Tag Archives: Television

Sharknado Longreads

Like most of Twitter, I watched Sharknado on Thursday night. I write about sharks pretty often, so I wasn't going to miss it. The compelling, sciency thriller from SyFy was remarkable in its badness, but the people needed it. The people needed to experience something together and SyFy delivered. The movie was terrible, predictable, and suffered from poor acting, directing, and effects. Other than that, it was great. I think the most surprising thing about last night was I didn't lose any Twitter followers. In any case, here are about 40 some odd Sharknado links.

io9's preview predicted Sharknado's brilliance. Well done!

SyFy is already talking about how to ruin the Sharknado magic by releasing a sequel. I'd probably watch. And I hope I remember to watch Blast Vegas.

And yes, a “Sharknado” sequel is already being discussed at the Syfy headquarters, though official plans have yet to coalesce. For now, the cabler is planning a rerun of the pic next Thursday at 7 p.m. to serve as a lead-in to Frankie Muniz-starrer “Blast Vegas.”


The Verge

If you were on Twitter at virtually any time Thursday evening, it was almost impossible to avoid mention of Sharknado. Celebrities like Damon Lindelof and Patton Oswalt spent much of the night tweeting sarcastic one-liners, headlining an online viewing party that included everyone from Newark's mayor, Cory Booker, to Mia Farrow. At its peak, the film was generating more than 5,000 tweets per minute — nowhere near record levels, but undoubtedly impressive for a low-budget cable movie about airborne killer sharks.



An interactive chart of the number of Tweets about Sharknado during the 9PM showing.

An interview with Sharknado director Anthony Ferrante.

CBS talked to Ian.

io9 interviewed Sharknado screenwriter Thunder Levin.

Why a tornado and not a hurricane? Wouldn't that make more sense?

Actually, we have both. In the movie an unprecedented hurricane sweeps up the Pacific coast from Mexico towards L.A. driving all the sharks in this part of the ocean before it. The hurricane floods the streets of L.A., which is woefully unprepared for a hurricane. (Up to this point, it’s all fairly accurate and something we should be thinking about, disaster preparedness-wise). Naturally these floodwaters are filled with sharks! And then, as often happens, the hurricane spins off tornadoes over the ocean. As anyone would expect, the tornadoes suck up thousands of sharks. This all just seems like common sense to me…


Last year, Grandland wrote a profile of The Asylum, the studio responsible for Sharknado, and most of all the B movie knock offs these days.

Buy Sharknado on Blu-Ray.

Round up of celebrity Tweets. And one from Us Weekly. And E Online.

The LA Times.

And as television struts and preens with its new-found status as the hottest screen in town, it's important to be reminded of its humble roots: play-acting in the backyard. It isn't just the lowly production values (rubber sharks, Etch-a-Sketch storm clouds) or how the actors react to airborne sharks with the matter-of-fact casualness of porn stars stumbling upon a laundry room orgy (Oh, hey, watch your foot). It's the whole over-the-top insanity of it all, the splendid and glorious belief that if you say even god-awful lines firmly enough, if you look hot while drawing some weapon with which you clearly have no familiarity, if you acknowledge the yawning chasms in plot by saying things like "This is crazy" and "Do you trust me?" often enough, your audience will stay with you.


EW on why we love Sharknado.

It’s scientific. ”Bombs. Instead of letting live sharks rain down on people, we’re going to get into that chopper, throw bombs into the tornado, and blow those bastards to bits!” Matt uses his flight school training to calculate a flawless solution to the shark-littered twisters wreaking havoc across L.A. Baz teaches his disciples that a tornado is just two winds blowing at different speeds that combine and rotate together. Fin, Matt, and Baz combine their masterful knowledge of nature and physics only to inform us that you can actually just throw a homemade bomb into the center of the cyclone to neutralize it, and the sun comes out immediately after detonation.


ESPN's Twitter account tried to have a little fun with the San Jose Sharks. Oops.

Mother Jones poses a serious question.

The film raises a serious question: Could a sharknado happen in real life? Animals often get caught in the paths of tornadoes, but they typically die before they get the chance to harm Tara Reid. An Associated Press report from 1969 describes a Florida tornado that swept through Ocean World. Rather than emboldening the sharks and inspiring heightened, Tara Reid-related bloodlust, the tornado sent the startled animals diving for cover at the bottom of their shallow pool. "We haven't counted the sharks yet," the Ocean World president told the press as his team frantically checked up on the park's valuable fish. In the end, his team had no sharknado to report. Furthermore, even if a sharknado were to somehow form and begin chasing Tara Reid, it is improbable that the whirlwind of shark would pose a danger to humans beyond accidental crushing. (Sharks rarely ever hurt people, and you're more likely to get maimed by your own toilet than by any species of shark.)


How Sharknado explains the federal reserve.

Sharknado's amazing political power.

James Poniewozik checked in from vacation to review Sharknado for Time.

Really, it’s a deceptively tough feat that the makers of Sharknado pulled off: making a movie that’s shlockily and campily hilarious without seeming to try too hard to make something shlockily and campily hilarious. (While I don’t want to make too many assumptions about the cast and crew’s intent, this delightful io9 interview with screenwriter Thunder Levin suggests they went in with tongue in man-eating cheek.) Oh sure, you’d think it’s as easy as casting Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, hiring a hobo to do the CGI, and letting the magic make itself. But it’s easy to see where a title like this could become self-serious or smirky.


Science!

But as a scientist, science communications professor, and strategist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, I’ve become much more open-minded about strategies to bring science to the public. You really can’t let these cultural phenomena pass you by, no matter how silly they might seem at the outset.


Regardless of however much merit their complaints might have, Flavorwire seems to be the only ones down on Sharknado.

Five movie ideas that studios can steal from 'Sharknado'. Also, the five worst lines from Sharknado. Also, five things SyFy taught us last night. And also, six things Sharknado got right about LA and six things got wrong.

Inside the SyFy movie factory.

Today, Syfy averages 24 movies a year, each with around a $1.5 million budget, or about 1/130th of what it cost to make Michael Bay’s last Transformers movie. Syfy’s monsters are poorly rendered CGI characters that always look technologically out-of-date by at least a decade. But who cares? If you’re watching Sharknado, cinematic realism is probably not your top priority.


CNN, Mashable, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, USA Today, Telegraph UK, Politico, Vulture, MTV, Salon, Grantland, The Daily Beast.

The Sharknado trailer.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 13 Recap

Mad Men Art

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Lately, I've been doing the recaps as a Q&A with David Jacobs right after the episode. First some quick thoughts:

-Thank you so much for reading along this season. Hope you enjoyed!
-This is going to be a hard recap because along with recapping the episode, we have to recap the season, too. Click the links, they're pretty instructive.
-Here's a crappy picture off the TV of the new Sterling Cooper & Partners logo. SC&P also have new coffee mugs (to replace the SCDP mugs) and we got to see those, too.
-Stan combs his hair and pitches Don on the idea of starting SC&P's west coast branch. Don dismisses it before quickly taking the idea from himself. "It's like Detroit with palm trees."
-The episode title was "In Care Of," which literally refers to the telegrams Don and Pete got at different points. Can't come up with other thematic tie ins.
-It sounds like Chevy likes Bob Benson so much they gave him a car. This made it a little tough for Pete to exert pressure on Bob once they got to Detroit. "How're you doing?" "NOT SO GREAT, BOB!" I thought it was a little weird Bob pushed back so hard in light of what Pete knows, but… "Ignorance will not be a very good defense."
-The conversation between Roger and Bob was interesting, too. Joan doesn't seem to want anything to do with Roger (until she here's he doesn't have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving). That said, is the implication that Bob is interested in Joan as a beard? Maybe Bob's bisexual.
-The pace at the beginning of the show felt super fast, and the fact that AMC still controls where commercials go is ridiculous. It's better than last year, but not much.
-"Can you keep it down? I'm trying to drink." it's the new "THAT'S WHAT THE MONEY IS FOR."
-"Well I wouldn't want to do anything immoral..why don't you tell them what I saw?" Sally's showing some claws. This impacted Don enough that he got wasted and punched a minister. Something about how the cop said, "You punched a minister, you're lucky you're not in Rikers." reminded me of "You punch a cop, you're going in." from Good Will Hunting.
-Mad Men does gallows humor/death scenes really subtly. You don't expect them, and then someone's dead. (Same with the near death's like Kenny getting shot and the British exec getting his foot run over.)
-Pete seemed to take the death of his mother pretty well. His anger at Bob seemed more about the principle of the thing, or that people shouldn't be able to get away with disrespecting him. Later on in the episode, Megan said "We're all in the same boat" in reference to the Draper kids. Very heavy. Taking this a step further, being associated with Don is like being on a boat and according to this episode, people on boats die!
-Peggy sassed it up with Chanel No. 5 and a tight dress and it did the trick to get Ted interested. For a night. "Because I don't want everyone else to have you." Kind of a jerk, Ted. You shouldn't have kissed her a few weeks ago.
-The Don Hershey presentation was a great contrast to the Carasoul scene in the first season. A scene I go back to often in these recaps. I think that scene is Mad Men to me, so you can imagine my disappointment every week when we don't get something like that. It was Don using deeply personal feelings to sell a client on an idea. This time however, he faked it, then came clean. He had the client in the palm of his hand before telling them he didn't think they should advertise at all. This backs up something David's been talking about a while, about how Don doesn't really believe in the products he's selling anymore, doesn't believe in anything. It's why a couple of his pitches didn't even include the products this year. Kind of the culmination of it. And that leads to him…
-Being fired/suspended. I'd say he doesn't go back to SC&P, but I'm not sure how that reconciles with the stories of all the other characters.
-Why is Pete going to LA? Trudy said, you're "Free of her, free of them." And then he wasn't at the partners meeting. Is he done, too?
-So, maybe you got the "Going down?" elevator reference as a reference to hell. Did you also catch the tie in to the first episode of the season?
-Don takes his kids to the house he grew up in and Sally gives him a look, like maybe she understands him a bit more? At the beginning of Season 5 there was a quick hint that Megan knew at least something about his past. I wonder if something similar will happen with at least Sally next season.
-I've been saying a while that Pete is Don. But maybe Peggy is?

Aaron: So that happened. Quick question. Did you like the episode? Did you like the season?

David: I was just comparing it (in my head) to Game of Thrones. Certainly satisfying at the end, but certainly not worth the investment. Having said that, in for a dime in for a dollar, and I’m excited for season 7. You?

Aaron: I was trying to make myself feel better about devoting so much time to it, but I think that’s as good an answer as any. I don’t want to overstate my unenjoyment or anything. It was fine. It’s better than 99% of media you can consume. Maybe we’re spoiled and things can never be as good as they were in the past. People don’t like watching Arrested Development anymore either.

David: I’ve actually not seen Arrested Development.

Aaron: I’m looking forward to you watching the four seasons of AD all together. You can do it in a weekend.

David: We’ve made the Sopranos comparison a few times this year, and there’s been a lot of attention to this for obvious sad reasons this week, but Sopranos was head and shoulders above the rest. And I’m just now making the connection that in the hour before Mad Men, I was watching James Gandolfini’s Inside the Actor’s Studio appearance and this must have been churning through my head.

