Very soon in the first episode you can tell that the American version (the AV for short) and the English (EV) are completely different in tone. What surprised me was how different the series are in plot and character as well -- so much so that you might risk a few generalizations on the basis of a comparison. The English version relies on wit, bite, satire. There is a nasty sado-masochistic undertone in the way the inimitable Ian Richardson wields power ("I put a bit of stick about"). Richardson -- as the FU figure at the center of the action who is also our chief narrator, making frequent asides to the viewer --- dominates. It is black humor in the stiff-upper-lipped English manner. And because it is technically a comedy, you suspend your ethical sense. You identify yourself with an incorrigibly charming but thoroughly despicable master of deceit.
The AV, twenty three years younger, is naturally more sophisticated in visual presentation. Equally naturally, the AV reflects certain all-important digital facts that were unknown in 1990: the cell phone, the text message, the increased surveillance of the civilian population, the rate of acceleration in technological upheaval. These are the inevitable changes brought on by time and a bigger budget. But there are changes in spirit dictated by differences in the national temper. The English version radiates charm and a certain amount of Schadenfreude. The American version is filled with heartache and bile, guile and guilt.
In contrast to the EV, with its London cool, its cheerful irreverence signaled in the trumpet fanfares of the theme music, the AV is saturated with Washington, DC, a place that considers itself the center and capital of the Western world. The AV has its dark humor, but it is fraught with high anxiety, tension, heartbreak, the possibility of redemption or the premonition of tragedy. In the EV, sex is a sport, indulged in for robust pleasure, forbidden or otherwise, and sexual infidelity parallels political treachery. In the AV, sex is many things, but a sport is not one of them. Sex in the AV can involve infatuation, redemption, desperation, hostility, or the weakness of an addiction, which is also a paying profession. The thematic linkage of prostitution to politics is established early on in the AV and is powerfully sustained. Addiction is a key plot element. In the EV, we have the irony of a government minister routinely breaking the law by snorting cocaine and funding the habit at his party's expense. It is a proof of his weakness and seals his doom as a mere instrument of someone else's power. In the AV it is not an irony but a tragedy when a recovering alcoholic drops off the wagon -- and it is entirely possible that his AA sponsor will betray him when the stakes are down.
Spacey, a brilliant actor at his best (except when he forgets his South Carolina accent), has his asides, but there are fewer of them, and they do not resemble theatrical soliloquys. He is masterful when he has to shuttle between his home district and a labor dispute in Washington. Ruthless he is, but vulnerable as well. Robin Wright as Clare Underwood is a far more complicated mystery than the deliciously diabolical Diane Fletcher, who gives Lady MacBeth a run for the money as Elizabeth Urquhart in the EV. We see Elizabeth entirely in relation to her husband's aspirations and the obstacles in his path. But Clare, though in cahoots with her husband, has her own professional identity, her own lover, and her own agenda, which can clash with his. There is a scene where she visits a trusted former aide of her husband's, who is dying in his hospital bed. I refuse to say another word about that scene here but I know we will want to to talk about it sometime. That is true as well of the scene at the military academy that Francis Underwood attended, the Citadel -- I mean the Sentinel -- where they sing Dixie when they're feeling patriotic, and the boys get drunk and two of them remember just how close they had once been.
This was the first time I heard one woman call another "a twitter twat." Ditto the joke told by the owner of the "Washington Herald" (they mean the "Post" but my guess is they didn't get permission). The last line of the joke is, "Where do you come from, cunt?" The newspaper owner is a woman. On the other hand, the crack about "sleeping your way to the middle" could have been left on the cutting room floor.
There are so many moments or sequences that one would like to single out for praise. Several characters are interesting enough to warrant a thousand words of speculative analysis. Journalist Zoe Barnes played by Kate Mara, for one; the Pennsylvania congressman played by Corey Stoll, for another. But I will end this note by recalling the speech Kevin Spacey makes at a church in his own congressional district where a tragic accident (and potential public relations disaster) has occurred. The speech is brilliant and brilliantly delivered, and by "brilliant" here I should explain that I mean something very unusual. The rhetoric is effective politically in winning sympathy for the speaker but it also manages the crisis in a way that enables the victim's parents to come to terms with calamity. The ironies mount up; a bad guy can do a good deed for unholy ends. In the middle of the speech Spacey turns to us, the viewers, his confidantes and confreres, to make sure we get it, and we do: See, it's all cynical -- even or especially this oratory that helps a community heal. I wondered, watching the scene, and I wonder still whether it would have been better without the Brechtian interruption. What do you think O reader? -- DL
Brush up your O'Hara, stock up your vermouth and plan your parties accordingly -- and invite me, please!
