Signal to noise.

I’m reading enjoying this new season of Mad Men – no surprise, that – but I especially enjoyed the most current episode, “Signal 30.”

Easily one of this show’s “instaclassics,” right? Pretty much on par with last season’s “The Suitcase.”

It especially fascinated me because it was a Pete-centric episode, especially since Pete was always my least favorite character. For the first season, he was the show’s villain du jour around the office, and his whole personality was always designed for you to love how much you hate him. Plus, I despised the actor by association of his character on Angel. And yet Pete is one of the realest depictions of what it’s like to work in an office like Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and try to stand beside the towering monolith of all things awesome which is Don Draper and try to survive with the comparison.

I think once upon a time Peggy was also that character for us, young and hungry, trying to learn from Don and become like him, to become something in the advertising industry in the 60s, to be admired by peers and to leave the office each day with some self worth, but I think that’s beyond Peggy now. Or, rather, Peggy is beyond that. I think the show’s done a pretty good job now at showing that whatever Peggy’s destiny is, it’s not to become the next Don Draper. It’s to become something different, something new in the changing world that Mad Men teeters on the brink of.

And then there’s Pete. And Lane. Two guys who will always be fish out of water, who work hard, but can’t shake the fact that they feel they’re owed some other kind of respect. There’s struggles and there’s loneliness and there’s a lot of stabs in the dark at connections with people that ultimately fail. And then there’s the loneliness again, and the passage of time and the moments that always slip away. This show is so good at showing at time is always moving, always getting away from you.

There’s an expression that I always used to hear as a kid (far too much, in fact) that went like this: “God always answers your prayers, but He does so in the order in which they’re received.” Once upon a time, Don Draper’s confident, self-assured life looked perfect to Pete. The wife, the kids, the suburbs. Pete went out and got that for himself, without taking the time to appreciate it, and now it feels even lonelier. Don’s happy little life slipped away from him and he found himself another one.

And again all Pete can do is look over there, angry and envious, feeling as if he has nothing, and therefore is nothing.

The only thing I think that Pete Campbell/Theon Greyjoy wants to be more than Don Draper is not himself.

He’s a guy from a family that once had privilege, but they gave it all away. Probably because they figured that they were sitting on an endless supply of it. Sadly, Pete inherited a lot of that thinking. And now he’s either out there, acting without thinking, trying to claim what he feels should have always been his, or he’s left alone, so alone, sitting on top of a mountain of thoughts about how everything should be is and yet, somehow, is not.

There’s something just amazing about this past episode to me. The rhythmic moving of the teenage girl’s sandaled feet, keeping in time with the dripping of the kitchen faucet that haunts Pete, keeping in time with the ticking of the clock. There’s a man on a clocktower picking off pregnant women with a rifle, and Pete’s life is mired with echoes and ghosts, all visible but intangible, all tasting of ash.

And his former enemy, Ken Cosgrove, having himself surrendered in their rivalry, and somehow still doing better and happier with a successful career as a sci fi writer and married to TV’s Alex Mack. Kenny Cosgrove turns his dinners into drinks and he still finds time to write about robots who repair bridges, and meanwhile neither Lane nor Pete can maintain the ones they hope to link them to their fellow men. How can Pete learn to drive if everywhere he’d drive to is the same old shit that he brings himself wherever he goes? How much more irony and neat little metaphors can be packed in here?

I could go on and on, but bottom line: It was good. The episode had a sort of mesmerizing quality about it. The noble sadness of the normal guy, who is doomed to never appreciate what he has and something, something, something about a dog with two bones. Nice direction by John Slattery and an excellent script co-written by the writer of Dog Day Afternoon and Cool Hand Luke, I chuckled when I heard “Ode To Joy” playing.

Just like this season of Game Of Thrones continues it’s not too subtle quest to define power and where it comes from, the characters of Mad Men are just struggling to keep a little of it for themselves. Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future. They keep foreshadowing the death of Don Draper, which, in Mad Men language, I presume, will mean that someone close to Don will die this season rather than Don himself. No one wants to see Don Draper dead but we’d all like to see Don Draper deal with a loss so close to home, or so work, or to wherever his interior self lies.

So much of Game Of Thrones‘ story lays in its past, but the TV show nor the books (I’m only like 200 or so pages into the third book so careful on the spoilers, please) want to go back there. Mad Men will do flashbacks, sparingly, but it’s just to show you how much can change in so little time. The point of both shows is the same: This train is not stopping. It only goes faster. And we’re heading into the future.

One minute your dad is the Hand of the King and the next minute he’s getting his head chopped off and the sons of bitches all have crossbows pointed at you.

One minute every thing is fine and dandy at the whorehouse a few blocks from here and then the next a life, a marriage, and the hopes at landing that contracted are ruined by some bubblegum found on the pubis and we can only settle this one way…

Like men. In the medieval ways that we think men are supposed to act.

It’s hard to put one foot in front of the other when you have no idea where you’re going and no idea what you want out of the journey.

Return to Tomorrowland.

Mad Men finally returns tomorrow!

About fucking time, right? Bring on the cure for the common television show.

All I know about tomorrow’s episode is that it’s two hours long and supposedly called “A Little Kiss.” Other than that, I’ve maintained a blissful sense of being unaware… What will year will the show be in when it returns? Will Don have finally married his secretary, or even still be married to her? What will be up with Peggy, and Pete, and the rest of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce? Will Joan’s husband have been killed in Vietnam yet? And, sigh, what will be the state of Betty Draper?

Those, of course, are just a few of the burning questions. And oh, how they burn.

I don’t have the answers to any of those questions, not yet anyway. And I guess you could say that I’m ready to be hit over the head here.

Until then though, this is talking about some previous Mad Men episodes and other Mad Men Mania:

Tomorrowland.”

The intoxicating weirdness of Jon Hamm.

Christmas Comes But Once A Year.”

Public Relations.”

The timeless wisdom of Marshall McLuhan.

Shut The Door. Have A Seat.”

The Dream Of The Fisherman’s Wife and the art fetish of Burt Cooper.

The Grown-Ups.”

The Gypsy And The Hobo.”

The Color Blue.”

Wee Small Hours.”

…and many, many more.

Anyway, we’ll definitely be watching tomorrow. And we assume you will too. See you in the future.

I Got You Babe.

There’s no such thing as fresh starts because lives are always going on, or is there? Or are they? I don’t know, but I do know that you can always go home again, as long as your ex-wife hasn’t sold it, because it’s where the heart is (and perhaps where the head is not). That and maybe more as we talk about last night’s “Tomorrowland,” the season finale of Mad Men

August Bravo: No matter what we thought, well, maybe a little, or what we thought the writers might have thought, this episode, and season for that matter, was about Don Draper, or as some know him, Dick. Lives, businesses, relationships, friendships, and all those other ships we thought were sinking, didn’t. Like Marco told me earlier, this finale wasn’t as upbeat as last season’s. It showed slim promise and some possibilities, but didn’t leave you thinking, “What the fuck is going to happen next?”

Marco: Well, I’d definitely say it leaves you wondering what happens next, but more so than usual, I think you can guess what’s going to happen next and you’re worried that it may not be so great for the characters. Don, especially.

August: Don’s somewhat “redemption” was almost completely omitted from this episode making everyone believe that crises was averted or that it may play a role in his probably inevitable divorce with Megan. Is it Megan?

Marco: “Megan… out there?” as Roger puts it so perfectly. As Joan says, Don’s grinning like an idiot, as if he’s the first schmuck on Madison Avenue/in professional New York/the world to marry his secretary, but having Roger be surprised adds a very special symmetry, especially since Don’s pulling a Roger there, and it’s kind of weird.

Can you imagine the Don Draper version of Sterling’s Gold?

August: The somewhat reference that the rest of the cast ACTUALLY exists was finding out, which we thought we knew, but thought it might be too obvious, but I guess wasn’t, was that…

…Joan is in fact still pregnant.

Marco: I love that Mad Men is such a unique show that amongst it’s many other wonderful qualities, still has it’s own rhythms and ways of going about the rules of storytelling, counter to other popular ideas about narrative. There is a certain pattern you can expect from each season, we’ve finally learned, isn’t there?

It’s usually: The season starts with some intriguing signs of where the characters have landed since the previous season. Intriguing ideas and/or questions are brought up. Should they actually answer those questions, it’ll be in a relatively vague though still meaningful way. That question, which literally started off this season was: Who the fuck is Don Draper? We’ve gotten a multi-faceted answer to that, certainly.

