Mad Men – The Milk and Honey Route

Mad Men – The Milk and Honey Route

Betty draper - lung cancer diagnosis

This week’s Mad Men episode followed the stories of three characters – Betty, Pete, and Don. Grab your hanky, because it’s an emotion rollercoaster. Let’s begin with the hard hitting, tragic news about Betty.

In this week’s episode, Betty is diagnosed with lung cancer. The doctor says she has maybe a year to live. They can try to treat it, but all any treatment will likely do is prolong her life a few months. Henry initially reacts in the way he always reacts, trying to think of names of big doctors he knows, trying to think of who may know the most cutting-edge treatments, basically trying to figure out what political connections he has that may help. In frustration with Betty over her apparent surrender to the disease, he yells, “What do you think would happen to Nelson Rockefeller if he got this?” To which Betty responds, “He would die!” An acknowledgment and acceptance of the truth before Henry is ready to do the same.

One of a few touching scenes this week was Henry visiting Sally without Betty’s knowledge. He urges her to come home and try to get her mother to agree to treatment. “Your mother is sick. She has lung cancer, and it’s very advanced.” Sally turns from him, tears fill her eyes, and she puts her hands over her ears as if she can shut out the tragic truth. Sally fights her tears as he continues talking and he finally tells her it’s okay for her to cry. As she turns and looks at him, still fighting the tears, he breaks down. Sally is as shocked as we are when he, Betty’s rock and historically a man of strength, leans forward, puts his head in his hands, and cries. Sally looks at him in shock for a moment, then hesitantly places her hand on his back in comfort. “Jesus, what am I going to do?” he cries. A great scene with the two of them. Two people who seem tough, breaking downSally covers ears together and trying to comfort each other.

When Henry spoke with Sally about her mother’s illness, he told her he doesn’t know if Betty is refusing treatment because she’s stubborn or because she’s vain. Sally later accuses her of not doing it because she enjoys the tragedy of it all. But the truth is, as Betty tells Sally, that she’s “learned to believe people when they tell you it’s over. They don’t want to say it, so it’s usually the truth.” She tells Sally that she watched her mother die and won’t put Sally through that. Then she tells her this decision doesn’t make her a quitter. “I fought for plenty in my life. That’s how I know when it’s over. It’s not a weakness. It’s been a gift to me. To know when to move on.” Indeed she has. Betty has constantly fought for one thing or another in the show. She has had as many ups and downs as any character and finally seemed to have gotten her life together. This was tough to see.

Betty gives Sally a letter to open “the minute you know I’m gone.” Of course, Sally opens it sooner than that. In the letter, Betty tells Sally she loves her, if not the only time, one of very few times we’ve seen her do that. Sally clutches the letter to her chest and cries and many viewers cried right along with her.

Pete Campbell has a more pleasant story. Through some finagling pete and trudy reuniteby Duck Phillips, who is still fighting a losing battle with alcohol, Pete lands a job with Lear Jet. They give him a million dollars because that’s what he’s losing by leaving McCann-Erickson. He’ll be moving to Wichita (where Don is in the beginning of this episode – Pete is still following Don) and will have jets at his beck and call, relationships with celebrities – everything he’s ever wanted and more. Except Trudy and Tammy. He goes to Trudy and woos her. He wants to start over and swears he has learned his lesson and will never hurt her again. At dinner with his brother a couple of nights before, he told his brother he didn’t need to keep looking for something else, something different. When his brother talked about his own cheating, Pete said, “I think it feels good, and then it doesn’t.” Perhaps he has changed. Although, as Duck said right before his drunken exit, “It doesn’t last long.” Pete is as high in his life as he has ever been. Will he make the best of it and live happily ever after? Or will he do as so many characters on Mad Men have done and repeat old mistakes? We’ll never know. But Pete and Trudy have always had great chemistry and they both beamed with happiness when she agreed to move with him and try again. It was the high point of the show.

