Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Mad Men Season 5, Episode 11 Recap: The Other Woman

"Jaguar, the mistress who'll do things your wife won't."

Well, that is subtle.  In 1966 there was no thought of selling cars to or for women.  The pitch was clear.  Men, do you want to get laid?  Get a Jag.  Do you want to feel like a stud, the envy of all around you? Get a Jag. Do you want to own something with sexy lines, something a little dangerous, something totally impractical yet totally desirable? Get a Jag. It was a not-so-secret selling point - Jaguar was the naughty car.  You drive the wife and kids around in your Buick, but you take your girlfriend out in your XK-E.


It's no surprise that a room full of men could only see that angle - sell the sex, sell the danger, sell the naughtiness.  Jaguar is the Holy Grail to SCDP and They have a packed conference room where they're working around the clock to come up with the ideal approach to winning the account.  Yet do they have their best and brightest on the pitch?  Sure Ginsberg is there, and every freelancer available, but star copywriter Peggy Olson is literally on the outside looking in.  She gets Secor laxatives, the men get the luxury car. 

But that's not Peggy's only problem. Don is becoming increasingly abusive towards her, first ignoring her and dismissing her, then moving on to open hostility and petulance.  He views Peggy as a tool, like his dictaphone or his pens - fungible, utilitarian, unfeeling.  He forgets that you have to treat even inanimate objects well to keep them working.  That is even more true with living, breathing human beings.

Part of landing the Jaguar account is getting the approval of the large dealership owners in the region.  So Ken Cosgrove and Pete Campbell wine and dine Herb Rennet, the largest Jaguar dealer in the northeast.  Herb knows that he is being wooed and he makes it clear that to get his vote, to get the Jaguar account, Ken and Pete are going to have to make him very happy.  Pete doesn't see that as a problem.  "We're open to anything your heart desires."  Unfortunately, it's not Herb's heart that has desires.  Herb wastes no time letting them know just what it will take to get his approval.  Joan.  He saw her at their offices and right then and there he thought, there's no way a girl who looks like this would give the time of day to a guy like me.  Unless I had something that her bosses needed very badly.  Make my dreams come true and I can make yours come true too.

So Ken and Pete jump up from the table, each slap him across his fat face, and tell him they will not be prostituting their office manager.  No car company, no business, no amount of money is worth that. 

Except that's not what happens.  Ken develops a nervous laugh and tries to steer the conversation away from Joan but Pete's eyes get wide at the thought that they are one step closer to landing this account.  The company, as we've been reminded, needs a car account and needs a big infusion of money.  Jaguar can give them both.  Pete sees a way to make this happen and all it will take is selling Joan's body and his own soul to the devil.  But it is for a car, after all.

Over at Casa de Draper, Megan is whining about something.  Because that is her default method of communication.  Wait, no, she's actually happy.  She has an audition that she's excited about!  But she knows her acting career is of little interest to Don, so she switches the conversation to his work.  And he tells her that they're all out of ideas for how to sell a car that doesn't, actually, drive.  She offers help, which he wants and needs, but then he bites her head off when she tries to help.  Because that is Don's default method of treating the important women in his life if they dare to engage him intellectually.


The next day Pete Campbell strolls into Joan's office under the pretext of telling her the "bad news" about Jaguar.  His motives and intentions could not be clearer.  He wants Jaguar and is willing to do anything have Joan do anything to get it.  But rather than coming right out and asking Joan to sleep with that sleazebag Herb Rennet, he tries to guilt Joan into agreeing to do it.  It's low even for Pete.  It's bad enough that Herb made the request, worse that Pete didn't immediately shoot it down, but even more despicable that he wants Joan to agree to it rather than let the company down. It's only one night, haven't we all done things we've regretted for free?  He equates sleeping with Herb Rennet to her becoming a queen, a la Cleopatra. Joan is understandably mortified at the request, but when Pete is about to leave, he asks her what would it take.  When she says, you couldn't afford it, Pete can't stifle the smile.  That wasn't a no.  We're negotiating.

 We see a brief scene of Peggy Olson being her amazing self, selling the Chevalier Blanc client on a new approach to their commercial.  It is advertising from - gasp - a woman's perspective.  And note how Harry wanted to introduce Peggy to the client as Ginsberg's subordinate or, at worst, equal, when she is his supervisor.  But Ken properly introduced her and then sat (and later stood) in awe of her creative talent.  Peggy is a superstar, but she's also a woman in a man's world and it's 1966.  And so rather than kudos and a trip to Paris, she gets another dose of Don's seething hostility.

But for once, we can understand part of what is making Don angry.  Pete called a partner's meeting to discuss the Jaguar account,  Or, more to the point, how the only thing that is standing in their way is not coming up with a great pitch, but one night for Herb to have his way with Joan.  Pete sees it as a simple business proposition.  The others, to differing degrees, see it for what it is.  But Pete is clever.  He lets the partners think that Joan was not horrified by the very suggestion, he lets them believe that she's amenable for the right price.  Don, who's had his own sordid experience with prostitution, wants no part of this and storms out.  But the others, well, the others can be talked into it if they can be convinced that Joan is on board, if they can spin it to themselves that it's for the greater good, if they can ignore what they're sacrificing of their integrity and of her dignity.  It's only one night after all.  And it is, at long last, a car company.

Pete may be the scum who bubbled up from the primordial ooze to present this idea, but don't kid yourself.  Aside from Don, none of the other partners say no.  They say they're disgusted, they say it's unseemly, they say let Joan know she can still say no.  But none of them stand up for what's right. Pete sees himself as the savior of the company, the only one with the nerve to roll up his sleeves and get dirty to do what has to be done.  But the others, they're too desperate to do anything but huff and puff and them quietly, oh so quietly, let it happen. In some ways, they're worse than Pete.  He knows he's pimping her out and embraces it, the others pretend it's not happening at all.  Just like Harry and Ken pretended that Don didn't throw a wad of bills at Peggy's face just for standing up for herself.  There are those who do awful things and there are those who sit quietly by.

Lane has his own demons to deal with.  While he is attracted to Joan, and wants to stand by her honor, his more pressing concern is the money that he took from the recent advance to pay off his tax bill.  He knows he can't go back to the bank and ask for another advance to get the $50,000 Pete thinks will buy a night of Joan's time.  So he goes to her and plants a seed that if she were to go forward, it should be for a partnership interest and not simply a one time payment.  Joan is offended knowing the partners all sat around discussing whether she should sleep with a potential client for business and is particularly hurt that Roger was part of that discussion.  She believes that the partners want her to make this small sacrifice and will reward her, the only question being how well.

A little heavy-handed juxtaposition here. We get it, Pete's a hypocrite.

Megan and her actress friend Julia come to the office and break up the all-nighter.  Both women are shown in sexual poses, Megan atop Don in his office, Julia prowling atop the desk in the conference room. They have the full attention in the rooms they occupy.  Earlier, in contrast, Peggy stood alone in her office looking out the window wondering what she has to do to get any attention and respect. Megan is Don's trophy wife, the pretty young replacement for his pretty first wife.  She was once one of the gang, another copywriter, but now as Ginsberg notes she comes and goes as she pleases.  But does she?  When she talks to Don later about her audition for Little Murders, he's fine until he finds out it will inconvenience him.  She'll be gone for two to three months for rehearsals and that's not where she is supposed to be.  He wanted her at work with him, but if Don couldn't have that, then she should at least be waiting patiently for him at home.  But running off to chase her dream and leave him alone with his thoughts, that's not what he wants.

After a testy conversation with her mother about her ex-husband and finances and cleaning and every other part of daily life that bothers her, Joan starts to think that money could solve many of her problems. So she takes Lane's advice and goes to Pete demanding a 5% stake in SCDP in exchange for her services in helping to land the Jaguar account.  Pete all of a sudden acts like a bumbling schoolboy, confused about the actual mechanics behind pimping out this married mother to the sleazy mouth breathing Herb Rennet. It's not a good look.  Joan puts him in his place and retains as much dignity as she can under the circumstances, but it's a jarringly disturbing scene.  What he suggested, what she agreed to, what she'll ultimately have to do.  It's revolting and they both know it.

Peggy meets with her old pal Freddy Rumsen to complain about Don's treatment of her, yet she's in the bind that many young workers, male and female. find themselves in.  She's been promoted, she's working on many accounts, she has copywriters under her - in many ways her career is going gangbusters.  For someone who started as a wide-eyed secretary, in just a few years she's really moved up.  And she's done it without having to play grab-ass with her boss.  But she's also hitting her head against the glass ceiling and being treated like a second class citizen at best, and like garbage when Don has one of his hissy fits.  It may be time for her to stop complaining and actually start looking for another job.

Ginsberg has a Ginsbergian epiphany and comes up with the perfect pitch for Jaguar.  It's not vulgar, but gets the message across just the same.  All your hard work men will finally pay off, this car is something beautiful you can actually own. Not like that mistress that you rent for a few hours a week.  This you can keep in your garage, around your kids even!  Don loves the pitch and feels confident heading into tomorrow's presentation.  But then Pete brings his smug face into Don's office, a little canary feather popping out of the side of his mouth, to let Don know that there won't be any "impediments" to them getting the business.  If you know what I mean.  He might as well actually say "wink wink."  Don is furious.  But as Pete reminds him, the vote doesn't stop just because Don walks out of the meeting.  Don storms out of the office and heads to Joan's apartment to stop her.


