Commentary

Episode 710: Sacred Ground, Or Does Attention Make Don and Betty 'Ooze'?

madblogAny episode that offers quality time with Joan, Betty, Sally, and Peggy gets my two opposable thumbs up -- way up. That also goes for a surprise cameo appearance from the ever-hilariously square Lou Avery, and the military monkey still on his back.

Indeed, “The Forecast” actually moves the action forward in satisfying ways, after all the two previous episodes' highly irritating diddling with waitresses in dream states. 

It’s the summer of 1970, and the war in Vietnam and Cambodia is escalating. There are repeated references to the army (and a surprise enlistment.) Even Peggy talks like a general, saying “You can’t fire my men!”

The big daddy of war references, of course, is to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. With blood on the ground, a civil war was fought in Don’s apartment, too. It’s over now, and there’s renewal: new residents, who are even bringing a new life into the battleground. 

Now Don must find a new place for himself.

And oddly, that’s tough for Don, who in his past, has been a master of reinvention. This time, however, he seems lost, like the “lost boys” in Peter Pan. He just can’t seem to summon up that vision thing.

madblogIndeed, we see the need for the “vision thing” throughout, specifically in the charming, almost Shakespearean-type mix-up that lightens up the episode. A very tan stranger, the rich, wild and free retiree, Richard (or perhaps he will turn into a Dick) literally shows up at Joan’s West Coast office door by mistake. He was looking for his optometrist, he says, explaining why he misidentified himself after taking a wrong turn and spotting her: “I’m nearsighted, but not blind” he says, while immediately asking for a date. 

So there are problem sight lines throughout “The Forecast.” That includes inappropriate vision (Glen’s shocking return to romance Betty and enlist in the army) and extended vision (Peggy sees her career objectives with crystal clarity: to become a creative director and do something of lasting value.) 

But while Don shows some growth in this episode, in his ability to take repeated jabs and criticism in stride, his limited/and or faulty vision is also apparent. He seems unable to focus as he attempts to gather intelligence from others for his Gettysburg Address/state of the agency speech. 

Even worse, as Peggy told him, although he can’t picture his own future, he’s shitting on the earnest dreams of others. In one of the best scenes in the episode, after Sally chastens him, and her mother, for the constant search for attention and inappropriate contact with her friends, he tells her that she is like him and her mother. “You’re a beautiful girl,” he says. “But you have to be more than that.” After the dressing down he got from Johnny Mathis, the young copywriter, he’s just talking to himself. Sally is the embodiment of more than a pretty face.

madblog

In a piece in the New York Post on Tuesday, a critic said that the “episode was striking in the way it showed how Betty, unlike Don, respects boundaries.”

Yikes. I couldn’t disagree more. They both suffer from profound boundary disorders, just in different forms. Let us count the ways.

The scene where Sally joined her mother at the kitchen table rang absolutely true. Although Betty was trying her best to impart some wisdom about boys, (but really only talking about herself, and her own Teen Tour) it struck me then that Sally (the now grown-up, brilliant Kiernan Shipka) was the sophisticate, who has already seen too much, and Betty was the innocent, trying to stick to the rules. (Her travel group ran around breaking the lights in the hotel hallways, Betty told her. So that in their mischief, they literally could not see.) 

The scene not only illustrated the profound “generation gap” of the times, it also spotlighted Sally’s preternatural insight and knowingness. Always a wonderful observer, Sally has been seeing everything clearly since she was a little kid and watched that monk burn himself alive on television, then ran screaming to the adults about the need for attention to her grandfather’s death. Add the fact that she was "sent away" at a young age; it only made her insight into her parents that much clearer.

Perhaps the most fascinating moments happened around the shock of the new Glen. With these scarily sexy Engelbert Humperdinck sideburns, his suave outfit in earth tones (Huckapoo shirt and all), he was obviously all gussied up for his rendezvous with Betty. He came over in the guise of seeing Sally, and taking her to "Playland" with him and his girlfriend.

madblog

But he just wanted to go back and play house with his longtime fixation, Betty, just as he did when he was 8, watched TV and ate junk food with her, even asked for a lock of her hair -- which he got.

