that’s been used to cover up a worse smell.
  • We see Don Draper’s Social Security card in an envelope with some $10 bills and Anna’s engagement ring. His SS number starts 949-52-27. This is a fake number, for the show, like the fake phone numbers that get used in movies.
  • She’s watching McCloud, about a cowboy horse-riding cop in NYC. Starred Dennis Weaver and started February 1970.
  • Everyone in the Miller meeting is drinking Coke.
  • Joan has a New Tab on her desk.  Low calories sodas were quite a sensation when first released. She receives a box of Tobler chocolates from Donnelly.
  • Bryan Hyland’s Sealed with a Kiss is playing on the radio when Don is in or near Cleveland.  It was released in 1962.
  • Bert is doing an ad for Higbee’s Department Store, which is in Cleveland.
  • Joan threatens Hobart with the EEOC, ACLU and Betty Friedan.  She refers to the Ladies’ Home Journal and Newsweek disputes, explained here and here, respectively. Long list of feminist milestones from 1970 here, including both the Ladies Home Journal story and the Newsweek one. The latter reads: ‘Forty-six editorial staff members of Newsweek filed formal charges of sex discrimination against the magazine. (03/16/70).’ A little below it is a similar story about Time Magazine.
  • Hobart’s boast about the New York Times is an astonishingly arrogant and offensive given that the Times was owned by a Jewish family.
  • Space Oddity closes the episode.  Released nine days after Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, and so nine days after Bert dies, its B side was Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud, about which Bowie said, ‘It was about the disassociated, the ones who feel as though they’re left outside, which was how I felt about me. I always felt I was on the edge of events, the fringe of things, and left out. A lot of my characters in those early years seem to revolve around that feeling. It must have come from my own interior puzzlement at where I was.’
  • The Oyster Bar is where Joan is invited for ‘consciousness-lowering’.  Clearly, she never went.
  • Don’t know why we didn’t think of posting it before, but here’s the full text of Thomas Mann’s (very) short story Disillusionment, from 1896, upon which ‘Is That All There Is?’ was based. In addition to the passage we quoted at the start, the following reminds us of, and undercuts with ironic bitterness, the stargazing in The Monolith: ‘It is my favourite occupation to gaze at the starry heavens at night – that being the best way to turn my eyes away from earth and from life.’
  • Betty has a copy of Betty Crocker’s Dinner in a Dish in her kitchen. Published in 1965.
  • Joan has the August 21 copy of Life in her office. It’s cover headlines are The Midi Muscles In, Slaughter at San Rafael, Back at the Manson Ranch and Our Eating Habits Under Attack.  An odd collection of articles.You can see it here.
  • EDIT: alipal BTL has identified the song Roger plays on the organ: Hi Lilly, Hi-lo: ‘The song of love is a sad song, ii Lilly hi lilly hi lo’. And this magical clip is what youtube offers us when we search using that line: rather redolent of Peggy, especially the hat. We like, especially, the cut at the end to the man behind the curtain.

Nautical

  • Ulithi Lagoon, an atoll in the Caroline Islands. Roger on the two-storey jump into the sea says: ‘I did it, I just needed a push.’ Taking Peggy’s lead, he’s making an analogy, trying to look on the bright side, with being pushed out of SC&P. He says of the latter, ‘This was a helluva boat.’
  • Moby Dick.
  • Don jokingly suggests Tub as name for the low-cal beer.
  • Major Tom is floating in a tin can.

Grey blobs

There have been repeated instances of grey blobs in the background at SC&P on the upper floor. For a while we thought they were nothing and said nothing. Lately, we’ve started to notice they were different every time they appeared. Two episodes back, one of them simply looked like a spoon. In the episode before that, one of them might have been designed to evoke this Magritte painting, The Lovers, which is owned by MoMA in NYC and probably refers to Magritte’s mother’s death by drowning (she was found with material draped over her face). The one in this episode, next to Roger’s dismantled office, looks particularly chaotic and might even suggest a sinking ship. Or perhaps we’re just falling prey hugely to apophenia. Perhaps that’s…all we ever do.

Far east 

  • Ed speaks Japanese. Digit’s Japanese friend (thanks, Karin!) has tried to work out what is being said here and tells us it’s almost impossible (apparently Ed’s accent’s awful) but there may be something about the number 17. Perhaps he’s planning a trip on the 17th.
  • Ed’s drawn an unusable ad for Dow about the US army burning Vietnamese villages.
  • Roger’s reminiscing about the war in the South Pacific.
  • Peggy’s roller skating was very reminiscent of her similarly circular Honda ride around an empty soundstage.
  • Roger gives Peggy The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, Japanophile Bert’s lewd Hokusai print.

Voicelessness

  • Stan hasn’t got a phone yet and Peggy’s at SC&P has been cut off.
  • The imaginary man in the Miller meeting likes dogs because they don’t talk.
  • Dora in Freud’s case study had lost her voice.
  • Peggy asked Ed to do one damn thing and he didn’t do it.
  • Joan asked Dennis to read the briefs she prepared before their meetings and he didn’t do that either.
  • Peggy refuses to show Ed’s scathingly satirical ad to Dow. Hobart tells Joan she won’t be able to get her complaint against the company into the papers.

Callbacks

  • Roger can juggle and play the organ? The little girl last week was playing it.
  • Roger only found lighter fuel in Don’s office and said, ‘I’m not there yet,’ meaning not a tramp who’d drink the stuff. (Withnail famously was not so proud.) Ed had drawn a GI holding a zippo, surely a reference to My Lai (see culture), but also, of course, to PFC Dinkins and to Dick becoming Don in Korea with a fire caused by a dropped zippo. The three small huts could be Sterling Cooper, SCDP and SC&P: getting bigger but all destroyed.
  • Reappearance of ghost Bert – doing voiceover this time.
  • Peggy watches McCloud. Richard Burghoff falsely claimed to be a Jim McCloud to meet Joan.
  • The hands at the window moment obviously refers to the McCann ad we found (see culture), but also to Don’s broken patio door in the apartment and the falling man thing. And Roger’s talking about being pushed out of a boat, as if it’s a building, as a metaphor for being pushed out of his office.
  • Roger says about Don walking out of the meeting, ‘He does this.’ Last time we saw him do this, it was Faye Miller’s psychological testing meeting at SCDP. This time it was a meeting about Miller beer – or what would become known as Miller Lite.
  • Lost Horizon: Don was watching the movie at Megan’s canyon home in S7.1. We see these words onscreen: ‘In these days of wars and rumors of wars, haven’t you ever dreamed of a place where there was peace and security, where living was not a struggle but a lasting delight? Of course you have. So has every man since time began. Always the same dream. Sometimes he calls it Utopia, sometimes the Fountain of Youth, sometimes merely “that little chicken farm.”’ The movie was based on the book by James Hilton, concerning, Shangri-La, a place of perfect peace where no one ever gets old. Roger called the hippy commune farm that his renamed daughter Marigold ran off to ‘Shangri-La’.
  • Conrad Hilton’s back and has a present for Don, which Don says is ‘never good’.
  • Tampax calls back to Duck’s plans to set up an agency with Peggy where he says to her something like, ‘Tampax, I mean, they’re right up there.’
  • McCann’s name can help get reservations and avoid parking tickets. Calls back Henry’s mother saying he can deal with traffic tickets – which he did by paying them.
  • Ferg sounds nastily like Herb and has the same nasty desires.
  • Peggy burns herself heating a coffee mug directly on electric stove element.  Calls back to Don in his Ossining kitchen heating milk when Sally was quite little. The spilled coffee she doesn’t bother to clean up calls back to the wine stain on Don’s apartment bedroom floor.
  • Betty tells Don that Sally comes and goes as she pleases.  This calls back to the much missed Michael Ginsberg who made the same observation about Megan and it led to his tag line for Jaguar: At last, something beautiful you can truly own.
  • Joan offers to make RIchard fried chicken as she did for Greg. She also offered to get some for Lane, ‘because I know you like it.’
  • Richard will ‘call a guy’ to deal with difficult people. Reminds us that Faye said her father was a good looking gangster – like Don.
  • Don says he is ‘riding the rails’ and going hobo as we have often thought he would.
  • Cinzano was a recent client at SC&P.
  • Mein Kampf means My Struggle. Last week, Hobart told the SC&P partners to ‘stop struggling’.
  • Roger talks to Shirley about forging his signature. Calls back to Lane.
  • Joan in the elevator to Don says she’s ‘homesick’, calling back to the Carousel pitch with its yearning for home and also to Donnelly last episode saying they’re bringing SC&P home.
  • The hippy hitchhiker is wearing stripy pants very like Mitchell Rosen’s.
  • There’s an African sculpture in the kitchen when Peggy’s making coffee. It looks like the one SCDP was sent sent as part of their joke feud with Young & Rubicam in S5.1. There’s a similar statue in the room layout provided by Meredith and chosen by Don.
  • Blum and Schmidt could be Jewish names, calling back to the fuss made over Menken’s.

 

Ambiguities

  • Does Don’s chosen apartment on Meredith’s board have note saying ‘safe’ or ‘sofa’?
  • Ferg says to Joan, “I know a good job when I see one’ but it could be ‘a good jump’.

 

Pale imitations:

  • McCann as heaven or Shangri-La.
  • The Miller meeting chair’s pitch, though, had a bit of – just a hint – of Draper poetry about it, while at the same time being horribly banal.
  • Awful imitation of Don by Ferg which sounded more like JFK? Or maybe Mayor Quimby from The Simpsons, whom Ferg somewhat resembles. EDIT: OK, don’t all rush at once. LL and Rico have set us straight: Dick Nixon.
  • There’s an Allison look-a-like in a McCann corridor

Christianity

  • After Mr. Bauer tells Don to ask Jesus for salvation, the cut is to Roger playing the organ, which initially seems quite churchy.
  • The view from Don’s window is St.Patrick’s Cathedral.  There’s a ‘two Patricks Theory’ that suggests a conflation of St Patrick and Palladius.  St Patrick was captured by Irish pirates, held for six years, escaped home by sea and time in the wilderness.
  • Don is on the road to St. Paul. St. Paul was another twice-named man (formerly Saul) and had his famous conversion (the Damascene one) ‘on the road…’ Kerouac’s novel is about a search for a similar sort of high mystical truth and arguably was a key part of the inspiration for the search much of America was on during the ‘60s – and which, in 1970, it is now at the end of, arguably without success. Kerouac himself had died aged 47 in October ‘69 of internal bleeding partly caused by cirrhosis of the liver due to heavy alcohol consumption.

Other Notes

  • The doors have come off.  All through Mad Men they have used doors and doorways in the filming.  In the deserted SC&P almost all the doors are off their hinges.  Unhinged.  Perhaps that’s another On the Road madness reference?
  • Don’s two sets of horse-head bookends have made the move to the new office.
  • Don’s red and black cigarette holder that Allison threw at him, is nowhere to be seen. The green pencil sharpener is there.
  • Shirley’s blouse looks rather like the S7 part 1 poster.
  • Art director Ed sits at Peggy’s desk at SC&P. At McCann, until they can get that desk over, copywriter Peggy is offered a drafting table to work on.
  • Hobart has several small golden birds on his desk but no personal objects.
  • Peggy was Copy Chief at SC&P and will be a Copy Supervisor at McCann. It doesn’t sound like a promotion.
  • As Peggy is walking towards the music she passes a frosted glass wall and there’s a torn bit of paper with a sketch of a woman, perhaps using a broom, with the words ‘I’d get a piano/ if I could/ really be sure/ my child/ had musical talent’.  They’re written like a poem.
  • Joan’s little elephant and donkey figures get left on her desk. Perhaps she’s accepted that she’s not going to bother with the politics and takes half her money to be rid of McCann.
  • Don mentions On the Road to Cooper. Peggy says to Roger (about the final drink he pours her) ‘This is the one for the road.’
  • Data: Harry says ‘McCann is mission control’. He says of the old computer ‘the old girl has served her purpose.’  He says McCann has statisticians, programmers and 5 men and 10 women just handling data. So 2 women = 1 man or 50 cents on the dollar.  Calls forward to Joan who gets offered half her money.
  • The guy who chairs the Miller meeting, who gives them a document full of numbers, or something, but wants to not kill the human aspect.
  • St. Paul/Minneapolis are the Twin Cities, of course.
  • Shirley is off to Travelers Insurance, which has, Wikipedia tells us, a big office in St. Paul.
  • Racine, WI is right on Lake Michigan, just south of Milwaukee, where Hobart has just bought an agency in order to bag Miller.
  • Who is on which floor of McCann: Roger – 26; Harry – 24; Don – 19; Stan – 14
  • Ed is carrying a carpet bag in red and black (Mad Men colours). Carpetbaggers is a term for opportunism and exploitation by outsiders using manipulation or fraud to get what they want. Have McCann carpet-bagged SC&P?
  • Roger (waving a golden trowel): You know any Freemasons? Richard? Or was Lane one?
  • Don’s choice as he drives back from Rye at night is between Manhattan via the Triboro Br and Pennsylvania | New Jersey. Makes us think, for the second time this season half, of Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken.’ (‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/ And sorry I could not travel both/ And be one traveller, long I stood/ And looked down one as far as I could/ To where it bent in the undergrowth./ Then took the other as just as fair/ And having perhaps the better claim/ Because it was grassy and wanted wear…)

Sucker Punch: Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 11: ‘Time and Life’

VIOLA: …They that dally nicely with words may quickly make them wanton.
FOOL: I would therefore my sister had no name, sir.
VIOLA: Why, man?
FOOL: Why, sir, her name’s a word, and to dally with that word might make my sister wanton. But, indeed, words are very rascals since bonds disgraced them.
VIOLA: Thy reason, man?
FOOL: Troth, sir, I can yield you none without words, and words are grown so false, I am loath to prove reason with them.

––Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

If you wander far enough
you will come to it
and when you get there
they will give you a place to sit

for yourself only, in a nice chair,
and all your friends will be there
with smiles on their faces
and they will likewise all have their places.

––Robert Creeley, Oh No

Melancholy was pervasive here, as befits what feels like an end before the end. Is this the bitter conclusion of Don’s years of struggle to avoid the dead hand of McCann? To quote Heathers, ‘Now that you’re dead, what are you going to do with your life?’ The partners face the rest of their miserable lives (sayonara, Lou!) holding down five of the most sought-after jobs in advertising – except that we only heard about four, and maybe there was more that did not add up here. Don boasted drunkenly that the old Sterling Cooper was ‘mammoth’. Well, it’s been swallowed up by something even bigger and now looks just as extinct.

It was hard to know how much Don expected this.  He says, ‘They left it so long, I thought we were safe,’ so he realised it was a possibility, but Roger appeared caught unawares, the seeming heroic leadership brilliance of his McCann deal moment now come unstuck. This sucker-punch was mirrored in Pete and Mr. McDonald’s fight, calling back 300 years to the Massacre at Glencoe – and back to Pete’s classical boxing match with Lane, in an episode directed by Jared Harris, who played Lane. We’re officially dizzy from sitting on the carousel as it spins round and round.

But we also got to look in on some long-term relationships that contained more warmth and promise. Ted has reconnected with a college girlfriend and wonders why they ever broke up. Peggy confided in Stan about her son. We saw the pain of her loss and the conflicting emotions that never leave a woman who gives up her baby.  Her cry for equality with men still stands today. She spent the episode working, problematically, with kids and meeting with men on sofas. With Pete that’s long been their rendezvous of choice, and here he solicitously, kindly shared the secret of the McCann move: ‘you really need to know … I would want it.’ It spoke to their long implicit bond with each other as parents of an absent child, no more likely to be welcome at Greenwich Country Day than his daughter Tammy. In parallel, Roger, saddened at the loss of Sterling Cooper, wistfully told Don that the Sterling name would die with him. However, the earlier scene with Joan leaning on his shoulder reminded us that they shared parenthood of Kevin, a Sterling by any other name.

‘What’s in a name?’ Enough, despite Juliet and Don’s attempts to brush it off, to be a central question both for one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays and for this episode. The linguistic tussling is there from the off, with Ken querying the agency’s bathroom cleaner strategy because, allegedly, ‘germ killer’ makes people think of shit. ‘I expressed ambivalence,’ he tells Pete. Don shows up and tells Ken it is fine and he instantly capitulates. The complaint was just to annoy Pete. Sometimes even ‘ambivalence’ can be a ruse. In the next scene, as a result of a mistake on the part of his phone message service personnel, Don finds himself squinting at the palimpsest of Diana’s attempt to erase her own message to him: like gray marks on paper, the trace gets through in the message, accidentally delivered, that she had tried to erase it. All Don is really left with is her ambivalence.

Is it true that the truth will out? Are there no accidents or, pace Freud, no mistakes? Does a letter always arrive at its destination? The one Roger receives in the office looks to him like evidence of another mistake, a failure to pay the office lease. In retribution, he nearly fires, with a now familiar casualness that is beginning to look like sadistic zest, both of his two secretaries, Caroline and Shirley, and the office manager, Dawn. Joan, a figure of authority and control throughout the episode, stays the axe-hand. She knows the truth: ‘Someone at McCann Erickson gave notice – in writing.’ Now it seems the mistake, according to Ferg Donnelly at McCann, is not the lease’s cancellation but that SC&P found out about it too soon. But is this true? Is anything he says true? He claims the letter’s real meaning – that SC&P will be moving to McCann’s offices, is ‘good news,’ but everything he says sounds like evasion and euphemism.

Elsewhere, Pete is facing the same. His four-year-old daughter Tammy has been rejected from Greenwich Country Day School and Pete and Trudy are taken through a bizarre series of false explanations for the decision. Trudy thinks it is because they’re divorced, so they go along and hold hands in Headmaster MacDonald’s office. Actually, claims said Head, the problem was Tammy failed her ‘Draw a Man’ test. They defend Tammy and are immediately told, ‘This is not about your little girl.’ Now MacDonald claims it was Trudy’s ‘arrogance’ in  failing to apply anywhere else, but when Pete defends her in turn, MacDonald finally delivers the real explanation: the problem is Pete, or rather his family name: ‘…his clan took advantage of the gift of hospitality and murdered my ancestors while they slept!’ Pete scoffs that this is a stupid story, ‘three hundred years old,’ and gives MacDonald what seems a deserved punch in the jaw. Nevertheless, we should not miss the hypocrisy: Pete went into the whole thing pompously expecting Tammy’s place to be guaranteed by his family name and its history. Is it any more of an injustice that it went the opposite way? Is MacDonald any more crazy for caring about what happened three hundred years ago than Pete is for caring that his family has gone to Greenwich since it was a barn?

Juliet’s line to Romeo was designed to brush aside the social ties accompanying their family names supposed to keep them separate. They soon fatally discovered it was not so easy. We live in and are bounded by language – as a whole generation of French philosophers were busily reminding us by 1970. Advertisers know it makes a difference or they would long ago have binned the copywriters. ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,’ as Juliet’s point goes on, but would it be as marketable if it was called, for instance, a ‘poo blossom’?

SC&P are losing their offices, but what really concerns Roger is whether they are going to retain their name. Ferg Donnelly hedges around his response just enough to tip the wink: they are being ‘absorbed’ as if by some horror movie blob and the key marker of loss of self will be the name: ‘We don’t exist!’ Roger explodes as if the name is all that pegs one to being at all.

We are here skirting around the Aristotelian baseline of metaphysical inquiry (or enquiry…oh does it matter?) into being. Aristotle was precisely concerned not to open the door to the fallacies around the idea that naming could confer existence, but in the context of things like, say, trademarks, these things mean something, confer rights and create conflicts that end business relationships. Don, in the aftermath of a weird, cross-purposes phone call with an unhinged Lou Avery in LA, suddenly gets this and hatches what looks like another masterstroke plan to save his autonomy: Sterling Cooper West, an LA-based subsidiary for handling SC&P clients that have conflicts with McCann. But Jim Hobart brushes off the would-be masterful Don moment and purports to be baffled. Why resist when he is offering them the world (beneath a representation of the globe on the wall) even as he claims they are dying and going to heaven. Maybe because the promise of heaven on earth is all a bit too redolent of the devil tempting Christ? ‘Stop struggling,’ Hobart says. Leave Time and Life and come with me to paradise. But really, they have no choice. The partners, as Joan, with characteristic business acumen, has already pointed out, are contractually obliged.

‘Words are very rascals since bonds disgraced them.’ But then, a word can be a bond and in the beginning was the word. Only by entering into the first contract whereby we agree to recognise verbal meaning are we able to structure our existences, confer ownership of peanut butter cookie brands, distort truth and question linguistic signification itself. There is nothing, pace Derrida, outside the text. Roger, contemplating the loss of both agency and family name, is all too aware of the textless void and fears it. Time and Life. Names live on after us, whether by dint of fame or family line – though the latter mostly only works if you are a man.

Roger’s story and Peggy’s thus interestingly reflect on each other. Roger is sad that, as the sonless only son of an only son, the only lapidary preservation of his name will be on a mausoleum – except that, of course, he has a son to whom he has denied the use of his name (‘Kevin can wait,’ he tells Joan in the bar). Peggy, troubled in the aftermath of a day working with children and a bust-up with a harried mother, wants to know why she cannot make the mistake of having a child and walk away as a man would – something she actually did, but is still struggling to deal with.

