Dec 16, 2019
Mad Men: Beautiful People Problems
This week on Mad Men, Don has to give up even more of his life, Joan gets a new gentleman caller, and Betty sends a boy off to war—plus, blue polyester suits, travelers checks, and all the 1970s you can handle.
A pert blonde who is not as pretty as Betty but Bettyesque enough for Don to find resistible enters his apartment with a key. She finds Don asleep in his bed—a piece of furniture that escaped the great purge last week—and he is alone. She wakes him up and tells him he has to leave. She’s Melanie the realtor, and she’s showing the apartment. She doesn’t want him “to cross paths” with the hopeful young couple coming over. Getting him up and out, she barely seems to notice what a fine specimen of man-meat he is—maybe because she is a professional, or maybe because she can smell the scent of eau de loser wafting from his alcoholic pores. She is not the only woman we will see doing an important job or aspiring to someday have one in this episode because you’ve come a long way baby.
Speaking of career gals, Joan is in California on business. After a very early wake up call from her mother, she orders breakfast—skim milk, grape fruit half, coffee, and French toast. You go, girl. Joan is not a stick, and she’s not afraid to eat like a person. This is why we love Joan.
Over at the office, Roger tells Don there’s going to be a McCann-sponsored retreat in the Bahamas, and in addition to a performance review, the corporate overlords want some kind of novella-sized vision thing that will give a sense of the company’s plans and aspirations. And since Roger can’t actually do anything other than schmooze, he’s passing the job along to Don. Later, Peggy comes to tell Don he has to “sign off” on the creative for the Peter Pan cookie account, so he follows her to a room where Peggy’s team—Mathis and the guy with the hipster glasses—go over the campaign with him. Don is less than thrilled and makes them immediately change the slogan.
Joan is supposed to be doing something with Lou, who seems to have been exiled to LA, thank goodness, but the secretary tells her he’s out at Hanna Barbara trying to sell the military monkey cartoon that Stan and Mathis made fun of a few episodes back when Lou was in charge. A man walks into the office, and Joan assumes it’s Jim McCloud, the one she and Lou are supposed to be seeing, so she introduces herself. But then Lou comes in with the real McCloud, and it turns out this other guy, Richard, was just looking for his optometrist. But he asks Joan out because he’s “nearsighted but not blind.” Way to meet cute!
And then we finally get to see Sally! Sally is sitting at the kitchen table with Betty. Sally is signing traveler’s checks (an ancient ritual) in preparation for an upcoming teen trip. It must be summer and heaven forbid they should have her around the house for a few weeks before she has to go back to boarding school. Sally is being snarky, but in an almost loving way, and Betty is trying to bond as much as she is capable—which consists of telling her about her own “bad” behavior on a teen trip—something about breaking light bulbs in hotel hallways.
That evening Melanie tells Don she didn’t have much luck selling the apartment because it looks like a “sad person lives here” and “the place reeks of failure.” Ouch.
Joan and Richard wind up in bed together. We learn that he’s a divorced, retired, millionaire developer. He wants to spend more time with her, but she has a job to go back to. She tells him she’s divorced, but purposely doesn’t mention the little one.
Don struggles with what Meredith refers to as the “prognostication.” He goes to talk to Ted Chaough, who is almost unrecognizable behind a ginormous mustache. Did he and Roger have some kind of bet? And if so, who lost? He tells Ted he wants to learn his dreams and visions, but Ted knows these are not the words of a song not yet written, but Don trying to come up with ideas for his stupid assignment, which Ted refused when Roger asked him to do it. Ted admits that someday he’d love to get his hands on a big pharmaceutical account, and Don looks at him like maybe this is the episode that should have been called Is That All There Is?
Then Pete, who now has a full-on combover and looks five years older than last week, starts whining to Don that they have a “peanut butter cookie problem,” and no wonder these people used to drink like fishes and smoke dope. Prozac hadn’t been invented yet, and they had to deal with trivial bullshit like this all the time. Mathis, we are told, lost it in a meeting with the client and used what Pete calls the “f” word. Peggy defends her boys. Don doesn’t want to send in anyone new as that will make them look weak.
Over at the Francis home, Loretta the maid lets in a young man who’s come a-calling. It’s Glen Bishop, all growed up and looking very much like Greg Brady, right down to the huck-a-poo shirt. Sally comes downstairs and warns him that Mary Kay LeTourneau Betty is home. Will this really be the first time they are meeting since she fired Carla for letting him into her home in Tomorrowland? Since Sally is like a sister to him, he’s brought a date and wants to know if she wants to accompany them to Playland—because Playland sounds like Tomorrowland and these episodes are constantly referencing past ones, so keep your browsers open unless you have a really great memory. Betty totally doesn’t recognize Glen and asks to be introduced. “My goodness,” Betty says, “How old are you? Eighteen? Really? Why that’s old enough to…”
He tells her she looks exactly the same. Lucky he didn’t see her in her Fat Betty stage. He’s finished up his freshman year at Purchase. Betty mentions she’s going back to school too! Maybe they could be study buddies? They have more in common than Don and that waitress. Sally is just trying to get money for Playland so they can leave, but Betty is much too distracted. She offers him a beer because what could possibly be inappropriate about that?
