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Mad Men Season 6 Episode 5 Recap

MadMen Maniacs

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Our baby, Campbell Grace finally came this past Wednesday, so I may have watched this week's episode in a partial vegetative state. I guess this was the episode for it, though because plot wise, not much happened.

-I can't remember an episode of Mad Men where a single story took up so much of the episode. I guess what they were doing was using the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr as a foil or pivot for a few different characters. I didn't feel it was super successful, did you? Without knowing what they were going for, I guess I can't judge that too much. I hate to say it, but I think Don's secretary, Dawn, had a bigger role last week to set her up for this week and possible future episodes.
-I guess I was surprised at the response to the assassination, how shaken everyone was. We're only a few seasons away from Roger doing a blackface routine at a party, and now it seems al the characters have completely evolved on the race relations front. (Except for Harry Crane who was more distressed at lost advertising revenue.)

-In the first two episodes of Season 5, Pete had two instances of looking uncomfortable around racism. Tonight his outburst seemed to have more to do with his own situation, but it would be pretty tight if the writers were knowingly making Pete the most comfortable around various races on the show, but only dropping evidence of this once or twice a season. Pete is spiraling, trying to make smalltalk with the Chinese food delivery driver and trying to set the groundwork to convince Trudy to let him come home. While there's no doubt his argument with Harry Crane was partially about MLK, his last line about MLK's family drives home the point that this was about his own family. "It's a shameful, shameful day."

-It's curious the characters for whom they choose to focus on and provide backstory. For instance, this week we found out Michael Ginsberg is a virgin and is a wreck around women, but we'll never find out anything more about Stan. I don't know what the Ginsberg story had to do with this episode or this season. Any ideas? Maybe to show the Men of Mad Men, aren't all handsome and suave, there is some vulnerability there.

-Peggy has a tax problem and she's going to solve it with some interest payments on a new condo. There were some funny moments with the real estate agent when she assumed Abe was the money behind this purchase. The Second Avenue Subway mentioned as the boon to the condo's price still isn't completed yet, so maybe it's a good thing Peggy didn't get that apartment. The biggest part of this plot line was Abe guilelessly discussing Abe and Peggy's future children. It was a really sweet moment seeine how Peggy responded to that. "I'm going to Harlem in a tuxedo."

-Ethan from Lost is now a trippy insurance salesman named Randal Walsh trying to push the advertising envelope. I've got no idea either, except Roger's still experimenting. "This is an opportunity. The Heavens are telling us to change." I saw Don consider this for an extra beat.

-This episode was titled The Flood, but the only direct reference to a flood was Ginsberg's father, "In the Flood, the animals went two by two. You, you're going to get on the ark with your father." Did you catch anything else?

-I noticed this week a commercial with a voiceover by Jon Hamm. Is that new? Also, Christina Hendricks has been pitching scotch all season.

-Awkward meeting between Megan and Don and Arnold and his wife. And then Don calls DC to check on them? Come on, Don, settle down.

-The hug between Peggy and her secretary and Joan and Dawn contrasted nicely. There's real warmth between Peggy and her secretary, while Joan and Dawn are still trying to figure each other out, though. Don did seem genuinely concerned for Dawn, though. Peggy's secretary: "I knew it was going to happen. He knew it was going to happen. But it's not going to stop anything." That could be about Don.

-I can't really remember much of this from the earlier seasons, but I feel like newspapers/radio/TV are being used for expository and dating information more consistently this year. It was used a significant amount tonight.

-I'm not going to by into a Bobby story line until they promise not to change the actor again. We've had the same creepy Glenn forever, why can't we stick with the same Bobby? In any case, Bobby can't allow for the wallpaper to be uneven and gets punished for his obsessiveness. I think this was supposed to show his steely steadfastness to details, he is his father's son, but they've never really illustrated that specifically for Don, so what do I know. I did love Bobby in the movie theater, though, first when his mind was absolutely blown by Planet of the Apes, "Jesus!" and then when talking to the movie theater employee, "Everybody likes to go to the moves when they're sad." It showed a compassion and empathy never exhibited in Betty (except for with Glenn and the violin girl) and hardly exhibited in Don. That was a sweet moment, too.

-Setting up Don's speech on fatherhood, which is especially poignant to me as a brand new father. "I don't think I ever wanted to be the man who loves children." "And you act proud and excited, hand out cigars, but you don't feel anything." Don's never really loved his kids (which is going to make it harder for Megan down the road), or more accurately, has never really lived for his kids. And one of the first times he does feel true parental love for Bobby is after Bobby's kindness to the man in the movie theater, "You feel the feeling you were pretending to have and it feels like your heart is going to explode." But then this is all turned on its head because Bobby's biggest fear is his step-dad will be shot. Don acidly clarified Henry isn't important enough to be shot, but is clearly stung. That juxtaposition was one of the best of the season.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 4 Recap

Mad Men art

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Guess the baby never wants to come out, because it's still not here.

