Mad Men Season 6, Episode 12: I want my juice back.

The last time Don and Peggy ran into each other at the movies, it was the denoument of season 5. They were both alone, seeking some time away from the advertising world, and it was the first time we ever saw them as equals. That feeling of the trust and comfort that comes with a shared past that filled that moment was a(nother) turning point in their relationship, and a treat to watch. Although there was, of course, an elephant in the room and its name was Ted Chihuahua.

This time Ted was right there, on what could only be called a date with Peggy. And for all Don’s dismissive “You’ve been on a soap opera too long” comments to Megan about his lack of interest in the situation, the first thing he does after that encounter is to call off the Juice Armistice.

Ted’s arguments in the meeting when Don gives the “good” news about Sunkist remind me a lot of Don’s own in Season 2, Episode 2, “Flight 1.” That’s the one where Sterling Cooper makes the decision to get rid of small potatoes account Mohawk Airlines in favor of chasing hot ticket American. Don’s paradoxical loyalty when it comes to clients showed that he does have some moral scruples somewhere in there, and he truly felt bad about breaking Mohawk’s trust.

Add that to the mix of his sincere gratitude to Ted for what he did for the Rosens’ son, and the fact that he would have said no to Sunkist just to annoy too-cool-for-the-East-Coast Harry Krane, and we’re left with the knowledge that it would take something pretty huge to trump all that and make him go after Sunkist instead of Ocean Spray the way he did. It’s obviously to do with Ted’s relationship with Peggy, but why? Seth Stevenson at Slate put it well when he asked, “[I]s Don longing for that chaste, spiritual/creative connection he and Peggy used to share and no longer do? Or is watching Peggy cavorting with Ted forcing Don to realize that his feelings are slightly murkier?” I really hope it’s not the latter, because Season 4’s “Suitcase” did such a good job of taking murkier feelings off the table, and Don and Peggy’s relationship has always been so fascinating in part because she’s the one woman (other than Anna, and really, didn’t Suitcase set Peggy up as Anna’s replacement in his life?) that he seems to truly just not see in that way.

Which brings us to that weird argument he has with Ted after St. Joseph’s Fire. In a way it’s exactly what Ted needs to hear. Yeah, they have all been there; their judgement clouded by love/lust/whatever you want to call it. And yeah, cooler heads need to call them out on it so the company doesn’t suffer, but of course it’s more personal than that.

“I know your little girl has beautiful eyes.” (Does he really think that? Why does he call her a little girl?)

“We’ve all been there- well, not with Peggy.” (Is he just clarifying? Or did I catch some disdain in his voice, as if he’s saying Ted’s such a dork that he didn’t even have the sense to put his career on the line for someone hotter?)

I think the answer to Don’s motivations here lie in what he says to Peggy later, that Ted is “not that virtuous. He’s just in love with you.” In implying to Peggy that she only sees so much good in Ted because she’s flattered by his interest, he shows off his own ennui with the whole idea of human relationships and their vulnerability to individual perception.

So, why does Ted and Peggy’s relationship get under Don’s skin the way it does? Does he want Peggy as his own personal pet protege forever? Is he realizing he might want a piece of that after all? Is he jealous that their flirtation growing out of a mutual love for their profession reminds him of what he used to have with Megan? Does he want to save Peggy’s innocence from an entanglement with a married man because he failed to protect his daughter from being scarred by his own personal failings?

Is Kenny’s eye gonna be ok, or what?

And what were the circumstances under which Lee Garner, Jr. made Roger hold his balls?

Until next time,

Jane

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Mad Men Season 6, Episode 11: Screw Men, Get a Cat

First things first. There were a lot of runners-up for Quote of the Night this time around.

5. “I was comforting Mrs. Rosen. She was very upset. It’s very complicated,” was gold if only because it’s so classic Draper. Remember he used to say things like “Mrs. Draper’s working through some things?” when eyebrows raised at the fact that he and Betty weren’t living together? You can’t just cover up things like this with your BS, Don.

4. “Imagine if every time Ginger Rogers jumped in the air, Fred Astaire punched her in the face.” It’s just a great visual. I can’t not giggle.

