Mad Men: “5G” – A Sad Room

Previously on Mad Men:

Oh, man, what even happened last week? Does anyone else feel like it’s been about a year since last Monday?

Oh, right. Things were hard for Pete, who is a WASP. Things were awkward for Don, who is an idiot. Things were”¦ weird, to say the least, for Betty, who should probably get some stuff figured out about her life. Peggy and Joan were largely absent, which is a shame. Roger told everyone to get off his lawn.

I’m going to try to make this a short (for me) recap since I am still busy having a tropical storm and whatnot, and I’m on vacation and I have important day drinking and eating of stocked up snack cakes planned.

So: Credits.

We open with a shot of bottles sitting on a table in Don and Betty’s room. They come bursting in, all dressed up, talkative, and tipsy after an event at which Roger and Don won an award for salesmanship, apparently. Betty removes her dress to reveal some spectacular lingerie, but both flop down on the bed and pass out.

At 8 a.m. when they wake up, everything is decidedly less happy and glamorous. Don has a worrying cough, and Betty greets the children with, “Mommy has a headache.” Betty says there’s Alka Seltzer in the kitchen, and asks if Don’s okay. He is, but he’d like her to do the seltzer in the kitchen, since he doesn’t want to hear the bubbles. BEEN THERE.

At Sterling Draper, the front desk secretary congratulates Don as he walks in. He seems to be squinting a bit at the fluorescent lighting.

Peggy is complimenting Ken on something when Don walks up to his office. She says that Pete and Paul wanted him to know that they were waiting, but they left. Don thinks that was rude. Peggy adds that they mentioned the award going to his head. Well, yes, from what we’ve seen, but not in the way you might think.

The thing that Ken was holding is a short story published in The Atlantic Monthly. Don says, “Good for you!” sincerely. Pete and Paul show up shouting their congratulations. Don would probably appreciate them more if they weren’t quite so shouty about it. Ken says, “Thank you!” and Pete wants to know what the hell anything has to do with him. Don tells them Ken’s news with a hint of pride that’s quite sweet. Pete and Paul both look a bit like someone slipped a sardine down the back of their shirts.  Sorry, boys. You can’t have daddy’s love today. Pete congratulates Ken graciously. Paul, quite a bit less graciously, is like you”¦ write”¦? Ken starts to happily blather that it’s funny because short fiction isn’t really his thing; he’s more into his two novels, which he explains to an incredulous Paul. Paul thinks they sound stupid. That’s just the sardines down your pants talking. Ken offers to let him read one, and Paul says sure he will in a way that means yes, on the tenth of a very, very bitter never. Paul wants to talk about advertising.

The client of the week is a bank that is looking to increase traffic to their branches. They’ve been trying to target women by advertising free toasters and various other lady shit, but it turns out women don’t do the banking much. Don realizes that they have to court non-household accounts, and Pete immediately latches on to the idea and calls them “discretionary” accounts for men with no little share of glee. Paul suggests the statements could be sent to the office. “Liberty Capital Private Account.” “No,” Don says, “executive account.” They all chuckle at their cleverness. Greeeat.

Peggy buzzes in and says he has a call from “Bix [Something dirty probably]” but I can’t hear. It’s Midge. Outside, Peggy picks up the phone and realizes that it’s a woman dirty talking Don. She starts to hang up, hesitates to listen, and then wishes she didn’t because what she gets is Midge cooing that she wants Don to pull her hair and ravage her. Good thing you already read Lady Chatterley’s Lover, or this would all be much more of a shock, Pegs. I doubt Pete is the hair-pulling, ravaging type. He’s more of the crying and cuddling type, don’t you think? Peggy very, very carefully hangs up, then nods with wide, slightly shell-shocked eyes as Don announces he’ll be back after lunch and struts out the door.

Elsewhere, the Smarmies minus Ken are bitching about, you guessed it, Ken. Paul starts off with, “Ken. Cosgrove. I think I’m going to vomit.” Pete can’t believe anyone from Burlington, Vermont could make it in New York City. Harry can’t believe he got published and didn’t tell anyone until it came out. Paul just can’t believe any of it because he thinks Ken is an idiot. Now, I don’t think that’s completely untrue, Ken is certainly kind of like a sweet, dumb, utterly oblivious puppy, but he’s definitely not an idiot. He has, and will continue to show, quite a bit more pragmatism in office politics than anyone in that room, and he seems to genuinely care for people and appreciate their kindness to him. He’s a smarmy bastard, but I like him. Younger me would probably not have hit that, which is a vote of confidence.

