Mad Men Recap: Valentine's Day, 1969
Last week, we learned that Don Draper is playing Cyrano for disheveled and hapless Freddy, which is why Freddy’s season-opening pitch was a winner. Let’s see what happens to Don, the great ad man and terrible human, in this week’s recap.
If last week’s Don was a blur of activity, this week’s Don is not coping with unemployment at all. He sleeps until noon and then watches old teevee while stuffing Ritz crackers in his facehole. He’s the very definition of desultory.
After depressed teevee watching, we switch over to Depressed Don flipping through magazines and Depressed Don marking his liquor bottles, presumably to easily track how much he is throwing back each day. He’s still not dressed. Also, too, his fancy New York apartment now has cockroaches.
Finally Don is dressed. We think it is nighttime maybe? Instead of looking effortlessly elegant in his suit and skin as always, Don looks visibly uneasy, like he doesn’t know how to get the suitcoat to sit right on his slumped shoulders any more.
He’s dressed because Dawn from the office has dropped by. Don’s need for human contact is visceral. It oozes out of the screen as he tries to get Dawn to take off her coat, stay awhile, have some coffee. It’s 8pm so she isn’t really feeling that. Dawn is the person that is helping Don make it look like he still has a job! She’s the one lying to Megan about Don’s whereabouts and she’s the one giving Don info about what clients are coming in when. She’s also the only person, apparently, mooring Don to the physical world, bringing him coffee supplies and reminding him when the cleaning girl is coming. The second she leaves, he loosens his tie as if he’s worn the suit for a long hard day instead of for 15 minutes.
We’ve never felt so bad for Don ever.
Oh hello, here is Sally Draper at boarding school with her cool smoking friends.
Last time we saw Sally Draper she was having incest sexytime in Lifetime’s “Flowers in the Attic,” so we’re having a bit of trouble shifting back to boarding school Sally.
One of Sally’s schoolmates’ mother has died, and cool smoking teens are planning to go to the funeral, which mostly involves planning how to ditch out of the funeral and go shopping. Cool smoking teens are also jealous of schoolmate with dead mom, because schoolmate now gets to miss school until April. We kind of love Jaded Teen Sally.
Oh, Pete Campbell. You are indeed having sex with the hot lady realtor from last week, but instead of actually having sex with her, you are explaining at her about the Chevy dealership he has signed. Finally he stops talking so he can fuck her on the desk.
Man, as we ease into 1969, Stan’s beard and turtleneck game is tight, while Michael seems to be regressing into dressing like a grandpa from the early 1950s.
Peggy is trying her damnedest to get Stan to work on something late for her tonight, but tonight happens to be Valentine’s Day, which Peggy hasn’t remembered because she is the New Workaholic in the office now that there is no Don and also too she was completely thrown over by Ted. Ted is a fucker. Michael is a little bitch about the whole thing and says that Peggy does have Valentine’s Day marked on the calendar with a note that reminds her to masturbate gloomily. Michael, if we recall correctly you are not one to throw shade on anyone’s love life or lack thereof.
Upon getting up to the office, Peggy does have a big bouquet of flowers waiting for her on her secretary’s desk. Now we are in for some sort of comedy of errors, as the flowers, which are cardless, clearly actually BELONG TO THE SECRETARY but Peggy is convinced it is some sort of 11-dimension chess thing that Ted is doing, so she calls his secretary to tell Ted to screw off, but she can’t actually tell the secretary to tell Ted this, so she speaks in some complicated code about the client not wanting any more pitches blah blah blah. This just makes Ted’s secretary concerned that an actual client has been lost. Peggy sits down and glares at the flowers triumphantly.
Roger is trying to make conversation with Lou, the anti-Don, while Lou thumbs through the paper. Looks like ad giant Ogilvy signed Hershey after the disastrous season-ending Hershey pitch Don did last season. Roger just walks away.
Sullen Teen Brigade is on the train to go home from the funeral aka New York City shopping trip, but Sally has left her purse back at the coffee shop or the head shop or somewhere, so she bounces and is going to take a later train. Why do we feel either like something is going to go horribly awry or like this is something Sally planned all along?
Peggy’s secretary, Shirley, is dishing to Dawn about how Peggy straight up stoled her Valentine’s flowers. She’s hell bent on going and getting them back, but Dawn reminds her that it might not be worth the trouble. Their job is to keep pretending, says Dawn, the woman who works for a man who isn’t actually working there but still hasn’t told his wife.