Environmental historians like Jared Diamond are now arguing that fatherhood was not recognised in promiscuous pre-agrarian, hunter-gatherer societies. The concern with patrilineage arrives with agriculture, simultaneous and symbiotic with the business of ownership. Women become chattels and sons receive patrimonial legacies – including names. Names confer ownership and by owning a name to pass on, you can also superstitiously tell yourself you are keeping something for yourself, a retort, however spurious, to ‘You can’t take it with you.’

Throughout it all, Joan seems more and more like some atavistic throwback to magisterial paleolithic matriarchy. ‘Don’t be a baby,’ she tells Roger, having earlier both consoled him and told him how to handle breaking the news to the partners. But Roger is not alone in his fears of erasure by corporation: the McCann absorption is going to mean sackings and Dawn and Shirley’s reprieve in Roger’s office may only have been a stay of execution. Shirley knows this because ‘They’re making lists’ (of names). Joan herself is melancholically wise to the magical powers at work here. In the meeting with Hobart, the partners are ushered into McCann’s ersatz promised land with the incantatory conferring of big brand name ownership: philosophy’s logos converted into advertising logos. Don, whom Megan called ‘unreal’ gets Coke – as of 1969, ‘the real thing’. Joan alone is left nameless and she notes the worrying significance.

But Aristotle was right: words do not confer existence and that is precisely why they can be used to lie, conjure fictions and cleanse corporate images, even if we never feel quite convinced. Joan tells Pete in the taxi she wouldn’t trust a single thing Jim Hobart says. And, lest we forget, it is Don, the fabulist-in-chief who threw away his own name, here uttering the Shakespearian dismissal of nomenclature. Not the small thing the phrase suggests, Don’s pseudonym has radically affected the course of his entire life.

And then this nameless man walked out into darkness. While the other partners all left him for some version of love, he went looking for Diana in her drab rented room, only to find her replaced by a gay couple who seemed like extras from the hellish loneliness of Warhol’s Chelsea Girls. The next day, alerted by Meredith to his mounting losses – his home, his office – he rounded up the partners to announce the McCann move to the rest of the company. But the reassertion of social bonds failed and the soon to be nameless partners found themselves ignored, as if to fulfill Roger’s fears of non-existence, as if to leave Time and Life for good. Perhaps they all became here, collectively, the falling man.

Time Stamp Peggy has the June 29, 1970 Time Magazine on her coffee table, the cover depicting new British Prime Minister Edward Heath: ‘Upset in Britain. The Tories take over.’ She apologises for the heat too, so we know it’s summer.   Call Backs

  • Pete punches Mr McDonald more successfully than he hit Lane Pryce.
  • A mixed race group of kids in the elevator, all going to SC&P. Just a few years ago, Sterling Cooper was in a building with an elevator operator – Hollis, who was black – and Pete was unable to convince the agency to go after ‘the negro market.’
  • Roger telling Don, ‘You are OK,’ speaks to Don’s famous lines on happiness and the power of advertising to reassure you that you are OK.
  • Donnelly says McCann are bringing SC&P home. The carousel pitch is concerned with a hunger for home.
  • Lou to Don: ‘I think we need to have a conversation’: Freddy/Don’s pitch at the start of this season: ‘It’s time for a conversation.’
  • Don has a little golf club bag ornament on his drinks table, calling back to repeated instances of actual golf bags in recent episodes. Pete has a similar table ornament (possibly a coaster set) in the form of little tennis rackets.
  • ‘What about Avon?’ which was Joan’s first account.
  • ‘We’ve done this before. You know we can,’ says Roger to Ken. But this, for Ken, can only recollect the fact that, when they did this before (started a new small agency to avoid being taken over by McCann) he was not invited and himself had to go to McCann, which he loathed. In refusing to let Roger and Pete have his business, he must surely have some hope of consigning them to exactly the same fate: an eye for an eye, so to speak. ‘I fantasised that one day I’d be in this situation…’
  • Jim: ‘You’re going to die and go to advertising heaven.’ Last time heaven came up was the Royal Hawaiian pitch. Don: ‘Maybe heaven is morbid. Maybe something bad has to happen before you get to heaven.’
  • ‘A toast to Lou Avery. The Japs are going to eat him alive.’ Roger, in The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, didn’t want to contemplate working with Japanese clients because he’d fought in the Pacific during the war. Lou’s cartoon is about an American soldier.
  • Jim Hobart comments when Roger pulls the chair out for Joan that it’ll be nice to have some manners around McCann. We’ve already seen how bad his own executives can be – to Joan. No wonder she’s so miserable about the move.
  • Ferg Donelly at McCann says to Roger, ‘It’s all good news.’  And Roger tries to convince the staff the move is good news at the end of the episode.  The Good News was an episode where Don was in LA with Anna and Stephanie, and heard about Anna’s cancer.
  • Pete leans against his door when talking to Peggy: like the way poor Lane was found hanging against his.
  • Don gets Coca-Cola. In ‘Shoot’, Hobart tried to woo Don and used Betty – for a fake Coca Cola ad, as bait, which Don saw through. Also, Ken: ‘Heinz Ketchup – it’s the Coca-Cola of condiments.’ There’s Heinz bottle on the bar table where the partners are downing their beers.
  • Pete has a magazine on his desk with a photograph of someone aiming a rifle, recalling Betty shooting the doves in ‘Shoot’ and the gun Pete got in exchange for the chip’n’dip.
  • Roger: ‘Every copywriter thinks they’re Shakespeare.’ Don: ‘It’s something to aspire to.’ Roger: ‘I always envied that, the way you were always reaching.’ Don: ‘I always envied you didn’t have to.’ Last episode, Don, in trying to write the forecast, was having trouble working out what to aspire to. Generally, this exchange is yet another example of the show doing a very Lacanian depiction of desire: Desire is always in the field of the other and even the other’s desire can be your object of desire. Don envies Roger for having it all, Roger envies Don for having something left to want, to give his life purpose.
  • Pete: ‘You think we can secure three accounts in 24 hours?’ Don: ‘We’ve done it before.’  And they have.
  • ‘Stay on the phone will you?’ Peggy and Stan really like just hanging out on the phone. They did this when she was at Ted’s agency, working on Cos Headphones.
  • Peggy’s headhunter is ‘foregoing commission’. Lane Pryce died in the episode called Commission and Fees. Did we mention Jared Harris directed this episode?
  • Last week Don failed to write his Gettysburg Address.  He starts his pitch to Jim Hobart, ‘As we consider this union …’ but doesn’t get to finish it.
  • Pete needed Joan to be ‘the voice of the bright side’.  For Burger Chef he needed Peggy to be ‘the voice of Moms’.
  • Roger reminds Don that he gave him a hard time over marrying his secretary, then did the same thing. Now Don’s giving him a hard time over being with someone crazy – but is looking for Diana.
  • The absorption of SC&P reminds us of troubled Ginsberg’s cry against erasure as the creative lounge was taken over by the computer, especially since both episodes have less than harmonious company-wide meetings on the upper floor landing.

  Culture and Products

  • Pete to Ken: ‘So you would like to know why the agency that has over-performed on Handi-Wrap, Oven Cleaner, Bathroom Cleaner, and corporate image cleaner, is worthy of more business?’
  • Ken says he feels like a spy and Roger says, ‘You look like one.’ Does Ken remind Roger of Nick Fury?
  • Greenwich, Connecticut is ‘built on divorced money,’ says Pete. Why? Maybe because of this, though it’s not clear that Fones ever really was divorced.
  • ‘Your little girl’s drawing had only a head, moustache and necktie.’ This sounds like the description of some sort of corporate logo, but, if so, we can’t think which one. Anyone any ideas?
  • Some information on that draw-a-man test that poor Tammy ‘failed’ here and here.
  • The scene of all five partners behind a long table being stunned into silence by Jim Hobart reminds us a movie, we think, but which one?  Any ideas? The Wizard of Oz? The Vault of Horror? The Seventh Seal? We considered all these, but none seem quite right.
  • Prominent ad slogans next to Meredith when she talks to Dawn and Shirley: ‘Integrity’, ‘Have some soup ‘n’ crunch at lunch’ and ‘No more apologies.’ The last of these reminds us of Mathis and Don’s riff on apologies last week.  The soup ‘n’ crunch one turns out to be an ad for Campbell’s soup, so possibly a reference to Pete or to Warhol or both.
  • Stan calls Peggy’s projected kid’s fight to the finish, ‘Battle Royale’. Oddly, this is a Japanese film from 2000, based on a novel from 1999, about Japanese kids fighting to the death (a bit like The Hunger Games). There doesn’t seem to be a reference for this that’s not anachronistic. EDIT: No, we’re quite wrong. Amy, BTL, has set us straight: it must surely be a reference to Ralph Ellison’s story of the same name from 1952, and now seems like a reference to the episode’s evidence of increasingly embedded racial integration (though Shirley’s still concerned that McCann won’t want ‘another black girl.’)
  • The children were playing with various toys:
    • Play-Doh: Don’s first idea to Roger before conning him into a job
    • Slinky
    • plastic whistle with a slider
    • electric piano/organ
    • pink bouncy ball that gets a lot of attention
    • metal duck
    • a metal C shaped frame with a red plastic wheel on it that rolls round the frame and doesn’t fall off.
    • gyroscope
    • dog – looks as tho it might move or bark – one of many dogs appearing on set
    • translucent balls in blue and yellow
    • Jax
    • Yoyo
  • The closing song is Money Burns a Hole in My Pocket. Is this the most materialistic love song ever? Check out the lyrics. Here’s the version from the film Live it Up, stylistically rather MM redolent.  Dean Martin recorded it.  ‘How I wish I had millions of dollars and nothing to do.’ Roger on Cutler: ‘All that cash and no McCann.’
  • Château Margaux ‘53. Here’s the kind of price you could expect to pay for this wine today.
  • Roger has on his office wall, near the door, the notorious erotic Hokusai print The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, formerly seen in Bert Cooper’s office. Risqué even for the ‘70s, one would have thought, even if it was first published in 1814. More nauticality and fits Roger’s general lasciviousness. Tako to Ama is the Japanese title, somewhat similar, at least to us cloth-eared westerners, to…
  • Tatsunoko Productions made Speed Racer. Wikipedia tells us: ‘The studio’s name has a double meaning in Japanese of “Tatsu’s child” (Tatsu being a nickname for Tatsuo) and “sea dragon”, which was the inspiration for its seahorse corporate logo.’ So it goes to the episode’s theme of childhood and, potentially, the series’s nautical theme. The idea that Scout’s Honour would be of any interest to this company seems highly implausible.
  • During Peggy and Stan’s discussion of her lost child, the music on the radio is Strangers on the Shore. It’s an instrumental version, probably that of Acker Bilk who died very recently (November 2014), so it could be the show’s tribute to him. The lyrics very much express the longing Peggy must feel – as well as fitting the show’s ongoing nautical theme.
  • Ortho Pharmaceutical. Ted gets his wish, from last ep, to work for big pharma. The company’s history is largely gynecological: pioneering birth control products, including the second oral contraceptive on the market in 1963, and a smear test for cervical cancer. Will Ted be coming up with stuff like this?
  • Is Don about to start doing this classic work for Coca-Cola, here, in 1972, with a particularly NYC look to it? And here’s Coke’s even more classic co-option of the hippy ethos and aesthetic, from 1971. Don authoring the ‘real thing’ strapline would be a nice final irony, though the truth is, it came in in 1969.
  • Here’s Buick in 1971, being surprisingly green. Remember when people used to talk about ‘pollution’? ‘Something to believe in.’
  • And here’s one very good Nabisco reason why Peter Pan can’t come to McCann. But really, all the cookies being rejected in the Tinkerbell Cookies ad Pete was overseeing work on last week were Nabisco brands: Chips ahoy, Oreos and Nilla Wafers.
  • Ziploc zipped plastic bags came on the market from Dow in 1968 – a much smaller version of the body bags still coming back from Vietnam.
  • We can’t identify the painting behind Jim Hobart at McCann, a red triangle or arrow pointing forward if you read left to right, but it could be by Kenneth Noland, a painter much in vogue in the ‘60s, whose work arguably had a big influence on the look of the ‘70s.  We’re reminded of Cooper’s Rothko.
  • Roger: ‘All that’s left is a mausoleum at Green-Wood.’ Green-Wood Cemetery, in addition to its primary function, which it still serves, is a tourist attraction, and has been since the 1850s due to the great beauty of its setting. It includes a monument depicting a ship partially devoured by waves (re our constant refs to MM’s nautical theme). Wikipedia entry here.
  • Ken says Dow will be thrilled to have all their accounts at MacManus John and Adams. In fact, it’s another agency that, in the same year, is about to be ‘absorbed,’ with the eventual disappearance of the original name.
  • Greenwich Country Day School makes no mention of its Campbell-free policy or its beginnings in a barn.

  An Englishman in New York In an episode directed by Jared Harris, there are various references to the UK:

  • The Glencoe Massacre.
  • The partners are drinking beer out of English beer mugs, perhaps in the bar Lane Pryce went to to watch the 1966 World Cup final. That isn’t a plate of fish and chips on the table, is it?
  • Pete says that emptiness of the LA office is the ‘first drop out of the teapot’.
  • The June 29, 1970 Time Magazine depicting new British Prime Minister Edward Heath: ‘Upset in Britain. The Tories take over.’ Upset indeed. And does it matter here, as McCann take over, that Heath’s takeover was so short-lived?
  • Mr. McDonald of Greenwich Country Day School is referred to by Trudy not as the ‘principal’ but the ‘headmaster’.
  • Peggy has a bottle of Beefeater Gin in her office.
  • McCann have a bottle of Gordon’s London Dry Gin in the conference room a.k.a. heaven’s gate.

  Time and Life

  • The firm is leaving the Time Life building. Ferg Donnelly says, ‘This was supposed to be the last thing done. Not the first,’ and Don says at the end, ‘This is the beginning of something, not the end.’ And apropos his staff’s rather meta disbelief…
  • The clock is ticking on Mad Men.  Episode 4 takes us past the halfway mark in this final half of a season that started with a pitch for Accutron watches.
  • There’s an ad on the wall behind Meredith’s desk reading, ‘The most accurate watch in the world.’ It might be for Accutron.
  • It’s taken McCann most of the decade to take over Sterling Cooper and Don.
  • Ken has ordered a seventeen-year-old wine, said to be an excellent vintage. 1953 was the end of the Korean war and the wine is the same age as Sally’s friend who was flirting with Don last week.
  • Ken gets revenge on Roger and Pete: he waited a while for that.
  • Joan tells Don Roger assured her Ken’s decision on Dow was ‘quite final.’ In the very next scene, Headmaster MacDonald tells Pete and Trudy, ‘our decision is final.’ Maybe this is a bit meta too.
  • Tammy is rejected from the school to which she applied due to a 300-year-old family feud.
  • Peggy is reflecting on her lost child, who would now be almost ten years old (born November 1960).
  • Roger is concerned about the loss of both his family name and the name of his firm. All that’s left is a mausoleum (presumably with his name on it). He’s the last man in the family line. Except he’s not.
  • Roger: ‘Everything must go.’ It’s the Mad Men closing down sale.

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun; Nor the furious winter’s rages, Thou thy worldly task hast done, Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages; Golden lads and girls all must, As chimney sweepers come to dust.

  • Don: ‘They waited so long, I thought we were safe.’
  • Pete to Peggy: ‘They’ll need you for a while, maybe forever.’
  • Pete: ‘[Burgerchef] keep telling me their future’s in California.’
  • Pete says to Joan, ‘For the first time I feel like whatever happens is supposed to happen.’  Is he giving up the struggle to be self-determining? Is it fate that Don ends up at McCann no matter how hard he tried to keep out of it?
  • Peggy’s headhunter, on going to McCann: ‘You shouldn’t stay longer than three years … You go to McCann and by 1973 you’ll be looking at four times the salary.’
  • Trudy: ‘And then I think, who am I kidding? In ten years, everyone will leave me alone.’ Pete: ‘That is not true. You’re ageless.’
  • Pete: ‘I’ll solve the school problem in thirty days. All it requires is a check.’ SC&P had 30 days left in their building.  Last week there was a  30 day escrow for Don’s apartment sale.
  • Stan to Peggy: ‘Look, you got to a certain point in your life and it didn’t happen [kids].’ ‘It’ could refer to all sorts of hopes and dreams as well as to children.

  Coming and Going

  • Don has a globe in his office, as we’ve noted, and there’s a large metal world map on the McCann conference room wall.
  • Don says he’ll leave the country before Megan hears about Marie and Roger, but she already knows.
  • On Peggy’s office wall is an abstracted image of a suitcase. We know she’s dreaming of foreign travel due to her drunken Paris plan (what of that?). Also calls back to The Suitcase.
  • Richard had travel plans but shelved them for Joan. For a moment it looked as if she might be able to join him in LA, but McCann scuppered that.
  • Roger, ‘Everything must go.’
  • Trudy is wondering whether she should return to the city. Pete says it’s a toilet.
  • Pete says to Peggy he’ll have to go before he finds out he’ll have to stay.
  • Tammy can’t go to school.
  • Ted doesn’t want to leave New York and his new girlfriend can’t.
  • Ted’s ex-wife is in California. So is Don’s.
  • Ted senses that California means something to Don, which Don admits.
  • Lou is going to Japan.
  • The partners are going to heaven; most of the staff are just going.
  • ‘Everything’s going to be fine.’

  Names and other words

  • Joan: ‘Someone at McCann Erickson gave notice – in writing.’
  • Peggy’s headhunter: ‘Word always gets out…’
  • Pete to Peggy, ‘For your ears only.’
  • Headmaster MacDonald: ‘Just be grateful you can remarry and get rid of that name.’
  • Pete: ‘Einstein didn’t learn to speak ’til he was four!’

  General notes

  • Peggy says to the focus group kids, ‘I just want you to play, just pretend we’re not here,’ then switches off the organ, preventing the organ player, the only kid who is oblivious to everyone’s presence, from playing.
  • Fergus Donnelly at McCann has both a picture and sculpture of a toreador in his office.
  • Roger: ‘Keep it in this room ‘til we have orders.’ Pete: ‘The king ordered it!’
  • Don is totally laid low by the McCann news, flat out on the couch. He’s said in the past he doesn’t want to go to McCann because ‘It’s a sausage factory,’ but it’s never been properly explained why he so loathes the idea.
  • Richard tells Joan, ‘I don’t care how bad it is, it’s not that bad.’ Peggy tells Susie’s mother, ‘It’s not that bad.’
  • Numerous uses of the word ‘waiting.’ Keep an ear out.
  • Shirley: ‘Caroline’s going to elbow me out the window.’ More falling stuff.
  • Various references to being eaten: Roger: ‘I’d like to make a toast to Lou Avery.The Japs are going to eat him alive.’ Ted: ‘We’re being swallowed up’. Ken, ‘They finally got ya. They ate you up.’
  • Why is Richard Bergoff at work? Last episode he said he’d retired. Or was he only about to retire?
  • Roger says he made a deal with God that if all this worked out he would give up smoking. ‘Message received,’ he says with a nod to the celestial heights, lighting up.
  • Hobart: ‘You’re going to die and go to advertising heaven.’ Roger: ‘Kevin can wait.’ And, in a similar vein…
  • When Headmaster MacDonald says, ‘Another sucker punch from the Campbells,’ it sounds almost like, ‘Another sucker punch from McCann.’
  • Roger kissing Don on the temple and telling him he’s OK, especially after talking about having no son, is very paternal. Don seemed deeply affected. There’s been a lot of attention to his absent mother, but perhaps not so much to how he missed out on paternal affection.
  • A certain amount of scatology, all involving Pete: germ killer makes people think of shit (or ‘poop’ in Pete’s primmer version), Secor Laxative were not difficult to move, arf arf, and the city has become a toilet (another reference to the decline of  NYC at the start of the ’70s).
  • Little Susan screams just at the moment when Stan reacts to Peggy’s McCann news. Are the partners about to get their fingers stapled?
  • Peggy (about the non-actor kids in her focus group): ‘They all have their own toy.’ At the end, the partners each receive their own client (except for Joan).
  • Stan tells Peggy non-actor kids are shy. When we see her calling actor kids for auditions, one Betsy Wheeler hugs her, creating the disturbing sense that this is how this kid has been coached to get parts – echoing the suggestion of a link between adult models and prostitution.
  • Joan’s call to Richard Bergoff in California is immediately followed by Lou Avery’s call to Don from California.
  • Joan says, ‘This is how rumours get started, so this stays in this room until things get sorted out.’ Later Meredith says, ‘Rumours are flying around this place like bats.’ Peggy’s employment agent tells her, ‘Word always gets out…’
  • Peggy talking about going to McCann: ‘Everything’s going to be fine.’ (Don’s standard line to Betty) Stan: ‘I’m so dumb I believe you.’ (implicitly, Betty’s position?)
  • Joan tells the secretaries to get back to work. Pete tells Peggy, ‘You should get back to work.’ Peggy says to Stan after the scene with Susie and her Mom, ‘Let’s just get back to work.’ Peggy starts her scene with Stan, in which she tells him about her child, by saying she can’t do any work. At the end of it, she says briskly, ‘I’m fine. I have work to do.’
  • Peggy tells Stan he can’t tell anyone about McCann, not even Elaine, his girlfriend. Stan (ruefully): ‘That won’t be a problem.’ Is that all over?
  • Lots of references to mistakes and accidents and quite a few apologies. At the end, when it’s clear the McCann news has gone down like a cold poo blossom, Roger says, ‘We didn’t do this.’

