Mad Men – Lost Horizon
Yes, that is Peggy Olson in the picture at the top of this article. Not Don Draper. Because this week was all about Peggy. Yes, Don’s story ran throughout this episode, but while he continued to struggle with the same things he has been struggling with in this last half of the last season, Peggy continues growing and has the best scene in the show this week. The very last scene was excellent as well, but we’ll get there in a minute.
We start this episode with a Don Draper who is literally and figuratively lost. Meredith meets him in the hallway and escorts him to his office to keep him from getting lost “again”. She talks to him about his apartment, the movers, advises him that Mr. Hobart is in so “no napping”, and returns an envelope of his personal belongings that she removed from his apartment for him because she didn’t feel they should be left there with the movers around. Among those belongings is a ring that belonged to Anna.
Throughout this episode, we see more signs of Don losing the feeling of being special, important, and talented. Jim Hobart tells him in a private conversation that they want him to bring the place up a notch. A couple of scenes later we learn that he has told Ted Chaough the same thing. Don sits in a meeting in that same room and observes all of the creative directors behaving in the same way and listening to the new client with pens poised to write down anything he says that gives them inspiration for a campaign. But not one man (all white men) writes down one thing, because there is no inspiration. Don is one of many now, and advertising isn’t emotional and insightful in this new world he has been forced into. He finds it empty and uninspiring. So much so that he watches out the window in this scene and sees a plane flying near the top of the Empire State Building. He grabs his box lunch and leaves the meeting and the building. He doesn’t return.
He goes to find Diana in Racine. He finds the home she used to share with her husband, but that he now shares with his new wife. Don tries to determine her whereabouts using a couple of false identities (he’s become good at assuming false identities) but Diana’s ex sees through his ruse and tells him he isn’t the first to come looking for her and that although “she looks so lost,” in Don’s words, Don and nobody but Jesus can save her. Or him.
He goes to pick up Sally and give her a ride to college but learns that she got a ride with a friend, the boys are out doing something, and Betty is settling into her life as a college student. Their lives are going on quite well without him.
And poor Joan. She feels good about the move when a couple of women at McCann-Erickson come to her office to welcome her and invite her to a girl’s night, but that is the only good experience she has. She has a call with Avon with Dennis, the man who openly made one sexual comment after another during a meeting with her in a prior episode. He is every bit as charming in this scene. When she reprimands him for making an offensive comment to Avon, one he would not have made if he had bothered to read the briefs she stayed up late preparing, he snaps back at her telling her she has no right to get mad. Then Ferguson comes to her office with the appearance of smoothing things over after the problem with Dennis. But he makes it clear women have a place at McCann, and it’s inferior to men. Of course, he’ll help her keep her position and gain the respect of others at McCann-Erickson if she will sleep with him.
And the bad situation gets worse when she goes to Jim Hobart and tells him her clients “aren’t getting the attention they deserve” and that she can’t work with Ferguson. She tells him she had some status and independence at SC&P and wants it there. She is told she’ll have to get used to how they do things at McCann, that he doesn’t care about her SC&P partnership, and that her little stake doesn’t matter to Jim. She pushes with threats of leaving with her $5 million or suing for violation of the Equal Opportunity Act. But Jim doesn’t budge and tells her he’ll give her half of her $5 million if he never has to see her again. She considers fighting him but in a scene that left both me and Joan teary-eyed, Roger advises her to take the money and run, and she does, after taking the two things from her desk that are really hers, a picture of her son and her Rolodex.
Peggy starts out in the shadows this week. McCann-Erickson doesn’t have an office for her (of course, she’s a woman) so she spends her time at the empty Sterling Cooper offices, insisting she won’t move until they get her an office. Her new secretary comes to see her at home and brings a basket of flowers with her. “All the SC&P girls got flowers . . . Well, all the new secretaries.”
She finally gets an office but will have to work at a drafting desk for a bit. As she heads back to her SC&P office to gather her things she runs into Roger Sterling and they end up sharing a bottle of vermouth, the only alcohol left in the place. We rarely see these two together, but it’s a great scene. Roger offers her a painting. She is shocked at what she sees and asks what it is. “It’s an octopus pleasuring a lady. It was Cooper’s. It was in his office forever. You can have it.” He suggests that she put it in her office, but she refuses, saying no one will take her seriously with it hanging on the wall. Then two of the best lines in the show:
Peggy – “You know I need to make men feel at ease.”
Roger – “Who told you that?”
The two of them end up finishing off that bottle of vermouth together. The last shot of them together is classic Mad Men – Roger is playing the organ while Peggy roller skates around the empty SC&P offices. They glance at each other once and smile, and she leans forward and raises a leg behind her. Roger asked her earlier in the episode, looking over his glasses at her, “You think you’re gonna have fun like this over there?” No, she won’t. In fact, she’ll probably have a very difficult time “over there”. But this was fun to watch.
My absolute favorite scene is when Peggy goes to McCann-Erickson for the first time. She’s hung over so she’s wearing dark sunglasses. She has a cigarette in her mouth, her box of things for her office in her hands, and Cooper’s picture of the octopus pleasuring a lady under her arm, with the picture facing out so the whole world can see. She’s strutting down the hallway like she owns that world. (See picture at the top of this article.) She looks at one guy who looks back and then down at the picture. He watches her walk down the hall. She looks directly at two other men who move out of her way without ever looking at her.
I loved the end of Lost Horizon. Don is driving down a road in the middle of nowhere and picks up a hitchhiker who’s headed for St. Paul. Wait a minute. He was in Racine, WI and now he’s going to St. Paul? But isn’t New York in the other direction? Yep. I don’t think he has any intention of going back. I think he’s headed for California but has no idea what he’s going to do once he gets there. California is where Anna, the one person who knew his whole story and always loved him, lived. It calls to him. Then cue the music as he drives away from the camera down that long road, headed for St. Paul.
“This is Ground Control to Major Tom,
You’ve really made the grade.
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear.
Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare.
This is Major Tom to Ground Control,
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today.”
Indeed they do for Don Draper.
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