LadyGhosts of TV Past

Ladyghosts of TV Past: Mad Men: “The Wheel” – End of the Season, Turn, Turn, Turn

Previously on Mad Men:

An entire season went by! But in the episode before this, Harry and Hildy made some poor decisions at a party, Peggy made good decisions and everyone hated her for it, and Don laid the smackdown on Pete’s ambitions and nefarious plots.

We pan back from some truly hideous wall paper samples. Trudy is chatting about decorating choices with her mother. Papa Trudy is explaining to Pete that Nixon didn’t stand a chance because some sports team won some game. Pete reaches for his drink and says he wishes someone had told him. PT, always one for expressing emotion, says apropos of very little that he wants to treat Pete like a son because that’s the way he feels about him. This is the lead up to letting Pete know that Trudy told them, in the vague details Pete gave her of course, about him not getting the promotion. Pete is, understandably, irritated because he hates sharing things. Because he is a WASP, in case you all forgot.

PT wants Pete to take some focus off of his work. Pete thinks that’s rich, since they just had a conversation about the acquisition of Clearasil by PT’s company, Vick’s Chemical. He takes the moment to make a pitch for Sterling Cooper as the ad company for the account, and PT says that the only family business he wants Pete to be involved in is making a baby, which was his destination all along in this conversation. Pete wants to know what Trudy said about that. Trudy already has her radar turned from decorating to this dangerous conversation, and Mama Trudy admonishes her husband that “loose lips sink ships.” PT insists that he worked it into the conversation naturally, which gives the both of them the opportunity to lay into Pete in their gentle, caring way about the subject. Pete looks uncomfortable.

At the Draper residence, Betty crawls in bed with Don and says something about acorn squash. Don is not really paying attention. She wants him to come to Thanksgiving, but Don’s new excuse not to spend time with her dad and his lady friend is that he’s a partner and 80% of his business is rolling out that week. “What about Sally and Bobby’s childhood memories?” implores Betty. Yes, what about them? Don points out that there was no reason they couldn’t have hosted Thanksgiving at their own house, and Betty gives him A Look. She says Don knows her brother’s children are animals and couldn’t make the trip, and she doesn’t want her dad to be alone. She bitches about her brother passive aggressively, and Don goes back to his reading material. Unfortunately for him, Betty notices, and states the obvious, which she never would have done twelve episodes ago, that he doesn’t want to go. Don: “I’m sorry, was I unclear about that?” Hee. But ouch. Betty doesn’t understand why Don can’t make his family her family. Don’s response is to turn out the light and go to sleep.

Elsewhere, a distraught looking Harry tells a phone that Ken is perfectly happy to have him there. Uh oh. The jist is that he’s been kicked out after the Hildy incident, and he’s not, in fact, at Ken’s, though knowing Ken he would be perfectly happy to have Harry there, but is sleeping in his office. It’s unclear if Jennifer found out, or if Harry confessed. I’m guessing, with quite a bit of certainty, the latter.

Bert has about a dozen incredibly big books sitting on his little coffee table when Don enters the office. Bert explains that he got a call from Mr. Menken and that Rachel will be unavailable for several months, taking a long cruise to Paris. Good for you, Rachel! I hope you meet someone dashingly handsome and not quite a psychotic. Bert knows from the call that Don had something to do with it, but he’s not completely sure what, he just wants Don to know that he knows and he wants Don to stop being an idiot.

At the Draper residence, Betty, in her coat, lets a bundled up and quite upset Francine in. Betty asks what’s wrong, and Francine keeps saying she’s stupid. Betty says that whatever happened, Francine’s not stupid. In trying to correct a household mix up, Francine went to the phone company to pay the bill, which turned out to be absurdly expensive because her husband is making long distance phone calls to someone in Manhattan, a lady person who answers her own phone–Francine knows because she called. Betty, less than helpfully, says that married women answer their own phones. “So he’s calling some married woman from my house while I’m upstairs sleeping?” asks Francine. “Maybe it’s a caterer and he’s throwing you a surprise party?” suggests Betty. Francine giggles with an edge of hysteria. “You’re assuming the worst,” she says. Francine corrects that the worst part is that she’ll poison the bastard. It’s going to be Thanksgiving. She can poison her parents, his parents, their kids, all in one day. Betty tells her to stop it, she’s emotional. Francine starts to raise her voice, and says she’s been sitting outside Betty’s house freezing in the car, waiting for her to come home because she thought Betty would know what to do. Betty wants to know why her. Francine looks at her pityingly and says, “I don’t know.” Then she starts to cry. Betty gives her a hug, but they are interrupted by the children arriving home with Carla, who looks adorable in a checkered coat and matching cap. Betty tells her to go ahead and leave, she’ll unpack the groceries. Betty takes a long look down the hall of her house, and fetches an envelope that can only be the phone bill. She slips it in the pocket of her coat.