The Emptiness is a Problem: Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 10: ‘The Forecast’

 

I die of thirst beside the fountain
In my own country I am in a far-off land
I shiver beside the fire
Naked as a worm, richly dressed in furs
I am full of joy, but find no pleasure
I am strong but lack all force or power
I am sure of nothing but that which is uncertain
I win all but remain the loser
At break of day I say “good night”
And when I lie down I have a great fear of falling

–––François Villon, Lines from Ballad for the Contest at Blois

Is it too early – or perhaps much too late – to lay heavy odds that there will be no actual plunging off buildings? The falling began a long time ago, born of a psychic lack of moorings. ‘Is that all there is?’, the Peggy Lee song, figuring so heavily in the season half opener, or whatever you call it, has set the theme. Its point is surely not just that you get what you want and it turns out to be nothing. The emptiness of the result reveals you to have been in the nothing all along, blinded to it, caught up in the propulsive, meaning-conjuring force of desire.

Lincoln’s masterful Gettysburg Address took 272 words to unite a nation. Tasked by Roger with delivering 2500 words of similarly inspiring futurity, Don finds himself on the high summit of his success staring into empty space, the contours of his existence threatening to dissolve around him for sheer lack of belief. His agency secure, no longer in survival mode, he has the dubious luxury of being able to sit back and contemplate the vanity of all things. Spike Milligan once joked acutely, ‘All I ask for is the chance to discover that money cannot buy me happiness.’ Don has attained this enchanted ground and the path ahead has become duly blurry and confused. The forecast looks hazy, with a chance of anything and nothing. Watch out for the void. It is always waiting.

Perhaps all this is why Don has become so sloppy about the glossy mask he wore to get this far. What was the point? So we find him at the start, naked and slovenly with sleep, lackadaisical about the presentation of the apartment he is supposedly trying to sell. Later Roger notes he has ‘looked better’ and could do with a haircut and it seems to inspire an impromptu bout of shaving in the office. But mostly Don seems to be having trouble giving a damn. It is as if he has been the advertising version of Sartre’s waiter, dressed in the uniform of the ad man so as to exist accordingly. What, if anything will there be behind the persona if he now lets it fall away? Can appearances be deceptive if appearances are all there is? Yes, if they tell you that there is something where there really is not.

If Don is really nothing, we have curious evidence that nothing can be multiplied. His doubles are suddenly everywhere. There’s Mr. Bergoff, accidental interloper in the firm’s LA office. He is another Richard (re Dick Whitman) and we first meet him Draperesquely adopting another man’s identity: Joan mistakes him for a client and he goes with it as an excuse to chat her up. There is Glen too, another young man leaving behind a stepfather and a life he cannot control to fight in an East Asian war – and displaying, as he has since childhood, a profound, odd attraction to one of Don’s wives. Even Betty seems to be getting in on Don’s act; as Glen prepares to ship out to Vietnam, she promises him, ‘You’re going to make it. I’m positive,’ echoing the reassurance she used to elicit from Don: ‘Everything is going to be alright.’

And then there is poor John Mathis, finding you cannot always step into another man’s shoes, even if the suit above them is essentially empty. Anxious about his inappropriate behaviour in a client meeting, he elicits advice from Don, who tells him how he once, in a similar situation, joked that the client was at fault. Mathis’s attempted duplication goes wrong and he is ‘off the business.’ Why? Mathis’s own analysis here seems fair, a sort of Houellebecqian cry of resentment against the de facto aristocracy of good looking people for whom normal laws do not apply: ‘Stop kidding yourself. You have no character. You’re just handsome.’ This is the suit Don cannot take off, his genetic inheritance. Fixed as it is, it nevertheless has no more to do with his innate identity, if there is one, than the deliberate constructions.

Good looks, both Don’s and Betty’s, are also an issue for their own genetic inheritor, Sally. She is forced, this episode, to watch both her parents flirt with people of her own age. Don, seeing her off at the bus station on a ‘teen tour,’ bears the brunt of her disgust, which is at least equal to Mathis’s and is also specifically about Don’s physical attractiveness. In this episode so concerned with imagining the future, her purely negative ambition, echoing that of teenagers down the generations, is to be nothing like her parents (as opposed, of course, to ‘nothing, like her parents’). Don, initially sounding like the hard-bitten messenger of grim determinism, insists that she is like him – he means the good looks – but adds: ‘It’s up to you to be more than that.’

It seems reasonable here to assume that Mathis has got to him, and at a point where the question of whether there is more – to be, to achieve – was already much on his mind. Earlier at dinner with her friends, he advises Sally that if she is lucky enough to realise what she wants to be when she grows up, she should write it down because she might forget. He seems to be feeling the lack of his own such reminder. The dream certainly was not advertising. Roger’s writing assignment preying on his mind, he had attempted back at the agency to pick both Ted and Peggy’s brains about what to hope for. Both, with hilarious banality, turn out to be fixated on more, simply, of the same: ‘More money, bigger accounts, more awards…’ Actually, this is Don’s list in early brainstorming mode, but he is trying to see past it in a way they cannot. ‘What else is there?’ says Peggy, inadvertently echoing Peggy Lee in admitting her ambition to win Don’s job. ‘That’s what I’m asking,’ he replies. When she says she wants to build something of lasting value, he reflexively scoffs, ‘In advertising?’ Shit softly, Don, for you shit on Peggy’s dreams.

The themes of futurity and identity are intertwined here because, pace Don’s ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ discussion with the schoolgirls, the challenge of the future can seem all about what you want to be, what you want to make of yourself. ‘This is supposed to be about my job, not the meaning of life,’ says Peggy. ‘So you think those things are unrelated?’ Don replies.

Notably, one person here appears to have arrived at the right work-defined identity: Joan, in bed with Richard Bergoff, tells him she needs to work not because she has mouths to feed but because she has the job she ‘always wanted.’ It is telling just how inaccurate a statement of her former ambition this actually is, a 180º reversal from the woman who ten years earlier was hard-bittenly advising Peggy to secure her future by getting a husband while the getting was good. Here then, the problem with all the fussing about the future, what it should be and what we should be in it: we do not necessarily know what is best for us.

Relatedly, Joan’s new beau, Richard, has already joked, asking her out, that the date is a job interview – though he means for himself. This is a man who has just retired from property development, a job entirely defined by betting on and shaping the future. Later, learning of Joan’s son and appearing to bow out of the burgeoning relationship, he explains that his ‘plan was no plans,’ as if precisely the plan-dependency of his work was what he wanted to escape (think city planning, architect’s plans etc.). Along with Sally and Don, he forms a sort of three-ages-of-(hu)man framework for looking at such forecasting: Sally is faced with defining herself, Don is being forced to question the self he has already defined and Richard, attempting to slough off his old work-defined self and plunge into no structure finds that even this is too much of a programme. ‘I don’t want to be rigid,’ he tells Joan, abandoning his hopes of nebulousness, ‘because that makes you old.’ Oo-er, missus. You sure about that?

Lewd – or maybe morbid – jokes aside, perhaps this is the fulfilment of his earlier gender-reversal joke that Joan is just an executive out of town – to whit, using him for a one-night stand. Now he allows his life to be defined by the woman in his life’s job. She has had the chance to choose between her present work fulfilment and her old desire for a husband. Suddenly (very suddenly!) by sticking to her professional guns, she looks as if she could be heading for the new improved, have-your-cake-and-eat-it, now with added feminism fairytale ending. Here’s hoping.

Richard ends up professing his intent to buy an apartment in NYC, ‘in a nice neighbourhood, near the park.’ Don is, as it happens, just selling one that meets those specs, probably to another professional gambler on the future, a stockbroker with an expectant wife. Which of these property market bets will pay off? NYC, we know from our own position further down the timeline, was heading into a period of economic and social decline (perhaps itself forecast by the jaded chic of Don’s digs) while LA was on the brink of a dramatically expanding ten-year property bubble.

But filthy lucre and assuredly real feminist progress aside, we are contemplating the future here from a position of much already dashed hope. We can see it already in Richard’s tale of futile, Quixotic hippy incursions against his extravagant golf course development. Meanwhile, Glen, looking the very picture of young Aquarian hippy optimism, has joined the army to fight an unjust war – one that, only a few months earlier, Nixon was promising to end but that will continue for another five wretched years. The repeated assurances from Betty that Glen will return safe seem to ring hollow even to her. His own shaky confidence in his decision was founded on the strange, superstitious fantasy – another bit of forecasting – that his enlistment would win her love and thereby, somehow, keep him safe. His hopes for this love date back eight years to 1962 and have carried him through a decade of hopeful change that was soured by precisely the war he is now going to. In particular, as he himself goes some way to pointing out, the war reflects unhappily both on the great difficulties of civil rights and the hopes for racial equality in the Gettysburg Address: young African American men were drafted in numbers disproportionate to their share of the population as a whole and died in numbers even less proportionate.

As so often, the firm’s creative business is a thematic reflector. Don, assessing the Peter Pan work, rejects the era’s ubiquitous hippy slogan, ‘Love,’ and not for the first time. He is now a long way from the man who boasted in 1960, ‘Love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.’ Has the lie become too much for him? ‘Kids won’t get it,’ he explains, somehow missing the fact that the whole ad concept, with its Dear John letters written by kids, is queasily, wrongly, about children in adult-type, quasi-romantic relationships. This is precisely what Sally was objecting to in her parents inappropriate flirtations with teenagers. In the era of free love, sexuality is being portrayed very much as a loss of innocence and Sally’s rejection of it bespeaks a Peter Pannish refusal of adulthood. Perhaps this is partly also to critique the increasingly sexualised ‘70s. Or perhaps – plus ça change – we should remember that Don/Dick lost his innocence as a boy living in a brothel where one of the prostitutes raped him. Perhaps we should even think of Peter Pan author JM Barrie’s problematic reputation regarding children’s sexuality. But the war is also the loss of innocence, both for the nation and, more brutally, for the recruits. Most were barely adults and Glen, running away from his academic failure, is joining its battalions of lost boys. All the talk of what young people want to be when they grow up is bitterly ironic in the face of this haphazard, potentially fatal lunge.

Finally, for the last word on forecasting, perhaps we can look to Meredith stumbling in her own haphazard way to the heart of the matter as she imagines the future looking like the 1964 NYC World’s Fair. Yes, sadly, here is the rub: the bright, space-age vision is already in the past. Hope for the future, as we enter the era of postmodernity, has in itself become an object of nostalgia.

Time Stamp

Time Stamp: June 1970: There are very few clues, but on Don’s office coffee table is a copy of Life dated June 12 1970. Amusingly, the second cover story is, ‘Changing careers in middle age.’ The sad top story, speaking of loss of innocence, is about boy Palestinian soldiers. Other than that, Glen has just been through finals. EDIT: And Laura Lazarus, once again the eagle-eyed archeologist of MM’s recent past, finds this additional artefact BTL: ‘Don has a copy of the June 22 1970 issue of Newsweek atop the Life magazine you mentioned. The Newsweek has Burt Bacharach on the cover.’ Nevada adds: ‘And there’s a Life on Don’s desk that’s the June 19 1970 issue: Dennis Hopper Graduation. There are two piles of magazines in Don’s office and he has about three Lifes; Roger has a Life too…’ OK, so quite a few clues, really. And everybody has a life, allegedly.

Appearance

  • Roger’s comment to Don, ‘You’ve looked better’, made us wonder: is Dick breaking through?
  • The song, The First Time Ever I Saw your Face.
  • Dee, in LA, says it’s nice to meet Joan ‘in the flesh’ which is a bit close to the, ahem, bone, considering everyone sees Joan as body first.
  • Betty: ‘You look so different.’ Glen: ‘You look exactly the same.’ Both have lost weight, but he never saw her in her fat phase.
  • Neither Betty nor Don have changed much between 1960 and 1970, him least of all.
  • Look : 1970 – ‘The 1970 VW will stay ugly longer’.  And it’s not very clear, but, talking to Melanie the real estate agent, does Don say, ‘I’ve sold uglier things than this’?
  • Paralleling Mathis’s point about what good looking guys can do, Bergoff can tell Joan he’d like to watch her in the pool because she’s attracted to him.  Coming from Lane Pryce (see Call backs), however, a similar remark came across as awkward and clumsy.
  • Ted tells Don he’s better at painting a picture, continuing scattered references to painting lately (e.g. Picasso last ep).
  • Warren Beatty, namechecked in LA, was notoriously narcissistic and, as such, a possible subject of the Carly Simon hit, ‘You’re so Vain.’
  • Richard is near-sighted.
  • Melanie, appalled by the appearance of Don’s apartment, tells him buyers are going to come in with their eyes open.

 

Circles and echoes

If we still had any energy left, we might try to construct an argument that this episode is a palindrome, much as we once did (unsuccessfully) about Tomorrowland, an episode to which this one may refer. At any rate, it’s hugely circular and has a lot of doubling:

  • It starts and ends with a shot of Don’s apartment front door.
  • Two notable instances of the word ‘Fuck.’ Don: ‘They’ve heard it before.’ Later, however, Don chidingly tells Mathis, ‘You’ve got a foul mouth.’
  • Two blond women, similarly dressed (real estate agent, Melanie, and Betty) both throw items into white plastic trash cans.
  • Pete says he can fire Peggy. Don fires John Mathis.
  • Melanie tells Don his apartment reeks of failure. Don tells Mathis not to blame him for his failure in the meeting. Failure is one of the themes of the episode.
  • Don says he’s sold a lot of things. Richard says he’s built a lot of things.
  • Apologies: Mathis and Don make a series of remarks about this, ending with Mathis walking out saying the one thing he was sure about when he went in was not apologising. The next scene is Richard apologising to Joan: ‘I’m a heel.’ Joan’s babysitter, Maureen, had, just prior to this, not apologised for being late.
  • Cards of identity: Richard, immediately after pretending to be someone else, gives Joan his business card. The next shot is Sally signing traveller’s checks.
  • The scene with Don, Sally and her friends in the Chinese restaurant is circular: they wonder if they have time to eat dinner and Don makes a joke. Sally’s friend, flirting shamelessly, tells him he’s funny. Sally then rounds off the conversation on ambition by saying hers is to eat dinner. Don makes another joke.
  • Other jokes: Richard: ‘I’ve been in jail for five years.’ Sally: ‘This conversation is late and so am I.’ Betty: ‘Everything’s a joke to you.’ But not Don’s cat joke, which she’s heard before. And then there is the failure of Mathis’s joke in the meeting.
  • Sally jokes that she’s ‘late’ (for her period) and Joan wants ‘to tell somebody I’m going to be late.’ And that brings us to…

Time

OK, there are actually too many references to list. But a lot of the jokes we mentioned above would also qualify for inclusion here. Hey, in comedy, timing is everything. Other than that, keep an ear out.

Culture and product

  • The Roberta Flack version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face was released in 1969, but didn’t become popular until 1971 when Clint Eastwood used it in Play Misty For Me. Clint’s radio DJ character lives in the kind of house by the sea Don probably dreamed of when he first posited the idea of moving to LA to Megan. And by the way, speaking of Misty: big hit for that other Johnny Mathis.
  • Glen says he was at Purchase, a SUNY (State University of New York) college. This says the first students were admitted in 1968, but there seem not to have even been any buildings until ‘71! Elsewhere the college’s site says the first freshman class was in 1972, so it’s a typical weird MM mystery. The college founder was Henry’s old boss, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, displaying his sometimes leftish Republican tendencies by supporting expansion of a major publicly funded university system. Further to the possible art theme, he is also said to have established it because art was always central to his life. His son disappeared on an art buying spree.
  • Joan is staying at the Beverley Wilshire – have we seen her out of NYC before?  Dee asks if she’s been to California before (no answer) and if she’s seen Warren Beatty (‘Not yet.’). The hotel’s wikipedia page tells us Beatty lived there for ‘several’ years.
  • Kent State: Sally says that Glen was so upset by by the killings that he almost ‘joined the movement’. The killings at Kent State happened on May 4, 1970.
  • Betty calls Sally Jane Fonda. Fonda’s antiwar activism was just getting started in 1970.
  • Sally is going to miss Colonial Williamsburg on her trip. This living history musem’s motto, ‘That the future may learn from the past’, was coined by John D. Rockefeller Jr., philanthropic enabler of the attraction and father of Nelson, whom we just mentioned.
  • Sally and co were off to Playland, one of the only government-owned and operated amusement parks in the US. We’re told that it wasn’t so easy buy pot there.
  • Don chooses a Clark Bar, over a Hershey’s, which, appropriately to the Peter Pan work, contains peanut butter. The candy bars in the vending maching are, left to right: Butterfinger, Snik Snak, Jujyfruits, Mike & Ike, Hershey’s, Baby Ruth, Nestle’s $100,000, Clark, M&M.  There are some Lifesavers and Wrigley’s chewing gum on the very left side too. If there is significance in all these products, chasing it down defeats us, except for the Hershey’s (see Notes).
  • When Roger said he could have Don killed for drinking anything other than Coke was this because Coke is a McCann client or a jokey reference to the old rules against Don drinking in the office? Don might be drinking a different soft drink in that scene, maybe some sort of root beer? We can’t identify it. Anyone? Some other cola?
  • Don’s fantasy castle in France, lived in by the fictitious Frisbee inventor, could be a reference to David Ogilvy
  • The three magazines on Don’s coffee table, held in place by a full ashtray, are Life, Newsweek and Time, but arranged so we see Life New Time. Next week’s episode is ‘Time and Life’, we think, directed by Jared Harris – Lane Pryce.
  • The Frisbee has an interesting history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_disc. It started long before the ‘60s, but it was only in the ‘60s that the technology was improved enough to make its popularity really, ahem, ‘take off.’ We especially like the origin of the name itself, coined by students, derived from the Frisbie Pie company. Especially apt given that the first frisbee, used in 1928 by its inventor, was in fact a pie tin. Talk about coming full circle.
  • Bobby wants to watch the Brady Bunch. The show had been running since September 1969.
  • Kevin Harris is watching Sesame Street, which premiered in November 1969.
  • Is the Senator Dodd that the girls are meeting with this one, who was, by this time, embroiled in accusations of corruption and only a year away from death? His son, Chris, is one of the named architects of the controversial Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act brought in in the wake of the recent bank bailout.

Notes

  • The strapline they settle on for the cookie is interesting: ‘One Tink and you’re hooked.’ Tinkerbell and Captain Hook are supposed to be on opposite sides of the good and evil divide. This teams them up. Tinkerbell lures you in and then Hook gets you! It’s distinctly sinister and works as a neat metaphor for advertising.  Reminds us of Ginsberg’s noir version of Cinderella.
  • Watch out for those donuts, Don, especially if you’re having candy bars too. Middle-aged spread’s a bastard (so we’re told).
  • Sally’s going on a ‘teen tour.’ Glen’s going on a tour of duty.
  • Betty: ‘I’m actually going back to school myself this fall.’ Puts her, sort of, spuriously, in the same age bracket as Glen.
  • Don has a globe in his office suggesting his mind may be on travel.
  • Lou is in LA! That was a surprise.  And talking to Hanna Barbera about Scout. Joan susses that he’s pursuing his own interests on the company time. Dee, the secretary, believes he misses the army, so he’s one character looking backwards in terms of his work identity: a direct contrast to Don.
  • There’s a lingering shot of all the candy bars in the vending machine at the office.  The Hershey bar is dead centre in its brown and white wrapper: the same colour as Diana’s uniform last week and the same colour as dresses worn by Peggy and Sally this week. Glen’s also in brown and white when he meets Betty alone (and she is wearing the same colour, yellow, as she did when she cut a lock of her hair for little Glen).
  • The Sally, Glen, Betty scene: ‘We’ve been pen-pals.’ A lie that’s quickly revealed when she knows so much about his reaction to Kent State. Glen also initially claims his enlistment is in support of black soldiers, when really it’s because he’s flunking college.
  • Betty’s lightbulb breaking anecdote is totally weird. A bunch of teenage girls thuggishly vandalising hotel hallways? Really?
  • To add to our obsession with the show’s nautical references: Glen is ‘shipping out’ next week.
  • Sally uses ‘the F word’ in front of her mother as Mathis does at work.  Don says the use of the F word was a crime of passion for Mathis.  It was for Sally too.
  • Peggy says she wanted to have a big idea, create a catch phrase.  A Frisbee is a ‘big’ idea that you catch.
  • The top down shot of Don lying on the sofa, talking into his dictaphone thing, looks as tho we are looking at him in his coffin.  There seem to be fewer death references, so far.
  • Richard Bergoff: ‘So you’re just an executive on a trip out of town.’  Joan: ‘I’ll send you flowers.’ More gender role reversal, as per last episode.
  • Last episode, Diana told Don he was going to have trouble finding anywhere as good as the apartment was selling. At the end, with the sale going ahead, he had a now typical look of lost bewilderment.