Don arrives at Joan's apartment and she comes out to greet him, just before heading into the shower.  He tells her not to go ahead with Pete's plan.  No client is worth that and who wants to be in bed with people like that.  Literally or figuratively.  Joan is taken aback.  Pete had told her that everyone was in agreement and she's just now learning that not only is he a sleazy little scumbag but a liar as well.  He told the partners that Joan was amenable and told Joan that the partners were all for it and yet neither was true.  Finding out that someone stood up for her (unfortunately followed by walking out and missing a vote!) really touches Joan.  She and Don have always had a good relationship, one devoid of the sexual power politics that Joan dealt with every day on the job.  He had always treated her with respect and that respect meant more than landing Jaguar.  Don leaves, feeling a bit like Superman, having swept in and saved the day.

Only....

The next day Don is suited up and ready to work his old magic.  He's confident and on the top of his game, ready to seduce the clients with his charm and style and Ginsberg's words.  He's going to land this client the old fashioned way.

Only....

We see Joan at Herb Rennet's hotel room.  And we hear Don's words describing the sleek, stunning piece of art on four wheels that men covet from a young age and dream about possessing.  But this thing, so beautiful, so exceptional, can be yours for a price.  And we see Herb.  And he's looking at this beautiful woman who ordinarily wouldn't give him the time of day and she's there, and he can have her.  Bought and paid for.  At first it's jarring, why would Joan go ahead with this after that talk with Don?  We experience the degradation, the objectification from both perspectives.  The balding overweight schlub who ordinarily would never get a woman like Joan, and the curvaceous, beautiful woman whose body is treated like a commodity. He wants her and for a price he can have her.  Don's words spin around as the couple in the hotel do their own dance.  The parallels between the car and the woman are hammered home until you forget that the car doesn't have feelings. 

And then the reveal.   The scene between Joan and Herb took place before Don got to Joan's apartment.  He was too late.  And her reaction to his words was not just surprise but regret.  The next day Don comes into the office after his impassioned pitch, excited that they may win the business.  But he doesn't know that it was Joan who made the pitch that counted.

At her audition, Megan is put on display before a couch full of leering men who believe it is necessary for her to turn around and show off her body rather than, say, read her lines.   Ultimately she doesn't get the part and she's upset, but she doesn't tell Don about the audition, what she as a young woman has to go through just to have a chance at a part in an off-Broadway play.  She knows he's happy she didn't get the part and knows that what she wants is not what he wants, and that is almost as troubling as what she might have to do to get what she wants.

Peggy takes a clandestine meeting with Ted Chaough to discuss leaving SCDP.  Like Freddy, he's always been a fan of her work. And he'd love to stick it to Don.  He admits that as a woman, she'll be asked questions a man wouldn't be asked.  Are you married, planning on having kids, willing to work for a fraction of what the men are.  But all he cares about is that she's a good copywriter.  He asks her what she wants and he makes sure to lock it down right then and there by offering her more than she asked for.  Ted tried to get Pete not long ago, but Don probably wouldn't have shed a tear.  But he knows how valuable Peggy is and what a loss it would be. 

Peggy wants to talk to Don, but before she can words starts spreading that Jaguar is about to announce what agency landed the car.  And it's looking very good for SCDP.  All the partners are invited into Roger's office for the phone call and that's when Don sees Joan and understands what happened.  And he knows that whatever the outcome, it had nothing to do with Ginsberg's words or his pitch.  They get the news they were all hoping for and it's champagne for everyone.  Only Don is not in a celebratory mood anymore.   And neither is Peggy.

Peggy starts her speech and Don thinks it's a typical "I want more money" presentation. He's amused and feeling flush with the new car account, let's Peggy know that there is more money for her.  But he's completely oblivious to the fact that he's been treating her like crap and not giving her any respect.   He blandly admits to taking her for granted, but throwing money in someone's face and snapping at them whenever you're in a mood is not taking them for granted.  Plus, for anyone who is mentored in their first job, it is difficult for the boss - even if he wasn't an abusive alcoholic - to ever seen you as anything but that newbie, all wet behind the ears.  Sometimes, you have to go where someone didn't see you take your first steps to finally be treated like an adult.

Don begs, cajoles, insults, and ultimately accepts that Peggy is leaving him.  He wants to be a tough guy about it and tells her not to hang out for the two weeks.  But as she offers her hand, he grabs it like a life rope and holds on.  He kisses her hand and tears fall from both their eyes.  This is not easy for either of them, but it's necessary.  They both know it.  As Peggy says, it's what Don would do.  It's ironic, Don was so focused on not losing Megan that he ended up actually losing the one woman who meant the most to him.



Peggy struts confidently out of the office, living her own Mary Tyler Moore "you're gonna make it after all" moment years before that show aired.  There were no rule books for women in the workplace back then, not many role models for how to move up and get ahead.  Peggy represents the trailblazers of that time who had to rely on men to hire and promote them, navigating the sexist waters by themselves.  Those with mentors who saw them not just as women but capable coworkers, were the lucky ones. Those who knew they deserved better and found a way to make it happen were the smart ones.

We celebrate Peggy's independence and her courage to leave the familiar for the unknown.  But how do we treat Joan's choice?  After thirteen years at SCDP, was it wrong for her to take a situation that presented itself and use it for her financial comfort and security?  Is this a case of her body, her choice?  Or should a woman not even have to make that choice - one no man has to make? Is using your body a slippery slope, so that the Joan we saw Season one flirting for a free lunch was the natural precursor to the Joan we saw tonight, parlaying one night for a partnership for life?  Or was this the patriarchy telling her that she only has two assets that matter and she might as well use them if she wants to get ahead?  Regardless, what's done is done and Joan is now a partner, like Pete, sharing in the future successes of the firm.

But another partner, Lane, is not thinking about future success, only Bert Cooper's repeated mantra that bonuses can wait.  Lane has to pay back the money he took from the bank and without his bonus, where will that money come from?

Quotes

Ken: You have to be excited about this car.
Herb:  Oh, it's a red-hot number. l'm excited about that. But l'm a hard man to please. l always feel like someone should go the extra mile.
Pete:  We're open to anything your heart desires.

Ken: Was that what l think it was?
Pete: Yes, it was.
Ken: Why didn't you just let me tell him she was married?
Pete:  Because so is he. And he already knows that.
Ken: Well, we wanted to be in the car business.

Pete: She was a queen. What would it take to make you a queen?
Joan: l don't think you could afford it.

Roger: Don't fool yourself. This is some very dirty business.
Bert: Let her know she can still say no.

Lane: Every time someone's asked me what l wanted, I've never told them the truth.

Pete: It's an epic poem for me to get home.

Gail: His wife won't let him come here anymore.
Joan: l don't want to talk about that. We can afford to have someone else fix the refrigerator, for God's sake.
Gail: Why won't anyone believe me? Apollo and l are just friends.

Joan: l don't want you talking that way around Kevin.
Gail: He's a baby. He doesn't know that we all wish his father was dead.

Joan: Which one is he?
Pete: He's not bad.
Joan: He's doing this.

Herb: l feel like a sultan of Araby and my tent is graced with Helen of Troy.
Joan: Those are two different stories.

Don: What behavior would we forgive? If they weren't pretty, if they weren't temperamental, if they weren't beyond our reach and a little out of our control? Would we love them like we do?

Megan: Well, you get to disappear for work whenever you want. And if l have to choose between you and that, l'll choose you. But l'll hate you for it.

Peggy: l want you to know that the day you saw something in me my whole life changed.
And since then, it's been my privilege to not only be at your side, but to be treated like a protege and for you to be my mentor and my champion.
Don: But?
Peggy: But l think I've reached a point where it's time for me to have a new experience.

Don: Well, let's pretend l'm not responsible for every single good thing that's ever happened to you, and you tell me the number or make one up and l'll beat it.
Peggy: There's no number.


Observations:

Ah, the 60s.  When sexism was alive and well and men were kings of their castles.  What do you mean it's fifty years later and nothing's changed?  That's ridiculous.  There is no way today that a business deal would hang on whether or not a woman would agree to sleep with a rich and powerful man.  Or that the creator of this very show would be accused of sexual harassment just a few years after this episode aired.  Oh, whoops.

Sexual politics in the workplace is a hot topic today.  But Joan has been on both sides of the issue herself.  Let us not forget how she instructed then new hire Peggy Olson on the proper way to dress and adorn herself to get a husband, back in the pilot episode.  How she schooled her on the men to avoid and the men to enjoy.  It's dangerous to even discuss how Joan might have used her substantial physical assets to her advantage as it raises issues of power imbalance, slut shaming and demeaning women.  Has she flirted to get things she wanted, for herself or the company?  Is that any different than Don flattering the wife of a proposed client?

Little Murders was a play that debuted off Broadway in 1967, then quickly shuttered, only to be rediscovered for the satirical gem it was.  Written by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist/satirist Jules Feiffer, it told the story of the absurdity of suburban life in the crowded, filthy, steamy, crime-ridden New York of the mid-century. It was a successful play in 1969 and then released as a theatrical film in 1971.  Feiffer is still alive (as of this post) and recently wed his third wife at 87!