Recently I’ve been making the case that binge TV-watching is bad for the soul. I may be wrong! But back to Mad Men. One thing that really struck with me was the moment Don looked down at his shaking hands during the Hershey's pitch meeting. Especially this season, we’ve really been treated to miserable, unlikable Don. So that emotional payoff, and especially that moment, was quite rewarding for me. Were there any scenes or moments in this episode that stuck with you?

Aaron: I’m not sure if anything will stick with me from this episode. Right now, an hour after watching it... there were a lot of great scenes actually. Don showing his kids where he grew up, obviously. The shaking hands. The guy Duck brought in to replace Don pushing the elevator down (to Hell) for Don. Peggy saying, "Well, aren't you lucky, to have decisions." I hope I remember, "Can you keep it down? I'm trying to drink." because that’s a great line. What will be memorable to you about this season and to that end, do you remember stuff from every season? LIke, what was your take away from season 2?

David: Does Duck lock his dog outside in season 2?

Aaron: I don’t know, maybe, but thanks for reminding me, because is there any way SC&P would retain Duck as their headhunter? And I don’t think there’s anyway they could find a suitable replacement for Don Draper the night before Thanksgiving (assuming the Hershey’s meeting was on the Wednesday before). Especially without the internet! For this season, I think I’ll remember Don falling into the pool, and I should say the merger, but as I’ve mentioned, I don’t think that had as much an impact on the show as we all expected. Maybe what was memorable about it was how it came together in the hotel bar the episode before.

David: I bet they could call Duck on the eve of Thanksgiving and he’d have someone. I didn’t find that incredible. But I take Weiner at his word when he says that each season is a self-contained story. Last year, obviously, Peggy left the firm, and then they wrote her right back into the show. But I also think he’s got a plan for season seven, especially since this is the first time he went into a season with a guarantee lined up for the season after.

Aaron: I guess I never heard Weiner say that about the self-contained story. It’s interesting to think about it in that context, though, because for myself, an I think a lot of people, the show is still about this guy who is not who he says he is. I think the first 4 seasons were about the tension of Don getting found out as Dick. It certainly didn’t come up as a major theme this year, though the idea of being yourself or not being who you say you are came up in dialogue a lot. Is the Don/Dick thing not an important part of the story to you? Did you miss that?

David: I think Don’s identity is still the central tension of the show. The stress of living the lie was grinding him down, and I think that’s why he was so low. And this finale was all about Don finally coming clean, or perhaps as clean as he could, which offers us a little bit of optimism heading into the season 7. And so I guess I like feeling optimistic. Do you know what I mean? Do you feel optimistic?

Aaron: I like optimism, and I like the idea that Season 7 will be about Don tying himself together with his past somehow. I don’t like lending the show the credit to say the identity tension was a big part of the last two seasons. That said, there were OTHER people acting like other people this season, so maybe in retrospect they are foil for Don? The burglar, Bob Benson, and, OH SNAP, Sally Draper made a fake ID to buy beer. Did I miss anyone?

David: Betty missed being Betty Draper, albeit briefly, and perhaps more strongly when Sally was in trouble. Manolo was a minor character, but he certainly had a slippery personality. The firm itself had a bit of an identity crisis, both before & after the merger.

Aaron: Identity crisis is totally different than pretending to be someone you are not, though. I never got the sense Don was having an identity crisis except to the extent he would have been in crisis if someone found out his real identity.

David: I disagree! The show is all about America’s identity crisis in the 60s and 70s, and every character’s own crisis (or comfort) with their identity is just an ingredient in that mix. Don was definitely having an identity crisis during that Hershey’s meeting. His gut has gotten this far, for a decade (or more), but something changed in him in this week’s episode and he just couldn’t do it anymore, even after all but winning the work. I know you hate these kinds of theories. I have to say, the rest of the episode didn’t leave me with many questions. I was satisfied with the Ted/Peggy resolution, and it feels like Pete is beginning to come to terms with the mistakes he’s made. Every episode is better with Trudy. Do you think Bob Benson is having a loving relationship with Joan? I think I do.

Aaron: "Well, aren't you lucky, to have decisions." Peggy said that to Ted after he told her he’d decided to stay with his family and move with them to California (to get away from Peggy). The night after they slept together the first time (right?). I need to unpack this a little more, but I thought it was a powerful sentiment. It had more to do with Peggy’s career and personal life and gender(?) than just the relationship with Ted.Again, it felt like a big thematic statement, in an episode that full of them, but I need to think it over more. Do you have any thoughts? Any examples where Peggy hasn’t had the option to make a decision? I think you might be getting sucked into the Pete Campbell Sympathy Trap, a trap I fall into every three episodes. But it did seem like that scene with Trudy was a closure of some sort. Why was he going to LA? I could buy Bob Benson marrying Joan.

David: I have trouble feeling sorry for Peggy. She had the big miss on the Rosemary’s Baby campaign, and it was just sad to see her appealing to Ted that way. But at the end of the day she’s the new Don Draper, spiritually even if Duck’s sidekick gets Don’s title. I don’t know why Pete was going to LA. Maybe the cruise ship was docking there? I’m not sure.

Aaron: I thought it was less about Ted, than her frustration with it all. All of it. "The only unpardonable sin is to believe God cannot forgive you." Is Don starting to forgive himself or something? Or at least come to peace with who he is.

David: I hadn’t thought of that. But certainly that was a fairly low point! And it gave Megan a chance to assert herself, if ineffectually. I am excited to watch this episode again, and that hasn’t been the case with any other episodes this season, for what it’s worth.

Aaron: "The good is not beating the bad." but also "Well I wouldn't want to do anything immoral..why don't you tell them what I saw?" Sally is turning into a little Don, I guess? Did you see the look she gave him after he showed them the house he grew up in? Was it knowing? Forgiving? Is the bad beating the good? Doesn’t it seem like at the very end, the good might be staging a comeback.

David: Yeah, I missed those comments, but that theme was certainly there. I loved that look. Although the little boy eating the popsicle was a funny signifier of “poverty.”

Aaron: Remember it’s Thanksgiving morning, too.

David: Good point, and the calendar is similar to that of Season 1.

Aaron: You want the last word?

David: You should take the last word - because my take is quite pedestrian. We got a classic Mad Men season - slow start, big twist, thick moods that inspire us to care about otherwise unsympathetic characters. I am excited for season 7, and I feel happy for Dick Whitman. You take the last word!

Aaron: Everyone spent the season, and last season, waiting for someone to die, and it didn’t happen. It’s just not how the show rolls. Sure, Pete’s mom, but she was essentially on the show this season so she could die in this episode. I don’t know. Chris and I are both glad these recaps are over for the year, and thanks to David for helping out the last several weeks.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 12 Recap

Mad Men Art

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Lately, I've been doing the recaps as a Q&A with David Jacobs right after the episode. First some quick thoughts:

-I don't want it to get buried, but Adriana pointed out the song at the end of the episode was the Monkee's 'Porpoise Song.' Watch the video and let me know of which TV show opening it reminds you.
-"Pretend it's Ralph Nader." Nader was already an enemy of the auto industry in 1968.
-"Oh my God, you killed Kenny! You bastard!" Oh, just shot in the face? That's OK, then.
-"What do you want me to do about it?" I wish someone would make a super cut of Don saying something along the lines of this. It happens a lot, though not as often this season.
-Peggy and Ted were hotter and heavier this episode than any in the past. Like high school kids, actually.
-Like a hooker that accepts Traveler's checks.
-Don and Megan see Ted and Peggy at Rosemary's Baby, which is making it's millionth appearance this season.
-I noticed a few different scenes where the characters went from dark into light. In the movie theater and when Don and Megan got home are two.
-Don flipped on Ted regarding Sunkist/Ocean Spray. I thought it was one of the more interesting moments of the season because of all that went into it. 1) Don and Ted are battling it out for sort of control of the agency. 2) Don is super protective/possessive of Peggy even if he doesn't himself know why. 3) We got to see super salesy Don again. Nice of him to make an appearance.
-"That's a dumb idea." No one likes Pete.
-Roger was really being a jerk about Ken. Seemed a little out of character because while Roger will snip at people he doesn't like, comment after comment, he doesn't have an issue with Ken.
-"Thank you, all of you, for having this trust in me." No one likes Pete.
-"You should watch what you say to people." Bob gets aggressive.
-Interesting move by Pete to try to get Bob a job and then push him out.
-I guess Bob Benson speaks Spanish pretty well.
-Glen Bishop is a hunk now, I guess. Did you catch Sally's smile when Glen went after RoLo?
-It wasn't clear to me, but although I've been commenting on the similarities to Pete and Don, Bob Benson is pretty Donish, too.
-"You like trouble don't you." Boarding school can't handle Sally.
-"Your judgement is impaired." It really was, Ted.
-"You don't respond well to gratitude." No one likes Pete.
-"My father's never given me anything."
-"He's not that virtuous, he's just in love with you."
-"You're a monster."
-1969 St. Joseph's ad.

Aaron:The title of the episode tonight was “Quality of Mercy” and sometimes I lean on the titles as a crutch, often, in fact, so just go with it. Don showed “mercy” on Ted and Peggy during the St. Joseph’s pitch, and Pete showed “mercy” on Bob Benson after finding out he was actually The Talented Mr. Benson. Essentially the show is saying mercy is selfish. Don schooled Ted and Peggy to get hand back, and Pete mercied Bob to keep him close and use him for something. Did I miss any mercy? We’ll get back to both of these, maybe, but basically, the quality of mercy is pretty fucked up right now. I’m having trouble not seeing both these situations as sending the same message: Save people so you can save yourself.

David: This is an echo, of course, of Don taking mercy on Pete in season 1. Now Pete’s doing the same for Bob. Did the boarding school girls take mercy on Sally? Were they the Sisters of Mercy?

Aaron: Maybe. And they were being selfish, too. It makes sense why Pete was protecting Ted and Peggy. Or “protecting.” What are you thinking for Pete’s motives with Bob?

David: You called the Don/Pete parallel all season, by the way, so good on you! Immediately, I was wondering if Pete was laying a trap for Don - but I think it’s nothing so intricate (like the Sopranos, and this episode was directed by another Sopranos alum), the plot points rarely run tricky. Pete could not trust anyone anymore (just Joan?), but now he has Bob. I’m not excited for Pete to travel to Detroit. What will we do without him? He’s our moral compass. I wonder if he’s going to die next episode, or if Weiner was just teasing us with the gun.

Aaron: Pete won’t be missing for long. He’ll go to Detroit on the days the show isn’t taking place. Ken might be the closest you’re going to get to someone dying. You’ve been saying it was going to happen for almost two seasons now. Obviously, I like how Pete played Bob because it was how Don did it when he had the chance. That was a little different because Pete knew Don’s secret and it was more mutual mercy, but Pete’s really having a rough go of it at SCDP these days. Nothing is going his way. Having Bob under his control will allow him to build consensus for his ideas etc.

