Mad Men 07:03

 

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Well. That didn’t take long, did it?

As everyone could have predicted, Don Draper is back at the company that he founded, but said company may have moved on without him. In that great shot when Don walks into SC&P he is dazed and confused (Who is this person in my office? Why is Dawn in Joan’s old office? Why are Peggy and Joan being so mean?).

But that’s the thing with kids; more often than not, they’re ungrateful.

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The way to understand this episode is to start not with Don’s attempts to return to the good graces of his former cohorts is to look at the story centered around Betty Francis. Thanks to an eye opening lunch with her good friend Francine, Betty is starting to feel that all she is is a mother and has nothing to do. That’s what motivates her to serve as a chaperone to Bobby’s class’s field trip to a farm in upstate New York. At first it’s a lovely day, everyone is having fun and a good time is being had by all, until Bobby mistakenly trades his mother’s sandwich away for gum drops. Which causes the return of the infamous Betty Draper fury at her son. The problem is, he is dazzled and loves her, but she is incapable of loving him and the second that something goes wrong in her world, her childish nature reasserts herself.

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Childish is also a word that that could be applied to the second Mrs. Draper. Megan’s behavior (from her stalking a casting director to her basically ending the marriage thanks to Don’s emergency trip to her and his lying about work) is driving her to childish extremes. The sad fact is that Megan is short-sighted in not being able to see that maybe Don was trying to hide his problems from her so she can keep focused on her work.

Actually, another theme of this episode could be “women yelling at Don Draper.” Witness Peggy’s rather bitchy remarks to him about how everything is better without him. On the one hand it is better without him, the agency does run smoothly, but on the other hand the work is boring at best. And if Peggy can blame Don for all of her problems (and she can), then she has to also blame Ted Chaough (who really was no better than Don in his treatment of her – at least Don was honest in his dismissals) and Lou Avery (the reason she wasn’t nominated for a Clio was that Lou didn’t submit any work that he couldn’t take credit for). The same could be same for Joan. While not as openly hostile in her interactions with Don, she was more than guarded with his return than everyone else. After all Don has ruined her plans before (you will recall that she was the spearhead of taking SCDP public till Don shat all over that with the merger with CGC). For once I would love to just take Joan by the shoulders and say “I’m the one that actually tried to stop you sleeping with the Jaguar guy, remember.” And in the case of Peggy I would love for him to say the following truth: “If it wasn’t for me encouraging you, you would still be some nobody secretary having a mental breakdown because she got knocked up by Pete Campbell. Remember that when you’re mooning over Ted Chaough, sweetheart!” In short, I’m ready for Don Draper to kick some ass again.

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And apparently so are other people. As much as Jim Cutler can protest, the firm has missed him (note how Stan and Ginzberg fell back in line when he came in the room), Roger has missed his buddy, and Roger and Bert both realize that if they were to fire him it would be costly as (a) they would have to buy back his shares in the company, and (b) Don’s non-compete clause becomes null and void, which is dangerous as for all of his faults, he’s a brilliant ad man. But above all else, Don’s a fixer. He wants to fix things to maintain the status quo for himself. Why else would he agree to that stingingly punitive deal (no drinking, report to Lou, stick to the script, etc.)? With a stroke of the pen, Don is back at his company. But for how long?

Random Notes:

* Go Roger! Watching him stand up for Don to Jim Cutler was amazing! In fact it was interesting to watch Roger put Jim back in his place. More of this, please and thank you.

* From a fashion stand point, it was interesting to see that Jim and Roger were negative images of each other. Their suits and ties were the complete opposites of one another.

* Francine!!! Everyone’s favorite frenemy of Betty Draper (as she called her) is always a welcome presence (thanks to Anne Dudek’s gleefully bitchy portrayal and onscreen chemistry with January Jones) and the Betty / Francine scenes have always been some of my favorite of the entire show. So imagine my shock at Francine having a part time job as a travel agent and in a pantsuit (!!!!), which would have been cutting edge for women at the time. All of which was a set up for her calling Betty old fashioned. Ouch.

* Poor Ken still has that damn eyepatch. And how sad was it that there was the callback to Don’s triumph with the photo of Ken’s son on the carousel reminding Ken of Don’s epic pitch to Kodak.

* Can we please get rid of Lou Avery? Like, now?!?

* Was anyone else besides me disturbed to see that the partners meetings this season have none of the creative partners involved (Don and Ted)? It’s all been accounts people (Jim, Roger, Joan) or business people (Bert and Joan). This is not good.

* I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Do Not Trust Jim Cutler! He’s got an agenda and I think it’s getting rid of everybody. And unlike other troublemakers in the past in the agency, he’s got the skills to actually be a threat to our friends (and thanks to Harry Hamlin’s sly performance, we end up cheering him on too).

* I just had a horrifying thought. Throughout all of last season into now, there have been many comparisons between Megan Draper and actress Sharon Tate; from similar styling, to similar marriages to men who helped advance their careers, to the point where Megan’s star t-shirt last season was a direct callback to that infamous photo of Tate wearing the same shirt. Everyone has been thinking that Megan will end up with some gruesome fate such as being murdered. Given this episode and her current erratic behavior, I would like to propose another theory: Instead of being killed by the Manson Family, Megan joins them. In a way it makes a twisted kind of sense that Megan would go over the cliff and kill her reflection (and we all know how much show runner Matthew Weiner loves his dualism).

Photo Credits: AMC

Originally Published on 28 April 2014 in “The Idiot Box,” my television column for l’étoile.

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