"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner isn't giving much away about the penultimate season opener. But new cast photos suggest that Pete grows sideburns, Betty slims down and our favorite women, Megan, Peggy and Joan, are still in the picture.
"It has some cliffhanger elements to it, it does propel you into the rest of the season -- it does foreshadow a lot what the season is about," Weiner told The New York Times. "But I was like, I want to write a movie here, that we can create the atmosphere and vibe of the season.”
I don't know about you, but I'm always a little amazed that the show gets away with poetry. When Don Draper reads section four of Frank O'Hara's "Mayakovsky," it's like bumping into a good friend in an unexpected place. "What, you go here, too?" Confusion and happiness ensue.
Because of this, I find myself wondering, who are these writers? How did they find themselves in TV? And how can I take their jobs?
It turns out Weiner does most of the writing himself. He studied literature, philosophy and history at Wesleyan and got an MFA from USC. He penned the "Mad Men" pilot back in 1999 while working for "Becker."(!) The strength of that script landed him a gig with "The Sopranos," and he waited until the mob show wrapped to shop around his period drama.
Weiner spoke about the writing process with the Times last year, saying, "There's about a three-week rumination period, which involves a lot of napping, a lot of holding books. Whether I'm reading them or not, I cannot say."
When he started writing season six, he put off his best ideas, saving them for that nebulous "later." Finally, his producers told him, “go for broke, use up everything you have.”
“So I decided to throw it all in,” Weiner told the paper.
David Lehman offers the same advice to poets. Don't put off writing the poem. Catch it when it comes to you. I can't wait to watch "Mad Men" go for broke, and can't help but wonder which 60s poet we'll run into next.
Your daily prompt: Recap a televesion show episode in poetic form.
Photos by Frank Ockenfels/AMC
When I was an undergraduate with limitless energy and cranking out poems left and right for my workshop classes, all I wrote about was my family. There were poems about everything from my grandfather’s hands to the years he spent working in a field. Even the paisley print of one of my grandmother’s shirts made it into a poem. As did my brother, mother and father, even a certain rude classmate whose name or face I can no longer remember made an appearance as a giant rat.
Some of these poems, in spite of how poorly made they were, brought my mother to tears when she read them because there we were, our family, our struggles, on a piece of paper. It was a record, albeit a weak one, that we had lived and suffered and were still here.
Take all the records the government could use to prove someone’s existence (deeds, bills, social security card, pay stubs, etc.) and they would say little more than my family had lived on a certain street and used X number of watts of electricity to power our washer and microwave and the TV that once the day’s robberies and Reagan’s pearls of ignorance had been reported by news anchors and Johnny Carson had bid us goodnight, began broadcasting pure static snow all through the night until the morning brought the national anthem and our beautiful, waving flag. None of this ever made it into my poems back then because I was, in my ignorance, mining what I knew and being a third-rate Confessional.
Later, when I was a graduate student and I had run out of things to write about in my life, I tried slipping into the lives of others and liked it, so much so in fact, I never tried to put myself in a poem again, aside from the minor personal detail I might secretly slip in like my tendency to mumble or my awful memory, details no one would ever know unless I pointed them out. What’s more, I tried to hide these details in scenes that might be filled with Johnny Carson and images of patriotism sitting snugly beside a microwave dinner.
I was, to put it simply, trying to obliterate myself in my poetry so that I could make up stories about people and places and things that were far more interesting than I was, stories that might help a reader meet someone new or travel somewhere different. In Lord Jim, Conrad writes, “My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, before all, to make you see.” Conrad had it easy, as do most writers of fiction, in that if a reader could be made “to see” something, she would most likely not think the character who spoke about writing and seeing was Conrad himself, just as no one I know has ever mistaken Huckleberry Finn for Twain or Gatsby for Fitzgerald.
And yet, it is our burden as poets is it not, to be confused for our speakers, even if they be of a different age or gender or species, all of which was the subject of conversation while my family and I passed turkey and dressing and peach wine during Thanksgiving. Try as I might, I could not convince them that the book I had written and whose poems they had carefully read—a thousand blessings on their heads for that—was not written by a 200 year old half man/half bear who had moonlighted as a soldier, a prisoner of war, a Soviet scientist, a preacher, and countless other things.