David: How soon you forget, Lane did die! And there’s just no way you can avoid the death symbolism. It may be the laying-it-on-thickest red herring in history, but it’s there. The closing song, “The Porpoise Song” by the Monkees, is about the band not knowing their place in the world. From Wikipedia: "In the Monkees' 1968 feature film Head, the song appears at the beginning and the end of the production, when the group's members jump from a bridge as a means to permanently escape their lives."

Adriana notes that the Monkees, because they were assembled to consumed as a pop group (which of course is common now), were constantly trying to stretch their careers and performances to appear “real.” And now we know that in addition to Don’s great charade, Bob is doing the same. So I think Pete and Don are both headed for a fall. And of course we’ve discussed before, the Chevy car (probably the Vega) is a bomb, the instant cereal campaign results in a lawsuit, and Mohawk Airlines has an infamous crash in 1969. I was looking for some sort of crisis around St. Joseph’s Aspirin as well but I can’t find one. It’s out there!

Aaron: I guess this is as good a time as any for this question, but don’t you think analysis of the careers of the musicians playing the songs that end the episodes as thematic to the episode isn’t just a little too much? How do you know which performers’ careers have meaning to the theme of the show? The first sentence in this paragraph is horribly worded, so let me rephrase it: Come the fuck on. It’s an interesting connection, but I think the internet isn’t big enough -

David: Stop what you’re doing and watch the video. It’s clearly the inspiration for the opening credits. (I’ll wait.)

Aaron: Fuck. OK. You win this round. But don’t you guys dare do this again.

David: I loved it when Duck said Bob’s resume “might as well be written in steam.” What a wonderful turn of phrase. Does he get the best writing because the writers love him?

Aaron: I loved it when Duck said, ‘So you need an account man?’ and Pete cut him off.

David: Now THAT would have been too far - and they would have figured out how to bring Sal back too, right? Speaking of pleasant surprises, I was so happy to see Glenn. And just as I am annoyed at the idea of Pete & Bob being exiled to Detroit, so I am with Sally being sent to boarding school. It was nice to see Sally and Betty finally connect, after a season of frustrating exchanges. And Betty was play acting a bit in the interview, but he is clearly proud and loving towards Sally in this episode.

Aaron: I really miss Sal, and I honestly keep expecting him to at least make a cameo. I think he did make one at some point after leaving the regular cast, remember that pay phone scene? Or was that in the same episode? Anyway, not that Sal and Bob are the only two gay men in NY, but maybe Bob sticking around makes a Sal appearance more likely. Is that insensitive? Glenn has really improved as an actor and we can finally see how Weiner convinced his son to play a creep for 4 seasons. “Son, son, just listen. You will be reviled for 4 years, but I have an arc that will clear all that up in Season 6.”

David: It’s not insensitive, because Weiner certainly hasn’t shown the same sensitivity around race that we mysteriously have come to expect around gender. But it’s possible that Bob isn’t even gay, he just thought Pete was, and he was playing eager to please? Glenn turned down the role of King Joffrey to be in Mad Men.

Aaron: I’m getting behind. WHAT on Joffrey. I wish he had done it. That would have been two terrible roles by his 16th birthday. Also, he turned down a starring role to be a creep a couple times a season? Also, and this is what I wanted to get to. It’s funny you referred to Betty and Sally as connecting because my note for that scene was about how Betty was completely unable to relate to Sally on any level. Betty is mean and vindictive and Sally is just so over it. She wants to hurt Sally, but can’t resist expressing how excited she is that Sally performed well at the school, and then she offered her a cigarette.

David: Don’t forget that January Jones’ other prominent role of late is the one where she was literally a diamond. So it could be that she all of a sudden became an amazing actress, or that she didn’t obviously relate to Sally because she doesn’t relate to anyone (not even Harry), which is more or less consistent with the last six years of the show.

Aaron: Right, right. Another topic. Don was toeing the Ocean Spray/Sunkist line until he saw Ted and Peggy at the movie. What about that caused him to flip? He’s protective of Peggy, but more of like a platonic daughter, if that makes any sense. I see some similarities to Mrs. Whitman in California. Someone who knew him plain, but was able to see something in him anyway. Peggy doesn’t know about everything, but has seen him low down enough times he doesn’t really need to pretend anymore. That’s why I think Don went after Ted. You?

David: I think he just flipped on Ted at that moment. Peggy had sold Don on Ted as “the better man,” and after Ted saved little Rosen from the war, Don was ready to believe it. But then he saw them, clearly behaving like lovers, not co-workers, and playing hooky from work (again with people being in the wrong place at the wrong time!), he realized that Ted was no better, and that the biggest dollar amount should decide which account they kept. I really do think Don was acting motivated by what he sees as what’s best for the agency.

Aaron: No, you’re incorrect. You’re wrong. This was about Peggy.

David: Tell me more, I am open to this.

Aaron: Don doesn’t care about the business. Doesn’t care about anything. He just wants to win. He was fine letting Ted get his way, until it involved Peggy and then he needed to put Ted in his place and he did it in the most excruciating way he could think of. He’ll make noise about trying to protect Peggy from herself, but I think he selfishly wants to keep his sister-daughter to himself. (Obviously more nuanced.)

David: I can see it, but I’m not sold! I think Don was only thinking about Sally, and that’s why he was a little distanced. But the whole Peggy plot was a little off to me. I don't buy that Peggy would go after this bad ad. She must know it was over-budget, and not a great idea. And she was going on dates, etc., so she is clearly over the stabby hippy.

Aaron: That’s another thing that bothers me. Since when did he start caring about what Sally thinks? You think that’s why he’s so low down at the beginning and end of the episode? Agreed also on Peggy knowing enough to know the ad would be over budget.

David: I do. Because you can’t hide from what Sally saw - remember, his kids don’t know his true identity. To them, he was still the straight man (in his mind, obviously Sally has seen hints of bad behavior before). But now she’s caught him in a big lie, and he did his best to talk his way out of it, and he couldn’t. I can imagine that being devastating!

Aaron: Before Pete found out Bob was a fraud, Bob got up in his face about leaving him alone. Any idea where that came from? Caged rat?

David: Yeah, no idea. I’m not sure how thought out all those little details are. It could have just been his reflex, a way to show a hint of his true self?

Aaron: Yeah, I wish stuff like this didn’t happen. Over and over this season, hints like this happen in the same episode for which they’re useful. In season’s past, I feel like this type of detail would have come out 5 episodes ago, and then again last episode. Same with how we’re supposed to believe Don is madly in love with Sylvia. Some viewers more careful than I have noticed some inconsistencies in Bob’s life story all season, but he’s never gotten aggressive.

David: We talk about this pretty often. And often you’ll say, “It was just a setup episode,” or “they’re going to get back to this,” or “maybe they didn’t get to finish this idea.” Maybe this is a setup season? We know there will be season 7, and we (Mad Men fans) all think that the Summer of Love is going to be huge for the Draper clans. It could be Weiner knew he wasn’t going to be canceled mid-stream (a la the Killing) so he just decided to do 26 episodes as one thematic arc. And by that account, we’ve seen quite a lot.

Aaron: That could be, I guess. Well, actually. It doesn’t address my point at all, but I agree with what you’re saying. If they want to hint Bob isn’t for real, they can’t hint it 15 minutes before they reveal he’s not real. It’s too convenient. That’s what happens on ER. I expect more from Mad Men.

David We’ll find out next week? Well, all of these brief glimpses of emotion (like Bob’s aggressive streak, Joan’s resentment towards Don, Sterling’s consideration of his own mortality) could be setups for next year. Well, they did hint at Bob’s plot, since as you note some of the facts he had shared about his life were inconsistent.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 11 Recap

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Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Lately, I've been doing the recaps as a Q&A with David Jacobs right after the episode. First some quick thoughts:

-Did a lot happen in this episode? It seemed like a lot happened.
-Don and Roger were out pitching an OJ company while Pete, Peggy, and Ted were out pitching Ocean Spray. Hard to imagine this happening, but the scene outside the meeting was funny. "Not all surprises are bad." "It's all your juice."
-Peggy and Pete's mom had a awkward conversation. It's kind of amazing how often the Pete/Peggy thing comes up, but is never addressed head on. I wonder if Peggy is still blocking out the pregnancy.
-"He can't spend the rest of his life on the run." Interesting to see the Don/Dick Whitman storyline pop up finally, though via Mitchell Rosen's impending draft. It definitely felt like Don was doing what he was doing to help the kid, to keep him out of the war rather than to score points with Sylvia."He has a couple years before he has decisions to make."
-Don, very uncharacteristically, stumbled at Dinner when he floated the topic of GM helping get Mitchell off. Also weird, Pete was the one who suggested it. Wouldn't Pete know how that would go? Or did he not expect Don to flub it so badly?
-On last week's episode, Bob Benson had an opportunity to deny his homosexuality, but kept silent, this week he hit on Pete. So I guess the Bob/Joan rumblings weren't anything. Maybe Joan knows? "Bob is a wonderful salesperson."
-"War is wrong." Second time in about three weeks Don has vocally opposed the war. It seems like something of a brave or rare position in the corporate world, though it makes sense given his past.
-"Don't be an asshole, Don." Awesome.
-I haven't noticed before, but I think Pete has the same office one floor above Don. The Pete is Don parallels strike again.
-Peggy got a cat to deal with the rodent problem, perfect! A descent into cat ladydom?
-The episode title was favors: Don trying to get Mitchell out of serving, Ted taking care of that, Peggy asking a shirtless Stan to come over ("I'll make it worth your while."), some other favors.
-I'm still not buying into Don and Sylvia, despite all evidence to the contrary. I also don't buy Don getting all torn up by Sally seeing him and Sylvia. It's a normal human response, but not a normal Don Draper response. Crying in the elevator? Not knowing what to do? And then it seems like Sally just accepts it. But maybe Sylvia and Don are back on again? "Don, I owe you."
-Were there any indications about when this episode took place?

David: I feel smart for liking this episode, because it was directed by Jennifer Getzinger, who has directed (among others) the Suitcase, which is probably my favorite Mad Men episode.

Aaron: I have a lot of other details in my head so I don’t hardly ever pay attention to that unless it’s Slattery or Draper. In any case, did the episode feel choppy to you? Not negatively choppy, but it felt disjointed to me.

David: I thought it was masterful. This close to the end of the season is very tough - because the plot needs to be moved forward, but you can’t just drop the themes or the historical backdrop in favor of straight character exposition, which the show has been guilty of in the past (especially last season). Tell me more - which scenes felt the most disjointed?

Aaron: Disjointed isn’t the right word. Maybe unsettled. A LOT happened. A lot of awkward happened. But the episode as a whole didn’t feel awkward. I think scenes acted more independently tonight than they normally do. Individual vignettes, like micro-episodes. We can keep talking about it, or I can ask you to give me your best college psychology 101 for what the Peggy/rat storyline represented.

