Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mad Men Season 5, Episode 6 Recap: Far Away Places

"Stay where you are."

Peggy is nervous.  She has her Heinz beans presentation today and last time it did not go well.  She's scouring her bedroom looking for a lucky packet of violet candy that Don once gave her before a pitch and Abe just wants to relax, make plans, and act like a couple.  He feels like he's not appreciated; she feels like she's not understood.  She immediately goes for the nuclear solution - let's break up.  Abe doesn't want that, he just wants to have a fight, let her know that he's hurt and angry, and then hope she pays him more attention in the future.

At the office,  Peggy is late, not as late as Stan, and psyching herself up for the pitch.  She finds her lucky pack of candy and is momentarily relieved.  Just then, Don comes in with some news.  He and Megan won't be at the Heinz presentation as they have to go up to a Howard Johnson.  Megan looks absolutely thrilled at the idea of leaving work and not helping Peggy with the pitch she helped create and instead rush off with Don because he said so. Megan is not that good of an actress so it's clear she does not want to go, but Don misses the signs because he's apparently really truly excited about the prospect.  Peggy is now sure that the meeting will be a disaster.

Peggy shows herself to be prescient.  The meeting is a disaster.  Raymond does not like her presentation and, having had her fill of men arguing with her for the day, she takes her anger at Abe and her frustration at his impossible demands of the client and blows up.  You know those private thoughts you have in a business meeting that you keep to yourself?  Well, Peggy says all of them out loud to Raymond.  He hates everything she suggests, he loves nothing more than telling her that her ideas are crap, and he'll never be satisfied.  While it's true that her job is to present ideas, not schmooze the clients, this outburst was its own special disaster.

Peggy had complained to Dawn that she was worried she was acting like a man, that in order to succeed in advertising she had to lose part of who she was.  She fights back with the client, but that's not a masculine move.  Plenty of male ad men go along with their client's unreasonable demands, many smile and nod at whatever comes out of their client's mouth, most would not tell the client that he's lying about hating a pitch just to be argumentative.  No, Peggy wasn't being "like a man," she was just showing her frustration and it was unprofessional.  Not surprisingly, she was pulled off the account.

So Peggy leaves work to go see a movie, Born Free, and she takes a hit off another movie goer who then joins her in the darkened theater.  Now high, she watches the movie with grave concern over the young lioness, worrying that she won't be able to "make it out there on her own."  Does Peggy see a little of herself in Elsa - thrown into the wild by Don today, without anyone there backing her up?  Peggy manages to reassert herself and take control of at least part of her day as she brushes off the young man's moves in the theater and instead bestows upon this stranger a hand job, no strings attached.

She goes back to work to see Ginsberg arguing with an older gentleman that we have been introduced to as his father, but who is a mystery to Peggy.  They're fighting, it may be a continuation of a discussion Ginsberg was having on the phone in the morning when Peggy walked in. He's exasperated that he can't get any time to hmself or any privacy.  He escorts his dad out of the office , seemingly embarrassed.  Peggy goes into Don's office, and falls asleep on the couch.  Hours later, Dawn comes in to wake her.  Don is on the phone.

We haven't seen or heard from Don since he left in the morning with Megan to go to the HoJos upstate.  It's 8:30 at night and his hair's a mess - a clear sign that something is amiss.  He's at a pay phone and a bit frantic, asking Peggy if she's received any calls.  She hasn't, but she wants to explain and apologize to Don about the Heinz fiasco, but he hangs up.

Peggy goes back to her office and is working; Ginsberg is there too.  She mentions that when she had interviewed him, he said he didn't have a family, but he quite obviously has a father.  "He's not my real father," Ginsberg tells her.  He says he's from Mars, and being the funny, quirky guy that he is, she thinks he's spinning a yarn.  He continues to talk, his back to her, the words now pouring out faster.  He spins a tale all right, but it's no fantasy.  If it's real and it feels real no one would ever come up with such a story.  He was born in a concentration camp, his mother died there, after the war he was sent to an orphanage where Morris later adopted him.  The timing is right and there were stories of babies born in the camps but this sad horrible story of some far away place at some far away time is too hard to accept.  As Ginsberg said, "people don't understand."  How could they?