My favorite line was from Joan's mom.  After she said that the superintendent's wife won't let him come to the apartment any more, we all assume it was because of Joan.  And then Gail springs on us: "Why won't anyone believe me? Apollo and l are just friends." 

Always great to see Freddy Rumsen back and on the wagon. He's always been a staunch supporter of Peggy's, really the first one to spot her talent.  I wonder if he will follow up now that Peggy is gone and try to get some work at SCDP. 

1966 was a pivotal point for women's empowerment.  While Megan is being ogled and Joan is being pimped out, elsewhere the National Organization for Women is being founded by Betty Friedan, author of the ground-breaking "The Feminine Mystique," and others seeking gender equality and fighting discrimination.  They fought for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and came within three states of ratifying the law that provided: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.  It failed to garner enough support when Phyllis Shlafly lead a pro-traditional values/gender roles opposition to the law. 

Don sure wants his wife to be, if not barefoot and pregnant, at least at home whenever he wants.  She can have her own interests only to the extent that they don't interfere with his life in the slightest. Maybe he should have stayed with Betty, someone who at least pretended to be content with sitting at home waiting for her man to return.  But these younger girls, they have some crazy ideas about having their own identity and their own dreams. 


*******************************************************************************
Spoilery Observations (Don't read until you've watched the whole show!):

Compare the picture of Peggy leaving SCDP with her much Gif'd exit at the end of the series.  Here, she's a little nervous but a lot excited about this new adventure.  There, she's a certifiable bad ass.

Freddy will be back not only free lancing for Don, but later acting as Christian de Neuvillette to Don's Cyrano de Bergerac.  Ted also will be back not as a foil for Don but as a partner and even friend.  But what we didn't see coming, and maybe we should have, was that his feelings for Peggy would go beyond professional respect and appreciation.

In retrospect, we can see the building desperation that Lane is feeling.  All he can focus on is the fact that he has stolen money from the firm and without the bonuses his misdeed will be discovered.  He doesn't care that Joan gets more than just a one time payout, he only cares about not having to write her a big check on an overdrawn account.  And he doesn't care that she's about to prostitute herself, all he cares about is that it doesn't implicate him in the theft.  While everyone else celebrates, he continues to worry about the ax falling. 

Megan could not have been clearer.  She'll do what Don wants, she'll abandon her dreams, but she'll resent him for it.  And she was right.  Living her dream was inconsistent with being Mrs. Don Draper and one had to give.

Pete's talk about wanting a place in the city is another sign that Pete is getting restless.  He's tiring of suburban life and wants something more exciting.  He thinks it's Manhattan, later he'll think it's in Los Angeles, only to come full circle and see just how good he had it all along.

Joan doesn't let this experience tear her down. She embraces her new role as partner and in fact comes to side with the partners who sold her out and do battle with Don.  Later, she goes on to become her own boss, the ultimate in empowerment.  Every experience only makes her stronger and more focused on providing for herself and her son.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Mad Men Season 5, Episode 10 Recap: Christmas Waltz

Lane Pryce is in a bit of a sticky wicket.  Seems he owes $8,000 in back taxes in the U.K.  If that doesn't seem like a huge problem, remember that in 1966 the average U.S. income per year was $6,900.00. And, more to the point, Lane does not have an extra $8,000 lying around.  He won't, of course, tell his wife there's a problem and that he had to cash in on substantial investments to cover his partnership fee when Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce was formed last year.  The taxes on that amount are now due and, simply put, Lane doesn't have it,


Now, Lane could go to the partners and explain his predicament and ask for their help.  But Lane has never completely felt at home in the firm that bears his name.  He knows he was given the partnership and his name on the masthead because he was instrumental in helping them extricate themselves from the old firm.  That is, alas, not the same as being a partner because you are considered an invaluable member of the team.  His spat with Pete Campbell was emblematic of his role at the company, he feels.  He's not one of them and never will be.

But Lane is the chief financial officer for the company and it is his job to, among other things, get extensions on lines of credit for the firm.  And so he devises a plan.  He gets their bank to extend a line of credit to the firm, based on anticipated future revenues; the company does well in 1967 and he repays the credit and no one is the wiser.  In the meantime, the firm will have an "extra" $50,000 which they can spend on bonuses and his share will be, coincidentally, just enough to pay his tax debt. What could go wrong?

Back in Episode 5, "Signal 30," Lane had tried to help the firm snag the Jaguar account.  Then, Lane had arranged a meeting with Edwin Baker from Jaguar to discuss business.  It did not go well, but a follow up meeting sans Lane and avec a trip to a local brothel went much better.  That is until Mrs. Edwin Baker discovered where her husband had spent his business dinner.  Well, Edwin is out and there is a new account exec at Jaguar and Pete Campbell has been hard at work getting Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce a meeting. A car client is the big white whale of advertising and every firm without a car wants in on Jaguar.  Don thinks its a pipe dream, but Pete thinks they have a real chance. And if they land Jaguar it would be thanks to Pete's hard work and not Lane.


Elsewhere, a blast from the past returns in the form of a be-robed Paul Kinsey. Paul, the former wannabe hipster, has now become a Hare Krishna.  Harry Crane thinks it's a joke at first, but then decides he understands Paul's motivation when he see the lovely Mother Lakshmi. Surprisingly, Harry actually gets into the chanting and later reveals to Paul that he had a vision of his daughter.  Paul is surprised and we eventually learn that he is not a true believer and he hasn't had a spiritual awakening.  He's there out of loneliness and desperation to belong.  But what he really wants to do is write.

At the partner meeting, to which Joan was not invited, Lane announces that the firm has a $50,000 profit.  Of course, we know the "profit" is a line of credit from the bank and not actual income, but Lane convinces the partners that they've had an outstanding year and are flush with cash.  Bonuses for everyone.  Immediately.  Like, now, cut the damn checks.  But Don thwarts his plan, suggesting they hold off on the bonuses until after the Christmas party.  The rest of the partners agree and Lane is shocked and shaken that this his financial troubles are not going to be erased as he had hoped.  Meanwhile, oblivious to Lane's problems, Pete wonders why no one is as excited as he about the prospect of landing Jaguar.

It's December 7th, the 25th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  And with that solemn reminder, old memories boil up for Roger Sterling.  He found in WWII, in Japan, and he has carried the psychological wounds of battle with him in the form of strong anti-Japanese bigotry ever since.  On this day, he will drink too much and say things he shouldn't say.  Joan knows this and tries to get him to stop.  They are connected as never before because of her son, their son, but Joan wants her independence and does not want to be reliant upon Roger's largesse.

Megan drags Don to the theater where he is insulted by the anti-advertising theme of the play.  Or, Don and Megan attend the theater where they watch a new satirical play about excessive consumerism.  It's all a matter of one's perspective.  And Don's is that Megan hates everything about what he does except the money it provides them, and he's not a happy camper.  And Megan's is that she can't do anything without being criticized by Don and he doesn't care about what's important to her.  And she's not too happy either.



Paul isn't happy, even with his peaceful new religion and its consciousness expanding, spiritual awakening. He feels as unappreciated as he did as a young ad exec at Sterling Cooper.  Which reminds me of the old adage, wherever you go, there you are.  Paul is the same Paul, even with the shaved head, soothing demeanor, and flowing garb.  He still wants to be somebody, he still thinks of himself as an undiscovered genius.  He presents Harry with a spec script for Star Trek, a then-new series airing on NBC.  Harry has ins at the network and can get the script seen.  Paul asks him for that favor.

Meanwhile, after hours, alone at the office, Lane can only think of one solution to his dire financial situation.  With the agreement that the partner's bonuses will be delayed, and with the fact that he needs to send the money to England NOW to take care of his tax woes, he feels he has no choice.  He grabs a check from the firm account, finds an old check signed by Don, and forges Don's signature onto a bonus check to Lane.  He probably assumes that when the real bonus check comes in he can rip it up and no one will notice. So long as the real bonus check does come along.

Harry reads Paul's script and it's terrible.  He doesn't want to shoot down Paul's hopes and dreams but lying to him won't help either.  But while he's considering how to handle this, he gets a visit from Mother Lakshmi.  She seduces Harry who is naive enough to think that they had a "moment" together and she was there because of his irresistible charm.  After they have sex in his office, she drops the bombshell  She's not into him, she set him up to blackmail him from staying away from Paul.  Paul is one of their best recruits and she doesn't want Harry giving him a way out of the movement.  Tell him his story stinks and send him back to the Krishnas.

Joan is surprised by a process server who hands her divorce papers.  She doesn't even get the dignity of being the one to make it official.  She takes her anger out on the poor, sweet, woman-child at the front desk, Meredith, and then Don smartly removes her from the office to get her mind off of whatever provoked her.  They pretend to be a married couple looking at the new Jaguars then head off to a bar to drink and talk away their problems.  Joan thinks Don has it all, perfect wife, perfect life.  Don thinks that Joan is better off without her abusive husband and that things will get better for her, because women approaching their 40s who are unmarried with a child have it made in the shade in the mid-60s.



