Monday, April 21, 2014

Mad Men Season 7, Episode 2: A Day's Work Recap

Yes, Donald Draper has been a jerk and is getting what he deserves.  He lies, cheats, boozes and generally only cares about getting his own needs met no matter the cost to the other people in his life.  He's a terrible husband, a rotten father and a lousy coworker.  Yet the opening scene is heartbreaking, especially as you see him suiting up to look presentable to Dawn after a day making Al Bundy look dapper.  He's alone and scared, trying to keep it together.  He's thumbing through magazine ads, he's marking the liquor so he can keep track of how much he's drinking.  He's a lost soul.

The highlight of the day is Dawn coming by.  Seeing Don put himself together for their excruciatingly brief time together, his desperate attempt to get her to stay if only for a few minutes, it's a new vision of what rock bottom looks like.  For those minutes, Don feels connected to SC&P.  He feels important.  He's still in the loop.  But the crumbs of information are so insubstantial, they won't sustain him for long.  You can see Don moving farther away from the company he helped create.  The old Don never stayed in a rut like this, his motto was "keep moving forward." 

Dawn is happy to help Don keep some connection with work, but she balks at taking money from Don, even though it obviously costs her something to make this detour before going home.  But it makes what she's doing seem unsavory and Dawn isn't doing this for anything but the best intentions--to assist Don as she always has.  She doesn't want to sneak around or do anything of questionable morality, but she'll do her best to keep him up on what's going on as long as she can.

Again, we see the contrast between Don and Pete.  Pete is on top of the world, scoring left and right in California.  He nailed the SoCal Chevy Dealers account and nailed Bonnie the pretty real estate agent as well.  Pete's life could not be any better...until he shares his great news with the East Coast and gets nothing but push back.  Have to bring Bob Benson into this, have to run it past Detroit.  As much as he's loving life in Los Angeles, Pete is learning the hard lesson that you don't want to be the branch office, the red-headed stepchild of the corporate world. His counterpart Ted hates California, too, but at least for him it serves its purpose by putting 3,000 miles between him and now psycho ex-girlfriend Peggy.   

Valentine's Day is a tough day for the unattached, especially when your ex is cross-country with the missus.  But Peggy was completely bonkers today. She's still pining over Ted so she assumes she's in his thoughts as well.  Somehow she convinces herself that the roses on her secretary's desk were hers. And from Ted.  Her jumping to conclusions and ignoring any evidence to the contrary was a completely believable moment.  We're all convinced that the world and everything on it revolves around us and so it was not at all surprising that Peggy would assume the roses on Shirley's desk must not be Shirley's, they're Peggy's.  The fact that there's no note shouldn't change anything.  The hesitation in Shirley's response only confirms what she assumes, these are from Ted!  Yep, Ted's not over her and is still thinking about her and sent her these roses even though he's a continent away with his wife.  Peggy had to work very hard to create this fiction in her mind, but she's now convinced.  Unfortunately for Peggy, they're not from Ted, in fact they're not hers at all.  But she lets her wild imagination lead her to lose an entire day, much of her sanity and a good secretary.  All in a day's work!

But Don's Valentine's Day starts not with Don in his undies chomping Ritz crackers and watching an old Little Rascals show; today he's in full Draper regalia, at a business lunch with Dave Wooster from Wells, Rich and Greene.  They're doing a little pas de deux as Don refrains from asking for a job while Dave mentions he's heard tell of a certain adman who had a certain meltdown at a certain pitch meeting.  Into this awkward situation comes Jim Hobart, who famously tried to recruit Don to his company McCann Erickson way back in Season One's Shoot. Even with the word on the street about Don's break with SC&P, Don's reputation is still strong enough that Jim tosses out another veiled offer.

Speaking of SC&P, all is not well in the Don, Ted and Pete-less main office.  It's not just Pete who's dissatisfied with the new power structure at SC&P, Roger is not enjoying getting shut down at every turn.  He and Jim Cutler are constantly butting heads and it seems that Roger never gets his way.  Earlier, we see how lost Roger is at the new post-Don firm, when his attempt at levity falls flat at the feet of the humorless Lou Avery.  Now Roger can't even fight for Pete even after Pete lands a big new account and Roger is losing even Bert's support.  SC&P has never been a merger, it's been two different companies pretending to be one big happy Brady Bunch-like family but all the time keeping track of whose kid is whose.  Roger's line at the end to Joan, about it not mattering whether he agrees with Jim or not, shows just how impotent Roger is, just a name on a building and nothing more.