Betty didn’t even recognize him, (identity again!) as he was a very creepy roly-poly 10-11-12-year-old boy, and now he’s a MAN, baby! (An exceedingly slim one, as well!) Many people have commented on how wooden an actor Marten Holden Weiner (Matt’s son) is. That’s true, unfortunately. While he and January Jones recited their lines to each other, it was like watching two Easter Island sculptures interacting. You could cut the sexual tension with a feather.

The scene again points to Betty's lack of self-awareness, in that she toys with the idea that he is doing it for her. She reaches for his hair, and touches his face. That’s not boundary setting. And her response to his question about why they can’t be together -- "I'm married"-- was a girlish way of playing into his ego -- that it was thinkable at all.

It’s interesting that this week’s actions could be read in different ways, and was. For instance, some viewers thought that Joan was actually going to give away her child for the sake of her romance. Au contraire! Don’t you know that after years of being the office manager, our Joanie is the queen of finessing things and finding the elegant solution? Unlike Peggy, or Don for that matter, she operates by stealth, so that people change their behavior without her having to scream or stomp her feet.

madblogWith this move, Joan is not Salome, but Solomon, showing Richard in clear relief how selfish his reaction to her having a son was. (She’s not free to go to the pyramids, dammit, but he’s a geezer!)  It’s interesting how she and Richard -- who is trying to learn how to be flexible, and stay young -- keep trading male/female roles and places. I wonder if he can keep that up.

The episode ends with a brilliant musical choice: Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” playing as Don stands outside the double doors of his penthouse on Park Avenue: the defining prize of the Megan chapter of his life.

I  hope we see Sally again, and that the goodbye at the bus station wasn’t the last time. Despite the optimism that Don showed in the face of that amazingly brazen real estate agent, seeing him without a home leaves me sad and worried for him.

27 comments about "Episode 710: Sacred Ground, Or Does Attention Make Don and Betty 'Ooze'? ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, April 21, 2015 at 7:49 p.m.

    It seemed like an episode for a show that will be on for three or four more seasons. The only indication they are nearing the end is the cheap Days of our Lives production relieved only by the sight of Greyhound buses from the era. In the past, the Mad Blog often was more interesting than the episode, but never by this much. Maybe it's me, though.

  2. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC, April 21, 2015 at 8 p.m.

    Oy, vey! Once upon a time, wasn't this show about advertising and how it related to the cultural trends of the era?  Now, it's the worst kind of soap opera, with boring characters and awful acting, writing and storylines.  Sorry, Barbara, but now the only reason I'm watching the show is so I can appreciate your analysis.  Weiner should be paying you for everything you're doing to make this trash seem relatable!

  3. Ruth Ayres from Harte-Hanks, April 21, 2015 at 8:14 p.m.

    Great analysis as usual, Barbara.  This episode continued the process of pretty much stripping Don Draper of everything that made him Don Draper.  What's left? Dick Whitman.  Maybe that is where this is going.  What do you think Barbara?

  4. Larry steven Londre from Londre Marketing Consultants, LLC and USC, April 21, 2015 at 8:24 p.m.

    Thanks Barbara.


    I wanted to add that Peggy wanted to be a “woman” creative director which would have significance in the '70 especially with Mary Wells at Wells Rich & Greene. After leaving Jack Tinker & Partners in 1966; initial public offering was offered in 1968; returned to private control through a bonds-for-stock exchange, 1974.  


    Plenty of references, in the latest episode, too: Hanna Barbera, Gomer Pile, Brady Bunch, Kent State, Jane Fonda, Palos Verdes; plus let’s not forget when 17 year old Sara said “Commercials are my favorite part.”

    All the best. Looking forward to next week.

  5. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, April 21, 2015 at 8:25 p.m.

    Good point, Ruth. I think Dick Whitman was the guy who pursued Diana. Not sure Don can go back there if he wants to have a relationship with his kids. Dick Whitman is the horribly damaged whorechild.
    So many people are speculating about how he's going to die. (Diana comes back to kill him?)  I really don't have any ideas, but I'm not encouraged. While I understand Tom Messner and Dean Fox, I gotta beleive that the final four episodes will be amazing. This one returned to a nice blend of advertising and private drama. 

