Tuesday, October 14, 2008

'Mad Men' Monday: The Jet Set

Okay, so it's a Mad Men Tuesday instead of Monday . . . because I decided to take a day off with the family. But the extra day certainly gave the show's fans time to ponder the dramatic turns in "The Jet Set." I'm still scratching my head as I have no idea what'll happen next.

Don Draper

In "The Jet Set," Don Draper was literally reaching out for joy:

Joy, the 21-year-old, uninhibited sexpot who had a voice strongly reminiscent of his wife's, who wore a bikini (Don had told Betty she looked "desperate" when she wore one), and who had a rich father who'd apparently be willing to subsidize Don's life as long as he played with Joy, which seemed to consist of skinny dipping, drinking, reading Faulkner and eating food prepared by the help while planning a new escape to an exotic, posh locale.

Joy, the feeling that has eluded him his entire sad, shady life, something that he never thought he deserved whether because of the circumstances surrounding his conception, his infidelities or his identity theft.

After arriving in California for a business trip with Pete Campbell, Don initially chastised Pete for wanting to lounge around at the pool and enjoy the sun, telling Pete that they were there to work. Then hypocritical, talking-out-of-both-sides-of-his-mouth Don was vigorously pursued by a beautiful socialite and ditched Pete on a whim. With no belongings (the airlines lost his luggage), Don hopped into a white convertible with Joy. (This was the only time I've ever felt any degree of sympathy for wormy Pete.)

Don's decision to abandon his work, his responsibilities and his life in order to spend a couple days in a stranger's house, with a strange girl and her odd parents (her father walked into the room where she and Don were naked after having had sex, and called Don "beautiful") was surprising, even though escape has historically been Don's MO. On separate occasions last season, he spontaneously asked Midge, and later Rachel to go away with him, but they both declined. However I thought the season two Don wouldn't have sacrificed the stature, the money and the image he'd crafted at Sterling Cooper on a whim. I also thought he wanted to be a better father to Sally and Bobby than his father -- a violent drunk -- was to him. I was wrong. On both counts.

The final scene -- where Don called someone, identified himself with his given name (Dick Whitman) and arranged to meet with this person -- raised still more questions. Does Don want to reconcile with his past in order to pursue his future, or is that too much to ask of this man who doesn't seem to know what he wants and thinks he deserves nothing?

Sterling Cooper

Are Sterling Cooper's days numbered? Will Roger Sterling's womanizing and subsequent marriage proposal to Don's 20-year-old (!) secretary Jane sink the ad agency as Roger's estranged wife Mona rightfully attempts to extract her financial pound of flesh from her cheating husband?

I found it ironic that Duck Phillips, sadly off the wagon (Does that mean he'll go searching the dog pounds for the family dog he let loose earlier this season?), is the one who's circling the company like a vulture, scheming behind the scenes to slide into the position of president if he secures a 51 percent buyer for the company. (It seemed like something Don might do if Don could get his head out of his rear to see what it is that he has.)
If Sterling Cooper is bought out, Roger and Don's power within the company would be in jeopardy. I wouldn't feel badly to see Roger get his comeuppance from someone, whether it be from Mona -- who he said didn't deserve any money -- or Duck. I don't really care from whence his payback comes. But he, after two near-fatal heart attacks, hasn't learned from his mistakes. Taking up with a woman around his daughter's age? Roger needs a wake-up call because nearly dying didn't do it.

Peggy's New Do, and New Ally

Actually, Peggy Olson's new hairstyle is a direct result of her new alliance with her Sterling Cooper colleague, Kurt, who outed himself over doughnuts in the break room in front of Joan Holloway, Harry Crane, Ken Kosgrove and Sal Romano. Kurt, the only person on the show who seems at ease in his own skin (Think about it; It's true.) took Peggy to a Bob Dylan concert after she said she liked his music. But before they left, as Peggy was lamenting the fact that she didn't know why she always picked the wrong men, Kurt offered to "fix" her. Then he chopped off her hair, giving her a more modern bob.

What do you think is next for Don as he prepares to meet someone as "Dick Whitman?" Think Duck will take over Sterling Cooper? Will Peggy get renewed confidence?

Image credit: AMC.