Mad Men” is a show that likes to play with mirroring. This is evident in costuming choices and situations. Some people don’t notice it right away, but characters on the show are often matched with others far away. Last week, it was Don and Sally – linked together through their plaid robes and their realization, like Sally said, that “I’m so many people.”
This week, Don was paired off with his son, Bobby. The two Draper men went on field trips and disappointed the women in their lives.
“I wish it were yesterday,” Bobby says at the end of the day. It’s one of the simplest, yet purest insights into the mind of a child. It’s one of those sayings that leads to a collective “whoa,” from the audience (at least in my house), and reflects the episode, if not the show perfectly. Don also wishes it were yesterday. He wishes he were back in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. He wants his “carousel” moment back, but that doesn’t look so promising in light of the events of the episode.
After visiting Megan in California, playing the role of a concerned dad on suicide watch for his teenage daughter instead of a loving husband, he decides he needs to make an active change in his life. Before we take you through the drama at SC&P, let’s recap the all-too familiar sex-scene with Megan.
So Don goes and visits her because she’s lost all confidence, inching in on thirty with nothing really to show for herself in her acting career. Her agent reports to Don like he’s her father, telling him to snap her out of it. All I could think of while watching this scene was it being mirrored with Betty’s therapist in Season 1’s “The Wheel.” After sex, which surprisingly we don’t see (probably has something to do with the hollowness and non-novelty of their relationship), Don once again brings up the wrong time to tell the truth, and Megan explodes for a variety of reasons. The after-sex framing of the scene is reminiscent of Season 5’s cleaning scene aftermath. The first being that Don’s visit was seen as more of a duty or a chore than a genuine will to see his wife. When she starts freaking out over why he’s never in the office, yelling “Who’s your new girl, Don?!” he tells her the truth. That he was put on leave and didn’t know the situation with the company yet. In her eyes this means that he willingly woke up every day and decided he didn’t want to do the exact same thing he was doing in Manhattan in Los Angeles. This moment of truth telling would usually lead to a make-up situation, but the damage has been done. Just like his relationship with Betty, Don’s relationship with Megan (whether formal or not, but definitely emotional) is over.
His disappointment leads him to set the gears in motion. He meets with the guys at Wells, Rich, Greene again to discuss getting a new job, but instead takes the offer to Roger, who was frankly opening the door expecting a BLT.
“I miss you,” he tells Don, after telling him that he found him at the bottom of a fur box. Both men created the company that is now being destroyed by their partner-enemies from the Cutler, Gleason and Chaough camp. It’s nice to see Roger finally take an active stance in the series, after an LSD-induced haze of an identity crisis catalyzed by his mother’s death last season.
Don’s second fieldtrip in the episode is one to a seemingly new office as the camera follows his gaze down the hall to see new secretaries and door plates bearing new titles for women in the office like Peggy and Dawn. He sees Lou Avery and wonders where the hell he’ll fit in. Creative takes him up and he makes it seem like he’s going to get his job back. Isn’t there a saying like “If you believe it, it will happen?” In any case, it’s an embarrassing positive affirmation if such a thing could exist, because when Joan and Ken Cosgrove walk in, Joan sizes him up. I wonder why Joan was so against Don this season, after he’s never crossed paths with her and always seemed to be on her side. He played the hero card last season, but Joan’s downfall (and subsequent rise) came from a domino effect pushed on by Don. After Joan slept with the sleaze ball from Jaguar, Don was so fed up with the guy that he insulted him and ended business with him, making Joan’s deed essentially worthless. He scrambled his mess up by merging with CGC, without telling any of the other partners (including her at this point) and picked up Chevy as an attempt to make right with the world. Then he messed up the opportunity for SCDP to go public, something Joan and Pete were working very hard on. Don definitely had it coming when he was fired. He became too confident in his position in the company without thinking about anyone else. His false confidence actually came from an identity crisis and fear of not being relevant with the changing times. (“I wish it were yesterday” x 3) All in all, he really screwed things up for Joan, it just wasn’t that apparent to us until the end of the season, which is what “Mad Men” is known to achieve.
The New York partners meet up in Cooper’s office to talk about Don, treating him like a “situation” and not a partner. Jim’s got a personal vendetta against original SCDP people, particularly the men, and he and Roger face off in the room. Roger claims that Jim flat-out hates Don, and Jim yells back that he hates what Don did to Ted. Boohoo, get on Team Peggy.
Roger kicks some serious ass in this meeting, reminding the newer partners, Joan and Jim, (who have their own sort of self-destructive alliance with the plan of Joan’s promotion) that Don is still a partner. It was never stated that Don was clearly fired and if he were, they would need to buy out his shares. Creative gets dumped on in this meeting and Roger, an accounts man, is the only person to defend it and recognize that Lou has essentially made the creative department invisible. Jim tells him Lou is adequate, but come on, how lame is that. The guy is more concerned about buying a computer, and this is where “Mad Men” subtly hints at the fear and arrogance linked to future business. In the end it all comes down to money, never mind the genius that Don is (or was, let’s not forget the period of time last season where his work was subpar). The company can’t afford to buy out Don’s shares, so they essentially lay out a plan for self-destruction for Don to come back.
- No drinking
- Never be left alone with the clients
- Scripted pitches approved by the partners who are (mostly) against him
- And the worst, Don reports to Lou (because Lou has a 2 year contract)
Don’t say “Mad Men” isn’t exciting, because this puts up some nearly impossible challenges for Don to face. Joan and Jim know this and they’re just waiting for him to mess up, and Don walks out of the office with a job, but in the exact position he didn’t want to be in: with his tail between his legs.