Having to choose between thinking that I could spin a really good yarn or that I was a centuries-old hybrid creature living among them, they happily picked the latter, a choice which delights me to no end because it is just one more of a thousand masks I am happy to accept and wear and for which I will always gladly give thanks.
The best TV commercial of the year is Direct TV's "Don't attend your own funeral as a guy named Phil Shifley." The cause-and-effect sequence -- "when you wait forever for the cable guy you get bored, when you get bored you stare out the window, when you stare out the window you see things you shouldn't see, when you see things you shouldn't see you need to vanish" -- creates a rapid absurdist narrative Don Draper would have liked. The clauses escalate: "when you need to vanish, you fake your own death" (with a picture of a man surfacing in the ocean, a burning ship in the distance), then "you dye your eyebrows," and finally the coup de grace: "you attend your own funeral as a guy named Phil Shifley." The specificity of this name is a nifty touch. I wonder whether it's the name of a guy at the ad agency.
The worst TV commercial of the year -- take it from one who has watched too many baseball and football games this fall -- is a forty-way tie among car commercials that use the fake word "introducing." Even a commercial for Mercedes, with Jon Hamm's voice over it, is guilty of this triteness next to which the cliches of car ads from the print magazines of yore ("runs good," "loaded") seem amost OK.
The weirdest commercial of the year is, hands down, the one from Direct TV featuring a blonde wife emerging from the shower, wrapped in a towel, looking distraught. The huge TV screen on the wall reports a "recording conflict." (Apparently the household cable TV system can record one show at any given time.) She says she is "sick of this thing," adding, "I just feel like it's watching me walk around naked." Snarls hubby, in front of the bathroom mirror, "Well, at least somebody gets to." Then he continues brushing his teeth, noisily, the noise communicating his contempt. The idea of a "recording conflict" -- and of warring TV tastes -- as emblematic of a marriage on the rocks is smart, but the use of a bitterly quarreling couple to sell a product is negativity of a kind usually seen only in political ads. Still, it does a lot in fifteen seconds, and it does not involve a talking animal. -- DL
Great catch Ken Tucker! On September 3, this @KenTucker tweet breezed by: "I fear betrayal in friendship and love that blindsides me": not Walt Whitman, but another poet, Denise Duhamel" and now lots of people want to know which poem it's from.
"82 Reasons Not to Get Out of Bed" is too long to reproduce in its entirety but you can find the poem in Saints of Hysteria A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry Edited by Denise Duhamel, Maureen Seaton & David Trinidad (Soft Skull, 2007).
Here are the first few lines:
82 Reasons Not to Get Out of Bed (by Denise Duhamel et. al.)
I fear dented cans,
the ones with their labels torn like a pantyhose run.
I fear dented cans even though I know
bulging cans are the ones that cause botulism.
I fear small caskets, and I fear small pox.
I can’t be vaccinated because I’m allergic to the serum.
Check my arms—I don’t have any of those vaccination dents
like everyone else. I fear going to a new hairdresser
or gynecologist. I fear people with authority who look nervous.
I fear any box big enough to hold me.
I fear the number 4 for no reason.
I fear this bad habit will catch up to me.
I fear being awake in the middle of the night
when everyone else is asleep, even that yappy dog Peppy,
and the baby in him. I fear the dogs that do not recognize
my smell or care. I fear the whirr and rattle of the tail.
I fear the front door slamming when the bedroom window is locked.
I fear strangers who do not know my strength . . .
And this is what Denise Duhamel had to say about how the poem was written:
Lines for “82 Reasons Not to Get Out of Bed” were written on October 24, 2001 by the members of Special Topics: Trends in Contemporary Poetry—Literary Collaboration and Collage, a graduate seminar I taught at Florida International University. Mitch Alderman, Terri Carrion, Andreé Conrad, Kendra Dwelley Guimaraes, Wayne Loshusan, Abigail Martin, Rita Martinez, Estee Mazor, Astrid Parrish, Stacy Richardson, Sandy Rodriguez, Jay Snodgrass, Richard Toumey, George Tucker, Jennifer Welch, William Whitehurst, and I wrote indi- vidual lines. Rita Martinez took the lines and rearranged them into the final ver- sion of the poem. Stacy Richardson, the only undergraduate in our class, passed away in 2002. This poem is dedicated to her.
