May 19, 2018
Mad Men: Desperado
Don Draper still looks dapper in the elevator of his new office building—even if it is an elevator full of strangers, and he’s not quite sure who anyone is, or even who he is supposed to be. Meredith, his office-wife, being an “army brat,” has settled in with fewer problems. She waits like a loyal setter with his coffee so that she can lead him to his new work home, because if he embarrassed himself by getting lost again, it would reflect badly on her. There is nothing left of him at the old SCDP offices. She hands him an envelope with some personal items she gathered—things best not left with movers. These include cash, a Social Security card (in the name of Don Draper), and THE ring. The one that the REAL Don Draper gave to Anna, and Anna bequeathed to Don/Dick, and Don/Dick gave to Megan, who returned it to him when he gave her a million dollars. It’s all a reminder that we’ve somehow come full circle maybe, or maybe it’s a hint that Don Draper was never quite real and one day will vanish, leaving behind his empty suit like in the unacceptable ad campaign for Hawaii.
Don discovers his new office windows don’t open, so those of us who imagined the show would end with him falling out a window or off the terrace he no longer owns are wrong again. Not only is he transitioning (which wasn’t a verb in 1970) at work, but at home too. He’s been staying at the Plaza while the floors are being “done” in his new apartment. Meredith has been on that too, making arrangements and even offering him cut-out pictures from magazines. All he has to do is put himself in the setting he prefers—just like when you Mad Men yourself.
Meantime, over at the not completely empty offices of the now defunct SCDP, Harry’s ginormous IBM computer is being scrap-heaped. Harry unfortunately is not being scrap heaped by the new corporate overlords because, like them, he is terrible and will probably do well there. Roger, who is much less terrible since his consciousness got expanded by LSD, is disappointed not only that Harry will be staying on but that Shirley will be leaving, as he requires the use of at least two secretaries. She wasn’t fired by McCann Ericsson. She simply took another job because some people aren’t comfortable in advertising. Roger, who talks to her like she’s a human being, seems to actually understand this and looks genuinely sorry to see her go. He’s come a long way, baby, since that blackface incident.
Two lady copywritresses come to say hello to Joan, but really they want to steal the “creative” from Peggy and make sure Joan knows they aren’t women’s libbers or anything because even back then heaven forbid anyone thought you were a feminist.
Peggy is still hanging out at empty offices because they thought she was a secretary and don’t have her space set up. She’s not leaving until they do—even if they shut out all the lights and take away the furniture—which they totally will. Ed, a.k.a. the nerdy-cool sexually ambiguous guy, is also hanging out because they are paying him ‘til the end of the week and he can make international phone calls until the phones go dead. Stan is mentioned—but not seen. He’s already at McCann. Just for laughs, Ed shows Peggy a Dow Chemical poster he made with the word “quagmire,” which is funny because the US was stuck in a war over in Vietnam and Dow made chemicals for it and it went on for years and years and tore the country apart, but we can laugh at it in 2015 because irony. Peggy thinks the poster is very uncool because she really likes being paid to be creative in the advertising biz, and despite getting treated like shit because she is a woman, she doesn’t like to even joke that what they do is maybe evil.
Don stops in to see Hobart and Ferg. Hobart is so happy to have purchased Don Draper. Ferg does an imitation of Don, but it’s an imitation of Nixon—and somehow Hobart finds this hysterical, and Don has to go along and sort of attempt a fake laugh. What pains him even more? Hobart makes him say, “I’m Don Draper from McCann-Ericsson.” But it’s not all bad. Don is going to be rewarded with a new account! Miller beer is making a diet brew for the menz who will henceforth be worried about becoming fat just like the ladies. This is advertising’s idea of equality.
Speaking of which, remember those idiots from McCann that Joan and Peggy had to meet with a couple of episodes ago? The really sleazy ones what made Joan say she wanted to “burn” the whole place down? The ones who couldn’t take their eyes off of Joan’s boobies? Guess what! Joan is now supposed to be partnered with one of them on her accounts. They are making conference calls to clients using the latest in speakerphone technology. Dennis—the previously seen sleazebucket—suggests golfing with Barry from Avon, which is awkward because Barry is in a wheelchair, which Dennis would have known if he’d bothered to read Joan’s brief or listen to her when she told him this, but he didn’t because her boobies render him deaf and illiterate.
The next day Joan runs into Don in the elevator. She says enough for Don to know she’s having a rough time, and he offers to “interfere”—maybe like that time he tried to interfere AFTER she had prostituted herself for the good of the company? She says she’ll figure it out. Then she runs into Pete and Ferg in the hallway. Pete suggests Joan sit in on some meeting, but Ferg doesn’t respond, maybe because they end all their meetings with a naked girl jumping out of a cake.