-We're in March, 1968 with the announcement of Robert Kennedy's campaign, the announcement of Johnson's non-campaign (cute moment between Roger and Bert), and an NYU student protest against Dow Chemical recruiters. This pace ties with last year with about a month in between each episode.
-We got some Harry Crane and Joan stories in the episode, and neither of them are very happy. Harry continues to feel slighted and jealous of Joan, and Joan, despite her status, still isn't very respected or well-liked.
-The episode's title, 'To Have and To Hold,' caused me to look closely at different ways marriage was represented in the episode. ('To Have and To Hold' was also the best selling book of 1900, but I defy anyone to read the Wikipedia summary and connect it to this episode.) We saw it in the first scene with Heinz Ketchup Timmy, Dawn's friend getting married, Megan's love scene, Megan's co-workers inviting Don and her to swing, Joan's friend cheating on her husband. It's an overall terrible depiction of marriage in the late 60s.
-Right away, there's double infidelity. Don, Pete, and Timmy from Heinz Ketchup are meeting in Pete's apartment behind Raymond's (Sauces, Vinegars, and Beans) back. Timmy used the meeting as an excuse to stay in the city and see a woman, not his wife. He makes this clear by creepily taking his ring off on his way out. "I don't need much of an excuse to come to Manhattan." (Also, adults with y sounds at the end of their name are OK as long as it's not Timmy.) This is also Don being unfaithful to his client, Raymond, and I'm not totally sure how Pete convinced him to change his mind. And then Pete and Don share a special moment with Pete offering up his bachelor pad for Don's use. It's like he got a quarter through saying it and realized it was a bad idea, but he couldn't stop. "Well, it's available to you if you ever need to spend the night in the city."
-Don's secretary, Dawn, went to meet with friend/sister? who is getting married. Dawn's the maid of honor, but can't find a date. (Always the bridesmaid, never…) Mad Men's continued avoidance of race issues in the 60s has been a thorn to many critics. It'll be interesting to track Dawn this season to see if she's the only view into this side of the 60s. She also described the life of a non-principal at SCDP, "Women crying in the lady's room. Men crying in the elevator." We never really do see how the worker bees live, but tonight at least, Dawn got some good lines. "It sounds like NYE when they empty the garbage." "I don't care if everyone hates me here as long as you don't."
-Joan has a friend visiting from out of town which gives us a chance to check in on her. Both her friend and mother make much of her title at the firm, but when Joan tries to fire Harry Crane's secretary, we get an illustration of how much power she really has. SCDP is willing to let her do her thing and manage things as she sees fit, and they were happy to get Jaguar as a client, but they also need to be mindful of what Harry brings to the business. I don't know if they'll ever make him a partner, but mostly because Sterling just likes playing with him. I thought the shot of her in the cab while her friend and the manager were making out, replicated almost exactly in the club - Joan set apart, sitting up straight - but then willing to be seduced, oh gosh end this run on sentence. Anyway, that shot made me think of Joan at SCDP. Alone and unhappy, but up for it. Joan's friend came in from out of town to see what it was like to choose career over family and… "I'm really not you, am I?"
-This episode did focus more on the women characters, Joan, Megan, Dawn. We even got to see Peggy pitch.
-Megan was bound to do a love scene at some point if she continued to get bigger roles, and did you really think Don was going to like it? He starts off gruffly accepting, "If I wasn't your husband, I would be happy for you." And then Megan pushes it a little further, "Honey, I can tolerate this, but I can't encourage it." Don came to watch the scene, and it wasn't just a love scene, it was a character betraying his entire family, and I couldn't quite put my finger on why, but the guy was a cartoonish version of Don. So… Don, a guy playing someone else, was watching his wife playing someone else while she made out with a guy playing him. That's a lot to take in.
-Besides the obvious and comedic, two things stood out for me in the swinger dinner with Megan's writer and castmate. Don's been an actor his entire life and he's now married to an actor and here is at dinner with some. "I could cast you." "I'm sure he's a man that plays many roles." The second quotation is just one of what is basically a weekly reminder of how Don is not who he says he is. The second part that stood out was Don saying he was agains the war. I'm not sure if it was just the company he was in or he actually believes that, but I'm not sure how prevalent that opinion was among the NYC businessmen of the late 60s. Not sure how many of them smoke dope in a room with tinfoil on the windows, either, though.
-Harry Crane's office is ridiculous, but at lease he has the window he coveted for so long. For what it's worth, his $22K salary in 1968 has the 2013 spending power of $149,003.60. Thus making his bonus worth another $150K or so. Not bad, Harry. Harry continues to have a giant chip on his shoulder, and I'm of two minds. Either it's unwarranted because he's not good at his job, or we just don't see how successful he really is because of how the character is written. I'm going to go with unwarranted based on how SCDP treats him. They give him enough to keep him wanting more. "I was different than you, Mr. Crane, in every way." "Should we fire him before he cashes that check."
-The pitches to Heinz. It's clear Don's ideas only work on certain clients and others either need more coaxing, or something else to convince them. For their pitch to work, Timmy from Heinz would have had to be more confident in his brand. Interestingly, Peggy's pitch gave him everything he said was missing from SCDP's - the bottle, etc - and neither of them got the account. So it seems Timmy just wanted to be wooed. [Update: J. Walter Thompson ended up with the account, which wasn't quite clear]. Peggy intro'd her pitch, "If you don't like what they're saying, change the conversation" the same way Don discussed his idea with the Madison Square Garden team in Season 3 Episode 2. "If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation."
-There was a neat parallel in Don's pitch, using a customer's imagination to sell ketchup, and when he went to the set to watch Megan's scene to avoid having his imagination run wild. "If you can get into that space, your ad can run all day." Megan did get into that space and it wasn't sitting well with Don. "You kiss people for money, you know who else does that?" Another prostitution reference that was maybe supposed to go in last week's episode.
-Mrs. Rosen is praying Don finds peace and I'm too tired to think about it.

What did I miss?

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 3 recap

MadMen DoingSomethingYouLove

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. We've got no baby yet, so I'm still doing the recaps. We'll see about next week.

I didn't immediately know what to write about tonight, but I'm starting to center around 3 major themes from tonight: prostitution, advertising, and war. First let's get some plot details out of the way.

-Megan had a miscarriage. She didn't want to tell Don because she didn't necessarily want to scare him away by bringing up the conversation about whether to have kids or not. Ever helpful Don does not answer one way or another. "You have to know I want what you want. Is that what you want?"
-Peggy is still having a hard time managing people, this time getting management advice from her secretary. I wonder if this will continue all season. And getting pranked/hazed by her employees. I was surprised, naively perhaps, that her employees would prank a superior in this manner. (Also, did that firm get Clearasil last year when SCDP got Dow Chemical?)
-Don and Mrs. Rosen continue their dalliance and talk about their feelings. When Don feels her pulling away, he seems even more attracted. To me there were huge similarities in his "You want to feel shame right up to the point I take your dress off" speech and when he forced his hand up Bobbie Barrett's dress (also in a restaurant.) Don goes after these women who have rebellious streaks, but not too rebellious. Don seems to want to be found out, a trait he's exhibited consistently in the series.
-Pete uses his Manhattan bachelor pad to seduce a woman from down the block. Her husband abuses her and Trudy finds out about it. This leads to a conversation where she acknowledges she knew about Pete's philandering. "It's all about what it looks like, isn't it." Pete also seems like he wants to get caught.
-Don and Pete, Don and Pete, Don and Pete. Their stories are so entwined. Pete wants to be Don, wants to live like Don. Don maybe sees that in Pete and despises him for it. "Why can't you just follow the rules?" Dunno, Pete, why can't you?

-War, advertising, and prostitution were big tonight. Advertising compared to prostitution, prostitution on its own, advertising compared to war, war on it's own, advertising on its own. Advertising has often been compared to prostitution, and it was tonight in various ways. Intimations to prostitution have come up previously, and comparisons to advertising, but right now I can't remember where war themes were so abundant, both metaphorically, and literally in the radio accounts and the conversation with Rosen at dinner.
First the references to prostitution:
-It's in Don's nature to be hamfistedly helpful, so him whipping out a wad of bills to give to Mrs. Rosen after they finished probably didn't have too many undertones to it in his mind, but I was surprised how willingly she took it. I think if I was sleeping with my neighbor and she offered me money, I'd at least make a joke about it.
-Don moving in to a brothel with his uncle and stepmother(?). I got the sense that this era's flashback would be present throughout the season…
-'Just a Gigolo' playing at the end of the episode. (David Lee Roth covered this later on.)
-The Jaguar/Joan storyline came back as well.
-Pete saying, "It's all about what it looks like, isn't it." could be describing prostitution or advertising, in the same way as Don's "I wish you handled the clients as well as you handled me." And Pete again, "I really have to get back, can you move it along a little." Her time was up.
-The title of the episode is The Collaborators, the name given to war-time citizens who cooperate with invaders, but what do you call the people you work with? This was just the beginning of the war references.
-It's the end of January, 1968, and the Viet Cong have just launched the Tet Offensive. (District Attorney Garrison was on Carson on 1/31/1968. Here's audio of the interview. The Tet Offensive occurred when a cease fire was signed for the Tet New Year. Trudy signed a cease fire with Pete by letting him get an apartment in the city and then he ambushed her.
-When Ted Chaough gave Peggy the Heinz account to research, pretty much everything he said compared advertising to war. "He's not your friend, he's the enemy." "This is how wars are won." "Blow their mind." Except for one part where I picked up a prostitution reference, "Maybe you need a friend more than you need a job. I didn't know that, I'm in advertising."
-But then this, "Your friend's mistake was underestimating you," which was talking about Don as much as it was talking about Don as much as it was talking about Stan. (If I ever have to micro-analyze a Ted Chaough paragraph, I will be upset.)
-"This is Munich" comparing the Jaguar/SCDP relationship to the appeasement of the Nazis is about a clear war reference as you can get, while Roger Sterling's 'self-immolation' comment was a hair more nuanced. Was Roger just saying Don had burned up, or was he saying Don's protesting the client's idea was similar to the protesting Vietnamese monks. In the third season of Mad Men, Sally saw a news report about a self immolating monk, so it's ground Mad Men has covered before.

