Season 7 Episode 7 – Waterloo

I have longed to see the Calvets again, but I guess it will never happen. I loved their perversity; Americans could never be so charmingly sadistic; only the French and Italians can. Until Bert’s sudden death, I think only a visit from Marie Calvet could have jarred Roger out of his stupor.

Speaking of the French, I didn’t get the Napoleon / Waterloo allusions?  Bert says, referring to Don,  that no one is to come back from leave /exile.  Napoleon tried, and, after his defeat at Waterloo, he was exiled again, but much further away.  So, since Don has successfully returned from exile, does that make him greater than Napoleon? Or, to use Bert’s characterization of Don, is Don just a bigger “pain in the ass” than Napoleon was?  I would answer definitely no to both counts, not even close.   So, what’s the point here?

But, what of Don and Megan?  What went wrong?  Was it the generation gap?  Was the menage a trois not to his liking?  When all is said and done, were Megan’s teeth just too big? I just didn’t get it.

All in all, though, it was a very satisfying episode, wasn’t it?  Most everyone at SC &P are happy, except for Lou and Harry.   Lou, the hired gun, better pack up his tobacco resume and go in search of the Marlboro Man.  And Harry, just when he seemed to be maturing, got greedy again, and lost the partnership.  Oh, Harry, Harry, don’t you know the best things in life are free.

I hear that people are saying that Don finally performed a magnanimous act by letting Peggy do the presentation.  I heartily disagree with this.  Didn’t he rescue Peggy from the hospital?  Didn’t he pick up Joan when she was down?  Don is a weak man, but he is a straight shooter.  He never takes any pleasure from putting down people or the misfortunes of others.  And, in this case, I don’t think it was so magnanimous really. Remember, he introduced Peggy at the meeting, showing that he was in charge.  Furthermore, look at how naive he is; he really thought those people were going to give him a fair chance.

I guess Joan, unlike Pete and Harry, never believed in Don’s genius.  It’s too bad.  In the end, she was rewarded despite herself.

Jim had a vision of the future of advertising.  But money has a way of changing the way people look at things.

I thought Pete was going to lunge at Ted at the partners’ meeting. After the moping and the suicidal plane trip, Pete had had enough.  But, Don helped Ted see the light.  So, Pete and Ted’s not-so-excellent California adventure has come to an end, and we will have to wait a year to see the conclusion of the saga.  I will say that I will be surprised and disappointed with Don if Freddy Rumsen is not brought back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Season 7 Episode 6 – The Strategy

Jim chastises Roger as he, Roger, is leaving.

“Stop thinking about Don, and start thinking about the company!”

This is amusing because everyone, especially Jim, is thinking about Don.  (Well, maybe not Stan.)  Some folks are strategizing about how to get rid of him, and some are strategizing about how to keep him, and just about everyone has a strategy for getting what they want.  (Well, maybe not Stan.)

Lou, Mad Men’s malevolent Ozzie Nelson, is discovering that Don has friends he had not suspected.  Pete arranges for Don to be a pitchman, which could be a giant step for him.

Peggy’s rage melts away in Don’s aura.  She is transformed into an acolyte once more, as her self-doubt overwhelms her.  She is good, good enough to know when something is missing; but her apprenticeship is still not over.   She finds shelter in Don’s arms; he is pater once more.  Lou has lost her.

When Jim said to Harry, ” You are the most dishonest person I’ve ever met,” I thought he was unhappy with him.  But his support of him for a partnership showed me that I was mistaken.  But, little does Jim know that it was Harry who tipped off Don about Philip Morris. Jim has inadvertently helped the pro-Don cause.

With Pete and Harry rallying ’round Don, and Peggy acknowledging her need for Don, and with Bob Benson off to Detroit (Finally!), Lou and Jim will find themselves outnumbered and outmaneuvered.  If Don can deliver once again, Bert will welcome back the Prodigal Son.

 

 

 

 

 

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Season 7 Episode 5 – The Runaways

Lou’s hands are dirty.  Literally After hearing Stan’s “smug” remarks from his perch in the bathroom stall, Lou did not use soap to wash his hands when he left the men’s room. It is now clear that he and Jim are actively conspiring to drive Don out of SC&P.  But, what about Bert?  Does he really want those two to drive Don out and consolidate power, or is he sitting back, waiting to see how things play out? He’s a crafty old goat; I’m sure he trusts Don more than Jim and Lou, but Don is too unpredictable, and he definitely doesn’t like that.  In the end, he will back Don if he can emerge from the quicksand he jumped into it, but don’t expect Bert to extend a helping hand.