The scene where Pete is in Ted's office, fumbling for the word purgatory when that's right where he is, is great.  How he storms in, storms out, grabs a bottle, storms back in.  In a shout out to the fans, he says what we're all thinking, this is where he is supposed to say to Ted, let's start our own agency.  So now we know that's not going to happen.  Pete realizes he's in exile, not on a path anywhere worth going.  He's just counting the days til death.  Ted has resigned himself to all of this and it's about time Pete gets on board. 

But soon the focus is back on Don, greeted by a surprise -- his daughter Sally is in his apartment.  He's dressed from the lunch meeting and so quickly spins a story to her that he was at the office but left early because he wasn't feeling well. But Don doesn't know that Sally had come from his office and knew he wasn't there and, more significantly, knows that his name is no longer on the door and there's some crotchety old man now occupying his office.  Sally, who you'd think would be used to the dissembling her father is wont to do, looks perplexed and caught off guard to watch him fabricate another lie in front of her.  

Before we get back to them, we see more evidence that Lou Avery is the worst person on TV (Hannibal, the Bates Motel kid, Mr. Burns, Joffrey, all preferable).  He berates Dawn for being away from her desk (to buy his wife a Valentine's present!!) so that he had to deal with Sally showing up at the office and looking for her father.  He tries to get Dawn fired but Joan knows and likes Dawn and doesn't like Lou and recognizes his overreaction and irrationality for what it is.  She moves Dawn off his desk and saddles him with the nearly brain-dead Meredith.  Dawn, nailing down the title of world's best secretary, quickly calls Don with a heads up.  Sally was there and she knows he wasn't.

In the car, Sally is understandably cold and distant.  She's not interested in idle chatter.  She's not at all interested in anything her father has to say.  Don now has to fess up to Sally that he lied to her about where he was, but not before first getting mad at her for not telling him she knew he was lying (and how twisted is that!?).  "Why would you let me lie to you like that?" he asks.  As if it's her fault he can't tell the truth.  Don compares her with Betty (which is about the lowest blow you can hit Sally with), claiming that she relished in trapping and ambushing him with the truth.  But Sally fights back.  She lets Don have it, letting him know what an uncomfortable place he put her in and how she doesn't even feel comfortable going to her Dad's apartment for fear of running into Mrs. Rosen. The newsman on the radio says it best, it's a chilly Valentine's Day.

The relationship between Don and Sally is one of the most complicated and important ones on the show.  So much is at stake that I find myself holding my breath as they do their dance.  There's a bond there that he has broken but the question is is it irreparable.  The car ride is so tense and the final release of anger on Sally's part is a necessary part of the healing.  She just wants him to stop talking, because if he stops talking to her, he'll stop lying.

In the diner, he tries to connect but Sally has her guard up.  She knows something, he knows something, they slowly reveal the truth to each other.  For once, Don seems real.  He stops and tells her the whole truth, about what he did and what the consequences have been.  He takes the blame for his actions.  Neither the suave, perfectly pressed Don Draper nor the unnaturally relaxed Dick Whitman he was with Anna. This may have been our first vision of who Don can be if he can finally embrace the truth.  And you can see how much just telling the truth means to Sally.  She doesn't need Don to be perfect, she just needs him to be real.

They've reached a new place, a new understanding.  There must have been a step or two in this direction last Thanksgiving, after Don showed Sally where he was raised.  It now seems he told her the whole story.  Perhaps, that bit of honesty is what made his regression to lying so painful for her.  But now he's embraced the truth again and maybe this will be how it will be from here on.

This episode had its share of showing individuals triumphing over the efforts of others to keep them down.  Joan walking into her new office, upstairs next to all the other account executives.  Dawn taking her seat as the new head of personnel.  They battle glass ceilings and racism (I can never look at Bert Cooper the same) but still they rise.  Of course, to keep the karmic balance of the office, Shirley has her Valentine's Day ruined by Peggy and, possibly worse, is reassigned to Lou.  Peggy has completely lost her mind and let her unresolved feelings for Ted keep her from moving on with her life.  And Pete found that he's no more the alpha male here with Bonnie than he was back in the 'burbs with Trudy.  He might as well put his balls in a jar, he doesn't need them.