Paul: I have this story about this crazy night I ended up in Jersey City with a bunch of negroes and we all got along. Can you imagine how good that story is?
Harry: “¦No.
Pete: [Best face ever.]

They are all feeling quite put upon.

Not feeling so put upon are Don and Midge who are spread comfortably and postcoitally on her bed. Midge announces that that was all she wanted him for and he can go back to work. Don tells her that she can’t call him at work anymore. Midge points out that it worked today. They have a mumbly conversation about the fact that Don switches personalities for every person he comes into contact with, and Midge says she enjoys this about him. Rather, she says that she enjoys being his medicine from the stress of his other lives, but if you cut out that bullshit and the fact that he’s petting her boobs this whole conversation, that’s what it boils down to.

Also in bed, but with less petting, are Trudy and Pete. Pete has forced poor Trudy to read a short story he typed up, presumably after lunch in a booze haze. He demands to know why she doesn’t like it. It’s not that she doesn’t like it, she says, she likes that he wrote it and all, but she thinks it’s “too modern.” Pete thinks that’s a compliment, but he knows she doesn’t intend it to be.

Trudy: I just think it’s odd that the bear is talking.
Pete [very patiently]: It’s not that the bear is talking! It’s what the hunter imagines the bear to be thinking.

HA.

Trudy says it’s well-written and he should submit it, which is precisely what Pete wanted to hear. Actually, what he really wants to hear is that her friend in publishing will help him get it printed somewhere. Trudy is not stupid, and wants to know what the hell is going on. Pete tells the truth about Ken, and then the full truth that his father reads The Atlantic. Trudy doesn’t understand because Pete hates this publishing “friend” for being “her first.” Whoa, Trudy! How very modern of you. Pete smarms that getting his help on this will help make up for that. Pete. You don’t deserve a functional human being like Trudy for a partner.

At Sterling Cooper, Peggy silently takes Don’s coat and hat. Confused, he prompts her to say good morning. She responds, and says that the meeting in the conference room has started, then walks off awkwardly. Don, certainly not without faults, but lack of perception to the way women react to him is not one of them, is extremely confused.

In the conference room, surrounded by all the usual suspects including Joan, Roger is congratulating Ken. He thinks it shows initiative and that more people should do it. Roger says that probably everyone in the office has the first ten pages of novel in his desk drawer; Don thinks it’s probably more like five. Roger didn’t actually like the story, but he thought it showed an “uncanny understanding of what most people like,” which I think is a very good way to sum up the entirety of the person that is Ken Cosgrove.

Roger hands the meeting, the purpose of which is apparently to do a full rundown update on the various accounts, over to Joan who calls on Ken to talk about Maytag. Paul wonders, not even a little bit joking, whether Ken is going to complain about the copy now that he’s a big writer and all. Ken smiles and gives his report like the abiding dude he is. We get some exposition that they have Rio de Janeiro on their accounts list, and that there’s a lawsuit against Lucky Strike, but sales are strong.

Peggy apologizes for interrupting the meeting, but there’s an Adam Whitman waiting in reception for Don, or rather for Dick Whitman. Oh, shit.

Don’s face says as much, and he says he has to go deal with it.

Out in reception stands an open-faced young man who says he’s grown up now and he’s Dick’s little brother. Dick/Don says it’s Don and he doesn’t know who this person is. Adam says he found Don’s picture in the paper in someone’s trash and thought he saw a ghost. Don says he’s mistaken. It’s heartbreaking. Adam says he gets it, there’s something going on with all of it, and Don’s at work, he’ll come back another time. Don offers to meet him at a coffee shop at noon, and Adam’s face lights up with relief. Don practically shoves him onto an elevator. He walks slowly back to the conference room, panicking inside.

At the end of the meeting, Don flees out the door under Peggy’s watchful eye.

At the coffee shop, Dick and Adam shake hands. Adam can’t believe it. Don wants to know what he wants, but Adam just wants to, you know, be brothers. Don explains that he’s not himself anymore. Adam wants to know what happened, why Dick left him there. Adam is so thrilled, and so happy to even have Dick back in his life, that the betrayal doesn’t even linger. Adam says their mother, rather his mother, not Don’s, is dead. Don isn’t terribly upset about it. In fact, all of their family are dead. Adam wants to know if Dick missed him. He did.