    I think it will end just as it began: with Don sitting alone at a bar.  How about you?


  6. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc., April 21, 2015 at 8:27 p.m.

    Thanks, Barbara, for bringing your insight and wisdom.

    I don't know why so many people are down on MM's run to the finish. Hell, give me an alleged "off" episode to just about anything else on TV (and especially the cinema). The richness and depth of so many interesting characters––and this is ultimately a a show of character studies–– allow for storytelling and complexity that's unrivaled.

    Let's enjoy the ride, folks, stick our heads out the window, close our eyes and dream our precious dreams–– and don't let others shit on them.

  7. Susan Patton from Susan Patton, April 21, 2015 at 8:29 p.m.

    Favorite line was Joan ordering room service, "... I'd like a glass of skim milk, grapefruit and a pot of coffee...and french toast."  So much for a calorie friendly breakfast.

    Don't know what I'll miss more - MM or Barbara Lippert's ever wise and witty column about it!

  8. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, April 21, 2015 at 8:29 p.m.

    Larry--thanks for the pop culture reminders. Some of it seemed like the American Beauty version of the Brady Bunch-- so much orange, and  Bobby went off to watch it as his mother threw his toy gun in the garbage.
    One cavil: when Glen defended his choice of enlisting, he mentioned the word "Negroes." I don't think teenagers from Weschester who went to tony private schools used that word in 1970. It would have been "Afro-American" (before it got changed to African American) or "black." What do you think? 

  9. AC Winters from ACWintersEsq, April 21, 2015 at 8:30 p.m.

    I feel like the stripping away of all the things that have been important to Don will allow him to leave and start again. He doesn't strike me as a man who is remotely suicidal.  I found his attitude in interviewing his coworkers about the future of SC&P (is that what it's called these days?) telling. Don doesn't appear in the future vision. I have hope for him. I also would be happy to have that Sally's last scene, not because I don't love her character, but that seemed like the perfect send off. I was surprised to see Ken Cosgrove in next week's preview. He had the best exit line! Oh well no matter what happens, Matt Weiner will leave us wanting more. 

  10. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, April 21, 2015 at 8:34 p.m.

    yes, Susan--  loved the room service order as well. One thing I didn't have room to get into about Joan-- WTF is she still doing in that same apartment, with her mother?  She certainly has the money to buy a spectacular place for her son and herself, and a smaller one close by for her mom.
    For that matter, she could also easily afford a full time nanny. 
    Wassup with her on the domestic front?
    (Obvs they showed the struggle with the sitter as a way to dramatize the potential problems with Richard. But it makes no sense!) 

  11. Dorothea Marcus from Weichert Realtors, April 21, 2015 at 9:10 p.m.

    Great analysis as always, Barbara. You're such a fun writer to read, and so incisive.  I thought this episode had a great balance of advertising content, cultural references, and personal drama. The whole phenomenon of being in a big agency like McCann instead of a scrappy upstart was an evolution for the show and the characters.  I liked when Don said he has more think about and less to do.  As an aside, when he went to the candy vending machine, I thought of The Americans this season, with the Russian asylum seeker who went crazy for American candy bars...

  12. Kate Berg from Collective Bias, April 21, 2015 at 9:20 p.m.

    Barbara, maybe Joan's domestic struggles are her own issues with "future vision" for her life. She needs to step into the new/newly wealthy version of herself with choices. She's not ever had this and it would be a little unrealistic to have her suddenly be "of the manner born" about everything. Weiner seems to fixate on his character's journeys into who they are/ are to become from who they were so Joan's yelling "you're ruining my life" to her nanny and having to negotiate for an extra hour like she is not in control is a perfect example of her inner conflict. I also agree with you on Afro-Amerian being period appropriate rather than Negro. That seemed ou of place.

  13. Carri Bugbee from Big Deal Digital, April 21, 2015 at 9:37 p.m.

    I guess I wasn't as satisfied about how this episode moved things forward. It felt like running in place to me. Which would be less irksome, as one of the other commenters pointed out, if we had more time on the clock with this series.