Both of them are wrong.  Don does not have it all.  Maybe he does, but he doesn't want it or appreciate it or nurture it.  He does everything in his power to push Megan away.  He comes home late, drunk, and Megan has been waiting for him for hours.  She doesn't care that he was comforting Joan or test driving the Jaguar, she does care that he never thought to tell her any of that ahead of time.  She does care that he thought he could just stumble home whenever he wanted, plastered, and she'd be waiting patiently for his arrival.  This is not the life she wants.

Harry Crane is not perfect, not by a long-shot.  He's arrogant and obnoxious.  He cheats on his wife.  He can be an ass.  But he doesn't have the heart to just shoot down all of Paul's dreams.  And so when faced with giving the harsh reality to Paul and sending him back to a woman who wants to use him and a movement that doesn't care about him, Harry can't do it.  So he lies to Paul, tells his his writing is brilliant and gives him some money to move out to California and live his dream of becoming a writer.  No one has ever shown any faith in Paul, no one has ever done him any favor.  But Harry doesn't want his old friend being used and having his hopes crushed any more.  And maybe he's spiteful that Lakshmi seduced and blackmailed him.  Whatever his true motivation, he sends Paul off to an uncertain future in Los Angeles that still looks a hell of a lot better than anything he has in New York.

While things are steadily improving for SCDP, of course there are stumbling blocks.  Mohawk Airlines is experiencing a strike which means they won't be flying which means they won't be buying advertising for their flights.  That will hurt the firm's bottom line and so the anticipated partner bonuses will have to be tabled.  Which is unfortunate for all but deadly serious to Lane who was hoping to have that money to cover up the bonus check he forged for himself.

It's time for the big announcement.  The staff and the partners are in the conference room and Lane lets them know that because of Mohawk, the partners agreed to forgo their bonuses, but the rest will be honored. Apparently, that wasn't in plain enough English because the staff showed no reaction until Roger said "you're all getting bonuses and we aren't."  That they understood.  And just to further hammer home how it's not the message but the messenger, but when Pete tells all that they're in the running for the Jaguar campaign there is zero reaction. But when Don does his Don thing and pitches to the staff that they will be sacrificing their next six weekends to try and land Jaguar, they break out in applause.


Observations:

According to Wikipedia (and why would they lie to us?): "America Hurrah" is a satirical play by Jean-Claude van Itallie, which premiered at the Pocket Theatre in New York City on November 7, 1966. Directed by Jacques Levy and Joseph Chaikin, the play was an early expression of the burgeoning 1960s counterculture, expressing discontent with American consumerism and involvement in the Vietnam War.

We finally got the answer why Don never went after Joan.  There is undeniable chemistry between the two of them and they're make a gorgeous couple, but I think Don was telling the truth when he said Joan scared him.  Especially when we first met Don, he was with a more subdued, traditional woman and not a firecracker like Joan.  

Aly Khan was a socialite who was once married to red headed actress Rita Hayworth, with whom Joan shares some familiarity.  It was a nice touch that Don finally sent Joan some flowers, signed by the late Prince.

Pride goeth before the fall it is said and Lane Pryce is in perpetual need of someone to feel proud of him.  He never had that with his loathsome father, he doesn't feel it at SCDP despite all that he's done for the firm, and he's hasn't felt it with his wife either.   He has been a great disappointment to his wife, forcing her to give up her life to live out his dream of living in Manhattan.  But with the little white lie that he has to stay in New York to help land the Jaguar account, that he is indispensable, he for the first time hears her say that she is proud of him.  

There are usually through lines, themes, connecting each of the storylines.  But I'm not sure it's that clear here.  Perhaps it's un-fulfillment and dashed dreams.  That things do not turn out how we imagine they will and how each of us handles it when that reality hits home.  Joan will not live happily ever after with Mr. Right.  Roger will not get that fountain of youth woman he's always dreaming of.  Don and Megan won't get that perfect marriage.  Harry will never be the sexy guy that some woman throws herself after.  Paul will never be a famous writer.  But those are the normal realities we all face, that live is messy and not perfect.  But for Lane, it's something more.  His failure is at a deeper level which is why, out of all of those un-fulfilled souls, he's the one who fails to open up, to try and connect with someone else, but instead keeps his demons locked deep inside.  

Quotes:

Harry:  l don't know what the Russians are going to do.  We may be living underground by Lincoln's birthday.

Don: l don't mind picking up the check for your friends, but not if they insult me first.

Don: No one's made a stronger stand against advertising than you.

Joan: Do you understand having you out here is the same as having no one?

Salesman:  l'm thinking about paying to have you drive around in this.

Don:  Those flowers God, my first week here l thought you were dating Aly Khan.
Joan:  My mother raised me to be admired.

Joan:  And who do you think's waiting at home?  l bet she's not ugly.  The only sin she's committed is being familiar.

Harnry:  You don't understand what it's like out there.  This failure, this life it'll all seem like it happened to someone else.


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Spoiler-y Observations (Don't read until you're watched the whole series):

Poor Lane.  In some ways maybe what ultimately happens to him was foreshadowed from the beginning.  He never fit in, he was never happy in his own skin, and he was constantly searching for someone to tell him he was special.  He was not valued by his original bosses, nor by his new partners, nor by his father, nor by his wife.  It was completely understandable that this would take its toll and that the facade he created of a happy life would crumble.

Joan does eventually learn that she doesn't need a man in her life and that she can be happy and successful all on her own.  And Roger does learn that he doesn't have to keep chasing youth or someone to save and that he can have a happy mature relationship with an equal.

This is but the start of many fights between Megan and Don.  He drinks too much and holds on to anger too long.  She isn't happy with the role society wants her to play, the dutiful wife.  Don is only really alive when he's making a pitch and in that brief speech to the staff at the end of the episode, he is more alive than any other time in recent memory.  Would they have lived happily ever after if she'd been content with working as an ad exec? Who knows.  Don has a self-destructive streak that can't be ignored and Megan wasn't satisfied with being great at things that came naturally.

Let's talk Meredith.  The sweet, simple receptionist who goes on to be the best secretary anyone could ask for.  Devoted, sincere, lovable, we're all very lucky she didn't quit after the airplane incident.



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mad Men Season 5, Episode 9 Recap: Dark Shadows


Poor Betty Draper Francis.  She's feeling not herself these days.  The lithe beauty has packed on some extra pounds and she finds the world harder to navigate when you're not beautiful and desired.  She has to count every calorie and every bite hoping to reclaim what she once had.  Hoping to look into a mirror and see the old Betty looking back at her.  The husband who once doted on her now snipes at her in frustration. This is hard enough to handle by itself, but when she has to come face to face with the newer, younger and decidedly more svelte Megan Draper, well, it's simply too much,

But Betty is not the only one feeling envy towards the younger version of themselves.  Don, who we've seen feeling his age this season, is looking at Michael Ginsberg not as a shining beacon of unbridled talent but an existential threat.  He looks at Ginsberg's portfolio for an upcoming pitch with, at first, amusement, and then, something else.  Ginsberg's ideas are hip and new and Don worries he can't keep up. His internal monologue is echoed in the conversation between Bert Cooper and Roger Sterling about pitching a new client without the help of wunderkind Pete Campbell.  It is no coincidence that the term "generation gap" was coined during this time, it's alive and well and dividing everyone this episode.

Ginsberg does not help Don's feelings of impeding obsolescence at the Sno Ball pitch meeting.  Peggy comes up with a Peggy idea - smart, visual but not earth-shattering.  Ginsberg then pitches his puerile enjoyment of a snow ball being thrown at the face of some authority figure (though in his litany of nemeses he omits one that Don saw in his drawings the night before - Adolph Hitler).  Then Don shares his idea of the Devil sipping on a Sno Ball.  Ginsberg likes the idea.  But it's how he conveys his appreciation that is the problem.  He is pleasantly surprised that Don, after not being able to write, has suddenly found his mojo.  It's the "old guy's still got it" reaction that undercuts the compliment.  And Don does not want to be reminded of his creative dry spell or the fact that it was assumed his best days were behind him.

Megan has her demons as well.  Being young and beautiful is not protection against feeling inadequate.  She wants to be taken seriously as an actress, but from her penthouse of comfort she feels like a fraud.  She's envious of her fellow actress whom she is helping practice for her audition.  And she's resentful that she is thought of as a dilettante who is dipping her pedicured toe in the acting pool while "real" actresses are pounding the pavement to get work just to keep a roof over their heads.  So Betty is envious of Megan with her perfectly flat tummy and stylish midtown apartment and the young actress is envious of Megan with her financial comfort and stylish midtown apartment.  Yet somehow Megan feels like the victim because no one sees how hard it is for her.



Over at Sterling Draper, Roger wrangles Ginsberg in on a secret plan to be his Cyrano de Bergerac in an upcoming pitch for the Manischewitz brand. This, not coincidentally, puts goyish Roger in the role of Christian de Neuvillette, the one who fears he's not clever enough to woo the coveted Roxane.  Ginsberg worries that Don (you know Don - tall guy, short temper) will find out that he's working behind his back, but Roger allays his fears.  Anyway, this plan is to stick it to Pete Campbell, not Don.  With Ginsberg's palm sufficiently greased, he agrees to help Roger secure the new client with a young, hip pitch. To further show just how important landing a client is to Roger, he calls his ex-wife and agrees to get her a new apartment if she agrees to be the Jewish arm candy he need to impress the Manischewitz people.  