Betty’s parenting skills haven’t improved a bit, and neither has her ability to see beyond herself.  (Roger should put some LSD in her Kool-Aid.)  How can a one not understand that, in the politically volatile late 1960’s, a politician’s wife cannot publicly disagree with her husband, especially on sensitive issues like the Viet Nam War?  Betty, being able to speak Italian is not a sign of intelligence; morons all over Italy can do it.  Of course, some might think that Henry is being sexist, but I think he has just run out of patience with Betty.

Is Megan becoming a French Canadian Yoko Ono?  Will she now be choosing all of Don’s other lovers? Is she now unhappy with Anna’s ring? Of course she is, because she now knows that Don will never love a woman as much as he loved Anna.  This is why she paid off Stephanie, and why her pimping will be of no avail.

Harry arrives in time to assist in Don’s master parry and thrust.  Don could use Roger’s help, but 1969 may be proving too much for Mr. Sterling.

Where is Michael’s psychotic behavior coming from?  I don’t see this as in-character. He may be flaky, but it’s a grounded sort of flaky.

I am so glad Bob Benson is AWOL.  I guess he served his purpose which, I believe, was to keep Roger away from Joan and kill off Pete’s mother.  No one in the cast seemed to know why he was hanging about, and neither did I.      

 

 

 

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Season 7 Episode 4 – Monolith

 “There’s always a hierarchy.”

 
This is Roger’s response to his daughter Margaret’s idealization of communal life, and, the primary theme of this episode.
 
Communes were the hippie-anarchist dream. They failed for numerous reasons.  First, as Orwell pointed out, everyone may be equal, but some are more equal than others. In addition, a society, regardless of its size, can not sustain itself if people just do what they want.  This was the point of Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents. People develop neuroses and coping mechanisms, be it gin or philandering.  The alternative is chaos.  So, Margaret may see the flaws and hypocrisy in her parents’ lives, but, she will discover that paradise is unearthly, and the monolith of rules and hierarchy is pervasive and inescapable.
 
Hierarchy can now be added to the list of Don Draper’s demons.  The partners at SC&P are using it in their attempt to crush him.  By knocking Don down in the hierarchy, they are using humiliation as a means of persecution.  But, humiliation only works if one allows it to, because it is all about ego; the weaker the ego, the more susceptible the prey.  And, it should come as no surprise to us that Don’s ego is fragile.
 
Peggy’s raise is her thirty pieces of silver.  Don was always her mentor, even when, or, if you like, especially when, he was tough on her. Peggy will no longer be mentored; she will now be tormentor. Don may get crucified, but there will not be a third suicide.
 
This season’s most pleasant surprise is Freddy Rumsen.  Can it be that Don instinctively knew where to turn in his hour of need, or was there just no one else? Don believes that he can’t show weakness in front of women; he did once to Rachel Menken, the department store heiress, and that was disastrous.  But, for whatever reason, Freddy is an excellent choice.  He has been through the wringer and survived, the perfect “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” coach. And, he also needs Don to help him get his place back in the hierarchy.
 
In the British crime film The Layer Cake, a crime boss tells Daniel Craig “the facts of life.”  He tells him that you take shit when you’re born, you take shit when you go out into the world, but if you do well, you forget what shit looks like.  The layers of the layer cake are the socio-economic strata of the hierarchy.  Don is now being reminded of what shit looks like, and Freddy, who is tired of taking it, is trying to secure both of them a place far removed from the encroaching cesspool before it is too late. 
 

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Season 7 Episode 3 – Field Trip

Is Don really so gullible, so naive?  Does he believe he is among friends at SC&P?  When I ask myself why he would accept such vague and potentially disastrous terms for his return, it is understandable only if the answer to both questions is yes. The four partners believe that the Don Draper Era is over. He is now a large financial liability. They have turned a problem (Don’s reappearance) into an opportunity (ridding themselves of Don and that liability). Bert and Jim will conspire with Lou to ensure that Don will fail (“There were always people to snatch at one, and it would never occur to them that they were eating one up. They did that without tasting.”). * Roger and Joan will, at first, be resistant, but will sign off, as, deep down, they always knew this was where they were going (“…half lies that were worse, for the hypocritically justifying element of truth in them, than frank whole lies.”). **  Peggy will watch from the sidelines, first, uncaring, then with compassion, and, finally, disgust. Michael Ginsburg will be the only one to express his outrage.

