Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mad Men Season 2, Episode 12: The Mountain King

WDon Draper is still AWOL, alone in California having abandoned the mess of his marriage back in New York and leaving Pete Campbell to represent the company by himself at the aerospace convention in Los Angeles.  The mystery of who Don called at the end of the last episode, and who knows him as Dick Whitman, has been answered.  Here in California, far away from the life he has created in New York, Don is close to being able to be himself - if he even knows what that means anymore.  Don may have run away from his problems, as is his wont, but it looks like he ran towards a place of safety where he could maybe get some answers and find a new direction.

But back home, not all is well.  Sally is defiant and angry without her father around and blames Betty for everything.  For once, Betty seems somewhat sympathetic towards her daughter, realizing how the uncertainty and loss could upset the children.  In a rare show of affection, she tries to help Sally through this, even buying her the boots she's been wanting.  But none of this softens her opinion about Don and he is still not welcome home.  To be frank, she doesn't see much difference in her life now compared to when she was living with the constantly unavailable Don.

She calls her "friend" and former riding buddy Sarah Beth to ask her about boarding school for the defiant Sally and during the conversation he finds out that Sarah Beth followed through with the handsome young Arthur after that lunch that Betty had set up.  Betty wants to be bad, wants to explore the dark side that Don has been living in, but couldn't bring herself to doing it.  So she lived vicariously through her "friend."  Sarah realizes how she was used - too late - and how manipulative and evil pretty blonde Betty truly is.

Sterling Cooper is also continuing in his absence, but here a coup is underway that will blindside Don.  Duck Phillips is working to take over as president of a new Sterling Cooper after a merger with the London-based Putnam, Powell, and Lowe.  He has waved a lot of money in front of the partners (one of who, Roger, is in the midst of what will likely be an expensive divorce) and they are blinded by their greed.  None care about the direction of the firm or what being controlled by a British agency means to them and this works in power-hungry Duck's favor.

But the heart of the episode is learning more about Don/Dick's relationship with Anna Draper.  We wondered at the end of the Season 2 opener who Don was sending the book to and now we know.  He met Anna when he was a used car salesman after the war and she had tracked down her husband.  Only, it wasn't her husband but someone using his name and identity.  Rather than turning him in, she befriended him and they became very important in each other's lives.

The episode is a mixed bag for Pete Campbell, triumphant in his return from the West Coast   On the one hand, he and Trudy butt heads over her plan that they look into adoption.  His objection to her idea causes his father-in-law to come to Trudy's defense and retaliate against Pete by pulling the Clearasil account from the agency.  But Pete weathers this adversity thanks to Duck and his ulterior motives.  He promises to promote Pete despite this setback once he's the new sheriff in town.  Again, all this is going on in Don's absence, since he's busy figuratively and literally letting his hair down across the country.

Peggy is on a roll without Don at the office.  She pitches the Popsicle account and nails it.  Emboldened by her success, and aggravated that her office space is shared with the Xerox machine, she asks Roger for Freddy Rumsen's office (the one right next to Don).  She gets it, because she deserves it and was the only copywriter with the balls to ask for it.  The other men in the office are shocked and appalled that she has moved up so fast and is getting the outward signs of her new position while they are still too timid to ask for what they want.

Joan and her doctor fiance are in bed and Greg is tired, so Joan takes the lead and starts to seduce him.  He says stop and she stops. Greg is not interested and then goes on to make some allusions to the fact that Joan is way more experienced sexually and he doesn't like being reminded that she's a sexual being with a past.  It is sexist and demeaning but Joan brushes it off thinking he's just jealous of her past lovers.  She continues to be try and heat things up.  He says stop, and she stops.  Because that's what civilized people do.

The next day, he comes by her office and meets Roger and picks up on the vibe that passes between them (assuming Joan had not mentioned Roger as anything other than a boss).  Greg asks Joan to fix him a drink and they go into Don's office.  Now Greg isn't so tired, now he wants sex.  In her boss' office, right under the nose of her ex-lover, Roger.  She says stop, and he stops forces himself on her, against her will.  He rapes Joan and, whether it's the era, or her concern about her future, or something else, Joan endures it, then smooths out her skirt, and goes off to dinner.  It's shocking to us in so many ways, not the least of which is we're so used to Joan being strong and in control and taking shit from no one.  Knowing that she feels that at her age she has no choice but to stay with someone like that is tragic.