From there, certain problems and dramatic conflicts will arise around mid-season. They’ll seem massive – Oh no, the government is about to discover that Don Draper is a liar and a deserter! – but will fizzle quickly, leaving you curious as to their placement at all. Certain things will pop up, which will make you suspect where the story is going – did Joan actually not get that abortion? – but you’ll think, “No, that’s far too obvious. They won’t go there.” They will, friends. Then, whatever the endgame of the season is, it won’t appear until the last two or three episodes and it will be an all consuming fire.

August: Except for Megan. That carrot was dangled in front of us and we’ve just been waiting for Don to take bite after bite after bite.

Marco: True. It’s funny how we believe certain things from this show. When Dr. Faye said to Don that he’s the kind of guy that would be married again within the year, I think we all believed that.

Though, of course, I don’t think I stand alone when I say that we hoped that it would be Dr. Faye that we hoped Don would end up with, or that she’d be the kind of partner he’d strive to find happiness with. The fact that she’s a feminist and someone who has pushed Don to accept himself, and possibly integrate his two personas as it were, didn’t hurt. She’s helped his business, helped his mind, and helped his soul, as it were, yet there’s certain things she couldn’t provide Don that seemed to really make him look elsewhere.

August: She couldn’t be a caregiver to his children while he was off doing whatever he wanted to. She’s the anti-Betty.

Marco: That and she couldn’t worship him the way Megan seemingly can. Plus, I think that as much as Don wants to be able to stop hiding and stop running from the spectre of Dick Whitman, a part of him enjoys the lies that come with the running and hiding. Don Draper is the greatest product he’s ever advertised, and with Megan, he can find a fresh start at that.

August: But Henry Francis says there are no fresh starts!

Marco: I can’t believe that Henry Francis has lingered this whole season.

Sadly, we’ve really dropped the ball this season, August and I, because there’s so much we could say about this episode, so much that needs to be said, but it all ties into this past season and that’s a dialogue that I’m incredibly sad that we haven’t had here at Counterforce. On behalf of us and directed at the three people who actually reads these Mad Men posts from us, I apologize. I had some shit going on and August didn’t have cable. And refused to buy the episodes on itunes. And couldn’t figure out megavideo.

from here.

August: You just knew where it was all going once Stephanie handed Don that engagement ring from the real Don Draper.

Marco: Oh, seriously. Chekhov might as well have come out to California with Don and the kids and fired that ring out of a gun right at Megan.

It’s funny that I posted this picture from Videogum the other day…

…and sadly it came so true, in a lot of ways, since we’re speaking of Megan and Dr. Faye and Sally and… Well, have we mentioned Sally yet? Cause if we haven’t, we should be talking about Sally this season, right?

August: We haven’t mentioned her yet.

from here.

Marco: Sally! I believe I kept mentioning in our conversations about the show last year how much I liked Sally’s character, how interesting I thought her storylines were, and I feel like that’s only been compounded on more wonderfully this season. Bobby’s still kind of useless, but I’m glad that Sally has really stepped forward and is becoming a real person, even at such a young age, though, again, it’ll be interesting to watch her grow into herself and who she’s going to be while still being the child of Don and Betty Draper.

Anyway, so that once picture: Sally telling Dr. Faye that she’s fired. Ha ha, funny. But kind of eerily prescient in a way, considering that episode, “The Beautiful Girls,” when I know that a lot of people read that one scene there, Benjamin Light included, as Sally kind of picking Megan out of the rest of the “beautiful girls” that surround her father. And maybe Don picked up on that.

I mean, we knew Don wanted to fuck Megan. That notion was exploding louder than bombs for a handful of episodes before it happened, but this picture from Videogum

…is kind of funny for how very accurate it had become.

August: I can’t write too much about this episode because in my head I’m still processing how to feel about it all. The bit I particularly enjoyed the most was Don telling Peggy that Megan(??) looked up to her, and had the same sort of spark, and Peggy being completely jealous. Maybe Peggy will be wife number 3 (or is it number 4??) Her childlike jealousy really made this episode. To see Don slowly turning into Roger (maaaaybe), or to see the evolution of Betty, and I guess Peggy’s, unhappiness/jealousy, or maybe Megan’s (yes, it is Megan) slow transition into the life of being Mrs. Draper/Whitman will be the most interesting thing to watch next season.

Marco: I don’t trust Megan. Well, no, that’s not true. But she’s very manipulative. And Jessica Paré is, I think, very good at playing that so subtly. Megan’s incredibly smart, but dumb and silly in all those ways that a 25 year old would seem or should see to a 40 year old man who should know better – though Don has two addictions in his life: women and the sauce - but it’s not hard to see the way she’s worked the situation with Don to her advantage.

That’s not particularly insidious because all stabs at romance are some form of manipulation, if you think about it, no matter how well intentioned and wholesome they seem. But she’s told Don exactly what he needs or wants to hear, especially that she doesn’t care about his past, just who he is now. For a man who’s finally started to accept that he has all his life ahead of him, what he really wants to do is live in the now. Especially with a girl like Megan, who seems to adore him, but I think will be much better at getting what she wants or deserves than Betty was.

Maybe this really will be “happily ever after” for Don, but I doubt it. But really, it’s not the happily ever after I would’ve picked for this character. I suspect that he’s traded in one “lost weekend” phase for perhaps another? But let’s face it, Don’s not a guy who will get a classical happily ever after, is he? He’s too prone to a life of solemn remorse.

That said, I would disagree with your take on Peggy. Jealousy? Maybe. But I think that was a very, very small part of that look she gave Don. I think if we could’ve heard her thoughts or seen them in a comic book word bubble floating over her head, they would’ve read as: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? HER?! HUH? WHAT?

But Peggy’s defined her life by Don to a lot of degrees. She has, in her own small way, just saved the agency by finally signing some new business, no matter how small, and here’s Don, her mentor, running around like an idiot. And his comment to Peggy about how Megan reminds him a lot of her is the ultimate slap in the face for a great many reasons. For a season that contained the show’s best episode, “The Suitcase,” in which Don and Peggy finally bond in kind of a real way, it was kind of hard to watch their interaction this year end like this.

But, that scene with Joan and Peggy immediately after was perfect. A Joan/Peggy show? I’d watch that. I hope that next season shows those two really claiming some of the power around SCDP (or will it just be SDP?) that they more than rightfully deserve.

August: I think this season had a lot of ups and downs, but mostly ups. Overwhelmingly ups. Like I said, the storyline I’m most interested in for the next year is the stuff with Don and Megan, should Don and Megan really work out. They didn’t leave us with a lot of answers this season, but we maybe that’s because we were all asking too many questions.

Marco: I think you’re right about that. The status quo’s been changed, some things and people are gone, and some are still with us, just amplified. We think we’re ready for what tomorrow will bring, but we have no idea. Just like Don there, we’re laying awake in the dark with a near stranger sleeping beside us as stare out at the night.

The cure for the common television show.

Mad linkage:

John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe (and hopefully teaming up with young Abe Lincoln to hunt vampires).

Obama urges Americans to “turn the page” on Iraq.

Bill Compton as Doctor Doom and either Jack Bauer or John McClane as the Thing.

Jon Hamm: “If Rob Lowe had been cast in the part, it would have been different. There was no backstory with me.”

An interesting write up on Phonogram: The Singles Club.

Behind the “Frazenfreude.”

Stephen Hawking changes his views on God.

Just imagine this: An 80 hour Lost marathon.

5 mind blowing ways that your memory plays tricks on you.

5 UFO sightings that even non-crazy people find creepy.

5 stupidest ways that movies deal with foreign languages.

6 famous unsolved mysteries (that have totally been solved).

January Jones: “I need not to think about my character. Betty is so blissfully ignorant in certain ways, so I feel like I should be too.”

Speaking of Arcade Fire: Their new collab with Google folks, The Wilderness Downtown.

A cannibal restaurant in Berlin. Figures.

Laura Marling’s award-nominated love triangle.

Self-described CIA assassin dies in ([accidental] self-imposed) gun accident.

Some of these pictures are, of course, from Rolling Stone, which will be featuring Mad Men on the cover of their new issue. Great idea. Bad photoshopping on that cover though.

And, I tell ya, August and I have really missed doing our Mad Men write ups the past few episodes, especially since, as far as I’m concerned, this has been the show’s strongest season yet, but on the plus side, it’s probably spared you an incredible amount of Nora Zehetner photos that I would’ve just bombarded you with…

Seriously.

