The Mad Men Project: Week 7

by Colin McGuire. 0 Comments

“Or, in a huge twist, does her quitting make him suddenly believe advertising is trivial? Who knows.”

That was a line emailed to me earlier this week by a friend and it was referencing what Don’s reaction might be, moving forward, to his wife quitting her job to pursue an acting career. He gave me three scenarios and of the three, this is the one I think has the most value. Don never cared about “The Art Of Advertising” per se, anymore than he cared about power and money. Does her departure make him reconsider his career? It falls in line with all of that “the series will end with an old Don, suggesting the entire thing was simply him looking back on his life” talk that was rumored before this season began. Maybe a new, better-husband, better-father approach would be the beginning to such a thing? 

I suppose we’ll see. As for this week, Roger’s quip when Pete picked up his skis was clearly the episode’s winner for best moment. Beth, without any doubt whatsoever, is the single prettiest woman to ever appear on this show and with any luck she’ll stick around for a few more weeks (and this comes from someone who usually never lusts over television personalities, mind you. Cough, Diane Wiest, cough). Peggy put Megan in her place if only for a few minutes and that was a welcome reminder of the reasons as to why I fell in love with this show in the first place (P.S. — is it me, or is anyone else noticing that Megan’s teeth are becoming more and more straight as the season progresses?). Mr. Belding looks like he ate both Lisa and Screech and then put on a moo-moo. And, of course, the show made headlines when it was revealed that somebody paid a quarter of a million dollars to use one of my favorite Beatles songs, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” to wrap the episode. Sure, guys. Keep complaining about salaries, producer credits and contracts. Blowing $250K on two minutes of a pop song sure justifies all that whining, now doesn’t it? 

But as always, enough about me. Let’s see what our board of experts had to say …

Adam Campbell (Blog) – Roger Sterling

“It’s what I’ve always wanted. Sit back and watch the business roll in while you pass the jug with some shmoe from Lutherville, Maryland.” — Roger Sterling

Roger wasn’t much of a prime mover this week, having but a few minutes of screen time (thus making this week’s blog post for some shmoe in Frederick, Maryland, a little less fun). While the “previously on” teaser suggested viewers would be treated to another skirmish in the Roger versus Pete feud, their interaction ended up on the lighter side. But as with almost any “Med Men” scene, it was not lacking in subtext.

Roger summons Pete to his office to present him with a pair of skis, courtesy of Roger O’Hara at the Head ski company. He informs Pete that the client specifically asked for Pete to handle the account, even as they dined with Roger. Naturally, Pete is wary of Roger’s generous handling of this situation, but Roger isn’t being magnanimous so much as being mischievous. It’s clear from the above referenced quote that Roger could care less about this particular client, even if they were the leading ski manufacturer in the U.S. and UK at the time (thank you Wikipedia). From his  non-X-rated adventures at the cancer society ball last week, we know Roger is set on capturing the prestigious accounts, the accounts that will not only fill the coffers of SCDP but wholly restore his importance in the agency. If Pete is occupied with small fish like this, that keeps him out of Roger’s impeccably silver hair. And besides, Roger doesn’t know a damn thing about skis (and we see that Pete, in most comedic fashion, doesn’t either). From a metaphorical standpoint, the skis could also symbolize the downhill descents experienced by Roger and Pete this season (and throughout the series, for that matter).

Roger’s only other scene involves another heart-to-heart with Don (booze in hand, of course) regarding Megan’s exodus from SCDP. Both men are stupefied by youthful Megan’s desire for self-actualization, with child of the Depression Don viewing aspirations as impractical flights of fancy, and Roger unable to relate to them because his vocation was determined by his father. Roger’s theory that Megan is acting out because she wants a baby is dismissed by Don, but not without Roger providing a little comedic irony for the viewer (“Jane wanted a baby, but I thought, why do that to somebody?”). In the end, Roger’s advice for Don is to go home and impose some sort of routine “to keep you both out of trouble,” which is advice that came from Mona’s father, of all people. Not surprisingly, Don tunes out this tenuous piece of advice just like he does the Beatles at the end of the episode.

A random side note: Why weren’t we treated to Roger taking another hit of LSD during the “Tomorrow Never Knows” montage? Would that have been too spot on?

