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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. Here’s Aaron’s recap for season 7 episode 14… also known as the series finale… it’s been fun doing these over the years! Maybe we’ll recap another series together in the future.
Episode title: “Person to Person” – People change, from one person to another, and people make collect phone calls.
Episode timing: Sometime around Halloween as evidenced by the Halloween decorations in Peggy’s office.
I want to start this week’s recap by saying thank you for reading! It’s been about a year since I posted on Unlikely Words with any regularity, really, it’s only been Mad Men recaps. I’m not really sure if I blog anymore, so there’s a semi-real possibility this will be my last post. That seems strange, I’ll probably post again, maybe tomorrow, but if I don’t this post is a fitting end. At least to the Mad Men recaps, which have been a lot of fun over the years. Even when Chris and I stayed up into the middle of the night to write them.
I thought it would have made sense to list a couple questions we were hoping to get answered before the episode, but I didn’t do that, so there goes that idea. The big question, I suppose, was would Don go back to NY? And, the answer is no. But maybe! Depending on how you look at the decision to use the “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” song, maybe Don got himself straightened out doing yoga and went home to create one of the biggest advertisements of all time. I suppose as the recapper, I have to say where I stand? I don’t know! It’s not very subtle, when the show always has been. If Don created the ad, wouldn’t showing him triumphant have been the way to do it? It’s too neat, it’s too simple, it’s too cute. I don’t think Don did it, but I like how they used the song to create the discussion.
The opening scene has Don Mad Maxing his way the desert. Another reference to Don knowing about cars. Did you hear The Doors’ “Hello, I love you” playing? The next line being, “Won’t you tell me your name?” This was the first Dick Whitman heavy episode in a while.
When Roger fires Meredith, he says, “There are a lot of better places than here” then tells her she’ll land on her feet, a reference to everyone’s favorite theory about someone jumping out of a window.
Joan and Richard do cocaine while on vacation and talk about the future. He mentions something about her future being something to develop. When she decides on a new career, he leaves. She wanted him to stay, but not more than she wanted to build something of her own. “Let yourself have a future with me.” “You act like this is happening to you, but you’re making a choice.” “I can’t just turn off that part of myself.” Peggy has always liked Joan more than Joan liked Peggy, but I think Joan has always at least respected Peggy. To some extent, Peggy showed Joan it was possible to be more than a secretary. Joan knows Peggy is ambitious and wants to be the boss, so she offers her a partnership in Harris Olson. Peggy balks, so Joan founds Holloway Harris. “You need two names to make it sound real.”. Roger leaving money to Kevin probably made it easier for Joan to take the risk. Also, when Joan met with Ken, he said, “How’s the family?” and she says, “How’s Eddie?” Joan is a pretty good account woman, Ken is supposed to be, but doesn’t know her kid’s name.
Did you catch all the familiar lines? Peggy says, “A thing like that.” to Pete, something he used to say regularly. Harry said, “Don’t do that.” to Peggy, something Roger says pretty regularly. Peggy said, “I don’t even think about you.” to Stan, something Don said to Ginsberg in Season 5.
I don’t think I ever saw a color TV on Mad Men until 3 scenes in tonight’s episode. Is it because this is what the future looks like?
Goodbyes on this episode: Peggy and Pete, “Keep it up, you’ll be a creative director by 1980.”, Don and Betty, Roger and Joan.
Roger and Marie get married, “Yell at me slower or in English.” Roger has continued to be a part of Kevin’s life, taking him out from time to time, leaving half his estate to him. Roger and Joan hadn’t ever been quite so explicit, I don’t think: “Our beautiful little boy.”
Stephanie Draper isn’t living with her kid, kind of referencing Don not being there for his kids. “You don’t know what happens to people when they believe in things.” Don doesn’t believe in anything? I think what’s happening is Don’s trying to tell her she can move on from her kid, and I think Stephanie isn’t really ready for that yet. “You can put this behind you. It will get easier as you move forward.” This reminds me of what Don said to Peggy when she gave up her baby, “This never happened. It will shock you how much this never happened.” Incidentally, that was the first Mad Men quote I ever begged Chris to draw, and he did, 5 years ago this week. MEMORIES!