Don is transformed when he's with Anna.  He looks different, sounds different.  He's relax and himself, whoever that really is.  While walking home from the store, he stops by to chat with some guys refurbishing cars and he asks them about finding work.  Is Don thinking of shedding his old life and starting over as Dick?  Anna takes out her Tarot cards, because it's the sixties and that's what we did, and she tells Don some mumbo jumbo about how the only barrier to his happiness is the belief he is alone. But isn't he?  Since he can never share his true self with anyone and keeps everyone at a distance, how can he ever feel loved and connected.  She tells him he can change but - pointing to one of the major themes of the series - Don maintains that people don't change. 

Big changes are going on at Sterling Draper, all while Don is - for the second time in his life - AWOL. He has disappeared, without a word, and adopted a new (albeit old) identity.  This is what he does.  As easily as he changes his wardrobe, the preternaturally poised Cary Grant-like Dond Draper becomes casual Everyman Dick Whitman. 

While Don escapes into his alter ego, his wife has lost interest in their marriage, the company is sold, the partners are richer, Peggy is moving up as is Pete (even without his father-in-law's company) and Duck is making his biggest move yet.   Don has to figure out who he is, what he wants, and how to get it, before the choices are out of his hands.

He walks into the crashing waves of the Pacific and as the water breaks over him he is baptized.  


The musical piece Anna's student is playing Edvard Greig's "In the Hall of the Mountain King," which also gave this episode its title.  it was inspired by Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt, which asks the question "if you lie; are you real?"  The young boy is played by another of creator Matthew Weiner's sons (his other son plays Glenn).

Some rare clues into the mysterious Bert Cooper, thanks to the appearance of amusingly named sister Alice (who has an unseen "companion" named Florence).  Bert was married and his wife introduced Roger and Mona? He has a place in Montana, with cattle? He "ruined" some poor architect's life.  He was a disappointment to his mother and he feels paternal towards Roger.

Look how Don first described Betty to Anna -  She's so beautiful and happy.  I just like the way she laughs, and the way she looks at me. It's so sad to think none of that was enough for Don and he had to ruin it with his infidelity and other lies. 

The Popsicle pitch leads to one of Peggy's early successes on her own (without Don's help) and yet she is clearly taking a page from his sentimental/nostalgic book with that homespun idea.

On the TV in the background when Joan was in bed with Greg was the movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still" with Pete.  Movie trivia, Jon Hamm costarred in the 2008 remake of that movie.  I watched it and let me save  you from wasting 104 minutes of your life.  If you're a Jon Hamm fan, watch his multi-episode turns on 30 Rock, Young Doctor's Notebook or Children's Hospital, skip this movie.

Roger greets Bert's sister Alice with two lines from a poem by A.A.Milne (the creator of Winnie the Pooh): "They're changing the guard at Buckingham Palace.  Christopher Robin went down with Alice." He then adds, "best babysitter in the world," so maybe Alice had watched a young Roger and read him that poem.  She seemed impressed he remembered it.

Don fixes Anna's chair and we're reminded of the wobbly chair at the Draper residence that he didn't fix that, in a show of frustration and anger, Betty broke into pieces as shattered as their marriage.  In California, with Anna, as "himself," he has time to be helpful, but Don Draper is never available, certainly not to Betty.

The choices women have are laid out in startling contrast.  There is Joan, the dutiful girl, extolling the virtues of her handsome doctor-fiance, going on about her wedding day.  Let's just ignore that he's an abusive bully.  Then there's Peggy, the hardworking girl, with her new office, soon to have her name on the door.  But she's alone with her success.  See, ladies, you can't have it all.

Ken talks about making their own ice cream in Vermont.  Wonder if he knew Ben and/or Jerry. 

Joan says she's been working at SC for 9 years. 


Sally: You're mean.
Betty: You betcha. Get in there.
Sally: I'm telling Daddy when he gets home.
Betty: Go ahead.
Sally: He left because you're stupid and mean.

Peggy: Let me tell you something. The Catholic Church knows how to sell things. 

Alice:  To think that Mother thought you were a failure.
Bert: She made me who I am.

Alice:  Let Roger Sterling have what he always wanted -- to die in the arms of a 20-year-old.