Julie Ciaramella (TwitterBlog) – Megan Draper

“Why shouldn’t she do what she wants? I don’t want her to end up like Betty, or her mother,” Don says of Megan, and with that, Megan says goodbye to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and embarks on a career in acting. After last week’s episode, in which her father accused Megan of giving up on her dreams, it wasn’t too surprising. At the beginning of this episode, we see Megan sneaking around and lying to Don, until a confrontation by Peggy reveals that Megan actually had a callback for a play. It’s touching to see that Megan has a cheerleader in Peggy, who tells her that she’s doing great at SCDP and shouldn’t give up, and that she has talent. We saw her talent last week, when Megan came up with the idea for Heinz. But even though she’s good at copywriting, it’s not what she wants.

Megan says she’s thought of doing something stupid to see if she’ll get fired, but she knows as Don’s wife, it would never happen. After hearing that, Peggy is tough on her, angrily saying, “You know there are people killing to get this job. You’re taking up a spot, and you don’t even want to do it.” Peggy’s view that Megan is “taking up a spot” illustrates some key differences between these two women. To Megan, this is a job that she fell into because of her husband. While she’s finding out that she’s good at it, it’s not giving her the satisfaction she desires from a career. And to Peggy, only people who are driven enough to know this is what they want to do for a living should be there; Megan is just taking up a space that could be given to someone more deserving. Peggy’s words are harsh, but they mark a pivotal moment for Megan: she decides she needs to move forward with her acting career.

Megan hesitates to tell Don, worried about what he might think. She wakes him up in the middle of the night, and while he’s supportive, he also tries to tell her that she has a real talent for advertising. “Sweetheart, sometimes we don’t get to choose where our talents lie,” he says. “What you did with Heinz, it took me years to be able to think that way.” Megan says she never tried as hard at advertising as she did acting, which brings up the question: she’s been successful at advertising, but she doesn’t have an acting career, so shouldn’t that statement be the other way around? Nevertheless, acting has been Megan’s dream since she was a child, and she felt better failing at her audition than she did when she was succeeding with Heinz. Don says she can quit her job the next day, and that there’s no point in her sticking around to train a new person.

We’ve never seen Megan acting, so who knows how good she is. Even if she’s great, does she realize how hard it is to break into the profession? It’s admirable that she’s taking a risk; for someone who’s expressed some self-doubt in the past (see last week’s episode, and how she acted before telling Don her idea for Heinz), it’s a gutsy move. She’s taking charge of her destiny and doing what she wants, but how successful she’ll be is up in the air.

Mark Zeltner (TwitterBlog and Blog) – Don Draper

The older you get the more you realize that happiness is an ephemeral thing. Don Draper’s marriage to his young bride Megan has provided the closest brush with happiness he has experienced since realizing his youthful dream of “indoor plumbing.” Yes, there have been conflicts, but at some point Don seemed to warm to the idea of a beautiful, smart, young, sexy wife and working companion. He saw the happiness he dreamed of curled up in his arms. That is, until his beautiful, smart, young, sexy wife crushed his dream while pursuing her own.

Draper is completely baffled by Megan’s desire to pursue acting rather than continue her career in advertising, either by his side or at another agency. He, of course, relents to her desire because he perceives that is what a good husband would do although he has never demonstrated any ability to be a good husband. But in his ongoing attempt to mock the behavior of less damaged individuals, he tells Megan he would never keep her from her dream. He pretends that he is fine with her dismissal of his chosen career — a career she excelled in much more quickly than he did. He pretends.

The next day, after watching the elevator doors shut on Meghan as she leaves for her official office “goodbye” lunch he suddenly hits the down button, as if he had something else to say to her. But the other elevator opens and Don walks to it only to stare down the open abyss of an elevator shaft. In Matthew Weiner’s carefully constructed world it cannot be a coincidence that the building seen through the window in the background prominently displays the number 666 — the number of the devil. Draper’s descent into a metaphorical hell seems eminent. (By the way, did anyone else have a flashback to the classic “L.A. Law” episode when Rosalind Shays walks into an empty elevator shaft? It proved to be a memorable way of disposing of a character and an actor. Jon Hamm should take note).

Of course, Don’s displeasure with Meghan is displaced and later unloaded on Peggy after she muffs a client pitch for Cream Whip. She is wise enough to know who he is really angry with and calls him on his behavior. But Peggy is a minor annoyance; his main concern is that his dream, the one that seemed within his grasp, is now fading. As Megan trots off to acting class he is left listening to one of the Beatles’ first forays into psychedelia, “Tomorrow Never Knows”. “But listen to the colour of your dreams/It is not leaving/It is not leaving,” they sing. Don yanks the needle off the record in mid-song. He has had enough of the Beatles and dreams for this day.