Creepy artificial arm from the 1800s.

Peter Travers talks with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Weezer’s just trying to sell some clothes and Cee-Lo says “Fuck You.”

Is Barnes & Noble really going bye bye?

Blah blah blah bedbugs.

The Bloom Box: A power plant the size of a coffee mug.

Why do hurricanes often curve out to sea?

There’s some NSFW happening in the new Conan movie.

One year after Disney bought Marvel: Not much has really changed.

The perilous profession of underground mining.

Wormholes in NYC.

I honestly can’t believe that they renewed Human Target.

Booty calls are their own special type of relationship.

Oh, and hey, the next post will be the 750th!

A man from a town with no name.

Right off the bat, let’s lift a shadow off this evening: The only people for us are the mad ones and there’s nothing nearly eloquent enough to explain our excitement about the return of Mad Men tonight (and the return of us gabbing about each new episode afterward) with the fourth season premiere, “Public Relations,” but August is going to start us off with…

August Bravo: One of those guys is going to leave New York with a VD.

Is it me or shouldn’t this episode have been titled “Don Fucking Draper,” right?

from here.

Marco Sparks: Seriously. That would have been a great title for the season premiere of the show for rich people and rich minds alike.

August: Seriously. This episodes taps into the psyche of Don and who he is now. Maybe who he always was.

Marco: I feel like every single season we’re told that there’s a larger question hanging over that particular year or story arc, and there is no resolution, not clearly. There’s milestones. There’s totems on that timeline. There’s road blocks and rest stops, but that probing question only gets more complicated, more faceted…

But it’s nice that no matter how despicable some of Don’s actions can be, he’s still one of our better role models for men on television. Right? Well… no, probably not. There’s obviously a very masculine energy to him, a complicated creature of intrigue and overflowing with a talent that can’t be denied and a certain enviable confidence. But it’s a weird time for men now, not unlike the 60s in some regards, and it’s hard to find good male role models in this day and age…

from here.

…I mean, right?

Though it’s interesting to watch the new era of Don Draper. The single Don, a man living a sadder life perhaps? It’s like watching an actor without a real role. Don’s always a little more in his zone when he’s lying to a woman effectively and it’s got to be hard for him when the possible new girl in his life sees through a little of the old tricks of his. But, Don being Don, and knowing the ways of the world like he does, and being in advertising after all, he relies on kindly women from the oldest profession who can give him what he wants, a literal expression of what has happened to him thus far: A good slapping around.

August: No need for the hooker to take off her brassiere, she already knows what Don wants.

Marco: Even if perhaps Don himself doesn’t.

August: I’m not sure a lot of people could have imagined Don throwing himself down to this level. But I don’t think it’s like that.

Marco: I’m sure the events of his life sure haven’t helped. The confusion at work as they build a new company. The constant struggle to move out of the darkened corners of invisible anonymity in the creative department to becoming the poster boy, the handsome cipher, the face of the company.

It’s 1964 at this point, it’s Thanksgiving, and Don isn’t finding himself a whole lot to be thankful for. This new found freedom isn’t necessarily good for him, it sure as hell isn’t glamorous in any way, and divorced guys are seemingly considered basically damaged goods. And I think a lot of people came up with a lot of reasons for why Don like or wants or needs a bit of the rough stuff in his sex life, specifically being slapped, but the very first thing I got out of it was a reminder of Betty slapping him back in the season finale last year.

August: Life is just slapping him around at this point. I think it’s about what he said earlier. Every day he works is an investment for the company. He has no time to pick up women and seduce them into copious amounts of sex, to play that particular game that he plays so well. He has work to do.

Marco: Cause in every single way, Don is the star of this show.

I love the use of “John And Marsha” by Stan Freeberg, one of the kings of early satire, and the song is both a lovely inside joke when it comes to the world of advertising and a nice joke on soap operas. And it only becomes so much more meta when you consider that that’s really what Mad Men is.

August: Johnnnnnn.

Marco: Marshaaaaaaa.

August: In the metamorphosis from Sterling Cooper to Sterling Cooper Draper Price I’m glad they’ve updated from their shanty of an office in a hotel room to an actual floor, which unfortunately enough for Harry Crane doesn’t have more than one story, with their name on the door. Sorry Pete, guess they did end up having a lobby. But still no table…

Marco: I think we’re all holding our breath in anticipation of more Joan. And the possibility of Joan and Don… you know. That’s the difference, in just some regards, between a show like Mad Men and True BloodTrue Blood is all soft core fan service (at some point everyone on that show will have fucked everyone else on that show for our amusement) and Mad Men is cerebral teasing all the way. It’s about dangling and snatching away at the last moment.

I especially think that’s true in light of this episode of Mad Men, which is all about not being able to close certain deals and not wanting to close others. You gotta love Don’s orchestrated “fuck off” to the prudes manufacturing sex in swim wear and thinking they’re better than they are.

August: I enjoyed the ruse Peggy and Pete conjured in order to garner press for the ham company. Didn’t go as planned, but that’s life I guess.

Marco: “It was going great… until it wasn’t.” Is this the beginning of real publicity stunts as prominent and regular tools for advertising?

August: It’s hard out there for the boys and girls in America. Especially in the 60’s. 1964, if I’m not mistaken?

Marco: It certainly is.

August: Sad to see no one from the old Sterling Cooper in the episode, but I’m sure we will in due time.

Marco: Like your beloved Ken Cosgrove.

August: Ken had cool hair. Terrific few parts of the episode? Don and Roger bickering back and forth about the one-legged reporter and his inability to write a real story. Maybe they should talk to a whole reporter next time? Ha-ha. Roger sure as shit was the comedy relief in this episode as a lot of things/people were so morose.

Now back to Don, who has always been the main character of the show, I guess the protagonist, if you will, who really made this episode what it was. I think he feels this is temporary, this won’t last with Betty…

Marco: Henry Francis just feels like he’s about to get hit by a car or walk off the top of a skyscraper any moment now, doesn’t he? His patheticness almost makes Betty look even more cruel and horrid. It leaves where she ends up because of her frustrations from the past few years even more unchecked. Just as the kids are scared of their mother, I can’t imagine Francis not growing bored of her and then where will Matthew Weiner deliver her( and us)?

from here.

August: Will Don get back with her? Will he want to? The man with no key to his own house. I love his ability to take the jabs by his attorney and Roger in this episode. Usually so defensive, I think he’s just too shot down. Or just doesn’t give a shit anymore.

Marco: I’d be hurt if Benjie Light doesn’t have a few words to share with us about Betty, but I like where they’re taking the kids here, story-wise and post-divorce, the way they’re building on what we’ve seen so far concerning Sally and Bobby Draper. Sally, of course, is going to rebel and be repulsed by the way her little life is going so far and Bobby is going to grow up to be fucking creepy. If they ever do an episode flashing forward to where all the characters ended up, I want to see Bobby Draper, with his new striving to be liked by everyone now, as a politician.

And since they cast Matt Long as Peggy’s little partner, I’m wondering just out of curiosity since I never actually watched Jack And Bobby (and I don’t believe that anyone else did either)(though I think John Slattery was on there too), but didn’t Bobby end up being the one who grew up to become President?

August: No need for Don to try to defend his failing marriage, he’s got other things to worry about. Like mentioning jai alai…

Marco: Fucking jai alai.

August: …in his news story. Maybe that interview with the Wall Street Journal will make it all better?

Marco: Or so much worse. Is this the beginning of Don getting so much bigger in his own mind? Don Draper as Dirk Diggler?

August: His bitterness towards Henry and Betty was no surprise, after all, they’re living in his own house, rent free.

Marco: I hope that Betty becomes the new Don in that house.

from here.

Especially since Henry’s idea of recapturing the magic between involves them fucking in the car, seemingly echoing back to when they had to sneak around? Only one episode in and I already feel like these characters feel like they can’t handle the a-changin’ times around them and they’re flirting with the soft seduction of the past and all of it’s elements, the moments when they felt happier or more dangerous.

August: I couldn’t tell you where this episode may take us, as far as the new season is concerned. I’m just hoping I get to see more of Pryce.

Marco: And Joan. And maybe more Trudy/Alison Brie? And maybe we can slowly grasp our way towards something resembling that eternally elusive question that this show constantly is hanging over us…

August: Who is Don Draper?

Public relations.

