Monday, April 20, 2015

Mad Men Season 7, Episode 10: The Forecast

It's ironic that the person who's made their considerable living telling people that they want the next big thing, that new shiny bauble or that better version of what they've been using, is asking "then what?"  It's taken Don a long time but he's finally asking the right question.  What do you want after you've had it all.  What's next?  Is there another hill to climb, a bigger house, a faster car?  Is "more" a goal?  Don had it all and it wasn't enough.  He had the perfect house with the gorgeous wife and a job with security and admiration.  That wasn't enough. He built his own firm. Married another gorgeous woman.  Made even more money.  That wasn't enough. He can bed any woman he wants and can write million dollar checks like its nothing.  That still isn't enough. 

Since we the viewing public are too dense to understand symbolism, the helpful realtor tells us in the first scene that Don's barren apartment was sad looking and would not convey the right spirit for potential buyers.  They would see a divorced man's gutted apartment, with the stained carpet, and associate misery and depression with the penthouse.  Not exactly the right mood to get buyer's interest.  She kicks Don out of the apartment before the showing lest his own disheveled, miserable facade reflect even more poorly on the place.

But Don convinces her to sell not the present or the past of the apartment (where he claims good things had happened) but to sell the bright future.  And Don really believed that would work  "I feel good about this," he tells her.  And with all his moping and searching, Don does seem somewhat optimistic.  He thinks there's an answer, he thinks there's a something, something good, coming next. 

Don is having a midlife crisis about the time our country was having its own. He doesn't know what the answer is but he knows there's an empty feeling inside him that nothing has filled. He wonders if everyone else feels the same. Are people satisfied, is it possible to be satisfied?  Happy even?  What does the future hold?  His coworkers talk about wanting to land that big client or get that big promotion but they aren't asking themselves the question, then what?  And that's the question that's hounding him. Will those things make you happy? Cue Peggy Lee. Is that all there is? 

The question was on his mind even before Roger asked him to write up some stirring words that will be the basis of a speech Roger will later be giving as he forecasts what 1971 will look like for McCann Erickson.   But now that he's charged with writing the Gettysburg Address of management keynote addresses, he's obsessed with the answer.  What does the future hold?  Roger says he's looking for "reasonable hopes and dreams.  Doesn't have to be science fiction." Yet any look into the future has that element of the unknown to it, and a concomitant fear of what that future may bring.

Don is so desperate for an answer to the question that he - famous for not caring what anyone else thought - is even asking others for their opinions.  He finds an excuse to ask Ted about his goals for the future. He even asks Meredith for heaven's sake!  He uses Peggy's performance review as an excuse to plumb the depths of her dreams and desires.  She thinks he's mocking her - them - but he's seriously asking what comes after you get everything you want. But she doesn't want to engage in his existential Q&A, she just wants to be respected and appreciated.  

While Don is trying to get to the bottom of his midlife crisis, he's hit with some harsh truths.  He may have struggled as a poor whore child, unloved and mistreated. He may have lived in fear of his secret identity being discovered. But he's also been able to get away with murder because he was blessed with stunning good looks.  Like his trophy wife Betty, he is treated differently than regular people because,  in the words of Derek Zoolander, he's really really really ridiculously good looking.  

Women (and girls) throw themselves at Don and he has to beat them away with a stick.  And he's not the only one.  Betty is a guy magnet and despite three children and being in her thirties she can get any guy she wants - and at least one young man she doesn't want.  As Sally noted, both of her parents crave attention and cannot help themselves but respond in kind.  And it's a fair point.  Don grew up surrounded by prostitutes who showed their "love" through sexual advances (not to mention the one prostitute who raped him after nursing him back to health). Betty grew up with a mother who only valued Betty's looks and taught her daughter that being pretty was all she needed to accomplish. Hopefully, Sally will take Don's advice to heart and be more than just another pretty face. 

Joan has what she always wanted, she's a partner at a major ad agency, traveling coast to coast, and rich beyond her imagination (although not rich enough to have a reliable babysitter).  She meets a man while at the LA office and is immediately attracted.  But this well-heeled older gentleman is way past his own child-raising years and what he wants is someone as free to come and go as he is.  But Joan has a four-year-old weight tied around her ankle by the name of Kevin.  It's the age-old working woman lament - can you have it all, the kids and the career.  But it's also an age-specific lament - I'm free, do I want to get tied down again.  

What Richard tells her is that he's had a great life so far.  He's built something, is how he puts it.  He's achieved great things - he's well off financially, his children are grown.  But he also put off a lot and now he wants to enjoy his freedom and do all the things he put off.  That is his "now what."