The following points don't really tie to the above.
-The firm gets introduced to the Heinz Ketchup account, but is instructed to ignore it. Ken doesn't know why, but Don explains it says they have to, "Dance with the one that brung ya." It's crazy how loyal Don is to the clients (Mohawk Air) while knowing only infidelity in his marriage. He has more control over his professional life and can live it the way he feels like he should live his personal life. For some reason, he's not able to do this.
-I liked the line, "It's the Coca Cola of condiments!"
-The Jaguar plot about always saying yes to Herb was contrasted by the Pete / Trudy conversation which included, "I have never said no to you."
-This recap took a little longer than usual because I spent time trying to track the origins of "blow their mind," "dance with the one that brung ya," and "x is the y of z." Seems like all of those would have been in use in the 60s, but maybe not in heavy rotation.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 1 and Episode 2 recap

Don Draper astronaut by chris piascik

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. This season should be an interesting one for the flash recaps as my wife and I are expecting our first child to be born sometime between now and Episode 3. There will still be illustrated recaps on a weekly basis, but from time to time, they may be written by someone other than me.

-That was a startling fade in. Who did you think it was going to be getting resuscitated? I thought it was clumsy how they eventually came back around to that scene, maybe too quick of a cut from present to flashback. Almost certainly on purpose as they do. Jonesy the door guy had a heart attack or something and after being resuscitated by Arnold Rosen, was back at work when Don and Megan returned home. Rosen asks, "Jesus, what's his real name?" and maybe Don imagines himself dying without anyone knowing who he is.

-Before the premier, there had been plenty of speculation about when this penultimate season would take place. There is every year Part of the speculation is because people want to know how far the show will get into the 70's. Part of the speculation is because Matthew Weiner guards the timeline of the season so jealously. So everyone was right. We're about to be in 1968. (The first heart transplant, joked about on the Tonight Show, was in October 1967.) You get your Summer of Love, the assassinations of MLK and RFK, and coming up at the end of January, the Tet Offensive. At least ONE of those things will be featured this season.

-Just a quick catch up on where everybody is at the moment. Don and Megan are a few more months into their marriage, and Megan is a regular on a show called To Have and To Hold. Betty is a little heavy, though not as heavy as last year, and her and Henry have taken in a ward of some sort. Sally's 14, and has a deeper voice. Bobby is, again, played by a new actor. Roger (sideburns!) seems smitten with a 29 year old, and Peggy is busy putting out fires. We didn't get an update on Pete (except for his sideburns and continued hairline recession) or Joan.

-The problem with titling an episode 'Doorways' is that every single doorway in the episode takes on monumental importance. On the other hand windows, doorways, elevators have always had lots of importance on Mad Men. Here are a couple of the more memorable doorways: Betty tearing her coat on a hook in the doorway of the house at St Marks, Don and Megan coming in after vacation, Jonesy coming out of a doorway, Sally closes the door on Betty.

-Don was reading Dante's Inferno on the beach in Hawaii. Dante, you may recall, passes through the Gate of Hell (a doorway), which has the inscription, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." Heaven and Hell, or fire and ice, were referenced several other times in the show: Hawaii is like Heaven, Jonesy "checking the steam," Betty getting pulled over because it was so icy, Roger's daughter wanting him to invest in refrigerated trucks, "Heaven's a little morbid" during the pitch.

-Don's watch didn't work when they were on the beach because time literally stands still in Hawaii. If you want to be like Don and Megan, you too can stay at the Royal Hawaiian.

-Don met a PFC Dinkins on R&R from Vietnam who was in Hawaii to get married. "You some kind of astronaut?" "One day I'll be the man who can't sleep and talks to strangers." Somehow Don ends up giving the bride away, and they exchanged lighters it's revealed during a scene where Don was peeved at being photographed. The lighter had the inscription, "In life we have to do things that are just not our bag," which has actually never applied to Don. Exchanging the lighters really shook Don, as if the two of them had exchanged lives. The photographer says, "I want you to be yourself," and obviously this is difficult for Don. (Eugene Dinkin was a PFC stationed in France. He went AWOL in Nov 1963 and showed up in Geneva talking about a plot against JFK. Just an aside.) In 2003, Phil Kline researched the poems GIs inscribed into their Zippos and included the 'not our bag' quote above. That phrase wasn't on the internet anywhere else until last night.

-The Francis house is always, always so dark, and all the scenes from this week were no exception. I guess it would be dark if you had to live with Betty. I've been writing this next sentence for 15 minutes and I am moving on. While, Betty graphically details a rape she encourages Henry to commit of a 15 year old girl staying with them her eyes have this crazy look. The look says, "I'm kidding, but not really, Henry, I'm jealous of this violin player, don't don't get any ideas and I don't know how inappropriate talking like this is because I'm a sociopath." But then also, "It makes me feel so much."

-Roger's in therapy this year, which replaces dictating his book as the device to just let him expound on everything and anything. He mentions the doors and paths and windows and gates, but says they're all the same, and they all close behind you. He hardly reacted to his mother's death, but sobbed when he found out about the shoe shiner. Sort of a cliche, but I'm OK with it for the glimpse into the real Roger. "Talk to Joan, she'll know what to do."

-"I smell creativity." Stan and Ginsberg are still there, along with another dude and another woman.

-Glad to see Peggy playing a big part. She's pitching clients (or calming them down in emergencies), and still coming up with good copy. "You're good in a crisis." We already knew that, Ted. One thing I noticed was both Abe (he's been around a while now) and Ted subtly mentioned Peggy's management style. Abe said she shouldn't be so mean, and Ted said she should have let people go home. I can't decide if this was done to show that Peggy's over her head (unlikely), or to show she's sort of clueless about how other people work. She works tirelessly and expects her bosses not to sugarcoat things, so why doesn't everyone? I like how her and Stan still work late together over the phone.

-"This is my funeral." It was as if Roger was throwing a party, not a funeral. I'm don't know why Don got so drunk at the funeral, but he started to lose it it when Roger's aunt emphasized the word "Wit" and "Man" in her eulogy. "Roger Sterling, no matter what you do, everyone loves you." Roger thought it was hilarious his mother left all her money to the Zoo and someone else can leave a comment below about the significance of the jar River Jordan water.

