Few Answers, More Questions

September 20, 2010 11:43:20 Posted at September 20, 2010 11:43:20
Lainey Posted by Lainey

Written by Duana

Last night's Mad Men immediately rewards me for my...faithful viewership? (Blatant Roger-Joan shipping? Ignorance of Don and Dr. Faye?) ...with a 'previously on' that promises all my favourite stuff will come straight to the forefront. And so it's not like I can say I'm disappointed - because facetime with my favourites is fantastic - even if I now have more questions than I did when I started.

Right off the bat, some questions from last week get a rousing finish. Though we didn't need the pretend-deke of Don pretending he was having a lunch meeting, we drive straight into afternoon delight. Not only have Don and Faye crossed this border, but he's already at the point where he's asking her to cuddle - and she's resisting. Question number one answered - is this going to be a relationship unlike any other we've seen Don have? Obviously. Never before has a woman been able to call the shots with Don like this - even if it's only in bed. But she keeps it on the straight and narrow when he asks about other work she’s doing – not interested in breaking down those barriers yet. Don seems fine with that but his actions speak louder than words when he asks her to stay later than him. Gives her his keys to lock up. Everything he says agrees this can be casual but everything he does begs her to be in his life – have his keys and save him from the dark road he almost went down.

Said road comes roaring back into the office with the unkempt messy-haired-urchin that is Sally Draper, runaway on a train. I could fill a whole recap with emotion and love for this girl. Her instincts are so right – get away from the crazy place she lives, go somewhere she can feel good about herself – but when she arrives, Daddy couldn’t be less happy to see her. And immediately, when they argue in his office, I caught Betty Draper in her face, in her inflection. I don’t know if this is unconscious adoption of January Jones’ mannerisms on Kiernan Shipka’s part or really excellent acting instincts, but when she channels her mother, arguing with Don, he suddenly can’t do anything with her but what he’s always done with her mother – lock her in and walk away.

Her rumpled hair speaks to her rumpled emotional state but she deals with what’s thrown at her. This is the hallmark of the divorced kid. I can deal with anything as long as you still love me and as long as I don’t have to pretend to be happy about it. (Best moment of the episode comes early on, when Peggy snaps at her to stay in the office and Sally barks back “I know!”) Sally unconsciously takes on the air of a sophisticated woman, knowing she has to feign indifference, adulthood, and poise in order to stay in her father’s world. After all, that’s what worked for Mommy for years – it’s only when Mommy started getting angry and mean that Daddy didn’t come home any more.

And it works, for a while. The smile when Don likes her boozy French toast - when she correctly figures out what kind of relationship he and Dr. Faye have – these are the smiles of a kid who’s going rogue to look for answers.
Still light and brimming with life, Sally is incongruous at SDCP and only one other person is such a misfit – our beloved, deceased Ms. Blankenship. I couldn’t shake the feeling, however silly, that Don’s rejection of Sally – his insistence that she go home and leave his world – was an effort to keep his precious daughter from the fate that befalls other women in that office. That Ms. B was once a sexpot battleship now reduced to a comic punchline whom only Bert Cooper remembers as a real person – this seems to be the fate that befalls all the women within these walls. Someday, as Joey predicted, people might talk this way about Joan. And thus, when Sally flies out of Don’s office having rejected Dr. Faye outright, you and I both expected she’d land in the arms of Joan, or maybe, ridiculously, Peggy.

But neither of these can truly comfort her. Instead she runs to Megan, the youngest and least ingrained of all the women in the place, the one who still has some humanity left. True, all the women follow Don and Sally to the door to meet the dragon lady masquerading as her mother, but only Megan can actually get through to Sally, calming her enough to get her back into the clutches of her Ossining prison. It could be an accident – but nothing ever is on this show.

Nor either is Faye’s sudden jump from ill-equipped buddy for Sally to defensive childless career woman. I applaud the idea to investigate yet another sign of the times (this was well before the ‘superwoman’ who did it all and having a career did necessarily mean putting off children, at least until after ‘prime’ childbearing years – Dr. Faye is almost certainly 30) . But since it’s so clearly her issue, and not Don’s – since the last thing he needs is more children complicating his life, after all, I suspect this is not the last we’ve seen of this revelation. So we’ll either be met with another baby Draper by the end of the season , one Don has no interest in claiming, or the pull towards children will pull Faye away from Don. Because nothing ever stays happy for long on TV, or on this show. Right Joan?

Though she’s childless and unable to step into her predicted role as fixer-of-everything where the Sally situation was concerned, Joan’s not dead inside. She and Roger, as I hoped, get right back into step when he tries to comfort her about her suddenly absentee husband. (He, on the other hand, doesn’t even bother to take a call from his in-name-only wife). And all of the massage-and-diner shenanigans are a delight to watch but, like a salsa dance is only a preamble to the main event, watching Roger and Joan banter about the times they had together is just a precursor to the moment where they’re mugged and, of course, have to give up their wedding rings. The only indicators in the moment, the episode, and almost in the season, when we remember these two have legal, binding reasons they can’t be together. Many of you have written over the past few weeks (thank you!) reminding me that Roger never left Mona for Joan, that it’s the hurdle she, if not he, can never get past.

But when I think about Joan, I suspect she never wanted Roger like that. She didn’t want a second-hand husband. It’s only now, when she has one she ‘won’ fair and square, that she realizes she might have been too hasty. And she delights in the moment when they can finally kiss with abandon – in fact, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought they were about to do more than kiss when she begged him not to stop and seemed to fumble with her dress, his pants, something –but the next day, Roger papers over any other indiscretions, calling it ‘just a kiss’.

You and I both know Joanie’s husband isn’t coming back the same as he left. I don’t know if that means in the bottle or in a box, but if Joan’s vows are the only thing keeping her from what really would be a comforting place for her to be (we know Roger’s ties to Jane don’t bind all that tightly) then what happens when she doesn’t have them to adhere to anymore?

The only story that left me flat was Peggy’s would-be suitor writing a manifesto on civil rights in the consumer industry. Why must we continue to plague Peggy with these men? We know – and I firmly believe that so does she – that she’s made a choice with her job that will prevent many, many men from being suitable. Maybe they really are setting up a lesbian bait-and-switch (in which case I really hope that Joyce’s acting gets a little more forceful) but Peggy seamlessly disposes of the man, experiments with incorporating his ideas into her work, and still gets on the elevator feeling good about herself. Which is more than we can say for the conflicted Joan and the suddenly insecure Faye. Conventional drama says that people who have problems are the ones we care about. But we’ve watched Peggy effortlessly throw aside every issue that’s come her way. So what’s next? What will actually trip her up as Don has been tripped, on her path to becoming Don?

See? More questions.

Here’s the increasingly slender Elisabeth Moss at Fashion Week in New York wearing Alice & Olivia. (From Lainey – it’s the same dress I wore on etalk on Friday and posted on Twitter. SO comfortable.)


Photos from Jason Kempin/Gettyimages.com

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