Trudy is meeting up with her publishing “friend.” They have the world’s awkwardest conversation about whether he liked Pete’s story. “It doesn’t matter if I liked it; it matters that I publish it, right?” followed by the world’s awkwardest conversation about his current girlfriend, followed by the world’s awkwardest come on. Trudy tries to let him down gently, but this guy is kind of pitiably persistent.

At Sterling Cooper, Betty and Peggy meet, and Betty introduces the children. They’re there for a family portrait, but Peggy blocks nervously that Don isn’t there, since she assumes he’s off with Midge. She sends Betty and the children into Don’s office and then paces back and forth slightly hysterically looking for some kind of assistance. She finds Joan and babbles that Mrs. Draper is there and Don’s gone, “and I don’t know who to lie to!” If she lies to Betty, she could catch Don with the wrong excuse, and Don could find out that she knows where he went, and she would have reminded him about the family appointment but he slipped out after the meeting. Joan wants to know where he is. Peggy lies that she doesn’t know. Joan says she does know and if she doesn’t tell her, then Joan won’t tell her what to do about it. Peggy admits that she knows he’s with a woman. “He was with her the other day and he came back all greasy and calm!” Ha. Also, gross. Peggy sighs that now she’s the worst secretary in the world. Joan is enjoying the gossip, but she tells Peggy to entertain the wife and kids, take the blame for not reminding him, then let him have an excuse as he most surely will, and apologize to everyone for how stupid she is. Peggy says that’s probably what she would have done anyway, and now she realizes that she shouldn’t have told Joan. Joan agrees. Point: Joan. Mean, though.

At the café, Adam is still thrilled, and Dick/Don is still apologizing for things. Adam says he isn’t mad, he just wants answers. “Who is Donald Draper?” he asks, repeating the main theme of this season, if not the entire series. He asks if Don has a wife and children, and Don realizes he has to go. He offers to pay for lunch, and Adam is confused. He just wants to be a part of Don’s life, but Don says no. He’s going to leave, and that’s it. This never happened. It’s absolutely devastating.

Betty and Peggy are making conversation in Don’s office about Peggy’s dating life. Betty remembers what it was like, “All the disappointments.” Peggy is mercifully excused when the phone rings. It’s Joan, who asks how it’s going. Peggy answers, “No, thank you! I’m staying in!” and hangs up. Heh. There’s a little bit more awkwardness in this very awkward episode while Betty admits that she probably knows less about Don than Peggy, Peggy fumbles for an answer and tells her she’s beautiful, and Betty lights up under the littlest bit of praise and reassurance. Don arrives and Peggy immediately starts taking the blame, but Don, to his credit, says that she should have checked in first. He whisks them out of the office, but not before Betty gets the chance to look from Peggy to Don and perhaps realize something is wrong, even if it isn’t conscious.

Later, she shows the shots to Francine in the Draper kitchen and complains that they’re terrible. Don was late, and it shows what’s important to him. Francine tells her to stop it, they’re very important to their husbands. After all they’re not divorced, right? No, really. That’s her standard of comparison. They compare notes on visiting their husbands’ offices and determine that they feel stupid there. It might be one of the sadder Betty scenes we’ve seen so far, and that’s saying something. Her worrying obsessively over the family portrait, trying to exercise some measure of control over the way people see her life.

Paul, Pete, and Don are meeting with the bank representatives. Pete presents the private accounts idea as Don’s, but Don turns the meeting over to Paul. Pete feels like the only one not getting any love from daddy this week, since Harry obviously barely counts. Of course, Pete doesn’t realize that the words “discretion,” “private,” and “executive” might make Don vomit from anxiety, and it has very little to do with Paul. Don does indeed look ill as he watches the banking executives titter at the idea.

Rewatching the series, I think that one of the biggest things motivating Don is this escape from what he views as tawdriness. The tawdriness of his conception, and the constant reminders he received of it in his upbringing. He likes to think of himself as a complicated man, above all that, managing his affairs with discretion, and every time it comes to the surface that he isn’t unique, or special, or even particularly good at any of it, it eats away at his already muddled view of himself. During this season he and Betty are operating very much on the same plane in this way. It’s all about attempting to match their internal self image to the one that they project. I really do believe that it would hurt Don to discover that Peggy knows about his affair.

And Peggy knows this. She hands him his mail, stating that there’s one piece she did not open for him.

It’s a letter marked private. Inside there’s a photograph of Adam and Dick, with a note of where to find Adam if he changes his mind.

Paul and Ken have a little standoff in the break room. Oh, guys. Paul is so bitter and it is so entertaining. It’s just like this cruel show to toss one of the funniest plot lines of the season in with the most tragic.