 

Call Backs

  • Playland makes us think of Never Neverland, but also Tomorrowland, another amusement park, or at least, part of one, and a former MM episode with resonances for this one’s themes of futurity.
  • Some other possible references to previous episode titles: Richard Bergoff’s plan was to have no plans: Man with a Plan. Roger says to Don: ‘Come in, have a seat.’: Shut the Door and Have a Seat.  Richard calls Joan an out of town executive: Out of Town. Don tells Sally she is a Beautiful Girl(s).
  • Maureen, Joan’s hippy babysitter, thinks baby Kevin’s afraid of a cow. ‘A horse,’ Joan corrects her. Could be a reference to Freud’s case study, Little Hans and his fear of horses (reflecting on the episode’s general preoccupation with childhood and sexuality – the horse was thought to be a phallic symbol for Hans). But it also calls back to the Fuseli Nightmare image, which previously appeared in the creative lounge at moments of greatest distress to Joan.
  • Roger suggesting calling his barber for Don calls back to the time Bert sent them both to the barber together as a bonding exercise when they’d fallen out.
  • References to failure (see above): last episode, Stan felt like one and Marie-France called Megan’s marriage a ‘failure’, to her evident displeasure.
  • Don’s imagined frisbee inventor is a tax exile. Calls back to Pete talking about the tax avoidance scheme in which he’s being paid his McCann millions in installments and Don saying his finances are in a mess since the McCann deal.
  • Joan’s failed call from her mother from NYC to LA calls back to all the farcical calls with Pete.
  • Colonial Williamsburg This ‘living history musem’ has the somewhat Carousel-esque motto, ‘That the future may learn from the past’.  Arguably, one of the themes of the series.
  • The Draper door bell is like the Avon calling bell.
  • Ted is casting for St Joseph’s – the account that caused all the Ted/Peggy/Don trouble. Ted wonders if Don has met someone who might be suitable, recalling his recent bacheloreseque interest in Vogue parties in the village and rising hemlines.
  • Ted’s ‘or will I be here at all’ to Don refers to Don’s possible firing and Ted’s suicidal thoughts while flying and them both considering being in LA.
  • Betty’s wearing a yellow dress in the kitchen scene with Glen, with flower print. She had a yellow dress in the scene where she gave little Glen a lock of her hair.
  • Roger says Don’s ‘Gettysburg Address’ should be about hopes and dreams, it doesn’t have to be science fiction… like Ken’s stories, which Roger forbade him to write.
  • The magazines on Don’s desk call back: Consumer Reports: Roger said Jane was a consumer last week; Look : 1970 – ‘The 1970 VW will stay ugly longer’ refers to the first season when they were all of a flutter about the radical new DDB ads for VW.
  • Sally comments that people could copy her signature: Lane Pryce forged another Draper’s signature – fatally. This is the second episode in a row in which checks with the Draper name have appeared.
  • Richard’s line about watching Joan get in and out of the pool reminds us of Lane’s about watching her frolic ‘in an obscene bikini’, which so offended her just before he killed himself (leaving her with a spurious feeling of guilt).
  • Don’s quest for what’s next, reminds us of when he went into Dow with Roger and almost shouted at them that they hadn’t got enough, there’s never enough. What is happiness? a moment before you want more happiness.
  • Joan says she’s been divorced twice: Dr. Rapist is one. When her friend comes to town for an interview with Avon it’s revealed that Joan was briefly married to Scotty, back home. We don’t know if she ever told Greg about it.
  • Melanie, near the start, says to Don, in his own apartment, ‘Can you go?’ echoing Diana’s ‘You should leave,’ from last week.
  • Peggy and Don had a conversation in The Suitcase about work being the only place they wanted to be. It’s still true for Peggy, but doesn’t seem to be for Don.
  • All the talk of Lucky Strike and the grisly Lee Garner Jnr calls back to the pilot.
  • Betty holding Bobby’s toy gun calls back to her shooting at the neighbour’s pigeon. But now she throws the gun away.
  • The candy machine alludes to the previous candy machine scene also involving an angry Pete plus Joan, also prefiguring a sacking – Joey.
  • Don’s line to Sally, ‘It’s up to you to be more than that,’ recalls Grandpa Gene telling her, ‘You can really do something,’ which contributed to her loving him so much.

 

Forecasting (other than what we’ve already mentioned)

  • Sally says to Glen, ‘See, you survived finals,’ and he winces. We later learned that he flunked out, so he didn’t survive in the sense she means, and now he’s going off to war because of this…  Is Glen a dead man walking?
  • Glen expected Sally’s bad reaction to his enlistment.
  • Don to Melanie re the apartment sale, ‘I have a good feeling about things.’
  • Sally is signing traveller’s checks and will sign them again.
  • Meredith says to Don, ‘Mr Sterling came by for your prognostication.’
  • Mathis assumed he’d be fired when he goes into Don’s office. When Don fires him, he tells him this is the next thing he’s going to have to move past.
  • Betty’s predicts to Glen, ‘You’re going to make it. I’m positive.’ meaning he’ll survive Vietnam. Uh oh. Earlier, in the scene with Sally, she says, ‘We’ll see you when you get back. Sally too.’
  • Glen’s girlfriend wants a map to the powder room – a guide to the immediate future.
  • Don asks Sally’s friends what they want to be when they grow up (a senator, a UN translator and to live in NYC).
  • Ted’s future: ‘Now it could be anything.’ Richard is in the same position.
  • Richard is short-sighted: he can’t see far ahead.
  • The magazines on Don’s desk were all about 1970 or the ‘70s:
  • New Yorker Jan 3 1970: has a banner on the cover stating ‘Life, Death, Love, Hope.’  (What else is there?)

  • Newsweek Jan 12 1970: Can inflation be stopped?

  • Consumer Reports (Roger said Jane was a consumer last week)

  • Look: 1970 – Don looks at an ad ‘The 1970 VW will stay ugly longer.’  Another ref to appearances And to the first season when everyone was all of a flutter about the radical new DDB ads for VW

  • Time : Black America 1970: Jesse Jackson.

Lay Lady Lay: Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 9: ‘New Business’

Those masterful images because complete

Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?

A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,

Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,

Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut

Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone,

I must lie down where all the ladders start

In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

––WB Yeats, The Circus Animals’ Desertion

This was a second strange episode.  Watching the peregrinations of an almost Altmanesque profusion of characters, it felt more like the whole world running around in circles than moving forward. There was much of the usual deceit, of the self and others, even as various individuals encouraged each other to be honest. A lot is ending, but without any real sense of change.  As Pete put it, ‘You think you’re going to begin your life over and do it right. But what if you never get past the beginning again?’

OK, at least one character has hopes of beating the odds: Betty, whom we have previously seen being truly unhinged, tells Don at the start that she now plans to study psychology, apparently with a view to becoming a therapist. Don patronisingly dismisses this as an opportunity for gossip.

Other than that, continuing last week’s preoccupation with the past’s ghosts and scars, old business of various sorts has the characters truly in its tangles. Even the one thing that looks like client wooing – a golf round with Nabisco – is really just to keep existing McCann business sweet. And, speaking of bad old business, Roger cannot go on the golf trip because it involves Bert Petersen, whom he has repeatedly dumped in the crap.

Most of what business there is seems, in fact, less new than some variant of the world’s oldest profession. Diana, who literally prostituted herself to Don last time, now returns and (briefly?) takes centre stage as his lover. Megan is back from LA to collect her stuff (complete with that emblematic breakup trope, the division of the record collection) and finds herself skirting the taint of harlotry on multiple fronts: she has repeatedly said she wants nothing from Don, but is drawing a monthly allowance from him (about which she has to remind him). Her mother, Marie, disgustedly compares her accepting $500 from him to whoring. Meanwhile, Harry, propositioning Megan with the age-old promise of career help, is conversely concerned that she is not whorish enough, crudely suggesting her problem as an actress is that she is unreceptive to casting couch canoodling. Elsewhere, we finally meet the notorious Torkelson (father of secretary Clara’s expanding bump, but said to be ignoring it) who brayingly offers up the ad shoot models as willing flesh to the appreciative clients. The second model in the row, by the way, is the spit of Megan. Finally, there is Pima Ryan, the photographer who propositions both Stan and Peggy, succeeding only with the former. Peggy here makes the connection (not by any means the first in this show) between her own job and prostitution, telling Stan and Ed that Pima is ‘more advertising than art: she’s a hustler.’ (prostitute).  Sex sells and is sold.

But who, among all the casting of stones, is without sin? Marie follows her ‘whore’ comparison by saying Megan is worth everything she can get from Don, nabbing all the furniture, taking $200 from Roger and then encouraging him to ravish her. At the start of her lawyer’s office meeting with Don, Megan refuses even his cigarette, reiterating her claim from when they broke up that she wants nothing from him. Minutes later she is pocketing his million dollar cheque.  Her devout sister Marie-France has come with the mother to help Megan and begins all sisterly love and support, then storms out in a pious rage about the moral laxity of NYC (but not, as Megan notes, before she has ordered room service).

It is an odd thing to note that, while people obviously have great difficulty changing, they can be contradictory as hell. The episode is full of these 180º reversals. Peggy clearly wanted to hire a female photographer while Stan, pursuing the photography gig himself, was resistant; by the end, Stan has been literally seduced and wants to hire Pima again, but Peggy nixes it. Even the show’s writers seem to get in on the self-contradiction game with a cut that could have been directed by Buñuel: Don agrees to meet Diana at her workplace, then emerges from the bedroom and answers the door to her.

Pima is a sort of avatar for these switcheroos. Insouciantly eliding art and sales, mannishly dressed and bisexual in practice, she seems the only character truly comfortable contravening the law of noncontradiction, though her blurring of gender boundaries is echoed elsewhere: Stan worries about keeping his balls in his job and thought Ed was ‘queer’. Harry says Megan is like the progeny of two women. And Roger says it’s a ‘two-man job’ for Caroline and Shirley to be his secretaries.  Is Peggy right to dismiss Pima as a hustler when Ed and Stan, even prior to any sexual inducements, are impressed by her work? Or is Pima more a genuinely problematic figure of undecidability? Is Peggy, perhaps for the second time, duplicating oppressive male attitudes, now by designating a successful woman a hooker?

Prostitution as theme does three jobs here. First, as noted, it is shown to be a major component of, and perhaps identical with, advertising. Second, it underlines once more the intense difficulties of women in the workplace, whether they are actually being asked to prostitute themselves (Megan) or having to watch it happen and even facilitate it (Peggy, appearing awkwardly behind Torkelson as he makes his pimp pitch). Third, it seems to act as a rather swingeing attack on the institution of marriage, one much in keeping with a lot of the feminist literature of the day: the idea that women, kept by their husbands, are effectively in the position of prostitutes. Certainly, there are few functional marriages on display here. Even the conservative Catholic Marie-France is clearly glad to be off the marital leash (and anxious that her husband will never again look after the kids). Elsewhere, liaisons are simply falling apart or hanging by threads. The theme of payment to wives or ex-wives is perpetual.

Interesting then that the episode begins with Don making milkshakes for his boys, Betty looking on, as if they are a ‘normal’, happy family. The truth is that they are, of course, in the Francis’s kitchen and eventually a different father figure, Henry, arrives, though he appears quite comfortable seeing Don.  As Don leaves he stands in the half-light looking back at the cheerful scene and seems far far away from them all, which he is (as Stan says, ‘Everything good I have is from a long time ago’).  But where? Apparently, in pursuit of Diana, he has hopes for a new domestic set-up and is intent on playing out the old cycle yet again. It has taken him the best part of a month to track her down to the slightly posher restaurant where she is now working.  He believes he is ready for a new and better relationship and she is the one with whom to try.

It all comes together in Don and Diana’s relationship – the changes of mind, certainly and a certain blurring and blending of gender and identity too. Having refused Don before, Diana now accepts him for a while, before rejecting him again. In between, she lies to him that she has no kids, then admits to a dead one, then to a live one whom she abandoned. Last week we theorised that Don’s pursuit of sensitive, intelligent brunettes was about his lost mother, but perhaps it is also about his lost self. Di, like Don/Dick, has gone hoboing. No accident that home for her was Racine, Wisconsin. She is, like Don, deracinated. His entire courtship of her is about identifying with her on grounds of loss: she is divorced and he is ‘in the same boat.’ When she declares that he has never had as bad a day as her, he responds, ‘You don’t think I’ve felt grief?’

But there is a key difference between the two, one we have been alerted to by Betty’s new therapist aspiration at the start: Diana wants to remember her loss and not hurry on to new, distracting pleasures, even those that seem compelling with Don. Almost paradoxically, the one person seemingly committed to total stasis is also the biggest challenge to the established order that so oppresses the others. She and Betty are the proponents of the only real new business here and the business is honesty. Elsewhere, it is utterly business as usual.

It is as if, in the multitude of characters, we have been watching a morality play in which various positions are personified and examined, only to be rejected until we get to the single solution. Should we support Megan? No, she accepts the proceeds of Don’s fakery even as she attacks him for it. What about her highly moral seeming sister? No, she condemns divorce and big city decadence even as she uses both as an excuse for a jolly. Pima? No, her talent, gender-political progressivism, knack for cognitive dissonance and valid suspicion of marriage seem ultimately to be in the service only of her own egotistic pursuit of pleasure and wealth. Peggy? No, she condemns Pima for being too much advertising and therefore a hustler, but advertising is her profession too. And this is to say nothing of the obviously morally bankrupt characters here like Harry or Torkelson, or the lost ones like Pete and Marie.

But to what problem is Diana’s bleak existence the solution? Is it simply the grim, barely workable answer to the conundrum of women choosing between work and marriage? No, the problem is Don’s. Don, chastised here for being completely unreal by Megan, has lived for years in denial. Diana, finally, is ruthlessly determined not to. She rejects Don, whom we know to be the very counselor of wilful amnesia (‘It will shock you how much it never happened.’) because with him she forgets the pain of her dead daughter. Despite their connection in grief, in alienation, in running away from their families like the hobo who visits Dick’s childhood home and tells him that death lives there, what Diana has really run away from is what Dick ran to: a domestic set-up. Diana’s rejection of Don is a rejection of everything the episode has condemned. The one person here who has literally engaged in an act of prostitution, she passes on the chance to be another of Don’s kept women and live comfortably on the proceeds of his corporate whoring, choosing instead to remain faithfully fixed not on the happiness you can buy, sold by sex, but on the melancholy memory of a dead child. The pain in her chest is not a twinge of nostalgia from a sentimental advert, it is the raw pain of deep grief and loss.

Peggy once complained to Don: ‘You have everything, and so much of it.’  As the episode closed, he had less than he started it with: less a wife, less $1m ($6m today), less all his furniture, less his potential new woman.  Perhaps the contraction of Diana’s name by which we first knew her contains a message to Don, the imperative being to let his old, false identity die so that he can be reborn. But the universe is not quite ready for Don’s resurrection and, in the empty conversation pit of his once-well-appointed apartment, he looked small and alone.

Time stamp

Late May 1970 : Megan’s allowance was due on the 24th and Don’s $1m cheque was dated May 27 1970.

Callbacks

  • Pete’s ‘You think you’re going to begin your life over and do it right. But what if you never get past the beginning again?’ gives more hints, we think, that the pilot episode will be key at the series end.
  • Roger has fired Bert Peterson twice – and made sure to enjoy it properly the second time.
  • The hobo theme has come up several times in the series: young Dick Whitman is made an honorary hobo; in the episode The Hobo Code (when Don asks Midge to run away to Paris), and in The Gypsy and the Hobo when Don comes clean to Betty, under duress, about who he is.
  • Megan says Don’s huge cheque isn’t real, recalling the fake Don Draper cheque Lane Price forged, precipitating the latter’s suicide.
  • Pima rejecting Stan’s photography for his drawing – ‘Drawing is a much rarer art’ – recollects Sal’s complaint that he’s watched his job disappearing, his attempt to move into directing and the general replacement of illustration by photography in advertising during the ‘60s.
  • Sylvia Rosen – Don’s Dante-loving mistress in S6.
  • Diana’s pain in her chest reminds us of the twinge in the heart from Don’s Carousel pitch and of the doorman’s heart attack in his apartment building.
  • Betty’s interest in psychology looks back to her own unsatisfactory psychoanalysis in S1 and then Sally’s therapy (which acted as a Trojan horse for further, more productive work with Betty) in S4 with the wonderful Dr. Edna.
  • In the scenes with Harry and Don, Megan is wearing the same dress she wore when she met Don at LA airport and drove the sports car (S7.1).
  • Diana used Avon shampoo – the first account Joan got for herself.
  • Roger reminds us of the time he seduced Jane in her new apartment, spoiling it for her, when he says to Marie, ‘You already emptied the place, you want to defile it as well?’
  • Pete and sports equipment : some good memories of him struggling with golf clubs and skis from way back when.  Meredith does a pretty good comedy job with Don’s clubs too.  This is the second episode in a row with golf clubs in it.
  • Peggy’s winning Burger Chef dress is hanging on the back of her office door.
  • Megan returns to Don Anna’s engagement ring.  That ring does not bring much luck. Their relationship lasted from October 1965 to May 1970.
  • Diana’s bleak room calls back Adam’s (not a good memory) and Don’s dark and rather dismal post-Betty apartment.
  • Continuing references to the Manson Family, here reduced to a series of comic misunderstandings: ‘The Manson Brothers.’ ‘The Manson Family.’ ‘Are they coming in?’
  • Don says to Diana, ‘I’m vain’ when he is dressed in suit and tie at 3am, having been in bed.  It calls back to Bert Cooper who he admitted to being vain to Lane Pryce.
  • The new Derby Foods cookie bring back happy memories of Pete and Trudy dancing at Roger and Jane’s Derby Day party.  The less said about the black-faced Roger, the better.

 

Notes

  • Meta moments: Don repeatedly reassuring people, ‘Don’t worry, it’s nearly over.’ OK, on the face of it, he means his marriage.
  • Roger disdainfully says of his ex-wife Jane, ‘What career? She’s a consumer!’  The sort of consumer who buys the things he sells, presumably with his money.
  • Mitchel Rosen’s CO got married: so he did serve? Or was that in the National Guard war-avoidance posting?
  • Peggy is increasingly glamorous.  There’s a shot of her against a black background and to one side of the screen and another when Pima is trying to seduce her when she looks the best we’ve ever seen her.  For all those who see a future with Don, we did notice that her green/white dress had white collar and cuffs very like Diana’s brown/white waitress uniform.  We’re not sure we buy the Peggy/Don togetherness but this is a clue that would join the dots backwards, if it comes to pass.
  • Talking in Sally’s bedroom about her daughter’s death, Don’s head is framed and Diana’s echoed by an old picture silhouette of a little girl, almost certainly Sally.  They both have a daughter and Don was alienated from his for some time after the Sylvia incident
  • Stan says to Pima on the Cinzano set, ‘I apologise that the models have so many teeth. I know you’re not used to that.’ What can that mean?
  • Don has a sombrero hanging on his office coat stand: has he been to Mexico or is he going?
  • Last week, BTL, paulewart pointed out that the then diner duo of waitresses, Di and Vi, could be read not as death and life, but a pun on sexually transmitted disease. This week, to modern ears, Diana’s remark, ‘I’m positive,’ sounds like a diagnosis. Given the relentlessness of the couplings over the decade, it’s somewhat amazing Don or Roger haven’t had a dose of one thing or another by now. Marie says Megan is lucky not to have caught syphilis from Don.  But it could also, of course, signify a baby on the way.
  • Torkelson finally shows his face. He’s like the host of some grotesque gameshow where the prize is drunk sex, a kind of living embodiment of Zizek’s ‘obscene dominant superego injunction to enjoy.’
  • While Don is hoping that Diana can heal him and he heal her, she is wearing a uniform that’s not that different from the nurse’s uniform of Stan’s girlfriend, Elaine.  When Diana and Don meet in her room, when she tells him she can’t be with him, she is out of her uniform.
  • Diana’s daughter may have died in the 1968 flu pandemic that killed 33,800 Americans.
  • Don gave Megan $1m after she called him ‘an aging, sloppy, selfish liar’, saying ‘You’re right.  I want you to have the life you deserve…. I’m sorry’.  He’s feeling guilty, particularly after Pete said that men punish their ex-wives even when they know they are at fault and because of Harry’s comment that resigning from the soap and leaving NYC was a really bad idea – something to which Don had committed Megan.
  • Megan walking in on Roger and Marie feels a little French farce, even if the only French dramatist (sort of) being namechecked here, Racine, is a tragedienne.
  • Having been horrified to see her mother with Roger, Megan later says to her sister, ‘It’s a sin to be a ghoul and feed on everyone’s pain.  She has been unhappy for a very long time.  At least she did something about it.’ Wherever Marie has gone (and can it really be with Roger?) she has taken control and moved out of her own unhappy life. Could this be the start of a trend?  New business for some.