At Sterling Cooper, Duck is leading a meeting in the conference room. He’s offering a hundred dollar bonus to the first man to arrange a meeting with a decision maker. Don says this means everyone, writers too. “Bringing in business is the key to your salary, your status, your self worth.” Well, okay then. If you put it that way. Duck, for instance, learned in the steam room at the gym that Kodak is unhappy with their current agency.

Elsewhere, Ken and Peggy are auditioning girls for the “rejuvenation” belt radio spot. Their top two are a traditionally beautiful actress type, and a “radio face” (according to television, anyway) with a better voice. Peggy wants the first, Ken wants the second. Peggy wins, saying that what they are selling is confidence, which the first girl has. Ken gives in, and says that if he gets shit about it, he’s telling them it was her idea. Peggy says well of course, because it was her idea.

Betty smokes at the table, waiting for Don to come home. He greets her with a forehead kiss. Betty asks why he didn’t just stay in the city if he’s going to get home so late. Don says, oblivious to her petulant mood, that he has some work to do there anyway. He’s looking for the slide projector. “You’re not going to see us for four days, and you’re not going to see us now,” pouts Betty. By “us” she means herself because clearly the kids are already in bed. Don objects to being berated right when he walks in the door. Betty apologizes and says she had a terrible day. Don sits and asks what happened. Betty spills the Francine story, and Don looks nervous, to say the least. Don plays it cool, but the man should know that there is nothing he can say that’s right. Honestly, watching this makes me mad at my own partner, who has done nothing wrong and has never even seen this show, so, you know, there’s no winning this conversation. He says one of the many wrong possibilities, which is that he’s surprised Francine told her. “Why?” asks Betty, with a hostile edge, “She like a sister to me.” Don takes her hand and says of course. Betty continues that Francine should poison him. Don thinks that’s a little extreme, even though he’s never been a big fan of the man either. Betty asks how anyone could do that to the person they love, “Doesn’t any of this mean anything?” Don hedges that no one knows why people do what they do. Betty holds his gaze confrontationally, but Don looks away. Don takes her hand and tells her to come upstairs, and to bring her wine.

At Sterling Cooper, Duck and Don are looking at what can only be the Kodak slide machine that was mentioned earlier. It’s “continuous, doesn’t jam, they call it the doughnut, or the wheel.” Duck tells Don to make him look good in the presentation, and Don sighs and fiddles with the machine.

In the studio, Peggy is recording the commercial with the actress from before. She’s smiling, but she stops the girl and says to Ken that she doesn’t sound very confident. Ken says to try giving her a direction, and Peggy simply says, “Okay, Annie, confidence!” The actress, eager to please, looks confused but says, “Okay!” in the same bright way I say it to my faculty committee when they say, “Pages by next Tuesday!” when we all know it isn’t going to happen. She does it again the same way as before. Peggy paints her a more specific picture, and Ken says it’s too bad Peggy’s voice is so annoying. I kind of love Ken and Peggy together. Ken, for all his frat bro douchebaggery, treats her like a little sister when it comes to working together, and it’s nice. Poor Annie does it the same way a third time. Peggy stops her again. She asks Ken to say something to her to make her feel confident. Ken says beautiful women never feel confident. Poor Annie asks for pineapple juice for her throat, and Peggy says there’s water in the corner. Annie starts and Peggy stops her again with direction. Poor Annie starts to cry and says she doesn’t understand. Peggy asks what she doesn’t understand, every bit the callous director. Annie cries some more and says she is being her confident self. Peggy fires her. Ken is a little shocked at Peggy’s lack of caring, but Peggy throws him a bone and tells him to go console the girl and make a date, but then to call the other woman from the audition. Like I said, I love these two.