Turns out the joke’s on Don if he thinks he even has the mojo to “interfere” in the new world order. He walks into a meeting where the Miller people will be and expects it to be all like, “Save us, Don Draper, with your pretty word pictures!” But no. There are a thousand other creative directors, including Ted Chaogh. They are all there to listen to a researcher, Bill Philips, who will explain the assignment to them. They must introduce the product to men who drink beer in the heartland and think of “reduced calorie anything” as “feminine.” These men also will only buy one brand of beer, so the idea is to, you know, create a false need for some newfangled thingee—or what all these guys do all the time. Don can’t even listen to this bullshit and gets distracted by a plane flying by the Empire State Building. Does he wish he were on the plane? Sure, but this being the antepenultimate episode ever, we can read in more. Don has flown away before—usually in the westward direction—California or Hawaii. Every good Egyptologist knows west is the direction of the sunset and thus a symbol of the darker realms and death, but also possibly a symbol of rebirth since the sun shows up again in the east every morning. Or maybe, as some fans suspect, Don will get on a plane someday and become DB Cooper—which is RIDICULOUS because (1) Don doesn’t like to put himself in physical danger except possibly from sexually transmitted diseases and/or deranged jealous husbands who maybe carry surgeon’s knives and (2) DB Cooper only asked for $200,000 and Don tips more than that.
In any case, after being distracted by the shiny object in the sky, Don leaves the room seemingly to get a refill of coffee, but it’s a lot like when my Uncle Boris went out for a pack of cigarettes and it took him sixteen years to come home.
Joan’s sucky week is about to get suckier. She complains to Ferg about Dennis. What she wants is to be able to handle her accounts herself, like she did at SCDP. He reminds her that her position has changed, and Dennis is a married man with kids. He can’t work “for a girl.” But Ferg isn’t going to take anything away from Joan. He’ll work with her himself. For a moment, she looks relieved—until she realizes he’ll be expecting to be working VERY closely together. Like so closely his penis might accidentally wind up inside one of her orifices.
Where has Don run off to? First, he shows up as planned to drive Sally back to school, only Betty informs him that Sally left on her own because she’s a very independent girl. The boys aren’t home either. After rubbing his ex-wife’s shoulders for a couple of minutes and realizing this isn’t going to lead to some relaxing afternoon adultery, he leaves.
Later that night, Joan is in bed with Dick, her rich older boyfriend—the real estate developer. Her mom and Roger’s bastard child are away. She doesn’t tell Dick exactly what’s happening at her job, only that she went to the wrong person for help. He tells her to walk away, but she won’t because they still owe her half a million dollars—the amount to buy out her partnership. He says she can either hire a lawyer or “get a guy.”
“What does A GUY do?” Joan asks.
“You get the right guy, he just has to show up!” Dick tells her. This being 1970, maybe they could get Tony Soprano’s father, thus taking everything full circle. And HELLO, did anyone else realize that in both these Matthew Wiener connected shows, the main character is married to a blonde but prefers brunettes as girlfriends? What’s that about?
Don, still driving, takes a turn west toward Pennsylvania, which is not the usual route from wherever Sally lives to New York City. Is he returning to his roots? Nope, he’s going a bit further. Heading toward Cleveland, ghost of Bert Cooper shows up—first as a disembodied voice coming from the radio, then as a passenger sitting beside him and quoting from On The Road—a book they both know Cooper never would have read. Cooper asks Don where he’s going. He mentions Racine, Wisconsin. Cooper replies that Don is going to see “some waitress who doesn’t care” about him. Then, having served his explicatory purpose, the ghost disappears.
Peggy is alone at SCDP. Ed has gone. The lights are out. The phones are turned off—except for one left in a pay booth that we never noticed before. Her secretary calls her on it to tell her her office is ready, but there’s still no furniture. This looks like every horror movie ever, and we can just tell something bad is going to happen to Peggy. There’s even creepy organ music! Psyche! It’s just Roger, the Phantom of the Office, who is literally playing an organ, which happened to be left around, and he accuses her of trying to give him a heart attack—which is probably another fan shout out because haven’t we all been just waiting for Roger’s heart to explode, preferably while he is busy mounting a hooker?
Over at McCann, Ferg has sent Joan candy. Has he not heard that liquor is quicker? Let’s hope she gets that “guy” soon, and that he’s carrying a baseball bat.
Hobart walks into Don’s office, only to find Meredith sitting at his desk cutting out magazine pictures. He mentions that Don has missed two important meetings so he might as well take the rest of the day off. Meredith doesn’t get irony. She tells him she’ll give Don the message. He asks if Don might be on a bender, but she doesn’t think so and tells him Don was supposed to drive his daughter to school. “I’m not concerned,” she says, but then after Hobart walks away, she looks VERY concerned—and maybe the whole ditzy thing has been an act.
