Only time will heal the wounds of a week in television that forces me to part ways with both Bobby Kennedy and Dwight Schrute. Like my week, healing is the question of the hour for Don Draper. The closest thing we’ve seen to happiness with Sylvia is gone. A sadness in his eyes we haven’t seen since Anna’s death takes her place. It’ll be a long time before we forget the look on his face as Sylvia walked away from the Elevator. “The Crash” answers our questions about Don’s coping skills.
(DDW) Donald Draper/Dick Whitman- We know more than Sally, but after five and a half seasons we still don’t really know a damn thing about Dick Whitman. Memory lane is insightful and cringeworthy. We learn more about the twisted mess inside him than we could in a season in the present, but Oedipus himself would find the situation uncomfortable. I grew up in a small town around some obnoxiously religious families, yet somehow none of my friends deflowerings were followed by a spoon lashing. Granted, none of their first times happened in a whorehouse with one of their uncle’s “hens.” (I say that, but in reality what the hell do I, or any of us for that matter, really know? I bet you can’t describe with any confidence how more than a couple people you know have lost their virginity. That scene is the beauty of this show in fifteen seconds. Don Draper is the glaring extreme, but we really don’t know what makes anyone outside a given circle tick. A life of quiet, unknown desperation is not fictitious.)
As mesmerizing as Megan Ferguson’s neckline and her role in fostering the libido of Dick Whitman were, they were not the real takeaway from this Don episode. As reaffirming as the continued symbolic elevator rides toward his inevitable inferno were, they were not the takeaway either. Instead, we should all be left with one resounding impression. His encounter with the I Ching toting daughter of the departed tells us all we need to know. He turned down sex with a woman he finds interesting. When that happens, even the casual observer knows it’s time to pay attention. Instead, he is far more interested in her ability to seemingly see inside him.
“I want to hear your heart… I think it’s broken.”
“You can hear that?”
Do not be fooled for a moment into thinking that this is really about Sylvia. She is simply the latest manifestation of a lifelong complex. If enough women love him, maybe it will fill the oatmeal ad-sized hole in his psyche. No number of robed, head-scarved women who challenge him will provide redemption. He heart, his soul is beyond redemption and he doesn’t need a stethoscope to remind him. His elevator is headed for the bottom floor. Analysis: If you’re buying for next week, go for it. Don’t be the guy who has your children’s future staked on Don Draper.
(POD) Peggy Olsen Draper- Last week we talked about 50 Shades of Draper and tonight we saw another. So many analysts of this show will try to paint Peggy as white and Don as black. They need there to be a hero of this show so devoid of a truly admirable character. Sorry, folks, Peggy isn’t your white knight. She isn’t the bleak darkness. She resides in the grey, messy middle ground where real human beings live. She may kiss men but then regain her composure, but let’s hold on the ticker tape praising her restraint. There’s a reason she put on makeup and nearly skipped to Ted’s office before finding Don waiting. Best case scenario she wanted to kiss him again. Go home and tell your spouse that you’ve kissed two co-workers in the past ten days. I bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets they won’t commend you for being less of a sleaze than your boss.
The shining moment of the night comes after the low point of the kiss. Her advice to Stan is the cleanest break from the Olsen, Draper pairing. Remember back to Don’s “You’ll be amazed…” pep talk following the act that everyone seems to forget when nominating Peggy for sainthood? She shows her humanity and compassion by telling a reeling Stan the exact opposite. She knows that nothing can mask the pain. Time and real grief of capable of far more healing than booze and sex could ever imagine. She’s a killer, but she’s a killer with her soul intact. Analysis: It’s Black Friday for Peggy Stock. The Mad (Wo)Men elevators are passing. Only one is going up.
(FBF) Fat Betty Francis- I hate me some Betty, but I love me some January Jones. She doesn’t do it for me the way that she does it for Bobby Flay, but still. Betty is back at fighting weight and she didn’t hear no bell. The fat suit is in a wearhouse, the mother-in-law wig is trying to grow back onto the woodland creature from whence it came and the ice cream in her mouth has been replaced by her usual vitreal. I’ll miss the waddle and the self awareness that made her slightly less insufferable, but the hour seems more in balance with her usual strut and baseless arrogance.
Back too are the barbs and the ass-backward motivations. They’ve never dug into Don like she would have liked, and maybe they are equally ineffective on Megan and Sally, but they at least show some reaction in contrast to Don’s ability to let them pass straight through. When Sally insisted that she had earned the skirt that Megan had bought her, Betty’s response was pitch perfect. “On what street corner” is the groundwork for her later typical hypocrisy. Sally is either a child or she isn’t. Children shouldn’t be responsible for their siblings, but they also shouldn’t be attributed to prostitution. The finishing touch was what seemed to be her main annoyance with the entire situation. Prior to Don’s collapse, she asks if he is aware that Henry is running for office. That’s the ball game folks. Never again will I entertain the notion that Betty is some admirable character or half-decent mother. Her children were alone in an apartment with a burglar who threatened them, and the largest pillar of her attack on the precariousness of the situation was that the incident could somehow hurt the campaign. Cold hearted motherf’r. Analysis: We’ve never measured by parenting skills, though. If so, Mad Men stock would result in Hoovervilles from the Midway to Madison Avenue. The only way we judge is by the ability to improve one’s standing in the life of the show. Betty is poised for a meteoric rise and since she has no soul to sell, it should come cheap. Buy
(SMD) Sad Megan Draper- Life is easier when the woman you’re trying to measure up against is an insufferable wench whose presence keeps folding chairs up at night. It’s a lot harder when she looks like this. Megan’s real competition is an oatmeal bowl away, but a leggy blonde on your couch critiquing your parenting skills and making cracks about the casting couch makes for a pretty formidable tag team. You know what would make Megan feel better (and by Megan I mean Roger and me)? Marie. Please bring back Marie. Analysis: Sell.
(DIE) Drug Induced Episodes- Give me a different drug every week. Please., for the love of God. Twice now, Weiner has proven his ability to be plenty dark and daunting while under the influence of very real sixties power houses. If the entire series was just a different Roger acid trip each week, I would watch gleefully. Crash wasn’t as potent as acid, but damn it was close. If you read the first hand accounts of agency life in the last sixties you’ll find that races and apple and ass shooting are not fictitious filler. Variations on these activities were common place. LSD and vitamin rich injections are far more valuable to the viewer than the hilarity of the reactions, though. The true power is found in the honesty and insight that comes from the army of guards that are let down around SCDPCGC. Analysis: The chances we get another drug induced episode in 1969…I’m not sure. But I’m buying every share I can in hopes that we do. The hard stuff is out there waiting.
(MMG) Mad Men GIFs- Analysis: They just keep getting better. Pete falling down the stairs was satisfying, but Ken Cosgrove dancing will occupy the remainder of your day. It should come with an emergency shutdown valve. Buy them all.
In the end, we may have gained some more insight into the makeup of these relative strangers we’ve been watching for seven years, but that’s not the point. The point is there was no point. The drugs and the sex and the rambling resulted in nothing. Bobby was left wondering, “Are we negroes?” and we were left wondering what the hell happened to Don Draper. When in the course of human events, Don? At least the hassle of putting up with him used to be worth some great copy. Now what?