Don is playing with the wheel projector in his office, looking at slides and sticking them in slots. He opens his drawer, takes out his SUPER SEKRIT box of photos, which he now keeps in his top drawer so good job Don, and looks at them pensively. He makes a call to Adam’s hotel and describes him to the man at the front desk, looking for a forwarding address. The man is sorry to tell Don, but the man he’s looking for hung himself. The man apologizes again, and Don just says, “Okay,” and hangs up the phone. He puts his head in his hands, and we pan back to show the glass of rye and smoking cigarette on his desk. The quintessential Don Draper in this moment.

Betty is in bed alone, tucked only into her own half. She sits up, turns on the light, and takes out her squirreled away phone bill from the bedside table drawer. These people are always putting things in the most obvious places. She opens it and flips through the pages. Her face falls when she finds a number she doesn’t recognize, and in the next shot she is sitting, in her night dress, on the floor of the hallway making the call. The phone rings, and a man answers. Betty is first relieved, then confused, and asks who it is. It’s her therapist. “Mrs. Albertson, I have warned you, this is inappropriate!” he says, entertainingly in an otherwise terribly sad moment of completely unexpected betrayal. Betty lets the phone fall to her lap and disconnect.

Don wakes up on his couch, drunk and disoriented. He stumbles out his door to see Harry, in tighty whities and an undershirt, trudging through the typing pool. He calls him in. Harry adjusts his underclothes awkwardly. Don fixes Harry a drink and says he wants to talk to him. Harry starts, “I can explain,” but Don isn’t in boss mode, he’s in drunken, manic ad man mode. He wants to know what the benefit of the wheel projector is. “Uh, it sells projectors to people who already have them?” answers Harry. Don adds that it stacks, you can store your slides in the wheels, ready to go. Harry says he took pictures for the student newspaper at one point, and the machinery is definitely part of the fun. Don asks what he took pictures of, and naturally it was girls. Other stuff, too, like a series of handprints on glass. Harry says he was fascinated by the cave painting handprints. He always felt like someone was reaching through the stone to say, “I was here.” He says all of this in a way that is self aware and self-deprecating, so you can’t hate him for being pretentious. He is also, sort of pathetically, wearing his wedding band. Don drops off for a moment, and Harry, not realizing that he is talking to a stone cold drunk person who happens to be unusually lucid, asks if he’s okay. Don dismisses him and curls into the fetal position on the couch.

There is snow on the ground as Betty heads into the bank, but she sees Glen sitting alone in a car. She taps on the window and motions for him to roll it down. Glen does, but says he isn’t supposed to talk to her. Betty doesn’t care. Glen says his mother is going to come out soon. Betty doesn’t care about that either. She says she can’t talk to anyone, and it’s horrible, “I’m so sad.” Glen reaches his little creepy mittened hand out the window and Betty grasps it and sobs. She asks him to tell her she’ll be okay. “I don’t know. I wish I was older,” says Glen. Betty says adults don’t know anything. “I don’t really know how long twenty minutes is,” says Glen, nervous about his mother’s return. “Of course, dear,” sniffles Betty and walks away.

Pete comes to Don’s office to tell him that he took Duck’s talk seriously and comes bearing an account. The Clearasil account. Don is impressed, but suspicious. He says he’s sure Pete can talk his way into the bonus. Pete already did, and received a copy of Atlas Shrugged from Bert for his efforts. Heh. “It matters to me that you’re impressed,” continues Pete. “I am,” says Don in a way that also means get the hell out of my office, twerp.

Betty comes for her therapist appointment armed with her information, but she settles on the couch as usual and begins to talk about Thanksgiving and how stressful it is. She says, however, that she is grateful for things. Like therapy, which she says has helped, and then she lays the trap, “I can’t help but think that I would be happy if my husband was faithful to me.” Betty says Don is kind, but everything is there in her face: hotel rooms, perfume, “or worse.” “He doesn’t know what family is.” She says she feels sorry for him, even though she should be angry. “It’s interesting, isn’t it?” with a pointed look at the therapist as she fetches a cigarette. “The way he makes love, sometimes it’s what I want, and sometimes it’s obviously what someone else wants.” And that, in essence, is Don Draper. Betty feels like she isn’t enough, “but maybe it’s just him.”