3. “You were a sour little boy and you’re a sour little man. You’ll always be unloveable.” You tell ‘im, Mrs. C.

2. Not actually a quote, but Roger’s orange juggling made me laugh out loud. I want to believe that John Slattery got the part because juggling was on his resume and Weiner knew he’d need it at some point.

But the winner is…

1. “Don’t be an asshole, Don.” So sincere, succinct, and otherwise Ted-esque. How has no one else ever said this before?

ANYWAY, on to the actual plot. Ever since season 1, the office has been like a character on the show, and, like other characters that usually get a lot of screen time, when it doesn’t, it throws off the rhythm just a little bit.

What with all the “favors,” very little of the episode actually took place at SC&P; characters’ homes stole most of the action. Not just places that we’re used to like Don’s and Betty’s, but locations we don’t often get to see, like Ted’s house and Stan’s apartment, giving us rare glimpses into these characters’ private lives.

And let’s not forget The Great Mouse Caper at Peggy’s place. This was our first trip there since she broke up with Abe, and it was good to follow up that story line and see how she’s doing without him. In fact, this was a great episode all around for us Peggy fans. Finding out that she and Stand are call-in-the-middle-of-the-night-if-there’s-a-rat-in-your-house kind of friends, seeing how torn Ted is about what kind of juice woman he wants, and oh yeah, after four seasons of it shocking us how much it never happened, a reference to the fact that somewhere out there she and Pete have a child.

Meanwhile in Draperville, Don tries real hard for a minute there to do the right thing by a fellow human, only to completely screw things up all over again. So, business as usual.

A lot of recaps have been speculating about Don’s motivations for rekindling things with Sylvia even though he does seem to genuinely like Arnold. Does the answer lie in the fact that he doesn’t know how to have a relationship with a man that doesn’t involve competition over women? His mentor in high-rolling douchiness, Roger Sterling, hit on Betty at the height of what might have been called their friendship, but does it go back even further than that? Let’s not forget the unique brand of amiable-trust-turned-wife-annexing that was his relationship with The Real Don Draper.

And speaking of his rekindling with Sylvia, am I the only one who noticed how convenient it was that he was pretty much fully dressed for a quick getaway when Hurricane Sally hit? Maybe that’s why no one on this show seems to believe in foreplay.

With season 6 winding to a close, there’s only one question that still needs answering: What will poor Sally Draper walk in on next?

a. Glen Bishop and Sandy from the first episode embracing the culture of free love

b. Arnold and Megan evening the score

c. Bob Benson and Pete Campbell rubbing their knees together vigorously

Let me hear it in the comments section!

~Jane

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 10, A Tale of Two Agencies

Does anybody remember that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine befriends a group of guys who are the Bizarro World versions of Jerry, George, Kramer, and Newman? If memory serves, they were like good-guy doppelgangers who were way less neurotic, mean and generally absurd than the show regulars.

It’s all I could think about while watching the former CGC boys hold down the fort while team SCDP frolicked in the sun. Ted Pshaw and Jim Cutler are totally the Bizarro Don and Roger, right down to their shaky truce of a bromance.

Ted’s the workaholic creative director making inadvisable romantic decisions at the office. Just, with less alcoholism, sketchy past, and general inability to feel.

Jim’s the slightly older account man, wise-cracking, plotting against people he doesn’t like, and giving off a bit a dirty old man vibe, but not entering Roger’s league with any of it.

I want to see this dynamic explored even more. Maybe they should have contests to see which duo looks better in jaunty little sailor suits, or who can be the first to make Peggy cry. Roger scored a point for SCDP this week in the category of Best One-Liner for “Our biggest challenge is to not get syphilis.” Cutler shouting at Bob “WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS DOWN HERE? GO BACK UPSTAIRS!” was a close second, if only because Bob Benson is so cloying that it’s always funny when someone calls him out. (Is Bob Benson’s So-Sincere-I-Don’t-Trust-It Smile the Bizarro Pete Campbell’s Bitchface?)

