Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mad Men Season 1, Episode 5: 5G

Tonight's theme is secrets.  We all have them, big or small.  Whether it's a secret desire to be a published author, or a husband's secret bank account, a secret affair or a secret past, they are there, lurking, weighing on us, waiting to be exposed. As much as we claim we want honesty and openness, sometimes secrets are better left unrevealed.

As the episode starts, life is good for Don Draper.  He's well-to-do, successful and handsome, married to a Grace Kelly look-alike, with two adorable kids and a perfect two story suburban home.  He and his beautiful wife come home dressed to the nines, tipsy after a night out celebrating him winning an advertising award.  Things could not be better.  And then Don shuts the bathroom door as a new day begins... and the horseshoe on the award turns upside down.  Subtle it's not.

Foreshadowing is lack of subtlety's thematic kid brother, and after Don retorts, in response to receptionist Allison gushing about his photo in Advertising Age, that no one reads that magazine, we know that someone will read it. 

But before that shoe drops, congratulations are in order.  No, not for Don and his advertising award, but for account executive Ken Cosgrove.  Turns out that when he's not busy being a lecherous lout, Ken is something of a budding John Cheever and has managed to get a short story published - in the Atlantic Monthly, no less!  Pete and Paul are bright green at learning of Ken's achievement. Following on the heels of last week's episode, where we learn that Pete has been raised to believe where you come from is everything, it is not surprising that Pete is most upset that Ken - a nobody from nowhere - has accomplished something he hasn't. Paul's frustration is a tad different.  He's the copywriter, he's the one in creative, it should be his work being published, not some pencil pushing account exec.

Right after a meeting on a new promotion for a bank client, focusing on a private "executive" account for men to keep separate from their family account, Don is called at work by his girlfriend Midge.  Her lack of discretion costs him when Peggy picks up the phone and listens in on some of her telephone foreplay.  Don leaves for lunch and Peggy looks nauseated. We later learn that she thought Don wasn't like that (since he had rebuffed her) and she is sorry to find out he's just another husband who cheats on his wife.

After they have sex, Don takes the time to scold Midge for calling him at work.  She is taken a little aback, but tells him that part of him must like her calling.  She knows that she's important to him; he comes to her place all preoccupied and distracted, but then seems to change once they're together.  Almost as if he's two different people.  Get it?

So turns out Pete has this secret desire to be a writer and he shows Trudy one of his short stories.  Trudy doesn't really like it, she's not into talking bears (she doesn't get it was actually the hunter's internal thoughts).  It's gnawing at Pete that Ken, his peer at the office, has one up on him now, with a story published in a national magazine, the type Pete's father reads.  He wants that recognition.  Pete suggests that maybe her old beau who's in publishing could help get Pete's story published.  Trudy is surprised that Pete wants her to go to the man she used to have sex with to ask for a favor for her husband, but she does not realize just how desperate Pete is to accomplish something that might make his father proud.  Even if it comes from using his wife to make it happen.

Back at the office, the topic of Ken's story looms just as large as it does in Pete's bedroom and the place is thick with jealousy.  Don jokes when Peggy interrupts him that he's happy to get out of the meeting, but when he hears who is there for him - Adam Whitman - he's no longer in a joking mood.  Surprsingly, and maybe this is just a director's mistake, Don begins engaging the man in the reception area, in front of the receptionist and others in the office.  This man, like the man on the train last episode, knows Don as "Dick."  He saw Don in Advertising Age and recognized him right away. And that, Don, is why you never say such things out loud as "no one reads that."

Finally, Don moves Adam away from prying ears.  He tries the old, I think you've mistaken me for someone else, but Adam isn't buying it. He claims to be Don's younger brother, all grown up. He says when he saw the picture, he thought he'd seen a ghost, so he likely thought that "Dick" was dead (which, to Don, seems to be the case).  Adam notices that Don won't make eye contact with him and, more than that, he knows what he knows.  Don, realizing that Adam won't go away and that this won't go away, tells him to meet him at lunch.  He goes back into the meeting, but he's not thinking about business anymore.

