Monday, March 31, 2014

Mad Men Season 1, Episode 10: Long Weekend

Mortality.  Betty has already had to face her mother's death and she's not willing to lose her father yet, so she watches his diet when he comes over to what promises to be a long weekend indeed. Roger will be faced with his own mortality after a late night heart attack which gets him to appreciate what he has and promise to be a better man.  He questions how he's been living his life and also questions larger issues of the soul, the hereafter. Being reminded of death has it's effect on Don as well who, when hit with an crisis, runs into the arms of another woman - this one someone with whom he shares a particularly unique connection to death.  In all a fairly realistic look at the way that the specter of death hangs over us all and, when not kept at bay, can challenge us on every level.

We start at the Draper home with Betty's father Eugene bringing an unexpected, and to Betty's mind unwelcome, guest, his lady friend Gloria.  Betty sees her as a vulture, flying above her mother's dead body and swooping down to claim her father.  She resents the woman rather than understanding her father's need for companionship.  The daggers she shoots Gloria when she offers to give Gene some sugar, against Betty's wishes.  Sheesh.  Don tries to help her see things from Gene's perspective, but Betty's not budging. 

Next we see the Sterling Cooper brain trust screening competing television ads for the Nixon-Kennedy presidential campaign.  Kennedy's is all fluff - a catchy jingle and quick-cut images - and no substance.  It's about 20 years ahead of its time, before MTV ushered in the short attention span approach to TV.  Nixon's commercial is dry, boring, uninspiring - pretty much like the candidate himself.  Bogged down talking about issues, it's instantly forgettable.  

Don gives a rare glimpse into his background saying that when you contrast the two men, it should be easier to sell Nixon than Kennedy, stating "Why do we need to attack when there's a story to tell? Kennedy, nouveau riche. Recent immigrant who bought his way into Harvard, and now he's well bred? Great. Nixon is from nothing. A self-made man. The Abe Lincoln of California who was Vice President of the United States six years after getting out of the Navy. Kennedy, I see a silver spoon. Nixon, I see myself."

Don may see himself in Dick Nixon - a man from humble beginnings who pulls himself up by his bootstraps.  But the Don we see in that room is all Kennedy - good looking, slick, womanizing.
Roger's double entendres as he walks Joan to his office are pretty lame and if he thinks he's being charming, he's sorely mistaken. When he tries to use the excuse of a long Labor Day weekend with all the wives at the beach giving them free rein of the city, Joan shuts him down.  She brings up the movie The Apartment.  Her not-so-subtle message is that she doesn't want to be that secretary, strung along by a married man. 

During a meeting with Menken's department store, the story of the man who started with nothing and became a success is brought up again, this time by Rachel in regards to her father.  When she asks who at the table can make the same claim, this time Don says nothing (not identifying with the up from nowhere struggle as he did when talking about Nixon just an hour or so earlier).  Perhaps he desn't want Rachel to see that side of him.

Despite his success, Don tells Mr. Menken that he must change and adapt to continue to have that success.  His customers can no longer be relied on to shop there.  They have changed; he will have to change with the times or go under.  The new customer that Menken wants to attract will need to see a new store that better represents what they want.  When Don describes the Menken customer he uses Rachel as the paradigm: "They are educated sophisticated.  They know full well what they deserve."

Continuing with The Apartment theme, Joan's roommate comes to the office after having been fired by her boss and this is emblematic to Joan of how poorly women are treated by the men in their lives, at work and away from work.  Her solution is to go find some poor schmos and get them to buy them dinner.  You've come a long way baby!

Whenever you see Pete bursting at the seams, you know he's in the throes of a major case of Schadenfreude.  He gets so much more enjoyment out of someone else's misery than his own joy.  He vaults into Don's office (after first taking a verbal swipe at the absent Peggy, asking where "Howdy Dowdy" is) to tell him that he - Don - head of creative - is responsible for Sterling Cooper losing the Scholl's account.   Yes, ignoring what side his bread is buttered on, Pete is actually enjoying discussing losing a client.  And he wonders why he garners no respect.  

Pete tells Don how the client was "disappointed with the creative" -- that they called it dull and humorless.  Don is furious - he knows that Pete didn't fight for the account (probably knows how much Pete is enjoying this) and he knows that the responsibility for this loss ultimately is his as the head of creative - but he maintains a smile on his face.  Pete twists the knife ever so slightly, asking Don if he wants him to tell Roger or will Don.  Don offers that he'll walk his own head over the the guillotine, so Pete is at least denied that little triumph.  No sooner is Pete out of the office than Don's true feelings come to the surface as he knocks everything on his desk onto the floor.  He goes over to tell Roger and makes a quip about letting him know before the ink is dry on Don's recent raise.  But Roger is not that bothered by the loss.