Peggy calls Abe after this.  Her head is reeling and it's been a strange day.  She needs him and he's happy to be needed.

We then start out our Groundhog Day adventure as it's the morning again and everything is still hopeful and fresh.  Roger wants to play hooky with Don like the old days - which Don remembers once ended with Roger in the hospital with a heart attack.  But Roger just wants to two amigos to spend the weekend without a care, or a wife, in the world.  Unfortunately for Roger, Don is still in the throes of newly wedded bliss and he doesn't want to run away from his wife for the weekend.  Instead, he thinks the fact-finding mission at the flagship Howard Johnson's would be a great weekend getaway for him and Megan.  Meanwhile, Roger is forced to spend an evening with Jane's pretentious friends at a gathering he'd much rather miss.

The dinner conversation is what you would expect if a professor and a psychiatrist invited their rich Upper Westside friends over for a night of Proust and Nietzsche.  A lot of talking in circles, a lot of flowery prose and a lot of "deep thoughts."  But there is more to the evening's festivities - the aperitif for the evening is a tab of LSD.  It's time to "turn on" as the young people say.   Jane had told Roger that this was what the night was all about but he never really pays attention to anything she says so he had no idea.  But he's game - it is a mind-altering substance after all and when has Roger Sterling ever said no to one of those.  And so Roger has his first acid trip.

I turned 7 in 1966, so I never dropped acid then or since, so I can't say how realistic the depiction of Roger's trip is, but it feels right.  The disconnection, the anachronism, the juxtaposition between the mundane and the fantastic.  As depicted, it highlights truths for Roger. His fear of growing old, his fear of the future.  He has a full on psychedelic experience with vodka bottles that play music and magazine ads that come to life.  He sees people and things that aren't there.  His mind is expanded.

The next morning, he and Jane are doing a post mortem on the night before.  Their minds have been expanded and their eyes have been opened.  The clarity leads to an epiphany, at least for Roger.  They are not meant to be together.  Roger feels relieved that it can end so calmly, without raised voices and harsh words.  But Jane is nonplussed, she had no idea that during their mutual acid trip they had reached the end of their marriage.  Then Roger tells her what she had said under the truth serum of the drug and she had to admit that she knew the marriage was over and had been waiting for Roger to see it too.   While the actual decision to split up was painless, Jane did let Roger know that it would cost him.  All things considered, Roger seems happy to buy his freedom.

The third story of the episode finally plays out.  We again see Don tell Megan that they'll be going away this weekend for a business trip/vacation up to visit a Howard Johnson's not far from the Canadian border.  Megan is not happy - and Don entirely misses this obvious fact - that he is pulling her awar from work away from her responsibilities, because he's the boss/husband and what he says goes.  It's not 1956 and she doesn't have to jump when he says jump.  Don doesn't see this at all and thinks she should be thrilled that her boss/husband wants to squire her away from the drudgery for a fun weekend.

This awkward domestic scene is simmering with underlying tension.  Don is forcing the happily married man role onto himself and, honestly, he doesn't wear it well.  He seems creepy and controlling and says the wrong thing at every turn.  He thinks Megan should be thrilled that one of the perks of being married to the boss is getting to play hooky whenever he wants.  But she takes her job seriously unlike Don who is just phoning it in these days.   She feels a responsibility to her team, to the client and Don treats her like a silly child.

His controlling and demanding ways continue.  Not only did she have to leave work and have to come on this trip (where all of a sudden it's too far for her to at least get to visit with her parents) she has to be excited.   She has to order the orange sherbet because he wants her to experience it for the first time.  Despite telling Dale that she "likes everything" when he offers to give them a taste of everything on the menu, one thing that Megan Calvet Draper does not like is orange sherbet.  It's not the orange sherbet per se (though she complains it tastes like perfume, I think no sane person would actually not like orange sherbet) it's what it represents.  Don literally and figuratively forcing what he wants down her throat.  So she fights back, taking a quick bite than shaking her head, pushing away the neon orange dessert out as a rejection of all the ways he's been controlling her all day.