-"So, you'll still love me if I'm a lying cheating whore?" Don's cheating. Again. This time with the (older?) wife of his new friend, Arnold Rosen. (Did you see the look on his secretary's face when Don introduce him as a friend? Like, "Uh, you don't have friends.") Don feels bad about the cheating, but it hasn't stopped him yet. The two men, Draper and Rosen, are fascinated with each other's professions. Rosen said something like, you get paid to think about the stuff people don't want to talk about, and I get paid to not think about it. "Please don't compare what I do with what you do." Rosen made several comments comparing their two professions and Don kept avoiding it. People will do anything to alleviate their anxiety.

-But anyway, Don's cheating again. He does his best work when he's brimming with self-loathing, so that's good for Sheraton, I guess. I can't imagine we're back to self-destructive Don, since we've already seen that, or maybe I just hope we're not back there. I guess more on this next week.

-The part where Don asked Stan if the ad made him think of suicide and Stan saying that's why he liked it.

-A brief mention of Bob Benson, a new ass kissing character to keep an eye on.

-There were a lot of different references to photographs/pictures this week: The slide show of Hawaii (itself a reference the carousel of the first season), Rosen came to get a camera, the firm's partners being photographed, Betty showing a picture of the missing girl.

-It did snow in NYC on 12/31/1967.

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 13 Recap

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Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates his favorite quotation from the episode, and I write up a recap.

Thinking about the finale earlier this week, I figured one possibility for tonight's episode would be some sort of resetting. Last week was the Season 5 finale, and tonight was to get us ready for next year. I'd call it denouement, which is appropriate because of all the French in the episode, but this was less final resolution and more new beginnings. 10 years from now, after the end of the series, I wonder if we'll look at this season as the end of the first epoch of the Mad Men series.

-Let's start with the ending. Maybe I was looking for it, but I got a strong sense that the last few shots were hints at which direction the characters are headed. Don's headed for trouble, walking away from Megan as the opening strains of 'You Only Live Twice' a James Bond theme by Nancy Sinatra begins to play. He goes into a bar and orders an Old Fashioned, recalling the first scene in the series, and remember the kind of man Don was in the first season. The firm, bursting at the seams, is headed up, literally to a higher a floor in their building. They must have gotten rid of the extraneous second floor from last season. Roger is experiencing additional spiritual awakening. Pete's getting his wish to move back to the city, partially, and Peggy is watching dogs hump in Richmond. The song choice at the end, is as important as ever, with the show and all the characters ending the second stage of their lives.

-The title of tonight's episode was 'The Phantom.' A whole mess of things fit: the prank calls (Roger, you dog), Don's tooth pain, Don seeing his brother, Pete's suburban sexpot Beth, Trudy's dream of the suburban life, Lane's influence over SCDP even though he's gone, Megan's ambition. I think the true phantom, though, is Don this season. He's not the person we've watched all season, and next year we'll be seeing either old Don or a new Don, but it won't be this Don. I wonder how Megan will take that. I don't know if fidelity in marriage is Don's most important personality trait, but it is the easiest to use to illustrate this point. A couple times this week, I thought about something I wrote about last week's episode.

Don making Lane come clean was a wake up call to Don. His life could change at any time, just like Lane's. He could get caught in his lie. This brought him into Roger's office on fire. "I'm tired of this piddly shit." He's tired of settling. He's tired of not going for it all. The scene at Dow Chemical's office was another example of Don selling. He's the best because he's the best at convincing the client to take the idea, not necessarily because it's the best creative. He had some great lines in that meeting ("But, what is happiness? It's a moment before you need more happiness."), classic Mad Men. To a certain extent, he could have been talking to himself with the whole not settling spiel. He had a lot, a beautiful wife, kids, etc, but before Don didn't settle for having a lot, he wanted it all. I wonder if he'll now cheat on Megan. I think this was my favorite scene of the season. "What happened to your enlightenment?" "I don't know, wore off."


The last scene of the show strongly implies Don isn't going to settle for what he's got anymore.

-Incidentally, one aspect of seasons 1-4 Don that didn't play a big role this season was Dick Whitman. Megan knows something about Dick, probably not all the details, but enough, that it keeps some of the pressure off of Don. I'm curious if Phantom Don, calm Don, faithful Don, keeps Dick issues (I said that) at bay. If my theory proves right and there's a different Don next year, will his past be more of an issue for him? And if so, how will Megan deal with Don's secret. This question becomes especially more dicey after seeing Megan steal the role her friend asked her to help her get. A foreshadowing quote: "All I want is an audition. I'd ask you who to sleep with, but I don't think you'd like it.") Don keeps seeing Dick's brother Adam everywhere (in the elevator, in SCDP, in the dentist's office), which is another hint at Don's sense that the past may be catching up on him. Again, the Dick Whitman pressure is not something he seemed to feel for most of the season. I could probably write 500 more words about all of this right now.

-Don's got a 'hot tooth,' which is basically an infection. If you have one, don't go as long as he did before getting it checked out. The dentist said something about an abscess, a hole, which is fairly symbolic. Don almost had a literal hole filled with bacteria in his body. "It's not your tooth that's rotten." His soul? "Don't go, don't leave me." Is Don feeling alone?

-Megan's having a tough time, with not getting any roles. She paid for a screen-test from one of those scams in the back of a newspaper, and it turned out exactly how you would expect. Megan seemed fairly realistic about the prospects of it working, but she's desperate. I don't think we know if she's awful or not, but she's starting to think she might be, and her mother certainly thinks she is. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself." "Because you are chasing a phantom." (!!!) "Not every girl gets to do what they want, the world could not support that many ballerinas." "Thank God my children aren't my whole life." "This is what happens when you have the artistic temperament but you are not an artist." I was trying to figure out if there was a pattern to when Marie spoke French and when she spoke English, but I didn't get one. Don is embarrassed that Megan is so unhappy, so he blames Marie. She's not even taking that. "She left my house a happy girl."

-The entire 'advertising as art' debate gets a serious rehash in the discussion about whether Don could get Megan the role, or at least an audition. I think Don wouldn't admit it, but he does see what he does as art, but Megan definitely doesn't. She left SCDP because she wanted to pursue her dreams of acting, and Don sees commercial work as a cop out. It's almost as if he doesn't believe what she believes, he just wants her to have more conviction. "You're an artist, aren't you?" Or maybe he just didn't want to be put in that position. Chris's drawing from Season 4 Episode 4 is especially relevant to this conversation. I really liked the line from early in the episode, "It's a great sin to take advantage of hopeless people." It's a fairly succinct and cynical view of what advertising is. I was jittery during Megan and Don's last scene together, Don walking away from Megan's commercial, her in the light, him in the dark. She's taking part in advertising instead of art. Maybe she's less interesting to him now that she's not going after something. She's come around to his point of view that advertising has value, and now she's no better than Betty was when they first met. Maybe her commercial shoot was the final nail in the coffin of this season's Don.

