Every week, Aaron Cohen (@UnlikelyWords) writes a recap of Mad Men for his blog Unlikely Words, and I illustrate something from the episode to go with it. (This week there’s a bonus drawing below because I was indecisive) Here’s Aaron’s recap for season 5 episode 2:
“When is everything gonna get back to normal?” This line from Roger towards the end of the episode works as well as anything for the jumping off point of this recap. The answer, dear Roger, is never. Things are changing, and they’re changing rapidly. (Jeeze, listen to me, how trite?) The 60s were a time of turbulence. It must have been quite unsettling to still be a part of everyday life, but knowing you’re barely hanging on, about to get passed. Roger says he’s exhausted by it, mentions hanging on by his finger tips as his hand gets stomped. I imagine this happens for every generation, is always happening, actually, and it’s powerful to see Roger so broken by it.
-If Henry hadn’t mentioned Scrooge, it would be really brilliant for me to call this the Scrooged/A Christmas Carol episode of Mad Men. Actually, screw it. This was the Scrooged/A Christmas Carol episode of Mad Men, though it was mostly looking into the future. There was SO much looking into the future. Let’s see if I can list them all: Betty’s dream seeing the family at the table after she died, the fortune teller at lunch, the teenage girl Don met at the Rolling Stones heavily foreshadowed future Sally, and Don talking about the kids growing up without their mother. Even the 2 new characters, minorities both, pushing the firm into the future. I don’t remember an episode in the series with this much mention of the future, but it’s possible I have a bias because this was the theme I settled on. As for visions of the past… Maybe Roger talking about hiring Pete, and Don and Betty talking on the phone. For visions of the present, we have Don at the Rolling Stones and Michael Ginsberg going home. What were the lessons of A Christmas Carol? Well, obviously, be thankful for what you’ve got. Betty just seems angry about being fat without having the excuse of being sick. “The cause is usually psychological.” Like Roger, Betty mentions she is exhausted, too.
-We’re now in the first week of July, 1966. Pete Fox, the Red Sox outfielder mentioned by Michael Ginsberg’s dad, died on Wednesday, July 6, 1966. The Rolling Stones concert at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium was July 2nd, 1966, and did in fact, feature the Trade Winds opening up, among others. Here’s the set list. Also, in the scene featuring the Francis Manse, Sally and Bobby were running around with sparklers. How about that house, huh? And two phone lines in 1966. Henry Francis is a very important man.
-Wow, Betty looked huge compared to last year. I’m not totally sure why, but her being that big reminded me of when Britney Spears got big. What broad shoulders she had getting out of the bathtub. Clearly, Betty is still dissatisfied about her lot in life. I don’t know what’s going to shake her out of it, and I wonder if she’ll play heavy all season long. The show generally jumps a couple weeks to a month every week, so if she does diet, it’ll be at least a couple weeks. Henry’s mother is not helping. “I know how it happens.” “Obviously at my age I don’t have to please men anymore.” It must be so weird trying to connect with Betty, and yet she still has a connection with Don. “Say what you always say.” “Everything’s going to be OK.” She needed to hear this from Don. And the connection isn’t one sided, either. Don’s response to Betty’s potential illness was indicative of feelings on his side. Real feelings, not feelings he thinks people want him to have, which don’t show up too often. And Betty eating Bugles.
-Megan had a pretty strong week. Not really the focus of anything, but interesting nonetheless. Out to dinner with Raymond from Heinz (“Are you kidding me, he’s the only man I want to please more than you.”), she was in an interesting position: being treated like a peer, but closer in age to the not present teenage daughter. Ray’s wife, “This is boring, isn’t it Megan” ignored that Megan could be working, wasn’t really living in the present (and definitely not the future). Other funny lines from the dinner, “Everyone’s pretty much who you expect them to be.” and “I told you he was smooth.” Because Don is so smooth, he appears to be what people expect, but isn’t at all. Another good scene with Megan was Don’s reluctance to tell her about Betty. He didn’t know how she would react, yes, but he also may have been surprised to be feeling the way he did. Megan had a good point that he was fine to go to the concert, but not to go to the beach with her friends. Unless that was in there to show a tension between Don and Megan and what Megan wants, I’m not really sure what was happening. I liked she was watching TV and listening to the radio to let the advertising wash over her and having her so sunburned the next day was a good detail.
-Bonjour, Marie! Don’s making an effort at least. Was it me, or was Don not a central part to this episode? He was in the periphery a lot, but the story didn’t focus on him.
-Mohawk is coming back. I guess it’s worth noting that SCDP is not really struggling anymore. Don’t you love when your favorite shows leave 17 month cliffhangers unaddressed?
-Incidentally, it was the 2nd episode of last season where 2 somewhat recurring characters were introduced (Faye and Phoebe). This season’s 2nd episode features Don’s new secretary, Dawn, and a brash new copy writer, Michael Ginsberg. Dawn and Michael significantly increase the number of minorities working for SCDP, and it’ll be interesting to see how much of a glimpse we get of Dawn’s life. Is she going to get any scenes outside of the office? We know a little more about Michael. He’s flashy and adds a different style of character to the cast. “You can see advertising ain’t my day job.” But also, “Then you’re like everyone else.” Whenever I hear statements like this one, or the one above from the Heniz dinner, my ears perk up because these statements describe the overarching theme of the show. No one is really who they seem, and everyone is always trying to be something or someone else. Even in the Rolling Stones scene, the groupie does the move with Don’s tie and Don asks her if she saw that in a movie. She was playing a part. The scene of Michael at home with his father reinforces this. In the world he’s a character, at home he is a son.
-“I like working about talented people, it inspires me.” Roger and Stan both brought up the idea that Peggy was going to have a hard time hiring someone because she’d be afraid the new person would replace her. And then it turns out what Roger thought Peggy was afraid of is actually playing out with Pete Campbell. “Pete Campbell, that’s the last guy I hired.” In fact, Peggy cared more about impressing Don, hiring someone he liked, than anything. It seems like she did that, and Ginsberg’s flattery of Don didn’t hurt. “You wouldn’t want me running all over town telling your secrets.”
-“You’re so square, you’ve got corners.” Megan said this to Don before the Heinz dinner, but she may as well have said it before the Rolling Stones concert. Don and Harry were square as hell. I’m not really sure why the young groupie approached them, but I thought she was 16 or 17. Don tried to turn it into a focus group, but it didn’t work. She didn’t answer many of his questions. Was that his only way of relating to her? “None of you want any of us to have any fun because you never did.” “No, we’re worried about you.” After this, I couldn’t get it out of my head that this was Sally in 5 years. It’s a common trope of Mad Men analysis to mention Sally will be just the right age to experience “The 60s”, so this felt super foreshadowy to me.
-Harry ate 20 White Castle cheeseburgers. “Eat first.” Indeed
-“Romney’s a clown.” It’s rare that a show taking place 45 years before the present can get in such a jab at a politician running for office. That’s just well-thought out story telling right there is what that is.
-Pete Campbell is such a prick to Roger, he made Roger drink brown liquor for the first time in a long time. Pete Campbell is such a prick.
-Don chasing Roger down was interesting. They seemed to have squashed whatever needed squashing, and it was interesting Don confided in Roger. Don is confiding more and more these days. Sup with that?