Who Will Save Don’s Soul?

August 31, 2010 08:00:56 Posted at August 31, 2010 08:00:56
Lainey Posted by Lainey

Written by Duana T

(By popular demand, Duana’s back with her Mad Men recap. She’ll be offering a lot more in the fall, more details to follow later. And, yes, there will be a forum to discuss and debate it all with her. But for now, it’s her analysis of what happened last episode. SPOILER ALERT.)

Thanks for your kind responses to Mad Men last week. Emmy awards derailed this recap by a week but promise we’ll get ‘er up on Monday next time.

Also w/r/t last week – you’d have to have been living under a rock to have missed the widespread fan question: was Sally Draper molested by Grandpa Gene?

I am not a therapist, child or otherwise, nor a clinician or medical…person. But with all those qualifications – I really don’t think Sally was molested. I don’t think the writers wanted us to think that, nor will they reveal it to us later. I’ll stand corrected if I’m wrong but…I’m pretty much willing to bet you a Starbucks card.

Okay. This week! SO much happened, not least of which was one of those parties – like one I went to the other day – where it seems like just a party, and then it has an impact on the rest of your week. Not just because of Don Draper’s truly epic hangover, but because the conversations you have, the moments you have keep resonating over and over, sometimes after you want them to.

This episode, to me, is about who’s losing their edge. Don? Roger? Peggy? All three? Right off the bat, Don’s ego is way out in front of him as he blows off the kid (Remember ‘Jonathan’ from ‘Buffy’? Yay!) and chastises Peggy for not getting along with her coworkers. Don is often such a good boss. I do like how he manages her – hard as hell on the one hand, and really interested in her getting better on the other. It seems like being awesome at the agency is in Don’s blood.

But soon enough we see the creation myth of how Don Draper came to be at Sterling Cooper. This is why this show has me in its clutches. Just when we think we’re caught up, it reminds us how much we don’t know about how the Don/Roger relationship came to be – and about how that wonderful, delicate one between Joan and Roger began, before we saw it twist and change into something else. I wasn’t so interested in this “Roger writes a book” throughline but if it keeps giving us great moments like this – Don Draper as a fur salesman! Joan, happily dropping fur on the ground! – I’ll buy in.

Many, many kudos to the hair and wardrobe people for keeping us on our toes wondering exactly what they did to make Roger and Don look younger – I think it’s just a question of combing differently and judicious use of Brylcreem but it’s fascinating.

So, Roger’s best work, as we heard last week, was finding and nurturing guys like Don. But as we see Don descend into what can only be seen as a desperately depressed bender – in the wake of winning a Cleo, he stole the kid’s tagline, forgot to get his kids, and guys, he slept with Doris. Doris-with-a-nametag!

We wonder if Roger’s best work is behind him. He seems vaguely aware that Don’s genius is to his credit – but it’s not his. And we’re reminded again that while Don once needed Roger desperately, Roger needs him far, far more now. You can’t compare Roger and Don – like yin and yang, black and white – without talking about Red.

Oh Joan. I love you more than ever. I love that even though you’ve so outwardly committed to stupid Greg, your big dumb rapey husband, you can’t make yourself blind to what Roger needs. And, for that matter, what Don needs. She held his hand at the Cleo awards but ultimately, she can only worry about one man’s slow descent into irrelevance. Or two, if you count Greg.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Did anyone catch that kiss between Don and Joan when he won? Am I the only one who thinks it was a little more affectionate than was strictly necessary? Usually I take issue with people who want to pair up any two people on a show – but I have a feeling that kiss wasn’t by accident, exactly. Any bets? Any takers?

I know we should talk about the awesomeness that was Pete Campbell telling Ken exactly how it’s going to be at SCDP but I’m running long already and we haven’t even talked about how amazing Peggy is these days.

Here’s what I love about the Peggy scenario. She is right – but she’s wrong. She shouldn’t have to work with a misogynistic (possibly Klan-sympathizing) ass, but she does. And complaining to your boss is not the way to change the situation. There are plenty of people, particularly women, who want people to play by the rules, who have trouble understanding this even now.

Even though Peggy feels underappreciated, even though she resents Don’s treating her like a not-all-that-useful appendage – he’s right. She’s not going to get anywhere by whining – as the flashbacks with an utterly-determined Don remind us. And though it’s unspoken, he won’t really respect her until she can work with anyone and deliver consistently.

You catch more flies with honey, as Joan, that wise sage, reminds us, and Peggy – well, her naked body is probably considered ‘honey’ to a lot of viewers, right? As well as to Stan Rizzo? You have to go along to get along sometimes, is what Don’s trying to tell her - and you can see her mimic his behavior all over the office: she wants to pass on Don’s brusqueness - be mean and dismissive to the office girls - and she also really wants Clara and Megan to understand that something that didn’t air is by definition not that impressive.

So, after her triumph with stupid Stan, will Peggy be the one to save Don? She’s the one who has shown up at his door twice in the last six episodes. She’s the one who bails him out and makes him look good, even when she doesn’t strictly have to. Will she bring him back into the creative golden-zone then? Or does she have to? I didn’t miss that hug with Kenny and neither did you – maybe Peggy’s not going to need to save her boss in order to save her job, maybe she can swing right past him.

I was obsessed with Melissa Gilbert’s autobiography last week and she wrote about how everyone on set noticed her acting different now that she’d become, you know, a woman. How much of Peggy’s newfound awesomeness is related to Elisabeth Moss’ romantic ups-and-downs? And given that these episodes were probably taped months ago, before the demise of Elisabeth’s suspiciously short marriage – what does that mean Peggy will do next?


Photos from Jason Merritt/Gettyimages.com