 

Culture and product

  • Betty plans to study for a Masters in Psychology at Fairfield University in Connecticut!  It’s wikipedia page says, ‘The university’s environment invites students of all traditions to a maturing of faith, self-knowledge, respect for the dignity of themselves and others, a devotion to justice, a commitment to serving the poor, and a passion for truth, reflection, and lifelong learning.’  Perhaps Don should sign up too?
  • Ed heard Pima Ryan talk at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design).
  • Harry: ‘Probably Greek. I’m sure that’s a story.’ The Odyssey?  The Myths? The tragedies?
  • Roger feels as though he’s being chased by Marlin Perkins.  ‘There’s nowhere to hide’.  At the end of the episode Don is standing in his empty sitting room, completely exposed.
  • Nabisco is a McCann client and Derby Foods is launching a new cookie.  We haven’t been able to track down Derby Foods.  Is it real, anyone? LL responds BTL: ‘Derby Foods Inc. looks to be a subsidiary of the larger Swift & Co. They are based out of Chicago. Their big product was the Peter Pan Peanut Butter. They also did Derby beef tamales sold in a glass jar (yikes!).’
  • LL (Laura Lazarus) BT: has this: ‘“On the dark room wall is a sign, ‘Try it. It won’t bite’ which is just beside Pima as she seduces Stan.” It’s the slogan for Sail Tobacco. With all the cigarette mentions in the earlier half of the season and now this little reminder (in addition to its significance in the scene) I wonder if SC&P isn’t completely out of the tobacco business yet.’ mockingbirdstl replies: ‘the Pima are a Native American tribe that lived in modern day Arizona. It may be a bit of a stretch to make the connection, but tobacco was one of the first major crops the New World was exploited for.’

 

Lies, damn lies and a little bit of honesty

  • Marie lies to Roger about Don letting Megan have all the furniture.
  • Harry tells Don Megan was unstable and will say crazy things – to avoid Don knowing that he came on to her.
  • Don (unusually candid): I’m vain.
  • Stan asks Pima to be honest about his work
  • Don tells Diana he is divorced before he’s signed the papers
  • Ed to Peggy: ‘I want you to be honest, should I let my hair grow out?’
  • Diana and Don: ‘I lied to you.’ ‘Already?’ She lies twice, but, unlike every other liar in the show, her reversals are about becoming more and more honest, not trying to have things both ways.
  • Stan doesn’t believe that Peggy. ‘Which part?’ she shoots back – that Pima is bisexual and came on to her or that she won’t hire her again.

The life not lived : Mad Men Season 7 Episode 8: ‘Severance’

…from generation to generation

The same things happen again and again.

Men learn little from others’ experience.

But in the life of one man, never

The same time returns. Sever

The cord, shed the scale. Only

The fool fixed in his folly may think

He can turn the wheel on which he turns.

––TS Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

How now, my lord, why do you keep alone,

Of sorriest fancies your companions making,

Using those thoughts which should indeed have died

With them they think on? Things without all remedy

Should be without regard: what’s done, is done.

––Macbeth

It’s late April 1970. Our wait having matched in real time the jump between 7.7 and 7.8, we now begin the slow, sad severance from Mad Men, with just seven episodes left before we sit shiva. After ten years, the people at SC&P seem no closer to the happiness they work so hard to sell. Some are much richer, ‘filthy rich,’ in fact.  They can buy the best things on the market – and pop tarts too – but not those that are free like peace of mind and an authentic life well lived. They are free of material want but they are wanting.

People don’t change, as the falling man of the titles reminds us.  Don has been presented with countless opportunities to change his life and is still free-falling through the emptiness of being Don.

His solution to his problems is to run away, to sever his ties, to lose himself in meaningless sex.  But however many people he leaves he can’t escape Dick Whitman.  Perhaps the way out is to connect his two personas, to assimilate Don and Dick.  America is a land of reinvention, of assimilation to find acceptance and belonging, to make new beginnings: where the daughter of a man from a shtetl can run a Manhattan department store.  Rachel Menken was one of the few people who recognised his disconnectedness and shared it and now she is gone – though she was really lost to him a decade ago.  For Dick, who is great at beginnings, the persona of Don has not set him free from his childhood demons.  He did fake it until he made it; he did become the room he was in, but only superficially, only on the outside.  Why is that?  Others have made it to the US more damaged and been less materially successful and happier.  Is there something about the dishonesty of becoming Don that taints? Something about stealing the life of a dead man that means he can’t rest?

It seems salient going in to remind ourselves that we are not in a new season. A year later, the show retains a thematic link to the now distant Accutron pitch at the start of episode 7.1: time is still what is at issue. The obvious signifiers of its passing are everywhere: the stylistic markers of a looming 70s – longer sideburns, clashing colours, wide lapels, ubiquitous moustaches – the firm in a new phase as McCann-Erickson’s subsidiary and, of course, a death. Concurrently, however, in a show that compulsively references its own past (see ‘Callbacks’ passim, ad infinitum), the strands of memory are what really have the power here.

We begin with a particularly deafening echo: Don auditioning fur-draped models, pointedly recalling his first advertising job, in-house for a fur company, during which he met Betty, the model who became his wife. If Don himself makes the connection, he does not say. His memory hole has plumbed deeper instead, to Abigail, his stepmother, about whom he talks to a group of models in a nighthawks-style diner.

We are, it turns out, following a daisy chain of metonymy and condensation recalling the key women in Don’s life. The diner, especially Roger’s reference to cockroaches, invokes Don and Peggy’s cheap restaurant supper in ‘The Suitcase’, the episode in which the real Don Draper’s wife, Anna, died. The current diner contains a waitress so perfectly in the Don’s mistress mold (brunette, sensitive, intelligent) that we recognise her as such even before he does – and then he thinks they have met before. At home, during a drunken fling, one of his second(/third) wife Megan’s earrings turns up. Finally, dreaming, Don conjures the department store heir, Rachel Menken, perhaps the quintessence of the sensitive, intelligent, dark-haired Draper paramour. The dream casts her in Betty’s role as fur model, probably indicating the desire Don felt to replace the latter with the former. The next day he learns that, in another echo of Anna, who also appeared post-mortem as a dream wraith, Rachel has just died.

It is one of two seemingly uncanny coincidences, the other involving Ken. After Ken’s wife, Cynthia, tries to persuade him to jack in advertising and return to writing fiction, he goes to work the next day and gets the sack anyway. The ghosts of his own past at McCann have unseated him, but it is all to the good, he claims – ‘a sign.’ What of? ‘The life not lived.’

The phrase seems redolent of Frost’s, ‘The Road Not Taken,’ evoking the past’s forking-paths and might-have-beens. In the dream, Rachel tells Don he has missed his flight – referring to his failed attempt at flight with her from the life he has now continued to live for a decade. But Ken’s phrase also has much darker readings: there is Don’s unlived life as Dick Whitman; there are the lives – of the real Don Draper, Anna, Rachel, Don’s brother, Adam – literally unlived, cut short by death; finally, there is the failure to properly live at all – the essence of Cynthia’s concern here. No wonder Peggy Lee’s great, jaded paean to alienated disconnection, ‘Is that all there is?’ not only scores the credits but the whole episode almost from the start.

There are also the lives thwarted by sexism, a key theme here. While auditions for Wilkinson are being openly acknowledged as titillation for the boys, Joan and Peggy enter the wolf’s den of a meeting with the McCann executives. Ken has already warned us they are thugs and Joan is duly subjected to a bruising barrage of sexually abusive punning. Afterwards, Peggy, proto-slut-shaming, suggests the mortified Joan would have an easier time if her clothes were less sexy. Joan, furious, retorts that Peggy is not attractive enough to have received the same treatment and known its pain. Thus mutually lacerated, each goes off on self-soothing missions. Joan uses her new buyout wealth to defiantly purchase, at great expense, a large number of even more alluring habillements. She chooses to shop at Bonwit Teller where she worked during one of her darkest periods but denies this past to the saleswoman who spots her. For all the finery, she does not look much soothed. Peggy takes up the offer of a blind date that nearly turns, with drunken spontaneity, into a trip to Paris – implicit recompense for the trip denied her when Don sent Ginsberg to oversee her Paris-set ad instead of her. When her date calls her old-fashioned, she says she tried new-fashioned and it didn’t work – meaning her failed relationship with hippy radical, Abe.  Both women are tending wounds that run even deeper than the hurts of the afternoon.

Still, as thwarted lives go, theirs seem like aristocratic disappointments compared to those of the diner waitress who caught Don’s attention at the start. Approaching middle age, sad-eyed and in a crummy job from which she snatches moments to read John Dos Passos, she assumes that Don is there to collect on the $100 tip Roger left and fatalistically prostitutes herself: ‘You got your $100 worth.  You can go.’  She seems, perhaps by virtue of old scars, unable to imagine Don as anything but bad news. And, after all, however sincere his intent, given his history she is essentially right. Besides, it is fairly clear it is not really her in whom he is interested.

We should bear in mind not just the watch from episode 1 but the pitch itself: ‘Do you have time to change your life?’ What is under scrutiny here is a tragic Freudian determinism, one held in place by psychological lacunae and fixation – in Don, in the waitress and possibly everyone else. Ken, for one, may receive severance from the agency, but cannot seem to sever himself from the wheel of his own obsessional fate. He claims Cynthia had nearly convinced him to leave advertising when he was fired, but this is not how he seemed when talking to her. Given a new chance to perpetuate his petty squabble with people who perpetually frustrate him, he unhesitatingly chooses it over literary freedom, accepting the client-side job as head of advertising at Dow. He objects to using his wife’s money because it came from her father’s work making poison and weapons, but ends up, in the service of his vendetta, at the same company.

And Don, with equal futility, just wants to sit in the dingy diner, being near the waitress who spurns him and whose name is a one-syllable imperative to stop living. So who are the intelligent brunettes who parade cyclically, fleetingly through his life like shadows of the Platonic ur-woman? Why does he think he has met this one before? Whom do they represent and why do his relationships with them never pan out?  The likely answer, the obviousness of which should not deter us, is the (nearly) missing item from the opening list, the great absence: Don’s mother, fatal victim of postpartum infection, the first of the major lives not lived in his life. The clues are in waitress Di’s sage advice: ‘I want you to think very carefully about when you had that dream, because when people die, everything gets mixed up… you just want to make sense out of it, but you can’t.’ Don’s life, marked by death from the start, has been mixed up all along. In the string of stand-ins, he is chasing a ghost, a hopeless, senseless search for sense. ‘Maybe you dreamt about her all the time.’

Should he now be thinking about a severance of this strangulating umbilical cord? Is it even possible? Would a Wilkinson Sword help? In the end, must we not conclude that, Don, in pursuit of Di and all her doubles, has been, all along, ‘half in love with easeful death’?

 

Timestamps

  • This episode takes place from Monday April 27 through Friday May 1 1970.
  • Mr. Potato Head’s 18th birthday was April 30 1970, the same date as the Nixon broadcast. ‘He’ was the first toy to be advertised on TV (and direct to children) so a somewhat apt nickname for media-buyer Harry.

 

Culture and product

  • The episode theme tune, ‘Is That All There Is?’ was written in 1969 but sounds older.  MW had wanted it for the titles but it wasn’t old enough.  He’s been waiting to use it.   One of MW’s things is how 60s idealism burnt out so fast and ended in the me generation.
  • Roger calls Di ‘Mildred Pierce’, cruelly echoing Mildred’s worry that she would be looked-down on as a waitress. James M. Cain’s eponymous novel and the subsequent film depict a middle-class housewife who takes a waitress job to support her family during the Great Depression, later becoming a business success but with a tragic family life.
  • Di is reading John Dos Passos, here brazenly staking his claim to the coveted Great American Novel designation with a book called simply, ‘USA’, a trilogy exploring early C20 America. Di’s reading the first of the three books, ‘The 42nd Parallel.’
  • Oscar de la Renta had made his name in part by dressing Jackie Kennedy. BTL, Judy Cooper tells us, in relation to Ted’s comment on hemlines: ‘in actuality hems were coming down. 1970 was “the year of the midi skirt” and Oscar de la Renta was the principal American designer to introduce the look. In fact on May 4, 1970, the members of FADD (Fight Against Dictating Designers) and GAMS (Girls/Guys Against More Skirt) joined forces to picket outside 550 Seventh Avenue, where de la Renta was showing his boutique collection.’
  • UK company Wilkinson Sword really did start off making swords and dabbled in a lot of other stuff before they came to razors. Their history with the latter is interesting as an example of, as it were, built-out obsolescence. They introduced stainless-steel blades that could be used for longer (albeit just a week), increasing their own market share, but hugely reducing the size of the market overall.
  • L’eggs tights/pantyhose launch in 1969 was one of the most successful in history. The wikipedia page suggests it’s the sort of thing that Don Draper could have done. Here’s the earliest L’eggs ad we can find. Aptly, it tells us, ‘L’eggs have memory yarn.’ What is this episode, nay, what is Mad Men if not one big memory yarn?
  • Pop tarts have a history worthy of Adam Curtis, complete with airdrops to Afghanistan and toaster fires with foot-high flames.
  • MacGregor Golf. Never mind the clubs, seems Jack Nicklaus actually ended up owning the company.

 

Women getting the short end

  • Rachel’s sister, being a woman, cannot be counted for the minyan.
  • Clara’s as big as a house and Torquelson’s probably just going to look the other way.
  • Ted’s wanted to do an ad for years that reads, ‘There are three women in every man’s life.’ Mother, wife and mistress? Plus, he says, Vogue’s throwing a party in the village and hemlines are going up.

 

Callbacks

  • Three women in every man’s life? Serial philanderer Don might balk, but then… well, maybe it all comes down the blond, the brunette and Mommy. We thought of the old (scrapped) ‘Are you a Marilyn or are you a Jackie?’ campaign for Maidenform.
  • Don has seen a lot of ghosts: Anna, Rachel, Adam, Andrea, Private Dinkins, Bert. And Archie, as Laura Lazarus reminds us BTL.
  • Changes of name: Rachel said she would have had a different life if she’d been called something like Marilyn – i.e. not sounding Jewish; Topaz needs a new name to change its position in the market; the dog food, Caldicott Farms, needed a name change because people refused to feed horse to their dogs; Dick/Don, is obviously the most important name-change in Mad Men: a rose by any other name would smell as sweet …. or not.
  • Don has lived in NYC long enough to know that you take food to a family sitting shiva.  He asks if he should take off his shoes, but that’s for family only.  Everyone had to take off their shoes to visit Bert’s office and he said he regarded his employees as family.
  • Peggy’s chastisement of Mathis – ‘If you want a raise, stop acting like a secretary and ask for one,’ barely makes sense except as her parrotting the kind of line Don used to say to her.
  • Margarine and Paris : Peggy says, ‘They invented margarine there.’ Is this the only interesting fact Peggy knows? Fleischmann’s margarine was the first account we saw the newly merged SCDP/CGC working on.  That’s when Peggy told everyone margarine was invented for Napoleon. Also, Don wanted to run away to Paris with Midge, who said no.
  • ‘So all you have to do is write something in Paris and you get a trip to Paris.’ ‘That’s not how it works.’ Not if Don Draper’s your boss. Peggy didn’t get to Paris for the Chevalier Blanc ad and it was Don subsequently throwing money in her face in dispute about this that prompted her to leave SCDP. Previously she’d told him she’d never even been on a plane.
  • Red wine on the white rug : reminds us of Megan’s choice to have a white rug and her disturbing chase by Don.  The splash of wine looks like blood and appears in roughly the same place as the woman, Andrea, Don strangled in a dream. Generally, Don’s bedroom is feeling more and more like a crime scene.
  • Megan’s lost earring, found and tossed away: reminds us of Private Dinkins’s lighter, tossed away in the same room, only to be returned.
  • The opening scene of Don telling a semi-naked woman what to do reminds us of the time he kept Sylvia locked in a hotel room.
  • Joan being zipped at the store; she gets this a lot: Joan and Herb, Joan and Roger, Carol (Joan’s flat-mate who was in love with her)
  • Fur : Pete had a fantasy of the neighbour coming into his office naked under a fur coat; Don sold a fur stole to Roger to give to Joan.  The poster in that fur store, modelled by Betty said: ‘Why wait for a man to buy you a fur coat?’ Now Joan can afford to buy her own.
  • Joan and Peggy in the elevator echo the time Joan was furious with Peggy in another elevator for firing Joey over the obscene sketch.  Years later, men still aren’t taking them seriously. And it’s still tending to divide them, not unite them in sisterhood.
  • Tricia, the air hostess who comes to Don’s apartment when he calls speaks like Bethany Van Nuys.

 

Notes

  • The waitresses are Di and Vi – death and life? Die and Vie? Vi barely figures, but…perhaps that’s the point. On the other hand, Diana is goddess of, among other things, childbirth, which would make ‘Di’ some handy condensation for death in childbirth and hence a stand-in for Don’s mother.
  • Peggy can’t find her passport – her identity – at home. It’s at the office, of course.
  • Peggy and Joan have their meeting with Topaz in Bert Cooper’s old office. Now a meeting room, it has been decked out with nostalgic trinkets, kitschly evocative of the late nineteenth century (when Bert was born): a wall ornament in the shape of a penny farthing, pictures of airships, a faux old-fashioned telephone. Speaking of echoes of the past.
  • Peggy’s remark that she tried new-fashioned and it didn’t work out seems a clear marker of the general retrenchment from 60s idealism at decade’s end.
  • Don’s unwanted presence as Rachel’s family sit shiva seems very similar to a scene in John Cassavetes’s ‘Opening Night’, whether by intent or coincidence we’re not sure. Anyway, it’s one of digit’s two all-time favourite movies, so worth mentioning under almost any pretext, however tenuous.
  • Meta moment (and probably a dig at the dumber MM haters and one of their habitual slurs): Pete advises Ken not to write a novel about advertising because it’s ‘boring’. Talk about the road not taken.
  • Ken’s acceptance of a job at his father-in-law’s munitions company has shades of Shaw’s ‘Major Barbara’ – coincidentally, one of digit’s all-time favourite plays.
  • There’s something geniusly perfect about making the (former) head dealer of fiery napalm death a purveyor of bad dad jokes no one laughs at. Ken’s father in law makes a joke about toasting a pop tart and Don tells the diner group a story about Abigail being given a toaster for her birthday. Perhaps there’s a link to Lucky Strike. Perhaps there’s also a morbid pun: you’re toast. Mr. Napalm Death’s other joke is about his wife being dead.
  • What’s with all the Irish-bashing, Ken? Is this the last acceptable form of prejudice in America after civil rights? Is it OK to be racist about a group of people if a lot of them, at least according to the stereotype, are in the police?
  • And re those golf clubs: Rico, BTL, reminds us: ‘Twas the morning after Leland Palmer, (aka Bob), played by Ray Wise, murdered Maddy. Donna and James walk in to discover him practicing chip shots in the living room.
    Upon their departure, Leland opens the closet door, puts his 9 iron (presumably) in it’s slot, then zips up the golf bag containing her body. S2, E7 or 8, if memory serves.’

 

More on that Nixon broadcast

  • Don’s watching another tricky Dick: Nixon announcing his intention to take the Vietnam fight into Cambodia, massively escalating the Southeast Asian war he had made an election promise to end. This then is another total failure of severance, in this instance from a cycle of violence of which America was, by now, heartily sick. In another televised speech ten days before, Nixon had strongly indicated that total US withdrawal from Vietnam was all but a fait accompli – a typical Nixon lie. He never intended to simply withdraw peacefully and virtually everything he told the American people on this score was knowingly untrue. In the second speech, he denied the coming invasion was an invasion on the grounds that it would only be attacking clear North Vietnamese strongholds in Cambodia. In fact, he’d already been secretly and illegally bombing this neutral country since March 1969, the drop eventually totalling half a million tons of ordnance, more than fell on Japan in WWII. An estimated 600,000 Cambodian civilians died as a result of a certain Operation Menu alone. (We are indebted to Rick Perlstein’s excellent book, ‘Nixonland’ for the history refresher). All this and Nixon only got impeached for illegal wiretapping in the end? I don’t know…
  • Now pay attention. Here’s the zinger: Nixon’s real Vietnam strategy was founded on the idea that he should seem, to the enemy, capable of anything, no horror too great. His all-too apt name for this idea? ‘The madman theory.’ No wonder Sterling Cooper was his agency.

Guidance is internal: Mad Men Season 7, Episode 7: ‘Waterloo’

Thus

Hides the
Parts––the prudery

Of Frigidaire, of
Soda-jerking–––

Thus
Above the

Plane of lunch, of wives
Removes itself
(As soda-jerking from
the private act

Of
Cracking eggs);

big-Business

– George Oppen, from Discrete Series

In which, in a mid-season climax worthy of an end-of-season finale, we saw the old gang reunite and cement their tribal ties to rout the scheming interloper Jim Cutler, save the company and make themselves millions. It’s a happy ending, isn’t it? But it’s not the end. So what’s really going on here?

‘Every time an old man starts talking about Napoleon you know they’re going to die.’ Bert’s nod to Waterloo, uttered a month to the day after the battle’s 154th anniversary, was indeed almost the last thing we heard from him as he set out to show Roger that Don cannot win: nobody ever came back from leave. Napoleon, after the military failures that put him on Elba, recovered power, was declared an outlaw at the Congress of Vienna, then suffered his final, decisive defeat at Waterloo and went into exile on St. Helena, dying there six years later. But was this just the analogy of a confused old man? Because surely the events of this episode looked more like a series of victories – didn’t they?

First, there was Peggy, taking Burger Chef like Wellington. In the last ten years we’ve seen her struggle through professional and personal frustrations to reach the high point of this pitch. She was Don-perfect and has never looked better or sounded more professional as she united the face of God with a hamburger. Transitioning smoothly from the collective experience of watching the moon landings to family dinners, she sold us on the idea that a fast food joint was better than home. And sometimes, to be fair, it is. Not all families are happy and eating out can relieve the stress brought on by television, laundry, vacuum cleaners and musical differences.