Don’s story was not particularly high or low, although there was one scene I found painful to watch. The episode began with him dreaming about being pulled over by a policeman. They’ve caught up with him. They’ve been looking for him for years, and they’ve found him. His secret is found out. This touches on the question everyone is asking – will he resume his real name and begin a new life as Dick Whitman? He has fled his life as Don Draper and the guilt of the lie upon which he built that life keeps eating at him. How is he going to end up dealing with it?

After waking he gets back on the road and has car trouble. He ends up staying at a small motel while his car is fixed, they have to order the part and it will be a few days. The husband of the owner is a war vet and Don joins him for a fundraising dinner the town veterans are landscape-1431323173-dontravelhaving for one of their own who had a fire at his home. Don sweats for a minute at the dinner when he is introduced to another man who served in Korea. He lets out a sigh of relief when it turns out he was home before the other man arrived in Korea. He also tells part of his story at that dinner, after many drinks. He tells them he killed his CO when he dropped his lighter in a fuel covered area, causing an explosion. He tells them, “I got to come home,” but doesn’t tell them about his assumed identity.

The scene I found difficult to watch happens in the middle of the night after the dinner. There’s a young man in this episode who is very much like a young Don Draper. He’s looking to get rich and doesn’t care what his parents think about how he does it. He’s a con man. He gets Don to pay him for little favors while he’s staying at the motel. Don sees him for what he is and throughout the episode and, in an effort to help Andy avoid going down the road he has, gives him advice he wishes someone had given him when he was Andy’s age. Andy steals the donations from the dinner and leads everyone to believe Don did it. A bunch of the vets, all very drunk, barge into Don’s room in the middle of the night and slam him across the face with the phone book and throw accusations at him. He claims innocence, but they don’t believe him and tell him he has until morning to return the money.

When Andy shows up the next morning, Don pushes him onto the bed and tells him to give him the money, pack his things, and leave town. When Andy denies it, Don pushes him. Andy finally confesses but says he can’t leave town without the money. Don gives him a speech about how stealing that much money is a big deal and if he doesn’t make it right, he’ll have to take on a new identity and run from this mistake the rest of his life. He tells him that kind of life is not what he thinks it is. Don should know.

Well in the end, Andy gives him the money. Don turns it in without telling the motel owner’s husband that Andy is the guilty party. As he leaves the motel, Andy stops him and asks for a ride to the bus stop. Don tells him to get in.

Then the end of the show. They reach the bus stop, and Don turns off the engine and hands the keys to Andy. “Don’t waste this,” he says and gets out of the car and takes a seat on the bench at the bus stop. He has, with this one act, given Andy a chance at a decent future and freed himself of his last possession that ties him to his identity as Don Draper. “Everyday” starts playing as Andy drives off in a brand new Caddy and Don smiles.

Here is the scene where Sally reads Betty’s letter to her.

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Mad Men – Time and Life

Mad Men – Time and Life

Mad Men - Time and Life

This week in Mad Men we saw Don Draper’s losses continue and his power and position continue their downward spiral. Sterling, Cooper, & Partners either hit the jackpot or lost everything, depending on how you look at it. We were also given some nice scenes involving some special relationships on the show.

The biggest news in this episode is that McCann-Erickson is “absorbing” Sterling Cooper. They’re being bought out by the firm from whom they have struggled throughout the series to remain independent. They have always wanted to make it on their own, without having the clout that comes with a name like McCann-Erickson, but that isn’t going to happen. “You have died and gone to advertising heaven,” says Jim Hobart of McCann-Erickson and proceeds to parade in front of them some big names who are their clients. The are accounts Sterling Cooper & Partners dreamed of. It’s sure to mean more money for all of the partners but is it a victory? It doesn’t feel that way. It feels like defeat. “Is that all there is?” seems to be the question pervading this season. They have all just gotten what they wanted in some ways, but it’s empty.

Among the events contributing to Don’s downward spiral is his don mccann westsfailed attempt to prevent the loss of Sterling Cooper & Partners. Once before, they were literally hours from being bought, and Don Draper came up with a plan that saved the day. He tried again this time but failed. His charisma has faded and his charm, if not completely gone yet, is dying more every week.