Roger is more interested in discussing the possibilities of the weekend -- women-who-aren't-their-wives-wise.  He looks upon the Labor Day weekend as three days to have the run of Manhattan while his family is away.  He convinces Don to be his wingman, at least for tonight.  They go over to the casting call for the double-sided aluminum client, figuring that if Freddy Rumson is as slow and obvious as Roger thinks he is, casting should be perfect (did someone say twins?!).

The secretary-exec vs. dalliance-husband dynamic becomes an issue when Pete goes to talk to Peggy.  He wants some dirt from her -- he wants to find out if Don told Roger yet about getting fired by Scholl's -- and she ignores him.  He pushes and the trouble bubbles up to the surface.  She's not happy with the hot-and-cold nature of their relationship.  One minute, she's on his couch, legs in the air, the next minute, he doesn't recognize her.  His explanation -- he's a married man -- is not much of an explanation as he seems to only be married when it's convenient for him.  That's not what Peggy wants.  And when she points out to him how his marital status seems to be not always a firm thing, he commits a major sin -- he pretends he has no idea what she's talking about.  Their sexual flings are all in her imagination according to him.  As she said, he can be cruel.

More historical moments of sleazy misogyny with Paul, Ken, Harry and Sal hitting on the twins that are gathered in the hallway for the double-sided aluminum commercial casting call (God bless Freddy and his shallow thinking).  They are not impressing the girls with their lame come-on's, and the uncomfortable sight of them trying is mercifully cut short when Roger and Don enter.  Roger takes inventory then settles on one pair, dismissing the rest of the girls.

The next scene is mostly set up for the big payoff scene later and there's not much to say about Roger and his antics as he tries to deny middle age and whatever other demons he has by frolicking with a girl not much older than his daughter.  Don appears amused, if not interested in partaking, and seems content to aid in Roger's conquest by chatting with the other twin and not losing his lunch as Roger moves from one sexual innuendo to another. 

Back at Joan's apartment, things are just as uncomfortable when Joan's roommate Carol discloses her true feelings for Joan.  As crass and vulgar as Roger is with the Doublemint twins, Carol is as fragile and tentative as she professes her love.  Joan has no doubt had plenty of experience letting men down gently and she is very careful in how she lets Carol know that the feelings are not reciprocated as she suggests the two go out on the town.

Roger is riding Mirabelle, one of the twins, like a pony and the music plays forebodingly "your love gives me wings."  Yeah like an angel, which you only get to be if you're dead, Roger.  Heed the warning!  Don has seen enough and he excuses himself. Mirabelle's sister Eleanor joins him in the hallway to give the cowboy and his pony some privacy.  Don offers to get a cab for Eleanor but she convinces Don to stay and keep her company while she waits for her sister, who is apparently not as experienced in this realm as she is.  Roger and Mirabelle are talking and he brings up his daughter -- how angry she seems, how difficult their relationship is (and at no point does Mirabelle suggest that maybe he should stop bedding 20 year olds).

We flip back to Joan and Carol who are now back at their apartment with a couple businessmen they picked up.  Joan puts one of them to work replacing a bulb and it's cheaper than hiring a handyman, I suppose. Except, then she closes the door and gosh don't you know it, I bet it's not the light fixture he's taking care of!  Carol is all "whatever" on the couch - she can't get what she really wants (Joan), so she'll do her duty.

Don has not been a total Boy Scout as Eleanor mentions that he kisses like a married man.  She'd like to see what else he does like a married man, but Don is not in the mood.  It's interesting, Don obviously is not shy about cheating on his wife, or his mistress, but he also has no trouble saying no.  Maybe it's about control, but he seems to want what he wants and not just what he can get.

While Eleanor is, to use Don's phrase, selling too hard, we hear her sister calling for help.  They run in and Roger is on the floor, complaining about chest pain.  Don is pretty calm in an emergency.  He tells the girls to call an ambulance and then skedaddle.  When Roger is being carried away, still calling after young Mirabelle, Don grabs him by his wispy white hair and slaps the poor guy across the face, telling him, "Mona.  Your wife's name is Mona."  This way, in case Roger survives the heart attack, he won't have to worry about being murdered by his wife.

Roger is up and talking in the hospital, but he looks like hell.  Don is the only one there and Roger, who is clearly spooked by his close encounter with the white light, is spouting "Jesus" and "God" in between asking if Don believes in human energy (a "soul") and questioning how he's been living his life.  What is the old saying, there are no atheists in foxholes?  There are no unrepentant degenerates in the ER either.  He sobs when he sees his wife and he will never love her as much as he does this very minute.  His daughter Margaret comes in now and they're all hugging Roger. Don cannot but be affected by what he's seeing.

Joan received a message to go to the office and she sees only Bert there.  He tells her what happened to Roger and though she is shocked and concerned, the calm, cool and collected office manager comes out as she works on getting telegrams out to all the clients. 

