Indeed, in her new uniform, with even bigger white cap, collar and cuffs, Diana looks more like a cold digital avatar from the “MadMenMe” Web site than an actual flesh-and-blood human being.
Actually, a number of people in uniform (archetypes) paraded around in this episode, starting with Di the waitress, and including a nurse (Stan’s girlfriend Elaine, who also wears a cap.)
Throughout, Don plays a uniformed ad exec so staunchly that he even dons his armor of a starched shirt-suit-and-tie for a 3 a.m. rendezvous in his own apartment. He also golfs in the same buttoned-up office gear. (Which only adds fuel to the fire that this is all a dream. Now that the ‘70s are rolling in, Don is the only guy who hasn’t indulged in bizarre facial hair or retired the Vitalis.)
But every now and then, Weiner nods to an inside fandom joke, and the results are funny. Last season, “MM” fanatics went crazy on the interwebs theorizing that Megan, now living alone in the L.A. canyons, would go the way of Sharon Tate. Enter the increasingly creepy Harry, who stands at the increasingly helpful Meredith’s desk, having a conversation about the beauty of living in Los Angeles. Meredith wasn’t buying it, responding, “How do you sleep at night knowing the Manson brothers are running around?”
Harry corrects her: “Manson family.”
Don approaches with “Are they coming in?”
The episode was all about relatives: sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, divorced spouses and those still together, work wives/husbands, and, worst of all, bad mothers.
But let’s start with the warm mother’s milk of the opening scene. Don is in the old-fashioned kitchen of the Francis residence, making milkshakes for his two sons. It’s a sweet moment -- the kids seem happy and relaxed, with the baby wearing Don’s fedora.
Betty interrupts, coming back from a dinner dressed up and wearing long evening gloves. (Again, Betty and Don’s costumes are as out of sync as Diana’s waitress costume is later in the elevator scene, when Don again has to interact with a couple in black tie, Arnold and ex-mistress Sylvia.)
The never-terribly self-aware Betty tells Don that she’s pursuing a masters’ degree in psychology, because -- although he wouldn’t know it -- people “like” to talk to her and like the way she “listens.” Don seems startled, and a bit condescending in return.
Who could blame him? Betty’s pursuit is a massive turnaround from Season One, when Don sent her to a psychiatrist who breaks every modern code of conduct by privately reporting back to Don on Betty’s sessions. The shrink essentially says that Betty is an adolescent. (So is almost every adult character on “Mad Men,” with the exception of Peggy.)
In a later episode, Betty takes Sally to a female therapist. And it becomes clear that Betty is the one hungering for the maternal attention, and once again makes it about herself, not Sally.
But the former Ice Queen appears to be a more attentive and nurturing mom these days -- at least with her boys. And Don leaves the Francis house taking a wistful look at a backlit Norman Rockwell scene with a functional nuclear family.
Once again, he’s odd man out. That only makes him more desperate for Di, a pretty brunette who seems to have neon signs screaming “Damage!” over her cap.
But it’s pretty obvious that the waitress embodies a mother/prostitute/mistress figure for Don, a haunting combo that feels familiar because he remains scarred over his longing for a real mother. Remember what Joan told Peggy in the first season? “These men want something between a mother and a waitress.”
Don and Diane are linked as mysterious escapees from the Midwest, starting over in New York. (Racine, in French, means root.) And Di, with all of her hurt, feels like home to him.
And though he later finds out that she abandoned a child, (just as he was abandoned) he still tries to save her. He leaves her crummy hotel room (which looks very much like the red-and-orange-glowing brothel rooms he grew up in) only because she tells him she wants to remain in her pain.
Leaving shows growth on Don’s part. He does so again when he takes all of Megan’s rage in the lawyer’s office and apologizes, then gives her a check for a million bucks. (That scene was pretty unrealistic.)
Megan’s mother is named Marie -- like Mary, the iconic mother. And Madame Calvet is a piece of furniture-and-scene-stealing work. She also seems to be confusing herself with -- and jealous of -- her daughter. Megan’s sister, a strict, provincial Catholic, is also looking at this New York trip for what she can get out of it. (The Calvet women are pretty grasping for having grown up with a socialist father/husband.)
Her mother fires Megan up on the evils of Don, and “what he’s done to this family.” The reality is that he’s only been generous to the family. And Megan wants only a mirror and “granny’s cabinet” -- again keeping it in the family. But her mother thinks she deserves more. When she hears that Don has paid for the move, she calls her daughter a “whore.” That’s pretty judgmental for a woman who rages “Don’t you judge me!” when Megan walks in on her and Roger.