Thank fucking God that Mad Men is coming back, right? Right? After the end of Lost, I kind of felt like I wanted to take a break from TV, and for the most part, I have. The only shows I tune in regularly to in any regard are Party Down and Doctor Who, though by “tune in regularly,” I do, of course, mean via the internet. Oh, and True Blood too. And yet, all that said, it’s funny how I realize what a Mad Men-sized gap there’s been in my life once I really start to visualize the return of the show. Does that make sense? Do I care? Either way, I think we can all take a vote on it and it’ll come out unanimous that it’s time for Mad Men to return, yes?

Mad linkage:

This is the greatest story you’ll see today.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, The Runaway General?

Alleged fugitive drug lord arrested in Jamaica.

Wikileaks founder emerges from hiding.

It’ll be good to have you back, January Jones.

Serial killers, religious cults, human hair.

Various upcoming movies: Inception, The Green Hornet (which looks, if possible, more terrible than I could’ve imagined in my wildest dreams), Pumzi (a short film by Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu about a world decimated after “water wars”), and A Topiary, the second movie by Shane Carruth, who directed Primer.

Oh, and just so there’s no confusion: According to Wikipedia, “Public Relations” is currently listed as the title of the first episode of Mad Men‘s upcoming season.

Adam Mckay directing Garth Ennis’ The Boys? Whatever.

A tale of Anne Frank’s fictional sex life.

Gigantic green algae slick heads towards China.

Just click here for your moment of daily zen.

“So you do want to be in advertising after all?”

Lets do something crazy!

“From one john’s bed to the next,” and here we are, sitting in our hotel suite office ordering room service and naughty adult movies, ready to ruminate on this past Sunday’s episode of Mad Men, the season 3 finale entitled “Shut The Door. Have A Seat.” And what an episode it was…

Onward to the littlest biggest divorce in the world.

Again, normally August Bravo would join me here, but that guy just can’t learn his lesson. Remember when he didn’t heed Peggy’s mom’s advice and moved to Manhattan and then was thoroughly raped? Well, now he’s moved to Portland and while there’s a bar on every corner and someone you can buy a hanjob or coke or both from every ten feet, apparently there’s not enough of a signal to watch Mad Men on youtube via your iphone.

Howdy Don. I am old and crusty. And if you want a father figure, I will gladly give you a spanking.

A brief recap (if possible): We discover that Don has been sleeping in Grandpa Gene’s room because of the strife between Betty and himself. Conrad Hilton gives him the cold brush off and informs him that PPL is being sold, and with it goes Sterling Cooper. Don tells his would be father figure where he can stick it. Then he goes and wakes up Cooper and brings Roger Sterling back to life and gets them excited about taking back their lives and their company and starting over. Together, they begin picking out their dream team from Sterling Cooper and assembling what will be their new company as Don goes around with both his dick and his tail between his legs and learning to value relationships. And sometimes valuing relationships means knowing which ones to say goodbye to, and so off goes Betty and her new boyfriend to Reno for a “quickie” (six weeks) divorce and Don discovers that he has a whole other family. But this, you see, is just a brief recap, so, as we’re told in almost every scene in this episode, “Have a seat.”

John John salutes.

Well, Kennedy is still dead. John John’s had to make his goodbyes, and America has not quite realized it, but everything is different now. The changes are no longer coming, they’re here.

Alarm clocks do not wake the dead.

And Don starts the episode by waking in a tomb, the former bedroom of a dead man and the newborn baby who shares his name. He then goes to meet Connie, the odd kitten who’s treated Don like a ball of yarn half the season, and really wakes up when Connie cuts him loose and then gives Don a self righteous spiel about how he’s impervious to whiners who can’t earn things for themselves. But Don couldn’t give a shit. His company’s about to get sold and he doesn’t want to go work for some sausage factory.

From there on, the episode becomes just a powerhouse of awesome, giving us some truly satisfying and exciting moments dealing with Don Draper and the exiles of Sterling Cooper as they play the phoenix from the ashes of their company, but before we go there, let’s get to what we all knew was coming, especially after last week…

...when both parties are guilty.

“The state of New York doesn’t want anyone to get divorced. That’s why people go to Reno.”

The thing is, after last week’s episode, this season finale was all set up in our minds to be the ultimate downer as the Draper castle was torn apart and washed away, and yet, back in the office, we saw excitement and joy, and more of a sense of family than we’ve seen in a long time in the cold walls of Don and Betty’s metaphorical bedroom. Just another way this show wonderfully plays with our expectations.

So, Benjamin Light hates Betty, and I can understand why, but I can still see where she’s coming from. And I’m glad she’s going. Don remains characteristically clueless about a lot of what she wants and needs, and really, she’s the same way about him. And now that she sees him, now that he’s no longer the “football hero who hates his father,” but the son of poor co-op farmers, he’s nothing to her. Everything that his double life has brought them is completely illegitimate to her, and she longs for the silver haired loser from the Rockefeller campaign instead.

In fact, I think Betty quite accurately throws it in Don’s face when he suggests that she may have to be sick to want out of their “perfect little world.” Well, actually, he just suggests that she’s had a bad year, which she has, and that she should probably find someone to talk, which she should. But her inference is also correct, I think, when it comes to Don’s real intentions there. I can defend Betty to a point, am curious to see who she’ll become as she now enters the real world that Don and her father have essentially protected her from up until this point, but she has been, and in this episode especially, a bit of a stone cold bitch.

“Why are we in the living room?” Bobby Draper asks, and he’s right. It’s the scene of Betty’s ultimate fantasy world and in it, the cathedral to which she can have those fantasies now ends as the family breaks up. This was easily one of the most heartbreaking scenes on TV, and so harsh, so cruel, so real. Don suggests this new status quo is only temporarily and Betty emphatically shakes her head no. And then there’s the kids, the real victims of the way people treat each other, and as Light suggested to me the other day, though it’s not said, you almost feel that for all the coldness they sometimes get from their father, they’d still prefer it to freezing to death with their mother.

Have a seat, Bobby.

As much of a fan of little Sally Draper as I am, the lasting image from that scene for me isn’t just Betty shaking her head no, but it’s Bobby’s ceaseless clinging to his father, clinging to his world that he barely understands as it all falls away. Oh, the fathers and sons this season. Don and Bobby, whom Don rarely shares moments with, honestly. Don getting kicked out by his pseudo-paternal figure, Hilton, which starts flashbacks of the loss of his real father (or real step father, whatever), Archie Whitman.

Archie Whitman sees you masturbate.

Which brings us to the night before the Draper family ended in their living room, when a drunken Don invades the master bedroom in the house, that his wife and their newborn baby now occupy alone, and he pulls Betty out of sleep and onto her feet, confronting her with what he’s only just learned about: Henry Francis. Don has the greatest line of the season when it comes to Betty: “Because you’re good… and everyone else is in the world is bad.” Don’s cruelty is usually cool, measured, but when he delivers these lines, it’s like he’s finally releasing some pent up venom. But it almost goes to far and we’re taken back to his imagined origins in the late night reverie from the season premiere, as he becomes his father, Betty becomes the whore, and then there’s the baby crying. It’s arguable in that scene that Don is confronted with a subtle choice as you half expect him to hit his wife: Does he want to be Don Draper or does he want to just another dick?

Who the hell is Henry Francis?

Which takes us back to the offices of Sterling Cooper, the kind of place that Don never expected to work at, but where he thrived, or, where he’s thrived for the last three years. With PPL being sold off and the SC along with it by their new British masters, Don is awake, and on his way to wake up Bert Cooper…

The dialogue in their scene is perfect, and I love that Cooper, who’s always kind to Don and his talents and his mysteries, and who purrs like a fat old wise and eccentric housecat with a bit of a Japanese fetish, lets Don know flat out that he doesn’t think he has the stomach for the reality of the future Don wants so brutally to regain control of…

Meow.

Cooper: “Young men love risks because they can’t imagine consequences.”

Don: “And you old men love building golden tombs and sealing the rest of us in with you.”

But something begins in this scene, the start of building something, a bridge out of their indentured servitude and Cooper hits Don with one of those harsh realities he’s going to have to face: He can’t do this on his own. He’s going to need Roger Sterling.

I was going to tell you. Well, no, I was not. Bros, hoes, whatever. Lets drink!

And let me just say: Fuck Yeah, Roger Sterling.