    Every time something wholly implausible happens, I feel like Weiner and crew are going for provocation over storytelling. Joan's new beau was artless in his rant about wanting freedom. Would a wealthy man of the world really say that? I think he would get laid and then move on quietly. Peggy seemed way out of line when she whined about Don shitting all over her dreams. He is her boss, is he not? Creepy Glen was beyond forward with a woman old enough to be his mother. In the same vein, have you ever seen a 17-year-old turn on the heat for a friend's dad and overtly try to seduce him? Yeah, me neither. Would Joan really yell at their babysitter about ruining her life? That sitter is going to be with her child all day. Would a real estate agent say to her client that his apartment reeked of failure? Isn't it her job to suck it up and put on a smile? That's a very high-end piece of property—wine stain or not.

    Finally, while I grew up about a decade later Sally, I didn't know of ANY teens who could get away with talking to their parents the way Sally does. I guess teens do that now, but in the 60s and 70s? I never saw it.

    The episode felt choppy and disjointed, with lots of pointless, random scenes with characters we don't care about crammed in (like last week). I hope Weiner spends the next few episodes concentrating on the characters we do care about.

  14. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, April 21, 2015 at 9:53 p.m.

    Brilliant analysis as always. I do get the feeling that things are winding towards conclusion, with Don at the end of one week alone in an empty apartment, and the next alone in an empty hallway. You wonder after each scene whether we will see any of these characters again. For Glen, I think he had his last showing. It's enough we know he went to war, not whether he lived or died.

    Although the show has advertising as its scene, it's always been about the characters and the times. 1970; what a time to take stock in onesself and your direction, hearing it through the hearts of others. Don is moving towards his conclusion, one way or the other.

    And now that the show has moved into my clear frame of memory (just moved to Westchester, 1970, although not yet a teen), yes, the term black people was used at that time and place; yes, some of us did talk back to our parents in that manner (at least by 1975 - what teenager didn't?); and yes, my mother took away our toy guns (I remember the caulking gun in the basement was a good substitute).

  15. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY, April 21, 2015 at 11:04 p.m.

    This episode was very unsatisfying on the Joan front. Richard dresses like a clown, is obtuse and insensitive, and made me cringe when he called Joan "dear" in a dismissive tone. You mentioned the way Joan "finesses" situations and operates by stealth? That's how she operates with men and I see it as evidence that she still believes they're the only ones with power and the way of getting what you want is to outwit them without directly confronting them. I'd like to see Joan be as defiant and dangerous with men as she is with women. In fact, I'd love to see her go back to the infantile McCann boys and burn the place down. Whatever happened to the Avon business, by the way? And who was Joan's other husband (two divorces?). And I've been asking since the episode where she made partner why Joan didn't buy a new apartment and keep the orange-walled place for her mother. Buh!

    Oh, and Don commit suicide? Never. 

  16. Susan Klein from Oculus Marketing, April 22, 2015 at 12:57 a.m.

    Wonderful analysis -- love your mentioning the Shakespearean mistaken identity trope that weaves through the episode, like Twelfth Night where people assume different genders -- Glen posing as a man, Joan posing as childless and care-free, and the copywriter who fails to pull off Don's breezy client joke and gets himself fired (copywriters are the Spinal Tap drummers of this show -- who remembers poor Michael Ginsberg?). And as a former Westechester teen who is precisely Sally's age, (down to going on a Teen Tour in the summer of 1970) -- I can tell you that yes, we used the term Afro-American and yes, we were rather flip and mouthy with our parents, even those not as self-involved as Betty and Don.

  17. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, April 22, 2015 at 9:04 a.m.

    My memory dims a bit on the race question, but I thought Afro at the time only referred to haircuts. Malcolm X killed off Negro by referring to the "so-called Negro." A black grad student I knew resented the NAACP and once said it was "the National Association for the advancement of certain people" a reference to the heirarchy and his inability to get a stipend from them. He wondered why it hadn't become the "NAABP" so that "colored" would disappear. As late as 1963, "colored fellow" or "colored guy" was not a condescending term and was used in Queens as much as "Italian guy," "Jewish kid" or "Irish fellow" which was pretty much how people were described then. As for women in advertising, the ad business for all its faults was really the first business (other than teaching and nursing) that women were able to get into and succeed in.