Fans of poetry and Breaking Bad know that Walt Whitman had a starring role. Did anyone besides Ken pick up on Denise's cameo?
Television executive Ross Martin shares how his background in poetry uniquely and appropriately prepared him for the business world:--sdh
The star of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying mystifies the panelists of "What's My Line?" including Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis, Martin Gabel, and Pamela Tiffin. John Daly is the moderator. O Mnemosyne, mother of the nine muses. This is what TV was like on Sunday nights in the era of Mad Men. "Bobby" Morse in another interview says that he sometimes shows up for work on the Mad Men set singing "A Secretary is not a Toy" from How to Succeed way back when. -- DL
"I have a hot tooth."
"Go to the Cloisters without me."
"I consider it a success: you didn't have to go a whole day wihout calling me an idiot."
"Why is this so hard? You only have to write 120 words and fifteen of them are Ajax."
"You just hate him because he voted for Goldwater."
"Will you take LSD with me?"
"You're really drunk. Sleep it off."
"This is what happens when you have the artistic temperament without being an artist."
Doors open, doors close, and an Old Fashioned with a beautiful stranger at a luxe Midtown bar is the way the evening ends.
The one universal truth linking all episodes of all seasons of "Mad Men" is that the client is always a shmuck.
"$50,000." That's the sum, the reccurent sum -- what a night with Joan is worth, or the life of Lane, or the collateral for a partnership in the firm, or the check Don gives to the angry widow. Fifty grand was a lot of money in those days. The most valuable stamp in the world was worth $50,000. Ernest Hemingway's story "Fifty Grand" was being read by aspiring writers in science-oriented high school programs in the post-Sputnik era of high angst. Sandy Koufax held out for one hundred thousand dollars. That was the really magic number in those days. That was the Joe DiMaggio number.
Peggy has come a long way, baby -- she's off to Virginia, slim -- and Don's brother is going to "hang around. Get it?" Hang on for dear life, dear death, dear Adam. The suicide of one brother is the suicide of all. Dick Whitman gets to celebrate himself. His life's a toothache, and Canadian Club's the palliative. Meanwhile, lots of people get to sock Pete in the jaw. Megan gets the part of Beauty in the "Beauty and the Beast" commercial for Butler Shoes. Who do you suppose is the beast in her life? And Roger hangs his hopes on the nudity of his life in bed with his French-speaking mistress, mother of his partner's wife.
Don, Peggy, and Ginsberg tell me that they dig two commercials on TV right now. The two, as paraphrased by me, who am too lazy to dig up the videos, are
(1) << A spot against cable tv, because the cable guy won't come, so you look out the window, and when you look out the window, you see things you shouldn't see, and when that happens you have to disappear, and when you disappear you have to dye your eyebrows white, and when you do that you end up attending your own funeral as a guy named Phil Schiffly. Don't be Phil Schiffly. Switch to our dish or satellite or whatever the hell we're offering instead of cable. >>
Ginsberg said, "The visuals are funny, but the genius part of the commercial is the use of the name Phil Schiffly. (Oh, and btw, Phil Schiffly is the name of a guy who used to work in the ad agency's office before he screwed the pooch.)"
(2) << Car commercial. Attractive lady applies lie detector test to regular guy in shirt and tie. Nondescript q-and-a until she asks him, "Are you wildly and uncontrollably attracted to me?" He, emphatically: "No." Lie detector needle jumps all over the place. "Good," she says. "It's working." >>
At the bar waiting for his Od Fashioned, Don tells me he likes the car commercial because it takes the focus away from the car. "How much Bud would you sell if people tasted the stuff?" Then he excused himself to talk to the woman who approached asking him to light her fire. Come on baby light my fire. Doors open, doors close, and The Doors should sing. Hey, man, it's 1967. But James Bond is still in power, and "You Only Live Twice" is the song of the movie of the day. Don is on lifetime number two right now. The experience called "Vietnam" has not quite happened in the suburbs or on the New Haven line, the one-bedrooms in the East 60s, and the luxury flats in Midtown. And the news is just months away. -- DL
Spoiler alert: Read no further if you haven't seen the episode [the penultimate one in season five].