When the highpoints of this episode was literally everything that came out of his mouth. Don and Cooper both make their pitches to Sterling about taking the tough road and starting something new and Sterling breaks it to Don: You don’t care about people. And maybe that’s why you’re so bad at being real with them. And Cooper hits Sterling with some real talk too: You need the excitement and danger of this business to survive and feel alive like you’re used to. Retire now and you might as well move into a plot in the ground with your child bride. It’s funny how enduring Jane has somehow purified Roger in our eyes, made him possibly realize that Joan is the woman for him, not the girl for him like Jane is, and put him on a better path.

From there, they go to Pryce and put forth a plan: He’ll fire them, thereby releasing them from their contracts, in exchange for shared power in their new company, and over the weekend, they’ll assemble a dream team to take with them along with any clients and supplies they can swipe from the office. And the show literally explodes into life. It became the gathering of the dream team from something like Ocean’s 11 or the start of a mission from one of those crack team of guys going on a mission World War II or something. It was perfect and it was exhilarating.

Beg me? You didnt even ask me.

And it was a great moment for the characters to confront their own failures and move past them, to be happy beyond them. Don especially, as he does the walk of shame, first treating Peggy like dirty in assuming that she’ll just follow him blindly so he can beat her about as he pleases and then getting told off by her as she finally stands up for herself to him.

And then Pete, whom Don actually has to compliment for his eye towards the future. He’s not just wanted, he’s needed in the new company, Don tells him. And thankfully, along with Pete, will come his perfect partner, Trudy.

Sorry, August, but I guess Ken Cosgrove doesn’t make the cut.

This guy? Really?

Sadly, they took Harry Crane along too, but maybe since they’re literally sifting through the ashes of Sterling Cooper, maybe they’ll blow a little of those embers into him and ignite some potential. Or maybe he came along just so Cooper could deliver my actual favorite line of the episode, telling Harry that if he turns him down, he’ll spend the rest of the weekend tied up in the closet.

And, of course Joan is back. They’re all brilliant actors and they’re staging what could be a fascinating play, but they need a director, they need someone to coordinate them and make their needs accessible. And of course Roger knows that Joan is the person to do that.

But alas, no Sal. But in a small way, that could be a good thing. Sal may not be able to come back to the new company and the show in his old capacity, but more on that soon. Cause there’s always this:

Fuck doors. Fuck yeah.

And then there’s Don’s return and appeal to Peggy. He stops treating her like his former secretary. He stops treating her like just an employee. He actually sees her as a person. Possibly through a mirror, but still, he’s awake now and really looking at her. He’s really to lay down his sword and shield in front of her and stop holding the fact that he’s a man over her as something superior. I think one of the most realistic and truthful things Don has ever said is when he told her that she’s just like him, she’s his anima, and together they both can conjure the words, the “asa nisi masa,” if you will.

If I say no, you will never speak to me again.

“Because there are people out there who buy things, people like you and me, and something happened. Something terrible. And the way that they saw themselves is gone. And nobody understands that, but you do. And that’s very valuable.”

SHOW ME THE MONEY!

When he says that, it’s not just to her that he’s confessing things, it’s to himself as well. Peggy ventures a guess that if she turns him down, he’ll cut her off forever and, baring his soul to her, he says it’s the opposite: “No. I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you.” It’s telling that the most touching scene of the episode isn’t between Don and his departing wife, Betty. It’s between Don and himself/Peggy.

Fan Fiction, start your engines.

But of course Peggy is her own creature as well, and I think everyone, not just Don and Pete, are going to see it. So classic was Roger asking her for a cup of coffee and her flat out saying, “No.”

Velveeta really is the cheesiest.

But then the long night of the weekend comes to an end and the sun comes up on Monday morning and the all stars of Sterling Cooper are gone, spirited away to their new home, an office in a hotel suite. In fact, really, all of Sterling Cooper is gone, shredded to pieces in the night…

And now:

Sultry phone voice.

“Good morning! Hello Sterling/Cooper/Draper/Pryce. How may I help you?” It’s nice to meet you.

Pip Pip. Cheerio. And good day to you then, sir!

“Very good. Happy Christmas!”

Pete tried to poach John Deere.

“He didn’t even leave a note!”

Still miss you, Sal, but you’ll have to change or die, as is often the case with history. As the always explosively brilliant Karina Longworth suggests when talking about the end of the episode as the camera captures the joy on the faces of the new SCDP employees/refugees:

The glow in the room that’s reflected on Don’s face in that shot—that is only there because they are all there, because he needs all of them to do his job, and vice versa. It’s arguable (probable, for all the lines like “we don’t have art”) that Sal could be back in Season Four and SCDP (and the show) would be better for it. But his sham marriage may need to fully deteriorate before he belongs in that hotel room.

One can only hope that Sal embraces his sexuality and himself and comes back into the fold as a contracted big time commercial director. Wouldn’t that be wonderful. Also, Fuck Lee Garner, Jr.

Will Sal be forever left on the cutting room floor?

This episode was everything I could ever want from Mad Men. Much like us here at Counter-force, sitting her in our hotel suite/bloggitorium, at least when I’m doing my song and dance, we’re obsessed with the future. But we see it through the multi-colored lenses of the past. The past was bombs, the present is rubble, and the future is fireworks and we’re looking up at the stars, to dangle as many silly pyrotechnic metaphors in your face as I can.

The limeys invade.

The Beatles are coming. Vietnam is coming. The world isn’t done being changed and the light from the future can’t be fully seen yet, but for now, in the world of Mad Men, the characters are happy. Excited. Don Draper has perhaps finally said goodbye to Dick Whitman and is ready to move on. Trudy is showing up with sandwiches. Joan’s husband can hopefully only be guaranteed a nasty ending. There’s Peggy/Pete stuff on the horizon. There’s Joan/Roger stuff on the horizon. And there’s always fucking Jai Alai. We may never seen Suzanne Farrell again (though she’ll live on in Twix commercials). Or Paul Kinsey or Duck Phillips or Ken Cosgrove, for all we know. But what happens in this world and in Don Draper’s life could be anything.

Don and his new family.

Especially when Don places that call to Betty. He won’t fight her. She can have whatever she wants. And he hopes that she finds out what that is. “Well, you’ll always be her father,” she pathetically replies with, but I think it was meant to be a kind statement, something Betty’s always been foreign too. She’s going to leave two older children with a vastly better mom, Carla (so classy, Betty), and take baby Eugene, her youngest child and ball and chain from the past, to Reno with her new boyfriend.

I just called to say  I do not love you anymore.

And Don’s going to crawl off into the city, heartbroken maybe, but feeling lighter and hopefully optimistic. We have a general idea of the future he’s going to see, but he doesn’t, and he’s excited for it. And we’re going to go with him.

And, wonderfully, Roy Orbison is going to sing a song about the whole thing. August and I had a great time talking about Mad Men and hopefully you enjoyed it too. And hopefully it’ll only get better since, after all, “the future is much better than the past.”

Future, here we come...

The end of Camelot.

Turn on the news! Turn on the news!

It’s amazing how a single bullet, a magic bullet if you will, can change the course of history. It can turn the kids into the adults and vice versa. As Trudy Campbell said, “I don’t care what your politics are, this is America, and you can’t just shoot the President!” If only that were true, Trudy. But adults can say a lot of things when they’re living their lives in front of the TV, either in the office, in the living room at home, or in the hotel room after your nooner, and last night’s episode of Mad Men, “The Grown-Ups” showed that better than anything. So let’s go back, and to the left, as we talk about the birth and death of marriages and the day that the 60s really began…

Everything is going to be fine.

August Bravo: Dia de los Mad Men! And the whole country’s drinking…

The Madness of Don Draper.

Marco Sparks: I loved the beginning of this episode, the first image there of Pete curled up on his office couch, squeezed tightly into a fetal position, waiting for a woman to bring him warm nourishment. Only that hot cocoa was instant, made with water instead of milk!

August: Watching last night’s episode really made me like Trudy. She’s certainly a trophy wife, yes, but she’s always by Pete’s side.

Marco: On this show, she’s the definition of “devotion.” I mean, she was this close to sleeping with an old paramour to help Pete get a short story published in… what was it? Highlights For Children? Fitting.

Rather disappointing news.

August: It’s probably women like her that made that decade what it was, for better and for worse. Am I envious of Pete here, just a little? I sure am.

Marco: I have to say it’s a joy to watch Alison Brie, who plays Trudy, on Community.

Alison Brie should be on every show.

August: And now we go back to Pete. We all knew he wouldn’t get that job, right? We all wanted him to not get that job. At least I didn’t want to.

Marco: Because you’re the vice president, treasurer, and refreshments organizer of Team Cosgrove, aren’t you?