Roger and Peggy are now drinking vermouth together in the deserted office space. Roger gives Peggy a painting from the private collection of Bert Cooper. It’s of an “octopus pleasuring a lady.” Peggy doesn’t think it would be appropriate for her new office. Isn’t her job as a copywritress in a male-dominated industry to make the menz feel comfortable? They drink and talk more than they ever have in the previous ten years. Peggy keeps trying to leave—to go to her new office. Roger points out she’s drunk and it’s four in the afternoon. She can’t just show up drunk at 4:00 in the afternoon on her first day! That’d be SO Don Draper, and she really needs to set up her own identity.
Don, meantime, has arrived at a destination—but not his final one. He knocks on a door and a woman who is not Diana answers. He gives the name Bill Philips—the beer researcher—and hands her Philips’ business card, but claims he’s there because a Mrs. Diana Bowers won a prize: an entire refrigerator full of Miller beer. But he can’t just give it to any Mrs. Bowers. Would she happen to know where Diana went off to? She invites him in for tea and to wait for Mr. Bowers, who might know something about the whereabouts of his ex-wife. A dark haired girl—Diana’s living daughter—comes down the steps and says, “If she won something, I should get it.” Don agrees with the sentiment, but doesn’t mention that what Diana actually won was a devoted stalker who would lose interest immediately if she returned his affections.
Joan meets with Hobart to try to make the case for leaving her and her accounts alone. Things go quickly from awful to the worst. At least he doesn’t want to have sexytimes with her. He makes sure to tell her he doesn’t care about her tiny partnership, which he suspects she may have inherited. (Would he be more or less impressed if he knew how she actually got it?) He’s the one who uses the “l” word—that would be “lawyer”—first. She tells him she’ll be perfectly happy to take her half million dollars and be on her way. He tells her he is not going to let some girl tell him how to run his business. Then she goes all feminazi (which wasn’t a word then or now) and brings up the Equal Opportunity Commission and the ACLU and Betty Friedan. He reminds her that he is the great and powerful Hobart, and his ads pay a lot of money to the New York papers. She uses the sarcasm again, “Yes, I’m sure I’ll find it difficult to find a lawyer who wants to embarrass you that deeply.” He tells her he’ll give her 50 cents on the dollar, just like Mr. Potter offered the townsfolk in It’s a Wonderful Life. She isn’t negotiating. This children, might be an example of a quagmire.
Over in Wisconsin, Mr. Bowers comes home and he doesn’t buy the refrigerator thing, and so Don/Dick/Bill changes the conversation—again—and tells him he’s from a collection agency. Bowers doesn’t buy that either, owing to Don’s fancy suit, good grammar and Cadillac. He’s also not the first to come sniffing around looking for Diana. “I lost my daughter to God and my wife to the devil,” the ex-Mr. explains. Also, Don might try looking for some guy named Jesus because he’s the only one that can save Diana.
Peggy is now roller skating in the mostly empty office space because, sure, someone must have left a pair of skates, perhaps on top of the organ with which Roger accompanies her, playing Hi-Lili Hi-Lili Hi-Lo, which has been recorded by many people – but this is the best version.
The next day, Roger actually shows up at the workplace of his corporate overlords. Hobart tells him he will not stand for these hijinks. Don just walked off and hasn’t been seen for days. Roger is all like, “Don will be Don. Ya wanna drop some acid?” Then Hobart mentions “the red head,” whom he hates so much he can’t even say her name, and he talks about “the axe flying.”
Meantime, a hungover Peggy walks into her new digs wearing a miniskirt and sunglasses, with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth. She’s holding the dirty picture, because she is DONE making people comfortable. She sure looks different than she did the first day she started work at whatever the agency was called back then.
Roger goes to tell Joan that she better take the deal, that Hobart is seriously not afraid of her. She finally agrees and takes her son’s framed picture off her desk. She also takes her Rolodex. Now in those olden times the Rolodex was like your modern day email list, so given the non-compete clause, what exactly is she planning on doing with it? Maybe Joan isn’t afraid of Hobart either, and surely this isn’t the end of her character arc?
Don is driving down the road trying to loosen his load. He’s somewhere in that beer belt/heartland that Bill Philips was talking about. But which direction is he going? He stops to pick up a hitchhiker—who happens to look a lot like a younger, bushy-haired, bearded version of Don, or maybe just a younger version of the reverend on The Incredible Kimmy Schmidt. The hitchhiker is going to St. Paul, which is north by northwest of Racine. Given that the road has cornfields growing on either side, I’ll take that as a Hitchcock reference.
Two more episodes to go, and of course the big question on everyone’s mind continues to be: Will we ever see Sally again?