Before we begin, I would like to mention one thing. I totally called it last week when I mentioned that someone would be joining a cult. That said, I was totally wrong as to whom that person would be (but if we look back at my recap of the season premiere, I guessed that this person was ripe for a commune experience). But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Let’s talk about the return of Don, and how it almost cost him his career at SC&P.
It was sad to watch the return of the great Don Draper to SC&P upstaged by the arrival of the IBM computer, which goes right into the creative department’s lounge. On the one hand this computer (like the arrival of the Xerox back in Season 2) would eventually change everything about business, but it’s also a bitch move by Jim Cutler and Harry Crane to rattle the creative department yet again.
And speaking of rattling the creative department’s cages, Lou Avery is trying to kill two birds with one stone by giving Peggy a raise and having her lead the charge on the Hamburger Chef pitch but forces Don on her as an underling. On the one hand, Don sees what’s going on but Peggy doesn’t; she’s too busy trying to get her pound of flesh out of him, asking for 25 tags as soon as possible. Then, after chatting with the guy from IBM and coming up with the idea of going after technology companies, he gets a yelling from Bert Cooper. Let us all add Bert Cooper to the list of “People We Want Don To Bitchslap” for the way he shat all over Don. Even reminding him that he’s in a dead man’s office. That was a kick to the balls. (Side Note: I say Don should bitchslap Bert rather than kicking him in the testes because as we all remember from Season 4 Bert Cooper had his removed. But still the sentiment remains – Knock it off, you ball-less bitch!) That said, I have to agree with the complaint that Bert’s reactions were a little off character for him. Ever the devout Randian, he should have recognized an opportunity when he heard it for more business.
Regardless, this sends Don into a tizzy and actually it’s kind of depressing watching him go into a fit over how poorly he’s being treated. He snags a bottle of vodka from Roger’s office then makes a call and who should come in but Freddie Rumsfeld who sneaks Don away to a “Mets Game” (in reality, Don’s apartment) for a sobering lecture. Who would have predicted that the one lone voice of sanity on this show would be Mr. Freddy pissy-pants Rumsfeld, who basically tells Don what he needs to hear; sack up, knock it off, and get back to work.
Unfortunately, Don’s biggest advocate for his return was too busy having his own little adventures. As I predicted, Margaret Sterling ran away from her bourgeoisie life to go live on a commune in Upstate New York. After an aborted attempt by her husband to get her, Roger and his ex-wife Mona make the trek upstate to meet “Marigold” as she now calls herself. Mona, not surprisingly, can’t relate to her daughter’s changes, but Roger can and spends the night with the commune; smoking weed, shelling peas, peeling potatoes, and watching his daughter slut around. When he tries to talk her back to civilization (read: her old life) she dregs up a lifetime’s worth of resentment and fires it back. While you could say that Roger is being hypocritical about his daughter’s dalliances with the counter-culture and wanting to abandon her child, John Slatterly makes it clear that he’s trying to come from a place of genuine concern knowing the mistakes he’s made.
Some Random Notes:
* Whenever I see that Mona Sterling is back on the screen, I clap my hands in glee; thanks to Talia Balsam’s fantastic work on camera (which is aided by the fact that she is the real-life wife of John Slatterly). Plus she handles some of the funniest lines in the episode. That scene in the car was fantastic.
* Oh lord! Meredith is Don’s new secretary?!! No, No, No.
* While I admit Don playing solitaire was a bitch move on his part, I was surprised that he, of all people, was reading Portnoy’s Complaint.
* It took me a while to realize that the slime ball Lou Avery is played by none other than stand-up comedian Allan Havey (and one of the people on the short list for replacing David Letterman back in 1993 on Late Night). And even he doesn’t like his character.
* As saddened as I am by the impending divorce to Trudy, I have come around to Pete’s new girlfriend Bonnie Whitehead. She’s just as smart and ambitious and driven as he is. And I will admit that I clapped my hands in glee learning that Pete’s detestable ex-father-in-law (who was the one who drove the wedge between Pete and Trudy) had a heart attack.
* Check out all of that psychedelic art in Roger’s office. A far cry from five years ago when his office was a mid-century furniture bonanza, and another signal of how psychedelic art was trickling up into the mainstream (and I couldn’t make it out but I think that was a Peter Max piece).
* One of the nice callbacks, and a sign that maybe things are going to look up for Don after all, is Lane Price’s old Mets pennant. On the one hand it’s a callback to the implicitness Don had about Lane’s suicide, but on the other this is 1969 and this is the year of The Miracle Mets after all.
* Of course the title for the episode is a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey which had come out the year before. And of course is a nice callback to the computer and the talking about men going on the moon (which would happen in a few months time from now in the world of the story). And on a side note, the IBM 360 (the very computer they are using) was part of the computer architecture for NASA.
Photo Credit: AMC