When Sally has finally secured the funds and they are about to go, he tells Betty he feels he should say a more formal good-bye because he’s quit school, joined the army, and is shipping out the following week. At which point, Sally interrupts to ask, “Are you fucking stupid?” Betty tells him not to pay attention to “Jane Fonda” and that he’s “obviously grown into a fine young man,” and she really means it too, especially the “fine young” part. Sally runs upstairs in disgust. As Glen and his date start to head out, Betty tells him, “We’ll see you when you get back,” and then because she was using the royal we, she adds, “Sally too.” Later, Sally, realizing she blew her last chance to see Glen possibly forever, calls him. He’s not home. She’s crying, begging his mother to have him call her no matter how late. His mother is crying too, because while not too many middle-class white boys went to fight in Vietnam, the ones who did came back just as screwed up as the poor boys, if they came back at all.
Don is still trying to write about the company’s future when he’s interrupted by Mathis, bearing a gift. Looks like alcohol, but Don doesn’t open it. Mathis needs advice on meeting the clients he insulted. Don tells him the story of that time he pissed off Lee Garner, and when he came to the next meeting, Don opened with, “I can’t believe you had the balls to come back after you embarrassed yourself like that.” He does not actually recommend Mathis do this, but suggests he come up with something to break the tension—but not an apology. Maybe bring a bar of soap and tell them it’s in case he needs to wash his mouth out. But does Mathis take Don’s advice? Nope. He doesn’t use the soap line or come up with anything original. He uses Don’s exact line to Garner, and of course it goes over like Michael Richards at an NAACP fundraiser.
Joan gets a call from Richard, who’s now in New York and wearing some truly horrid light blue polyester suit because the 1970s really was the lost decade of fashion. They meet for dinner, where he notices she seems a tad distracted. She cops to having a four-year-old son and asks, “Does that make a difference?” He says no because he would like to get laid, but once they get to the hotel and she calls home—where a sitter is substituting for her mother and doesn’t want to stay late—Richard admits he is “done” with that part of his life. She tells him he’s a disappointment. He starts yelling about how she’ll be never able to go to the pyramids or anywhere. This is confusing as these are rich people. Have they no boarding schools? Have they no summer camps?
Peggy goes to Don for her performance review because Ted, who has apparently adopted Roger’s work ethic along with the facial hair, has told her to write her own, and she wants some outside recognition damn it! Don, who is still trying to work on his book for the retreat, starts asking her questions about what she wants in the future. She wants to be the first woman head of creative, but then he keeps asking “Then what?” until she says she wants to “create something of lasting value.” And he laughs because they work in an advertising agency. She gets pissed and storms off.
Mathis comes in to speak to Don about getting kicked off the account and how terribly it went with the clients. Don tells him he should have come up with something original. He tells Don that Don gets away with this stuff because he’s handsome but that Don has no character. Don fires him.
Richard comes to the office bearing flowers and apologizes. Joan uses sarcasm on him and admits that in addition to her son she lives with her mother—and has been divorced TWICE. Did we know about marriage number one before? He’s going to move to New York and take a chance on this, so maybe it’ll work out better than if Joan had married Bob Benson just to be married even though, in addition to being gay, Bob Benson’s lover threw Pete’s mother off a boat, although everyone seems to have forgotten that part.
Glen stops by the Francis home. Sally isn’t there, but of course he didn’t really come to see Sally. Betty offers him that beer. Soap opera music plays softly in the background. He says something about having beer “over there.” She says she’s read in the magazines they have all the comforts of home. What magazines were those exactly? Then it gets weird—even given the history of Betty and Glen. He grabs her and tells her he feels “safe” because he knows that she’s his. She pulls away and tells him to stop because she’s married. He implies he joined the army just to impress her, which is a little much even for Betty. Then he admits it was because he flunked out of school and his stepfather was disappointed.
She touches the back of his head and puts his hand on her face. “You’re going to make it. I’m positive,” she tells him. After he leaves, she touches her own hair, maybe recalling the lock of it she once gave him and wondering if he still has it in his treasure chest. Thank you, show, for giving us a parting glance of the warped, crazy, immature, narcissistic Betty we knew and loved! There’s even another scene with her and her boys where she takes a toy gun away from them and holds it for a moment, so we can remember that time she went shooting in her backyard.
Don is out having dinner with Sally and three of her friends who are going on the trip. One of them has aspirations to be a senator, and Don isn’t at all patronizing about that. Another is calling him Don and flirting shamelessly. He’s actually being pretty good under the circumstances, talking to all the girls and especially trying to get Sally’s attention, but Sally is still pissed off by the spectacle. Before she gets on the bus, he takes her aside, and she tells him he’s like Betty. Whenever anyone pays attention to them—and everyone does—they just “ooze.” Don tells her that she’s like them too: that she’s a very beautiful girl but it’s up to her to be more than that. Oh, the problems of those cursed winners of the genetic lottery! Let us all take a moment to pity their fate.
Don comes home to find Melanie with the couple she spoke about earlier. She shoos him into the hallway because they’re signing the papers and heaven forbid he should hex the deal by talking about how this was the scene of his ruined marriage and all that adultery. Melanie tells him next she’ll help him find a new place. We leave Don not in an empty apartment, but in an empty hallway, with the door to what was once his home now closed to him, while Roberta Flak takes us out with The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,a song about falling under beauty’s spell.
Stray thoughts: Mathis, we hardly knew ye! And we’re glad to see you go. God willing, we won’t be seeing Lou or even Ted again, and we can only hope we’re done with Diana and the Calvert clan. We only have four more episodes left and need to find out the fates of those we’re most invested in. So please, show, no more new or minor players, except maybe Sal. I’d love to see Sal again, preferably in a position of authority where he can fire someone.