Or at least that's how Don chooses to interpret the simple fact that she doesn't like the artificially colored, artificially flavored frozen dessert.  Megan is not simply stating an opinion, she is embarrassing him.  This and the whole day is her fault.  She didn't speak up about not wanting to leave (which she did try to do but he wouldn't listen).  She didn't appreciate that he wanted to show her a good time (ignoring that what she wanted to do was stay at work and support Peggy).  She didn't enjoy their trip to Howard Johnson's and the orange carpet treatment (which considering she lives in Manhattan and is used to the best, this kitschy getaway is not exactly a treat).  She didn't gladly forget her plans and responsibilities and drop them because he husband told her to.  What a bitch.

So they do what couples do when they're not capable of sound thought and consideration, they lash out at each other.  He says something and she says something and we have hurt feelings for two.  Don storms out of the restaurant and demands Megan get in the car and she's tired of all his demands so she refuses.  He doesn't understand how she feels like he is always telling her what to do and she doesn't understand how he thinks that she wants what he wants and they're yelling at each other but not hearing each other.  In a fit of pique, Don drives off leaving Megan behind.  He eventually comes to his senses and goes back for her, but it's too late.  She's not there.

He waits there for hours, but no sign of Megan.  He calls Peggy (we saw her end of the conversation earlier and now can put it into perspective) and he calls Megan's mother Marie, but no one has heard from her.  He finally decides to drive home and along the way he thinks back to another time in the car with Megan, this time after their trip to California with the kids - the trip where he proposed.  It was a happier time and only a year ago.  How did things turn so bad so fast?

Don gets home and is momentarily relieved to find the door is chained from the inside.  Megan is home.  But jsut as quickly he is furious.  He demands to be let in, she yells at him to stay out.  He kicks in the door, they fight and scream and it's ugly.  It's just a sadly typical domestic battle pitting two people who said I do and I will and made promises to each other now almost literally at each other's throats.  How could he leave her there, how could she not let him know she was all right?  She was scared and alone and abandoned, he was scared and alone and thought she was dead.  How did it escalate so quickly, how is it this bad?

Lying on the floor of their apartment, physically and emotionally spent, Megan speaks some hard truths about their marriage:  "Every time we fight, it just diminishes us a little bit."  You can make up, you can apologize, you can even try to forget, but each of these little battles is like a small explosion underground beneath a skyscraper, damaging the foundation little by little until the whole thing comes crumbling down.  They will carry the scars of this fight and it will lessen their bond and there are only so many of these they can withstand before the marriage comes crumbling down.

Don pulls Megan to him; clutching her tight he reveals his great fear.  He thought he had lost her.  She is important to him and he doesn't want to lost her again.  And so they clean themselves up and go back into the office, the gorgeous power couple, and he smiles his beaming smile at her and she returns it, but there is still a few watts short of the usual amount of light comes back his way.

As Don deals with the reality that his marriage is not as happy as he had hoped he also hears from Bert Cooper that his new marriage is interfering with his work.  Don may think he's blissfully in love and that everyone is joining him on this extended honeymoon, but the reality couldn't be farther from that.  As he has to face the fact that he is out of step with everyone around him, Don sees one final example.  The previously miserable Roger Sterling comes in with a big smile and a big announcement.  "It's going to be a beautiful day."


Abe:  You want to take me to work with you and stick me in a drawer and open it whenever you get bored.

Stan:  All I can think of is I'll never be able to draw as well as a photograph.

Raymond:  Stop writing down what I asked for and try to figure out what I want.

Raymond:  I'm not a word person like you people.
Peggy:  Sure, you are.  And your words are always "I don't like it." And I think you're right.
We don't understand you. Because you do like it. I think you just like fighting.

Peggy:  It's young and it's beautiful.  And no one else is gonna figure out how to say that about beans.

 Pete:  You're off the business.
Peggy:  What'd he say?
Pete:  He said you're off the business.

Bert:  Everyone has somewhere to go today.

Peggy:  She's not going to make it out there on her own.

Ginsberg:  Actually, I'm from Mars.  It's fine if you don't believe me, but that's where I'm from.  I'm a full-blooded Martian.

Peggy:  Are there others like you?
Ginsberg:  I don't know.  I haven't been able to find any.