Of course, Peggy only got her shot because of Don’s work troubles and Bert’s death. After the latter, Don no longer had the votes to stop Cutler giving him the boot, so he sensibly stepped aside to let Peggy win business on which she could follow through. The kindness and encouragement he showed her, however, was a sort of victory for him too – against himself. What a change in the man whom Peggy once accused of never saying thank you and who angrily replied, ‘That’s what the money’s for!’ Even his wistfully tender breakup with Megan looks like major progress compared to the acrimony he went through with Betty.

The Cutler threat was about to be seen off for Don anyway, by an old friend also going through a sea-change: in Roger’s heretofore feckless mind, steel wheels had been set in motion by his final encounter with Bert. One could almost hear the echo of Freddy and Peggy in the season opener: ‘Are you ready to change your life?’ and ‘It’s time for a conversation.’ Bert’s wise homily on loyalty and leadership, an oriental sage figurine at his elbow (perhaps it was Sun Tzu), was the life-changing conversation for which Roger was ready: leadership, he learned, was about loyalty to one’s team (even the members, as Bert said of Don, who are a pain in the ass). Well, that’s unless you were Jim Cutler, in which case it was about having a vision, or Roger, who understood loyalty, but had no vision and therefore wasn’t a leader…

OK, maybe the lecture didn’t totally make sense, but it did the motivational job. Plunging into the gap created by Bert’s death, Roger appointed himself sheriff, holstered up and went off to parlay with Jim Hobart from McCann, wherein we learned the truth of the latter’s mysterious advances to Don and Roger over the course of the season: he was looking to acquire them both, along with the entire Chevy team. But Roger, as he told Hobart, had developed Bert’s requisite ‘vision’: McCann should buy the whole company and leave them their identity.

And then the personal development tales dovetailed. Roger challenged Don to accept his responsibility to the firm and its staff and suddenly two men who once hardly thought of others seemed to be acting like grown-ups. Roger, in particular appeared utterly to have found his internal guidance mechanism. Bert would have been proud. It only remained to put the prospect of millions of dollars before Joan and Pete and apply Don’s preternatural powers of persuasion to keep the near-suicidal Ted from sinking the deal. We worry that it was a mistake for Ted, but it seemed a clear victory for the majority. Whatever teams everyone was in at the start, by the end they were united in shirts with seven figure numbers on their backs.

To crown it all, there was the moon landing. After countless references through the seasons, the moment finally came: a victory for humankind against the odds (and for the US against the Russians). As Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, the live TV transmission had us watching the watchers: Bert and his maid sitting under the chaotic cosmos of Pollock’s Number 28; Roger with Mona – interestingly – plus grandson and son-in-law; the Francis family and friends, making good use of that capacious mansion; and the work family: Don, Peggy, Pete and Harry.

That last grouping, and those family tableaux in general, brought us full-circle to Peggy’s pitch – circularity once again being very much ‘of essence.’ As the appropriately palindromic ABBA’s Waterloo tells us: ‘The history book on the shelf / Is always repeating itself.’ As Don pointed out to Roger, acquisition by McCann was exactly what they set out to avoid by starting a new company six years previously. The difference, said Roger, perhaps over-optimistically, was that this time they’d be independent. As with the opening credits and the return to Burger Chef at the end of last episode, the characters are back at the same place – but it’s somehow better and underpinned by a stronger sense of self. Or so they hope.

After all, victories or no victories, the discombobulating undercurrents were legion. Cheap food produced god-knows-how as the antidote to domestic chaos? It may be a small step for families, but it’s hardly a great leap for society. And to win the business, Peggy converted her touching scene with Julio into a lie.

Anyway, not everyone was as united as she claimed by the triumph of Apollo 11. Sean, the teenage visitor to the Francis house, who initially looked like a conservative football player, put on his striped hipster pants and revealed his radical edge: the moon landing cost 25 billion dollars and there are so many problems here on earth. So much for Bert singing, ‘The moon belongs to everyone.’ Peggy, continuing to treat Burger Chef as utopian, elided different hungers: we’re starving for collective experience and for basic nutrition. Sally was having none of it, complaining to Don that the moon’s going to become a tourist destination – perhaps with a Hilton Hotel serving baked beans? – while millions go hungry.

Meanwhile, Megan was off to see The Wild Bunch, wherein she would hear William Holden’s character say, ‘When you side with a man, you stay with him, and if you can’t do that you’re like some animal.’ Does Roger’s treatment of Harry fall short of this standard? Poor Harry. He who hesitates is lost. Don advised: ‘Don’t negotiate. Just accept the deal,’ but, like Napoleon waiting for the ground to dry, Harry left it too long and Roger cruelly refused to let him sign up and cash-in. Was it just that Harry seemed to be on Jim’s team? No, he’d obviously have voted for the payday. Besides, he goes back to the old Sterling Cooper days and is, himself, or was, in Don’s words, ‘very loyal’. According to Bert’s principles, at least, this was a betrayal unbefitting a leader.

Still, as the inconsistencies in Bert’s lecture already indicate, the loyalty principle is not universally applicable. Cutler with his ‘vision’ appeared to be absolved of the requirement, and that’s certainly how we saw him acting here, abruptly severing ties to former co-plotter Lou with a brutally dismissive, ‘You’re a hired hand.’ He didn’t even know how to be a team player strategically, signing the other partners’ names to Don’s breach letter without consulting them. Even Bert’s death was simply an opportunity for him to push his agenda. As Roger surmised, even if Cutler succeeded in adding Don’s mounted head to the bizarre array of big game body parts in his office – a zebra rug, an elephant’s foot stool and a gazelle horn lamp – he wouldn’t stop there. Having apparently participated in the bombing of Dresden, the Allies’ worst atrocity in World War II, he was the avatar simultaneously of a ruthlessly murderous past and a chillingly dystopian future. This was about not just depersonalisation, but the shredding of the social contract to make way for pure jungle law, the Hobbesian war of all against all. ‘You shouldn’t have done that,’ said Joan about the breach letter, and it did seem a stupid move. But if the others were so victorious at the end, why didn’t Cutler look more like a loser? He even ended up voting for the deal he’d been opposing. The truth is, unlike Harry, who, with alimony looming, was stymied whether he came into money or not, Cutler couldn’t lose. Either he got to create the company he wanted or he became $6m richer.

And after all, the McCann deal was really more his thing than Don or Roger’s. For all its appearance of freedom, it was part of the ongoing tendency towards consolidation and concentration of media ownership that has since steadily progressed, tending towards oligopoly and control by the bean counters. Like the outlaw Wild Bunch, the gunslingers of Madison Avenue’s creative revolution and their more freewheeling account man enablers are here approaching obsolescence – but what’s coming is an even wilder west. In the age of market deregulation, Cutler’s worldview is the one that will prevail. For the rest of the partners, obliviously celebratory, perhaps ABBA’s Waterloo once again gives the now unintentionally dark pointer: ‘I feel like I win when I lose.’

Is there really, in Peggy’s phrase, a table where everyone gets what they want?

Time stamp

July 18-22 1969, a month or more after the events of last episode, with the Apollo 11 moon landing occurring on Sunday the 20th.

Culture

The Best Things in Life are Free lyrics by Lew Brown and Buddy G. DeSylva, music by Ray Henderson, from the 1927 musical Good News.

Robert Morse can really cut a rug, as you’d expect given his illustrious musical past. The end sequence was a lovely tribute to him and his career and also perhaps a nod to Dennis Potter, whom we think we’ve seen Weiner cite as an influence.

In the first of two Bert-related allusions to old musicals Roger quotes an old song, his last words to Bert: Let’s Have Another Cup of Coffee by Irving Berlin is from the 1932 musical Face the Music, a depression-themed comedy in which hard-up upper-crust New Yorkers hanging around the automat (a low-cost self-service restaurant) decide to stage a musical. The last words of the song echo Bert’s closing musical number (The Best Things in Life are Free): ‘Things that really matter / Are the things that gold can’t buy.’

Bert, in addition to his Rothko from many seasons ago, appears to be the owner of Jackson Pollock’s Number 28, which hangs in his home at the start.

Bert, seconds from death, applauds the famous ‘One small step…’ line, which he perhaps recognises as good copywriting. But Armstrong said the line was not planned. The TV announcer didn’t even hear the whole of the line.

IBM computing was integral to the space program and the moon landing, as this set of entries from their archive shows. Thanks to blog commenter Ben who alerted us to this at the end of comments on The Monolith, and provided more detailed info with this link.

The Wild Bunch was, as it happens, released on the anniversary of Waterloo: June 18, 1969. It’s been out for a month when Don and Megan talk.

Julio: ‘I don’t want to go to Newark.’  Peggy: ‘Nobody does.’ Terrible rioting in Newark just two years earlier, which basically destroyed it. Not a lot of jobs there either, which was the reason for the riots. The future looks bleak for poor Julio.

In Peggy’s scene at home talking to Nick, the ceiling guy, the TV is talking about history being made and quotes E=MC2.

Betty talks about being young and dreaming of Ty Power. That’ll be Tyrone Power.

Caroline has a classic Eames office chair.

Don and Peggy are drinking Old Style beer, from this can. Wikipedia already has the show’s reference to it in the entry on the beer.

Lou ‘There’s a cork-tipped Newport in the works. Shall I invite them to Don Draper dinner theatre? Maybe a matinee.’ Cork-tipped just refers to the now standard wrapping around the filter.

Roger calls Joan ‘Benedict Joan’ as a sign of her treachery in reference to Benedict Arnold, who went over to the British in the US War of Independence. A standard ref for US viewers, but probably not others. The fact that Arnold’s betrayal was a response to being passed over for promotion somewhat increases the relevance to Joan, whose promotion to full account person was probably bestowed by Cutler to get her on his side.

Cutler wants to commemorate Bert with O Captain! My Captain! which, being by Walt Whitman, gives us an allusion to Don’s secret identity. It’s also yet another nautical reference, here adding particularly to the sense of the company as a ship. (See Callbacks for more on this). As it was a tribute to Lincoln, we also can’t help thinking of the Lincoln biography Team of Rivals, given that we’re seeing just such a team at work here. And then there’s the idea of death at the moment of victory:

From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!

But I, with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

We can’t identify the soapy looking TV show Ted’s watching. Anyone?

Callbacks

Neil: ‘Smoking causes cancer.’ The Pilot: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes 1.1

Jim Hobart first appeared in Shoot 1.9 when he tried to lure Don to McCann by pretending to help Betty restart her modelling career. McCann then nearly got their hands on him via their agency buyout in Shut the door, Have a Seat 3.13.

Bert’s got form with the Abstract Expressionists. He told Harry his Rothko was an investment. The Gold Violin 2.7

Julio wants a popsicle (he’s only had one today), referring one of Peggy’s best early ads with the tagline: ‘Take it. Break it. Share it. Love it.’ (And that’s what we do with the show.) The Mountain King 2.12

Bert’s death reminds us of Miss Blankenship: ‘She was an astronaut,’ Bert says of her when she dies. The Beautiful Girls 4.9

Conrad Hilton, wanted the moon from Don and Megan put Heinz on the Moon. Wee Small Hours 3.9

Peggy: ‘Dad likes Sinatra, son likes the Rolling Stones.’ Old Burger Chef guy nods in recognition. Refers to last episode, but also to Harry and Don seeing the Stones. Tea Leaves 5.3

Sean wears the same kind of stripy trousers as the Rosen boy. Favors 6.11

In an episode in which Pete compares Ted to Pete as a potential suicide, the toby jug on Ted’s desk looks very like the one Lane Pryce had. Or perhaps, given that the room also contains a lot of nautical stuff, as Pete’s did last season, Ted’s actually sitting in Pete’s office.

Don ends the episode telling Peggy, ‘I’m going back to work.’ Along with his pitch to Ted, this refers to Freddy: ‘Just do the work.’ The Monolith 7.4

Oh Captain, My Captain: And if we read the captain as Bert, very much the sense that the agency is a ship.  Don alleged that Roger had said to him, ‘Welcome aboard’ when Don talked himself into a job. Waldorf Stories 5.6

Peggy’s Burger Chef pitch is her Carousel moment. One of the execs even seems to tear up, as Harry did in the earlier pitch. The Wheel 1.13

In the flight Ted took Don on he was very different: a cool pilot in the aviator shades. His passenger still had a hard time, though. Man with a Plan 6.7

Roger turns up at Don’s the same way the latter did at Roger’s when he wanted his job back. The Field Trip 7.3

The deli where Roger meets Jim Hobart formerly played host to a scene between Roger and Joan, where they discuss her pregnancy. Hands and Knees 4.10

Roger wonders if things will be the same when he dies. We have some idea from what we saw that when he had his heart attack: Bert called Joan in to go through the client info. The Long Weekend 1.10

Meredith kissing Don reminds us of Peggy making a pass at him when she was his secretary and of him sleeping with subsequent secretary Alison (Christmas Comes But Once A Year 4.2), Ida Blankenship’s predecessor. Not to mention his marriage to Megan, Miss Blankenship’s replacement.

Bert’s dance recalls other surreal moments: Ken’s tap dance (The Crash 6.8), Anna’s ghost (The Suitcase 4.7), LSD trips (Far Away Places 5.6) and Don’s murderous nightmare (Mystery Date 5.4)

Cutler’s failure to oust Don and make a new firm focused on media buying recollects Duck’s similar failure. Meditations in an Emergency 2.13

Brainstorming about margarine, Peggy pointed out that it was invented for Napoleon’s army. The Better Half  6.9

When Jim Hobart meets with Roger, Hobart says ‘uncle’ by way of surrender.  It’s what Don said to Duck during their fight in The Suitcase 4.7

This is a bit loose, but Napoleon being designated an outlaw at the Congress of Vienna roughly seems to tally with Cutler trying to oust Don on the basis of his breach of contract – which occurred at the Commander meeting, after which the end credits song was by Waylong Jennings, purveyor of outlaw country music, as we learned from upthebarestairs’ blog. The Runaways 7. 5

Peggy’s hug with Julio precisely echoes her hug/dance with Don last episode.

Stray observations

Meredith’s attitude to Don is partially sexual, but also weirdly maternal. It’s sort of like the tragedy of his childhood history and his traumatic virginity loss repeated as farce.

Three instances of people choking up in spite of themselves: Peggy with Julio, Roger over Bert and then Don, at the end, over Bert again.

Lou on Commander cigarettes: ‘They’re ‘rolling it up with the rest of Philip Morris.’ Arf arf. And does that roll up the perpetual cigarette and fire references?

Cutler’s strange fetish for material related to hunting in Africa is really striking.

Betty: Don is ‘someone a teenage anthropologist would marry.’ Eh? EDIT: We know she was an anthropology student, it just seems an odd line.

Don: ‘Pete’s pregnant.’ Hunh? EDIT: Thanks to Mariel BTL for explaining this one: he’s pregnant with the account and it’s up to Peggy and Don to deliver it their way.

Peggy, who’s said little makes sense to her outside the office, is now having dreary office-style ceiling tiles installed in her own home. This does seem a sort of plausibly ’70s thing to do, but still…sheesh.

Moon landing and flight

In two instances of looking upwards, Peggy’s ceiling tiles are Armstrong brand and Sally kisses a boy with a telescope called Neil.

Repeated references to being scared, using the word, first in Ted’s plane, then in Peggy’s rehearsal for the pitch, in an episode that reminded us often that the success of the moon landing and return to earth were by no means sure things.

Peggy’s anxiety as she waited to make the pitch felt like an astronaut with amplified breathing and blurred vision inside a helmet.

NASA says: ‘Roger, we’ve got you foresighted’.

Ted points to a place on the ground and says, ‘Probably Claremont. Good place for smouldering wreckage.’ Claremont is said on Wikipedia to be the fifth best place to live in the US.

The airline pilot on the flight to Indianapolis, prefiguring Peggy’s pitch, which also starts with the moon landing, begins his remarks by comparing the plane to Apollo 11 and refers to the astronauts as ‘fellow pilots.’

The Bombing of Dresden

Theatre

Bert’s response to Neil Armstrong’s famous moon landing statement is ‘Bravo.’

Lou: ‘Shall I invite them to Don Draper Dinner Theatre? Maybe a matinee.’

Don, Peggy, Pete and Harry rehearse their pitch.

Pete tells Don that ‘the Don Draper show is back…from its unscheduled interruption,’ which might make it more TV than theatre. Possibly there’s a bit of a theatre vs. TV argument going on here anyway.

Cutler: ‘Now that I’ve been backstage I’m deeply unimpressed, Don.’

Bert’s musical number at the end and Roger’s earlier reference to another musical.

Western

The Wild Bunch (see Culture)

Lou Avery is just a hired hand.

Don is a very sensitive piece of horse flesh.

Jim Hobart tells Roger he must ‘bury the hatchet’ with Ted.

The theme seems to have built: two episodes back, Sally’s nose bandage looked like warpaint and she was wearing a poncho. Indian styles were common among hippies and so part of this may be about the generation gap.

Football

Pretty sure that the older boy, Sean, visiting the Francis house is wearing a Washington Redskins shirt. If we’ve got this wrong, let us know. EDIT: upthebarestairs has set us straight here: The shirt is almost certainly University of Southern California and 32 was OJ Simpson’s number. As we see here. EDIT 2: And after a bit more discussion, we think we’ve got the sour significance: OJ’s downfall after the murder of his wife was more event television that brought people together in large numbers.

The kid in the storyboard still has a football helmet (referred to in dialogue last week).

And Roger’s grandson Ellery is wearing a helmet as he watches the Moon landings. In The Monolith, he wore a football helmet in lieu of an army one in his game of soldiers with Caroline.

Cutler calls Don ‘a footballplayer in a suit.’

Globes and telescopes

Globes: Ted has a globe bar on his desk: constellations on the inside and earth on the outside.  Cutler and Bert both have small globes in their offices

Telescopes: at the Francis house, Neil can’t find his in the car, Bobby has never taken his out of the box. Megan’s balcony, Cutler’s office (that one had a capped end, which suggests he can’t see as far as he thinks he can or he’s seeing what he wants not what’s out there).

Money

Based on known shareholdings if McCann value SC&P at $65m and buy 51%:

Joan: 5% = $1,657,500

Pete: 10% = $3,315,000

Ted: 20% = $6,630,000

$3m in 1969 is about $19,694,281.69 today.

25% payment on signing

Joan: $414,375

Pete: $828,750

Ted: $1,657,000

Foreshadowing

Ginsberg predicted he wouldn’t be the last to leave the agency in the wake of the computer’s arrival. Now Cooper’s gone too… Ominous.

Don: ‘We can’t do this.’ Meredith: ‘You’re right. Not now.’

The talk in the ad pitch about hunger and starvation: a reference to how the audience are going to miss MM in the next few months? Which leads us to…

Meta stuff

This episode contained a few decidedly negative remarks about postponement. Pete says Jennifer is postponing divorce discussions until Harry gets his partnership. Harry’s delay in signing the partnership deal loses him (and Jennifer) a lot of money. And Peggy worries that they’re going to have to postpone the Burger Chef pitch for at least a year if the astronauts die. This is surely a series of digs at AMC for postponing the end of the season.

Matt Weiner has said that an important Mad Men theme is that actions have consequences and Don used that phrase in this episode. As per last week, the writers seem to be speaking through Don.

Also, with the moon landing transmission and a series of face-on shots of characters as viewers, there’s a peculiar sense that the show is now watching us: Peggy and Don stare into the camera as if seeing not just a glimpse of the space-age future, but the actual future of us, their audience. Last week, Roger briefly did the same. But it really started with Freddy addressing us straight to camera in the first shot of this season: ‘Are you ready? because I want you to pay attention.’ It was ‘time for a conversation.’

Weiner has said he never expected the dedicated fans who discuss every detail. Did the plethora of references become a response to this? We may never know, but we do know we’d never have seen a fraction of what was going on without this opportunity to discuss. This plays fascinatingly against the show’s recent observations on television, it’s double-edged capacity for social atomisation and cohesion. The internet is the next level, the next great threat to attention spans, depth and, most of all, social interaction – except that it also creates this capacity for wide-ranging communities and discussions. This also puts an interesting angle on the show’s recent references to the computer as standard-bearer of depersonalisation.

And finally…

Not to come down on one side or another of this absolutely, but the conversation on this blog has been a real pleasure and we’d like to thank all participants and all readers. We’re probably a bit MMed out for now, but may manage a few interim articles on MM themes before next year. In the mean time…

All the best,

digit and Nevada x

I’ll be your mirror: Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 6: ‘The Strategy’

 

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

– Emily Dickinson

 

This was a beautiful, cleverly constructed episode that led, via the creation of an ad nearly from start to finish, deep into questions of honesty and desire and took us through a cycle from darkness to light. It all got started with a revolving shot around a station wagon in the Burger Chef car park and from there it was as if we just kept going around until the circular return to the the same location at the end, now with added brightness. Wrapped up in this arc were intertwining stories linking characters to the ad’s theme of family and moving them a few steps down the road to an examined life.