The lunch is awkward and uncomfortable. Adam is there for a joyous, miraculous family reunion, Don is there because he has no choice.  He has to deal with this, but his discomfort is palpable.  There is a wall up around him and Adam's attempts to scale it are not working.  Don doesn't want to hear about "mom" ("She wasn't my mother. She never let me forget that.") or Uncle Mack.  He barely acknowledges anything, only cracking ever so slightly to offer Adam that, yes, he was missed. 

Elsewhere, another reunion is taking place.  Trudy is at her old boyfriend's office, being friendly and asking for this favor, all so Pete can prove to his father that he has accomplished something.  But Charlie the ex is not over Trudy, not by a mile.  He wants her and doesn't care that she's married.  It'll be their secret.  Trudy doesn't play along and so the best that Charlie can do for Pete is to publish his story in Boy's Life.  If he wanted a prestigious, national magazine, Trudy would have had to sleep with him.  Turns out, that would have been just peachy with Pete. 

Back at the office, Peggy thinks she knows a secret.  She thinks Don is off having an afternoon tryst with the girl on the phone and when Betty and the kids show up at the office, she's panicked.  She runs off to find Joan, spills the beans on Don's affair and her only moment of clarity comes when she says that she is the worst secretary.  Yep.  The word "secret" is right there in the name!  She is not at all comfortable with helping Don keep his private life separate from his home life and she doesn't appreciate when Joan later tells her that's part of the job.  Perhaps this hits too close to home since she was, briefly, Pete's other woman.

The lunch is not going well and Don keeps saying he's sorry to Adam, but not much more.  When Adam presses to find out more about "who is Donald Draper" something snaps and Don is done.  He gets up from the table, pulls himself together, and tells Adam that "this never happened."

Back home, Betty and Francine talk about their husbands and the difference between how they are at work and how they are at home...almost like they're two different people.  Betty later talks to Don about how nice his secretary is, how pure she seems, and the subtext is pretty obvious that an executive's secretary is a source of great interest to the wife.  Betty also wants to talk about the upcoming summer and how she'll miss Don while she and the kids spend August in a cooler climate, but Don is distracted.

Don can't stop thinking about Adam.  After burning the photo of him and a much younger Adam, he calls and agrees to see him again at the hotel where he lives, in room 5G.  He is not going there to invite Adam to Thanksgiving, but the reason for the visit is unclear. We're supposed to wonder what Don has in the valise he's carrying and what his plan is.  We can rule out crossbow or katana, but other than that we are clearly supposed to consider that Don could have a gun and be planning on silencing Adam for good.  The directing went a little heavy handed on the big reveal and tried to set up that Don could be a cold blooded killer, but he's just cold blooded.

Don doesn't have a weapon.  He instead came to Adam to buy off his silence.  He brought 5Gs (get it??) to give to Adam in exchange for him disappearing and never coming back into Don's life. To keep the secret of Dick dead and buried for good.  But Adam doesn't want money. Adam wants family, he wants a chance he never thought he'd have to reconnect with his previously-thought dead brother.  But Don has a life, a new one, and there's no room in it for anyone from his past life.  Adam is devastated, but Don does not see any other way out.  He offers Adam a lot of money to leave New York and start anew, like he apparently did. 

Don was affected by his meeting with Adam.  He may brush it under the rug and claim it never happened, but it's left an impact.  When Betty says she wants to talk to him, he's convinced she knows something about his secret.  But she doesn't.  She wanted to talk about buying a summer home with some of that extra bank he made that year, but since he just gave it all away, they won't be able to do that.  Small price for Don to pay to continue his life as it is.