David: One of the themes that’s been most effective this season is that of expansion - as the characters find themselves in new environments, the writers and directors have opportunities to develop the story in new ways. It sounds obvious, but it’s difficult. The merger of CGC into SCDP was a crutch, but a useful one, to put the characters we know best in a new situation without leaving the office. Peggy’s move to the Upper West Side another. For the life of the series, Peggy has been ascendent. She’s been challenged, of course (most notably when she was pregnant), but she always ends ahead. I still think SCDP is on extremely thin ice, but she’s been carrying herself well. At home, though, she’s had new tenants pooping on her porch and last week’s stabbing of her boyfriend. My best college psychology 101 is that the rat showed how vulnerable Peggy really was - even as she’s otherwise successful. I also just loved the way the scene was shot - the lighting, the color, the blood across the floor. It was the rare horror cliche embedded into Mad Men, and it turned into comedy, and then farce, in the space of just a few sentences. Not to sound redundant, but hats off to Getzinger for her direction of that scene.

Aaron: Did the rat have anything to do with her past with Pete? Did it have anything to do with how the firm is operating now? Was it just a chance for her to tease Stan and see him topless?

David: I’m always happy to see Stan! Especially since so many other favorites were missing from the show this week. And I hadn’t made the Pete connection but... yes? Although I think Pete remains more interesting while he’s still exiled from his home with Trudy. I was NOT happy to see that squirrel gun back in the “coming next week” trailer. Do you think that’s a nod to the super-geek fans, or is Pete going to commit suicide (or shoot someone) in the finale?

Aaron: Is next week the finale? F. Two more episodes.This has been the season of jaw droppers, so maybe. I doubt it, though. Who would Pete shoot? His mother? Manolo the nurse? Bob Benson? Someone else? I THINK they’ve committed too much time to developing his character this season to kill him off by either having him shoot someone else or shoot himself. Pete is a mess right now, begging Peggy not to pity him is pretty pitiful. "At least one of us ended up important. Please tell me you don't pity me, because you really know me." I think more likely is Trudy takes him back. Also, I use Trudie and Trudy interchangeably. EVERYONE gets down on Pete, so I think I must be the only one sympathetic to him. "You've always been unlovable." Am I a monster? I must be a monster.

David: The actor playing Pete’s mother did an amazing job of using Trudy’s mannerisms tonight. It’s as if she was an older Trudy! But think Pete will shoot Roger, who’s been holding oranges for three weeks running! (Remember - everything on this show goes back to the Sopranos or Twin Peaks). Before we leave the theme of people being where they’re not (Pete in NYC instead of the suburbs, Don in Betsy’s bed, Peggy’s gentrification challenges, &c), I also want to remark upon the reveal of Sally walking in on Don and Sylvia. If Pete is the least sympathetic character in the show, Sally is perhaps the most sympathetic. So the setup of Pete complaining for 30 minutes about the thought of his Mom having sex, followed by Sally actually seeing her Dad having sex, was a wonderful conceit. I am excited to see how this changes their relationship (she also so Roger and Megan’s mother having sex, right?) It is interesting to me that Ted is ostensibly a good guy, but the fact that he whines to Don so much makes “the internet” dislike him. I think he’s believable, he doesn’t bother me as much as some others do. How about you?

Aaron: Ted doesn’t bother me at all. He seems like the overachiever that may have gotten picked on in high school, but has come into his own. The internet gets annoyed by him because the internet is high school. Ted finally got Don where he wants him. In the same way Pete has something on Don, now Ted does, too. Great point on the Pete/Sally contrast, and the fact Sally has now seen a lot of adults being unfaithful. It’s AMAZING she hasn’t run away yet. I really used to hate Sally, but I am not a monster anymore.

Aaron: Is it me, or has Don’s past not been as huge a factor this season? I remember it being a major theme in the past, but it’s been almost non-existent as a form of danger to Don’s lifestyle. Maybe that ended in the beginning of last season when it was clear Megan knew SOME of the secret at least, but I keep expecting it to come up again because it’s, uh, a defining theme of the show. You’re going to bring up Rosen’s kid tonight as a reference, but it’s not the same thing. Somewhat connected, in year’s past we would have seen and would be able to feel Don’s deep connection to Sylvia. It’s completely unbelievable to me, but yet it’s a consistent theme. Why would be so shaken by Sally seeing them (I mean, duh, he’d be shaken), the Don Draper of year’s past would have instantly been able to control the situation.

David: Well, it was just below the surface this entire episode. As you ask the question about Don’s service, I’m realizing that my own feeling that none of the characters are quite right starts with Dick Whitman - who is the foundational “person in a place he is not supposed to be” in the whole show. You mentioned before the show to me that perhaps Pete’s mother’s nurse would have known Don from the war, but the topic of “service” kept coming up repeatedly, not just Mitchell Rosen, but also Pete’s palpable resent at the favor he had to pull with the Department of Defense (was that three seasons ago?) and the uncharacteristic behavior with GM. I was surprised that it’s taken this long for Don/Dick to come out so steadfastly against the war, but I was pleased to see it in my own “I’m really trying to find ways to relate to this miserable human being of a character” way. And your point about Sally is also a good one - he literally retreated to a bar! In the past, we perhaps wouldn’t have even acknowledged it. But perhaps that shows growth - he’s truly beginning to love his children, and the bind that Mitchell is in reinforces that love.

Aaron: I really felt Don helped Mitchell out more because of his own service, not because of his love for Sylvia... I just don’t want to accept that relationship as a driving part of Don’s character. Maybe it’s a mental block for me, but to me it felt like Don was trying to keep a kid out of the war, a decent action he could likely achieve. The way the show is going, it seems like I’m supposed to believe he did it for Sylvia. Am I way off?

David: I think you are spot on! I really enjoy the conspiracy theories, but I do feel like Matt Weiner is trying to build a show about the time period - not about the individual characters. In a lot of ways Don’s affair with Sylvia is completely immaterial - this was a vehicle for him to be assertively anti-war, and it was conspicuously connected to his past. Again, great direction. No sound effects, flash backs or voiceovers - but when Don paused briefly in the conversation with Dr. Rosen in that diner, I thought for a second he was going to reveal everything. That would have been something! I feel like there’s a little bit left to Dr. Rosen’s story - somehow the Leica will come back. Look at me, getting right back to conspiracy theories!

Aaron: Sally seeing Don and Sylvia, the merger, to a certain extent Bob Benson hitting on Pete, and any number of other seriously shocking scenes, have happened this season, and almost without fail, they’re no longer mentioned after the next commercial break. Why is that happening? Is it happening?

David: Well, as with the constant mentions of the war, I think those scenes are moving forward a mood as much as the plot itself. And we did get a Don/Sally confrontation, albeit through a closed door. I think they’ll be tied up, though. Something big has to happen to Sally - next season or in the next two weeks. She’s the link to the present.

Aaron: I think that’s going to be it, though! Sally accepted it and moved on.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 10 Recap

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Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Here's a conversation I had with David Jacobs right after the episode. First some thoughts:

-This episode takes place at the end of August during the tumultuous Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Extended time was devoted to showing actual footage of the riots that occurred between protestors in Chicago and police, along with the reactions of Don, Megan, and Joan. I'm not totally sure why Joan's reaction was shown unless it was a foreshadowing that things are going to change for her. "The whole world is watching." was pointedly audible during the end of the riot footage. A reference to advertising…
-Don and Roger on the plain. "Leave the drudgery to the underlings." "Be slick, be glib, be you." tonight. Don was trying to be prepared for the meeting and it turned out they were all a little bit unprepared for how angry Carnation was in general, and specifically about SCDP also representing Life Cereal.
-Bob Benson had a lot of air time, I do not know where this is going. First Cutler yells at him for always being on the Creative floor, and then his listening to inspirational records pays off when he talks Ginsberg off the proverbial ledge and gets him to go to a meeting.
-Joan thought she was being set up on a date with a successful divorcee, but it was actually a client meeting. I really hope this works out for her! Pete was mad about how it developed and through a tantrum about how things are supposed to work in the agency. Pete is definitely more well suited to hang around the straight-laced CGC guys vs. the loosey goosey SCDP crew.
-"Hippies don't wear make up at all." and "I'm not sure if we should be groovier or nostalgic. We're somewhere in between."
-Once in a while Mad Men will show the conventional wisdom of politics, and until now, there have been a few Democrats and a few Republicans, but not much polarization. The zealotry of the Carnation exec in favor of Nixon, and then again the exec in favor of Regan, were a couple of the first times where the political climate of today was foreshadowed. Also, Cutler saying his politics were private.
-"Because it's better than being screwed by you."
-"All agency business is your business." Ted realizes Pete is feeling inconsequential, and is trying to make him feel better.
-Cutler is definitely a mini-Sterling with the one liners. Dryer, and with less joie de vivre than Roger, but still. "It's the only thing that's equally offensive."
-Here's GIF-evidence of Don and Pete being on the same path.
-Nice hand-drawn lettering on the Work Smarter Not Harder poster on Stan and Ginsberg's office. Turns out it's by David Weidman and was done in 1968.

Aaron: Tonight’s episodes was called “Tale of Two Cities,” which could be talking about the differences between NYC and LA or Chicago, but as you know, ‘Tale of Two Cities’ is a famous novel with a famous opening paragraph:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”


So yeah, that’s what’s happening on Mad Men and in general in 1968, huh? I liked this episode. I thought it was snappier, I thought more things happened to move plot forward, the dialogue was good. How do you think the title of the episode directly applies to the episode tonight, and what’d you think?

David: I liked it. I think the title of the episode is a big nod to the constant comparisons of TV shows (like Mad Men, the Wire, Deadwood, etc.) to the serialized drama of Dickens, but also it is indeed the best of times and worst of times for SC&P. Even as they gain new business they tend to do it in a reckless (dare I say sloppy?) way, and Ted and his crew’s machinations wouldn’t be addressed unless things are going to end very badly. But there were some great moments tonight - Sterling getting cock-punched, the return of Dawn, the return of Danny Siegel (!) and Joan and Peggy’s confrontation near the elevators. Earlier in the season when Dawn told her friend how miserable the mood at SCDP was, we hadn’t quite seen it yet. Now we’re seeing it.

Like most Dickens, the Red Wedding, and Twin Peaks we’re in for a sad ending. The episode included some pretty dark foreshadowing - not just Megan (dressed again as Sharon Tate), Peter falling further into desperation, and Roger’s discussion of death, but also Don’s near death experience.

Despite these dark forebodings, we’re in the “downshift” half of the season, so I expect crowd-pleasers the rest of the way. In addition to the Vega, which we know will be a bomb, the Carnation breakfast campaign that Don hinted at in his meeting with instant breakfast executives (“it’s as healthy as two eggs and bacon, but easier to make”!) was the subject of a lawsuit just a few years later:

"The Carnation Company of Los Angeles has promised to stop making what the Federal Trade Commission called unwarranted nutrition claims in advertising Carnation Instant Breakfast, the commission announced today. The commission's complaint alleged, among other things, that the advertisements falsely implied that Carnation Instant Breakfast had the nutritional benefit of two fresh eggs, two slices of bacon, two slices of buttered toast and an orange or a glass of orange”


I don’t think we’re going to get to the 70s this season, so this is all laying the groundwork for season 7. But the as you noted, the plot did move forward. I would also like to note that I thought it was masterfully directed, which is frankly unusual for a John Slattery directed episode. I couldn’t help but think of Annie Hall during the LA scenes. There’s a wonderful moment in Annie Hall when Woody Allen and Diane Keaton drive past a Santa being pulled by a reindeer sleigh, but of course it’s on a green lawn since it doesn’t snow in California. It’s a classic fish-out-of-water joke, the kind of things great directors background. Besides the obvious, what did you think of Harry, Roger, and Don’s California expedition?