Alice:  The truth is you don't want to retire, and I hate to say this, Bertram, but you are old-- older than me. I can't even imagine what that must be like.
Bert: Charming. 

Bert: You can't trust the Brits. 

Don:  They thought I was him and he was me. I didn't think I was hurting anyone.
Anna:  I can't believe it.
Don:  I just had to get out of there.

Anna: What is your name?
Don:  Dick Whitman.
Anna:  Well, Dick, what do I do with you?

Pete:  Hell's bells, Trudy!

Anna:   You like the porch? You paid for it.

Anna: I always felt that we met so that both of our lives could be better. That's just how it is between us.
Don: I ruined everything. My family, my wife, my kids.
Anna:  I'm sure that's not true.

Anna:  You love her. You don't have to tell her everything.   I'm sure there are things about her you don't know. 

Don:  I have been watching my life.  It's right there.  I keep scratching at it, trying to get into it.  But I can't.

Roger:  Did you get the same thing in your stocking last night that I did?
Bert:  What are you talking about?
Roger: Putnam, Powell & Lowe has offered to put a lot of marmalade on your toast.

Bert: I don't like being in the position of having to sell off my life's work because you have an increase in overhead. 

Roger:   We can still come to work in our building, in our offices, only there'll be diamonds on the doorknobs.

Tom: Every good businessman knows that, if his wife's unhappy, his work suffers.
Pete:  Yes, they seem very directly related in this case.  Don't they, Tom?
Tom:  Trudy's happiness should be your first priority.

Pete: You know what? I was in love with Trudy when I met her. And then you stuck your nose in, put these ideas in her mind, and made her unhappy.
Tom: What do you mean, you were in love with her?
Tom: That's not what I meant, and you know it.

Anna: Look at you.  You're in the lavender haze. 

Joan: Greg, stop that.  You know there's no before.

Ken:  Has anyone heard from Draper?
Joan: Yes he called. He wants you to get back to work. 

Betty. Someday you'll want something and I won't be able to give it to you. 

Don: That can't be good.  
Anna: It is. 
Don. It's the end of the world. 
Anna: It's the resurrection. 

Anna: You are part of the world. The air, water, every living thing is connected to you. ...  It means the only thing keeping you from being happy is the belief that you are alone.
Don: What if that's true?
Anna: Then you can change.
Don: People don't change.

Pete:  Don'll dance on my grave, if he ever comes back.


Betty catches Sally smoking and punishes her.  By Season 7, Sally is not only still smoking, but she does it with an affectation that is eerily similar to Betty's pose.

At the end of the partners' meeting, Alice tells Roger he needs to take care of his children. He says he only has one, and she looks at him oddly and says, "Really?"  Roger looks confused.  Now, it might be a jape at the young age of his new girlfriend, but by the end of the series Roger does in fact have another child.

Pete does get the Clearasil account back later when Sterling Cooper merges with Cutler, Gleason and Chaough.

Greg's sexual abuse of Joan is never directly mentioned again, yet it hangs over their unfortunate relationship.  She continues the charade of love and marriage because at her age in that time period, she felt she had no other options.  But her growth and increased strength over the years lead to her dumping Greg and being a confident single mother (of Roger's, not Greg's, child).

Roger thought the merger, and the payoff, would bring him happiness.  He thought Jane would bring him happiness.  He later learns that there is more to life than money and a young honey.  Whether it's the acid he dropped or something else, he awakens to realize he really did love Mona and that he was never the leader of his company he should have been.  The question left hanging at the end of Season 7a is whether he can fix these problems.  He takes a strong stance in the firm, yet his love life is still up in the air.

Pete says, of Burt Peterson, why doesn't he die already.  Burt doesn't die but he does get fired - many times.  

Betty talks about maybe sending Sally to boarding school, because of her acting out.  In season 4 Sally's acting out continues and she's sent to a child psychiatrist.  Later she does go to boarding school as well. 

Don escapes to California again in Season 4 and Season 7. He changes when he's there, dropping some of the Don Draper persona and becoming more relaxed and comfortable. He views California as his own Shangri-La - or at least the place to run to when he's running away.   

Peggy was successful selling the ritual of eating and sharing a Poosocle, but was less successful in Season 4 selling the ritual of applying Ponds Cold Cream. 

No comments:

Post a Comment