Even the part with Don driving to the golf outing with Pete turned into a conversation about family. (When they motored through the Pine Barrens, I thought one of them would die.)
Pete is getting more mature about divorce. “They want to punish you then you get mad and you want to punish them but it’s all your fault.” Peter, ever more philosophical, says: “You think you’re gonna live your life over and do it right. But what if you never get past the beginning again?”
Don had mentioned to Di that he was selling his apartment. As it is now, all cleaned out, it’s a glaring metaphor for having to start anew.
But much more upsetting is wondering: Is he already dead?
This episode seemed to be treading water. What's more disappointing is how predictable it's becoming. Roger predicts Megan's behavior during the settlement, and he's right (although Harry helped to trigger that). When Megan left her mother alone in the apartment, I knew that she was going to have the movers clean it completely out (although it was hysterical when Megan caught Mom and Roger), and it was so obvious that Don was going to write a check for a million dollars, it just left me flat.
I did like the set design for the photo shoot and Peggy in limbo against the black background. I could easily see her as the new generation of "Mad (Wo)Men."
And what of Sally?
I hadn't even thought about the notion that this is a what if scenario dreamed by someone already dead. I hope not. Now you have me worried.
1. Did you notice that when his hair was falling over his forehead, Don looked like Hitler?
2. Peggy isn't an adolescent? She abandoned a baby without a second thought and she seems incapable of having a real relationship with anyone, male or female. Seems pretty adolescent to me.
Jonathan-- I agree that this episode was treading water. Did nothing to move the action ahead. But Weiner always does this in mid-season. Not much happens till the last two episodes, and mostly in the last 10 minutes!
Claudia-- you are correct about Peggy's baby. But I think she's grown a lot. She was the only one who saw the omni sexual Pema as a hustler. And was pretty clear eyed about it.
Thanks for the great insights. Sorry I am writing this in the afternoon. With my agency experience and teaching advertising I had never heard of NAC--No Afternoon Calls..to clients. Marked on the Rolodex, no less
Sometimes you may want to call a client in the afternoon. You could get an approval and move on with production. If they were drunk...how would they remember their decision or decisions.
I liked how Don looked back at Henry Francis when he knew the "broken" blender was going to ruin his tux. I agree that in the lawyer's office and the exchange of $1 million dollar check ($6 million in today's dollars) is ridiculous, and unbelievable. Really, Weiner? So few episodes left...five. But we love you.
There's a real fascination with Angie Dickenson. First with Uncle Junior in Soprano's and now in MM.
Doesn't it appear that Roger (his wife's career was as a "consumer") is working now more than Don?
And want to add: Megan says to Don: "Nothing about you is real." From the exchange of dogtags we kind of knew that from the beginning.
Waiting for next Sunday.
The thing with the Waitress is like the whole conceit seems out of a 70s Fassbinder movie. Maybe Weiner is going all European arty here. The word melancholy isn't used much with this show but its getting very. And Weiner threw in lots of Antonioni in those West Coast episodes. Don is becoming a moral drifter, and the show's rhythm is slowing down more. Whjo knows what's in store. Maybe this is Weiner's pitch to get a screenplay and movie to Cannes. BTW, does MM play in Europe well?
Always great writeups. I do have a few additional thoughts though. Not sure, but Diana seems a lot like Don in some ways. They are both from the midwest, they both ran away from family responsibility. I thought the recognition could be of himself. Maybe he sees his mirror reflection in her? They are both hollow empty damaged people. Which is also what I thought was being said by their living situations at the end of the episode. I actually don't think the episode was treading water at all. There was so much going on. So much of it revolving around women's inequality, especially in the workplace, and the price of working with men. Harry wants — no expects (shudder) — Megan to sleep with him to get a new agent. Even Pima, comes in and assumes the man (Stan) is in charge, and the price for playing? A tussle in the dark room with him. Once she figures it out, she tries the same thing with a shocked Peggy. I know you think that Peggy is more grown up, but does she bar Pima (whose work she gushed over) from future work for trying to seduce her, or having sex with Stan — or for mistaking Stan for the person in charge?