Aaron: I believe this was the first California trip for Don since Mrs. Whitman died of cancer, and I was a little surprised she wasn’t referenced somehow. Harry Crane has been out to LA several times, but he’s still awkward as all hell, still NY, and still desperate. Roger’s completely out of his league at the party, “You’ll have to try harder than that.” And Don is Don. The whole house party was remarkable and full, the whole recap could be spent talking about it. First, there’s Danny Siegel, Jane’s (Roger’s ex) cousin who Roger made Don hire. Don stole Danny’s copy when pitching Life Cereal while drunk, and had to hire him for a couple days.

Then, after Don smokes some hash, we got a dream sequence where he sees Megan, who tells him she’s pregnant (maybe next week?), and he sees the soldier he helped marry in the opening episode of the season. I like keeping track of the quotations where Don’s being/personality are referenced, so, “I already told you that's not my name.” But also, "My wife thinks I'm MIA, but I'm actually dead." Megan thinks Don is at work, but he’s been hollowed out, and, “Dying doesn't make you whole. You should see what you do look like." Then he fell in the pool. The solder’s dialogue and Don falling into the pool were both a reference to the Hawaiian hotel ad campaign of the guy’s suit and the footsteps into the sea. I know what direction you think this means we’re headed in, David, but I’m still resistant to the idea. Did I miss anything in the house party scene, and also, what do you think of Joan/Avon?

David: Besides all of the fish-out-of-water references - name checks of television and movie executives, references to Danny’s “guest house,” Don’s first try of hashish (I’m astonished there’s a drug these guys haven’t tried!), and of course their wardrobe, I think this covers it. I also appreciated that Roger saved Don’s life, after talking about how useless he was going to be on the way out. And I enjoyed Harry Crane with the playing field tilted in his favor, for once.

I was a little surprised that Joan didn’t try to appeal to Pete directly, since they’d been building that relationship up a little bit over the last few episodes. And I would also think that Pete would be more supportive of her meeting with the client. But in the end, Pete was right, as Joan was awkward throughout the meeting. I think they probably will not get Avon, and that this coupled with other business going south will lay the groundwork for a bad ending for her. (I know it’s frustrated that I keep making predictions with no more depth than “bad,” but guessing with any more precision is probably a fool’s errand). What do you think of Joan’s power move? How will this end for her?

Aaron: Wait, you can’t ask me how this will end, I just asked you about Joan. I’m pretty surprised Pete wasn’t more supportive also, actually, as yes, they had been building their relationship more, seemingly. The two options for her are she doesn’t get the client and life for her returns to status quo, after she rightly or wrongly “learns her place” as it were, or she does get the client and begins a career in client work to go with her partnership. Not saying Joan deserves being stuck where she is because she’s a woman, just wondering if that’s how it will be portrayed. Speaking of the agency, for some reason Cutler and Chaough agreed to change the name to Sterling Cooper & Partners (“SC&P”), which must be foreshadowing something. More interesting to me, though, is this is Don getting erased, getting unthere’d, along with Pete Campbell’s fate being tied again to Don. This keeps happening, the Pete and Don thing having a similar path. What’d you think of the name change, what it means in regard to Cutler wanting to fire the riff raff, and in regard to the future of the firm?

David: Well, the guy who died told Ted to let Draper et al win the early rounds, and that’s what this is. Benson and Ken have been banished to Detroit, Joan and Pete are going to be split, Don (who is still clearly the talent, despite Roger’s girlfriend line with Carnation), are all being background. Besides Roger and Bert, are there any solid relationships left among the SCDP partners?

Aaron: Joan and Don. Unless they broke up after Don fired Jaguar.

David: Yeah, I just don’t think the trust is there anymore. Everyone is unhappy.

Aaron: Peggy’s line about not sleeping with Don was also pretty pointed. Guess she knows about Jaguar?

David: Jaguar, or Roger. In any case, to answer your question, I think the firm survives this season, but is blown up during the summer of 1969 next season. The Chicago riots got a lot of air time, and they also inflamed emotions at the office. I actually thought we’d get a little deeper into the election of ‘68 than we have, especially around the convention. I halfway expected to see Peggy’s ex on the screen. Whether or not that was the birth of “The Whole World is Watching” (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_whole_world_is_watching ), I thought the Carnation executive’s political chatter, as well as the Avon executives frustration at women going to work was a little ham-fisted. In general, I feel like the “current” events of the show aren’t woven as elegantly into the fabric of the show as they used to be. Watching something happen on the TV is a little lazy - we’re just watching people on TV watch things on TV. I feel like other events (such as the JFK assassination) flowed better. Do you agree?

Aaron: When Joan stared at the riots, I thought we were going to see Abe, too. Or at least someone we knew, but that would have been totally ham-fisted. And I agree the expository TV and radio usage has been pretty heavy this year, I think we mentioned that a couple weeks ago, too. There was so much happening in 1968, and it seems like they want to touch on most of it. For the rest of 1968, there’s the Mexico City Olympics, halt to bombing in North Vietnam, and the upcoming election that may be referenced later on.

I think that might just about do it.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 9 Recap

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Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Still working on a different recap structure with David Jacobs. Some thoughts then a discussion.
First some thoughts:

-This episode had two “OH MAN!” scenes, Betty leaving the door open for Don, and Peggy stabbing Abe, which was reminiscent of the British executive getting his foot runover with a lawnmower. I’m not sure if we’ve ever had two “OH MAN!” scenes in a single episode before.
-Harry Crane is a master of ambiguity. "I feel strongly both ways."
-There was a Don vs Ted battle to start the show. They got to a stalemate, and then Ted acquiesced and then Don did. It was definitely a biggest dick competition and no one really wanted to get in the middle of it. Later on, Don challenged Peggy and wouldn’t accept they could both be right, "There's a right and there's a wrong." Peggy might be a little biased, "He's interested in the idea and you're interested in your idea." But Don knows what’s going on. "He's interested in his idea, don't let him fool you."
-"Who is that man?" Yes, Don, who?
-”The Better Half” is the title of the episode. Henry and Betty, Don and Megan, Don and Betty, Abe and Peggy, Roger and everyone, Pete Campbell and the firm, Pete Campbell and his family.
-While I got the sense, Don was just out on a conquest with Betty, he also got (gets) pretty sentimental immediately after sex. "Thinking about how different you are before and after." "I can only hold your attention so long." And Don asks, "Why is sex the definition of being close to someone." But isn’t that pretty clearly how he gets close to people? "She doesn't know that loving you is the worst way to get to you."
-"Don Draper: Father of the Year."
-Apparently Pete Campbell is the only one at SCDP who hasn’t broken a promise to Joan? "Only person there who hasn't broken a promise to me."

Aaron: Abe says Peggy is not a brave person, reinforcing an idea Don had brought up earlier in the episode. This is shocking because Peggy has always done a good job going after what she wants, and more importantly, getting it. She forced her way into copywriting, off the secretary desk, and got a job as copy chief at a new agency. That's not brave? Do you think she isn't brave? Do you think she's changed? Has Peggy gotten complacent? Or is it possible that Don has heightened expectations for her and she hasn't (yet) stepped up to the level he expects?

David: She’s definitely brave - she's the pioneer of the show, not just moving to the UWS - but all of the things you said. Has she changed? Yes, because there's only so much further she can move up, and so she's more aware of Ted & Don as flawed peers than idols. Don is not the Carousel Don anymore. He's not even contributing to the creative. He was writing product spots without the product, and he ended up giving half his company away to his biggest rival. And he is now butter, trying to sell margarine. It viscerally disgusts him to sell an imitation of himself. Someone said “Butter is fresh, Margarine is indestructible” - and that’s what Don is up against.

And I think Peggy sees that, and that's why she's pushing him. You still don't buy the product spots with product thing, do you? Let’s get to when Peggy stabbed Abe. I did not see that coming, but she certainly was looking to jettison him.

Aaron: I don’t look at the merger as Don giving away half his company. He wanted one of the major auto-makers and this was the way to get it. Theoretically the billings from Chevy would be worth way more than half the business before.

Both Peggy and Abe were on something of an adventure, dating the other side. Abe trying to convert Peggy to the counter culture, and Peggy trying to turn Abe into something she can bring home to her mother. She also hasn’t historically made the best decisions when it comes to guys. From Pete to Duck (DUCK IS BACK!) to married Ted... I actually thought Peggy and Abe would make it a couple weeks ago when he was talking about their kids.

That last scene was great when she goes in to speak with Ted and he’s in rah rah creative mode. He went from the one still thinking about their kiss on Friday, to having moved on completely on Monday. He gets cultish when he’s excited. Then she goes out to the hallway and is caught in the middle between two men who have shut their doors on her.

David: Right, every door closes to her, and a brick is thrown through her window!

Aaron: There have been foreshadows to Don and Betty sleeping together again for about two seasons (the last meeting in the kitchen of their old house after it’s sold). One episode she hates him and says so, and the next minute she’s leaving her door open to him. I think it shows the shallowness of both of them. I think it shows that Betty is just feeling frisky and I think it shows Don just out on a conquest. It just had the extra charge of their previous experiences.

David: Yes, she was so intoxicated by being in a family situation with Bobby - the only child they both truly love (she doesn’t love Sally, he doesn’t love Gene). It’s Don’s last hurrah as a god, father Abraham, himself!

Aaron: You see so much more in the show. I don’t think it had anything to do with Bobby. I think it had more to do with their ‘strangers meeting in Rome’ game. Betty liked that she could do it and not get caught “No, I mean do I look like I’ve had three children?” Betty liked that she had Don’s attention.

David: I agree, that was there as well. Since now Francis is as absent as Don was (it appears). All the way down the make-out session in the back of the car. This show often returns to cars and masculinity. “Every time there’s a car here the company turns into a whorehouse...” Francis appeared to be faking it in the back seat of that black car (to me). But Don was driving his own car (of course). And was even able to cut through the BS Catskills directions and just say “follow me.”

Aaron: I have no idea what you’re talking about. Henry was passionately pawing at Betty because he got off on another man hitting on her. Betty just got off on the extra attention. I know you love Bob Benson, so you got some good screentime with him today. He’s escorting Joan to the beach. Is it a date? Or does Bob friendzone himself?

David:: …. I think the beach is lover’s territory. Bob wants to be her husband, and he must have a whiff of the fact that she saved his job.

Aaron:: WAIT, no one gives a shit about bob. this is about Roger. Roger coming over was hilarious. “Who are you?” Roger’s trying to be a father to the kid he had with Joan, so he spoils his grandson. I got the sense he bought the Lincoln Logs for his grandson, but his daughter wouldn’t let him in so he thought he’d bring them over to Joan. In any case, what’s going on with Roger?