August Bravo and Ken Cosgrove, sitting in a tree.

August: I think Ken really did deserve it. Maybe.

When you are a little kid, life just passes you by.

Marco: We really have no idea since we never actually saw him doing his job. He was mostly just showing up to ask him people to go get a drink with him or riding lawn mowers into the office.

I hate her, daddy.

August: He never really stressed about it. He was just Cool Hand Luke about it, like, all of the time.

Kinsey smells a booty call.

Marco: Poor Pete. People saw him working, so they assumed he was working. They saw Cosgrove chillaxing with that stupid grin and “that haircut,” they just assumed he had everything under control.

I wonder if this is the last time we’ll see Duck, abandoning his sexual conquest of Peggy temporarily (I love her roommate asking why she was with him if he’s not married) to call his kids.

Lets eat some monte cristo sandwiches and have mediocre sex, baby.

August: Time to get down to business…

Marco: And Jackie turned to Jack Jack and said, “Mr. President, You can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you…”

ST-C420-13-63

August: We all knew it would happen this season…

Dallas.

Marco: Weiner said he wasn’t sure we’d see it this year, or how in depth it’d be covered, and yet, this was the defining moment of this season, and the moment so strongly hinted and foreshadowed this whole year, with Roger’s daughter’s wedding date and the constant references to Dallas.

In the motorcade moments before...

August: Yeah, we all knew it would happen. Maybe in next week’s episode, I think some of us were thinking, but we knew it was going to happen. Hell, it already did happen. Kennedy is dead.

In the shadow of a gunman.

Marco: I love the constant use of news footage, of the characters literally trapped in those moments, time brought to a standstill as they can hear the beats of their own fucked up, broken hearts. And especially poignant with the deaths of Ted Kennedy and Walter Cronkite in the past few months, too.

Walter Conkrite gives us the straight dope.

August: And Lee Harvey Oswald is dead too.

Oswald and Ruby are going to start a band and it shall be awesome, American History.

Marco: Who cares about justice when you can just hand the situation over to the mafia.

This was the year he rode the subway to the ends of the city.

August: I love the moment that everyone finds out about it, the way the phone calls are ringing off the hook throughout the entire building, going unanswered, and then, all of a sudden, they stop. Silence everywhere. It’s both what you’d least expect and exactly what you expect.

What the hell is going on!?

Marco: And in strolls Don Draper, just a few seconds late to a scene, as he seems to be in every scene in this episode, asking, “What the hell’s going on?”

Actually, the scene with Harry Crane and Pete is what I loved about the actual finding out of what happened in Texas. The TV’s on in the background, broadcasting a special bulletin and they’re whining about their jobs. Pete’s complaining like a sad little kid and Harry’s trying to sound like a mature adult. And then the hilariously ironic line: “I’m going to die at this desk unnoticed.”

August: Man, Roger is just so unhappy. His kid of a wife can’t control herself. And neither can Roger. Calling Joan while his wife number whatever is passed out drunk next to him. That takes guts. And I don’t think Roger even cares anymore.

Congrats on throwing you life away into perpetaul unhappiness, or what we like to call Livable Hatred Of Another Person.

Marco: What a long, strange journey it’s been since the party in “My Old Kentucky Home,” both of which were thrown by Roger, both of which involved Betty having an encounter of sorts with Henry Francis from the Governor’s office, and both ending with Jane passing out from “not eating enough” with her booze.

A good person.Did you notice that Jane constantly reiterates that she’s “a good person?”

Except now this is a world where a President has been killed and Roger can’t find the jokes in the face of this true, uncertain horror. At the end of last season it was the Cuban Missile Crisis and the end of the world. This is worst. This is what happens after. This is the real world and it’s time to be grown ups.

Please feel free to have the prime rib AND the filet of soul.

But, man, Joan is the saving grace of this show always. If next season involves the Brits having sold Sterling Cooper to Duck’s company, I can only hope they get Joan back. Also, I think it’s fair to point out that in Roger’s life, to take Pryce’s words as metaphor, Jane is Ken Cosgrove and Joan is Pete Campbell.

August: Oh?

Marco: Don’t start writing Roger/Pete slash fiction just yet. I just mean that Jane made Roger feel young, like he was invincible, and everything was easy and there was no work required to achieve his needs. And it’s because the women he wanted wanted someone else. But Roger would have to work to be worthy of Joan and he knows it. And it means he’d have to acknowledge that there’s something he desires so passionately in this world.

Phone sex.

We can only hope for good things when Dr. McRapist gets his legs blown off in ‘Nam, all Born On The Fourth Of July-style.

August: Man, this whole episode. No one cares about their own lives. Not unless they’re on the TV. In fact, for the first time the only person who does care is Don. Everyone’s focused on the President, or lack thereof, the wedding, their promotion/de facto demotion, a certain busty redhead, or a Governor’s aide. Everyone’s mind wanders. Their wants and needs. Everything just means nothing anymore.

Sal, you are missed.

Marco: The things you thought were important? Turns out they weren’t, not really.

August: Watching Betty kiss that guy made me die just a little inside. It really did.

Marco: I liked the little bits leading up to that. No, Don, while it may be good for the family, a family drive isn’t going to fix things. Not when they’re determined to be broken.

Parked in an ominous location.

But the actual shot of Betty’s car joining Henry’s in the middle of the nowhere? Interesting. Added with that music, it felt like a very Hitchcock-ian thing for a few moments there. That said, I don’t know that Betty would be all that great as one of Hitchcock’s famous icy blondes. Well, maybe.

I am not in love with the tragedy of this thing. This is not Romeo and Juliet.

August: I was watching that scene and I kept thinking, “Hey, asshole, that’s Don’s wife!” You can’t do that. And she can’t do that! But the lies are finally starting to get to her.

Marco: Sneaky of them last week to think that maybe she had been won over by Don taking the mask off to reveal the inner Dick Whitman hidden beneath. But now he can never put that mask back on.

I really can only see Henry Francis as a plot device rather than as a character. Mostly because that’s what he is, a shade of something, an element to draw out parts of Betty, to wake her up.  But do you think that, by this point in the story now, he and Betty have slept together? I mean, he’s proposing marriage to this not so happily married mother of three, so wouldn’t they have to have? Silly little religious aspects aside, how realistic  is entering a marriage/serious relationship with no time in the lab testing sexual chemistry?

August: Ah, I don’t know. Mostly, I don’t think she’ll leave Don. I don’t see it as realistic. I think this goes back to how they toy with our expectations and our grasp on the dramatic tension. We think she will, but she won’t.

And WTF was that faux proposal? Betty could not have taken it seriously. I really hope not. If you’re tired of being shackled by your husbands lies, then another man is not going to necessarily be the answer. I guess that was just the best available 1960s pick up line.

Forked path.

Marco: Also, had to love her response to him asking why the kids were being allowed to watch the Kennedy assassination coverage: “What am I supposed to do, Don? Am I supposed to keep it from them?” It took me a moment to really feel how subtle but powerful Betty’s weapons were in that scene.

But I think she wants to feel something other than helpless, or maybe just something in general. And that moment as she was watching Oswald get shot, it was almost like she herself had been shot. I think people complain about January Jones’ acting ability, like when her ex-boyfriend Ashton Kutcher advises her to give up the craft, but I think she’s perfect as Betty.

August: And then there’s Don, trying to be a better guy? A better husband? Maybe. I think Don’s trying to work it out in a way. And maybe that scares Betty a little? All the staying home, the taking care of baby Gene in the middle of the night, the trying to care.

Marco: If this is Don’s reaction to having to finally lay all his cards out on the table, Betty can only be wondering what he was really up to all those times he was supposed to be working.

August: Is Betty going to become the new Don Draper? After all, if Don Draper can be someone else, why can’t she?

Marco: Ooh, I’d watch that show. Part of me is starting to think that if these two were to actually grow up… well, it may not be together.

And I liked Sally’s continued role as watcher in this episode, first glued to the television as things that she may not yet understand in the country, but then taking the both boiling and freezing cold temperature in the kitchen and living rooms, the atmospheric changes between her parents.

August: “I kissed you yesterday and I didn’t feel a thing.” This has to be affecting someone other than just me. Hearing lines like that, which I have before, just makes one cringe. It cuts into the heart of you. And Don. Just sitting there. In confinement. In the dark. What does he do? What can he do? His own wife doesn’t love him and the words don’t come to him so that he can fix it.

Derby Day, bitches.