Roger:  So how about a completely debauched and unnecessary fact-finding boondoggle to the flagship in Plattsburgh, New York? Just an hour from scenic Lake Placid.
Don: Are you kidding me?
Roger:  Did you ever hear the one about the farmer's daughter? This is where it all takes place.
Don:  No.
Roger: Don, come on. Alone, I'm an escapee from some expensive mental institution. But the two of us, we're a couple of rich, handsome perverts.

Professor:  Your mistake is that you're assuming that because something is true that it's good.

Catherine (Psychiatrist):  This is an experience of self-fulfilling prophecy.  You have to enter into it with a spirit of optimism.  It's like a boat trip.  You don't cast off thinking about sinking.

Roger:  Well, Dr. Leary, I find your product boring.

Roger:  You're beautiful.
Jane:  You always say that.  It's all you ever say.

Professor:  All absence is death if we let ourselves know it.
Jane:  I feel like that when Roger goes to work.

Jane: You don't like me.
Roger:  I did.  I really did.

Jane: Are you leaving me?
Roger. No.  We're leaving each other just like you said.

Don:  It was a fight.  It's over.
Megan:  No.  Every time we fight, it just diminishes us a little bit.

Bert:  It's amazing things are going as well as they are with as little as you are doing.
Don:  That's none of your business.
Bert:  This is my business.


Peggy tells Abe that Don gave her that pack of violet candy.  Back in Season One, Bobby asked Don what his father was like and he mentioned the violet candies his father fancied.

Peggy has come a long way from Episode 3.03's "I'm Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some marijuana."  She is channeling Don more and more, from her emotive presentation to her combative reaction to a client's disapproval.  She is struggling with what it means to be a woman working in a man's world and she doesn't have any role models.

"Born Free" was based on the true life story of a couple who raised a lion cub after having shot and killed her mother and eventually helped successfully reintroduce her into the wild.  "The Naked Prey" was also set in Africa and is an "inspired by true story" wilderness adventure.

The first song playing during the acid trip is The Beach Boys' "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times."  The lyrics fit Roger too well.  "Each time things start to happen again, I think I got something good goin' for myself but what goes wrong."  The second song is "I Should Not Be Seeing You" by Connie Conway.  I should not want to be around you, nor should you want to be around me, the singer croons.  The lyrics tell of a couple who should not be together despite their love, "If you knew how blue, how lonely I've come to be, you'd do your upmost to destroy that feeling for me."

Don comes to Roger in his LSD enlightenment and tells him "You are okay."  That is what Don says in the first episode, during the Lucky Strike pitch, and it stuck with Roger all these years later.

How long would Roger and Jane's marriage have lasted had Roger gone away with Don this weekend instead of going to the dinner party with Jane's therapist?

In Don's mini flashback, he was whistling "I Want to Hold Your Hand."

Spoilers!  Don't read until you're caught up!

Stan has doubts about his artistic talents later in the series and it is a photographer who makes him question himself.  He tries his hand at photography only to be told he's not that special.

Peggy and Abe seemed well suited for each other and perhaps they were, but he still could not handle playing second fiddle to her career.  In his mind, she was more in love with work than she ever could be with her.  But Peggy eventually did find love - at work - with Stan.

Ginsberg's mental health problems are again hinted at pretty strongly, still his complete break in Season 7 was a surprise.  Still, with this backstory, it is quite understandable that a young man would take an absurd, horrific reality and try to turn it into something that make sense no matter how bizarre.

Don whistled some Beatles in his flashback but never does come around to enjoy the music of the lads from Liverpool.

Megan was right, this and later fights continued to chip away at their marriage until the whole thing crumbled.  Rather than an explosive denouement, however, the marriage finally ended with more of a whimper as the two came to a mutual understanding that the love was gone.  Don could not be faithful and could not stop searching elsewhere for love and validation.  Megan did not want to be just someone's wife and wanted to pursue her own passions and interests.  They were doomed from the start of that rash decision to marry

She says to Don, "You care more what some truck stop waitress thinks than what I say."  As fans, and some detractors, of Season 7B will say, Don pays too much attention to what one waitress thinks.  That woman sparks the journey that takes Don across the country and through a zen-like rebirth that culminates in him finally finding happiness in, of all places, being an adman.

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