When You Are Engulfed In Flames
Written by Duana
It’s not a Mad Men reference, it’s a David Sedaris one. But it might well have worked for this week’s episode. When the true sh-t rolls down, you will know a person by the way they weather the storm.
Despite the action-packedness that was this episode, I didn’t feel like it told us a lot that was new about the people we love. Rather it reinforced and reassured us that our assumptions were right, that we were smart enough and knew enough about these people to make the right choices about how we assumed they would behave.
From an uncharacteristic opening with Ken Cosgrove, we’re immediately into the thick of things. Not only is it entirely accurate that Pete would leave his wife’s bedside (okay, her metaphorical bedside. I grew immune to the quaint eccentricities of Mad Men showing us the 60s long ago, but the idea that men are at arm’s length at best when a baby is being born still feels fake to me. I should ask my dad what his deal was upon my birth.), but also that Roger would fake the call to Lee Garner Jr, and that, hilariously, Don doesn’t buy any of his playacting for a second. That’s the reason why, I believe, he let him ‘fly to Raleigh-Durham’ on his own – because he knew well Roger wasn’t going, and Don has enough mercy not to embarrass him. He’ll yell at him for losing the account, sure, but not only is Don generous enough not to make Roger admit his lie, he’s busy as hell making sure his livelihood doesn’t go down the drain.
And isn’t this the Don Draper that we love the most? He’s bound and determined to save the place, even as he knows it’s a potentially failing venture. He does what comes naturally. He fishes with Faye for a personal favour, because even with a woman he respects, he can’t imagine anything, including her career, is more important that his. He pauses, on the phone with Glo-Coat, at charming – only to whip into angry and abusive pretty damn fast when they don’t agree to reconsider. He falls easily into the arms of a delightful young thing, partially, of course, because he loves delightful young things, but more importantly because she shows him she’s impressed, interested, engaged by what he does.
That’s the real secret to Don’s sweet spot, no undue pun intended: You have to love not the trappings of the man, the glamour, the drinks, or even the face – but the heart of him. Which Don sees as his work. I love debate on these kinds of topics, you know, but I firmly believe that what got Megan into his arms had nothing to do with her comforting of Sally, and much, much more with her fascination with the account books, and her gentle reprimands when Don copped to his fourth drink.
It’s worth noting that Faye was held in high esteem until the very minute she didn’t respect him and his job as the most important issues of the day. That’s what got Allison booted, and in fact, in a way, that’s where the rift began between Don and Betty – when she no longer acknowledged that all of her husband’s shortcomings were necessary to being Don Draper. It’s no accident that Megan is young and ambitious (and that she’s from Montreal, a no-doubt shout out to Jessica Pare’s real background) but how long that will hold remains to be seen. What I do bet money is that if Faye finds out, she will have a crisis on her hands of whether to stick to her convictions and walk away, or try to talk herself into forgiving Don or understanding him. Thoughts? Anyone?
One thing, though, is new in Don – and so welcome. His gut instinct is to lash out at Pete – and he does so with such precise venom that an avowed Pete-hater at my house uncharacteristically yelled “Shut up, Don” at the TV. But when he’s wrong, he’s wrong – and Don, like all of us, seems to have judged Pete wrong from the very beginning, because no matter the talks he has in the hospital with the competition, as set up by his Pa-In-Law, he is resolutely there for SCDP – mulling over, with pleasure, the birth of his daughter (Born in 1965? I’m predicting they call her “Kimberly”) but not racing off anywhere but to a hilarious account-poaching-funeral. Don knows Pete’s the best Accounts weapon he has, now that Roger has finally and assuredly put himself out to pasture.
Peggy, on the other hand, is the best creative he’s got, and though Don gave her a pass this week I actually was hoping she’d get a lecture. Because I don’t get it. I really don’t. Please fill me in, but what is there about this guy to get excited about? I fully understand that maybe Peggy’s just sex-drunk and loving it – and hey, if I had had an office door that locked when I was 25…but it doesn’t seem like her to be falling in love. Cynical me thinks it’s partly because this guy better fits the description of amazing, potentially brilliant creative that Peggy’s even giving him a chance. But given that, either by design or by sheer casting error, she’s got far more chemistry with her oafy art-director. I have a lot of trouble seeing why this guy is worth jeopardizing the Playtex account. I know she got through it, but since we didn’t see her spinning the web of amazement Don often does, I think the campaign is only good – not the great SDCP needs.
But since Peggy and Pete so often mirror each other it’s worth nothing that both of them came out rather unscathed and happy this week, and as we hurtle towards the end, I wonder if they’re not the ones we’ll find standing strong among the wreckage – I know you’ve all imagined what Campbell Olson would be like.
Finally, I am not exhausted of Roger and Joan – to say that would be a sacrelige – but it’s another thing entirely to say I’m happy watching them tread the same ground over and over. Joan swears time and again ‘I can’t do this anymore’. There are no words, and Roger has no further resources. No masseuses, no fur gifts. I am ready to take these two any way I can get them, but I really want to see what the next phase of the relationship truly is. Right now it’s only the wounded puppy (going home to lick his wounds with his child bride and his vanity memoirs) and Joan trying her best to erase the memory of them ever having been together. And where’s the fun in that? With just two weeks left, I want to see them turn a corner. I truly don’t care what – but they need to show me who they’re going to be from now on.
A tiny point for those who grew up or babysat in the mid 90’s – I learned via Twitter that Ken Cosgrove’s fiancée was played by Larisa Oleynik. What’s up, Alex Mack? Nobody? OK. Just me then. See you all next week.
Attached – Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss promoting Mad Men at the Cologne Film Festival.
Photos from Friedemann Vogel/Gettyimages.com