-That scene of the partners looking out the window on their new floor was one of those Mad Menesque shots that happen every couple episodes.

-You should know, Pete, that the conductor punching you in the nose, was for all of us viewers. You'd somehow earned some bit of sympathy in the middle of the season, and then you pooped all over it. The conductor punching you was our revenge. Pete is a deeply unhappy man, grasping at anything, the scarf on a piece of luggage, for instance. He thinks Beth is his path to happiness, and she could care less about him. I got the feeling her amnesia in the hospital was fake, but it doesn't matter. She doesn't want him in her life. He's a fling to her, but he thinks she's the one ("fresh Lifesavers").

-Did you catch Pete using the word permanent twice: "His life with his family was a temporary bandage on a permanent wound." "I don't know Trudy, it's awfully permanent." He doesn't want to be tied down, so he uses his daughter ("Tammy could drown") as a cudgel. In the end, after his second 'car accident,' Trudy relents and lets him get his apartment in the city. Trudy is giving up a little. The swimming pool was a last chance to make Pete happy at home, the apartment might make him happy away.

-Pete and Don have always sort of played off one another. Earlier in the season, I mentioned a couple times how Pete and Don seemed to have switched places. I didn't pick up on it too much the rest of the season, but tonight it was back, flashing bright. Pete mentioned wanting to run away to LA with Beth, something Don did in an earlier season (more than once?). "I'm going to have the same view as you, Don." Replace 'view' in that sentence with 'outlook'. And then Pete literally putting Don in charge of his vote, if only for a moment, "Don, I give you my proxy." ("We can do that?")

-Lane's empty chair cast a shadow (way to be heavy handed) over the latest partners meeting to such an extent, Joan felt like she had to give voice to his conservative position. Despite this, he was only lightly mentioned in this episode, and I think we're moving on. Don has lingering guilt over his part in Lane's suicide and makes sure a check quickly gets cut for $50K (about $345K in today's dollars). It's pretty clear he's trying to assuage his guilt, and Rebecca sees right through him. If Don is being consistent, he'll feel he's done his part, done all he can do, and he'll wash his hands of it. He doesn't like to be shouted at or made to feel badly, and that's all he'll get from trying to do anything else. Another great line from tonight, "You had no right to fill a man like that with ambition."

-There were some inflation calculations done a couple weeks ago to determine Peggy's $19K salary was worth $131K. Using that math, Lane's $175K insurance policy is worth around $1.2 million.

-Someone should make a Supercut of all the Mad Men elevator scenes. Why hasn't this happened yet?

-Last week in an interview, the actor who played Lane, said something about Peggy leaving the show which was interpreted as implying Peggy was leaving permanently. Her appearance tonight doesn't necessarily refute that completely, but her interactions with Ted Chaough and seeing the inside of the agency lead me to believe she'll still have a recurring role. And she was already missed at SCDP in the meeting with Topaz stockings, the client she brought in. Don, happy to run into her at the movie, can't help but continue to say shitty things. "That's what happens when you help someone. They succeed and move on." Peggy brought up Megan a couple times, but I'm not really sure why. Was she fooled or by phantom Don? Or not fooled? The questions could go either way. Peggy's interest in Megan is something I've had a blindspot for all season. Peggy seeing two dogs having sex outside her hotel in Richmond… Probably just a completely random shot to get Mad Men recappers like me to write sentences like this one.

-At first, Roger was the phantom, prank calling the Draper residence over and over, until he could get Marie on the phone. Not sure how he could have expected that to work, but it did. And, boy, did it work. I guess Marie would be a perfect person for him to end up with, but I don't think it's going to happen. Last week he said his enlightenment wore off, so he needed some more LSD to get it going again, resulting in a NYPD Blue-level full butt nude scene. He said something about Lane's suicide and how you'd have to be pretty sure where you going was better than here, and his opinion that maybe here is the best place. It's a pretty atheistic outlook, which is interesting because her husband being an atheist is purportedly why Marie was in New York.

-Don watched Megan's screen-test, and to me, it felt… Nostalgic. He was watching her and remembering what he liked about her (her looks), but since the film was silent, he didn't have to worry about listening to her. Was he saying goodbye to that Megan? Was he remembering what he liked about her?

-I didn't really pick up on it during the episode, but in writing this recap, I seem to remember it being around Easter time, in which case, all of the resurrection and rebirth stuff should be included in everything.

-It's too late, now, to write up thoughts on the whole season, and I don't really know what I would say. Because of how I think about things, and this weekly exercise, I experienced the season on a very episode by episode basis. The theme of violent change that was so apparent in the first half of the season tapered off. It was hit so hard episode after episode at the beginning of the season, it's probably got to be counted as a theme. This was the most different of all the seasons, the most adventurous stylistically. Will future seasons gravitate back to the style of seasons 1-4, or will we be bashed over the head Sunday night after Sunday night for the next few years?

This was the longest of all the recaps this season. Thanks very much for reading!

What did I miss?

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 12 recap



Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates his favorite quotation from the episode, and I write up a recap.

-I don't think there were any date clues, or even many cultural references. I might have missed them if there were, as I was slightly occupied by the Celtics playoff game. Best guess, it's late January to mid-February, and if I was in early season form, I'd probably look at historical weather reports for New York City to find the Friday it snowed. The episode title, 'Commissions and Fees,' didn't seem to reference much, except for the client request that ultimately lead to Lane's demise. There was also the fun moment where Don said he didn't want to go to a fee structure and referenced the decision to approach Joan last week. They shared a look. Sometimes the episodes revolve around the episode title, and sometimes they don't at all.

-What an uncomfortable episode. The slow burn all season hinting at a suicide finally came to a head. Pete Campbell was the early favorite for jumping, Betty, Roger, and even Joan have been candidates, but the last several weeks, it's been Lane alone. It's hard to pinpoint exactly in which scenes, but a suicide has been telegraphed all season. To such an extent, actually, that I almost thought it wouldn't happen. Yipes. I'm still unsettled by the episode.

-Oh, Lane. The episode started off promising for him, getting asked by the 4As (American Association of Advertising Agencies) to take on a fiscal role (with a trip to The Greenbrier). I immediately thought this would be a way for Lane to get himself some financial breathing room. And Rebecca was so excited about the news she bought him a car! In the end, undone by a request from Jaguar, the company he'd originally tried to bring in. They wanted to pay for the work, instead of paying a commission on the media SCDP was buying. I'm not sure of my advertising agency history, but I wonder if this was the beginning of a split in agencies (media planning/buying vs creative agencies managing the brand). In any case, Bert 'took it upon himself' to investigate the impact the switch would have on SCDP and found the check Lane had forged. It's not clear exactly why Bert's investigation would require looking at current statements because it would be more about projections, but whatever, they didn't have Excel.