David: Well, he is also beginning to feel a longing for family. His mother died, obviously, he knows about Pete and Don’s troubles, it sounds like he’s been sort of a deadbeat grandfather, so Joan’s so is his last option. And I do love it when Roger dresses up, but it also makes me think, “Uh-oh, what does he want this time?” Roger also probably wants to spend more time with his kids since Gleason passed away. I like the Lincoln Logs theory, too.

Can we talk about the scene were Abe broke up with Peggy was an all-time great IMHO? Was he stabbed with a broom handle attached to a kitchen knife?

Aaron: Yes. You don’t have one of those? I guess we can talk about it. I thought the stabbing scene was better. He just got brutally honest in the ambulance because he thought he was going to die. It was interesting to me that he projected all of the issues on to Peggy, though. He said she was the problem, she was the antithesis of his beliefs. Basically, “It’s not me, it’s you.” And that’s bullshit because if he was with her and believed that, then he’s the coward for staying with her. Wasn’t he then staying with her because she was safe?

David: Well, he might have been angry? She did stab him! Reading that New York Magazine article, though, I wonder if Abe would have been against living on the Upper West Side. It’s from 1969, but people in 1968 were certainly aware of gentrification as a social problem. And obviously her income made his lifestyle possible.

Aaron: ‘Now I have a great ending for my story.’

David: Great line, great line! I do NOT want to see Peggy and Pete get back together, but my spidey-sense is tingling. Which brings us to Duck. Shouldn’t it be obvious what happened to Vick’s? I think he was playing circumspect, and I don’t trust him. They wouldn’t bring him back for a tiny role.

Aaron: Well, what happened to Vick’s is his father in law saw Pete in a brothel. I don’t think that would be obvious.

David: Ah, I meant that it was family troubles. Because the relation would be known. You don’t fire your son-in-law’s firm when all is well. So Duck, I think, knows something.

Aaron: Duck reminds me of someone I used to work with. I did not like him at all. He also reminds me of one of the shallow characters... Basically all the account guys, and Harry Crane... I’ve talked about this before, I think, but how can Pete possibly be any good as an account guy? In the first couple seasons, we’d see great pitches to see Don has advertising chops. The closest we’ve ever seen of that is Roger bedding a stewardess so she could spy on traveling executives for him. Why?

David: OK, I think there are three questions here. Harry Crane, as far as I can tell, was simply early on understanding TV, and accidentally became good at it (with some earlier cues by Joan). Roger is not obviously great, but he’s incredibly charismatic, and I love his little tricks (like “water with an onion in it”). I am guessing that Pete is a miniature Roger, learning (and stealing) some of those tricks, but also getting people drunk and high, introducing them to prostitutes, etc. And since it was all on the company account, it’s washing away. But Duck is thin gruel, weak sauce, no moleste. There’s nothing there, which is why I am worried by his return. He’s like the grim reaper of plot. I did love it when he locked the dog outside, that was a moment of theatre that really illustrated what a terrible human he was.

Aaron: “Early on understanding TV.” but we don’t ever get to see him doing anything special. “Let’s do a musical special!” He’s early on understanding it because the writers tell us he is. Pete Campbell and Roger are superior account guys because the writers tell us he is. They actually show us Ted and Don being good at advertising (well, more accurately selling their ideas). It’s one of my biggest pet peeves of the show. It feels like cheap and lazy writing up against the good stuff.


David: This is the Top Chef vs. Top Model/Project Runway dilemma. You can see the dresses, or the models, but you can never taste the food. It’s the same way with Pete & Roger, they never woo US, only minor characters. And your opinion about the account guys is fair, and I think ultimately Weiner thinks they and their kind are worthless, and that’s reflected in the treatment they get on the show.

Aaron: It’s giving the show a lot of credit, but I guess I’d buy that.

David: I loved this episode, and the last couple (on rewatch). I do feel like we are moving forward in time, which is ultimately what people want to feel from Mad Men (cue “Carousel YouTube clip”). Should we discuss the Megan/mentor scene? The writers are playing with the “mentor’s crush” dynamic between Ted & Peggy as well, but it felt flat to me.

Aaron: Yes, please do discuss this. Megan is another one who we were told how great she was at advertising, but it never really felt real.

David: I always got the idea she was NOT good at advertising, but Don flattered her and everyone was afraid to tell her the truth. And of course the same thing is happening in the acting world too, since he got her her first commercial gig. But ultimately Megan wanted advice from her mentor and her advice was “Here it is, make out with me and I’ll put in a good word with my husband!”

Aaron: Nah. We were supposed to believe she was actually good at it. "You're a good actress on your way to becoming, well, at least a successful one."

David: Could be, I don’t remember. But I was pleasantly surprised that she stayed loyal to Don. I guess part of the point is that she’s still naive, but I also can’t shake the feeling something bad is going to happen to her.

Aaron: Maybe she’s going to fall out of a window like Pete.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 8 Recap

MadMen NoTimeForArt

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Still working on a different recap structure with David Jacobs. Some thoughts then a discussion.

This was a weird one. The first 40 minutes were drug trips and flashbacks, and then we started getting to the meat of the episode. There were some funny moments, and pithy moments, but overall, I think this was a gimmick episode. It's a good thing the series is ending next year, otherwise we'd probably be headed for a clips show soon.

-The episode title is "The Crash" referencing Ken's car crash with drunken Chevy execs, the crash that comes after the agency's 3 day speed binge, and possibly some darker themes as well.
-Finally Dr. Hex(?) asks what we've all been thinking, "What are you going to call this place?"
-"I hate how dying makes saints out of people." Kind of a throw away line from one of the no name CGC creatives, but valid.
-"Do what you have to." I liked this line, but can't remember what it referenced.
-Stan tried to get with Peggy and she seemed to be willing to try it out, but it didn't stick. Things could be going much better for Abe.
-Sally was reading 'Rosemary's Baby' at Megan and Don's house. It's a book about someone who makes a deal with the devil to further their acting career.
-Why is teenage Don Draper such a dork?
-"I'm your grandma." Sally got social engineered by a burglar who made her eggs. What!? It ends up being doubly Don's fault because he left the backdoor open, likely after visiting Sylvia's door, and because, "Then I realized I don't know anything about you." Sally was rightly suspicious they were being robbed, but couldn't be sure because she doesn't know anything about Don. I imagine this will come up again this season.


David: Hi Aaron, nice use of “lugubrious” last week!

Aaron: I do what I can. Let’s get right into it. What the actual fuck?

David: So this week I’ve been thinking (and talking with friends) about how Weiner actually spends most of the show creating a mood. Obviously, the technical execution of the show, especially the set and costumes, are exceptional. But the show runners aren’t trying to make things happen, they’re trying to make you feel a certain way. We had the wonderful payoff of the merger and the Chevy merger, and then last weeks’ setback for Don - but this week threw me for another loop. I kept going back to Dawn’s comments a few episodes ago about how SCDP was a miserable place - now it’s even more miserable. Have we seen SCDP’s peak? I think so, and I have to say I hope so.

Aaron: Starting out with an easy one, huh? Did SCDP ever peak? It seems like they were on the verge of bankruptcy for a while and then they got their footing and rented an extra floor for appearances. Workwise, what have the highlights been? Beans? (David: LOVED the cameo of the beans artwork this week!) Your instinct is to ask these broad questions about the show as a whole, but our responsibility is recap the episode, so I ask again, What the actual fuck?

David: I know! It’s because we’ve been trained by these plot-driven shows to recap what happened. But I think we’ve been outflanked. There’s nothing but mood. In any case, you were right about Sylvia. Don is shattered, and it’s brought his life as a functioning adult to a halt. I didn’t see that coming.

Aaron: Is that a question?

David: I’m getting there! Last week Done was the master of the universe, getting Sylvia off on an unanswered phone call, and drinking Ted under the table. This week Cutler brings in a doctor to give them all a “boost” and he find himself incapacitated (“Even Chevy is misspelled”). Last week Ken Cosgrove was a “six foot Alan Ladd, this week he’s tap dancing on a broken foot. (Obligatory GIF.) We are all chasing the weekly plot summary, but the scene that most represents this season is Ted flying Don up through the clouds last week. Rain and turbulence, but even above the clouds Don looked like he was ready to retch. He’s lost control of his house, Megan is going to find out about the affair, he’s lost his ability to contribute to the Chevy account, and he even left Sally, Bobby, and Gene alone while a robber visited the apartment. Without reading the tea-leaves too deeply, this doesn’t end well for any of them. Two of the seven initials in SCDP CGC are already dead - I’m guessing we lose one more this year. I know you thought it may be Roger, but do you think there could be a season 7 without Don?

Aaron: No. If the series wasn’t going to end next series, then possibly. It’d be like when Dr. Doug Ross left ER and they’d groom other characters to take his place.

David: I don’t really think he’ll die (until the end of next season). I just want him too. He just writes himself out of everything, and he’s a burden on everyone who surrounds him. There’s still no Chevy in the Chevy pitch. And I don’t think this is coincidental anymore, because not only is the product not mentioned in the ad for Chevy (or “oatmeal?”), the product doesn’t exist! When Peggy calls him out, he rushes to Sylvia’s apartment.

Aaron: That was the drugs. I think he thought he was solving the Chevy issue, too, but you know how you can get hyperfocused on one thing when a sketchy doctor stabs you in the ass with speed? Here’s my question: Did you like this episode?

David: I haven’t liked any of the episodes this year, until I rewatch them (and yes, I know this sounds just like the http://video.wired.com/watch/angry-nerd-new-trek?c=series angry nerd star trek videos). But I have to say, I loved it. The business is built on fiction, just like Don Draper’s existence. We’re seeing the fracturing of that. I’m guessing you loved Betty’s return?

Aaron: Betty is back on blonde, and also mean. Of her 10 or so lines this episode, two of them were inappropriately sexual. Commenting to Sally about her skirt "I earned it." "On what street corner." and saying Megan was working the casting couch. So why’s Betty getting smaller as a person?

David: I don’t know why she has to be so mean! Although I’m struck that perhaps Henry Francis is going to get killed, just as Bobby feared. OK, so other quick notes! I was disappointed there was no follow-up to the Rosen’s son in France. Presumably his life was in danger? It would be remarked upon. I would have liked more Ted this week, I thought he had some nice momentum going last week. And I missed Bob Benson too. I would have loved to see him on that speed cocktail. What would have happened to him? Back to this week, what did you make of Gleason’s daughter, Wendy, turning the office into a “whorehouse,” in the words of Don?

Aaron: I’m actually not sure Don was referring to Wendy when he made the “Every time we get a car this place turns into a whorehouse.” comment. He was definitely talking about Joan and Jaguar, but maybe he was talking about clients in general. More and more, Don feels put upon when the clients don’t like his work. Along those lines, he ends up having to do something he doesn’t want to do, he ends up feeling like he’s working for his money. So as Don’s ideas become less appealing to the clients, as he’s less able to sell the ideas to the clients, he thinks of what he’s doing as prostitution. On Wendy, though, the teenage daughter of a dead advertising exec? That was a pretty vivid foreshadowing of a road Sally could go down in a few years.