Don leaves his office for the day, stating explicitly that he’ll be at home if Peggy needs to contact him. Joan sashays over and conspiratorially says that she wondered why Don never paid attention to her, but it’s obviously because he can get what he wants out of office, whereas most of the guys around there can’t. She says that if Peggy can keep up Don’s reputation both in the office and at home that makes her a good secretary. Peggy’s like, really, that’s my job? It sucks. Joan says it doesn’t. It’s “the best.”

Ken’s on his way out when Paul pops up and tries, sort of, to apologize. “I’ve been competing neck and neck with people in this place; I didn’t know I was competing with you too. ” Ken: “You lost.” BURN.

Pete comes home to dinner on the table and heaves a sigh as he sits down. Trudy announces that her publishing “friend” stopped by and said that he’s publishing Pete’s piece in Boy’s Life Magazine. Ha. Pete is irritated. Trudy says she thought he’d be happy. Pete says, “You don’t want me to have what I want.” JESUS CHRIST, PETE. Trudy is not going to take that bullshit lying down, though, or she already would have (poor taste?). She clears it up for him that she could have gotten him into The New Yorker but she’s not going to whore herself out for his self-esteem. “Why would you do that to me? Why would you put me in that position?” Because he doesn’t deserve you, that’s why.

Betty chats about their plans for a summer rental on the Cape. She’s sad that Don will have to spend most of their vacation time in the office. She likes Peggy, though she jokingly accuses Don of being disappointed by her straight-laced nature. Don: “Did you read some terrible article in Look Magazine?” LADIES LOVE THEIR MAGAZINES. I should know, I have several hundred pages of September Vogue on standby to read by flashlight in case the power goes out. Betty laughs and says no, she really does like Peggy. Don is silent and distracted. He blames it on work, which makes Betty feel that pang of stupidity again.

In his home office, Don burns the picture.

In a sad room we can assume is the 5G mentioned in the letter from Adam, he gets a phone call. It’s Don, asking if he’s busy. Adam: “For you? Of course not!” They arrange to meet.

Don unlocks his desk drawer of secrets and holds his head in his hands.

Adam answers the door to his room, which he admits is sad and terrible. Don looks very serious and says he came to explain some things to Adam. Adam says to stop talking like that; this isn’t that complicated. Don thinks it is. “I have a life, and it only goes in one direction: forward.” Adam offers Don a drink, but Don only wants coffee. Adam proudly says he figures Don is pretty important. Adam reminisces that Don was always too smart for  his own good, though their uncle thought he was soft, “But you’re not, are you?” Don, with resolve, say he isn’t. He plops a few packets of bills down on the desk. It’s five thousand dollars, and that’s all Adam is getting from him. Don, without ceremony, kicks Adam out of his life. Adam protests that that isn’t what he wanted, it’s not right. Don wants his little brother to go back to thinking he was dead. Adam starts to cry. Don thinks Adam should go make his own life. Adam clings to him, and Don allows himself a moment to feel like a person and hug his little brother before breaking away for good. He leaves. It’s horrible.

In the Draper bed, Betty is reading. A magazine, probably. She asks if the crisis was averted, and Don answers in the affirmative. Betty asks if he wants to check in on the kids, but Don just wants to go to sleep. Betty, however, wants to talk about something, “and I don’t want you to get upset.” Always a good opener. Betty just wants to talk about buying a summer house. “I know we had a good year.” Well, that was before your husband tossed five grand at his little brother and cut him out of his life forever. Don says he thinks going to see her family at their place will be fine, and Betty accepts this. “Good,” she says, “because I like seeing my dad.”

Credits.

Oh, god. So much going on in this episode. Don sacrifices part of his family for another, but doesn’t want to kiss his kids goodnight. Peggy realizes her job consists of throwing herself onto the tracks of her boss’s bad decision train. Pete is a terrible person, even given what we learned about his life last week. We got a whole lot of looks into the inner workings of our usual suspects that will show with remarkable consistency for the rest of the show. Paul’s competitive bitter streak. Ken’s hidden qualities, and his well-placed take down. It’s a hard episode to watch, but the Paul/Ken rivalry is absolutely hilarious.

Next week: some more hard moments, quite a bit of Peggy, fewer hurricanes and earthquakes, let’s hope.

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(e)Kelsium

Kelsium lives in Southern California with her partner and collection of almost (almost!) kill-proof plants. She enjoys the beaches, but finds the lack of acceptable bagels distressing. She considers herself an expert in red lipstick and internet rage.

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