-After leaving Don's office, Lane went to Joan. He'd lost everything, why not go for it? I think a lot of people have been anticipating someone jumping out a window all season, so the last scene before the commercial break of Lane looking out the big windows seemed like an obvious choice. And then the walk to the car in the parking garage was ominous, sort of like Batman's parents getting murdered ominous. But the car sure was pretty, wasn't she? Since we've heard for weeks that the Jaguars are beautiful, but unreliable, I assumed Lane wouldn't be able to get the car started for his first suicide attempt. The deliberate snapping of his glasses was great, perhaps a last, futile, punch at the world that has been so unfair to him. Where did he get the hose? Where did he get the rope? And then how it actually happened. It's amazing they were able to make the reveal so suspenseful with everyone knowing what had happened. Not showing the body for several minutes after we knew made it even more suspenseful. Well done. Goodbye, Lane.

-When Bert showed Don the check, Bert assumed Don had given Lane a bonus as a nice guy. Lane put up a brave front, trying to convince, or at least trying to imply to, Don he'd signed the check while drunk. Lane went through several stages. Denial, begging for forgiveness, pleading for mercy, anger ("Do you know how the rest of us live?"), and then acceptance. During the conversation, Don was thinking, 'This could be me.' He knew Lane must have been desperate to do what he did ("I'm giving you a chance to come clean."), but he couldn't be allowed to stay after betraying the firm's trust. Lane made a point two times to say it was a thirteen day loan ("That was my money."), but it goes deeper than that. He'd convinced everyone they were in good shape for a bonus, but they were only in good shape after securing additional financing. The fact that the money was to have been paid out as a bonus didn't matter because they shouldn't have had bonuses in the first place. "The next thing will be better, because it always is." "I've started over a lot, Lane. This is the worst part."

-Don making Lane come clean was a wake up call to Don. His life could change at any time, just like Lane's. He could get caught in his lie. This brought him into Roger's office on fire. "I'm tired of this piddly shit." He's tired of settling. He's tired of not going for it all. The scene at Dow Chemical's office was another example of Don selling. He's the best because he's the best at convincing the client to take the idea, not necessarily because it's the best creative. He had some great lines in that meeting ("But, what is happiness? It's a moment before you need more happiness."), classic Mad Men. To a certain extent, he could have been talking to himself with the whole not settling spiel. He had a lot, a beautiful wife, kids, etc, but before Don didn't settle for having a lot, he wanted it all. I wonder if he'll now cheat on Megan. I think this was my favorite scene of the season. "What happened to your enlightenment?" "I don't know, wore off."

-Look at Ken mixing it up and elbowing Pete out. Go Ken. I wonder how he feels about the pact now.

-Betty's starting to drop more of the weight, which is nice because I know that's important to her, but her and Sally keep fighting. I don't really like Betty, but I don't really like Sally either. Sally deciding not to go skiing, having tea (like a lady) with Megan, ordering coffee, and having an inappropriate conversation with Megan's inappropriate friend, and then an illicit meet up with creepy Glen Bishop; she became a woman. (That was a weird shot of Sally pouring the sugar into the coffee, right?) It was a bit strange she told Megan and the friend that she didn't think Glen liked her that way (did I catch that right?), and then she told Glen she didn't like him that way. We've only seen Glen a bit, but there definitely wasn't any indication he was being picked on (though it's not really a surprise because weird kids end up getting picked on). He was pretty frank about getting bullied, and his honesty was kind of refreshing. It isn't really what you should say to someone you're trying to get with, though. (But neither is, "Are you kidding? The museum is right across the park.") I think Sally just likes having a relationship with Glen because it's secret and forbidden. She likes having something that she owns, controls, in her life that is so out of control. And now she's a woman and, for a moment at least, there is peace at home. I don't know what to make of Betty's call to Megan, because it wasn't quite as snippy as I'd expect. It was almost magnanimous, like she'd conquered Megan in the war for Sally. I'm afraid Betty is in for a shock.

-And then Glen has to come back for his bag. I did a paper on Nat Turner one time, too. It's funny Megan makes him stay, because, what? And then it's funny that Don offers to drive him back to school. I wasn't really sure what instigated that. "Why does everything turn out crappy? Everything you want to do just turns into crap." The scene of Glen driving was magic. Magic. I guess Lane and Glen are pretty closely tied in this episode. Both people constantly getting shit on by the world and not having any clue how to make it work. Hopefully Don's kindness pushes Glen in the right direction.

-Did you all see the super threatening commercials by AMC about Dish Network dropping AMC? Those were funny.

-There was no place for this, but I liked the line, "It's all just gossip at a certain point." What did I miss?

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 11 recap



Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates his favorite quotation from the episode, and I write up a recap.

To paraphrase what one of the advisers said, everyone always talks about the episodes where nothing happens. Well, tonight, everything happened! Jeeze. This was a bigger episode, a fuller episode, there were more parts that made me squirm than usual. The episode was titled, "The Other Woman." The title was ostensibly a reference to the Jaguar pitch, but also refers to Megan, Peggy, and obviously, Joan (because they are women, duh?).

-Well, people can start hating Pete again, I guess. That was a short ride on the Pete sympathy train.

-At the beginning of the episode, Peggy looks wistfully at the lunch of lobster from the Palms delivered to the freelance copywriters brought in to help with Jaguar. Don tells her she's in charge of everything until Jaguar is done, but she's still jealous. We see her totally nail an on-the-spot pitch to keep a business from canceling their ad sales, and then in one of the most disturbing scenes in the series, we see Don throw cash at her, hitting her in the face. It was an image, that to me, made it seem like Peggy was prostitute, and Don was her john, or her pimp. Heavy shit. She didn't even seem too mad, just resolved to leave. This was all after Pete and Ken had been been told by the Jaguar dealer he wanted to sleep with Joan. Peggy's pitch involves Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets to help her city (Joan, much?). Ken goes in to check on Peggy and brings up the pact which came up earlier in the year. I wonder if Peggy is going to help Ken get a job at CGC. And of course it's CGC she's going to, because that will hurt the most. She's clearly talented, but part of her value to Ted Chaough is sticking it to Don. I wonder how that will be used. Don didn't think she'd leave, thought this was a play for more money, and then was angry that she was leaving. I feel like he was mostly sad, though, because she was someone he knew, liked, and the rest of them, well, they're beneath him. I don't want to spend too much time on it, but Peggy's walk out of the office was a very leaving-the-series walk. She looked back to see if anyone would come after her, but the only one who noticed was Joan (their relationship has always been fun). And very briefly, did you notice when the elevator opened, a wash of light across her face? Then she smiled and got in. The elevators are so symbolly this year. The whole show is so heavy handed this year. "I can never tell if you're ambitious or you just like to complain." "Why can't I be both?" And also, "You really have no idea when things are good, do you?" And also, "Let's pretend I'm not responsible for every single good thing that's happened to you."

-There's always a lot of money references, but they seemed to be more striking this episode... Don throwing it in Peggy's face, the negotiations with Joan, Lane and the bonuses, Peggy and Ted talking salary, Don asking Peggy how much she wants, they were all so loaded.