Speaking of that man, Don is taking Dave Wooster, ad man from a rival ad agency, out to lunch. Dude calls Don on his BS right away, saying that he doesn’t know what the truth is, doesn’t really care, but has heard that Don is maybe just dabbling in the LA office and also too everyone knows about the Hershey’s meltdown and that Don has been essentially cut loose. It isn’t surprising that this is getting around. What’s more surprising is that Don is courting disaster by taking lunch meetings with people that know full well the great Don Draper does not make time for things like lunch meetings. Is Don job-hunting? Is Don just melting down more?
Ohhhhh no. The Sally Slipaway was to go to Don’s office to see him, except that Don, of course, is not there and hasn’t been for months.
We thought Sally wasn’t talking to Don anyway after catching him bedding the neighbor last season. She goes to the office that was formerly occupied by Don, and that’s now occupied by the anti-Don, who is as unhelpful and condescending as can be, telling Sally that Don is probably at home or maybe she should just go talk to Joan or something. Honestly, our solution to almost any problem in the world would be to talk to Joan, but Joan isn’t there.
Don, meanwhile, is drinking his lunch with Dave Wooster when Jim Hobart, yet another ad man, shows up and asks if Don is taking lunches now, which we wish was a way we still talked about getting jobs. Don says he’s just looking for love, and Hobart tells him he and all his agency partners would love to love Don. Hobart ostentatiously picks up the check because he’s a smarmy dick. It doesn’t impress Don.
The Peggy Flower Saga continues apace, with Peggy now giving Shirley back her own flowers so that Peggy doesn’t have to glare at them all day. We’re pretty glad Shirley didn’t have to go ask for them back, because that wouldn’t have gone well.
East Coast West Coast bicoastal conference call time, y’all! Pete and Ted in sunny California have phoned up the New York Denizens of Winter and Pete is telling an interminable story about how he wooed the Chevy dealership people. New York is audibly irritated at the length of the story. Conference call technology is in its infancy in 1969, apparently, so there ends up being a pile of awkward where New York can’t here California, but California sure as hell can hear New York, and Jim has some very different ideas about how to handle the whole Chevy shebang, most of which involve looping Detroit back in, which Pete does not want because Detroit equals Bob Benson. Thanks to the phone meltdown, this ends unresolved but with everyone equally unhappy.
Don gets home to find his very own sullen teen awaiting him and asking him where he’s been. He’s been at the office, of course, he tells her with equal measures breeze, lying, and irritability. Oh wait, he left early. Also, too, where is her mother, he wants to know. Sally doesn’t call him out on the fact that she went to his office and he no longer even has an office. She just asks him for train fare home, but Don decides he’s going to drive her back instead.
Anti-Don is very very mad that Sally had the goddamn gall to show up and ask for her father, so he yells at Dawn about it. Anti-Don is literally the worst person that has ever been on this show. Our hatred for him is a palpable living thing. Dawn promptly calls Don to give him a heads up, so now Don knows Sally is lying, and Sally knows Don is lying and everything is a mess, so why not take a long drive together?
Anti-Don wants both Joan and Dawn in his office right this very second so that he can yell about how time-consuming it is that he has to share Dawn with a person that does not actually work there. Dude, you had to talk to Don’s kid for approximately 90 seconds. How was this that much of a time suck? He’s throwing a temper tantrum about how he wants his own secretary. He’s such a pinched and angry little man.
Dawn tries to point out that the only reason she wasn’t there to guard him from the menace of Sally Draper was that she was out buying his wife a Valentine’s Day present because he forgot. This does not stop him from being a dick, because he is unstoppable. Wait, did he just fire her entirely? Joan isn’t going to let that happen, right? RIGHT?
We’re not going to find out right now, because it is time for another transcontinental phone call, this time with Roger and Pete only. Roger’s calling to tell Pete that they’re going to loop Detroit Chevy in on the deal with the California Chevy dealers and also too Bob Benson, and Pete immediately starts in on how he needs to go to Detroit to redeem himself something something. Roger just hangs up on him, which we think is totally appropriate. Then he stomps into Ted’s office, bottle in hand, to whine about how it isn’t fair, because he is bringing in accounts but it doesn’t matter and no one knows he exists. Ted barely looks up at him and tells him to just cash the checks because they will all die one day. Pete whines about how what Ted is supposed to say is that they should just start their own agency. Then he stomps back out.