We see Joan frustrated that her home life is preventing her from having a fulfilling romantic life and running off to see the pyramids with Richard, but her priorities are good.  She throws it back in her suitor's face when she sarcastically suggests that she should choose him over her little boy.  But the truth is, some women might do that.  But not Joan.  She has waited a long time to get what she has and she is not going to sacrifice any part of it.  She's determined to have it all.  Deciding that he rather spend time with Joan, with the restrictions of her career and son, than lose her, her orange-hued lover plans to stick around.  

Who won't be sticking around is Johnny Mathis.  Not the singer, but the adman.  Chances are, this is the last we've seen of Peggy's little friend.  He and Ed present their ideas for a new cookie by the Peter Pan peanut butter company.  Don nixes their first pitch and okays the second, though neither seemed particularly exciting.  Pete, as usual, wants Don to come to the client presentation and work his magic, but he leaves the work to the copywriters (with Pete and Peggy looking on).  The first pitch is a disaster and Mathis, in a moment of frustration, curses at the clients.  Pete managed to get the clients to agree to come back and Mathis goes to Don for advice on what he should do.

Don seems to relish his position as the old sage and imparts his experience and wisdom upon Mathis.  Make a joke out of it, use humor to defuse the situation and disarm the clients.  He recalls doing just the same thing years ago when he was the young copywriter and had inadvertently angered then client Lee Garner, Jr.   Mathis takes the advice and goes into the next meeting.  But something was lost in translation and the approach he used failed miserably, nuclear bomb time, crash and burn, see your future, Mathis?  Poof, it's gone.   Mathis is furious, how could Don have given him such horrible advice?  More to the point, who is this older generation to think they have the answers and why are we looking to them?  Aren't they just us some years into the future?  Why do we believe that living longer than us gives them anything worth sharing?

Mathis spills some truths on Don before he's fired, like the fact that his memory of that failed client experience was clouded by his own ego.  Don may have created and now believes the story of a young copywriter who uses humor to defuse a tense client situation, but the real facts are that Don was so damned good-looking that Lee Garner, Jr. didn't care about his behavior or his apology.  He just wanted Don to sit in the room and look handsome.  Regular Joes, guys like Mathis, don't have that luxury.  The world is much harder for the normal people.

It was not by happenstance that the client Mathis failed with was Peter Pan.  Of course, that character is the boy who never grows up, who goes on various adventures as the leader of the Lost Boys, without a care in the world.  And if he ever gets in trouble, Tinkerbell to the rescue.  Peter Pan is self-centered, boastful and immature, spending his life playing in an endless, directionless Neverland of adventure.  The Peter Pan Syndrome became popularized in psychology in the mid-1960s.  This is one good description of sufferers:  
Victims of PPS appear to be emotionally stunted at an adolescent level. Their impulses take priority over any internalized sense of right and wrong. They cope with their problems by engaging in a great deal of primitive denial, e.g. “If I don’t think about it, the problem will disappear.” This attitude frequently leads to alcohol and drug abuse, since getting high makes their problems disappear, at least as long as they are high. They excel at blaming others for their shortcomings, and are often extremely sensitive to rejection from others. The PPS sufferer desperately needs to belong, as he feels very, very lonely. There seems to be an immense vacuum in his life unless he is around people, preferably the center of attention.
Is that not Don Draper?  Has he not moved through life like an exaggerated man-boy, who acts impulsively, selfishly, who thinks he is superior to those around him but often needs to be bailed out (literally as well as figuratively) but the one mature female character in his life?

Speaking of grownups who act like children, we go to Betty Hofstadt Draper Francis.  A blast from the past comes back into her life.  Glen Bishop has come to say goodbye.  He's enlisted in the army and will be shipped off to start basic training next week.  He's ostensibly there to see Sally, yet we know its Betty - the Madonna figure that has loomed large in his life - that he wants to see.  She doesn't recognize the tall, thin young man as the small, round boy she used to know.  She didn't even realize he and Sally had maintained a friendship all these years.  But she and Glen have their own unique history and its fraught with significance.  He was her first love and for Betty, Glen was the person with whom she could confide.  His very youth and lack of sophistication was what made her feel comfortable around him.  Just as Don is painted as Peter Pan, Betty has been a girl trapped in a woman's body - scared, insecure, self-doubting, timid.  For some reason, she had a bond with the boy who wanted to be a grown up, who wanted to be the one to take care of her.  

Sally's reaction to hearing that Glen is going to Vietnam is understandable.  In the nightly news, we hear about the casualties and the war.  Anti-war protests are in the streets and college campuses from coast to coast.  As Sally mentions, Kent State was just a month or so ago, in May.  I found Betty calling her Jane Fonda a little untimely.  While "Hanoi Jane" was a fierce opponent of the war, her biggest move on that front came in 1972 when she took a trip to North Vietnam. Not sure she was as much a lighting rod in 1970.  Regardless, the idea of her friend going off to get shot at (and shooting at people his own age) is understandably too much for Sally to take and she runs off to her room.  

