I could almost see the words of Langston Hughes scrolling across the bottom of the television screen: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore, And then run?. . . . Maybe it just sags like a heavy load or does it explode?”
In last night’s episode Megan decides that she isn’t going to dry up or fester. Rather she will cut her losses and pursue her childhood dream of being an actress. Although she’s doing well at work, the ad business is not for her. After a failed audition, she reveals her desires and distress to Don: “I can’t explain it, but I felt better failing at that audition than I did when I was succeeding at Heinz.” But Megan is still young enough to have "chaos, fun, and adolescent joy," the qualities a client feels are needed in a piece of music to accompany an ad. Megan’s not thinking of financial security. She’s grateful she has that in Don so she can afford to dream of being an actress. Whereas Don’s days of leaping before looking are over -- as we see when an elevator door opens but there is no elevator, just a long vacant chute to nowhere. If he had walked into the elevator shaft he’d have fallen to his death. Don wants familial security and routine. He may not want Megan barefoot and cooking in the kitchen all the time, but he wants to know she’s close by, either at work or home.
But Peter is a heavy load that’s about to explode. Or about to go from the minor explosions he has each episode into a volcanic eruption. He has a fling with Beth, the wife of a train buddy, Harold, who sells insurance. Within twenty minutes of meeting each other they’re on the floor of her home. While Peter knows Beth is trying to soothe her pain of knowing her husband is unfaithful, he gives into the reckless moment. But he doesn’t fantasize about the affair or treasure the memory as Beth suggests. Instead, he pursues Beth -- on the phone and, when that doesn't lead anywhere, in person, at her home with her husband in another room. Eventually we see him as the jilted lover waiting for Beth in a hotel room forlorn, with a bottle of champagne and two glasses. He throws a glass at the wall, defeated.
Of all the scenes in the episode I audibly laughed when Peggy gave it back to Don at the botched pitch for whip cream, “You’re not mad at me, so shut up.” They’re so perfect for each other, yet I would never want to see them together. Only Peggy can sass Don and leave him unoffended. When he calls her searching for Megan, she switches the roles and asks him if he knew where her boyfriend was, as in ‘Man, I am not your wife’s keeper.’ Anyway Joan tells us earlier of the type of women Don marries, and that type is not Peggy. That type is a long willowy model -- like Betty Draper.
Dreams for Don are not ethereal and visionary, but concrete steps taken to achieve a goal. He and Roger share a generational moment when they say their career choices weren’t lofty ideals but what they were told to do or what were the avaiable jobs. By the time Megan puts on The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows” (from Revolver), Don can’t really appreciate it for its motivational lore but its literal suggestion. He’s too busy thinking of Megan and this new deveopment in their marriage. So the best way he knows to “lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void,” is to go to bed. He may well find some answers tomorrow. -- Connie Aitcheson