So we do, and we don't, have an answer to the question "Who is Don Draper?"  He's not Batman, he's Dick Whitman, thought to have died long ago.  He has a baby brother Adam who thought he saw him once on a train long ago, in a uniform (we know that  Dick was at Ft. Sill, an army base, and "Don" was in Korea), after he had supposedly died.  We know that he left home and never returned and did not think much of his "she wasn't my mother" as upon learning of her death from stomach cancer, he responds, "good."  We know that all of this is a secret that Don is keeping and that he was willing to do anything to keep the secret, including giving roughly $40K in today's money to keep his secret safe.  We also learn that he must have some fondness for Adam, the embrace seemed genuinely touching, but Don is not planning on ever looking back.

It's hard to imagine that one could turn their back on their brother like this.  If that place was so bad, one would think it would have brought them closer together.  But Dick/Don left, had them think he was dead, and planned on never reconnecting with his brother.  On one side, whether at the diner or in the hotel, there is eager, yearning Adam, on the other, so physically close yet emotionally so far away, is the cool, distant Don.  Don didn't just change his name, he changed everything about himself (notice how Adam says he looks more like himself at the hotel).  He thinks Adam should do the same and he gives him the money to do that.  But Adam isn't Don, he doesn't want to move forward.  He wants to connect with this part of his past.

Midge uses the alias Bix Beiderbecke, and is a bit turned off to find that her boyfriend isn't familiar with the jazz musician.  It will not be the last time that we are hit with the fact that Don is part of the old guard and not the new generation.

Notice Betty's comment about how perfectly normal-sized Sally looks fat in the portraits.  Someone has issues!

Paul Kinsey was just as upset as Pete was about Ken getting his story published.  He was very childish about it and you realize for all Paul's posturing he's just as insecure as Pete and Harry.   When he tried to apologize to Ken, Ken just threw it back in his face. The four midlevel execs are starting to be fully fleshed out and their differences are becoming more apparent.  Ken is stronger than he appears,  Paul much weaker. And Harry seems the most...normal.  It'll be interesting to see their character development over the course of the series.

So many secrets in this episode: the secret bank account for Liberty, the secret tryst with Midge, the secret Ken had about his article (before it ran), all the other Sterling Cooper men secretly wanting to be published, the secret Peggy thinks she's keeping from Betty, the secret she fails to keep from Joan, the secret fling Charlie wanted with Trudy, Joan's belief that being a secretary means keeping your bosses' secrets, Don's secret other life, Don's secret stash of money, I'm losing count.


Don: No one wants to look like they care about awards.

Midge: I want you to pull my hair and ravage me and leave me for dead.

Paul: He kept walking around like the idiot he is.

Midge: I like that you come in here, acting like somebody else.

Midge: I like being your medicine.

Roger: I guarantee you that in the bottom drawer of every desk in this place is the first ten pages of a novel.

Peggy: I don't know who to lie to.

Peggy: I'm the worst secretary. 

Betty (to Peggy): Don't you just hate it when his mouth runs on and on? * * *
You probably know more about him than I do.

Adam: Who is Donald Draper?

Don: I'm not buying your lunch... because this never happened.

Paul: Kenny, I know I've been a bear.  But I've been competing neck and neck with  people in this place.  I didn't know I was competing with you, too.
Ken: You lost.

Joan (to Peggy): I have never come over here and not seen you with a look on your face that said, "I need a drink."

Pete (to Trudy): You don't want me to have what I want.

Trudy: I could have gotten you in the New Yorker or in the Encyclopedia Brittanica if I wanted to.

Betty: A woman can't just not remark on her husband's secretary.  

Don: Adam, listen to me.  I have a life and it only goes in one direction.  Forward.

Adam (to Don): Everyone always said you were too smart for your own good.  Of course, Uncle Mack thought you were soft. But you're not, are you?
Don: No, I'm not.

Don: You thought I was dead.  Just go back to thinking that.

Pete questions why Trudy wouldn't take one for the team.


The "this never happened" mantra has been utilized many times since, most notably when Don instructed Peggy to move on past her giving birth and giving the baby up for adoption. 

Don mentions that he doesn't like the way her father looks at him and we later learn that her father never wanted her to marry Don, never liked or trusted him. 

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