-The thing about Herb, the sleazebag Jaguar dealer, is that he was too slimy to proposition Joan on his own. He needed to make it a business thing ("Well, we wanted to be in the car business.") and have it engineered by Ken and/or Pete. This has happened before, right? Joan being propositioned by a client? Pete got everything going, he didn't seem too distressed to twist the screws. I think he knew she'd do it, and he just wanted to make it worth her while. "You're talking about prostitution." "I'm talking about business at a very high level." (But what's the difference, right?) And then later, "This is some very dirty business." Joan is now a partner, and I'm curious how that will play out. Also, Joan, 5% of nothing is nothing. She at least got an emerald necklace out of it, the emerald was the favorite gem of Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Egypt. So that necklace wasn't loaded or anything. And Herb's a dummy, combining Helen of Troy (the face that launched a thousand ships) and the Sultan of Arabia (I think?). In any case, the scene of Don pitching the Jaguar as being the one beautiful, crazy, amazing thing you could finally buy, being interspersed with Joan being bought was pretty powerful, and then he intimated she should leave! What a dick. "Jaguar. At last, something beautiful you can truly own."

-Don was nice to try to talk Joan out of it, and right that they wouldn't want to be in business with people like that, (unfortunately, Joan had already done it, as we learn through another flashback). "You're a good one, aren't you?" However, I think a major reason he wanted to talk Joan out of it was because he wanted to save the day, he wanted to be the hero again. Did you see him walk into the office after the pitch? Like a cowboy. He thought he'd done it. And he had, but not cleanly. He'll never know how much Joan had to do with it, and that destroyed him. Then Peggy destroyed him again. Dude is lost. The other thing about Don and Joan is that he was furious at Sal when Sal turned a client down. Fairly similar situation, but I'm not sure what's changed in Don's mind.

-Megan is the third woman of this episode. She's got an audition for Little Murders, a play/movie about a woman marrying an emotionally unavailable man. Hmmm, I wonder what that references. Here's the famous wedding scene from the movie. Her callback... As she walks in, there's the shot of the three guys on the couch, and it was so skeezy, just that shot. And then another shot of them and they ask her to turn around. I couldn't tell if she was there just for them to ogle, or if she actually had a shot at the role, but either way, it was pretty dirty. The tension between her and Don is still pretty high at times. He's still not used to her deciding on things for herself ("Just keep doing whatever the hell you want."). She ran off again, but Don was more OK with it this time because he had to go to work anyway. And what's the deal with Ginsberg and Megan? He's kind of a weirdo, huh?

-Lane's gambit continues to get more convoluted. This week, he basically gave away 5% of the company to keep a bubble around the $50K line of credit he got last week, and that was to hide about $2K he took? Jeeze, Lane, think more long term! Signs are currently pointing to him to be the one throwing himself out the window, but Don, Roger, and Pete, have all been in the running this season.

-And I think I still left out a billion things because of how much was in this episode.

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 10 recap



Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates his favorite quotation from the episode, and I write up a recap.

-We are flying! It's Christmas already ("I love Christmas in Manhattan"). Or almost (Roger is drinking to celebrate Pearl Harbor Day, so it's 12/7). And the episode title is 'Christmas Waltz', a reference to the song The Christmas Waltz which played at the end of the episode. I don't know what this had to do with what we saw this week, though. I noticed a lot of different relationship interactions, which might reference a lyric in the song, "It's that time of year / When the world falls in love." I think naming the episode America Hurrah, the name of the play Don and Megan saw, would have been too obvious.

-This episode featured more of Lane, Harry, and Joan than we've gotten in a while. Lane is in deep shit for paying taxes to the US instead of the UK. I'd guess he didn't pay taxes to the US either, but no way of knowing. I hadn't realized until the 'scenes from next week' last week, that Lane hasn't been on for a while. There was some conversation while watching this week that Lane would be the one to throw himself out a window (not Pete, as the advisers anticipate). In any case, Lane is broke, has been broke, and still hasn't told anyone. He has a tax bill of $8K, and concocts a plan to have SCDP borrow $50K on a short term loan so that the firm could pay out bonuses. His plan is somewhat derailed when one of the clients halts all work, delaying the partners' bonuses. Someone will find out. I liked the deliberateness of the check forging scene. It's emblematic of the series, and it was notable it was Don Draper's signature being forged, as he's living a forgery.

-The return of Paul Kinsey as a Hare Krishna was just one of those scenes. I think we saw him earlier this year at Don and Megan's party, but he wasn't Krishna, and he wasn't as heavy. Am I misremembering that? He's lost and ended up at a Hare Krishna temple. It's interesting. Mother Lakshmi definitely represents the culty aspects of HK, while Paul represents the naive devotee (though they like him because he's a great recruiter). Lakshmi saw Harry, well, Paul's relationship with Harry, as a threat. "I'm trading the only thing I have." In one of the surprises of the season, Harry looks out for his old friend and gives him $500 to get him out of town (some of the money was likely leftover from Roger paying him to switch offices), and away from the Hare Krishna temple. Harry saw Paul as a reflection of himself, realized they weren't so different, realized it could be him adrift, and decided to help ("It will all seem like it happened to someone else."). At the same time, the frantic chanting did impact Harry, too. Also, Kinsey is STILL in a turtle neck. Remember the pipe? I liked Peggy giving Harry cold ass advice about what to do.

-I thought the Hare Krishnas were a good contrast to Don, who is also clearly adrift. He doesn't care about work, or the work. Every time he's alone in the office, he's lying on the couch. Last week, the only thing that got him motivated was beating Ginsberg. Also, at times, he seems ambivalent about Megan. He's happy with her, but maybe not as happy as he's told he is, every episode by someone different. This week it was Joan. ("The car does nothing for me." "That's because you're happy. You don't need it.") The play Don and Megan see is America Hurrah which debuted in November of 1966 and in some circles is regarded as the play of the 60s. Don didn't care for the message. He appears to be souring on advertising, and doesn't need a play reinforcing that. Maybe he's not souring on advertising, he's sensing the world changing, he's sensing his work won't be as revered as it's been. And then, a rousing speech at the end of the episode, pepping up the troops, and himself. I wasn't moved by the speech, and the nodding approval of the partners first, and then the employees, seemed a heavy handed way of showing the impact of the speech. Instead of us feeling the impact, we're given cues by the ensemble. We don't feel moved, but we know we should be. This happened last week with the forced laughter at the lame Pepsi Snowball pitches. Maybe Don is pushing himself back into the work.

-Joan got served! And then she freaks out at the moron receptionist. I liked Don and Joan roleplaying in the Jaguar dealership ("Look at your watch."), and I think they liked it, too. They have such a close relationship, and they flirt. Boy do they flirt. I think Don truly cares for her, as a friend, and that's nice to see. I'm not sure what the implications of Dr. Harris divorcing Joan are, but it's interesting she hadn't taken any steps towards that. Also, we found out Roger was sending her checks to help. I wonder if she'll start taking them now. Don's flowers are certainly going to spur Roger to increase his pursuit. "My mother raised me to be admired." I liked Don trying to get Joan to get with the guy at the bar. "Poor me, I struck out."

-Maybe it's just on Comcast in Boston, but in several of the episodes this season, I've noticed the audio not being quite synced with the action on the screen. There's not a whole lot more annoying than the dialogue being about a millisecond off from the mouths moving.