Context: Faced with a then-hefty debt of $7,500, Lane forged Don's name on a check and embezzled the sum from the firm. It would have been a shoirt term loan, he argues, but Don feels he has no choice but to force the Englishman's resignation. ("I can't trust you.") Lane is honoirable but weak. Losing his job would mean losing his visa as well as his source of income. How will he face his wife? She little suspects her husband has gotten himself into so serious a jam. What will he say to his son? The humiliation is total. It is a splendid irony that his wife has written a check to buy him a surprise present of a Jaguar, the account the firm has landed, at the very moment when their finances can least afford such an extravagance. But then she is as much in the dark about her husband's work as Kurtz's fiancee is of the deeds her hero has done in the Congo. The irony is beautifully compunded: the Jaguar fails to start when Lane chooses death by carbon monoxide as his "elegant exit" (Don's phrase), and he floods the engine. What does he do instead? Bad pun department: I won 't leave you hanging for long.
In the teaser for next week, Don is seen calling on someone at home. Stacey thinks (predicts) that he is visiting Lane's widow, paying her a condolence call, telling her what "really" happened -- possibly in the way that Marlow calls on Kurtz's fiancee and lies to her to keep her illusions intact. The less prescient of the two of us thinks he is showing up unexpectedly at either Joan's or Peggy's apartment.
Samuel Johnson it was who said that "nothing concentrates the mind like the knowledge that one will be hanged in the morning." -- DL
Tragedy struck the Mad world last night. Lane killed himself. Emotional defeat spread from his career to family to personal dreams, and he decided life wasn’t worth living.
I can’t say I was surprised. After the confrontational exchange with Don, I felt he might be vulnerable to such an act. Among the suits, Don is the exception to the rule. Rather than disgrace Lane publically, he fires and castigates him privately while also offering his version of encouragement. When Lane says he doesn’t know what he’ll tell his wife or son, Don replies, “you’ll tell them that it didn’t work out, because it didn’t. You’ll tell them the next thing will be better, because it always is. Take the weekend. Think of an elegant exist.” But some exits in life are too harsh and lonely. When Lane returns to his office after that exchange, gulping down whiskey by the glass, I visualized him in a snow globe, completely detached from the world, utterly consumed with the pain of recent moments. There is a miniature Statue of Liberty behind him but at that instant she means nothing to him.
Lane doesn’t find peace and solace when he goes home but more pain. The wives, Lane’s and Don’s, stick to type. They want to prepare and serve dinner or go to a restaurant -- wanting the best for their husbands, who are falling apart at the time. Even when Lane vomits after his wife shows him the Jaguar she bought for him, the poor woman believes it’s simply because he has drunk too much. She cannot possibly see that her well-intentioned gift is a dagger to his heart.
It’s always a joy to see Sally. She’s precious, stubborn, mischievous, feisty, yet singularly clear in wanting honest relationships with others. Her communication with Glen, her phone pal, is guided by honesty. It’s hard not to adore a boy who’d rather go to the Museum of Natural History than stay at Sally’s home and get into any level of trouble. Yet when Sally discovers she has started her menstruation she runs away, ashamed and unprepared to explain what she’s going through.
While Lane is caught in an emotional tornado, Don is trying to resurrect his warrior side: the side of him that used to aggressively search for business opportunities and not wait for them to come to him; the side of him that, as he tells Roger, is “tired of living in this delusion that we’re going somewhere.” He wants to pursue his dreams of handling big accounts and working for major American companies (American rather than Mohawk airlines, Chevy rather than Jaguar). The conversation with Lane is decisive for him, too -- it reminds him to focus on what he really wants to do, but it leaves him clueless as to the danger Lane is in. His version of starting over in life isn’t the same as Lane’s. When he hears of Lane’s suicide he immediately knows that the best he can do for him then is to give him some dignity in death and cut him down from the noose..
-- Connie Aitcheson
Wow. By the end of Mad Men last night, I wasn’t thinking of The Kinks' Girl, You Really Got Me (1964) but a line from Maurice Chevalier’s Thank Heaven for Little Girls – “for little girls get bigger every day.” Joan and Peggy have certainly grown up.
The exchange or sale for sex is certainly not new in the Mad world. Just last week Harry got slapped after an impromptu sexual encounter when he told the woman she just gave it away for free. But for Joan to be so blatantly presented with the proposition for sex in order to land the Jaguar account was certainly shocking.
