Long Hair Don’t Care
Mad Men Season 7 Episode 10 recap
Well, that’s where Lou Avery has been all this time. I am of two constant minds where these last episodes are concerned. On the one hand, I don’t want to see so many tertiary characters when we have so little time left – I keep crossing my fingers that we’ll get Don and Betty in a room together again, but really, we spend this much time characterizing Joan’s babysitter?
Then, on the other hand, I think this is why I’ve always loved Mad Men – it’s a world of people constantly coming in and out who affect your life marginally or massively given the day. There was a point where Ted Chaough was all Peggy could think about, in a good way and then in a bad one. Now I bet she only remembers when he tries to make eye contact.
Similarly, it’s an excellent lesson that even though Lou Avery climbs up my personal spinal column, a constant reminder that everything is terrible, he can exist somewhere, in a parallel universe, not bothering anyone somehow because not everyone is as relentlessly annoyed as I am. Or say, Peggy.
I still hope Joan casually gets him fired next episode.
But at the risk of being too simplistic – we want different things. This is what was so hard for Don to understand this episode. Chaough just wants to be left alone, and he may achieve that. There’s no ‘then what?’ Roger has never had one, and he and Don both know it. That’s why they’re great partners but never actually kindred. Mathis just wanted a way to get back on his feet. I know that Don knows not everyone is as good at advertising as he is, but I kind of love that he forgot the ‘then what?’ in the Tinkerbell pitch. ‘Say the line, and then wow them with the amazing pitch.’ But Mathis doesn’t have that. He also doesn’t have the geniality that allows him to say the line. It’s not just that Don is handsome – it’s that he, in spite of himself, really likes people.
In fact, it’s a characteristic that defines many of our main characters. Roger, Don, and notably Joan all like people (Peggy and Pete are similar in that they really don’t – only tolerate them for useful purposes). It gets them into trouble.
I knew and I think Joan knew, before she ever said the words ‘little boy’, that this guy was the worst. He kept suspecting she was married, to begin with, and that she was lying in any regard. And he will KEEP THINKING THAT, Joan, because the only guy this obsessed with not being tied down is the one who is packed with baggage. Excuse me while I help the former Mrs. Harris write what is sure to be a fabulous best-selling relationship help book. I think she knows too – because try as I might I can’t remember a second divorce in her life. Was she just gaslighting him to see whether he would turn on her again? Ultimately this is going to be the story. Once upon a time Joan needed someone, financially, and now she doesn’t. But people have a way of wanting to be needed. If they don’t need you (it’s implied), what’s to keep them from sticking around, particularly when they’re as good as Joan?
I get that a real life love affair is something she wants, but this is going to be, as she would say, ‘such a disappointment’. (Also, at the risk of poking holes in the story – you have MONEY, Joan. Get a proper nanny! Give your mom a break!)
Still, disappointments are inevitable around here, and still you never know they’re coming. Peggy demands a performance review – something I would have liked to see get a little more room to breathe – and Don immediately probes her. What more? What next? What else? It’s not that he doesn’t see her accomplishments, but he’s always seen her as himself, just two steps behind. As she gets ever closer he realizes she may know what he doesn’t. So he asks. He’s not actually being a dick in this instance, though he so often is to her; but now he genuinely hopes she’ll say ‘then you and I go off and make something that’s real. Tell a good story’. He’s bereft when she doesn’t.
Bereft too when his house is sold out from underneath him. I’ve never bought that he cares about the place in particular, but he’s the opposite of Joan’s dude – he has so precious little tying him to anywhere that the idea that everything is gone, including his address, is unsettling him.
But that was the point of this episode.
Glen is grown! Glen is thin! Glen is going to Vietnam!
I didn’t mind the Glen scenes, however, I wish they’d played his dialogue at speed-and-a-half. Interesting that his Mrs. Draper fetish prevails, still, and even more interesting that Sally recedes to being a child in her presence. Not the Sally part – I was pointing out the other day what a wise woman I know once said – no matter how old you are, you turn 12 as soon as you’re in your mother’s house. Mine wordlessly wiped mascara off my face with her licked finger yesterday. Thanks Mom. Betty’s always going to turn in the face of someone unexpected who admires her. The show hasn’t said it, and January Jones is beautiful, but maybe, with older children, it happens less these days. We don’t know.
But I didn’t consider what it was like for Sally to watch that. To watch everyone’s gaze just turn away from her when her parents are in the room. I’m sure everyone and their brother has diagnosed Betty with everything under the sun, but as I’ve been saying, Sally’s tantrum at the end of the episode ‘I don’t want to be like you or Mom’ reinforces to me that Betty and Don were more similar than different. They know how to people-please, how to charm them. How to make people want to be in their presence. Even Don’s real estate agent, yelling about how his place ‘reeks of failure’, can’t resist him.
Which is why the truest answer to Don’s endless wondering about what will happen in the future is exactly what he says to Sally. That she’ll be just like him and Betty “but more”. He knows exactly what awaits her, on the bus trip and in the future – lots of opportunity and lots of disappointment. So does Betty – though she might frame it differently. That’s his legacy: that Sally is so much like him. She knows it too – when her parents aren’t around, she is effortlessly the center of attention. So how does he help her use it for good?
Also, I know Don doesn’t care about a 17 year old child …but would he have been more likely to treat her as a ‘child’ if she were blonde?