Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 6, Episode Eleven

Well, that episode was kind of a big deal.

And the walls come crashing down!! I wish it hadn’t fallen to Sally to bring Don’s recently-constructed glass house to the ground. She’s been let down so many times by the adults in her life, and I had hoped that her glimpse into Roger and her step-grandmother’s sexual side might be her last inappropriate brush with the secret lives of grown-ups. I can’t imagine her healing from this enormous betrayal by her father who was already way behind on the scorecard. The one thing he had to offer was that he “supports her dreams” but that won’t be enough to soothe the pain of this horrifying discovery. And Don’s pathetic explanation that he was “comforting Sylvia” is never going to fly with Sally. Sally sees the distinction between husband “comforting” his wife and neighbor from upstairs “comforting” other man’s wife.

Watching Don and Sylvia’s conversation, it’s again clear that this relationship was one of Don’s most meaningful. He’s always been more invested in his flings and his friendships than his socially-recognized romantic relationships. Of course Don’s ability to care for anyone only goes so deep. While he has deep feelings for Sylvia, he doesn’t hesitate to take advantage of her gratitude and talks her into bed again.

That Don had to endure the gratitude from Arnold and Mitchell followed by Megan’s adoration and kiss in front of Sally was perfect and I hope he’s developing a really nice ulcer. He’s got enough of a moral compass left that he felt a healthy kick to the gut when he had to suffer through that charade with the added punch of “Sylvia sends her gratitude. She’s overwhelmed.” He deserves far, far worse than that of course for what he’s put all the women in his life through.

Poor Peggy had to endure a few bombs from Pete’s mom, although that first one was a surprising direct hit. I’m always surprised when there’s a mention of Peggy and Pete’s child, but now the child has been alluded to twice in the past few episodes which makes me wonder what’s coming in the final episodes of the season. I enjoyed the easy banter between Peggy, Pete and Ted, and it’s clear that Ted is still trying to battle his feelings for Peggy. I hope I can still root for Ted when all is resolved one way or the other. Peggy and Pete have a nice familiarity with each other that I hope desperately doesn’t end up with Peggy settling for Pete. It would be terrific for Pete to be hitched with Peggy. She’s such a shining star in so many ways, but he’d be terrible for her. That Pete was so repulsed by Bob’s advance was disappointing since I thought Pete was more open-minded and progressive. Hey Pete, a no thanks would have been all that was needed here. With his racist response to the prostitute that his father-in-law was with and his response to Bob’s advance, it’s clear that Pete’s progressive stance has been more about appearances than about seeking to change the status quo. Which is good in one way. It means that my intense dislike of Pete has been justified all along. I would find myself on the Pete Campbell love train from time to time when it seemed that he had more progressive leanings. Now I know it was all about trying to be correctly positioned to take advantage of changes in the business climate and didn’t reflect his own personal views.

I wish Peggy didn’t have to be on rat patrol because Abe talked her into buying a fixer-upper, but I thought her late night phone call to Stan was a nice payoff. I still think those two have such great chemistry: the actors and the characters. I’m rooting for that relationship to gain more focus over the next episodes because I really enjoy watching them.

Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 6, Episode Eight

Another episode filled with flashbacks to Don’s childhood. What’s interesting about Don and his obsession with his less than Norman Rockwell childhood is that he’s so ashamed of it and yet it’s something he had no control over. However, he’s not the slightest bit ashamed of his adultery, his failure as a parent, or the way he manipulates and even bullies those around him to get his way (poor Sylvia) all of which he has complete control over.

That opening scene with Kenny and seeing the way everyone treats him when he comes in the office made me sad because Kenny has always been a favorite. Listen fellas, did you really think Chevy was going to be an easy ride? Give Kenny some love before justifiably freaking out over the timetable.

Crazy Cutler and his crazy drug pusher, I mean doctor….. That certainly gave us some much-needed levity. We don’t get much of that on this show, so you enjoy it when you get it. And of course, you always pay a price for levity, so you’re always on edge waiting for a repeat of something like this.

And when Stan lined up for his William Tell moment, I thought, here we go again. Fortunately it was nothing like the lawnmower scene but instead led to my favorite scene of this episode. I finally got the beginning of what I hope might eventually lead to a Peggy and Stan relationship. That scene was so touching, and the two of them were so sweet and tender. Two adjectives that I wouldn’t associate with either of those characters. After I thought that, I had to laugh because this is ‘Mad Men’ and there are so few characters that I can imagine attributing those adjectives to that I had to go back multiple seasons to find one: Carla.

