Monday, September 28, 2009

'Mad Men' Monday: Seven Twenty Three

*Warning: Spoilers ahead from the recent episode of Mad Men.*

This episode threw me for a loop. When I saw three flash-forwards -- whose mysteries were unveiled by the end of the episode, including one with Don Draper face down in a motel room with blood caked all over his pretty face -- I thought, “What is this, Lost?” Prior to the latest episode, Mad Men hasn’t done flash-forwards, just flashbacks.

I was surprised to see Don, who has spent the last half dozen episodes seeming like he had gotten his act together by being supportive and kind to his wife, soothing his daughter’s fears and cradling his newborn son in awe. However the Don we saw in “Seven Twenty Three” provided a glimpse of the old, pre-thrown-out-of-the-house Don, the one who drove drunk, slept with Bobbie Barrett, who violated Bobbie Barrett as a business negotiating tactic (after she’d done the same to him), and nearly ran off with a pack of jet setters to aimlessly tour the globe to do nothing but eat, drink and have sex. I guess the bad boy, the one who doesn't think he's worth anything, was simply lying dormant beneath the veneer of the all-American success Don. All it took was for the folks at Sterling Cooper to press hard to get him to make him commit to a three-year contract, to “tie” him down and make him, in his estimation, give up his power, and Don’s carefully reconstructed fa├žade collapsed.

He was back drinking and driving. He responded irrationally to Betty’s legitimate questions about his employment status by storming out of the house for the night. He picked up two hitchhikers, took their drugs (when they could’ve been anything) and sat in a cheap motel room watching the couple mess around like a pathetic lost soul after failing to charm the girl, unaware that they were scamming him and planning to steal all his money as soon as he passed out. He started thinking about his father again (during the episode when Gene died, he pulled out an old snapshot of his father) and imagined him telling his son that he was nothing but a worthless bum who was “up to his old tricks” and wondering how a powerful man like Conrad Hilton could be taken in by the lie that is Don Draper.

Don’s discomfort during this episode started when Hilton surprised him by showing up at his office unannounced and then chastising Don for arriving to work at 9:30 and for having neither a Bible nor any personal effects in his office, criticisms to which Don took umbrage, particularly given the fact that Hilton was sitting in Don's chair. That was before Hilton asked Don to work on his New York properties. 

To make matters worse, when Don continued to hedge at the notion of signing a contract with Sterling Cooper, Bert Cooper pulled the “I-know-who-you-really-are-Dick-Whitman” card in order to get him to cooperate, while going into Don’s office early in the morning, like Conrad Hilton, and sitting in Don’s chair waiting for him to arrive. “Would you say that I know something about you, Don?” Cooper asked, indicating he knows he’s not “Don Draper.” “. . . After all, when it comes down to it, who’s really signing this contract anyway?” he asked, stocking the embers of Don’s fear that he doesn’t really belong where he is and that he'll someday be outed.

Meanwhile, Betty’s not altogether comfy with her new detente with Don as evidenced by her coffee shop meeting with Henry Francis, the aide to the governor (the one who flirted with Betty and lasciviously touched her pregnant belly) regarding the water tank project in order to lobby on behalf of the Junior League to put the kibosh on the proposal. She seemed thrilled with her assignment, which gave her an excuse to contact Henry again and be flattered for a while. Dressed to the nines, Betty seemed disappointed when Henry said he could only meet with her for an hour and wasn’t going to take that hike to the reservoir where the water tank was proposed as he’d promised. Was Betty hoping for a sexy afternoon in the woods, possibly leading to another quickie like in the angry one she had in the bar at the end of last season?

The way Betty went out and purchased the fainting couch -- and the location in which she put it -- seemed to indicate she was interested in more than a mere conversation about a local political issue. “That’s the hearth darling, that’s the soul of your home. People gather around a fire even if there isn’t one,” the decorator had told her. What kind of fire was Betty experiencing when she was caressing herself while lying on the sofa Henry said she should have placed where the “soul” of her home is?

Other moments of note:

-- I'd love to hear what folks think about why Don blew up at Peggy, humiliating her by saying she had no right to ask for anything because she was once his secretary. Pete Campbell asked Don if he could work on the Hilton account and Don didn’t humiliate him. A pack of other guys in the office were hovering around Don’s door like eager puppies. What made Peggy’s request any different? “Every time you turn around, you have your hand in my pocket,” he said to the woman who not only used her own money to bail him out of jail following his drunk driving accident, but also nursed Don’s lover back to health. When Don told Peggy to stop asking for things, I could only imagine that he was really talking to Bert Cooper.

-- Peggy and Duck. Who would’ve ever envisioned such a pairing? “I want to take you in that bedroom, lock the door, take your clothes off with my teeth, throw you on the bed and give you a go-round like you’ve never had.” I never imagined I'd hear those words coming out of Duck's mouth. Pete Campbell maybe, or Greg Harris, but not Duck. If Peggy does decide to go work for Duck, will this be seen as her sleeping her way to the top? Is this something she merely see this as a way to stick it in Don’s eye? Or does Peggy have no ulterior motives?

-- Miss Farrell’s behavior surprised me, taking Don to task directly. “Let’s just come right out and ask if I’m going to be around. . . You’re all the same, the drinking, the philandering,” she said after Don inquired about her summer plans, saying that being hit on by her students’ dads, “happens a lot.” Then Don, who’s been so obviously attracted to her, tried to deny that he was hitting on her and took offense to her forthrightness. (Perhaps another reason why he’s been put off by Peggy’s pointedness.) Per Don’s M.O., he turned it around on her and told her not to assume things and that there was nothing happening between them.

-- The eclipse. Everything looks different – dark, dangerous -- on that rare occasion when the moon goes between the sun and the earth and creates a natural spectacle, one at which you're not supposed to look at  directly. But Don looked at it directly, albeit through the shades that have kept his lust for Miss Farrell under cover. Betty also tried to look at it directly, but without any eye protection, however Henry took care of her by shielding her eyes. What does THAT mean?

Your thoughts, responses to “Seven Twenty Three?”

Image credit: Carin Baer/AMC.


Cooley Horner said...

No TV couple has ever challenged me like Pete and Peggy. On the one hand I so deeply want them to be together, but then rational thought steps in and reminds me of what a horrible idea that is. I go back and forth on them, but the scene with the scarves was just great. In so many ways, it's almost like they were high school steadies who broke up and have to awkwardly see each other every day in the halls. That's code for it being awkward, hormonal, and tempestuous. Haha

Meredith said...

I think it'll kill Pete if he finds out that Peggy slept with Duck, even though Pete is already married. I hope that we get to see his reaction.