David: I think that Don used to feel like his work was meaningful, but he is losing it. Don is recognizing that his work and life are meaningless. I’m not sure there’s a deep meaning to the flashbacks - the point of the flashback was that Don grew up in a whorehouse. And now Don finds himself still in a whorehouse. This may be why he misses Sylvia so much - and as you note why he is so upset about Wendy. He believed that he was selling (and, in a way, producing) happiness. That’s over for good now, there won’t be another “Carousel” episode, I think that Don is gone. Did you miss Bob Benson? I missed Bob Benson.

Aaron: Nah. There are so many characters these days, Bob’s on the team that gets to be in 8 episodes with a small story arc in 3 of them. He’s a glorified Roger, Pete, Joan, Betty, Ted... I wonder if there will be some problem with him and Pete over Joan.

Aaron: I’m surprised you didn’t key more on Wendy’s line, "Does someone love me?” “That's everyone's question." That’s pretty much the best way to describe the Don you see, right?

David: Yes, exactly. Everyone else is surrounded by real loss - the death of a partner or father - and Don is mourning an affair. I do worry there’s going to be a problem with Pete & Joan. They’ve been trading meaningful glances all season - but Joan is not getting what Pete thinks he’s sending. Hey, how much time passed between these episodes? Wasn’t Megan going to take a couple weeks off?

Aaron: Damn it. I usually try to keep track of that stuff pretty closely. I’m not sure if there were any clues at all. Interesting how they completely skipped over the RFK assassination, huh? Tell me what else you want to mention about this episode.

David: I’m just uncomfortably drawn to Don. He’s Tony Soprano: if you just step back and look at what he does, he is horrible. But he’s surrounded by all these people we want to root for. Both Twin Peaks and the Sopranos (the two series I feel are closest to Mad Men in tone) had these dark, ambiguous endings, and I think we’re in for that with Don too. Can we go back to the spot that’s ostensibly about Sylvia? Did you like the episode? I forgot to ask you earlier.

Aaron: I liked parts of it. I laughed uncontrollably when Zac Galifinakis, I mean Stan, got stabbed in the arm. I didn’t like it as a whole, I thought it was gimmicky. Did you like it? It was weird, when Don called Peggy and Ginsberg in to talk about his breakthrough. He said it was bigger than selling cars, but... it’s not really clear what “it” is/was. Did he actually have an idea? Or was it just a script to get Sylvia to listen to him? I wasn’t really clear on that.

Aaron: I’ve been annoyed by Don the last two weeks about how he’s taking Sylvia dumping him. He's Don freaking Draper. There wasn't really anything in the previous episodes indicating he had such deep feelings for her, so… what’s the deal? I feel manipulated by the writers because they portrayed this as another of his affairs, but when it ended he’s suddenly crushed. If they wanted us to see it differently, they should have treated it differently. Maybe she's representative of how out of control Don feels in the rest of his life (which is another season!). That is, the one thing he did have control over (for a couple days in a hotel) he doesn't control anymore. "I want you to try to be happy." "I'm feeling a lot of emotions, too." And then, Don snaps out of it after the robbery. It's like the crash after the weekend of working and the danger he put his kids in by leaving the door open snapped him out of it. This is Rock Bottom Don. Maybe we can expect big things from him the rest of the season.

David: I also thought it was odd how shook up he was, they didn’t quite pull that off (last week, I even denied he was). But I think you are right - although I also think the damage has been done - I don’t think they’ll lose Chevy, but we’re still not sure how they are replacing Vick’s/Clearasil, and other products. And what happened to the Joe Namath special? Surely that was a disaster in waiting.

Aaron: My sense is that they don’t need to replace Vick’s/Clearasil because they have Chevy. Cutler said Chevy was paying for all those weekend workathons.

David: I wish I’d been on record earlier about the Twin Peaks -> Sopranos (David Chase) -> Mad Men lineage. We’ve talked about i over IM. but this was obviously a Twin Peaks/Sopranos dream sequence episode. It’s a particular genre, a sort of lazy (but fun) way to make sure that the characters that need to have epiphanies. In fact, we can call this genre of episode “the epiphanator.” Anyway, Aaron, “are we negroes?” Why even have Bobby on the show if we’re just going to destroy him? Is the point that children of the sixties are idiots?

Aaron: I love Bobby. All he cares about is hair grease and watching TV.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 7 Recap

MadMens6e7

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. Still working on a different recap structure with David Jacobs. Some thoughts then a discussion.

First, some quick thoughts David and I didn’t get a chance to discuss.
-I didn't know the phrase "The worm has turned" comes from Shakespeare.
-Pete has a rough go of it this week, between his mother’s Alzheimer’s/dementia, and literally not having a seat at the table, "I went to a meeting this morning and there was no chair for me." Here we go again with Pete getting the sympathetic treatment. I get whiplash trying to decide if we’re supposed to like him or hate him.
-Title of the episode was “Man With a Plan” which is strange because I can’t really think of anything that went according to plan in this episode except Bob Benson’s sucking up to Joan. Maybe it was altruistic, and without guile, but it worked. "Every good deed is not part of a plan."
-Guess we all thought Joan was pregnant, but it was just a cyst on her ovary. Not sure if anything will happen between her and Bob or if what we saw (him taking her to hospital, her saving his job) was “it” happening.
-Don hears a vicious fight between Dr. Rosen and his wife. It was the first scene(?), which I think is why I noted it here.
-"First day in school, are you nervous?" It’s annoying there was no indication of how the merged firm will look structurally. Who will have which role, etc. Peggy is presumably the highest creative, under Ted and Don of course, but beyond that, we don’t really know.
-Peggy and Joan. "How's your little boy?" "How's yours?" They always had a pretty weird relationship. Coolly affectionate maybe? Envy at the other’s strengths.
-The scene between Roger and Bert Peterson seemed mostly like an excuse to give Roger some great one liners. I don’t recall Roger having any reason to not like Bert previously.
-Don was enchanted by Mrs. Dr. Rosen’s, "I need you and nothing else will do." That’s when the dom/sub plot formed in his mind.
-Peggy and Don back in his office having conversation. She still talks to him like no one else does, and I hope we get more of that. “He can't drink like you and you must know that because nobody can.” But also, more importantly, "Move forward."
-"Sometimes when you're flying you think you're right side up, but you're really upside down." Don won the margarine round, but Ted’s wins the Mohawk round. "No matter what I say, you're the guy who flew us up in his own plane."
-Don was crushed when the doctor’s wife dumped him, but even then, he’s trying to put his spin on it. "It's easy to give up something when you're satisfied." It was an moment, because Don yelled at Pete last week about knowing when something was over.

Aaron: It seems as though the SCDP creative is much more of a motley crew. Stan's bushy beard and Bieber hair. Ginsberg's general weirdness. Compared to CGC's buttoned up guy, one of whom is even a Republican. What do you make of that?

David: Well, it's a lazy way to communicate that they are "more creative," and all those CGC folks feel like redshirts to me. I liked Margie (Margie?!) and I am surprised they wrote her out of the show. But I think we're headed to a Duck what-his-face situation with Ted, who’s already complaining way too much about the SCDP culture. There weren't any work villains left in Don's life post-Herb, so Ted is stepping right up.

Aaron: But CGC had been getting the clients/accolades, so I don't think they're less creative. I think they represent more of the older way of advertising instead of Stan and Ginsberg ushering in the type of person we know of as "creatives." For instance, Ted was using a formula to figure out how to pitch Fleischman's. Almost like advertising as science.

David: But didn't his process come to nothing? I think the scene where they were "rapping" just betrayed how little his process worked. No ideas at all, and then the meeting ended.

Aaron: The contrast was pretty stark in how they portrayed the two styles of advertising. CGC and brainstorming sessions, SCDP is Don drinking in a room until he gets an idea.

David: I'm a little bit disoriented when it comes to Don's arc - he's just getting everything he wants over and over, and as Don famously said, happiness is just a moment before you want more happiness. But, I’m not sure why he feels threatened. They went out of his way to talk about how rich he was last week, but it’s always paired with how unhappy he is. Is there another way to tell this story again? I guess I wouldn’t even call it an arc, it’s more of a narrative pancake. What do you think?

Aaron: We better hope so. Don’s definitely in a different place than he has been in recent years. This season he’s neither on top of the world or underneath it. I actually don’t think I’m too concerned about the arc repeating because I don’t see it as so clearly repetitive as you do. He’s the main character of the show and I think you don’t like him very much, which is fair, but it’s not the same story every season with him as it is with Walt in Breaking Bad (1. Figure out how to get money. 2. Get money. 3. Lose money.)

David: It drives me nuts when the writers of Mad Men wink to the superfans, it just gets in the way of the narrative for me, and it's distracting. But I loved the Gilligan Island's conversation. Whereas the SCDP to Gillian's character mappings were quite clear, now that there are more characters on the show, they just don't match up anymore. And when Don connected the growing number of brands of margarines, I couldn’t help but wonder if he wasn’t talking about the growing number of characters on the show as well. Lots of meta-winks this episode. Megan talking about being written out of the show (as January Jones and others have been), the Gilligan's Island chat, the news of Bobby Kennedy's assassination being broken by Pete's mother (I also assumed she meant JFK), and the deep background of the May '68 Paris riots. The show (especially last week's show) is rich enough without these distractions, in my opinion, and compared to last week's episode absolutely nothing happened. Should we be worried? I hate to go there, but are we in a Lost season 5 situation, where the occasional great episode fools us into thinking this is better than it is?

Aaron: I don't know, I don't know. I want to believe I'm staying up late writing these recaps every Sunday night for a reason. In talking about TV, there are 4 tiers of program for me from lowest to highest. 1) The dreck I won't watch. 2) The dreck I will watch, which has a span from drecky dreck to actually OK dreck. 3) Cable dreck, shows that are just better for various reasons from writing to acting, etc. 4) The unparalleled programs. The Wire, Deadwood, etc. I think the first season of Mad Men was absolutely in tier 4, maybe the first three seasons. The last couple have gone from tier 3 and 4. I look forward to watching it every week, but I'm not totally sure it's as amazing as it used to be.

David: I’m feeling that too. So, was margarine a reference to the show feeling faked, or forced. I can’t imagine so, but it was the first thing I thought of. And that certainly betrays something not great. (I want to remark that the "It was our pleasure to serve you" coffee cups made a brief appearance last week, and they were indeed invented in 1963. So that was satisfying, but it’s not great drama.)

Aaron: We should talk a little bit more about Ted and Don. I like to think it's not just going to be them battling the next season and a half. It's hard to see where everything is going because we don't know how the new agency is set up. We don't know if they have parallel positions or what. Wouldn't it be more interesting if they became a great creative partnership? Are we underestimating Ted? He’s getting Don’s charm offensive, "He seems more interested in me than he is in the work." Ted got the advice to let Don have his way in the early stages, "Give him the early rounds." and he's obviously intrigued, "He's mysterious, but I can't tell if he's putting it on." And don't forget, Ted got some hand back in the relationship during the flight.