In other news, I really can’t emphasize enough how much I love a good Joan and Peggy scene. Every time they’re along together on the screen, you can almost see the status shifting from one to the other depending on the situation. Joan was one step ahead of Peggy for a long time, but in later seasons, Peggy’s career success coupled with the string of blows to Joan’s self-esteem shifted things a bit. This week was the first time Joan has ever outright gone to Peggy for advice though. If only timid little season 1 Peggy knew what was in store for that relationship in the long haul.

Though she might not know her way around the men’s areas of their business the way Peggy does, Joan has does a bang-up job of appointing herself head of “the girls” at the newly merged agency, seeming to have made short work of the office manager from CGC that we briefly saw. I believe that makes her the only major character who has firmly established herself as the reigning champion in one of those ubiquitous SCDP vs. CGC battles that know one but Cutler wants to admit exist.

In that area Peggy is, of course, her own doppelganger, caught between her old self who deferred to Don and his always smooth gray suits, and her new self who holds sexual power over Ted and his always dorky turtlenecks under corduroy. What do you think? Will the most recent development in her relationship with Joan give her more confidence in her status at SC&Whatever, or will she give in to her vestigial Catholic guilt and feel bad about how the situation turned out?

Nice rappin’ with you Rog,
Jane

Diplomacy

                “It’s not like that,” she said.  They were sitting on the steps of the old house where Raynor had grown up, looking out at the moss-covered rocks on the front lawn, and trying to get the bottle caps to land on top of the biggest rock the way they had done when they were children.  The house still reminded Tara of the house in Forrest Gump, the way its size was somehow mediated by its straightforward shape and layout, so that the place managed to appear unassuming.

                “It sounds pretty much ‘like that’ to me,” he told her, keeping his hand in the air after it let go of the bottle cap, his gaze never leaving the target.  Tara looked at him, fidgeting with the bottle of hard cider in her hand.  When they had both spoken the language of children, there had been perfect understanding between them.  She, like him, had known no other way than calling it just like she saw it.  Now though…she liked to pick her words carefully now.  You never knew what might happen if you didn’t.  It was just Raynor’s good fortune that he didn’t care.

                But he had learned not to press her when she was searching for what she wanted to say.  Instead he now kept his gaze forward, putting his left hand out to feel for the tin between them, to reach into it, to shuffle through the history and select his ammunition.  The freshest bottle caps were from Woodchuck hard cider like they were drinking now- Raynor’s cousin Julie’s drink of choice- and of course the Budweisers his father drank.  On the rock, and in the tin, it was Budweisers all the way down.  Under the Woodchucks, tinged with red rust, were the Blue Moons that Tara used to bring over, the Sierra Nevadas that Raynor himself liked, the Cokes his mother insisted on buying in bottles because she thought they tasted better than Cokes in cans, the Fantas they used to bring home from Shaughnessey’s Drug Store before it became a CVS and stopped selling Fanta, even older caps so rusted and weathered and ground into each other as to be unrecognizable, but always the King of Beers at every stage.

                “I don’t want to take time off work for that,” she said finally, tossing a Mike’s Hard Lemonade cap (Who drank those? One of Raynor’s ex-girlfriends?  The one he’d met at The Tap Rom that night?) towards the rock.

                “Really? That’s your excuse? Come on.”

                “I just don’t really feel like they’re family.”

                “But they are family.  Maybe spending some time with them would make them feel more like it to you.”

                “It’s a little late for that, you know?  I don’t really need them anymore.”

                “You always need your family.”

                “It would feel like giving in.  Doing it on their terms like this.”

                “Not everything’s a war game, man. And it’s not on their terms, anyway.  It’s not like your uncle predicted it.”

                “It just doesn’t feel right.”

                “Nothing ever feels right to you.  You keep doing this to yourself.  You keep not taking chances because you’re afraid.  But it hasn’t made you happy.  It’s made you miserable.”

