24 June 2013
Mad Men Recap: "In Care Of"
Here we are, at the end of Mad Men's 1968, staring at the back of a woman's head sitting in Don's corner office. Granted, Peggy isn't holding the cigarette, but I'm pretty sure the silhouette is supposed to mean something. At the very least, it means Lou Avery isn't getting everything Don leaves behind.
In a season finale that focuses on running away, telling the God's honest truth, and finally parenting for once, it's hard to nail down just one theme to follow. So instead, I'll just run amok like usual and hope that Roger's daughter doesn't uninvite me to Thanksgiving for it. Because she is one huge bitch.
WHICH ONE OF YOU EXACTLY IS STEALING LA FROM STAN?
First of all, if anyone's going to LA, shouldn't it be Harry Crane? I may be wrong, but I thought Hollywood was where tv got made. Instead, Stan puts his hat in the ring to start SC&P West, and Don quickly snatches the hat away and throws it on his head. He's running away from his life and his problems, namely the drinking one, and he figures LA is the place where hippie ghost Megan will be happy, too. And maybe runaway boarding schooler Sally will enjoy running away to California every summer.
Meanwhile, Pete's runaway cruise-taking mother has finally run all the way away, having been shoved overboard by her duplicitous latin lover/nurse. Apparently she married Manolo before dying, but the joke's on him because she doesn't have any inheritance to bequeath to him. Frankly, Pete's mother's death is a weight off his shoulders, and it's to his credit that he doesn't recognize it right away. Trudy lets him in on the secret before he moves to LA - he's free now.
Ted Chaushgherg eventually steals Stan's/Don's place in LA (with Pete as his accounts man), running away from the juggernaut that is Peggy in this dress:
It's official: Teggy's in love. They're flirting and they're making out at her apartment and he's taking her dress off like he's been daydreaming about where the zipper must be all day. Look at his eyes when Harry and Cutler get back to work (which my roommate Zach noticed):
Peggy doesn't want him to leave his wife right away, even though he's willing to. He's making plans to go to Hawaii with her over Christmas (just like Don and Megan), but she's like "go home to your wife tonight [and wash off all that Chanel No. 5 I just rubbed all over you]." Just as Becky predicted, Ted stays with his wife and kids and desperately begs Don to let him take his place in LA. He's sprinting away from Teggy in order to preserve his sanity, which is fine I GUESS, but poor Peggy. Another one bites the dust, huh Pegs? Ouch.
THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, BUT MAYBE NOT ALL THAT WHOREHOUSE CHILDHOOD STUFF, DON, FOR GOD'S SAKE, REIGN IT IN
Along with Don's decision to stop drinking (plus his DTs) comes a brand new hobby in truth-telling, and crazily enough, it's not that helpful to the agency. It's like Don's living his own version of Liar Liar, spilling the beans about his Charlie-Bucket-style chocolate bar nibblings to a ROOMFUL OF CLIENTS. They're all like "............... :/" as he scoots closer and closer to full-on crying during this Hershey's pitch, and then he caps it off with a resounding "you guys shouldn't even advertise."
Perhaps this whole script got flipped when Don flashes back to his step-pimp-guy (Uncle Buddy or something?) throwing an evangelical minister out on his ass. "The only unpardonable sin is to believe God can't forgive you!" the minister says, and Young Don is like, "Huh, I guess. Like 'whatever it means to you?' I get it." Now Middle Aged Don has translated it into "tell everyone the entire truth, leaving no whorehouse wallet peccadillo unturned."
Meanwhile in Detroit, Pete's pretty pissed at Bob Benson. For one, his friend killed Pete's mother, but even more dastardly, he's wearing Pete's signature blue suit (yet another amazing observation by Zach "The Eye" Smilovitz). Pete attempts a power play by saying Bob's sick, but Bob quickly counters by offering Pete a test drive in a new stick-shift, which he can't drive. Pete's face lights up just for starting the engine. Sorry buddy, but there's more.
Pete really ought to tell the truth about not being able to control a 2-ton car, but he doesn't. Ted really probably shouldn't tell his wife the truth about Teggy, but he wants to nonetheless. Don DEFINITELY shouldn't tell the truth about his unbearable garbage childhood, but by now he can't help it. It's a curse, you see, and it won't end until 24 hours after the birthday candles blow out on Max's cake, no matter how big Jennifer Tilly's boobs may be.