Don Draper has propped them all up at least once.  He orchestrated the coup that became SCDP.  He picked up Joan when she was down, has taken care of and nurtured Peggy. (What has happened to that nice Catholic girl!)  But Don has not chosen wisely; he let Lane, the only other mensch among them, the only one who would have stood up for him, slip into the abyss. Don does not understand men like Bert; “…you’ve got to know about the evil in the world too; otherwise you’ll never have any real power.” ***

Once again, Betty shows that she has the emotional maturity of a fourteen year old girl.   Will Bobby be drawn to women he will never be able to satisfy when he grows up?  It doesn’t look good.  

Is Peggy now blind with rage and stilted with cynicism?  Her Messiah has arrived, but she has lost her faith. 

Bert is a true survivor; such a sordid old bastard.

Oh Joanie, you were nearly my heroine!  

 

*   from The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

**  from Point Counterpoint by Aldous Huxley

*** from The Sailor Who Fell With Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishima

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Season 7 Episode 2 – A Day’s Work

Well, it didn’t take long for Pete to lose his cool, did it?

Peggy is a mess, and Ted looks like his dog just died.  The only paradise is a lost paradise.

When is Don going to realize that Sally just wants him to be honest with her? For that matter, when is Don going to realize anything? Even when things are not going well for him, he has so many options.  Women will fall in his lap, and he will be offered good jobs.

Lou resents the hint of Don’s presence, leading to Dawn’s displacement and, then, a promotion. Kudos for JIm, who gave Joan a promotion without her having to fight for it. When did anyone there ever do anything so thoughtful for her?  And Joan was quite bold promoting Dawn; she knew that no one would approve it and that no one will undo, so she just did it.   Joan is really on a roll this season.

Stan is so detached; I would like to see the next episode from Stan’s point of view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Season 7 Episode 1 – Time Zones

Before I begin, I’d like to apologize to my readers for not writing about the last few episodes of the last season. I guess I didn’t have much worth saying.

It is easy to define oneself by what one does for a living, what one owns, or, generally speaking, the image one presents, but in that we are allowing others to define ourselves, because most of us believe that it is feedback from others, whether it is money, praise, gratitude, etc., that define us as successes or failures. And, it seems, that we need continual reinforcement of this.  The late 1960’s was a time when people were trying to free themselves from this miasma. It was a time when self-help books were more about self-knowledge than self-aggrandizement.   

So, one might think that a perceptive man, such as Don Draper, in desperate need of reassessing his life, would avail himself of such contemporaneous currents, and plunge into this endeavor.  After all, he is a well-grounded man of means,  with a talented and supportive wife.  He has never been satisfied with what he has, never been able to define what more he wants, and, is keenly aware of this.  Yet, he seems to be unwilling to let go, even for a little while.  Why? Is it a fear of reverting to the poverty of his youth? He doesn’t seem to place excessive value on his wealth, like so many noveau riche. Is he afraid to recognize that he can’t be faithful to one woman and be comfortable with that recognition? Is it a recognition of the pointlessness of his profession? Or, is there some deeper existential fear, a deep void he may fall into if he lets go?  If this were a medieval drama or a Dostoyevsky novel, I would attach great significance to his recent assault on the Christian preacher as resistance to humbling himself before God as his problem. I guess we  shall arrive at the reason(s) for his descent into the Slough of Despond as the season progresses.

Like so many of those in the 1960s, Roger Sterling once used drugs as a vehicle of personal epiphany, but, again, like so many of those same individuals, drug use has led him down a different road, one of sloth and degradation. He could not comprehend his daughter’s forgiveness of his flaws, cannot understand Joan’s continual refusal of his advance; she knows that he has not changed. Roger and Don are two weak, arrogant men, with the means to sustain their self-destructive lifestyles.  

Has Peggy Olson hit that wall that is inevitable among upwardly-mobile professionals, a new boss that does not appreciate her work, or does Lou see her as a threat to his position?  With Don on leave and Ted on the West Coast, Peggy is vulnerable.  She has to learn to adapt, or risk a breakdown. And, why hasn’t she sold that building yet?

Only the once-uptight Pete Campbell seems to be mellowing; he no longer seems to care what Ken Cosgrove, or anyone else has. Ken is now the uptight one.

It is great seeing Joan adapt to a new age of opportunity for women.  She was a master (or should I say head mistress) of the old school, and now a top student of the new, without sacrificing any of her femininity. It was also cute seeing her mild, momentary embarrassment when she realized the business professor wanted to barter for information, not sex.  It’s a new world, Joanie!

 

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