But it ends, as it begins, with Don.  When we first saw him, he was a lonely, disheveled wreck, sleeping away the day and wallowing in misery.  The last glimpse was of a man startled to find out he was loved.  There is so much hopefulness in the final scene of Don and Sally.  Last season she said, "my father's never given me anything."  Today, tonight, he gave her another look at his real self and she accepted it and it brought them closer together.

Don has run away from love before and and much as hearing Sally say "I love you" had to make his heart swell, it's always out there that Don won't feel worthy and will find a way to destroy this.  I really hope not.  It's hard to ignore Don telling Sally that he's in New York because he wanted to stay and fix things.  When has Don ever chosen to stay before?


Sally: I'd stay here till 1975 if I could get Betty in the ground.

Bonnie (to Pete): You're such a big deal.

Michael: She has plans.  Look at her calendar.  February 14th: masturbate gloomily.

Stan: Hard to believe your cat has the money.

Lou (to Roger): The strangest things happen to you. 

Dawn: Hello, Dawn. 
Shirley: Hello, Shirley.

Dawn: Keep pretending.  That's the job. 

Dave Wooster: I don't know what the truth is and I really don't care.

Don: I'm just looking for love.

Jim: Ted, weren't you there when we signed Chevy? Roger seems to have failed to get a head count.
Roger: I don't see any reason to keep score.

Jim: Don who?  Our collective ex-wife who still receives alimony?

Don: Sally, what do I say?
Sally: Just tell the truth.

Pete: I don't seem to exist.  No one feels my existence.

Ted: Just cash the checks.  You're going to die someday.

Meredith: Maybe I should get a pencil.

Don: Why would you let me lie to you like that?
Sally: Because it's more embarrassing for me to catch you in a lie than it is for you to be lying.

Bonnie: Our fortunes are in other people's hands and we have to take them.

Don: The reason I didn't tell you I wasn't working was because I didn't want anyone to know. 
Sally: Got it.
Don: I didn't behave well. I said the wrong things to he wrong people at the wrong time.  
Sally: What did you say?
Don: I told the truth about myself. 

Sally: Why don't you just tell her you don't want to move to California.

Jim: What are the skills required down here? Organization? Fortitude? Lack of concern for being unliked?

Jim: There's an office open upstairs. It's for an account man not the head of personnel.

Joan: How about Meredith?
Peggy: She has the mind of a child!

Don: Life goes on.

Sally:  I'm so many people.

Roger: Does it matter?

Jim (to Roger): I'd hate to think of you as an adversary.

Sally: Happy Valentine's Day.  I love you.


On the TV when Dawn came over was "That Girl," starring Marlo Thomas--a cute, modern (for its time) take on a young girl trying to make it as an actress in NYC.  The episode they showed was not by chance.  It aired on February 13, 1969 and had the lead, Ann, go out for an audition.  She was chosen because she had a sophisticated, classy look.  The scene?  She gets a pie in the face. Ann is torn--she could use the job and the money, but the part is degrading.  She ends up taking the part, then feels embarrassed and feels like she'll never get the kind of work she really wants.  There are enough parallels to Don's story for a novel.  He needs the job, if not the money, and so goes on an interview, yet he feels that he may never get back to being the old Don Draper because of his breakdown in the Hershey meeting.  The sophisticated, classy Don is now the punchline of jokes circulating in the ad world.

There really is a Wells, Rich and Greene and its president was Mary Wells Lawrence.  Read about her here.  It's interesting that while Peggy is having trouble moving up at SC&P, elsewhere there was at least one woman running a successful ad agency. 

The two songs that played during the episode were The Turtles's "Elenore" and "This Will Be Our Year" by The Zombies.  Relevant lyrics: "Can I take the time, To ask you to speak your mind,
Tell me that you love me better" and "The warmth of your love's, Like the warmth from the sun,
And this will be our year, Took a long time to come."