If that isn’t enough, he goes out drinking with the other partners after his failed attempt to save the firm, and every one of them has to leave because they have someone to go home to or to meet up with. To make this even more depressing for lady’s man Don Draper, the woman Roger Sterling is meeting is Marie Calvet, his ex-wife Megan’s mother. It’s a drunk, disheveled Don Draper with we see in this scene. Marie literally took everything from Don when, in her daughter’s absence, she told the moving men to empty the apartment of all furnishings. She is the reason he came home to an empty apartment.

And then there’s the phone call with Lou, the man Don has always battled with. The man who stepped into his position at the firm while he was on leave. The man who never respected Don, who always thought he had no talent, just a way of swaying people with his good looks and charm. Lou doesn’t care about the buyout because someone has bought the comic he has been writing for years and he’s going to be rich without Sterling Cooper’s money. He laughs as he rubs it in Don’s face. That “someone,” by the way, is a Japanese company. It’s no coincidence that Roger Sterling has a hatred for the Japanese that has its roots in his WW2 days, a hatred that has caused the firm embarrassment in the past. In this episode, he comments on Lou’s future by saying, “The Japs are gonna eat him alive.”

Ted Chaough is a contrast to Don. Ted Chaough has met someone. He and Don talk about the fact that they both have ex-wives in California. Ted tells him he knows Don is attached to California, and he is, but I don’t think it has anything to do with Megan. I think it’s a sentimental tie and is all about Anna, the one person who knew his story and truly cared about him. Ted says he can’t leave New York because of his new love. Don has nothing to keep him there. Ted comments in the bar that he is glad to let someone else do the driving. Doing the driving is exactly what Don misses. He’s lost control. He doesn’t like it. But it hasn’t fully hit him yet. We haven’t seen a real, raw reaction from him yet. Will we? I hope so.

Joan is uniquely impacted by the buyout. In the meeting with Hobart in which he rattles off all the big names everyone will have access to as part of McCann-Erickson, he looks at each one of them and names an account he knows each of them has dreamed of having. Everyone except Joan, a detail that does not go Mad-Men-Season-7B-Episode-11-Television-Review-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLOunnoticed by her. She fears they won’t appreciate her talents at McCann-Erickson, and she’s probably right. She fought hard and made personal sacrifices to earn her current status at Sterling Cooper, but she knows she still lives in a world in which women are not taken seriously. During a taxi ride with Pete, she comments that “we both know they aren’t going to take me seriously over there,” and she’s probably right.  Just a couple of episodes ago she met with a client who made one sexual comment after another and found it humorous despite Joan’s agitation. But she has met a man who does take her seriously – Richard. During a phone conversation, she tells him she has had bad news at work and begins crying. He tells her he’ll be on the next plane to New York so she can tell him all about it. Will she decide to leave McCann-Erickson and begin a new life with Richard? Leave a place she knows she won’t be respected for a place she believes she will be? Maybe. But, as she said in the episode in which she met Richard, she needs to work. Not for the money, she probably has more of that now than she needs. No, she just needs to work. It’s important to her. It makes her feel valuable.

We also saw some nice moments with Peggy this week. There was a nice moment with her and Pete on the couch in his office, a spot where many important things have happened between them. One of those things was a conversation in Season Two in which Peggy told Pete about their child she gave up for adoption. In reference to that fact, it is the sight of a child hugging her legs that prompts him to call her into his office and give her a heads up about the buyout. It’s a nice moment between them. His desire to give her advance unofficial notice about something that will have a significant impact on her followed by her giving him a literal pat on the back and gentle reassurance that he will succeed in the new organization.

Peggy also had a very important conversation with Stan this week. A girl who auditioned at Sterling Cooper for a commercial waits in Peggy’s office for her mother to return to pick her up. When she does, Peggy and the mother argue. In the course of that argument, peggy and stanthe girl’s mother tells Peggy, “You do what you want with your children. I’ll do what I want with mine.” Ouch. The pain shows on Peggy’s face.

“Look, you got to a certain point in your life and it didn’t happen. I understand you’re angry about it, but you’ve got a lot of other things,” he says to Peggy later when she tells him she can’t quit thinking about the argument. “I mean it. You couldn’t have done all you’ve done otherwise,” he says.