  18. John Zebell from Zebell, April 22, 2015 at 10 a.m.

    Barb's columns are as good as the show!  Write on, Barb!

  19. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, April 22, 2015 at 10:05 a.m.

    Tom-- Great point about NAABP! Could never understand that either.  But much had changed in terms of langauage by 1970.  I agree with Susan that teens in Westchester then would have said "black" or "Afro-American."
    Then I remember in the early 90s when  "African-American" replaced it. 

  20. Lou Parrott from Barnegat High School, April 22, 2015 at 10:19 a.m.

    Barbara- have been reading your posts for a few years and even through I am not in biz: I have always enjoyed your insights. As the show winds down, I only hope that Weiner does not go the way of St. Elsewhere and Bob Newhart and have Don/Dick wake up from his long dream. He wakes up as Dick running a Kansas City brothel where Betty, Joan, and Peggy are the working girls and Roger is the best customer. 

  21. Nancie Martin from Tell My Story, April 22, 2015 at 1:02 p.m.

    Excellent analysis as usual, Barbara. Cultural reference spellcheck: Those awful polyester shirts are spelled Huk-A-Poo. They're such a symbol of the era that the Met even has on in its costume collection: http://bit.ly/1DilRUt

  22. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, April 22, 2015 at 1:11 p.m.

    Thanks, Nancie! Wow, the things we learn. In fact, the idea that that one in the Met is from 1976 makes perfect sense to me. I thought Janie (the brilliant costume designer) got a little ahead of herself dressing him like that in 1970, even if he was attempting to be dressed up. Elephant bells and round glasses, maybe? 

  23. Nancie Martin from Tell My Story, April 22, 2015 at 1:53 p.m.

    According to Vogue, W, and other fashion mags, Barbara, all those '70s clothes are coming back this year, as they typically do in 30-year intervals (I came of age fashionwise in the '80s, started wearing '50s vintage then, and have genrally stuck to those looks), and I've seen many young women in SF wearing elephant bells and maxi-dresses, so the question is if Janie started that '70s trend or is following it.

  24. Maria Elgar from HARDTRIBE, April 22, 2015 at 3:10 p.m.

    Miss Barbara -as always love your recap! HUCKAPOO! loved my huckapoos and the competing brand too i think it was wayne rogers brand shirts. among what i loved in this episode - the straight shooter real estate agent whom i initially worried was about to be seduced is no nonsense and making her own money. she sees what Don is and what the apt REALLY is - #fail. the other thing i loved was Don finding his place (this time as the Daddy) in the agency again. when Peggy and Pete both run to him and tattle - they still need him to referee.

  25. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, April 23, 2015 at 1:01 p.m.

    Cynthia A-- you bring up a good point about Joan. Unlike Peggy, who is maybe 10 years younger but a diffeent generation, Joan really does operate by giving men the power, which is upsetting by modern standards. But that's who she is. I don't know abou tthis romance with RIchard-- he seems quite controlling. 
    And another thing that was interesting-- in the "firting" with Sally's friend. he bragged for the first time ever that he lived in a penhouse after she asked him specifcially-- when he no longer did.

  26. Yale Hollander from Writer/Blogger, April 24, 2015 at 4:14 p.m.

    I wonder whether there's more to that Roberta Flack ending than you think, Barbara. 

    With whom did Roberta record a number of her iconic hits - "Where Is the Love," "The Closer I Get to You," "Back Together Again?" 

    Donny Hathaway, that's who.

    Donny Hathaway jumped to his death from a 15th floor window of the Essex House in 1979.

    More subtle foreshadowing?

  27. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, April 25, 2015 at 10:39 a.m.

    Yale Hollander points out interesting stuff here. Reminds of a class I took at CCNY in which we read Joyce, and the professor said at one point that the author had been quoted: "I expect my readers to devote their lives to the study of my work." I tried to read Finnegan's Wake but gave up after three pages. Someone suggested I read The Skeleton Key To Finnegan's Wake written by the same guy who wrote the easy to read "The Cardinal." But the skeleton key proved even more impenetrable than the novel it was seeking to explicate.

Next story loading loading..