On the phone, Sally is assertive and making sense. Don starts to minimize what she’s saying, but she pushes back. I really liked Sally this year. “Take me seriously.” I wonder what happens to her. I hope she doesn’t get stuck taking care of Gene and Bobby forever. Betty and Don share a moment when Don calls, but I feel like it was glossed over a bit by Don not coming home. I felt like Betty’s cancer would bring him home, but she told him not to come back. “Don’t let your pride interfere with my wishes.” “You not being here is part of that.” She gave him the flimsiest of excuses to stay away, to not take responsibility, and he jumped at it. I didn’t expect Don to shirk his responsibilities. Not even his responsibilities, but to live his life. She gave him an out and he took it, which he does ALL THE TIME. I guess the Coke commercial thing might make sense in that it means he eventually does come home, which makes sense to me, but if that’s the case, why not just send him home in this episode?
Last week there was the scene of Don peeing cut into a bottle being poured. This time, it was Don drinking cut into Ken drinking. I never noticed these cuts before.
Peggy and Stan! That was great. “What?! What’d you just say?” This was cute. The whole scene was funny and cute. “There’s more to life than work.” Is this what Don knows or doesn’t know?
When Don was in the seminar and everyone is communicating without talking, the lady pushes Don.
Everyone wanted one last Peggy Don scene. Don had never said goodbye to Peggy so he called her when he was lowest. Remember he called her after his car accident in New Jersey? “I messed everything up. I’m not the man you think I am.” Peggy asking Don, “What did you do that was so bad?” She knows he is hard on himself, but doesn’t know why. So we finally get to find out what Don feels guilty about. “Broke my vows. Scandalized my child. Took another man’s name and made nothing of it.” Is it this last one that bugs him so much? He got a chance for a new life and keeps screwing it up. Is that what he’s running from? Not being the man he wants to be? I don’t even know anymore.
“People just come and go, and no one says goodbye.” “People are free to come and go as they please.” This means something, but I’ve run out of time. (The perils of writing a recap when your two year old could wake up anytime within the next 4-7 hours.) Leonard, too. Leonard also means something. I wasn’t wild about this scene, first of all because, come on. Second of all. Don feels a connection with him, but I don’t buy it. For everything Leonard its, a forgettable office worker and family man, Don is not. Or maybe the point is that it doesn’t matter what your status is or how much everyone pays attention to you, you can still be lost. You can still be the food on the fridge shelf that no one picks. “You don’t even know what “it” is.”
The final scenes, Pete and family getting on the plane, Holloway Harris blowing up major, Sally doing dishes while Betty smokes in the dark, Stan and Peggy, and Don doing yoga and hearing about the new you.
Last song: In Perfect Harmony.
So did Don make the ad? Did Peggy become an art director? Do Roger and Marie make it? What happened to Pete in Wichita? Did Joan succeed? Did Harry Crane get what he deserved (an ass kicking)? Did Sally make it?
Goodbye, Mad Men.
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. Here’s Aaron’s recap for season 7 episode 13:
Episode title: “The Milk and Honey Route” is probably a reference to the 1931 Nels Anderson hobo piece.
Episode timing: I can’t imagine Don’s been on the road for a whole month, but that’s about the timing for the last few episodes.
I can’t believe we’re one episode from the finale and they’re adding new story lines. It’s unconscionable! And it makes me think we’re not really going to get a neat conclusion for Don.
The first scene is Don being pulled over with questions about his identity. I thought it was funny he was in a suit and tie while driving across the country, that was the first clue the scene was a dream. It’s been frustrating the last few years that Don’s identity storyline hasn’t been part of the show, so on the one hand, I’m glad it’s back to being discussed. On the other hand, it’s frustrating to ignore this big topic for two seasons and then come back to it.