Tyler Hannah – Pete Campbell

Megan leaving the firm and a corpulent “Mr. Belding” serving up non-diary whipped cream … is this another LSD trip? The Infinite Creator (aka Weiner) suggests in “Lady Lazarus” that those who can get what they want with little to no retribution are the women of “Mad Men” and Weiner himself. “Lady Lazarus” presented the dark and contrarian view of gender roles and the treatment of women in the late 1960s.

Pete knows no more how to ski than he knows how to carry on an affair with an attractive woman. He resembles an ineffectual teenager with a puppy-dog crush than he does a man with a wife and child. When told by his unrequited love interest, Beth, that he cannot see her anymore, he proceeds to throw infantile tantrums. He still seemingly fails to grasp the notion that he has no power over women, nor does he understand that the opposite sex is not livestock that he can rope and corral into doing what he pleases.

This was best evidenced when Beth told Pete that men never cared for what she said — they only watched her mouth move. Her statement was affirmed by Pete’s impish retort “so you don’t like my eyes,” when she attempted to discuss a topic of substance and weight. He will never get what he wants, and he knows this. His reaction, however, is not to strive beyond this adversity — it is to pout and sulk and to lamely toss champagne glasses into hotel room mirrors.

“Why do they always get to decide what happens?” Pete asks Harry Crane of the women in his life, and the response is plainly, “they just do.” Megan has told Don that she no longer wants to be a copywriter and has essentially freed herself from the yoke of husbandly oppression. As Don said goodbye to Megan in the elevator on her last day at SCDP, he changed his mind as the doors closed and was unable to catch another lift down.  The elevator simply was not there as Don peered down the many-storied shaft to the top of the elevator car below.

Though it appeared that the male characters were emasculated by their female counterparts, this was Weiner’s way of presenting the women getting what they want for once. And though the women of “Mad Men” sometimes get what they desire, Weiner proved to us that he always gets what he wants.  When seemingly no one else can get the Beatles, Weiner’s prowess snags “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and the rest of us are merely the Pete Campbells of the world who must suffice with “September in the Rain.”

Cristina Moreno (TwitterTumblrWebsite) – Peggy Olson

This week on “Mad Men,” the Beatles proposed that you (we, they, our collective consciousness) “listen to the color of your dreams.” Those British boys and their late ’60s trippy ways inspired our characters to take some bold steps to find their happiness. Megan leaves Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to fulfill her dreams of acting. Pete loses another bit of his mind and pursues a relationship with the wife of some dude he sees on the train every day. Peggy gets one step closer to her dream (probably) of punching Don in the face by serving him a verbal smackdown. Did anyone else cheer when she told him to shut up?

Peggy’s storyline is strongly tied with Megan’s in this episode, as it has been throughout the season. There’s been some slight resentment on Peggy’s part over the way that Megan has been given preferential treatment and the awkwardness of being senior to the boss’s wife (There’s also the fact that Don apparently expected Peggy to keep tabs on his wife and frankly, how dare he pull that crap?), but she and Megan have developed a great dynamic. Peggy has seen Megan come up with some wonderful ideas, most notably last week’s Heinz pitch, and has gained a lot of respect for her. So when Megan tells Peggy that she’s quitting the firm, Peggy is upset.

As she point out to Don later in the episode, she has spent a lot of time guiding Megan through the ins and outs of this business. Megan has the natural charm and charisma for the job, but Peggy helped lay some of the foundations of Megan’s success at work. Not only will her departure leave more for Peggy and the art department, it’s also a loss on a more personal level. Peggy had an ally in Megan — another person who understood that extra pressure of being a woman in this industry. Joan has most often been Peggy’s counterpart at work, but with Megan, there was a more striking connection.

Ultimately, Peggy may be slightly jealous that Megan has the fearlessness to go after what she really wants. In her discussion with Joan, she realizes that she’s a bit awed by Megan’s ability to be great at everything. She says it without bitterness, but with reverence. Peggy has fought hard to achieve her position in SCDP, but her reaction to Megan’s departure and Stan’s line about them all working their butts off for nothing, makes you wonder if it’s everything she really hoped for.


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