It was mentioned in passing that the ad firm Ogilvy and Mather landed the Hershey account.  Apparently, their first commercials did not take place in a brothel, shocker, but instead featured "sentimental shots of young children at play, along with the jingle, 'There's nothing like the face of a kid eating a Hershey Bar'" along with the tag line the Hershey is the "Great American chocolate bar."

This may be the first time the man who was famously instructed in The Hobo Code didn't choose to run away but chose instead to stay and try to fix things.  At least that is Don's explanation to Sally why he's still in New York and not with Megan in LA.  If true, this would be a huge step in the right direction for Don. 

Not only does Sally go to a funeral, but Peggy mentions -- when taking the flowers out of her office and putting them back on Shirley's desk -- that her office smells like an Italian funeral.  Put that with Pete's comment that maybe he's dead and doesn't know it and Ted's suggestion that he not worry about anything since he'll be dead someday anyway, and you see how much Mad Men piles on the death references even in what otherwise was a pretty upbeat episode.

Bert Cooper's racism really shocked me.  Telling Joan, of her decision to place Dawn at the front desk,  "People can see her from the elevator."  And "requesting" that she reshuffle her reshuffling of personnel, was a great insight into the times and the man.  He may not think he's a racist, and we may thing times are a-changin', but it's all there ready to bubble up to the surface. 

Roger hanging up on Pete.  He couldn't argue with him and he certainly understood Pete's frustration, so what better way to handle him than ignore him.  But that's what is happening to Pete, in his mind.  No one sees him, no one hears him.  He told Ted to pretend he's in New York.  Everyone else pretends that he's invisible.  It was bound to catch up to Pete.  The happy-go-lucky Pete from the season seven debut just couldn't last.  You know what they say, wherever you go, there you are. 

Loved Don's conspiratorial dine-and-dash plan with Sally and how great it was to see a genuine smile pass between them. 

If you didn't feel like the Grinch -- whose heart grew three sizes -- by the end of this episode, you need to have it checked.  The way Sally said, "Happy Valentine's Day, I love you" - not like a chore or an obligation, but with genuine feeling.  And Don's reaction.  I thought his heart would explode right there.  It's a testimony to the writing and the acting that we know just how significant this moment was, what a potential game changer for Don.

Shirley is rid of Peggy but, despite her Valentine's Day meltdown, I don't feel that getting Lou is a step up. I loved her and Dawn's conversation in the lunch room, their joking about others at the office getting them mixed up and the frustration of being a second class citizen among second class citizens.  I hope she and Dawn can stay friends and allies and that Dawn's promotion won't cause any problems.

Roger realizes he has no power at his firm anymore and seems completely broken.  I don't think we're in line for another suicide, and maybe the drug-fueled orgies will keep him from offing himself, but Roger cannot be happy with the way things have turned out.  Cutler has made it clear from last season that he was unhappy with the power balance at SC&P and thought they were too hasty to jettison their own CG&C people in favor of the SCDP staff.  Getting rid of Don, marginalizing Pete, he's well on his way to wresting control back.

Season one, episode one Don scoffed at the very notion of love.  It didn't exist, it was something we admen created he told Rachel.  Last season, he had a breakthrough when he realized he felt genuine feelings of love for his son Bobby, as opposed to the love he pretended to have because that's what one does.  Will he accept that he is loved by Sally and that it's real?  That love is real and is something to find and accept?

Finally, will this road trip with Sally encourage Don to stop wallowing, stop letting other people decide his future, and start taking action to get his life back on track?  Will he take her suggestion to tell Megan that he doesn't want to move to California and he still wants to be a Madison Avenue ad man?  Will he make a fish-or-cut-bait demand at SC&P or will he asked to be relieved of his contractual obligations?  Who does he want to be from here on out?

Spoilery Observations - (Don't read until you're caught up)

So much foreshadowing of what was to come in episode 7.13! That entire diner scene from when Sally gets back from calling her friend to the end.  The discussion of the funeral and "life goes on."  

Want more on early 1969?  Here's a cool video with clips of some of the top pop songs from the beginning of the year: click here.  There's also this website that gives you a brief view of that day in history: click here.  And here's my Spotify playlist of some of the best songs from the year:

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