The core of it all was Don and Peggy’s after-hours colloquy on the creative process in Lou’s office, a scene redolent of the classic Suitcase episode. It’s not just that these two driven individuals, who are, as Don says, always working, found themselves up late  rethinking an ad again, nor that the location, though much changed, was the same as before. In the older episode, Peggy told Don, ‘I can’t tell the difference between something that’s good and something that’s awful.’ Here he says that you can’t tell other people what they want, it has to be what you want, and she replies, giving him pause, ‘Well, how am I supposed to know?’ Aye, there’s the rub.

Perhaps the person having the most trouble with this question is Bob Benson, in from Detroit, his identity bouncing from one contingency to another. When he thinks his similarly in-the-closet colleague Bill is threatening him, he angrily replies, ‘I’m not of your stripe.’ When Bill says instead that he’s being given a great new job, he admits that NYC is full of temptations. Then he takes a cue from Bill’s ‘understanding’ wife and proposes a similar marriage of seeming convenience to Joan. Bob thinks he wants this. Actually, as Joan realises, it’s that he doesn’t think he can really have what he wants. He says he’s being realistic. Actually, he’s in danger of putting himself on the wrong side of history. The Stonewall riots are practically days away and in a few years, the kind of beard marriage he’s proposing will look hopelessly odd and out of date. The problem with fitting in is that ‘in’ is so protean.

Real heterosexual couplings of the traditional variety are looking almost equally shop-worn. The ad strategy that won’t fly for Don and Peggy is fine with everyone else, notably Lou, for whose conservative tastes it seems to have been tailored. ‘It’s nice to see family happiness again,’ he says blandly of a scenario based on husbands giving wives permission. The other yaysayer is Pete, whom we later see sidelining Peggy to let Don give the pitch, reducing her to the ‘expert witness’ on moms and fobbing her off with the pathetic sop that she’s ‘as good as any woman in advertising.’ He then neglects Bonnie to wait up in Cos Cob  for Trudy and, in a performance for which the phrase, ‘stay classy’ might have been invented, hypocritically upbraids her for dating, attempts to use her father’s heart attack against her, misreads her total avoidance of him as a ‘debutante manoeuvre’ bespeaking continuing marital feelings and finally flounces out after plonking a beer bottle into his toddler’s cake. Vintage Campbell: why just be awful when you can also be downright freakishly peculiar?

Lou and Pete then, are the homo antecessors of gender politics and their approval represents a provisional success at best for Peggy. Really it’s a capitulation and a failure, so to speak, of reflection. Much as the cars drive up – in reality and in the ad – with the Burger Chef sign mirrored in the windows, Peggy has looked into all those middle-American station wagons and seen nothing but the reflection of her own failure to wed. If only she could have looked a little deeper into the darkness of the car at the start and seen that the woman inside – something of a double for Betty’s friend Francine – seemed actually scared of her husband.

Reflection, in various forms, is very much of the essence here. Mad Men often mirrors scenes and motifs, but this time especially, the effect was almost of a palindrome, with the episode bookended not just by Burger Chef in darkness and light but also transcontinental flights going in opposite directions. And from there: both Pete and Don have visiting LA girlfriends to whom both tout NYC shopping expeditions as a kind of ultimate treat, and both have plans at least to attend modishly risqué shows and movies (Oh! Calcutta! and I am Curious (Yellow)); both Megan and Bonnie wear maternity-style dresses and Clara’s heavily pregnant; both Don and Peggy speak of ‘noodling around’ with ad ideas; two toddlers each receive highly gender-coded presents; people keep parentally handing each other napkins and handkerchiefs; and before Bill Hartley’s homosexuality is rumbled by the NYPD, Roger is joking that Jim from McCann’s steam-room job offer is a gay come-on.

But maybe the ultimate effect of this hall of mirrors will be clarification, not confusion. It reaches a moving apotheosis within a single shot: Don and Peggy dancing tenderly, reflected in the conference room glass: an impromptu couple, doubled. There was, to paraphrase Megan, a sense that we really needed that.  There hasn’t been much to relieve the gloom for a good two seasons and (not but), for hanging in there we were rewarded with one of the most touching scenes in the whole show. We are not embarrassed to say that we got more than a little teary-eyed.

This moving moment was hard-won for Don and Peggy too. Joan’s told Bob, ‘I want love and I’d rather die hoping that happens than make some arrangement.’ Don’s strategy, likewise, the counter-strategy to that of convenient conventionalism, is about facing the void. You shred the false structures and strategies and risk having nothing in order to get what you really want. By the time My Way comes on, we’ve learned that Don’s way is a kind of via negativa, his ‘living in the not knowing’ echoing medieval theology’s cloud of unknowing in which the truth of God and oneself can only be known by abandoning all preconceived notions as false certainties. Peggy rejects Don’s idea of ‘doing it from the kids’ perspectives,’ but, in a sense, in clearing their preconceptions, this is what they end up doing.

This is the approach he and Peggy take to the ad strategy, but by ‘living in the not knowing,’ Don really means the gamble of delivering the honest communication that results. One can never know how these things will be received or whether they’re absolutely right, but as the nearest possible approximations of one’s true desire, they’re the only hope one has of making real contact with others.

This risk-taking, then, is directly linked to family. As Joan’s rejection of Bob makes clear, one can’t have a real love if, in fear of the void, one accepts a false one. Don and Peggy, likewise, ultimately can’t pick apart the ad strategy without unravelling the whole myth of the happy nuclear family. Pete, has an inkling of the process, yet fails to understand: ‘Now we have nothing,’ he complains. Perhaps he should read some Beckett: ‘Better than nothing! Is it possible? or that Hemingway short story to which his and Peggy’s exchange refers: ‘What did he fear? It was not a fear or dread, It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all anothing and a man was a nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. He smiled…’

But for the purposes of promoting this light, clean nothing at least, they have got something. Peggy’s found the right position to speak from, one that can address the familial feelings even of those excluded from the traditional ideal. Peggy, Don and Pete prove the point by sitting down to dinner as an ad hoc family group, complete with Peggy and Don parentally helping Pete wipe ketchup off his mouth. Peggy’s desire for a place with no TV where family is who you sit and break bread with is, at least for the moment, realised.

Roger and Joan have, of course, like Peggy and Pete, already ‘started a family’ covertly and without the usual trappings of co-habitation. Now Joan’s an ‘account man’ in the office next to Roger’s and they find themselves united in their abhorrence of Harry and concern about Chevy. Joan, thanks to Bob’s proposal, has the lowdown on the loss of XP. ‘Why didn’t you tell me? I could have done something,’ says Roger. But Joan spills the beans soon enough to give him the insight he needs into the McCann man’s come-hither tactics. This looks like the start of a new alliance. It might merely be strategic, but it could be more given the history these two share.

Peggy’s bitterness peaked after the Ted disaster and she has been, frankly, pretty unpleasant ever since. Charged with creating an ad about family, she’s had her nose rubbed in dozens of station wagons across Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Playgrounds in The Suitcase were a painful reminder of the child she gave up and the recent research seems to have had similarly bitter resonances. Truth arrives with the admission of despair. Peggy is not part of a nuclear family. She’s a mother but hasn’t raised the child, so is hardly Pete’s ‘expert witness’.  Now she’s thirty and lying about it and hating herself for doing so. On the other hand, she knows what it’s like to be a working woman and works with working mothers. And then she gets it: Does the idealised advertising family even exist?

After all, it’s hardly as if she’s the only one for whom this isn’t working. Pete’s daughter doesn’t even seem to know him and Trudy tells him he is no longer part of the family. By the end, he appears to have broken with Bonnie too, after heavy hints at the start that they might marry. And Don, after seeming highly ambivalent towards Megan (and contemplating an old article on JFK’s assassination, which marked the breakup of his previous marriage), admits his own despair. ‘What do you have to worry about?’ says Peggy – and after a due pause for the unspeakable – he gives us the next best/worst things: he’s never done anything and (really opening up a void here) doesn’t have anyone. Megan flies off back to LA looking blithely unconcerned, but the stewardess behind her sharply, ominously draws the black curtains. The marriage, it seems, is another false strategy – especially given the deep feeling with which Don kisses Peggy’s head during their dance. This pairing, never having seemed likely before, suddenly, feels possible. Megan and Don have also earlier stood near a big mirror (in his apartment), but placed to cast no reflection.

Perhaps, then, all the mirroring this time is specifically a symbol of coupling, the basic process by which we find new family members and start new families. The sexual adventurers of I am Curious (Yellow) and hippie free love might decry this focus on the couple as reactionary, but that would be to ignore the rigour of the episode’s distinction between true and false versions. This, ultimately, is what the circular structure is about. As Don says, ‘Whenever I’m really unsure about an idea…I start at the beginning again, see if I end up at the same place.’

Timestamp

Oh! Calcutta! opened June 17, 1969.  Don refers to ‘late July’ (not ‘late this month’) so it’s definitely June.  Basket of Kisses gives Peggy’s birthday as May 25 and she says it was a couple of weeks ago.

Culture

EDIT: End credits music was Lorenzo Barcelata’s Maria ElenaThanks to Paul Ewart for clueing us in here BTL.

My way, the Frank Sinatra single was released June 14, 1969 and here are the lyrics.  Back in LA earlier this season, Pete said to Bonnie, ‘I want to chew you up and spit you out,’ as part of some weird foreplay.  The sort of line only Pete would come up with – except that it’s so similar to a line in this song.

Peggy on Burger Chef: ‘It’s a clean, well-lighted place.’  Pete: ‘OK, Hemingway.’ The very short Hemingway story referred to (see link) begins with a discussion of an old man who likes to stay late at a café and recently attempted suicide because he was ‘in despair’. It then goes on to a riff on ‘nada’ – nothing.

Kevin is watching Road Runner on a Saturday morning.

Stan is in New York and in love.  Milton Glaser who did the S7 poster, also designed the iconic I love NY logo in 1977.

The Stonewall riots happened on June 28, 1969. No mention of them in the show, but in many ways they’re the beginning of the end of the kind of subterfuge Bob is attempting with Joan.

Roger talks about Cutler’s ‘secret plan to end the war.’ Walter Wells in the New York Times, October 20, 2008, writes: ‘Even though Richard Nixon didn’t have one, the notion that he had a secret plan to end the Vietnam war helped him win the presidency in 1968.  Actually, “secret plan” wasn’t Nixon’s term; a reporter on deadline used it as he covered Nixon’s speech promising quick victory in that vastly unpopular war. But recognizing the power of those deceiving words, and politics being politics, Nixon never corrected the journalistic shortcut.’

Oh! Calcutta! Kenneth Tynan’s all-nude musical opened June 17, 1969 at the here aptly named Eden Theatre. Here’s a fun clip. Don’t watch it at work, unless your workplace is unusually tolerant.

Don and Megan have been to see I am Curious (Yellow). Here’s the whole film, currently available on YouTube. Probably best not to watch this at work either, though it begins innocuously enough. The companion film, (Blue) is also on YouTube, for now.

Tammy gets a Barbie. Kevin gets an Erector Set.

On the flight from LA to NYC, Pete and Bonnie are watching Shirley MacLaine in Sweet Charity which came out in April 1969. Here’s pretty much what they see.

Pete at the hotel is watching a western-themed TV show, but we don’t know which one.  Any ideas? Gunsmoke? Maverick?

Lou’s wife got him the crazy looking bamboo bar in his office. She’s ‘a card’. It seems to be a tiki bar with its rum-based drinks like ‘Mai Tai’ (which Rachel drank back in S1) or Zombie cocktails. The first tiki bar opened in LA in 1933. It was called ‘Don the Beachcomber’, which was also obliquely referred to last episode (see Culture notes for that ep)

The Chevy XP is going to Campbell Ewald. Now Lowe Campbell Ewald. They worked on Chevy in real life.

LATE BREAKING: We got this link from the Tom and Lorenzo Mad Style blog. It shows the location used for the Burger Chef.

Callbacks

The Pilot: Peggy’s secretary doesn’t know he is married and neither did we until the end of that first episode. EDIT: this was amended in response to corrections from Rae and Moose. Thanks, both.

Charlie Fiddich: Pete thinks Trudy is out with her ‘first’, the man he tried to pimp her to so that he could get a short story published and keep up with Ken. Ref is to 5G (S1.5)

Bonnie says, ‘I wore my sandals and I look like a hobo. My toenails are black.’ The Hobo Code (S1.8)

Pete says, ‘You’ve never seen Don at his best. It’ll be a tearjerker,’  which reminds us of the great pitch for the Carousel, Don at his absolute best, when Harry ran out of the room in tears. The Wheel (S1.13)

Don’s given Peggy similar advice before to what he’s offering here, but a little more tersely and aggressively: ‘You feeling something. That’s what sells.’ For Those Who Think Young (S2.1)

Sal Romano was another gay man who tried marriage but with a less understanding wife than Bill Hartley’s. The Gold Violin (S2.7)

Peggy’s idea of breaking bread together for Burger Chef reminds us of her Popsicle ad: ‘Take it. Break it. Share it. Love it.’  Both refer to Judeo-Christian ritual. The Mountain King (S2.12)

Someone has kept a copy of a newspaper about the JFK assassination, which seems to surface in Megan’s closet clearing. Betty realised her marriage to Don was over after the JFK assassination.  The Grown Ups (S3.12)

Peggy tells Don she just turned 30. The last time we saw her and Don brainstorming together was the day of her 26th birthday.  Also, Peggy’s line to Stan here, ‘Your baby’s calling…but we both know there’s a better idea,’  is a direct echo of Don in The Suitcase (S4.7) Lots of other callbacks to this episode detailed in the main article.

Lady Lazarus (S5.8) saw the team is working on the Chevalier Blanc ad and in The Field Trip (S7.3) they were working on Chevalier Noir.  Now Peggy says to Don when he shows up at the office after hours, ‘Did you park your white horse outside?’

Commissions and Fees (S5.12) The ketchup on Pete’s mouth at the end reminds us of Roger’s line to Don about wiping blood off his mouth after the Dow pitch.

The Doorway, Part 1 (S6.1) and Tomorrowland (S4.13) are episodes when Don and Megan spent happy times in escape destinations of the sort she wants to go to with him now.

Megan wants the fondue pot she used at their fondue party with the Rosens. The Doorway, Part 2 (6.2)

Roger tells Joan to ‘spill the beans’ calling back to the failure to win the Heinz Baked Beans account. To Have and To Hold (S6.4)

Ted says re the ad : I would use everything at my disposal to win it.   He didn’t do that for Peggy and it’s hard for her to hear that. In Care Of (S6.13)

In Time Zones (S7.1) Ken said ‘Torquelson is making Clara nightly.’ Now Clara’s pregnant.

Also, the way Don kisses Peggy’s hair is very similar to the way he was with the widow on the plane.  He gave the widow an almost kiss then he raised the window blind and it cut to Peggy walking into SC&P.

Also, Jim from McCann tried to hire Don in that episode. Now he’s trying to hire Roger. Whenever he makes these moves, they’re scathingly dismissed as sexual come-ons.

In A Day’s Work (S7.2) Don and Sally eat and reconnect and in Far Away Places (S5.6) Don and Megan have a disastrous visit to Howard Johnson’s, in stark contrast to the current episode’s happy Burger Chef outing at the end.

In The Field Trip (S7.3) Roger said, ‘Harry’s gone.’ Harry didn’t get fired and now he’s been promoted to partner.

Don’s way of asking Peggy to dance is very similar to the way Megan’s dance partner started her off at her Laurel Canyon party last episode. Roger’s line to Jim from McCann – ‘When we grow up we’re going to kill you and marry your wife’ – looks back, Oedipally, to last episode’s heavy Freudian overtones and Oedipal uprisings. A legacy of Roger’s therapy too, perhaps. The Runnaways (S7.5

When Don says the ad ‘has to be what you want,’ Peggy says, ‘I want to go to the movies,’ a favourite creative strategy of Don’s, one Peggy’s taken up. They’ve repeatedly met by chance at the movies.

Foreshadowing

Is Bob really leaving for Buick? Is a new car really coming to SC&P? What does Roger have up his sleeve? And how will Pete react to Bob’s departure?

Both the Jims are talking about the conflict regarding Don and Philip Morris.

Ted looked utterly isolated in the LA office. Is his lost love Peggy about to end up with Don? How will he react if that happens?

Is someone pregnant – other than Clara?  Stephanie’s pregnancy was unexpected.  It happened when she and her boyfriend ‘celebrated’ before he went to jail.  Don used the same word when he came out to LA on an earlier trip: ‘We haven’t celebrated yet.’ Peggy says to Megan, ‘Are you a surprise?’ A long time ago, Don told Sally that not all surprises are bad, referring to her own birth. Both Megan and Bonnie are wearing maternity-style dresses.

Stray observations

Don has a photo of himself, as Dick, and Anna on his desk.  As Stephanie said last week, ‘She’s everywhere’. While Don and Peggy were working in Lou’s office, the eyes of the masked figure on the  tiki bar glowed red – watching them! Along with Ted’s disembodied voice and the sudden turning on of the radio, the place feels haunted.  In The Suitcase, Anna’s ghost was there. Jim from McCann talks about Don haunting the SC&P hallways.

The driver figure in the Burger Chef storyboard is so gender-neutral that when Don and Peggy toy with a different concept, it easily switches from being mom to dad.

Ken says his little boy is crawling everywhere, he really has to keep an eye on him. Is Ken’s eyepatch permanent? Did he lose an eye in Detroit? Surprisingly little was made of this if so.

Megan doesn’t realise Don’s lost his old office. He’s not being very open with her. And Peggy’s secretary didn’t realise he was married, which Megan takes badly.

Don’s remark on the phone to Peggy that they’re both always working startles Megan. Maybe it’s partly the awareness of a bond between the two, but also, she’s not working.

This time, Don was included in the partner’s meeting.

Don’s line, ‘I start at the beginning again. See if I end up at the same place,’ evokes the end credits.

Roger’s being pursued by not one but two Jims proffering traitorous business propositions.  There’s a third Jim in Peggy’s ad.

Bob, claiming not to have got Joan a gift, says, ‘I struck out.’ This is the episode’s second baseball metaphor, after Peggy to Don: ‘rounding third.’

Bonnie ends her scene with Pete by saying, ‘I’m going to wash my feet,’ which could be a reference to Mary Magdalene since Pete still sees women as Madonnas or whores.

Here’s something on the old work of Christian theology, The Cloud of Unknowing.

Inconsistencies

We noticed several this episode. Some look like continuity errors, which is surprising.

Pete’s napkin, tucked into his shirt collar, suddenly vanishes at the end of the scene on the plane to NYC with Bonnie.

Megan’s hair is too long on her visit to Don’s office. It could be a wig. But on a hot day in June?

My Way suddenly starts playing on a radio in Lou’s office when there’s been no sound coming from it before.

Bill tells Bob the plan was always to take the XP inhouse, but then says it’s going to Campbell Ewald, which is another ad agency, so not inhouse.

The fact that the inconsistencies seem to be in both script and direction suggests to us they’re deliberate. We have a theory about why they’re here, which you may take or leave as you please: They’re a defiant retort to Bob’s line, ‘I’m just being realistic.’ His version of being realistic is everything this episode opposes.

Of course it could just be that we have some strange, sad inability to admit that Mad Men could ever make mistakes.

Prepare to meet thy maker

‘First I abuse whoever I need to help me and then I take a nap.’ In an episode much concerned with self-knowledge, this is a wonderfully self-aware joke – and perhaps it’s not just Don who’s opening up. All the talk of the creative process feels to us like the writers speaking, with unusual directness, through the characters. Then My Way comes on at a moment of perfect thematic relevance and Don asks, ‘Do you think this is a coincidence?’ And it’s not, of course; the gods of Mad Men put it there and seem, thereby, to be winking at the audience.

Don’s already given us to understand fairly clearly that the journey he’s on follows the Divine Comedy itinerary, ending up at Heaven and the creator. Here, the almost paradoxical link between self-knowledge and ‘living in the not knowing’ echoes both Western and Eastern mystical traditions in which worldly certainties are relinquished in order to attain knowledge of the divine absolute – of which one may oneself simply be an attribute. In other words, what we may have here is Don as creator speaking the words of his own creator about the use of creativity for knowledge of oneself and the creator and of oneself as the creator. Well, something like that.

Shangri-la/Utopia

Megan wants to see Don someplace where there’s nothing else going on, an invocation of Utopia, no place, here gone sour. It seems to echo Pete’s exchange with Bonnie: ‘I don’t like you in New York,’ she says. ‘Then you don’t like me.’ Megan’s effectively saying that her and Don’s relationship only works outside of their normal lives. Don’s expression shows he’s wise to the implications or just not keen.

Peggy’s vision of Burger Chef as a place where whomever you break bread with is your family is similarly utopian. It sounds sort of Biblical and sort of like a hippie commune.

Food/Fast food references

Don is ‘noodling around’ with ideas, as is Peggy later.

Joan is on a diet, but will have a roll at work, which smacks of multifarious polysemy.

Bob sees a day that starts with pancakes and ends with an ice cream sundae. As we say, Joan’s on a diet. She doesn’t mention this to Bob.

Stan’s eating a banana.

Pete vandalises a cake.

Jim from McCann says Burger Chef isn’t McDonalds.

And specifically, TV and food, in relation to Peggy’s lines about family’s eating in front of the TV:

Pete’s eating on the plane, watching the in-flight movie.

Kevin and Grandma Gail are eating breakfast with the TV on. Joan turns it off.