Duck introduces some business people to Sal and Don. It’s Kodak and they want to know if SC has found a way to work the wheel into their advertising campaign. Don weaves an argument that there are two ideas in advertising: the lure of the new, and nostalgia and a connection to the old. “It’s delicate, but potent.” He has the lights flipped off, and starts the projector. He starts his presentation over slides of Betty and the children. “Nostalgia” in Greek means the pain of an old wound. “This device isn’t a space ship; it’s a time machine”¦It’s not called The Wheel, it’s called The Carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Round and round and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.” The show ends on a slide of Don kissing Betty. Harry bursts into tears and rushes  out of the room. I bet the actors had a lot of fun taking the pictures for the slide show.

The Kodak executives look like they’ve been slapped, and Duck simply wishes them luck at their next meeting.

The Smarmies pour into Don’s office with congratulations. Kodak called from the lobby to say they cancelled all their other meetings. Duck also announces the meeting with Clearasil. Pete pours a drink, but Duck passes his to Don. Don says he knows how to turn the Clearasil account into a home run: put Peggy on it. Okay, so I seriously think that Don has picked up on the animosity Pete has toward Peggy and that it’s part of why his conversation with Peggy sent him straight after Pete last episode, and part of why he is throwing Peggy’s success into Pete’s moment right now. I don’t know if it’s conscious, but I love it. Pete thinks it’s a very funny joke. Ken breaks in that Peggy is like Paul, but with balls, and that he thinks it’s a great idea. Woo, Ken! Pete is unhappy. He sputters that the account will walk away if he doesn’t get the very best and that Peggy isn’t even a copywriter, she’s a secretary. Don’s response is to shout for Peggy and promote her to copywriter. This is the best scene ever. Peggy asks if this is really happening, and Don turns to Pete and says it is. Peggy promises to do her best and shakes Don’s hand. Pete stomps out like a goddamn child.

Joan’s mode of congratulations is to say, “I said congratulations, didn’t I?” and to elaborate on the last copywriter who got fired, and says that sometimes people get what they want and they realize how limited their goals were. She also tells Peggy to remember the other girls or they won’t remember her, which is actually very sound advice. She introduces Peggy to her new office mate. Peggy says she doesn’t feel well, and Joan makes a crack at her office mate saying she should ask her secretary to cover for her.

In the next shot, Peggy is sitting on a clinic bed. A doctor asks what he can do, and she says she thinks she had a bad sandwich. He starts to examine her, and she doubles over in pain. “Honey,” he says, “you didn’t mention that you were expecting.” “What?” Peggy asks, confused. The doctor says she’s going to be a mother, but Peggy responds that that’s impossible. The nurse asks if she can call her husband or boyfriend, but the doctor recognizes that she’s not helping matters and sends her away. Peggy is in total denial. The doctor places her hand on her stomach and asks if she feels that. Peggy gets her things and starts to leave, but collapses as soon as she stands. “I don’t understand,” she wails as the nurse calls for a wheelchair. The doctor requests a psychiatric consult.

Pete arrives home to find Trudy and his in-laws looking at paint samples. He kisses her and transmits the information that he’s been drinking. She picks up immediately and says, “Oh, were they having a party at the office?” brightly. Pete thinks he should lie down. Mama Trudy agrees, and Papa Trudy makes a crack about being awake “later.” Pete struggles to get his coat off and throws it on the floor.

A nurse brings Peggy a baby and asks if she want to try to feed him. Peggy stares blankly ahead. “Don’t you want to hold him, sweetheart?” Nothing.

Don sits on a rowdy train, smoking. The man next to him has an elaborate fruit basket. He arrives home and calls, “Hello?” questioningly. Betty is in a sweater and the kids are all packed to leave. “Daddy! Are you coming with us?” shrieks Sally. Betty braces for the disappointing answer, “No, he isn’t. Daddy has to work.” Don corrects that he’s coming with them. Betty is thrilled. They kiss and smile at each other, and Don scoops up the kids to tell them the good news.

Then, Don enters the front door again and calls, “Hello?” The house is empty. They’re already gone. He sits alone on the stairs. Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” plays us out.

End of the first season! Let’s take a moment to honor the office couches, heroes of the show.

By (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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