In this week’s episode of Mad Men, everybody had trouble with the future. Whether it’s a military deployment, raising a child, or just not being able to picture the next year, everybody struggled with it. We also got the return of Glenn Bishop, Scout’s Honor, and special guest Bruce Greenwood. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get to “The Forecast”.
I’ll be honest with you. Sometimes, I’m not sure whether Marten Weiner (son of show creator Matthew and the actor behind the often creepy Glenn) is the worst actor on Mad Men… or the best. Sometimes, he comes across as wooden and blank, but maybe that’s the point. Glenn was a weird little kid when we first met him back in season one. He was quiet and odd and had an obsession with Betty that she seemed to like, even though she knew it was ten kinds of inappropriate. With each new appearance, Glenn became more like an actual, likeable person and it was nice that Sally had him as a touchstone in her tumultuous life. Over the years, it’s clear the two have grown up and stayed close friends, never completely screwing up that dynamic by dating (although there was a moment once) and it’s obvious they lean on each other for the support neither get at home. They understand each other. And like best friends, it sometimes doesn’t matter if you see other all that often, you just pick up where you left off. I am gleaning a lot of that last part from Sally’s frantic call to Glenn’s house after she calls him a murderer and storms upstairs when he tells her he’s shipping out for Vietnam the following week. Her demeanor and tone tell you she’s talked with whoever is on the line many times and the fact that she begins to cry lets you know that the idea that this person might not come back from war absolutely wrecks her. (Kiernan Shipka was killing it this week!)
Her mother, on the other hand, hasn’t seen Glenn in years, and certainly doesn’t recognize this tall, lanky kid with tight pants and sideburns as the weird neighbor kid who asked for a lock of her hair. She seems flustered, but eventually becomes downright flirty with him, even if it’s subtle. Sally’s seen this before, and she knows she’ll probably see it again. She’s kept this relationship to herself because she knew if her mother had any inkling it existed, she might swoop in and steal the spotlight. When he comes back to the house, knowing Sally won’t be there (we don’t ever learn if they actually said goodbye or made up in any way), it’s suddenly season one all over again, but now the kid’s an adult with chest hair being offered a beer. He admits to Betty that he’s feeling like he’ll be safe because “I know you’re mine.” Her only reason to turn her cheek to him and not go all Mrs. Robinson right there in her kitchen? “I’m married.” Notice she didn’t say it was wrong or that she wasn’t interested. She craves attention; she lives for it. And she’ll never get enough with the life she leads. If Betty does in fact get that PhD, something tells me she might have one or two affairs with patients.
Sally’s about to set out on a teen tour, feeling very adult herself. Betty instructs her on how to sign traveller’s checks (remember those?!) and tells her about the positively tame trouble she and her girlfriends got into on a similar trip. Sally’s joke about the states still being colonies back then is the closest to a warm moment these two have shared in ages. Why do I feel like there’s a chance Sally won’t be on that bus when it comes back to New York? Maybe it’s because if you couple her feelings towards her mother with her utter disdain for her father these days, this is a girl who can’t wait to get out of her prison of private school, penthouse and mansion. The 70s may not be ready for Sally Draper.
Though, in all fairness to Don, he didn’t quite deserve the dressing down he got from his daughter, the child that is the perfect embodiment of both he and Betty in one poised and smart girl. Her friend was shamelessly flirting with him at a farewell dinner before the girls set off, and the most inappropriate thing he did was light her cigarette. And back then, that was considered courteous. No one knows how adrift Don really is these days, because he doesn’t have anyone to confide in, which has really begun to sink in these last few episodes. It’s a bummer that the bond they’d begun to create last season seems to have been destroyed, at least for now. As much as Sally is a combination of her parents, she and Don have much more of a connection and understanding. Of course, she also knows way too much about her dad’s transgressions, which always threatens to keep her at arm’s length. This is the relationship I love the most on this show, the one I’d love to see flourish as she becomes an adult and her dad needs her more than ever.
Generally with Mad Men, my first reaction isn’t to go for a meta interpretation, but I can’t help but wonder if the reason Don can’t write his vision for the next year is that they don’t have a year. A year from now, we’ll be watching Fear the Walking Dead in this timeslot.
When Don and Ted talk about this Gettysburg Address for the annual meeting, neither of them have a clear idea because they’re not struggling anymore. It’s been a while since Don’s had the luxury of not wondering whether the company will still be in business in a year. He’s a man who can craft a stirring rallying cry off the top of his head. There’s that great scene in Season 4 (I think?) where he gives a speech about how things look bleak but they’re going to dig in and turn things around and he makes it sound like they can do anything. And now there’s no sacrifice. Nobody’s fretting about the numbers and losing an account isn’t going to make the company go under.