-Roger, who spent most of the episode drunk, had some great lines: "Oh, you're done with your bombing." "What's the hurry, Harry?" I thought What's the hurry, Harry would have been a reference to Harry Truman, but couldn't find anything. Only thing I could find was a 1968 book with that as a title. Pete has some good ones, too: "I don't know how to drive a stick shift." "You would have kissed me on the mouth."

-"Does your wife burn for you?" I thought romantic relationships were touched on in a variety of ways in this episode. Joan getting a divorce, Lane keeping their financial situation from Rebecca, Paul and Lakshmi, Harry and Lakshmi, Joan and Don roleplaying at the Jaguar dealership, and again at the bar, and of course Megan and Don. I don't quite know why Megan was so mad. I think I caught something about how Megan thought Don wanted her to think he'd left work before noon and wanted her to worry (about him cheating). This is probably what I was supposed to think, but that point, Don purposely testing Megan, could have been made clearer. Megan is impulsive (hitchhiking home from Howard Johnson's, throwing a plate of spaghetti), and maybe Don just likes a little crazy. The scene started to go in the direction of the first or second episode where Megan was yelling and Don told her how things were going to go. That was creepy and I was glad it didn't go that way this time. I don't expect Don to take it, but he seems bemused enough to go along with this for now. It feels off, doesn't it?

-"Prepare to take a great leap forward."

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 9 recap



Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates his favorite quotation from the episode, and I write up a recap.

We're in the week before Thanksgiving, the season is moving along. I remember seasons past hitting Thanksgiving pretty hard, but this season it was more in the background. I had the sense that the first couple episodes were going a week or two weeks at a time, but the last couple episodes have jumped 6 weeks or more from the previous episode. Matt Weiner is committed to getting us out of the 60s.

-Betty's back, Hi, Betty. It looks like she lost some weight, which I know was important to her, so I feel glad for her. And she's in Weight Watchers. Incidentally, Weight Watchers was founded in 1963 and was owned by Heinz from 1978-1999. How's that for a tie in? We've seen Betty's nastiness before, but this was the first episode where we can say it was driven by hunger. In the first scene, she's eating a piece of toast, a couple cubes of cheese, and a grapefruit in the dark. Realizing now that maybe she was eating late at night as opposed to early in the morning? She'd be doing this to count the meal on the next day's points, like she did with the bite of Henry's steak. ('Bite of Henry's steak' not a euphemism.)

-Dark Shadows is the title of this episode, but I don't think it refers to the new Johnny Depp movie, or even the 1960s TV show, which was something of a supernatural soap opera. There have been dark shadows on the proverbial horizon all season, all series, really. Some nods to the title in this episode, Betty eating in the dark, Don working in the dark, Betty eating in the dark again (shooting the whipped cream into her mouth and then spitting it out), Henry cooking in the dark, Roger and Jane kissing in the dark, the smog warning on Thanksgiving. Winter is coming. The smog warning seems especially important.

-"Look at all these voices, look at all this talent." Don's starting to feel threatened by Ginsberg in a way he's not been threatened by Peggy or other copywriters. This is why he was working late and didn't get Sally her dang colored pencils. From the "Shit I Have to do" folder, Don knew what Ginsberg was going to pitch and worked hard to come up with something to beat it. Don was only able to match Ginsberg's idea, though, so he had to leave the Snowball-to-the-face in the cab. Obviously this burned Ginsberg, but no one will sympathize because they got the sale. The Ginsberg/Draper competition will be interesting here on out. (An aside, the pitches on the show continue to be mediocre. This episode it was reinforced when people laughed at the ideas for Snowball, twice. The ideas weren't funny, and the laughter came off as hollow. The idea for Manischewitz of the wine boxes under the bus seats was pretty good though.)

-"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Ginsberg quotes this after his pitch has seemingly been chosen by the team to be shown to the client. It's from the poem Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. While Ginsberg quotes the line correctly, it's misused in this context, though, because of the theme of the poem. Stan reinforces this by telling him, "You should read the rest of that poem, you boob." Ginsberg is saying, look how great my work is, while the poem is about how nothing lasts, even, and especially great and mighty things. Great and mighty things like America in the 50s, SCDP, Don Draper, etc, etc. Pretty bleak, and a perfect poetic reference for the show. The advisers think the poem was about the most important thing in the episode, and I tend to agree. The poem was referenced earlier in the episode by Peggy in her Snowball pitch.

-Sally's family tree is another dark shadow looming. And now someone else knows a little more about Don's past. So Betty's been big for a while, but we still haven't seen her and Don interact in person this season. We don't know until Don says something about her fat face that he knows she's fat. Betty's obviously nervous about going up to get the kids and being seen. She's also, apparently, curious about the apartment. What's interesting is the kids weren't brought down because Megan wanted to look good for Betty, too, and was changing. "Well, you've seen most of it," Megan said coolly, though I'm not totally sure why she would mind so much. In any case, Betty saw the nice note Don wrote to Megan about light bulbs ("Lovely Megan, I went to go buy a light bulb. When I get back, I'll see you better. Love, Don." DARK SHADOWS) and needed to lash out about that and Megan looking good without a shirt and about having to eat celery, so she told Sally about Anna Draper. "Don't forget your father's first wife."

-Did you notice Don and Megan have a color TV? I believe that's the first we've seen on the show.

-Sally was a total B most of the episode, and Megan teaching her to fake cry on command is going to end up biting her in the ass. All Sally wants, though, is Don's attention, and when she finally gets the story from him, she seems mollified. "Your mother doesn't care about hurting you, she just wants to hurt us." Remember, Betty is having a Thanksgiving dinner of a bite of stuffing, a schmoo of gravy, and one Brussels sprout. Cut her some slack.

-Don was angry about Betty telling Sally and was going to call Betty and Megan was prescient, she didn't want to give Betty, "The thrill of having poisoned us from 50 miles away." As much as Betty was a fairly predictable character, I continue to be impressed by Megan. I also liked Sally putting it back in Betty's face. Betty was dying to know how her lashing out was received, and Sally played it perfectly.

-Roger continues to have comedic scenes, with Bert talking about selling Manischewitz without Pete, with Ginsberg asking for ideas. And he continues to use money to get what he needs. For the third time, he paid an employee at the office to get work done, and he bought Jane an apartment to get her to come to the Manishewitz dinner. At work, it's to show how feckless he is. It's a bit heavy-handed, though, that this has happened in a full third of the episodes this season after never having happened in the past. Roger did seem upset about christening Jane's apartment, but I have a hard time taking her feelings seriously because she seems super shallow. "You get everything you want and you still had to do this."

-Oh, Pete. You thought you had the New York Times Magazine all wrapped up and it was going to be so amazing Beth was going to come into the office naked. "I forgot you. And then I saw you in the New York Times Sunday Magazine." Roger's line when Pete was telling them about the profile was funny. "You shouldn't start with the Mayflower." "Don't wake me up up and throw your failures in my face."

-Other quotes, "Am I the only one who can drink and work around here?" "I feel bad for you." "I don't think about you at all."

What'd I miss?