Marco: Again, I think for everyone who’s complained that this season has gone by slowly and just dragged, I would point out A) how much character developments/moments we witnessed within this episode, and not just with a few characters, but spread across the spectrum of the cast. Everyone shined. And B) again, I would use this as a yardstick compared to “My Old Kentucky Home.” Everyone’s changed. Everything’s different now.

August: And there goes Trudy again. Was that a motivational speech? Trying to get him up and go? Who does that? Only trophy wives. Only Trudy.

No dancing tonight.

Marco: Trudy is a trophy prize that Pete has never quite earned. But again, look at the differences and the things that are the same about them from then til now. In “My Old Kentucky Home,” they were the power couple, working together, trying to impress their elders, putting on the dance and show. And now, they’re unified together on that couch, stronger together. The most telling moment is when Trudy, so beautiful in her blue dress, takes off her dancing shoes and sits back on the couch with her husband, the man stuck in the fetal position at the start  of the episode and who is now finally starting to sound like an adult.

August: And then there’s the refuge of an empty office. Except for Peggy, the woman hard at work.

Marco: Perhaps because Don and Peggy are essentially the same? And I think they both realize that that Aqua Net ad is just fucked now in the face of Kennedy’s death.

August: I thought this episode would be a lot more. I mean, it was everything it was supposed to be. And so much more. I just envisioned something entirely different.

What?

Marco: And maybe that’s why it was so good?

I want to scream at you... for ruining all of this.

August: Maybe. And seriously, they can’t give me a good preview for next week’s episode?

A new President and we will all be sad for a while.

Marco: Oh, that preview is genius. Just clips from over the course of this season. Mad Men is a show drifting up the river of history that’s already gone by and sometimes you can only look back at what you’ve already seen and done and just guess what’s next. What happens next could be anything. And whatever you think it is, it’ll be something else, but you’ve got to be prepared. Sitting in the dark while you wait for the dawn to come is just part of being a grown up.

Alone in the dark.

“How do you say ‘Hamburger’ in Japanese?”

We want to get hammered on Prohibition-era hair tonic and open a hotel on the moon and make the rock full of cheese as American as possible (and be greeted as liberators)(before we blow it up) and maybe, just maybe, Conrad Hilton agrees with us. With a little bit of “wow!” as a lady friend of mine once said, between our dreams and our desires, we existed with last night’s new episode of Mad Men in the “Wee Small Hours.”

August Bravo: That Betty sure is a dreamer…

Marco Sparks: You may say she’s a dreamer, but she’s not the only one

It’s really shaping up that this season is all about the meeting of dreams with desires, two things that aren’t necessarily the same thing.

August: So it seems. Betty is afraid to give into these desires. Don, however, is not.

Marco: I think Betty’s a smart person, a worldly person of sorts, but not a person of depth. Is she really afraid to to combine her wants and dreams of a silver fox lover from the Governor’s office, or is she just trapped within the boundaries of her princess mindset? It seemed like she would’ve fucked that guy (had the show been set in the present day, they would’ve been twittering naughty little missives towards each other) as long as it hadn’t been so “tawdry.”

But that aside, I loved that the episode started off with Betty laying in the dark with her dreams and ended with Don finally asleep in bed with the thing he wanted.

August: I think she’s still trying to see if she still has it. Don neglects her because, let’s face it, he doesn’t seem to give a fuck anymore…

Marco: They’re practically roommates raising kids together.

August: Yeah, and she wants some attention. Some naughty play on the side to get excited about. Reminds me of my ex-girlfriend, actually.

Marco: Which one?

August: Actually, all of them!

Marco: Yikes. Betty just reminded me of my feeling for this show, at least this season, when she’s patronizing  her nanny/housekeeper Carla about “her station” and talking about those four dead girls in Birmingham. “This has really made me wonder about civil rights. Maybe it’s not supposed to happen right now.”

And I feel like when you really get down to it, everything Don does is a reaction to something. Quite probably everything.

August: Betty may actually want the guy from the Governor’s office, but she’s just reacting too, I think. Betty is slowly becoming a more interesting character to me as this season progresses. And more like Don.

Marco: He is one of the most influential characters on TV or in real like in, like, forever.

August: I think Betty wants without thought towards consequences, and last night she got lucky in her covering of them and not getting too caught up by them.

Marco: I loved that Betty A) of course had a hard time discussing civil rights with Carla, but B) threw that fundraiser pretty much to cover herself with Carla, who had Henry Francis, the man from the Governor’s office, coming over for an illicit hello.

August: I don’t think Betty’s going to be so lucky in the future. And yeah, Don does just react. I don’t think he starts a lot of the situations he finds himself in. They just present themselves and he does what he can to craft them, to shape them. He is crafty. But for now, Don isn’t going to stop doing, getting, or taking what he wants. He’s in that 1960s mindset, and why wouldn’t he be?

Marco: The 1960s were like a theme park for insecure men with money to walk around just being better than everyone. Especially their women. And the women of Mad Men have to be careful because they can be let go when they reach their full potential.

August: Yeah, really. Don is the man, quite literally, so therefore he’s accepted as being better than Betty. He deserves more.

Marco: And takes more.

August: He brings home the bacon. And sometimes he wants a woman to play with that bacon. And why shouldn’t they?

Marco: He is Don Draper, after all.

August: He works hard, he plays hard. I think that’s how he feels.

Marco: Don Draper is secure enough in his awesomeness to show up to work late pretty much all the time.

August: But usually because he’s at home reading the bible with his family, of course.

Marco: Oh, of course. You’re really feeling Don, aren’t you? So is Don beginning the relationship with teacher, the very “close to home” relationship, based on the disapproval of his new father figure with unrealistic desires (like the moon), Conrad Hilton?

August: Oh yeah, definitely. I think Don’s just fed up with everything lately. “Give me more ideas to reject,” he says.

Marco: “Now that I can finally understand you, I am less impressed with what you have to say.”

August: Having to say things like that daily and put up with your underlings while constantly being jerked around by a powerful man like Hilton can stress a guy out. At that point, Don really needed something his life to go right, and go right the way he wanted it to. He needed a good powerfuck.

Marco: And the teacher was perfect for him because she presents herself to the world he lives in like she’s from another planet. And I’d like to think that, deep down, she’s outing herself as being from the same planet Don is from, or heading to as the show progresses, but who knows.

She jobs along lonely stretches of highway at all hours of the night, she lives above somebody’s garage, and she advocates not staring right into the sun. And she’s seen their entire affair, and knows exactly how it’s going to end. Who knows what Don Draper’s views on fate and predestination are, but I think he knows the one thing he can control, whether doing so is a reaction or something else or not, is to fuck this woman’s brains out, especially if there’s a higher risk of him being caught than ever before. “Doesn’t that mean anything to a person like you?”

August: You can tell that Don’s giving less and less of a shit about Betty, it seems. She asks if it’s okay to have the fundraiser there and he says sure, as long as he doesn’t have to go. Don’s a little like Betty in that he wants what he wants, and right now it’s the teacher. He’s drinking too much coffee, he’s not sleeping, he’s giving more and more of himself over to Connie, I don’t know.

Marco: Everyone’s walking around hunched over, with burnt fuses sticking out of their necks.

August: Exactly. Everything, especially everything with Don is a ticking time bomb at this point. Especially when it comes to Conrad Hilton. Don may want Connie’s approval, but I don’t he’ll be able to give Connie the love he wants.

Marco: Speaking of time bombs, I feel like yet another fuse was lit last night in the coming hardcore show down with Roger and Don.

August: Seriously. Even though Don and Roger technically agreed on aspects of the Sal situation last night, there’s still going to be a showdown. I’m hoping for a fistfight!

Marco: More American bloodlust as usual, huh?

And Don did cause all of us to step back a little with the way he treated Sal in this episode, wouldn’t you agree?

August: He knows about Sal, knows about what went down on in that hotel room with the bellhop and Sal, or was about to go down in that hotel room when they were out of town together. Sal’s being bit in the ass for not having given in. Don’s a cool guy with a lot of the things that flow outside what is currently considered the social norm of his time, but it seems he doesn’t trust that lifestyle. The way he mutters to Sal, “You people.”

Marco: It was absolutely chilling, wasn’t it? It’s kind of funny that when Don is mean to people like Pete Campbell or Ken Cosgrove or Kurt or Smitty, Kinsey and Crane, and the rest, we kind of cheer it on. We want to see more of it. Maybe even with Peggy, a little. But when I said that Joan was the spine of this show in a lot of ways, I think you could make the argument that Sal’s part of the ribs of the thing.