He even says, by means of spitballing, that things are good and they’re probably going to get better. But it doesn’t mean anything to him. I also can’t help but notice that we really haven’t seen Don doing his job this season, so we don’t know how involved he is in the day-to-day. All we’ve seen is him giving feedback, not creating anything. And the thing is, Don Draper loves advertising. He doesn’t love it because it’s made him rich or because it gets him in to the fancy parties. He loves crafting a campaign and writing copy. He loves it so much that it hurt him to learn that Megan didn’t love it.
Both Ted and Peggy talk about their goals when pressed. Ted can’t come up with anything beyond getting bigger accounts and Peggy has specifics that are still centered on the business. Peggy’s goals weren’t much different from what Don’s would have been in the past. There’s this nice little bit that I’ve been thinking about all week – Peggy says she wants to “create something of lasting value” and Don laughs “in advertising?” That’s great because despite how Peggy reads it, that was affection right there.
Let’s say, for example, that you run a TV commentary website. Guys? I love this site. It takes up more time than anything in my life except for my actual paying job. And yet, I know that the vast majority of what I do here is going to be forgotten in a week. Doesn’t matter. That’s how it is with advertising. You can create a brilliant ad spot or even a whole campaign. Eventually it gets replaced and it’s over. And back in 1970, there was no outlet to see old commercials, no readily available archive of classic print ads. There would be a day when your commercial would appear for the last time and that was it. That doesn’t matter to Don. He’d rather be coming up with a new Lucky Strike campaign to replace the old one then hiding out in his office and collecting a check.
And then there’s his personal life. He’s practically a non-person at this point. Divorced twice and the most recent ex-wife blames him for everything that’s gone wrong in her life. He’s on the outskirts of his childrens’ lives. Anna Draper, the woman who knew him best, is dead. Rachel recently passed, and you know she was the one he still thinks about. Can you imagine him making arrangements that would bring him back into contact with, say, Suzanne Farrell or Midge? He found something he recognized in Diana, and she cut him loose. He doesn’t matter to anybody anymore. I love that moment at the end when he finds out his penthouse finally sold. It should free him up to do anything he wants, but instead he looks like a man who’s lost everything. He’s living that mission statement he can’t figure out how to write.
Speaking of his apartment, well, I think we all wish that he used the same realtor as Peggy. How great would it have been to get spunkybuddy Lennon Parham back for another episode? Beyond that, and beyond how hilarious it was that he just brings his patio furniture inside now, there was that mention of the wine stain from a couple of episodes ago. They say it’s still visible despite a carpet cleaning, but we never see it. There’s something about a mark from the past that may or may not be visible to somebody who doesn’t know to look for it that seems to be at the core of Don.
And then there’s Mathis. Poor, dumb Mathis. That guy can’t read a room or come up with a joke of his own. And then he blames Don for both of those things. While I don’t think that Don’s success is entirely due to being handsome (and I don’t think that Matt Weiner wants that to be the takeaway), it seems like Mathis is saying something that Don himself has always wondered. Let’s be honest, the Lee Garner joke aside, not every client wants to get lost in Don’s eyes. I don’t think we’re supposed to question his abilities as viewers, but Don as a character is doing just that.
Joan finally got a sublot of her own this week, even if it was overshadowed by my sheer glee at the idea of Lou Avery pitching Scout’s Honor to Hanna-Barbera. The thing is, I can picture that as a Saturday morning show in that era, and Scout would almost definitely have been voiced by Eddie Deezen.
I was pretty excited to see Bruce Greenwood as Richard Burghoff. Not only has he been the voice of Batman, but he was in John from Cincinnati. (And also other things that people actually watched.) He got in the game! Burghoff is one of those characters who’d be insanely creepy in real life (Hey! I followed you across the country. Where are we going for dinner?) Still, on TV he’s charming and it’s nice to see somebody make Joan happy. Until he decides that a woman with a kid isn’t for him.
One of the toughest moments of the episode was Joan telling the babysitter “You’re ruining my life”, because she’s not really talking to the babysitter. It broke my heart that she didn’t pop her head back in the door to say “goodbye” to little Kevin, and only answered from the hall without turning around. She knows full well what she meant, and that’s something she has to deal with. I don’t know what it’s like to have a child or to balance work and family (despite watching Scott Aukerman ask all his guests that question on Comedy Bang! Bang!), so I can’t really relate to what’s going on in Joan’s head, but I can understand it on some level. It all comes from frustration and the possibility of continuing to be alone. I find myself that things work out with Richard because I want Joan to be happy.
Also? Richard’s so smitten with Joan that he’s walking on air! (Seriously, I edited out five John from Cincinnati references. Let me have that one.)
I’m really hoping that we get a juicy Pete episode next week. We’re running out of time!
We’ll see you next week for “Time & Life”, the episode before the antepenultimate episode. If there’s a name for that, we don’t know what it is!