She responds with, “I guess that’s the secret to your spectacular career? The fact that you don’t have kids?”

“Well, not that I know of,” he says, and chuckles.

They argue over about a man’s ability to just walk away from a child and “get on with his life” while a woman can’t. They talk about his mother and that doesn’t know if she wanted him. Peggy tells him he doesn’t understand his mother. He says he doesn’t want to. Followed by this from Peggy:

“Maybe she was very young and followed her heart and got in trouble. And no one should have to make a mistake just like a man does and not be able to move on. She should be able to live the rest of her life just like a man does.” You see the truth click in Stan’s eyes, and he tells her she’s right. Peggy again, “I know. Maybe you’d do what you thought was the best thing.” He asks her what she did. “I’m here. And he’s with a family. Somewhere. I don’t know. But not because I don’t care. Because you’re not supposed to know or you can’t go on with your life.”

In the final scene, the partners make their announcement. As soon as Roger tells them about the buyout, everyone starts talking over him and walk away. Don tries to save it with, “This is the beginning of something. Not the end.” His statement isn’t even heard. The magic is gone. The glory days are over. What comes next?

mad-men-season-7-episode-11-john-slattery-jon-hamm-christina-hendricks

 

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Mad Men – The Forecast

Mad Men – The Forecast

Mad Men - The Forecast

This episode is titled The Forecast and is about Don Draper trying to find direction. In this last half of the final season he has embraced his vices and demons, then ended a past relationship and experienced a breakup with a woman very much like himself who he hoped to take with him on his efforts at leaving behind pain and guilt and getting on with life.This week he wonders what he is moving toward. He wants to put the past behind him and move on but wonders how to move on and to what?

The Forecast begins with Don’s realtor waking him. He’s asleep in bed, apparently naked, but alone. The realtor has potential buyers on the way and wants him up and out. Before he leaves she tells him she’s having trouble selling the apartment because it’s lonely. When he returns later she is angry because she didn’t have any luck with the showing because of the lonely feeling of the place. Don (Jon Hamm) tells her not to blame him for her failure. (He will make this same statement to someone else later in the episode.) She tells him it reeks of failure. She says it looks like someone sad lives there, someone who got a divorce and spilled wine on the carpet but doesn’t care enough even about himself to clean it up. When he tells her a lot of good things happened in that apartment, she says, “Well you can’t tell,” much like you can’t tell by Don’s current state of mind that lots of good things have happened in his life.

This episode makes progress with the lives of several characters. The next scene deals with one of them – Joan (Christina Hendricks). She is also awakened but by a phone call to her hotel room. It’s her mom, who is watching her son. Joan talks to her son until he accidentally hangs up.  Irritated, she makes a humorous call to room service for some breakfast. “I’d like some skim milk, grapefruit, and a pot of coffee, please.” Pause. Wait for it. “And some French toast,” she adds quickly. What a great character Joan is. So relatable.

When she goes into the office later, she introduces herself to a man she assumes is there for an interview. He isn’t, but plays along until Lou appears with the real interviewee. She ends up going out with the first man, Richard (Bruce Greenwood). He is divorced and retired and has one plan – no plans. He wants to travel the world and can afford to because he’s millionaire developer. His children are grown and he has nothing to keep him in one place. Joan on the other hand has a four-year-old son who limits her mobility and often leaves her mad-men-ep-710-joan-hendricks-284x184conflicted – another part of her character that so many women can relate to. (In one scene of this week’s show she looks at the babysitter and Kevin in her arms and yells, “You’re ruining my life,” and we wonder which of them she meant that for. She begins to storm out but stops short, with a regretful look on her face, when Kevin calls “bye-bye, Mommy,” and she responds “bye-bye, sweetie.”) Richard tells Joan he can’t deal with small children again, that part of his life is over he tells her. But by the end of the show he is apologizing and saying he is buying some property in New York and wants to spend time with her, her son, and her mother. “We’ll see,” she says and tells him he can call her. Bottom line, Joan isn’t going to let someone else call the shots for her life.

