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.

@JonHammOnline #MadMen

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Mad Men – New Business

Mad Men – New Business

Mad Men - New Business

Last week’s Mad Men episode was full of symbolism and showed Don Draper letting himself fall apart a bit, accepting his flaws and embracing his demons. This week we saw a Don Draper who is trying to get his life together and make a new start. In an episode titled “New Business,” there is a good deal of both old and new business.

The two main storylines in this week’s episode focused on his relationship with two women, Diana and Megan. Was this the last we’ll see of these two? The episode ended in a way that leaves us thinking it may be, but it’s Mad Men, where partners do LSD and conservative Catholic girls smoke marijuana and go to strip clubs. Who knows what will happen?

Before we see either of these two women, we see Betty. Don is in her home looking quite comfortable making milkshakes for the children. Betty and Henry enter the scene, Betty first. She and Don have a conversation in which she gives us the first new business of the episode – she is going back to school to get a Master’s degree in psychology. Both laugh in light of her past experience with psychiatrists and his skepticism of the field, and he wittily replies, “Should be fascinating for all involved.”

Both Don and Betty, as well as their two sons and Henry, seem at ease in thisBetty and Don milkshake scene scene, seeming to indicate this is now old business, business everyone seems to have adjusted to and settled into. There is one family member who is absent from this scene, however, another challenging woman in Don’s life, his daughter, Sally. She has been absent from both episodes in this final season. It will be interesting to see where the two of them land. As the scene ends and Don leaves, he turns and looks at the happy family they have become. There is regret in his face as he looks back at what he had and lost.

Through most of “New Business,” Don and Megan avoid each other. When asked about her, he reminds multiple people she isn’t his wife anymore, although he seems to have trouble letting it go at times. Right after the scene with Betty, Megan calls Don and when he answers the phone she is obviously surprised and says she expected to get the service. She wanted to communicate, but not directly with him. She says she needs $500 and he argues with her about it, telling her his finances are a mess because of a problem with McCann. Later in the episode he casually writes her a check for megan and don divorce mad men new businessa million dollars (after she calls him “an aging, sloppy, selfish liar”) saying he doesn’t want to fight anymore and wants her to have the life she deserves. It seems there was no financial mess, just unwillingness to move things along with the divorce and a desire to keep some kind of connection with Megan, even if just financial.

The other woman this episode spent a lot of time on is Diana, the waitress Don met at the diner in the previous episode. There is no excitement in this relationship. It is completely different from any of his past relationships, except that she’s a brunette, like every woman he has cared about since divorcing the blond Betty. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe it’s meant to show the contrast between the promiscuous Don Draper we saw all the way up to last week’s episode, and the man he is trying to become, the old vs the new again.

Diana is a woman of mystery and contradiction. She shows little emotion and has since the first time Don met her. He thought he knew her and was so convinced of it that he returned a couple of times. Then he was still so convinced of it that he got someone to find out where she was working after she left the diner. (“Are you a private detective?” Diana asks him. “You look like a private detective.” A play on words? Private detectives are often called Dicks, and Don’s real name is Dick Whitman.) Maybe it’s her sadness he finds so familiar, not her specifically. In many ways, she is the female version of him. Her mysterious past includes a tragic family life, part of Elizabeth Reaser as Diana and Jon Hamm as Don Draper, Mad Men _which was lived in a ranch with a two car garage and a living room where she bought Avon products, much like the house Don lived in with Betty. She reaches out to him sexually and seems now and then to want to connect, sharing pieces of her history with him and telling him he makes her nervous, gives her a twinge in her chest, and makes her forget some of her tragedy. But then she becomes afraid or ashamed of her past and shuts down again.

Perhaps he was attracted to the chance to be for her the person he wants in his life, someone who wants to make a new start, who accepts his past and his flaws, but doesn’t ask many questions. It’s this quality he learns they do not share. He wants to leave the past behind. He doesn’t want to feel guilty or hurt. He wants to move on to new business. But Diana is clinging to old business. With Don, she has a chance at a new start and she feels herself falling for him. She tells him that when she’s with him she forgets her daughter and her pain and that she never wants to do that. She wants to experience the pain. Don doesn’t.

In the scene with the two of them in Diana’s apartment that is the dump Don tells her she thinks she deserves, it’s this difference between them that ends the relationship. On his way out her door he leaves a guidebook to New York City that he brought her as a gift so she can begin getting to know the city he loves and that she told him she has not explored. He wants her to have new experiences. His leaving the guidebook is an expression of that desire.

The story of Roger and Marie Calvet, Megan’s mother, also progresses in this episode. They sleep together in Don and Megan’s apartment after the movers have emptied it and while Megan is at lunch. (“You already emptied it out,” Roger says to Marie. “You want to defile it too?”) When Megan returns to find Roger getting dressed, he tells her it wasn’t his idea, which is the truth. Megan and Marie both storm out of the room, leaving Roger once again abandoned by two angry women.

When Megan sees her sister later, her sister is in tears because their mother has returned home early and is going to leave their father. “She’s been unhappy for a very long time. At least she’s doing something about it,” Megan says, a statement that is is not only relevant to Marie’s relationship with her husband but is also a comment on both Don and Megan, both very unhappy for a long time, both in a miserable marriage for a long time, both dragging out a difficult divorce. It’s also a statement that applies to many years of Don’s life, very unhappy but not doing anything about it because he didn’t know what to do. Trying and failing over and over, repeating the same mistakes over and over.

pete golf carPete Campbell drives he and Don to a golf meeting in one scene of “New Business,” and he makes a statement that encapsulates the entire episode. They are talking about women, marriage, and divorce and he says, “You think you’re going to begin your life over and do it right. But what if you never get past the beginning again?” Don is good at the beginning of relationships, when it’s new and exciting. He’s not so good in the long haul. Maybe he is trying to change that. Maybe he was attracted to Diana for the very fact that it wasn’t the excitement and the rush he felt with so many women before. Maybe he felt a deeper connection and hoped that deeper connection would be what held them together, but it didn’t work out that way. Ever the conflicted and complex man, how will things work out for Don Draper when the Mad Men era comes to an end? Will he get past the beginning again? We shall see.

#MadMen #NewBusiness #MadMenEra

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