From his first scene in the first episode, when he walks in and you can tell he’s gay, and you instantly know how hard his life has to be in this time period, I think there was too much of a chance that this character could’ve been a joke, but he’s always been written well and Bryan Batt has played him with such class. And I think we’ve come to realize how much we like Sal this season just by watching him suffer so. Especially at the hands of Don Draper.

August: But Don had to do what he had to do. Lucky Strike is their biggest client, after all.

Marco: They were there since the pilot too, weren’t they? They’re “toasted.” But in Lee Garner, Jr. we have a villain you can really hate. A bully. He wants what he wants, as do all the characters on this show, and he won’t be told no too.

August: You upset him and Lucky Strikes and you’re fucked. Like Sal is now.

Marco: I blame it all on Harry Crane, who looks more like young Isaac Asimov to me than Perry Mason.

August: When I said that Sal was fucked, well, it was Harry Crane who did the fucking. He should’ve done something when he got that phone call, and his silence is what did Sal in.

Marco: Yeah, it is. It’s funny to me that a majority of the other characters all have better gaydar than Sal, in that they can all tell that Sal is gay and he’s clueless about them. But then again, that commercial was super homoerotic, so maybe it wasn’t so hard to figure out.

But, to be fair to Don, it seemed like Don and Sal never talked about Sal’s sexuality, so with Don witnessing Sal’s hookup with a bellhop out of town, he may’ve assumed that it was a regular thing with him (as I think you could call all of Don’s extramarital partying around) and Don may be upset that Sal didn’t follow his vague advice of: “Cover your exposure.” Eh… then again, maybe not.

I just hope that Sal finds some temporary solace there in Central Park…

August: Seriously.

Marco: …and then teams up with Joan for a comeback at Sterling-Cooper.

August: Is it too late to make a comment about Sal being shafted? Sal got shafted!

Marco: I guess it’s never too late.

What about the moon?

August: And you reminded me, where the fuck was Cosgrove? I think I liked Roger’s line the best, the one about what the company is going to be known for…

Marco: ”That’s what you want this place to be known for? That and some guy losing his foot in the lawnmower.”

August: Yes!

Marco: I think that Betty actually got not just the line of the night, about the meta-statement of the season, maybe the entire show itself when she was referring to Baby Eugene and Connie at the same time…

August: “‘I want what I want when I want it,” as she feeds the baby in the wee small hours…

Marco: “…and you don’t care what it does to the rest of us.”

Why, yes, you should receive a Victory Medal for beating the clap.

I mean, why wouldn’t you?

Here at Counterforce, we have three simple rules for dealing with all life:

1. Jai Alai is fucking stupid.

2. Funny, sad, tragic, or fitting, death is always weird, no matter where you go or who the hell you are.

and

3. No sailors. No way.

That said, ruminate on last night’s episode of Mad Men, “The Arrangements.” Normally August Bravo would be here to join me, but, well, he didn’t heed Peggy’s mom’s warning and moved to Manhattan. And he got raped.

Somewhere out there in the ether there’s a t-shirt waiting to be dreamt up: I Moved To Manhattan, Got Raped, And All I Got Was This Lousy Fucking T-Shirt. Oh, And A New TV. I’d wear it, but only to classy parties.

Last week I mentioned that Sally Draper was becoming one of my favorite characters and this week, if you didn’t agree with me, let’s face it, that shit was all over your face. Little Kiernan Shipka acted her way nicely (and, yes, adorably) out of the damp paper bag that was the Grandpa Gene storyline (which I respect so much more now, because Gene Hofstadt was a real grandfather, crazy warts and all), and did so marvelously. And she fits so perfectly into the scheme of the show that it hurts.

Oh, and interestingly enough, for a show that’s all about the multi-faceted horridness of 1960s masculinity, I have to say that Bobby Draper, you’re just not cutting it. You’re just there, kid, taking up space, and taking dead men’s helmets. If you’re not careful, you might go upstairs one day, and like the little sister on Family Matters, just never come back down again…

Families are tough, man. And this was an amazing episode about seeking out familial approval, and how you’re never going to get it. Not really. You may always get their love, but they’ll never really understand you. Not in the way you need to be understood.

And the same for the previous generation. You’ll ache to see out their approval, but it’s not coming. And right now, it really feels like that’s what so much of this show is about, at least this year: Looking to the people older than you for understanding and approval and guidance. And finding nothing. Only more confusion.

It’s not their fault. The older generation of America at this time didn’t know how to love. Maybe they still don’t. But back then they didn’t know how to get past the horrors they’d seen within and without and to connect with another human being.

And saddest of all, they haven’t realized that the world changed around them when they weren’t looking and now they’re hopeless to catch up. They don’t even know they’ve been left behind, much like Roger in last week’s episode.

Though it doesn’t say much in credit of the younger generation when they have nicknames like Ho Ho and think that jai alai is the future. And in color! On all three networks!

Poor Betty Draper. As much as I want to root for her, she keeps falling into the category of the precious sad victim. And as much as I want to feel bad for her, I can’t. This woman is terrified of intimacy, of anything outside a perfect world that hasn’t existed in a long, long time, and even when it did, it may have only been in the revisionist history of her pretty little head. In fact, Betty and Ho Ho have a lot in common in that their parents meant the best for them, but know that their kids are unprepared for the world.

Betty Draper = Worst Mother Of The Year, 1963.

Instead, the Mad Men housewife I do actually feel real remorse for is, of course, Sal’s poor wife, Kitty. Her husband’s a commercial director now, ripping off the finest for ad work, but with a little luck, Kitty’s realized something powerful there about the man she loves. And hopefully it’s not that everyone just wants photographs.

She doesn’t need a lot, Sal. But she does need… tending.

And the saddest part of all? On this show, they’re easily the most functioning couple. The truth may be kept at arm’s length, but there is a closeness there. And more importantly, there’s a mutual respect in their bedroom.

I love that Don Draper operates by a certain set of rules that he holds dear. They may not be the same as society’s, not the surface of what society says anyway, but they’re his rules. He’s a man of few words, and they’re sharp, cutting, to the point when they have to be. Surgical strikes, dripping with wit (particularly the line about the guy going off to direct a feature in Hollywood).  And he has no problem taking money from that guy, Horace, for his stupid jai alai campaign, but he’s going to seek out the approval of his elders, and he’s going to at least warn the guy that he’s a moron.

Question for you: Pete’s line about his father and money: “This is his kind of investment.” Is he just playing the account man, trying to line up the sweet deal, or is this his subtle acknowledge of his father’s own financial failures?

Warning sign #1, Ho Ho: If you have to pitch your idea to the ad men, your idea’s crap. If it’s good, they’re just going to sell it right back to you to get your cash.

I think Pepsi certainly learned their lesson there with the Patio commercial. But like Don says there, even a failure can mean reaching a new plateau. Or, to use the parlance of today’s television lingo, reaching a new “game changer.”

“Game changer” is the buzzword/phrase, I hope, that killed “jumping the shark.” All TV jumped the shark five or six years ago, and now we’re all praying for game changers.

Speaking of Patio, you had to adore Peggy’s satisfied grin as she walked out of that meeting. She was right. Maybe she wasn’t right for the her own reasons, but still, she was on the winning side, no matter what was in or out of her toolbox.

And I think I love Peggy’s new roommate. So much so that I want them to have their own spin off. And it shall be called I Love To Have… Fun!

And Joan, Joan, Joan. The Tex Avery girl brought to life. We saw a little bit of it last season when dealing with Harry Crane and the television scripts, but Joan is clearly meant for more than just being a secretary and house mother figure to a bunch of confused young ladies with” stupid looks on their faces.” Her spicing up of Peggy’s ad was perfect. No more stage directions from an Ibsen play here! Just look at the catch it nabbed Peggy. Just don’t forget, Peggy: A door should only be closed for one thing. You know what we’re talking about.

I have to say it again: Poor Sally Draper. Her path, at least through the rest of this season and, one presumes, next season as well, is going to be an interesting one. Her mother can’t acknowledge her sadness because she’s too busy trying to ignore her own. Her father is doing the best he can but he doesn’t know who he is. And she’s growing up without that guidance or nurturing in a confusing and confused world, raised by people unprepared for the social forces about to knock them down. The pope is dead and monks are lighting themselves on fire.

Before long, she’ll stop mixing Tom Collins for her parents and just making them for herself.