Dawn is being replaced as Anti-Don’s secretary by the blond girl that is almost painfully stupid, and Dawn has to go be the receptionist now. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING US? Dawn doesn’t even get to box up her stuff. Also, blond girl does that baby talk thing that is the worst thing on earth.
She should get along with Anti-Don quite well.
We’d forgotten all about the impending awkward brittleness of the Don-Sally car ride, but here it is in all its glory. Don is quizzing Sally about whether she really lost her purse, since he knows she came to the office, and he finds her story suspicious. Uh-oh. She tells him that she went to his office and someone else was IN HIS OFFICE. Don does classic Don and just deflects that, demanding to know why she was in the city. Don, you’re just so busted. She even straight up asks if he lost his job. He wants to know why she didn’t just call him out on it right away and tells her she was just laying in wait like her mother. Where is Betty these days anyway? Sally reminds her that it wasn’t actually a super fun time to go to his apartment where she might have run into the lady Don was fucking. Yeah, that.
Peggy is laying on her office couch smoking and drinking.
Christ, but we wish it was still the 1960s, work-wise. Ted is trying to call her because he’s genuinely wondering what the hell client they lost, but Peggy refuses to talk to him and goes out to Shirley and now wants Shirley to throw the flowers away, as she is still certain they are cursed with Ted’s intentions. Peggy is about to make off with them and now Shirley has to explain that they are really her flowers and Peggy yells at Shirley and tells her to grow up. Peggy, you are the one that needs growing right now. We do not love this new extremely curt emotionally labile Peggy. Please return to being stoic and overachieving please.
Oh hey, you know what we forgot? We forgot that Bert Cooper is a fucking racist! And he is not happy that Dawn is out front, because people can now see that she is blackity black and a blackity black person is working there and they can see it FROM THE OUTSIDE. Joan sagely asks him if he’d like her to fire Dawn based on the color of her skin. Joan, we never stop loving you, ever. No, he just wants her to rearrange the rearrangement. Fuck you, Bert.
Pete has went and found his hot blond girlfriend, ostensibly to whisk her away for sexytime, but really more to whine about how no one recognizes how great he is. She tells him a lengthy story about a house she sold once that then burned down. He fails to see the point, and so do we, until she tells him that she’s in sales too, and what they both love is the thrill and the risk. We’re not sure we buy that where Pete is concerned. Pete loves Pete and that might be the alpha and the omega of it all.
Don is prolonging the Sally-related agony, having now stopped at a diner to eat. Sally is refusing to eat, so he’s just sitting there making small talk about school and popping fries into his mouth. Then he comes clean. He tells her he isn’t working because he said the wrong things to the wrong people at the wrong time, because he told the truth about himself, but it wasn’t the right time, and he was ashamed. Seeing Don be that nakedly honest with his child — Don, a person who is almost congenitally designed to lie, to smooth, to sell — is almost physically dismaying. Sally asks why he doesn’t just go stay with Megan, and he tells her he needs to be in New York to fix things.
Oh Christ Peggy and the flowers part eleventy. Now Peggy does not want Shirley as her secretary because “there was an incident.” It’s the Peggy version of “mistakes were made.” But Peggy also does not want Moira and she does not want Meredith and Joan can’t put Shirley or Dawn out front because Bert is a racist fucker.
Joan has just reached peak dismay when Jim comes in to chat Avon, and Jim has only just now realized that Joan not only does her job but also manages personnel. Jim tells her there’s an office upstairs for her if she wants it, but it is an account man’s office. Go for it, Joan.
Don and Sally have sailed right into civility and something almost resembling humor and kindness, as Don tries to convince her that they should dine and dash. Don, that was almost a joke like a real dad!
Yessss, Joan is moving on up to account land! Roger is less than happy about it, but we are thrilled. Jim and Roger have a tense moment in the elevator about it.
We see Dawn go into Joan’s old office and if this means Dawn is the new head of personnel while Joan has moved upstairs to accounts, we are the happiest bloggers in the whole USA, but we don’t think that’s quite going to get cleared up yet this episode.
Don arrives at Sally’s school to drop her off She tells him she loves him as she gets out of the car, and he couldn’t look more perplexed.
Fade out music this episode: The Zombies “This Will Be Our Year” from 1968.
It’s a perfect choice. Equal parts wistful and hopeful, it’s the soundtrack for people on the cusp of big changes in their lives: Don, Sally, Joan, Dawn, and maybe even Peggy. We can dream.
Catch up in the archives: