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April 30, 2014 - 11:29am

'Mad Men' Recap: Is Don Heading for a Fall?



Akshay: Before we launch into this recap, I'd like to point out that Matthew Weiner probably reads our weekly discussions, because this episode had some good eye-patch shots.

Chloe: We had some absolutely prime eye patch shots in this episode. Matthew Weiner is reading these recaps and taking notes on what the fans want and need — we finally saw the return of Betty Francis this week, and dear god is she fabulous. We were treated to more awesome ladies moments (#LadyMVP of the week is Megan) and Don is finally back at SC&P. However, we must take a moment to mourn one of the greatest couples "Mad Men" has ever seen — Don and Megan. (Shut up, "Mad Men" doesn't have a lot of great couples, and when you compare them with icky TedPeggy, DonMegan are remarkably likable). It seems that yet again Don's penchant for lying by omission spells the demise of his marriage. Aww.

Maddie:: Yeah he definitely seems to be listening to you guys. Too bad he won't listen to my plea for more Bob Benson. (I will continue to hold out hope for next week.) I LOVED the Betty plot this week. Smokin cigs on a school bus and bitching about a braless teacher with another mom was everything I wanted from her and more. I especially enjoyed her discussion with Francine about the differences between working women and stay-at-home moms. The times are a changin' in 1969 and while I'm obviously a huge fan of the powerful women who are pursuing their careers full sail ahead, I think the Betty perspective is an important one. At the beginning of this series she was the "ideal" housewife. Now she's quickly falling behind the times. Francine says old fashioned is exactly how she would describe Betty, and that makes Betty's less-than-loving relationship with her children a huge source of insecurity. Side note: Bobby Draper stole my heart in this episode. He might officially be my favorite child on television right now.

Chloe: Definitely not a coincidence that Bobby is played by the same child actor that portrayed the endearing MJ Delfino on "Desperate Housewives." Yes, I watched "Desperate Housewives." Also, Betty could totally have her place on that show. Her freakout over Bobby's sandwich trading? Amazing.

Akshay: OK. don't give me shit but I don't understand how you guys can continue rooting for Betty. She seems to me like the personification of an insecure, status-playing, horrible person who can't come to terms with any affection she may or may not have for her son. I know the basic guiding principle of this show and seemingly any one of its characters is emotional/existential angst, but I just felt the scenes with Betty trying to undermine Francine's profession because of her own problems (after rubbing in her husband's success at work) took it to a whole new level. Unsurprisingly, the whole exchange did convince her to take a more active interest in her son, something I really don't think she would've done had someone not appealed to her utter lack of self-esteem. I'm looking forward to see how she develops the rest of the season but I hope a little more than that sense of being "unloved" plays into her arc.

Maddie: From my perspective, at least, it's not "rooting" for Betty. I love her character because she's despicable and interesting. She's polarizing for sure, but I like that she's such a cold bitch in such an unapologetic way. She's an interesting point of view to have in this show. It's easy to love Peggy and Joan and even Megan, but Betty takes a little bit more work to appreciate. Speaking of the other women on the show, though, I think we should probably address what went down between Don and Megan this week. I'm glad Don finally told her the truth, but it seems like that still wasn't enough. Chloe, you mentioned that this could be the demise of their marriage. Is that where we think this is going after their blow up? (I personally think it's time for both of them to move on, but I definitely don't think that that was curtains on their relationship.)

Akshay: I guess I have to work harder to put myself in her shoes, but in terms of Megan and Draper, I think it's time that relationship comes to a close. That telephone call was telling. Don was actively trying to convince Megan he was a changed man, but Megan didn't buy it. I think that bit of dialogue where Don describes how he's cutting back on his drinking, and Megan retaliating with "With a clear head you woke up every morning and decided not to be with me" might be my favorite exchange in the episode because, like Maddie pointed out, it's representative of the times leaving behind characters like Don and Betty. The entire telephone exchanged reeked of denial - both of them wanted to think that maybe the relationship could go on, but I went back to that line from the last episode where Sally said "why don't you just tell Megan you don't want to move to LA." Honestly, I think Don agreeing to go back to SCP is the final nail in the coffin, and the resigned way in which he says "OK" tells me he knows.

Chloe: I find it hard to believe that Megan will continue putting up with Don's bullshit after finding out that he's been lying to her about something as important his employment situation, for months. If we're going from the precedent of Don and Betty's breakup, it's a similar situation in that these two people are incompatible and unhappy together (case in point: the infamous Orange Sherbet Incident). With Megan's career on the upswing and Don's hanging on by a thread, I'm not sure what either of them can gain from staying in this relationship. They're living on different coasts, and Don's wandering eye is still as active as ever. Don is hesitantly back at SC&P, albeit in a new office and now reporting to Lou, and like Betty, he is barely keeping up with the changing tides around him. I'd like to see Don finish this season off with his personal life in shambles, and the bad decisions and lies finally catching up to him.