The philosophical question of price came up several times last night. “What price would we pay?” “What do you want to get paid?” The show reasoned that better finances might allow Joan not to have to worry about repairing appliances or might even allow her to be free of her miserable mother, but I wonder whether any price is worth paying in order to land a partner position at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The terms of the deal weren’t Joan’s but Pete's, though Lane (for his own ends, partially) helped her improve the offer. Can Joan ever be free? Or has she just bought a noose around her neck?
Peggy’s leaving was even more shocking to me. I always thought Peggy was the one character with integrity. She was there to remind the viewers of a person with flaws who is honestly trying to overcome them without hurting others in the process. But I guess after Don threw the money in her face, as might be expected towards a derelict or prostitute on the street, there was no recovery for her. When Michael Ginsberg’s character was introduced she was warned by another character not to bring him into the firm because he would be her supervisor one day, but she didn’t listen and brought him in because of his talents. Now she fully comprehends that talent would always be half the battle. As a female she would always be excluded from the big boys' table and spend her career enviously watching them from outside the glass office. Leaving was the only way to keep her integrity. Others (Freddy, for example) helped her to come up with the terms of departure. Will she too be able to stand on her own? Will she be able to trust the men who encouraged her to leave?
Besides Joan and Peggy I felt sad for Don. His world seemsto be exploding around him. His girls, the women he has defended and loved, were making demands, selling themselves, or leaving. (He was the only partner to be outraged by the Jaguar magnate's demand for Joan's favors.) The rebellion of Megan, the departure of Peggy, woud be enough to shake the strongest man. But now his most central strength has been challenged. Would he and the other partners ever know if they won the Jaguar account because of his pitch (which was Ginsberg’s idea) or because Joan slept with Herb from the car company? It seems a tough situation to reconcile.
The end of the show made me think of the Charlie Sheen quote, “I don’t pay prostitutes for sex. I pay them to go away afterwards.” Now the one who sold her soul stayed and the one who would never sell herself left. It’ll be interesting to see how Joan’s presence in the partners' meetings affects the other partners. Will she be a thorn in their side on issues about the business or stand on her own among the mad men?
-- Connie Aitcheson
The surprising thing about the line from Shelley's sonnet quoted on tonight's episode ("Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!") is not that Mr. Ginsberg knows the poem but that art director Stan, the unremitting philistine, should also know it -- and know it well enough to point out, to Ginsberg and bystander Peggy, that the "rest of the poem" rebukes that hubristic utterance. The line joyously mouthed by the young copy-writer is from the monument Ozymandias, "king of kings," built to his vanity. But the great Oz was not an ominipotent ruler for long. Time has ravaged the statue: "Round the decay, / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, / The lone and level sands stretch far away." -- DL
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
It seemed to be a night of liberation for the women of Mad Men: Peggy defying expectations and moving in with Abe, Megan bursting with new ideas and even little Sally coming out as a beautiful adolescent, trying to leave the age of innocence, while the big girls also supported and encouraged each other. But then the generations spoke; wisdom, doubt, envy, and truth all echoed to each other -- crashing and crushing the hopes and dreams built up in the women’s fantasies.
Peggy’s uncertainly about her relationship with Abe made her think his request for an urgent dinner must mean he wanted break up with her. With Joan’s encouragement she changes her thinking and believes the dinner might be for a marriage proposal. But Abe doesn’t propose marriage, instead he wants them to live together and Peggy has to readjusts her thinking. When all the talk of cohabitation is finished, Abe asks Peggy if she still wants to eat dinner and she says, “I do.” The sadness on her face implies that this might be the only time she gets to say those words. It Is as though her heart caught up with her mind and she calculated all the pros and cons of living together or not being with Abe: is she settling, how does she maneuver sex-and-the-single-girl territory, does she demand marriage or go with what’s right for the moment? As strong and independent as she is, as determined to move in with him, it was painful to watch her have to struggle with the choice, then to have to listen to her mother’s words, “you are selling yourself short. This boy he will use you for practice till he decides to get married and have a family.”
The Mad world is a constant struggle between reality and illusion. Megan and Don recovered remarkably well from last week. Still blissfully in love but wanting to prove herself, Megan comes up with the winning idea to seal the Heinz deal. Although everyone at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce knows the idea is Megan’s, she downplays her role in coming up with it so that Raymond from Heinz gives Don the contract. Peggy congratulates Megan and she is seemingly on her way to realizing herself as a successful career woman. But Megan’s parents are staying with her and Don, and their unhappiness filters into her life.