Pete’s already eaten in front of the TV in his hotel room, annoying Bonnie. But he can eat again!

Military

Roger asks Cutler about his ‘secret war plan to win the war.’ (see Culture for the Nixon reference here) Also, ‘The brand commander of the Commander brand.’

Stan’s still got his Moshe Dayan poster, which echoes Ken’s eyepatch: Ken has a patch on his right eye, Dayan on his left. Dayan was shot in the eye by the French fighting with the British in Syria. Back in 1969 America really admired Israel and Dayan was seen as a ballsy minority guy standing up to the Arab threat.

EDIT: And, shoulderguy points out in the comments, Bob Benson: ‘I’m not of your stripe.’

Potatoes

Fries? OK, the spud references do seem to have run out, whatever they were about.

Cigarettes and lighters

Joan’s table lighter. ‘Little boys love it.’

In the opening sequence three young people in the car park walk by ostentatiously blowing smoke.

Peggy takes a cigarette from the drawer in Creative’s office.

Philip Morris.

My Way

Here are (most of) the lyrics with some annotations:

And now, the end is near; (It is)

And so I face the final curtain. (episode (nearly) ends with curtains closing)

My friend, I’ll say it clear,

I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain. (as opposed to living in the not knowing)

I’ve lived a life that’s full.

I’ve travelled each and ev’ry highway;

But more, much more than this,

I did it my way. (go with what you want, don’t tell other people what they want)

Regrets, I’ve had a few;  (Don and Peggy voice theirs)

But then again, too few to mention. (only 3 between them, but big)

I did what I had to do

And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course; (STRATEGY)

Each careful step along the byway,  

But more, much more than this,

I did it my way.

And after this, we’d be reaching, except to remind viewers that Sinatra links to Farrow links to Polanski links to Tate links to Manson links to the Family… But then you knew that.

 

Shrink wrap: Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 5: ‘The Runaways’

‘Look at you, fooling you.’ – Sly and the Family Stone, Running Away

‘You can’t run away from yourself.’ – Bob Marley and the Wailers, Running Away

‘A Freudian slip is when you say one thing and then fuck your mother.’ – anonymous joke

Sometimes a throwaway reference to Freud is just a throwaway reference to Freud. Stan’s nod to the father of psychoanalysis early on appears to have no significance at all for the episode as a whole, which is mostly just about people living their lives in a perfectly normal way with no deeper significance.

We’re being disingenuous, of course, much as so many of the characters are this week. And it’s largely there that we find the Freud.  We’re in familiar Mad Men dissimulation territory except that here the bulk of the deception is of the self: denial and repression. ‘No one’s seen this,’ says Shirley, echoing master denialist Don’s ‘This never happened’ from season 1. The secret desire Stan jokily attributes to Lou Avery pulses through the episode like electricity through underground cables. Very bad Freudian parents lacking self-knowledge rampage around administering unjust punishment and trauma.

Of course, Freudianly, it’s there, with the bad dad, that it all begins. It’s a nice little joke that, amidst all the mendacity (and in an ad agency), Lou, the most monstrous of the father figures is touting a comic strip called Scout’s Honour, an expression of honesty here repeatedly pressed into the service of irony. Stan and copywriter John Mathis’s joke about it in the toilets sparks a blistering, nonsensical tirade from Lou comparing himself to Bob Dylan even as he pompously invokes patriotism and dreams of big money. Then, like all the worst authoritarians, he rains down punishment on all for the infractions of the few. Don’s wise to the Oedipal overtones and delivers a warning, but Lou’s not listening. The question is, why has this jumped-up conventionalist bully created, in Scout, a simian anarchist who ‘can take anything but an order’? Perhaps this is the real expression of his unconscious desire. And perhaps this denial is why he invokes Blowin’ in the Wind: exactly ‘how many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see?’

Lou’s patriotic platitudes and denigration of the young (‘snotty flag burners’) transition into Betty expressing the same sentiments, but it turns out she’s out of step even with the right wing of US politics. Nixon’s promised to end the war and Henry’s embarrassed. Suddenly we see that for all his usual kindness, Henry treats Betty like a child – and this can be brutal: ‘Let me do the thinking!’ Like Lou’s, Henry’s position is nonsense: he denies Betty’s got a job, but he’s furious at her for failing at work he’s never told her how to do. And all the while, outside the door, trauma repeating itself down the generations, Bobby listens in distress, an echo of his father, young Dick Whitman spying at brothel doors. What Don called the Adams Family House has become a true house of horrors. Bobby now has ‘a stomachache all the time.’

‘That machine makes men do unnatural things.’ Ginsberg means the computer, but he’s going too easy on the mind. Trauma isn’t just about what happens in the outside world. It’s also in the weird, inappropriate feelings that bubble up inside us and can only find expression in slips, subterfuges and displacement. Don, who once attempted to seduce the now pregnant and destitute Stephanie, is here full of seemingly avuncular concern and asserts that she really is his ‘niece’. Megan, surely projecting, has mistaken a couple for a father and daughter. Lou’s going to tuck Don up in bed. Later, so is Megan’s friend Amy. What does ‘tuck’ rhyme with? Just say the first thing that pops into your head.

The quasi-maternal come-on from Amy is the culmination of Megan’s strangely coded behaviour regarding Stephanie. This is a wasp’s nest of displacement. Megan says she’s not sure she wants kids, but her repeated references to Stephanie’s beauty are specifically linked to her gravid condition – and we think that if Megan’s own pregnancy had gone to term the child would be about six-months-old now. Megan calls Stephanie beautiful and Stephanie replies that she’s a Madonna, but, seemingly seized by jealous imaginings, Megan finds an excuse to offer no room at the inn, even while repeating the reassurance of the ‘niece’ designation. Then, after her groovy party, at which she dances with a sexy guest, as if seeking punishment, she simply delivers Don up to a different infidelity via the stoned threesome. In the morning, she seems calm and affectionate, but the repressed returns: when Stephanie calls, even though she doesn’t reveal Megan’s deception, Megan takes out her anger on the kitchen utensils.

Concurrently, there’s a strange little gathering at Peggy’s, a long way from Megan’s super-hip LA bash, but perhaps not so far from its subterraneanly disruptive sexual undercurrents. Ginsberg’s there and so is Julio, the neighbour’s kid, whose previous exchange with Peggy was as inadvertent go-between, ahem, in an argument about his mother’s sanitary napkins.  Ginsberg jokes that Julio is Peggy’s lover. Actually, in an echo of Megan’s maternal yearnings, he’s probably about the same age as Peggy’s abandoned child would be and, in the end, the three of them make an impromptu family tableau – except that Peggy won’t reproduce with Ginsberg.

Ginsberg, poor Ginsberg, the Mad Man gone finally mad.  It seems we hardly knew ye, but perhaps we can piece something together from the jagged fragments: his profession of ‘feelings’ for Peggy would seem to explain his recent rudeness to her and his resentment of her and Ted flirting in the office. Peggy’s also the person to whom he revealed, in 5.6, his birth in a concentration camp and his mother’s death there, the horror of which surely lies at the root of his current predicament. Why the nipple (why oh why?)? It could be a displaced castration or a nod to lost maternal nurture. Ginsberg’s tragic schizophrenic breakdown certainly seems intimately bound up with his repressed virginal desire, whether for men or for Peggy. Taking the role of amateur analyst, we’d say the latter, with the ‘threat’ of an apocalyptic homosexuality representing thwarted heterosexual yearnings.

The amateur analyst role is popular this week. In an episode that begins with Peggy assuring Don he’s on Handi-Wrap, everyone’s doing the shrink wrap. When Stephanie first appeared (4.3) she told Don, ‘Nobody knows what’s wrong with themselves and everyone else can see it right away.’ Now Don tells Stephanie, ‘You have my number,’ but really, it’s as if everybody has everybody’s. In scene after scene, the characters call each other out on their evasions and euphemisms. Stephanie tells Don that her situation is ‘not an emergency.’ ‘You’re making it sound like an emergency,’ he replies. He tells Amy he’s ‘doing fine.’ ‘I don’t think you’re doing fine,’ she says – and repeatedly prescribes drugs. ‘I don’t want anything right now,’ Don tells Megan. ‘Don’t lie,’ she chides. ‘You can take a shower,’ she tells Stephanie. ‘Is it that bad?’ ‘No… I don’t know.’

OK, but sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar. When Don tries the analyst bit on Harry, assuming his friendliness has a subtext, he’s wrong. Harry’s really just being friendly. Once again, Don’s found an unlikely saviour, here in a figure he’s long detested without explanation and who, only last episode, with the creative-ousting computer, seemed all threatening futurity. Now contrastingly full of sentimental bonhomie about the past, he clues Don in to the episode’s biggest secret, unlocking the mystery of the unheard conversation between Lou and Jim that sent Ginsberg around the bend: they’re ‘pursuing Commander,’ which sounds like the push for power it is, though Harry means they’re pitching to Commander Cigarettes, a move that will, due to Don’s anti-tobacco Letter, mean his eviction from the agency. It’s the ‘final solution’, says Harry, in pre-Godwin’s Law bliss. Commanders, by the way, are longer and firmer. Sometimes a cigarette is more than just a cigarette.

We culminate, then, in two fightbacks against oppressive authority. Betty may have been inspired by Sally’s astute comments about her objectification (the perfect nose that got her the prestige husband) and collusion with oppression (Sally doesn’t need a husband because she’s got Betty to keep her in line). At any rate, she’s had enough of ‘everyone’ (read Henry and perhaps Don) telling her to shut up and of being dragged around at Henry’s whim. She’s not stupid, she speaks Italian and, heck, she might even run for office. Don, meanwhile, arrives like another return of the repressed at the Commander meeting and pulls a switcheroo on the unprepared Lou and Jim. ‘You’re incredible,’ says Lou. ‘Thank you,’ says Don, this time getting the subtext right.

And we close on him looking sharper and more confident than he has in about three seasons. It’s a happy ending, except that, this being Mad Men, it’s biliously ambivalent. It seems that if Betty really did run for office it would be on a jingoistically martial right-wing ticket. And if Don’s really back in the game, it’s in the service of the big tobacco dealers of death. This is the sixties in microcosm: a series of Oedipal uprisings that achieved genuine gains, but ultimately left the existing power structures relatively untouched.

And after all, ending with poor Ginsberg uppermost in our minds, there were, as they say, a lot of casualties.

EDIT: Would have been great to have this all along, but better late than never: Nevada’s discovered the following info on IBM. According to the link, their technology was instrumental in facilitating the Nazi Holocaust that devastated Ginsberg’s childhood. We’re putting this together with another great post-publication observation BTL from Moose: the red-haired woman who traumatically took Don’s virginity was called Aimee, a homonym of the red-headed Amy who seduces Don here. Both Don and Ginsberg are experiencing triggers of childhood trauma.

Also: we’ve edited the above for one error pointed out by Judith Cooper regarding the use of the designation ‘Madonna’.

Stray observations

Lou to Stan: ‘I heard everything. From your first fart to your last dying breath.’ Godlike or parental.

Lots of parties and guests here, many of the latter unexpected: Ginsberg at Peggy’s, Stephanie at Megan’s and later Harry at Megan’s. And finally, Don at the Commander meeting.

Ginsberg compares himself to Cassandra, a prophetess who was, famously, never believed. The comparison is apt. She was, because of her prophecies, considered insane. Her condition is said to have resulted from her priestess’s vow of chastity and consequent refusal of sex with Apollo, which fits with Ginsberg’s virginity and seemingly tangled feelings about sex.

What is bespectacled art director Ed’s ‘Peeled a bag of grapefruits. Thought they were potatoes’ line about? Sounds like a reference to something, but can’t find it. However, be it noted, this is the third episode in a row to mention potatoes.

Betty says Loretta can handle the homework, she’ll look after the silverware. More hands-off mothering from Betty. And role reversal.

If Stephanie’s really Madonna, surely her song here is Papa Don’t Preach.

Bob Dylan says in Chronicles, his autobiography, that he put down Freud forever on being told that it was used by ad men to control people.

Betty confining Sally to her room until morning echoes Lou’s treatment of the creative team, keeping them late at the office as punishment.

Megan: ‘This is why I never invite musicians,’ and, ‘Musicians are the worst.’ She’s possibly got some history here.

An old-fashioned, countryish looking couple passes Stephanie in Oakland as she’s talking on the payphone to Don. The shot is otherwise almost identical to the one of her calling from LA.

2001

As noted elsewhere on the web: Ginsberg spying on Jim and Cutler soundlessly moving their lips in the computer room is a straight homage to HAL reading the astronauts’ lips. Ginsberg’s red cup here probably also refers to HAL’s red ‘eye’. Perhaps his nipple, later, does too. Certainly his breakdown refers to HAL’s, which is ironic: in his fear of the computer, he’s also identified with it.

In the same vein, his assertion that the computer makes men ‘homos’ could simply mean ‘homo sapiens’ – a reference, in which case, to 2001’s evolutionary theme and also, perhaps, to the computer model of mind. The computer does not dehumanise, it makes us human. Woah.

The woman in the computer room, generally, is very redolent of the movie.

Scout, Lou’s military monkey character, might also have to do with the apes in the movie.

Military references

Commander cigarettes.

Scout.

We can’t identify the TV show Betty’s watching when Henry storms in, but it has a military theme. EDIT: Moose, BTL, tells us it’s probably Gomer Pyle USMC and this looks right. (see Culture)

Lou and Betty’s contempt for anti-war youth relates interestingly to Don’s war record.

Foreshadowing?

Ginsberg predicts that the machine is going to pick them off one by one – and, by the episode’s end, he himself is gone. Will other departures follow?

Don broke rules at the Commander meeting: no pitching and no going off-script. Will Jim and Lou try to use this against him?

Ginsberg’s always had parallels with Don: both copywriters with famous poet’s names (‘Whitman’ in Don’s case) and mother’s they never knew. Does Ginsberg’s fate presage Don’s?

If the 2001 references are going to continue beyond last episode, can we look forward to a character becoming lost in space and one with the universe?

Does Megan’s seeming broodiness here promise a pregnancy to come?

Stan imagines Lou’s creation Scout turning his gun on him. Foreshadowing for a future episode? Or is this just about how Lou’s pitch to Commander cigarettes eventually backfires on him? Stan’s Scout parody is accompanied by repeated references to cartoonists called Mort (death). (see Culture)

Further to that, in addition to the dancer we think might refer to Jim Morrison or Charles Manson, shots of Megan’s party open with a very quick sighting of a clear John Lennon double. We wonder if this might also be about people being shot. As well as Stan’s drawing, there’s Ellery pretending to shoot Caroline last episode.

Callbacks…so many callbacks

The computer hum, which sparks Ginsberg’s breakdown, refers to Freddy’s (Don’s) Accutron pitch from the season opener: ‘Now we just hear the electronic hum: ohmmm.’

Have all the recent references to smoking and fire been leading us here, to another cigarette account – and not a disastrous fire?

The Commander pitch also calls back to the pilot, in which Don was struggling to find a new angle for Lucky Strike.

Lou seems to have a knack for appearing just as people are being snide about him, but last week Peggy dodged the bullet and even got a promotion. This week, there’s no reprieve.

After the ‘time for a conversation’ season opener, it seems to be obligatory to get at least one instance of the word ‘conversation’ into every episode. This time it’s Peggy in the elevator to Don at the start.

When, in 4.3, Stephanie told Don that Anna had cancer and Don started getting jumpy, she said, ‘Please don’t make me sorry I told you.’ Harry uses the same line this episode when he tells Don about the Commander pitch.

Megan’s got another red-haired friend, visually very similar to her previous one in NYC. What can this mean, if anything? Homesickness, perhaps (see Culture entry on Greenblatt’s).

Megan twice offers Stephanie her absolute staple meal: spaghetti. She’d probably enjoy the restaruant John Mathis was hymning last week, where you get a side of spaghetti even if you order spaghetti.

Lou telling Don off for attempting to make his departure a fait accompli by means of coat and hat refers back to Peggy trying the same trick on Don in The Suitcase, 4.7. Both bosses say, ‘Have you got someplace to be?’

Megan’s wearing Anna’s ring. In Tomorrowland, 4.13, Stephanie gives Don the engagement ring (given to Anna by real Don) as she’s clearing out the recently deceased Anna’s house. ‘She wanted you to have it. Shouldn’t play around with that. Besides, I don’t believe in it.’ Later in the same episode, back in NYC, Don suddenly proposes to Megan and gives her the ring.

Megan’s dancing reminds us of how she sang and danced at Don’s surprise birthday party and Lane’s said he watched Don’s soul leave his body.

Stephanie on Anna: ‘She’s around. Believe me, you’ve met her.’ Recollects the ghost of Anna in the suitcase and Anna’s own mysticism.

Don’s bewilderment during the threesome seduction seemed to us to recall his traumatic virginity loss as a boy in the whorehouse. It also refers back to his rejection of the wife-swapping proposition from Megan’s bosses on the soap.

The cut from foreplay to Megan’s translucent silk curtain in the morning was also used in 7.1 when Don and Megan had sex.

Culture…so much culture

End song is Waylon Jennings’ Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line from 1968, a particularly pointed example, with its repeated ‘ever since you were a little bitty teeny girl,’ of the Freudian use of Daddy to mean boyfriend/husband. It’s also about a fightback.

‘Freshness is a snap with Handi-Wrap.’ Old ad there. Some interesting history here. It seems this is practically another military reference.

The woman working the desk in the computer room sits directly under a sign reading ‘Think’. It’s the IBM strapline.

Stephanie on the phone to Don is standing near LA’s landmark Capitol Records Building.

First confirmation that Megan’s address is trendy Laurel Canyon, then home of Frank Zappa, Jim Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, among other musical luminaries.

Megan’s friend, Amy from Delaware, on the phone to Don, pretends to be a speaking clock, or at least a guide to one. The number she quotes, Meridian 7-12-12, is accurate. Presumably it’s not still in use, but perhaps US readers can tell us.

Lou Avery always sounded like a cartoonist’s name – obviously because of Tex Avery.

Stan: ‘Turns out Lou thinks he’s Mort Drucker.’ A longstanding, and much admired caricaturist at Mad Magazine. John Mathis: ‘Or Mort Walker.’ Yes, probably more like Mort Walker, creator of Beetle Bailey, another military-themed cartoon, to which we referred in the 7.2 culture section because Sally referenced it.

Here’s the Wikipedia page on Underdog by Chet Stover, the Saturday morning cartoon from which Lou takes the inspiration – financially driven, of course – for his own cartoon. Here’s Underdog in a clip with his love interest Sweet Polly Purebred, whom Lou also mentions.

The phrase ‘Scout’s Honour’ appeared in the original British Boy Scout’s Oath and Law.

Ads for Commander. They start about halfway through here. Note the boast that they’re made by the Mark 8, ‘a new kind of machine’. Also the jingle, ‘Have a Commander. Welcome Aboard’ and the general nautical theme. There’s a persistent nautical motif on MM, often associated with death, and when Don tricked Roger into hiring him, he claimed it was with the phrase, ‘Welcome aboard.’ Commanders were, as we said above, longer – king-sized – and said to be ‘firmer’.

Betty’s menu is rumaki, crab louie on toast points and little franks in barbecue sauce. Wikipedia tells us of rumaki ‘The earliest known reference to it is on the 1941 menu of the Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Palm Springs.’ So it seems we’ve got Don and Lou in one menu. And maybe Dick. Or Weiner (yes, we know that’s not the right spelling).

Nixon’s election pledge to end the war was not fulfilled and was probably a lie. In the end, he was personally responsible for massively escalating the bombing and taking the war illegally into Cambodia.

Henry calls Betty Emily Post, the famous writer on etiquette. She divorced her husband when his philandering with chorus girls made him a target for blackmail.

Betty’s – almost certainly – watching Gomer Pyle USMC.

Megan receives a call from Greenblatt’s, which is presumably catering her party. Was this the same place Don went with Pete for Brooklyn Avenue sandwiches? EDIT: ubereine tells it was not. ‘Don and Pete met in Canter’s which is a Jewish deli in Fairfax area close to West Hollywood.’ Still, should we take this as a sign that Megan misses New York? Also, while Megan’s serving NYC food on the West Coast, Betty’s serving West Coast food on the East.

The song playing at Megan’s party is You’ve Made Me So Very Happy, a Brenda Holloway composition here covered by Blood, Sweat and Tears. References to closing of doors and to dreams.

A burst of Dixie from the banjo player provokes a hail of snacks and boos, probably because of the song’s associations with racism. It also contains references to yearning for an idealised past and philandering (‘a gay deceiver’).

The lovely live music that follows is Petite Fleur, a Sidney Bechet composition from 1952.

Amy’s ‘Wilmaaa’ is, of course, a reference to the end credits sequence of The Fintstones TV show. Can’t work out why she says it.

The number of the cab Lou and Jim get at the end is 167, which is loaded with mathematical specialness. Of all the fun facts about it, this is the only one we’re really able to understand: ‘167 is the smallest multi-digit prime such that the product of digits is equal to the number of digits times the sum of the digits, i. e., 1×6×7 = 3×(1+6+7)’ Perhaps the number has significance with regard to the computer. EDIT: JackChinaski commenting on this on the Guardian blog points out that the answer to the sum above is 42, Douglas Adams’ answer to the question of life, the universe and everything. Always do the maths.