Also upsetting for Sally was watching the dynamics between each of her parents and some young friend of hers of the opposite sex.  There was the awkward sexual tension between Betty and Glen, followed by her 17-year-old friend flirting with Don at the Chinese restaurant.  While for once Don did not seem to be flirting back, there was something about how smooth he is, and how he clearly enjoyed the attention, that unhinged Sally.  And considering what she's seen, it's perfectly understandable.  But what's also in play is a teenage girl, growing up when teens were at their most revered, who looks at her role models and is revolted.  She may not know what she wants, what she sees in her future, but she knows what she doesn't want and that's to turn out like them.

But Don has a harsh truth to lay on her.  She is their daughter and she very likely will make similar mistakes her parents have made.  She certainly shares the "curse" of good looks.  But, he tells her, what she does with what she has is wholly up to her. "You're a very beautiful girl.  It's up to you to be more than that." It's one of the best lines of the show, one of the best things a parent can tell a child. I've given you what I've given you, it's your job to build on that.  


Poor Peggy.  She's the one person who really knows what she wants and has been working hard to get there and Don just pisses all over her dreams and hopes for the future.  Peggy wants validation and Ted and Don both think she should know she's great, what more does she need.  But Peggy wants to hear it.  She's landed big clients, handled a schizophrenic co-worker, taken care of a neighbor's son, all while keeping her hair in perfect flip.  All she wants is a little acknowledgement.  But instead, Don uses her review as a chance to drag her into his existential hole, wallowing in the fact that having goals and thinking about the future is a complete waste of time. 

Love Don using the ruse of Meredith getting him two donuts to find an excuse to head into Ted's office.  It's right out of the Bob Benson playbook.  And he talks about some pretty deep issues - what will the future bring.  If the present is okay, is there a scenario where something is better?  Don wants to know what Ted's thoughts of the future are and is disappointed that his answer is another client, a bigger and better account.  It frustrates Don because that can't be the answer, there has to be something more to life than just another account.

Roger tells Don, "You know, I could have you killed for drinking anything but a Coke around here." I couldn't tell if Don was drinking a rival soda (in which case the joke was about not being loyal to their client) or if it was alcohol and Don's past drunkenness is still an issue.  

The song played at the end, as Don stood outside of the apartment as it was being sold, was "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."  Some are saying it is out of place, because it was a hit for Roberta Flack in 1972.  But the song was originally on her 1969 album and was later re-arranged and re-released three years later (after it was included in the soundtrack to Clint Eastwood's "Play Misty For Me" about a crazy stalker named Evelyn Draper).  It's a pure, passionate love song about that moment when you fall in love and knew it would last forever.  So, of course, it's what we hear as Don leaves the home he shared with his soon to be ex-wife.

The other true anachronistic songs used on Mad Men are "Great Divide" by the Cardigans (Ep. 1.2 "The Ladies Room") and "The Infanta" by The Decembrists (Ep. 2.6 "Maidenform").  

When we first met Glen, in Ep. 1.03, Betty tells the then nine-year-old that there is a BB gun out in the backyard for him to play with.  Now, ten years later, with Glen on his way to Vietnam, Betty takes the toy gun that Bobby is playing with and chucks it into the trash.  

Joan was married before Greg??  Yep.  She had the following exchange about a previous marriage in Ep. 6.4 "To Have and to Hold":
Kate: Reminds me of Scotty.
Joan: Well, don't marry him. That was the worst six months of my life.
Kate: You always did everything first.
So Roger knew about Lee Garner's sexual orientation after all.  Too bad he didn't realize that Lee had fired Sal for rejecting his advances, maybe he would have taken Sal's side.  What am I saying, they would have done anything to keep Lucky Strike.

When Mathis tells Don he can get away with screwing up because he's so good looking it reminded me of the famous 30 Rock episode "The Bubble" where Jon Hamm's character is treated like a god because he's handsome.  

More on the Peter Pan syndrome: Carl Jung described the "puer aeternis" (eternal boy) archetype.  Here are some signs of a puer aeternis
"For the time being one is doing this or that, but whether it is a woman or a job, it is not yet what is really wanted, and there is always the fantasy that sometime in the future the real thing will come about.... The one thing dreaded throughout by such a type of man is to be bound to anything whatever."
"Common symptoms of puer psychology are dreams of imprisonment and similar imagery: chains, bars, cages, entrapment, bondage. Life experienced as a prison."