Her father, Emile, a leftist intellectual, is struggling with his own professional failure as his latest idea for a book didn’t go too well with the publishers, and his wife, Marie, is unhappy and unloved. Let me digress for a second. It is a little jarring watching sweet, innocent Ormond from Sabrina get typecast as the mother of adult women. She was fantastic in Temple Grandin, but I’m not sure if I want to see her as a mother much more. Maybe just wife or mistress, business woman, politician or Navy pilot, anything else. It takes deliberately awful makeup, with the eyeliner on her top lid so unfashionably out of skew and shadows under her eyes, to make Ormand look old enough to play Megan’s mother. With her hair down she could be playing Megan.
Anyway, leave it to the fathers to see in their daughters what they don’t see in their wives; Don telling Sally to take off her boots and makeup, protecting her virtues -- this after he deserted Megan last week. And Megan’s father giving her a backhanded compliment and beat down, “I’ve always thought you were single-minded about your dreams….but now I see that you skipped the struggle and went right to the end….I hate that you gave up. Don’t let your love for this man stop you from doing what you wanted to do.” Yet at the same time he’s telling his daughter this, his wife's head is positioned between Roger’s legs in a dark room. What dreams did she have or skip; how did her marriage make her stop living her life?
In the end all are sadder and maybe a little wiser, but none as honest as Sally. When she sees the exchange between Marie and Roger she is forever changed. Asked by her telephone buddy how the city is, she has the last word of the night. “Dirty.”
-- Connie Aitcheson
Think of tonight's episode,the best of the 5th season so far, as the Four Twenty Edition of Mad Men with a bummed out Peggy playing hooky smoking a joint with some horny stranger in a dark movie theater watching "Born Free" (I think that's what it was). . . Roger Sterling goes on an acid trip with his wife, Jane, who, it turns out, speaks Yiddish when she is high (Roger thinks it's German). No sooner has Roger announced that LSD ("your product, Mr Leary") is "boring" than he opens a vodka bottle and hears mighty Russian chorale music. You can hear it every time the bottle is uncapped -- and as long as the bottle remains uncapped. The cigarette in Roger's mouth shrinks. In the mirror he sees himself with half his hair gray, the other half black, as in a magazine ad and Don Draper appears over his shoulder and tells him everything will turn out okay now go back to your wife and he does and she says things like "How can a few numbers contain all of time?" In the cab Bert Cooper's face appears on the five-dollar bill. And her epiphany is that he doesn't like her. And his epiphany is that it's going to be easier to get out of this marriage than he thought. "It'll be expensive," she tells him, but he doesn't care, he's free, it's gonna be a great day. . .And Ginsberg, who needs no drugs to establish his extraterrestrial bona fides, finds a witty way to tell Peggy he was born in a concentration camp. And Peggy is smoking more and drinking more Canadian Club and she resembles no one more than Don when she tells off the guy from Heinz who rejects her "Home is where the Heinz is" campaign, though it's, well, awesome ("the fire is primal. . .and it's the beans that brought them together on the cold night at the end of the summer") and she gets taken off the account and that is why she is bummed out enough to go to the movies and get high and fall asleep in Don's office and later she gets a weird brusque phone call from Don, "Did you get any calls? Has anyone called you?" which makes no sense until we go over the same stretch of time from the point of view of Mr Draper himself, who is driving to a HoJo Motor Lodge with Megan (in beautiful orange-striped sweater that goes perfectly with the decor) where they have a blowout fight which ends when he loses his temper and bolts. "Don't you dare pull away. I'm talking to you," she says helplessly as he pulls out and drives off without her. Cooling off, he goes back and looks everywhere for her including the ladies' room. (She took the bus back, furious.) No pot, no acid, but a sleepless Don smoking cigarettes in a period sedan and having odd flashbacks to composite car trips is enough of a high to end on. A brilliant episode. 1966! -- DL
On Mad Men last evening, the new Jewish copywriter comes home, bringing groceries (like farmer's cheese, oy vay), and there's his Papa, tall, with a thick accent, a refugee from the old country, probably a widower, possibly a man with tattooed numbers on his arm, and what does the old man do? He blesses the boy with the traditional blesssing a father gives his son, hands on head. The blessing is in the book of Numbers, chapter six, verses 24-26. In the King James Version:
"The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
"The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee.
"The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.