                Tara sighed.  It was exhausting, talking to Raynor.  She wondered how she used to sit here with him every day, having him pick apart her every word, her every thought before it even had become a word.  It was no wonder he wanted to be a lawyer.  He would be a good lawyer.  If he could sit still long enough to finish law school.  He was currently taking a semester off from Boston College, under the pretense of an internship, gaining life experience at his uncle Flanders’ little boutique divorce factory here in town.  That was the thing with Raynor.  No matter what he wanted to do in life he had an aunt or an uncle or a cousin or a family friend who could help him do it.  Tara and her mother had always been alone.

                Until now.  Until her father’s mother had not-so-suddenly died.  The woman was eighty-six years old and her health had been failing for a decade.  No one was surprised when her heart finally stopped beating, and, though they wouldn’t admit it out loud, no one was particularly upset either.  In the prime of her life she had been inattentive and selfish, and her children had all taken the first opportunities they could to move far, far away. But no sooner had she gotten old and frail than Tara’s father and his three brothers had begun to sing the praises of their beloved mother who had always been so good to them, and had fought bitterly over which of them her nursing home should be the closest to.  The idea of her actually moving in with one of them was, of course, unthinkable, and the brother who won the nursing home fight almost never went to see her anyway.  Tara didn’t understand why they did these things, but she’d long since stopped caring very much.  Nana was a thousand miles away and Tara dutifully sent her a Christmas card every year, never expecting to get one back and never being disappointed.  Now she was gone.  That was that.  One less person to pretend to love.

                Raynor noticed Tara’s silence and realized he had gone too far. “Hey come on,” he said.  “I’m sorry.  Tell me about it.  Tell me why you don’t want to go.”

                “I…” Her mouth hung open, waiting for the words to come to it, but they didn’t, so it closed.  Tara shook her head a little, realizing not for the first time the gulf that lay between them.  She and Raynor were family.  They had been best friends since childhood.  They had spent holidays together, stayed home with the chicken pox together, moved north to give higher education a try together.  He understood her better than anyone in the world did.  And yet there was this.  The immense difference in the dynamics of their families made it impossible for Raynor to comprehend his friend’s hesitation.

                Tara looked away from him and threw a bottle cap.  It landed dead center.  Right where it should.  Raynor looked at it for a moment, then lobbed one of his own.  Not in a slow arc, but hard and direct, like skipping a stone.  It knocked Tara’s bottle cap off the rock and down onto the grass below.  They each broke into a smile as they remembered the elaborateness the game used to have.  A move like that was worth a certain number a points.  There were other rules, long forgotten, made up on summer afternoons with no school and painstakingly written down in lost notebooks or in chalk on the rock itself and then washed away by the rain.

                The game move brought them back to themselves, back to their old, easy relationship, and Tara shook her head, thinking maybe she could explain this whole thing to him after all and he could help her make some sense of it.

                But just then his phone made that abrasive whistling sound that meant he was getting a text message, and the moment was over.  Raynor glanced down at the phone and then put it back in the front pocket of his corduroys.

                “Becky?” asked Tara.

                “Just saying hi.”

                “She knows you’re going back to Boston, right?”

                “I told her.”

                “Recently?”

                “What do you mean, ‘recently?’  How often am I supposed to tell her?”

                Tara turned to face him, laying her left knee down on the top step as she adjusted the angle of her body. “Look,” she said.  “All I’m saying is you’ve got to remember that Becky never left.  If you told when you first got back that you were only in town for a few months…she might think your plans have changed by now.”

                “Because I never follow through on anything.”

                “Come on.  I didn’t say that.  She just…people believe what they want to.  You’ve got to be extra clear when it comes to this kind of thing.”

                “So you’re gonna be perfectly clear when you tell you dad why you don’t want to join the family in scattering his mother’s ashes over her favorite place in the world?”

                Tara turned back to face the rock, knitting her hands together between her knees.  A breeze blew across the yard and onto the porch.  Tara wished she had a sweatshirt.

                Raynor noticed it too.  The sun was fully down now.  She could see the shift in his thoughts.  She wanted to be the first to say it.

                “I should go.”

                She hated saying it like that.  Like she didn’t really want to.  She did want to.  But only because it was late and she was cold.

                “Wanna get lunch tomorrow?” he said.

                “Yeah, OK. I’ll come by around noon?”