The thing about Peggy is a great point, Jonathan. I didn't have room to get into it, but last week referred to the "three women" a man needs in his life. And there were all different possible threesomes with Pima, the omniversous. Obviously, Stan's nurse girlfriend was jealous, and injected herself into the action. Pima put down the girlfriend sayins she as "overdeveloped" and that she diddn't trust Stan. (Nor should she!) Stan was delighted with the attention he got from Pima, and when his gf snuggled up to him in bed -- a parallel of Diana putting her head on Don's shoulder-- he looked like he has some sorting out to do. I'm not sure that Peggy wants to have sex with Stan. But of course she wants to be known as the boss-- and Pima misread that. Still, I do believe she was as digusted with Pima's coming on to her as Megan was with Harry.
Stan clearly is the only one who benefits from 70s hair-styling and facial hair
The message of Mad Men is, as Oscar Wilde said, "There are two tragedies in life. One is not getting what you want. The other is getting it."
as always your recap gives me sooo much to think about and i always watch again after i read your blogs. burning question for me - is Diana an actual dream? another blogger wrote this regarding Racine also interesting ""Diana is from Racine. Racine wrote Iphigénie, his adaptation of the Greek tragedy about sacrificing a daughter". the last line of your blog "is he already dead" shook me! what an idea! wondered what of Diana is fantasy dreamlike but never thought about that. shattering stuff! what did everyone think of Mimi Rogers turn as some Diane Keaton-esque-Annie Leibotwitz mashup? i thought Mimi was terrific and very happy to see her on Mad Man! and what of Peggy barring her. i really didnt think she was THAT putoff by the pass Mimi made at her. hmmmm i'm thinking more about being angry she wasn't thought of as THE boss and first in line for seduction.
Great analysis, Barbara. Diana is certainly more like Don than any other woman he has been with. When he told her that everyone has felt loss, I thought he was flashing back to leaving his kid brother and then abandoning him yet again as an adult.
I don't think Peggy was jealous that Pema hit on Stan first; she was just being practical. Working with Pema would always be fraught with challenges since she pushes boundaries and plays games. As the person in charge of the account (and maybe copy chief or assistant CD? What is Peggy's title these days, anyway?) was a smart decision.
I don't think Betty actually has a passion for psychology or even gave her choice of subject matter much thought. She merely wants to do something that validates her self esteem after that exchange last week when Henry told her to keep her mouth shut and she spat out that she was smart and knew how to speak Italian. When she learned about Francine's job, she thought that kind of work would be beneath her, but getting an advanced degree would be something palatable for the wife of a guy who is a career politician. She could have just as easily decided to get a master's degree in art history.
I thought the entire plot line with Megan, her mom and her sister was an over-wrought waste of time. There was no need to have Megan in the second half of this season at all. The good-bye last year was sufficient—and better IMHO. If they wanted Don to end up in an empty apartment (which he already said he plans to get rid of), that could have been accomplished in many different ways without squandering time on peripheral characters. The caveat to that is if Marie ends up becoming Roger's denouement—which could happen.
the Megan scenes were absolutely overwrought-- and took too much time. I know Julia Ormond is French, but the accent she puts on sounds like pure Pepe le Peu. and that line, "Bring CAAASH" was a cartoon. I wonder if her line about worrying the Megan got gonnorhea from Don will come up again?
First, I don't like Roger looking like Mark Twain. Last week in the opening of the crummy diner scene, I actually feared we were seeing Don and Roger years later, well past their prime, Don blabbing his once deepest secrets to a bimbo who didn't care and Roger sliding into complete indifference and seediness. The hundred-dollar tip, while offensive, was a relief. Just as the Mildred Pierce quip was prescient.
Second, I must be the only person who ever liked Megan. I liked her kindness to the little Sally, her interest and engagement back in that early focus group where she revealed that her mother uses only water to wash her face, and the way she saved the Heinz Baked Beans account after learning in the ladies room that the agency was getting dropped. I also liked that Megan actually seemed to bring some happiness to Don for a time and that she stood her ground with him, telling him the truth about what she did and didn't want in her life and not letting his will overrule her own. Maybe that's why I was disappointed to hear her trot out all the blame and lies in this week's scene in the lawyer's office. Walking off with the million-dollar tip completely diminished her for me, making her a bitter stereotype instead of a woman with the qualities to make a good new life for herself.
