Dear Hanna and Julia,
Wow, you guys teased a lot of meaning out of that episode! I confess that this one short-circuited whatever critical faculties I might possess by spilling a cold mug of boredom over my keyboard. Mad Men has a long tradition of zooming out when you’re expecting it to zoom in, bringing in some new character or storyline or milieu right when things seem to be getting interesting with the core characters in whom you have an actual investment. I’m thinking about Don at the Palm Springs sex compound. I’m thinking about Don and the baby-sitter. I’m thinking about Pete at drivers ed. I’m thinking about Betty’s afternoon with the wayward youths on St. Mark’s Place. And now I’m thinking about Don and Di. And Megan and Marie-France. And Peggy and Pima. And Stan and Pima.
I don’t really care about any of these relationships. I care about Don and Megan. And Peggy and Stan. Did we really need, in one of the very last episodes of this series, to bring Di and Pi and the Calvet cavalry into the proceedings? I’m not someone who thinks that this series needs to tie off all of its old loose ends to deliver a satisfying ending. But this was too much new business at so late a date. The most fun I had this episode was trying to figure out what actress was playing Pima. (My wife almost convinced me it was Meredith Vieira.)
I don’t have much to add to your astute reading of Harry’s moral degeneration, Julia, other than to say that the really gross thing is that the shtick he trotted out on Megan probably worked on those less savvy girls he helped “find an agent.” At least Megan turns him down, though not before naively basking in the flattery that has likely convinced an aspiring actress or two to make some calls from Harry’s room upstairs. You can say this for Harry—in a series that has routinely romanticized womanizing, he has consistently done his part to remind viewers how we really ought to view such behavior.
As to Don and Lady Dick Whitman, their final scene together did transport me back to one of my favorite moments in Mad Men history, from Season 2. It’s from the episode in which Don and Bobbie Barrett drunkenly drive themselves into a car wreck, and Don demands that Peggy come and bail him out of jail. Peggy is peeved at having to clean up Don’s mess, but she does her boss’s bidding, and we glimpse in a flashback the reason why. It turns out that when Peggy was in the hospital after giving birth, Don was the only member of Sterling Cooper who visited her, tracking her down after she disappeared from the office. (He is kind of like a private detective.) Don’s message to Peggy is to put the trauma behind her. “This never happened,” he says. “It will shock you how much this never happened.” I’ve always loved that moment, as it was one of the first times we saw Don betray emotion for a woman he wasn’t trying to sleep with, and one of the first indications that he saw promise in Peggy. Of course, his way of showing he cares is by offering her some deeply unhealthy advice—bury your trauma so deep inside you that it simply disappears. Then again, it worked for Don, and, actually, it seems to have worked for Peggy, too. We haven’t heard much about that baby in a while, and she doesn’t seem to be losing sleep over it.
Diana, by contrast, is running from the child she lost (and the one she gave up) but is unwilling to let herself forget either of them. “I don’t want to feel anything else,” she tells Don. He seems to understand that she needs her pain, that Racine isn’t something he can make her forget with a walk through the Sheep Meadow. I suppose that’s some sort of progress. Count me among the skeptics of Don’s latest new beginning, though, even if I am excited to see what furniture he buys.
I promise I’ll have more astute analysis to offer next week when we attend the annual fundraiser at Trudy Campbell’s tennis club in Cos Cob, a mysterious elevator repairman pays a visit to Sterling Cooper & Partners offices, and Don falls for a girl he meets on a bench at Port Authority.
Does red wine cause syphilis?