Akshay: I think, in many ways, those lies have already started to catch up to him. The only people who don't know about the firing are the people in the Betty household. I think Don choosing to return to SCP will be the catalyst he needs to go back to his philandering ways, so I'm looking forward to him get some of his mojo back in the next couple eps and then throw it all away in spectacular fashion. Of course, this time around, there won't be any "fake-firing" to cushion his landing.

Chloe: We've still got to catch up to Don's falling out of his office in the opening credit sequence (this is not over-analysis, as our friend Matthew Weiner is the most meticulous showrunner in the business). However well Don might be playing the game right now, there are new rules. He can't drink in his office. Joan and Lou don't trust him, and with their new stature in the agency, Don has some new competition. And, of course, it's sort of weird to go back to work once you've told everybody that you grew up in a whorehouse and had a weird oversharing emotional break in front of a client and all your peers. Soon enough, the office floor will fade away and Don will be floating through the open air and images of the ads and consumption that were his demise.

Those credits mean something. Just wait.

Akshay: That was well put. *internet high five*

Maddie: Maybe I'm just falling under Jon Hamm/Don Draper's same old spell, but I kinda think he's on a moral upswing. I definitely believe that he's going to be on his best behavior for at least a handful of episodes before the inevitable next obstacle presents itself. To get back to where he was he has a long ways to go. Working under Lou is gonna be shitty. Don't forget that Peggy isn't exactly thrilled to see him, either. Her "I can't say we've missed you" line was easily my favorite reading of the night. In terms of the opening credits, I don't buy that that's the endgame for Don. With a show like "Breaking Bad" I knew by season four that Walter White had to die. It was just a necessity of the narrative and the character. It was inevitable. I don't get that sense of urgency with "Mad Men." I think Weiner loves symbolism, and to make that literal would be, in my opinion, a little cheesy. I think if there's anyone at risk of death it's the free-wheeling, free-falling, Roger Sterling.

Chloe: It's got to be a metaphorical falling. Please, no actual floor disappearances on "Mad Men."


Sorry, I got mean. *turns off Betty Draper mode and turns on eyepatch Ken Cosgrove*

Akshay: I don't think it'll be a literal death, but I can see Don confined in some way and rotting away alone by the end of the season. But I don't want to speculate too much after just three episodes. If there's one character I can't speculate about at all, it's Megan - she's out in LA, clearly struggling with the Hollywood Girl life, and showing signs of cracking under the pressure. Her break with Don is inevitable, and I might be reaching but I think the Jimi Hendrix track in the credits tells me a suicide is coming.

Chloe: Or a Sharon Tate situation, if you're gonna believe a theory based on a shirt she wore. One time.

Maddie: Yeah what is that? The Internet keeps talking about some sort of parallel between Megan and Sharon Tate and it's giving me flashbacks to all the "True Detective" allusion speculations



Maddie: OK what else is there to talk about in this ep? Harry Crane?

Akshay: I think the credits are just a reference to Don going skydiving in the last scene of the series.

Chloe: YES THAT. Also, "Rock You Like a Hurricane" (Harry Crane remix) playing softly in the background.

Akshay: "You might be the most dishonest man I've ever worked with"

Maddie: I was like "LOL Cutler did you just join the advertising biz last year or s/t?"

Chloe: He is obviously new to the game, because every other ad man at SC&P (except our beloved Eyepatch Cosgrove) is a lying and cheating asshole. I think it's in the job description. "Must have an incredibly high alcohol tolerance, penchant for lying, interesting facial hair if you're a creative type."

Akshay: Harry Crane's issues with acquiring probably the largest computer ever was interesting because, as an audience, we all know he's the ad exec of the future - squarely in charge of TV spots and with an eye trained at finding new mediums. It'll be interesting to see how he interacts with Don because I still believe the only reason Roger pulled the elaborate trick to get him in the door is because our silver-haired friend saw trouble brewing in the new direction of the agency. I'm looking forward to seeing if Don begins to realize potential in Crane's department, because I think he's getting increasingly overlooked by the other partners.

Maddie: I agree about Don and Roger. While I was watching this week's episode I actually thought of your point last week about how Roger is kind of being pushed out of his own agency. It seems like inviting Don back might be a good way to get one more person on his team.


Chloe: Don might have his position back, but SC&P has changed quite a bit in his absence. Like Betty trying to balance her harshness with her role as a mother and Roger attempting to reconcile his former position of power with his new lower status, Don doesn't fit so neatly into the box of his SC&P office anymore. Will he change with the times and have adopt better racial politics than Donald Sterling (who is apparently not the love child of Don and Roger, but much, much worse)? Or will he allow his vices to be his downfall?

Thankfully, we've still got 4 episodes this season.

Talk to y'all next week! Unless my job is stolen by a giant computer.