Every time Barbara Lippert writes an analysis of a Mad Men episode, not only do angels get wings, but we all feel smarter. 'Racine' means root in French -- ahhh, c'est incroyable! Reading this convinces me that my hunch about Don is correct: 'Don sees dead people' eg he's already among them (and so is the interestingly-named 'Di') -- from his wistful look back at his family during the milshake scene to his ubiquitous funereal black suit to the moment when he walks into his emptied apartment, forrshadowed by the shiva call in the previous episode. I will henceforth be watching the next episodes with the assumption that Don and Di/Die are basically George and Marion from 'Topper'
I was once again left cold by this new season, but waited patiently for your summary to see if I missed the deeper meaning...I feel like there is so much to deal with and so many characters to include, I am not in favor of letting this waitress join the club now... I am hoping Betty opens the curtain to the shower, revealing Don in 1959 , and stating all over again..
Barbara ...you are a Madmen savant...the Madmen whisperer...the detail and subtly that you both pick up on and remember is stunning....I will miss these recaps as much as the show!!!
Oh, Barbara. Your perceptive, imaginative analyses, and those of these other commenters, are such a pleasure to reflect on. Nevertheless, while I will continue to watch the show through its conclusion, I already know that these discussions are much more stimulating and thought-provoking than the show itself.
For all the hype, I am disappointed with Mr. Weiner. I'm now sensing the same "take the money-per-episode checks and run" approach I was feeling in the last few seasons of "The Sopranos". It's one thing to successfully pitch a creative series idea and get a deal, quite another to maintain the high levels of creativity, innovative character development and writing over the entire life of a high profile series like this. We're all reacting to the strong feelings the show evoked for us earlier in its life, and looking hard for that kind of inspiration, but it's just not there anymore.
My sentiments, exactly, Dean.
What an insightful piece. I had not know that Weiner wrote the Tony-in-a-coma episodes. I remember being frustrated with those episodes of "The Sopranos" and feel frustrated with THESE episodes of "Mad Men." When a person is writing fiction, we are already inside a dream and so anything not "real" has all the allure of a friend saying "Last night I dreamed I was dreaming. Let me tell you about the dream I dreamed I was having while I was dreaming." WAKE UP DON AND LIVE YOUR LAST FEW EPISODES.
Once Di turned into a stock "My-baby's-dead-so-I-just-want-to-have-sex-and-drink-myself-to-death" I felt annoyed. Is she a dream character? Is -- as you suggested -- DON DEAD? When Don first spotted her in the restaurant and she was reading Dos Passos' 42nd arallel I'd hoped Don was meeting an interesting intellectual. But no. He was only meeting another of his "I'm dead inside so make love to me" women.
Someone should have talked Weiner out of the million dollar check to Megan. That scene felt false. Don grew up in THE DEPRESSION. Maybe a baby boomer would do it, but someone born in the 1930s? Oh puh-leeze! And to MEGAN? Maybe I could have bought this moment if he'd written the check to Sally and kis kids just before killing himself, but MEGAN? And could someone tell Weiner that there is something called the IRS that collects taxes when you get a million dollars?
I loved how you wrote that it's frustrating this late in the show to have Weiner waste time with peripheral characters. Wasn't Don's relationship with Megan over a couple seasons ago the second she took off for California? The viewers -- I think -- said to themselves, "Oh. Okay. That's over. Now who will be the next Mrs Draper?"
For me, the most important scenes in "Mad Men" have always been those between Peggy and Don. That moment when he went to see her in the hospital has stayed with me. I understand the two of them can't end up together but now I'm terrified that Weiner might not realize how important their relationship is to viewers and how we want some kind of pay-off.
You mentioned Peggy is the only grown-up on the show. I thought to myself, "Wait. There must be another." And then it hit me that what has kept me watching this show year after year has been the thought that the other grown up on the show is...Don. I've always thought that down deep, some part of Don is as keenly aware of reality as Peggy is, that he watches people and thinks with depth...And it's this longing to know if there is a person of depth inside Don that has kept me entranced, perhaps kept all of us watching and wondering about our own fathers.
Anyhow, thanks again for your brilliant analysis.
Love the inclusion of waitress character in story line. She fills your cup, listens to you when you speak, and brings you nourishment -- with no obligation. A vulnerable character, the waitress cannot determine her own tip.
Where to start ? I can't and wouldn't be able to sum this up by adding much more to what the other commentators added to your incredible summations and analysis. There is so much wrapped up in this entire series with imagery, philosophies, social commentary and theatre that it is rare that a playwrite could do so so masterfully. Death of Salesman and the ancient Greek and Roman authors come to mind.