In a late night kitchen scene, Betty shows her best self when she offers unconditional support to Henry as he deals with pangs of doubt and dismay about his professional future.  But the next morning, triggered by seeing a love note Don had written to Megan, she turns spiteful and petty.  While Sally is working on her family tree, Betty offers up that she should make sure to include Don's first wife, Anna.  Hell hath no fury like a woman who's jealous of her ex's leggy new wife.  Betty doesn't care if she confuses Sally or damages her relationship with her father.  Betty was hurt, so Betty struck back.

Back at the office, Don presents the two prospective Sno Ball pitches to the account managers Pete and Ken Cosgrove.  Both pitches go well, but Pete shows a distinct preference for the one Ginsberg came up with.  While the younger creative barely suppresses his pride and pleasure, you can see even Peggy knows that Don will take this as a blow.  His idea wasn't young enough, fun enough, funny enough. He doesn't hear the soothing words Joan gave him earlier that week:  "look at all the great work you've done as creative director.  Look at all these voices, all this talent."  Instead what he hears is Don, the king of creative, is dead.  Long live the new king.

Not reading the room is Michael Ginsberg's specialty.  After Don leaves, he decides to quote from Shelley's Ozymandias: "Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!" He crowns himself king of kings, and ignores that the king's own words are perched upon a pedestal surrounded by decay and desolation.


The bomb Betty planted at the kitchen table finally detonates when Sally is visiting her dad and Megan.  Once her father leaves with her brothers, Sally turns on Megan with self-righteous resentment and hostility.  How could she not tell her about Anna?  Weren't they supposed to be friends? What other secrets is she keeping?  And the coup de grace, are you going to make yourself cry?  Megan gives Sally a watered down, child sized version of the truth then tells Don once he gets home.  Now Don has not been having the best of days and this sets him over the edge.  He's on the verge of calling Betty and tearing into her, but Megan wisely stops him.  Disrupting their marriage is exactly what Betty wanted.  She's done her damage, don't let her enjoy it as well.  Instead he calmly explains the past to Sally and, afterwards, Sally sees Betty's "help" for what it was.  And Sally's trust in her mother is the collateral damage.

Don readies to go into the Sno Ball pitch, armed with the two pitches.  But at the last minute he ditches Ginsberg's, leaving it behind in the cab and going just with his idea.  Luckily for him, the client loves it and the sale is made.  But at what cost?  He didn't really win and he's basically conceded that Ginsberg's idea was better.  He's shown himself to be insecure, conniving, and petulant and he took the wind out of an enthusiastic creative talent.

Roger's client dinner with the Manischewitz people goes well.  They find him charming and affable and love the idea (courtesy of Ginsberg) he pitches.  Jane, with her Jewish bona fides, is a great companion to help the Rosenbergs feel comfortable going with a non-Jewish ad agency.  Everything goes swimmingly until the young, handsome son comes to join the dinner and takes an immediate shine to his age-mate Jane.  They look like a beautiful couple and Roger can't stand it.  He and Jane may be divorced, she may have no interest in being with him, but he can't face that reality.  Like Betty, like Don, he's not willing to be put out to pasture.  To be told he's too old, obsolete, not the newer popular model.  He has to be desired.

He asks himself up to Jane's place after the dinner and then makes his move.  She says no, briefly, then relents.  But the next morning, she is overcome with regret.  She wanted him out of her life and she wanted a place that was free of him.  This new apartment is now the same as the old one, just a reminder that she was bought and paid for by a man she doesn't love.  He sees it, finally, but too late.  He was pushing for something that wasn't there and pretending doesn't make it so.



Don comes in to work after the Sno Ball success ready to ride in on a wave of euphoria.  But not everyone is feeling giddy about the successful pitch.  Ginsberg lets Don know that despite the fact that he's the boss, what he did was cowardly and stupid.  He tanked the better pitch because he was afraid it would be picked and Don would no longer be the big cheese.  Ginsberg is remarkably frank, telling his boss that he feels sorry for him.  And in on of the series most memorable moments to date, Don shoots him down with an icy: "I don't think about you at all:"  But that's a lie.  We know it and Ginsberg knows it.  Don hears the footsteps, he feels the breath on the back of his neck. Ginsberg (youth) is coming up behind him and he will soon be overtaken.

The final two, brief, scenes contrast the Draper Thanksgiving with the Francis one.  Megan prepares dinner in their upscale downtown apartment where the windows have to be kept shut to keep out the toxic air and champagne is needed to celebrate her actress friend's success.  Betty and her family sit around the table, sharing that for which each are thankful.  And Betty doesn't lie.  She's thankful that she has everything and nobody has more.  That is Betty Draper Francis in a nutshell.  

Observations:

The TV show for which Megan's actress friend was auditioning was Dark Shadows, a spooky, atmospheric soap opera that first aired in 1966.  It was sexy and foreboding, mixing the supernatural with the salacious.  Megan may have thought it a "piece of crap" but it aired for five years.


You can buy the original Weight Watchers cookbook from 1966 on Amazon by clicking here.  No, I didn't call you fat.  You look great and don't need the book at all.  I was just providing some background info.  The book was written by Jean Nidetch, co-founder of Weight Watchers.  According to Wikipedia: An overweight housewife with a self-confessed obsession for eating cookies, Nidetch had experimented with numerous fad diets before she followed a regimen prescribed by a diet clinic sponsored by the New York City Board of Health in 1961. After losing 20 pounds (9.07 kg), and finding her resolve weakening, she contacted several overweight friends and founded a support group which developed into weekly classes, and incorporated on May 15, 1963 into the Weight Watchers organization.  

Pete is visited by Beth, who seems to have misplaced her clothes.  Luckily she has a huge mink coat and it's decades before protesters would rip it off her or throw paint on it.  The smug, self-satisfied look on Pete's face tells us that his protestations that she shouldn't be there turned into a quick thanks for coming.  Later, when he shares a train ride with Beth's husband and hears him complaining about having to leave his mistress behind to be stuck in the country with his wife, Pete can't take it.  He resents Howard, but we're not sure it's for not appreciating his wife or for getting to have it all,

Henry questions his decision to leave Nelson Rockefeller to join with John Lindsay.  He's at a bit of a crossroads and with the country in flux (with turmoil right around the country) it's hard to choose which horse to back.  As it turns out, Rockefeller would have been the better choice.  He held the governorship for four straight terms and then was appointed vice president by Gerald Ford in 1974.  Lindsay was successful in his 1966 run for mayor and served two terms, but that marked the pinnacle of his political career.  Interestingly, neither would be a Republican today.  Rocky was too moderate and Lindsay actually switched parties in the early 70s.

Betty doesn't think that Rockefeller can run for governor now that he's divorced and in the past that would have been a problem.  But Henry was right, times were changing.  You can be divorced and even be president (see, Ronald Reagan).

Bert forgets that Roger is divorced from Jane!  Well, Roger conveniently seems to forget that too.

Would an episode be complete without Harry Crane complaining about not being made a partner?


Quotes:

Pete:  I spent an hour and a half on the phone last night with my new best friend Victor at the New York Times.
Roger: Gonna get a paper route?

Roger:  How Jewish are they? You know, Fiddler on the Roof, audience or cast?


Michael:  I like the connect the dots.  What's it end up being?

Roger: Michael, can you keep a secret?
Ginsberg: Nope.
Roger:  I need you to do some work for me on a prospective account.  It will involve a client dinner.
Ginsberg: And murder.


Roger:  Well, Michael, when a man hates another man very, very much, sometimes he wants to know that something is his, even if in the end he has to give it up.

Betty:  It's so easy to blame our problems on others, but really we're in charge of ourselves.  And I'm here to help you, as you're here to help me.  We'II figure out what's next.

Jane: Stop telling me things I said that night.  Like I know I didn't promise to remarry right away just to save you alimony.

Ginsberg: "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair."
Stan:  You should read the rest of that poem, you boob.

Don: Don't wake me up and throw your failures in my face.

Ginsberg:  I feel bad for you.
Don:  I don't think about you at all.

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Spoiler-y Observations.  Don't read until you've watched the whole series!

Megan mocks the script for Dark Shadows then goes on to become a regular on an even cheesier soap opera.

Don will eventually tell Sally even more about his past, including taking her a trip to his childhood home.  Sally will go through many phases of a complicated relationship with her mother, but at the end she is by her side.

Ginsberg again show signs of some slightly questionable behavior - he confronts Don, he fails to keep quiet about his deal with Roger.  But nothing to hint at what's to become of him.

Henry ultimately decides to run for office himself which, with his even-tempered nature and political experience, seems like a good bet.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mad Men Season 5, Episode 8 Recap: Lady Lazarus

Pete Campbell is taking the train home and he gets the pleasure of enduring a brief, tedious conversation with a fellow suburbanite, Howard Dawes.   Howard is in insurance and he jumps at the chance to try and sell Pete.  But what he's really selling is not security, but fantasy.  And enough money for both.  With good insurance you can live your fullest life, without fear.  In his case, that ideal life is having a home and lovely, dutiful wife out in the country and also a little something extra in the city.  Pete is, or feigns being, disapproving, but note the firmly planted seed.