Betty has terminal cancer and the kids at college call her Mrs. Robinson. This is a blockbuster, but the amount of time we’re allowing for these write ups don’t really allow for spending a lot of time on it. Shows not in their final season would usually spend an entire season on something like this. Shows in their final season don’t have that luxury and bring it up in their second to last episode. Henry Francis is a fixer and reacts as he knows how, by trying to fix it, the unfixable. He goes to Sally to ask for her help and Sally ends up comforting a crying Henry. Betty is more realistic and says she knows when it’s time to give up. That said, Betty’s final instructions to Sally where funny because of how vain they were. The personal note to Sally at the end was nice, though, and wistful. “I know your life will be an adventure.” To me, Betty’s cancer feels a little bit like they’re setting up a reason for Don to have to come home. Finally something not about advertising/money. He’ll need to raise his kids. Far fetched? Maybe. (The shot with Henry Francis alone in the kitchen was a nice shot.)
Don at the hotel reminded me of Don in California with Anna Draper. Mostly, I guess, because of how he was fixing things, the typewriter, the Coke machine. Remember when he was working on the cars? He’s not that handy in New York, is he? Also, if he’s so handy, why couldn’t he fix the TV? Don was reading the Godfather and got the Andromeda Strain from Andy. Also, when he was checking out the woman/girl at the pool, she was reading The Woman of Rome, which I took as a reference for when Don and Betty went to Rome in season 3. Remember she went down to the bar and they pretended not to know each other while he picked her up. The needy part of Don is still there, as evidenced by him inviting Andy to stay for a drink, even after Andy extorted him for the whiskey. It hadn’t been said explicitly before, but Don acknowledged he doesn’t have to work anymore. He also talked about advertising in the past tense, so he’s definitely not going back. “Wyatt thought you ran away.” The line from Don and Sally’s phone call where he said, “You have no idea about money,” was probably true, but a little out of place, no?
Duck Phillips. Duck Phillips. Duck Phillips. For all his ridiculousness, he does seem kind of masterful as a recruiter. He “bumped into” Pete on the elevator and let Pete think he was going to help with Don. Pete was the prize, though, and Duck knows just what to say to him to get him into the job. I can’t tell how many levels this goes, whether Hobart was working with Duck to make this work. That would make sense to me. Pete’s million dollars is twice what Joan had. It was pretty clear that Pete and Trudi would get back together based on her reappearance in recent weeks. It’d be funny if Pete, the villain from the early seasons, ended up with the only happy ending. Why was Pete, “Always looking for something better, always looking for something else” ? Because of Dad. But maybe he doesn’t have to be always looking, maybe he can recognize what he has as good enough. I had a hard time imagining Pete’s brother as a Casanova, though. In the Pete/Trudi reconciling scene, she says something about his eyes “With respect to whatever is happening in your eyes,” and then he does, too, “Say yes with your voice not just your eyes.” That wasn’t an accident, but what does it mean!! “I remember things as they were.”
So Don goes to the American Legion fundraiser and tells people, I think for the first time since Anna, what happened in Korea (leaving out a big detail). “You just do what you have to do to come home.” (Another hint at Don headed home? But where is home?) The money for the fundraiser gets stolen, and everyone thinks Don is a conman that stole the money. Incidentally, he is a conman, but this was about as honest as he’s ever been. What’s that say about who he is? That, even at his realest, people think he’s fake. Don connects with Andy, he has an opportunity to steer him clear of his life, making it obvious that the double life Don leads hasn’t been hunky dory. “I know you think you know how to hustle.” “If you keep it, you’ll have to become somebody else. And it’s not what you think it is. You cannot get off on that foot in this life.” Don gives Andy the Cadillac as a way to start his life. “Don’t waste this.” As far as first steps go, a Cadillac is nice, but he’ll have to sell it, right?
Last song: Buddy Holly
An aside, but the “Don Draper is DB Cooper” theory gets more legs with the Pete to Lear Jet story and also Buddy Holly playing to see us out.