THE ROYAL TENENBAUM SCHOOL OF FATHERHOOD
If the title of the episode points to characters who take "care of" other characters, then the last few minutes of the episode point to the exact center of my heart, where Joni Mitchell plays and children look at their father as an actual person for the first time. But I want to end on that, so first we'll go through all the other parents:
1) Roger won't invest with his daughter's husband, which yanks him right back out of his grandson's life with nowhere to go for Thanksgiving. His secretary convinces Joan to take him in, despite his thorniness toward her new gay-husband Bob. By sheer luck, Roger ends up in a family again by the end of the episode. He's Kevin's father, and everyone in that apartment seems to acknowledge it. Maybe he wasn't such a great dad to what's-her-name, but he's got a second chance with Kevin. Royal Tenenbaumed.
2) Pete's moving away from Tammy, and his goodbye moment is probably the first time I've seen them together. But as he pushes hair out of her little sleeping face, it's clear that he loves her very much and that he's losing a lot by moving away from her. Trudy's "you're free now" speechlet is kind from a "no more worries" point of view, but it's borderline heartless from a "you never wanted to be a father" perspective. Fucking Trudy. Royal Tenenbaumed.
3) When Ted's wife and kids visit him at the office, it makes Peggy feel like a hussy. But the thing is, they weren't doing it to make her feel guilty - they were doing it to VISIT THEIR DAD. Ted's family is a constant, no matter how he feels about Peggy, and he's repeatedly chosen them throughout the season. Clinging to them will keep him from getting lost, I guess in a piloty sort of way?, so he's willing to move them all out to California to keep them together. Obviously, this stinks for Peggy. But frankly, Ted isn't Peggy's father. He doesn't have to put her well-being first. It would be great if he could, and he wants to, but it can't shake out that way. Royal Tenenbaumed.
Sidebar: Remember the Hershey guy's response to Don's first pitch? "Well weren't you a lucky little boy!" Peggy says almost the exact same line to Ted when he tells her someday she'll "be glad [he] made this decision": "Well aren't you lucky, to have decisions!" I'm not sure where this fits in everything, but it's certainly a grass-is-greener approach to conversation. MUST BE NICE!
4) When SC&P ask Don to go on indefinite sabbatical, they're essentially disciplining him the way a father might. True, fathers don't usually fire their sons (is he fired? Nobody said "fired"), but they do put their foot down when their kid needs to stop his destructive behavior. Also true, fathers don't usually hire a replacement from Duck Phillips ("YOU'RE EARLY"), but I guess maybe they say stuff like "why can't you be more like your brother?" Maybe if Don can prove himself to be as steady as Lou Avery from Dancer Fitzgerald, they'll take him back. Look, the parallels ain't perfect. Royal Tenenbaumed.
5) Two years ago, Megan cleaned up a spilled milkshake without making Sally and Bobby feel too bad about it. Now, she's calling Don's kids "screwed up." Reverse Royal Tenenbaumed.
6) Don "Fuckhead" Draper started taking actual interest in Bobby earlier this season, but he still hasn't really ever actively fathered Sally. Sure, he's a constant refuge from Hurricane Betty, but ever since Sally saw his milky white, wire-haired thighs thrust themselves into the lady from downstairs, he hasn't been much of a calming source. She's flailing right now, getting suspended from boarding school for buying beer with a fake ID, and she needs someone parent-y to hold her still until she feels right again. Maybe Don's step-parents couldn't ever show him the affection he needed in order to become a functioning adult - it doesn't mean he shouldn't try it with his kids.
So Don takes Sally, Bobby, and Baby Eugene to the dilapidated whorehouse in the "bad neighborhood" where he grew up. I'm crying right now. Joni's harpsichord intro soars into the cold November sky along with this new phase of family history, full of potential to finally get things right, full of potential to finally start a meaningful relationship between father and children. I love this so much. I actually have hope for Don for the first time ever. The truth telling and the running away and the parenthood issues have all funneled into this moment outside the whorehouse. BLESS YOU, ROYAL TENENBAUM, YOU BEAUTIFUL SON OF A BITCH.
photos courtesy amctv.com