This is far from the first time Pete has contemplated cheating on Trudy.  Back in Signal 30, he let his imagination run wild as he dreamed that the cute coed in his driving class would be impressed by the older junior executive.  But he ended up realizing that he was not her fantasy and probably was not going to be any girl's fantasy.  Perhaps seeing a fellow schlub like Howard who is able to wrangle a girlfriend has emboldened Pete to dream again.


Pete has not been happy with being Pete since the first time we met him. He always has envied others for what they have that he doesn't.  Whether it's Don Draper's creativity and sexual magnetism or Ken Cosgrove's confidence and writing success, Pete has always measured himself against others and always has fallen short.  But maybe he has finally found someone who has what he wants that he can get the better of.

At the office, Megan acts sketchy when she receives a phone call, but she normally acts like a skittish kitten so we don't know what to make of it.  Meanwhile, Ginsburg does his usual great job presenting the Chevalier cologne pitch.  Once the clients leave and it's Don, Michael and Stan talking about what music to use in the commercial that would sound like the Beatles (without having to pay beaucoup bucks to the real thing), the younger two debate bands while Don looks on nonplussed, like the out of touch forty-something he is.  As the 60s march along, Don is looking older and acts less comfortable in his own skin than he did at the start of the decade.  But the most notable part of their interaction was how Don brushed aside their ideas and said he'd ask Megan for her suggestion.  She'd make the final decision.  The Missus is a source of some jealousy among her co-workers as she will always be the boss' pet.

When Pete gets off his evening train, wrestling with the new skis that Roger's client gave him, he meets a beautiful young woman.  It's Beth Dawes, Howard's wife, and she's locked her keys in her car.  Her husband was not on the train and she assumes he'll be staying at their apartment in the city.  Pete knows all about Beth, she's never heard anything about Pete.  But she feels comfortable enough to ask him for a ride home.  Pete knows why Howard is not there and that he's probably with his girlfriend right now, but of course he maintains the bro-code and says nothing.  She seems sweet, gentle, oblivious to what her husband is probably doing tonight.  She talks about not wanting to live in the city lest she see the hobos who need a handout and she be reminded what her father once told her, you can't help everyone.

Elsewhere, the mystery of what is going on with Megan is growing.  She was acting strangely, even for her, taking that call earlier in the day, being nervous about leaving Peggy at work, and now it turns out that the story she gave Peggy about meeting Don for dinner was a lie as was her story to Don that she was staying late at work.  Curious.

Once Pete gets Beth home, we discover she is not at all unaware of what her husband is up to.  And she wants to get back at him.  And Pete, who has long wanted someone to feel passion towards him, to make him feel virile and special, is not going to push her away.  This need has built up for so long and finally he can experience the excitement and danger that comes from an illicit coupling.  Afterwards, Beth is fine.  She's no longer upset.  This dalliance has helped calm her and Pete can now go.  But sitting alone in his car, Pete is the one who now looks in need of some comfort.


Peggy is still at the office when Don calls, again, looking for Megan.  Not wanting to get in the middle of their domestic strife, let alone play another game of Twenty Questions - Missing Wife Version, she does what any sane person would do.  Answer the phone in a strange accent pretending to be a wrong number.  Perfectly normal.  Megan eventually makes it home, lies some more to Don, and continues to look anxious and jumpy.

The next morning the big mystery is unveiled.  Megan admits to Peggy that she lied to her and to Don.  But not to sneak off to have a sexual encounter, a la Pete, but to audition for an off off Broadway show.  As an actress.  Considering how bad she is at lying and covering her tracks, it's shocking she got a call back, but apparently the bar is pretty low for off off Broadway shows.  At least they ultimately wised up and gave the part to someone else.  But Megan is not dissuaded.

Megan has apparently been holding on to her dream of becoming an actress despite her new career and marriage and she knows that Don won't approve.  She doesn't want to be a copy writer and wishes she could find the escape hatch out of Sterling Cooper.  Peggy is not a sympathetic ear, reminding Megan how lucky she is to have that opportunity and just how many people would kill to have her job.  But this means nothing to Megan.  It's not her passion, acting is.  So she quits.

The rest of the office deals with the repercussions of Megan leaving.  There'll be more work, of course, but the part that really stings is in seeing someone take what is so meaningful to you and toss it away like it's nothing.  Peggy works long hours and has given up having much of a personal life for the job, only to hear Stan belittle the struggle as a whole lot of work for "Heinz baked beans."  Pete's reaction is slightly different.  Megan's sudden departure is to him just another example of how women control everything and men are their powerless victims.  She can quit because she wants to and that's all there is to it, Don doesn't even have a say.  Of course, he's relating this to his brief dalliance with Beth and how she wanted him and then didn't want him and he had no say in the matter.

Don walks Megan out and it is awkward to say the least.  She is acting guilty and on edge and in whole making this uncomfortable moment even worse.  It's as if she knows she's making a terrible mistake and can't stop herself.  She knows that she's leaving the firm short-handed and killing Don's fantasy of his beautiful, brilliant wife being his partner at work as well as at home.  She knows that this new venture will take her away from him and that all the time they now share won't be the same in the future.  But it's what she wants more than anything.  Don tries his best to be supportive and not discouraging, but past his smile you see that he's hurt.

\
 They part at the elevators, with a lingering kiss that would have irritated real fellow building occupants waiting in the elevator but barely registered to the show's extras.  Then Don decides he wants to go downstairs too. To catch up with Megan?  To change her mind?  To arrange a quickie behind the building?  We'll never know because as the door opens, Don looks in to see only the shaft.  And unlike LA Law's Rosalind Shays, he does not plummet to his death but is hit in the face with some heavy-handed symbolism about the fate of his marriage.

Pete can't leave well enough alone and is still fuming about how he had no say in his relationship with Beth.  So he weasels his way into Beth's home, taking advantage of her hapless husband. We know he's a cheating cad, yet Pete's brazenness in the man's own home with him acting the genial host makes us temporarily feel for him.  Beth of course is shocked by Pete's forcefulness and runs off as any sane woman would under the circumstances.  Pete is playing with fire and completely off his rocker, having one of the worst midlife crises to befall a man of just 32.  He is obsessed with her and willing to risk getting caught just for a chance to be with her.  Remember, he has the beautiful witty Trudy waiting at home.  Pete just can't be satisfied with what he has.

Too bad Don didn't take the plunge into the elevator abyss earlier in the episode because it would have saved us all from watching that unbelievably uncomfortable presentation to the Cool Whip clients.  With Peggy subbing in for the absent Mrs. Draper, the Nick and Nora Charles witty/sexy banter now sounds more like Al and Peggy Bundy.  It's a disaster.  They have no chemistry, they didn't rehearse enough, and there's nothing for Ken to do but stand by and watch the presentation implode.  After the client leaves, Don and Peggy unleash all their misplaced anger at each other.  Don blames Peggy for driving Megan away, Peggy blames Don for his blind allegiance to his unappreciative wife.  They both want to yell at Megan but can't and so they take all their bottled up rage and hurl it at each other.

In the end, Don tries to be the good dutiful husband.  He rushes home to meet up with Megan before her class and he takes her suggestion to listen to the new Beatles' album.  As "Tomorrow Never Knows" plays we see a brief montage summing up the episode.  Peggy sharing a joint with Stan at work, Megan in her acting class, Pete once again getting very mixed messages from Beth, and finally Don stopping the record mid-song.  He doesn't get it, it doesn't mean anything to him.  Like the orange sherbet he wanted to share with Megan, their tastes are different and they reject what the other cherishes.  Is the gulf between them too large?

Observations:

It's the middle of the decade and women have yet to burn their bras or have their own brand of cigarettes.  But the women of Mad Men, or at least some of them this episode, are standing up for what they want.  Beth, the long-suffering suburban housewife whose husband cheats on her regularly uses Pete to get back at her husband, to feel wanted, to exercise control over something in her life.  Similarly, Don's arm candy, trophy wife Megan doesn't want to play her role of Mrs. Draper any more, not in the office, not for the clients.  She wants to follow her muse and not what her husband wants her to do.  And both Pete and Don have no say in the matter.

The Beatles' Revolver came out in the US on August 5, 1966.  It was their seventh studio album and their most ambitious to date.  Now Number 3 on Rolling Stones' list of the greatest albums ever, it was "revol"utionary at its time, experimental and unexpected.  The happy, jingly Beatles addressed new topics and took tonal diversions that signified a change reflected in society at large.  “Turn off your mind; relax and float downstream; it is not dying. Lay down all thought; surrender to the voice: it is shining. That you may see the meaning of within: it is being.”

Don is shown time and again to be losing his connection to what is current.  He's become an old man - out of touch with the younger generation.  When he confuses some 50's pablum with the Beatles, you're embarrassed for him.  And when he doesn't appreciate the genius of John Lennon's music, you can't understand how he can be so wrong.

Pete's attempts to copy all of Don's mistakes continues.  He pursues a married woman, the wife of a casual friend no less.  In her he has invested all of his hopes for happiness.  She is the answer to his ennui.  He keeps looking outward for someone to make him feel like the man he wants to be (which is Don).  Years from now, he'd sing along to Skee Lo's "I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller," because that's all he can do.  Think about how things could be better while never appreciating the good that exists.