Fun moments the drugs gave us:

  • Stan and Cutler racing.
  • Stan rapid-firing ideas for Chevy and Ginsberg interrupts him with his and when rejected says, “What, I’ve got nothing interesting to say because I’m not on drugs?” and Stan says, “No, you just flushed a toilet in my head.” Because it is like that when you are on a roll and you are interrupted. You lose your train of thought and you know you’ll never quite get that magic back.
  • Kenny’s amazing tap dance routine. I must have watched that 5 times it was so cool.
  • Crazy, out of control Don who is so earnest but so intense he’s pitiable. And Peggy watching crazy, out of control Don and trying to determine how best to manage him while suspecting that she’s watching him fall apart before her very eyes. It was funny to watch the creative suck-up say to Don with awe that he is as good as they say as he falls for Don’s inspirational speech of no substance, but it certainly drove the point home that Don was making to Kenny about his presence and the “timbre of [his] voice” being as important as the content which made it all the more important for him to be present for the Chevy pitches.

That cough that has been cropping up over the course of the show appears again and again I wonder if this foreshadows a serious sickness for Don?

Speaking of the price paid for levity, it wasn’t an over-the-top gory lawnmower scene this time. This time we got to watch Sally at home trying desperately to control a very scary situation where she understands how vulnerable she is and how ultimately she really has only herself to depend upon. And she has to be responsible not only for herself but her two brothers as well. No .gif for that. And certainly that is far more frightening than that lawnmower scene was. And after that, I respectfully request that there be no more levity because the bill due this time was a little steep. Those scenes were very tough to watch.

As a final word, I must enthusiastically applaud the last line of the episode. “Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse.” Perfection!

Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 6, Episode Seven

Don’s scorecard:

  • Don and Ted – Team Ted for the win! I have liked the idea of Ted even before getting the chance to meet his fully fleshed-out character. Because he had all the pizazz of Don: ideas, charm and tons of swagger. And there was the hope that he could be the counterpoint to Don who wasn’t decaying with increasing speed from within. I think we need a character like Ted to gain focus at this point. Don is heading for an epic crash. It’s the arc that is logical for his character, and anything else wouldn’t feel genuine to me. But if Don’s storyline goes the way it should, I think we need someone that we can champion just to help us deal with the rest of Don’s descent. So, it’s great to see that Ted is proving to be interesting in many ways. He’s an overall good guy in a realistic way. When he gave his seat up to his secretary in the partner’s meeting after Pete came in full of his usual piss and vinegar, it was more about highlighting Pete’s obnoxious behavior than it was gallantry. When he engages the creative team in a rap session on margarine, he knows it’s winning them over by making them feel involved and respected, but he does it because he knows that something good might come from it. You never know where the kernel of a great idea might come from. Ted is just so much more savvy when it comes to people skills. I know, major obvious point on that one. But it is why he will be more successful than Don in the long run. Well, that and the fact that Don is working on turning himself into the most pathetic excuse of a human ever. But Don hasn’t completely devolved yet. And he knows that Ted is a major threat. So he challenges him to the one thing he is pretty sure he can beat him doing. Drinking. He and Roger have been training all their lives for this type of thing, so anyone’s bet would have to be on Don. Which of course turns out to be the right bet. Poor Ted. I loved how Frank  counseled a hungover Ted to let Don tire himself out in the early rounds as Ted would win the bout. It’s no doubt true. Advantage: Ted
  • Don and Peggy –  As ever, Peggy sees through Don and all his machinations. She sees what he’s doing with Ted trying to gain the upper hand. “I hoped he’d rub off on you.” Zinger one and it’s clear where Peggy’s aligned. Peggy knows Don loves having her back under his control instead of competing against him and says as much. Of course, Don would never admit to such a thing but wants to shake her confidence and make her feel insignificant despite the fact that they used to be friends. Though Don’s zinger hurts Peggy, she’s gained confidence now. Her second zinger hits the mark as well and is particularly deadly because he’ll never be able to do so. Her parting shot? “Move forward.” Advantage: Peggy
  • Don and Sylvia – As someone who appreciates good wording, I love how Don fixates on the way people say things. When Sylvia says, “I need you, and nothing else will do,” Don is going to meet her regardless of what is going on at work. I think that line was what jumpstarted all the twisted madness between those two in the hotel room. I feel like Don is continuously trying to make sense of his childhood and this hotel room game was his way of giving his childhood credibility. It’s not sordid if the doctor’s wife is willing to play this game. This is one of Don’s endless loops. His wish to whitewash his childhood and remove all the shame associated with it. As we see at the end of the ep, Sylvia specifically mentioned that she was ashamed and that the whole thing was over. Advantage: Sylvia

That look of admiration Ted shot Peggy when she knew the history about margarine was again telling and goes back to what I was saying earlier about Ted. He’s a good guy but in a realistic way. He clearly has feelings for Peggy. Feelings that he shouldn’t be entertaining since he’s married, but the kiss in the previous episode suggests that Ted’s got himself a set of clay feet like all humans do.

I admit it. Just as I teared up in episode four when they announced that MLK Jr. had been assassinated, I teared up at the end over the Bobby Kennedy assassination, though Pete’s mother’s strange delivery of “They’re shooting everybody,” had me chuckling unwillingly.