That's our boy.  Fear of being trapped? Check.  Searching for some ideal future? Check. Always looking for the next new thing?  Check.

There is so much in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan that applies to Don and this stage of his life.  Some relevant quotes from the book:
"All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.” “It is not in doing what you like, but in liking what you do that is the secret of happiness.” “Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”
This is about the right time for Don to have his mid-life crisis.  The very concept first came to light in 1965, when Canadian psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques published a paper, coining the term.  He wrote that during this period, we come face-to-face with our limitations, our restricted possibilities, and our mortality.

But this is not Don's first go-around with a bad case of the existential blues.  In Ep.  2.12 The Mountqin King he confides in Anna Draper about feeling adrift.  "I have been watching my life. It's right there. I've been scratching at it trying to get into it, but I can't." We've seen him reading Meditations in an Emergency and Dante's Inferno.  He's been searching for answers for a long time. 

Don, who makes his living selling things, thinks his realtor has no imagination.  She sees his apartment as it is - a lonely place of a lonely man.  He wants her to use the "blank slate" of the empty room as a canvas that every prospective buyer can paint their own perfect picture on.  "Imagine their own things in this room."  Eventually it must work, because the young couple with the bright future does see themselves filling up the empty space with their own things.

The shot of the realtor, standing facing out, between the sliding glass doors of Don's apartment, is reminiscent of the photo of the SCDP partners from the Season 5 finale.

Such a sad, brutal moment when Joan snaps at her babysitter, telling her "you're ruining my life" while the sitter is holding little Kevin.  It made it look as if she was sending that barb to her son.  Joan she storms out of the apartment without saying goodbye, then stops herself, softens her voice, and says goodbye.

Lou Avery's back and as useless as ever.  But at least he's chasing his dream, though I suppose Don would ask him, if Hanna-Barbera picks up "Scout's Honor" then what?  

When Don said, of the empty apartment, "That's the best opportunity in the world," it reminded me of what he said during the Lucky Strike meeting in the pilot: "This is the greatest advertising opportunity since the invention of cereal."  His other comment to Melanie, "Don't blame our failure on me," sounds like what he's said to his employees many times, but she gets him right back.

Before discovering that Glen was heading for Vietnam, Sally was planning on joining Glen and his friend Paula at Playland.  The Playland Amusement Park in Rye, New York, featured prominently at the end of the movie "Big," when Josh Baskin finds the Zoltar fortune teller and gets his wish to be big reversed.  

The college Glen flunked out of was Purchase College, part of the State University of New York system.  It was founded in 1967 by Governor Rockefeller (for whom the fictional Henry Francis worked). 

The senator that Sally's friend Carol was going to visit was the first Senator Dodd from Connecticut (father of the current senator).  1970 was not a great year for him, he had been censured and was not his party's nominee for his seat.  He lost to Independent Lowell Weicker and died the next year.  

Hard to miss the gigantic Hershey bar placed right in the middle of the vending machine.  I'm sure Don loves to be reminded of that career highlight.


Don: That's the best opportunity in the world.

Melanie: It looks like a sad person lives here.

Don: Do you have my thesaurus?
Peggy: Probably.

Don:  Jesus.  Love again?

Betty:  Well, when I did the trip, it was six states.
Sally:  Weren't they still colonies? 

Sally:  I'm sorry, Mother, but this conversation is a little late.  And so am I.
Betty:  Everything is a joke to you.

Don: Don't blame your failure on me.
Melanie: This place reeks of failure.

Don: A lot of wonderful things happened here.
Melanie: Well, you wouldn't know it.
Don:  I have a good feeling about things.

Joan: You think I would be doing this if I were married?

Richard:  This is not how I saw things.  I have a plan which is no plans.  You can't go to the pyramids.  You can't go anywhere.

Don:  You ever feel like there's less to actually do, but more to think about? 
Ted.  Not really.

Don:  What's the future going to bring? I mean, it's good as it is, but is there a scenario in which it's better? 

Ted: You're so much better at painting a picture.

Don: Before McCann all I ever thought of was will we be in business next year?  
Ted: Or will I be here at all? 

Betty:  You look so different.
Glen:  You look exactly the same.

Don: We know where we've been, we know where we're going.  Let's assume it's good. But it's got to get better.  It's supposed to get better.

Don: Do you ever think there’s less to actually do, but more to think about?

Peggy:  Why don’t you just write down all of your dreams so that I can shit on them?

Richard:  I don't want to be rigid.  It makes you old.

Glenn:  This was gonna be the good thing that came out of all this.  This is all I thought about.

Don:  You're a very beautiful girl.  It's up to you to be more than that.

Melanie:  Now we have to find a place for you.

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