Megan could be a stand-in for the woman's movement, or she could be just another bored rich man's wife.  It's not clear at this point.  She claims to have a passion for acting, but it's not something we can fact check at the moment.  But we do know she had a head for the advertising business and was a natural.  Is it a good sign that she can give up the job she's good at to pursue her dreams or is it a slap in the face to the women like Peggy who paved a way for her?

Is Cool Whip a metaphor for Beth and Megan's acting?  That thing that is a substitute for something else, sold as just as good if not better than the original.  Who wants their old boring wife when you can have an affair?  She's younger, prettier, and more important new!!  Who wants to be successful as an ad woman when you can be an actress?  Everyone has a job, but how many people get to try to be be on stage, on TV, in the movies?  Sure you've had the original, boring and reliable old whipped cream, but that's so passe.  Try something new!

It's great how over it all Joan is.  Don wants his young bride to have a job at the agency despite her lack of experience.  Sure.  She wants to quit to become an actress?  Sure.  She's watched the revolving door of wives, whether it's Don's or Roger's, and they always get their way and things always work out for them.  And Joan still plugs away at the office.

How sad was that last lingering image.  Don, alone, in the apartment that was supposed to be full of joy and love with his beautiful new bride.  He had it all just days ago.  They rode in to work together, rode home at night, exchanged kissed during the day as they worked together to make magic for the clients.  And now she's gone and he's alone once more in that empty apartment with music he doesn't understand recommended by a woman he may know less about than he realized.

Quotes:

Roger: See anything you like?
Pete: Are you asking if I ski?
Roger: No.  I want to know which skis you want.  Or take them both.
Pete:  Do they explode or something?
Roger:  Yes, Allen Funt sent them over.

Don: Is Megan there?
Peggy: Isn't she with you?
Don:  Yes, we're playing a hilarious joke on you.

Beth:  I've had men paying attention to me since before it was appropriate.  They don't care what I say.  They just watch my lips move.
Pete:  I'm listening to every word you say.

Beth: It didn't bother you to see the earth tiny and unprotected, surrounded by darkness?

Beth:  You're taking away all my fears.  I mean, suddenly I don't think about the fact that you ride with my husband on the train twice a day and that you live 20 minutes away and I'd see your wife at the market, if I ever went.

Don:  Sweetheart, sometimes we don't get to choose where our talents lie.  I mean, what you did with Heinz. It took me years to be able to think that way.
Megan:  Well, I can't explain it, but I felt better failing in that audition than I did when I was succeeding at Heinz.
Don:  Because that was about making the client happy. Wait till you walk down the street and see the work on a wall or on TV, that's when you feel something.

Joan:  Well, I'm sure she'll be wonderful.

Megan: I'm not going to work here anymore.
Ginsberg:  Did he fire you? That son of a bitch!

Peggy:  That takes a lot of guts.
Ginsberg:  I'll tell you what takes guts-- Never having money for lunch. She owes me, like, $15 at this point.  What am I gonna do, ask Don? Call her? I think it's clear why she left.

Pete: They do whatever they want, even to Draper.
Harry:  Well, the good news is we don't have to look over our shoulders anymore, wondering what she's gonna tell him.
Pete:  They work it over in their minds, turn it off and on when they feel like it, and we're just there, waiting at attention.  It's not the way it's supposed to be.

Pete: Have you seen those pictures of earth from space?
Harry: Of course.
Pete: Do they make you feel small and insignificant?
Harry:   No, Jennifer does that.  And I'm not small, Pete. Don't know if you've ever heard that about me.

Pete:  Why do they get to decide what's going to happen?
Harry:  They just do.

Ginsberg: Turn it off.  It's stabbing me in the fucking heart.

Joan: Peggy, she's going to be a failing actress with a rich husband.

Roger: I sure as hell didn't get to choose what I wanted to do.  My father told me.
Don: I was raised in the '30s.  My dream was indoor plumbing.

******************************************************************************
Spoilery Observations (Don't read until you've watched the whole show): 

Don says, of Megan, "I don't want her to end up like her mother."  At that juncture, Marie was unhappy, saddled with an overbearing husband who she didn't love.  But little did he, or Roger to whom this comment was directed, know, but Marie would end up a much happier woman, with the suave, loving, and French-studying Roger as her new beau.

Don was surprised that Ginsberg cussed at the office, but the actual sounds coming off of the record player probably did cause Ginsberg physical discomfort.  Now we may not know why he's so vulnerable and reactive, but as we learn more about Ginsberg - for whom the whirring sounds of computers was enough to send him over the edge - it does make sense.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Survivor Season 33: Millennials v. Gen X - Episode 13 Recap

Previously on Survivor....  I've got the numbers, I'm sitting on top of the world.  Fare the well my old chum, David.  You gave me your Survivor life, and now I shall end it.  Hold up there, Zeke.  I'm a big boy.  Big boy makes big move.  Yes, little grass hopper, you have passed my test and earned my trust.  Let me now go and break yours all over the camp.  I thought you were my bro, bro.  Stay with us, Will.  We have soda.  No Will come back to us, all will be forgiven.  Sitting me in the middle of tribal council was pretty subtle.  Here's my big move.  Wait, what is Adam pulling out of his crotch?

Coming back from tribal council, Will has just had his Survivor Bar Mitzvah.  Today he is a man.  He's changed his LinkedIn to add dragon slaying as a skill.  He tells us that he's got this game on lock.  He can flip back and forth, voting out the power brokers one by one, to the end.  But in the famous words of Dan Foley.  Flippers.  Never.  Win.  Or at least eighteen year old flippers named Will who are playing on a game stacked with super and super duper fans.

Bret is frustrated with the young man.  He doesn't understand his decision to flip at all.  That's fair.  Will was in a good spot and had a close ally in Jay.  I don't think he needed to Make a Big Move™.  What I don't understand is the following quote from Bret: "I'm used to tribal council going my way.  Again, it didn't go my way."  So which is it?  Maybe this best describes Bret's game thus far, he is badly playing his way to the end and somehow still here to talk about it.  Confusingly.

So, it's us three to the end, right?
While Will is telling us what a great move he made and how his Survivor resume is shaping up, Adam is working on his next move.  With Zeke vanquished, his team - Bret, Sunday and Jay - would seem to be next in line to the gallows.  David and his minions - Adam, Hannah, Ken and now Will - can pick them off one by one.  But Adam sees a problem with this scenario.  David is closer to Hannah and Ken than he is; in that fivesome, he is in the minority.  So Adam realizes he needs to move against the new king sooner than later.

 He easily gets Zeke's old allies on board.  Right now, Bret and Sunday would write down anyone's name so long as it wasn't theirs.  Hearing that Adam would like to turn on David now is music to their collective ears. Adam adeptly gets Bret and Sunday to buy in on David, Jay and Will being the three most dangerous remaining players and ignore that perhaps the young, smart, super duper fan with the great idea may be your biggest threat.  They're on board and agree that David is public enemy number one.

Good thing they didn't choose Jay as their target as he made short work of the immunity challenge, flinging the disks through the holes with near surgical precision as David weakly sent them randomly down the ramp.  While putting on a challenge clinic, Jay had time to notice just how ineffective David was.  So afterwards, when he and Will plan their next move (part of Will's flip-floppy operation pendulum), Jay suggests Ken as the next target.  He is the most physically fit competitor and Jay's biggest competition.  But Will knows that Ken will win precisely zero votes, not even a pity one from his friend Jessica, if he makes it to the end.  He wants the target to be David.  Jay's fine with that.  He knows that it won't be, can't be him.

Buoyed by this conversation, Will then puts his Make a Big Move™ Part II into effect.  With his confessional playing in the background we see him pull Bret, Sunday, Hannah and Jay in on his plan...his plan...to target David.  And then, because the Survivor gods do not mind boasting or hubris, he tells us that no one is calling the shots there, no one is telling him what to do, he is in charge.  

David of course sees all these conversations and quickly notices that they are all going on without him.  And without his closest friend on the island, Ken.  He also knows that the last tribal council pitted him against Zeke as a clash of kings.  With one conquered, it is now time to take out the other.  But David is not one to just accept his fate.  So he, off screen apparently, prays to the Survivor gods to send him an angel.

Here comes Adam.  He sees that David is still a threat, but he's an obvious one.  He's on the radar.  He's been a bit defanged of late and his position of power is more illusion than reality.  But Will, that young man is starting to let his new found power go to his head.  Suddenly, the High School senior is schooling the college grads and seemingly running the show.  Adam decides that Will is a bigger threat right now than David.  And this is true, especially for Adam.  David and he have a loose alliance whereas he and Will have until the last vote never been on the same side.  Adam can foresee Will turning on him sooner than he can see David doing that.  David is predictable, Will is not.  And that makes him the bigger danger.

Hannah, just once can you vote my way?
So Adam goes back to work on Bret and Sunday and the three recommit to their new alliance.  Adam then goes to Hannah with the new plan, but she's momentarily forgotten that she's playing Survivor.  She likes Will and, more importantly, she feels she owes him for him swinging his vote to their side and keeping their alliance whole.  Adam reminds Hannah that Will did what he did not for them but for himself and that he thought the move was in his best interest, he wasn't trying to save her.

But Hannah is still troubled.  She feels she owes Will for voting out Zeke.  She feels she owes David for going to rocks for her.  She feels like she owes Aubry for not winning last year so they decided to give the nerdy adorkable girl another go.  She has a lot of obligations and she can't pay them all back.  Survivor is hard.  But not for Adam.  He can say things like "Hannah and I are in a power position" and it not come back to bite him.  Someone is looking more and more like the winner.

At tribal, the jury comes in.  Michelle looks cute, Taylor looks goofy, Chris looks pissed, Jessica looks Ponderosa hot and Zeke looks like he should sue his hairdresser.  Most are happy to see Jay has the immunity idol.  Jeff does a little recap and the focus is on Will and his Make a Big Move™, then Hannah puts his move in perspective.  Everyone has at one time worked with people and against them.  As the game goes on, especially as it moves to the end game, "you want to work with the people who want to work with you."  Similarly, Adam says you want to think about who you will sit with at the finale, but you also have to think about getting to the finale. And at that point, Will should have been worried.  Because what Hannah and to a lesser extent Adam were saying is choose loyalty over the Big Move™.

Mom, I just played Survivor.
Going back to camp after voting out young Will, Jay is feeling pretty bad.  Anyone who aligns with him is dead in the water.  Maybe he should make a final two deal with David, if he really wants him gone that bad.

Jay does bounce right back every time he's knocked down.  As soon as they get back to camp, he asks Adam to go off and chat.  Jay knows he's good for at least one more vote since he has the hidden immunity idol and with his physical prowess he might even make it two more tribal councils.  But he also needs to at least try to make something happen to get himself up from the bottom. He tries to mend the demoslished fence between them, telling Adam that theirs has been a Yin/Yang type of relationship, butting heads while sppreciating the other.  And we certainly have seen that dynamic play out as they time and again failed to come together and consistently targeted one another.

Adam plays Jay like an old Sega game (I'd assume fiddles are harder to play) and gets him to believe that David is his main target.  But Adam knows that he has to get rid of Jay and his hidden immunity idol before anything else.  To make this happen, step one is to make sure that Jay does not win the next immunity challenge.  And so, with the challenge going and Jay starting to pull into the laad, Adam gets the idea to help Ken.  He keeps his eye on Ken's ball (obligatory ball reference, nailed) while Ken is trying to remember how to spell Millennials and, eventually, Ken does win.  It does not go unnoticed by anyone, especially not Jay, that Adam wanted Ken to win, but the story Adam conveyed to him was that it was David who was getting close and he had to make sure that he didn't win.

Jay knows where he is in the tribe and so is upfront with everyone.  I'm voting out David.  Please join me.  You can vote me out later, but I just have to outlast David and Will.  Nice try, Jay.  They may not think they can vote you out tonight, but they're not going to keep you around to win your way to the finale.  But Adam's play tonight is a little "b" big move.  In a perfect world, he gets Jay to play his immunity idol and David goes home.  That takes out the biggest strategic threat and gives them the chance of being able to take out the biggest physical threat before the end.

But Adam knows, acutely, that this is not a perfect world.  This is a world where his mother is fighting for her real life back home while he is here fighting to give her something to look forward to.  So he has to keep his wits about him and figure this all out.  How best to move the pieces around to get to the end so this can all be worth it.  It's a tremendous amount of pressure that he has put on himself and it's no wonder that the before and after of Adam after 35 days looks a lot like the before and after of Barack Obama after eight years as leader of the free world.

David, don't look but there's a cameraman right behind you.
David is scrambling as much as Adam is as he knows his name has been on everyone's lips.  Even if Jay is the target, if Jay plays his idol, David will go home.  So he needs to come up with another name.  He throws out Bret and Ken is fine with it, but Hannah has another idea.  I don't know if it's a case of "I want to be the last girl standing" or just that she has slotted herself in the "take me to the end" goat spot, but Hannah wants Sunday out next.  David, who is so desperate to stay, does not push back at all.  If Hannah wants Sunday, it's Sunday.

So she and Ken talk to Adam about the plan.  But Adam's idea is a slight tweak on Hannah's. He wants to put the votes on David.  Ken is not happy with that.  David is his closest ally left and he doesn't see him as a threat at the end.  David is his friend.  Hannah is not happy with that.  David is her closest ally, well, you get the point. David has played a masterful game of building real, tight, solid, impenetrable bonds and Adam is having trouble breaking them.  Hannah wants to vote out Sunday instead as the backup should Jay play his idol.

Adam is worried.  His worst case scenario is coming back from tribal council with David and Jay (plus his idol).  How to keep that from happening while not losing the support of Hannah and Ken?  He works on the bond that he and Jay have built, and the fact that they are too familiar with one another and too far into the game to BS each other.  So he tells Jay, you're going to have to play your idol.  I'm not going to vote you out, but I'm not going to let you hang around with that much power.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship
But Jay isn't fooled.  "Adam always lies to me."  He realizes that this could all be a plan to flush out the idol and that his name won't even come up at tribal council.  But is he willing to take that risk and leave the game with an idol in his pocket ... or wherever the Millennials are stashing them these days.  He begs Adam to work with him.  He wants it to be the two of them to the end.  It means a lot to him and he has to get there.  Adam understands.

And then in one of the best moments of television I've ever seen - not just in the reality TV genre, but in anything broadcast over the last fifty years - the two young men have a real conversation.  It's so raw and painful that I felt like I was invading their space to even watch it, but I know it's a story that Adam wants to share.  Yet the first surprising thing we all discovered as he started talking was that this was the first time Adam was speaking these words to anyone in the cast.  Adam told Jay his secret, what he's been holding in all these weeks.  About his mom.  About what his brother told him.  About what she means to him and what making it to the end means to his whole family.  And Jay understood and related on a deep, personal level.  And the game was put into perspective and they were two young men playing for their mothers, not for fame or the money or as a lark.  They don't want to get to the end, they have to.  And the two formerly squabbling Millennials forged a bond that will far outlive this game.

We wipe away the tears and the game talk continues as Hannah and Adam powwow.  If Adam and Jay are bickering brothers, he and Hannah are an old married couple.  He tells her what he wants and she says that's nice dear but this is what we're going to do.  She does see David as a threat but she also sees David as her friend.  As much as Jeff said at last tribal council that being liked won't win you Survivor (tell that to Michele from Season 32), Hannah tells us that she can't vote out David because she likes him.

She then says that if you can get people to change their minds and vote the way you want them to, that's how you win Survivor.  So who will get their way, Adam or Hannah?

Right out of the gate, Jeff brings it back to friendship and alliances versus strategy.  David, naturally, votes overwhelmingly for friendship.  And why not?  That's what he's worked on cultivating all game long.  Form episode one's "Bret, Chris, I trust you. I trust you," David has worked on building strong interpersonal bonds.  But his success is what makes him a threat.  The ultimate double edged sword of Survivor.  Have fewer friends, you're not that much of a threat, but then there's no one to fight to keep you around.  And that is squarely where Sunday finds herself.  She cultivated precisely one tight ally, Bret.  So when her name came up, there was no one to argue against it.

Still, David is not in the clear.  Not only does his name come up, but Adam makes a great case for why he should be voted out.  He has friends, he works hard around camp, he's made a stunning personal transformation.  If he gets to the end, no one has a better Survivor story than David.  He almost sells it too well and, if Jay were paying attention, he might have thought he was safe and kept his idol for another rainy night.

Kids, I just lost Survivor.
But tonight is not David's night to go home.  Hannah worked her magic on Adam and convinced him to keep the threat and boot the goat.  I listened to some podcasts before writing this recap, which I usually avoid doing, so I'll try not to be tainted by Stephen Fishbach's tirade against Hannah and her move.  I thought it was inspired.  David is one of her closest allies and will never target her.  Going on she has a close relationship with David, Ken and Adam, which means that she should be safe going to final five (where Jay or Bret are voted out) and then four.  And she should also survive a final four vote as Ken and David would likely take her over Adam.

Did that constitute a "Big Move?" Not exactly, but she made a move, swung a vote, protected an ally and got rid of someone who stood in her way.  I was impressed.

Did Adam do the right thing?  If he voted out David, he, Jay, Bret and Sunday would be the tight majority and Hannah and Ken would have been on the outside looking in.  Neither of them have any relationships on the other side of the tribe and would have been easily picked off next.  Then the only question is would Jay have won the final four immunity and then joined with Bret and Sunday voting off Adam.  I'm not sure that either vote was the better one for Adam.

Going into the last two hour episode of the season, there are six players left.  And, as if preordained, there are three Millennials and three Gen Xers among them.  As we split up the remaining six, winning immunity seems more important than ever.  Ken has an advantage that he can use on Day 36 and we will finally discover what it is.  If it's something that can help him win immunity, then he's on to the final five.  The vote will then come down to who is perceived to be the biggest threat.  Jay, who can win challenges and has friends on the jury, David, who has the strongest remaining bonds, Adam, who secretly has been playing an artful social game, Hannah, who looks like the goat but actually has a pretty strong resume, or Bret who has flown under the radar, making few enemies along the way.

Looks like it will be a fantastic finale.