Don calls Betty to explain what happened to Roger and why he'll be staying in the city and not heading up to the beach.  Not ten seconds after she hears that Roger has had a heart attack, Betty is back to complaining about Gloria and her father's relationship.  She hasn't gotten over her mother's death, how can he?  Don's answer to her continued grief over her mother's death, "stop thinking about that."

And where does Don go next?  To see Rachel.  He's distraught, unhinged, by the evening's events.  He looks like crap, not the dapper Donald Draper we're so used to.  He's come to her for something...not to listen to him, but to help him not think about what Roger's heart attack is making him think about -- his own mortality.  Rachel is too charitable thinking Don is grieving for his friend, and when she asks, "He's your friend, isn't he?" Don gives a chillingly accurate answer, "What's the difference?"  The way Don dismissively says, "he's rich" about Roger shows that this isn't about him.  It's about what feelings the heart attack has stirred up in Don.

No, Don isn't grieving for a friend.  Don is scared to death of death and being reminded of it, of the fragility and impermanence of life, has completely derailed him.  And he "does not like feeling like this."  He starts talking, sharing more than he ever has.  He tells Rachel that she knows everything about him, which to her seems impossible.  But Don feels that Rachel sees him -- sees right through him -- to who he really is.  He's in full blown panic mode.  He keeps repeating the same phrase: "This is it. This is all there is, and I feel like it's slipping through my fingers like a handful of sand.  This is it.
This is all there is."  It's end of the world time for Don and to make this all go away he just needs to have sex with Rachel.  That will fix everything.

We quickly go back to the office where Bert is walking Joan out of the office after having finished sending all the telegrams. He offers some unsolicited advice about her affair with Roger, "Don't waste your youth on age."

Finally, back at Rachel's, Don is looking better, calmer, more like his old self.  Sex has made the bad thoughts go away.  Lying there, he reveals more to Rachel about himself, sharing that, like her, his mother died in childbirth.  Only his mother was a prostitute and he was raised by his father and his father's wife until his father died and he went to live with her the new guy she took up with and he "was raised by those two sorry people."  Why the revelation?  Why does he need Rachel to know who he is when his own wife hasn't a clue?


Gloria: I live to serve.

Harry:  It's catchy like it gets in your head and makes you want to blow yours brains out.

Pete: The president is a product.  Don't forget that.

Don: Should've never been this close.

Roger:  Should have never been this close.

Don: Kennedy, I see a silver spoon.  Nixon, I see myself.

Mr. Menken: This place reminds of a czarist ministry. No matter what the decision, you don't feel it was yours.

Mr. Menken: I hope you two know what you're doing.

Don: : The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them.

Roger: The day you sign a client is the day you start losing 'em.

Roger:  Being with a client is like being in a marriage.  Sometimes you get into it for the wrong reasons and eventually they hit you in the face.

Roger: Are we supposed to cry about this? So we lost an account.  That means we'll just have to cut back.  Let's go fire somebody.

Roger: What do we work so hard for? To have enough money to buy fabulous vacations for our family so we can live it up here.

Roger: Remember, Don, when God closes a door, he opens a dress. 

Peggy (to Pete):  I don't know if you like me or if you don't like me.  I'm just trying to get along here, and every time I walk by I wonder are you going to be nice to me - or cruel.

Roger: I've been living the last 20 years like I'm on shore leave. What the hell is that about? 
Don: It's living, just like you said.
Roger:  God, I wish I was going somewhere.

Betty: I know people say life goes on and it does.  But no one tells you that's not a good thing.


Don says that when he sees Nixon, he sees himself, the self made man.  Yet, we should also note that when identifying Kenedy's main weakness - that he's a reported womanizer - Don mentions that would guarantee him the win as women love that.  So who does he really see himself as?

The movie The Apartment came out in 1960 and is rather frank in its depiction of Manhattan executives who serially cheat, the women who suffer, and the consequences of these actions.  In the story, one of the secretaries being strung along by a philandering exec attempts suicide.  And this was reputedly a comedy!  One of the secretaries in the movie was named Olsen, so maybe Peggy was an homage to her.  

Further highlighting how little Roger knows about Don is his comment after denigrating the city of Chicago, he says, "sorry, maybe you're from there."  Even in casual business settings, it's ununusal for a boss not to know some basics like where someone is from. 

When Pete comes to the hospital he asks Don how Roger is doing and Don replies, "Not great."  It'll be five seasons until Pete uses that line, with one addition, in one of the show's most memorable moments.  

The Kennedy commercial where President Eisenhower undermines Nixon was brilliant and is the kind of gotcha attack that still plays well fifty plus years later.   

Betty asks Don (about her father): "How can he pretend that she never existed?" Don pretends Betty doesn't exist every time he's with another woman.

Don tells Rachel that his mother was a prostitute.

Harry's blow your brains out line quoted above.

Not too subtle award:  Roger's comment: "Did everything they told me. Drank the cream. Ate the butter. I get hit with a coronary."

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