David: I loved it when Peggy said "Move Forward." It was obvious how quickly she picked up on Don’s misery, his emptiness, and that he was taking it out on Ted by drinking him almost literally under the table. But I think it's going to be just this season - not the next as well. If they became a great creative partnership, that would be more exciting since it would be unexpected. There's no way he can "win," though, because it's basically Don's firm. I just don't like Ted. But the last episode’s bar scene was one of the more perfect scenes of the entire series. So it would be a shame if their relationship is only a power struggle from here on out. When they realized that their Chevy creative was complementary, there was a real shared connection.

David: As above, I think it's a little lazy to tell a story through references. There's a nuanced but important difference in using historical context to set a mood and inspired a massive change in a character's worldview, but sometimes I feel like major events like (say), the May 1968 riots in Paris are less than window dressing. Perhaps it shouldn't have come up at all? And the second is the Sun Tzu quote, “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.” Because for better or worse, that's been Don's philosophy. He never competes, he just does what he does best. The show teases Don towards a realization that his life's work doesn't matter by juxtaposing his (and his neighbor and co-worker’s) struggles with 1968 in Paris (and will they get to Columbia?) and Bobby Kennedy's assassination. His will be the body floating fown the river. Do you the writers have something that existential in mind for the series finale? Remember, Weiner comes from the Sopranos, which came from Twin Peaks - two shows with ambiguous (at best) finales.

Aaron: Gosh, that’s a big question. You make these huge declarative statements about how Don is realizing his life’s work doesn’t matter, and I’m not there yet. There was a huge contrast between how the show treated MLK’s assassination and RFK’s, which was shown quickly at the very end and then overtaken with dissonant music about coming together. The reason is the MLK episode was build up to a series reset, a throwaway episode, while this episode is the morning after and there’s too much to cover. On whether we’re going to get a bleak, dystopian, philosophically empty end to the series, maybe? I don’t think anything is being telegraphed ahead of time, though. 1968 is a gigantically tumultuous year, lots of change in lots of facets of life. Maybe the finale will be about change or about renewal.

Aaron: We've seen hints of dominant Don before on a couple occasions, but with Dr. Rosen's wife (whose name I still don't know for some reason) he seems to have overplayed his hand. What I don't get is why he was so into her in the first place, and why he was so completely shattered when she ended it. Was it just because he doesn't like to lose or not get his way?

David: Ah, I think he was trying to drive her back to Dr. Rosen. Because he overheard them arguing, and it was all about how the relationship was only about him. So he made their relationship ALSO only about himself.

Aaron: Subconsciously? I don't think that's what he was doing at all, but that's a good point.

David: Oh, I thought consciously.

Aaron: Then why would he be so upset?

David: He wanted one more romp in the jungle. Or, she thought he loved him more. As he was losing power at work, he was asserting more power with Dr. Rosen's wife. So once that outlet is removed, he only has Megan. Who, obviously, has some self-determination at this point, even affecting the plot of a popular show.

Aaron: The Don after she dumped him was the Don after he found out Mrs. Whitman in CA had died. When Jon Hamm is playing sad, he gets lugubrious. He closes his mouth and swallows audibly. It's annoying.

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 6 Recap

MadMen s6e6

Every week, Chris Piascik (@chrispiascik) illustrates a moment from the episode and I write up a recap. This week, I wanted to try something new, so I invited David Jacobs to have a conversation about the show instead of a straight recap. Let us know what you think.

David: How important is money to the SCDP partners? They keep saying Don is "rich" - but is he? And aren't Bert Roger supposed to be basically ultra-rich? I get that the IPO is exciting, but I'm surprised, especially after the Sterling/Cooper deal went bad everyone was eager for this.

Aaron: Bert and Roger are "fuck you rich," while Don is just getting there rich. Pete's probably on the same level, but this would be life changing for Joan. Roger wasn't in the room with the banker. I think Bert is a collector, and that includes money, he's also in legacy building phase, and bringing an agency public would be a big boost for his profile. I think Bert wants the IPO, but not for the money. Pete wants the IPO to prove he is somebody, and then for the money. Joan wants the IPO for the money. Roger and Don could care less about the money, while Don would probably actively oppose the IPO because it would give him a boss in the form of a board of directors. "I don't think Don cares about money."

David: A boss, and presumably, some scrutiny.

Aaron: Due diligence. Guess we ought to check if that's an upcoming episode title.

Aaron: I noticed a lot of relationship 'stuff' this episode, Pete and Trudie, Pete and his father in law, Roger and his flight hostess spy, Don and Megan, Abe and Peggy, Peggy and Ted, Don and Ted, Pete and Don, Don and Joan, Marie and Arnold, Marie and Roger, Arnold and Don, etc. Was there more of that this episode or am I crazy?

David: There was definitely more. And the sex/advertising double entendres were also laid on top, especially "He's a client for Pete's father-in-law." The show is best when the characters are suffering, with the exception of Dick Whitman's trips to California. This season has been direct with it's intentions, the characters you listed all voiced displeasure with their situations. Even Herb's wife got some minutes talking about the puppy's birth. It was such a dense episode that dinner scene may get lost, but it was actually wonderfully written and directed, from Don's "I love puppies" to Marie's cursing in French.

David: You noted last week that Don's campaigns were all about the absences of the brand - no hotel in the Hawaii campaign, not ketchup in the Heinz campaign, etc. Once again, he proposes that the Chevrolet commercials not show the car (for a week!) and Ted's "bend in the road" monologue is so much better Don practically surrenders on the spot. At this point, can we assume that pattern is intentional? And does it connect to Don's professed inability to feel love, and can we connect that with your observation about the general malcontent of all the characters in relationships?

Aaron: I think we can assume we're seeing Don's advertising style, and I only wish time was endless so we could look back at previous pitches to see when this style developed. (I sometimes think about an idea I don't have a name for. Basically, I'm assuming this is Don's current style of advertising, but what if Mad Men is suffering from Studio 360-style writing. Remember how the show was OK, but the comedy sketches were awful? What if the people they have writing Don's pitches are out of ideas and they're not amazing, this isn't a pattern, they're just bad?) I don't think it connects to Don's love issue, because remember the carousel pitch. That wasn't an absence of the product and he certainly wasn't full of love when married to Betty. If you're reading that differently, let me know. Rather than Don's inability to feel love, I think it's more about Don's unwillingness to put something on a pedestal. He likes the new, the chase, but gets bored/complacent with something he already has. Did you see his glee in the first Chevy meeting, "No, it's completely new." He fired Jaguar because he was tired of them. Etc, etc, etc. Additionally, Megan was more attracted to Don when he was chasing something because it reminded her of the man she fell in love with (when he was chasing her).

Aaron: Don and Joan have always had a complicated relationship, maybe they recognize something of themselves in each other. The scene starting with Pete falling down the stairs (obligatory Pete Campbell falling down the stairs gif), into Don yelling about it being over (which he's done at least once before), into Joan yelling at Don was one of the most powerful of the season. It was the scene that alerted me to the fact, "Hey, something's happening in this season, finally." Why was Joan so angry at Don for firing Jaguar? Why'd she attack him for getting rid of Herb and Jaguar? She didn't do what she did for nothing, she did it to become a partner. "Because we're all rooting for you from the sidelines hoping that you'll decide what you think is right for our lives."

David: Is it because she lost the IPO money (or thought she would?) Or because, perhaps, it confirmed her worst fears about Don's lack of empathy. It's a hard one. I'm sorry I don't have more on that one! I've always thought he was the little soul of the organization. Skilled, but ultimately hollow of ethics and morals

Aaron: The organization has no soul?

David: Well, it has Pete. They're fundamentally not honest people - Peter has always been the one to remind the audience "Hey, these are not people you want to be friends with!' I think we're seeing Don wake up, ethically. And that's why he just can't bring himself to put these objects in the campaigns. He is blocked on it, because he knows it's a lie.


David: But I guess I meant to ask - where Joan's behavior has perhaps been building up over the last few episodes (frustrations with Dawn, makin out with a stranger at Electric Circus, etc.) Pete seems to be zigging and zagging. Are there some tea leaves for us to read here? Or is he just the same as he's always been?

Aaron: They've always done that with Pete, though. They'll take 3 episodes to build sympathy for him, and then make him hatable again. Up and down forever. I'm not even totally sure he's hatable here. His father in law basically dared him to tell Trudie. Pete ALWAYS wants to prove people wrong. His father in law sealed his own fate when he told Pete he'd do the right thing. For what it's worth, I got the sense with Dawn and Joan that there was a different tone to her treatment of Dawn. I want to say it's because Joan likes her.

David: I hate to go out of order here, but I am fading. I am SAD about this merger. I felt like we were just getting into Ted & Peggy as a real rival to SCDP. And their work was better. (Especially Peggy's HUGE FUCKING Heinz bottle.) Now I feel like we've lost something in the show before the arc ran it's course. This would have been all fine as the season finale. But it's too soon for me. What do you think? Ultimately, Peggy wanted SOME self-determination, and not to have money thrown in her face (per the teaser)

Aaron: Well, the teasers are always useless. I thought this was the best episode of the season. I thought there were three great scenes: Joan yells at Don, Don and Ted in the bar, Ted and Don breaking the news to Peggy. There were also huge arrows pointing at this happening with SCDP about to come into money, and CGC about to need a lot of money. I hate jerking the show off, but this type of thing happening mid-season is an excellent for viewers because now we get two mini-seasons. I hope it doesn't turn into Friday Night Lights Season 2 Episode 1. Last week had all the makings of a set up episode. Now there are so many questions. What's the structure of the new company? What's the name? Will all these characters become main characters? Will they buy out extraneous partners? Specifically, I'd like to hear your thoughts on what's this mean for Peggy? What's this mean for Joan? What's this mean for Pete?"

David:To your list of great scenes, I'd add the dinner scene. Mad Men is best when it's about what's unsaid (which is why it's so frustrating when all the characters narrate their feelings, or find poop in the stairwell). For Peggy: She's back to square 1. She's surpassed her mentor, and now she's back working for him again. The result of her beating him was a return. Not good. For Joan: What Harry Crane says to her face, everyone thinks behind her back. And when Don, who is supposed to be her great supporter, fires Jaguar without a second thought, that's made even more clear. For Pete: He got this amazing validation from Bert this episode. But he's immediately reminded that Jaguar & Vic's - the two big gets, had nothing to do with his charms/account management. I wonder how Ted will treat Joan.

Other thoughts from the episode:
-In the first scene it seemed a little like Pete and Joan were flirting. Is she the only one who doesn't think he's a creep?
-It's never been totally clear what Roger does for the agency and it's taken halfway through season 6 to see one of his tricks. That was pretty cool, wish they'd made him seem more useful earlier.
-Marie had some great lines: "Do you want my flowers, I'm quite done with them." "You talk like a woman who's been married for much longer than you have." "She's the apple that goes in the pig's mouth."
-There were some indirect and obviously direct ties to the episode title, "For Immediate Release." The indirect ones were about sex.
-Abe and Peggy. Ted and Peggy. Didn't get a chance to go over this is the recap, but yeah.
-Did you notice Roger using the shoeshine kit he got earlier in the season?
-"They designed it with a computer."
-"It's one thing to want something, it's another to need it."
-Don and Arnold in the elevator talking about fate.
-"Unless this works, I'm against it."
"Make it sound like the agency you want to work for."
-May 17, 1968.