Throughout this episode, Don is working on a speech Roger has to give at an upcoming business retreat. It’s supposed to tell what the agency is going to look like in a year. It’s supposed to provide a forecast. In a conversation with Ted, he tells him there seems to be less to do and more to think about. Ted figures out that Don is trying to get material for Roger’s speech out of him. “He asked me first,” he tells Don. He says he considered doing it, but that he thought it would be better for Don to do it because he’s “so much better at painting a picture.” When Ted (Kevin Rahm) tells him of bigger accounts he hopes to have in the next year, Don finds those dreams lacking. “You madmen ted forecastknow, before McCann all I thought of was would we be in business next year?” Ted responds with, “Or would I be here at all?” which could be said of Don as well. Ted continues with, “Now it could be anything,” to which Don sighs and shrugs his shoulders. “Anything” is vague and empty. He has no idea what his “anything” is going to look like or even what he wants it to look like.

The Glen/Sally/Betty triangle comes to its probable close this week. He comes ostensibly to see Sally (Kiernan Shipka), but he and Betty (January Jones) are clearly attracted to each other. There is a shot with Sally standing between them, her eyes moving from one to the other as they converse, a grimace on her face as she watches them “ooze”, a word she will use to describe this encounter and one involving her father later in the show. Glen is now a handsome 18-year old, and he announces that he is leaving for the Army in a week. Sally blows up at him and storms off. She regrets it later and we wonder if Glen may not return from the war, leaving Sally feeling guilty about their last conversation. Betty says he is brave. This relationship has been odd from the beginning. She literally is old enough to be his mother, but she has been desperate for attention in the past and was drawn to Glen’s need for her attention and approval, even when he was just eight years old. Here’s the last scene with Betty and Glen.

Not because she doesn’t have feelings for him or because of the massive age difference, but because she’s married.  One last interesting thing about ghe scene above, the real reason he joined the Army, to avoid his stepdad’s wrath and gain his pride. Don joined the Army to escape his family. An interesting parallel. Part of why Betty feels drawn to him still and responds to his pass the way she does? Maybe.

There are a couple more scenes about Don searching for direction. “It’s supposed to get better,” he states at one point. When Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) tells him she wants to “create something of lasting value.” Don chuckles and says, “In advertising?” “This is supposed to be about my job, not the meaning of life,” she says. Don responds with, “So you think those mad.men_.peggy_things are unrelated?” They are completed related in his mind. They are the same thing. Or they have been. And that hasn’t worked out so well for him.

Then there’s Mathis (Trevor Einhorn), who storms into Don’s office to lay blame for the loss of a client (Peter Pan, the boy who doesn’t want to grown up, not coincidentally) at his feet because Mathis copied one of Don’s past techniques for dealing with an upset client and failed miserably. When he says the client was lost because of Don’s advice, Don repeats the statement he made to his realtor earlier, “Don’t blame your failure on me.” Mathis makes some comments about Lee Garner having sexual fantasies about him. Don tells him he has a foul mouth and that they lost the client because Mathis has no character, to which Mathis responds, “You don’t have any character either. Quit fooling yourself. You’re just handsome!” Don fires Mathis but appears to have taken Mathis’s comment to heart, because later in the episode he tells his daughter Sally that she is just like him and her mom, whether she wants to accept it right now or not. He tells her she is very beautiful and that it’s up to her to be more.

In our last scene, Don returns home to find realtor with some buyers as they are signing papers. It’s a couple. The husband is a stockbroker. They have a 4-year-old and a baby on the way. The realtor walks him outside the door while the couple signs the papers. She is thrilled about the sale. “Now we forecast endhave to find a place for you,” she says and goes back in the apartment. She closes the door behind her. He turns, and considers going back in the apartment to meet the buyers, a family with a future. He doesn’t though. Instead he turns with his back to the door and just stares at the floor. He has to find a place for himself, literally and figuratively, and he has no idea in what direction that place lies.

The closing music this week is the first verse of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. Appropriate. It’s how life used to be for Don Draper, how he was seen in his prime.

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