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LadyGhosts of TV Past

Mad Men: “Indian Summer” of (Hesitant, Repressed) Self Love

Previously on Mad Men:

Roger behaved poorly and had a heart attack, Joan hated men but to the great disappointment of her roommate not enough to give them up in favor of women, Don had an existential crisis and went running to Rachel, who, against what we know to be her better judgment, was totally down with that.

Adam Whitman mails a package to Don marked “PERSONAL.” He leaves it on the counter and backs off, looking over his shoulder as if he is leaving something, or someone, of immense importance behind. In his room, he leaves piles of cash on the table, scrawls a quick note on hotel stationary, and hangs himself before you even realize he’s going to. It’s pretty awful.

At Sterling Cooper, Peggy, who has taken to wearing the same empire-waist dress and jacket combination every day it seems, is picking at a muffin and having a terse conversation with her mother who, from the sounds of it, is trying to set her up. We get a shot from slightly behind the curve of a waist that could only belong to one person, and Peggy quickly ends her phone call, accusing Joan of listening in on it. Joan: “You mean your personal phone call?” Peggy is saved from having to answer by the arrival of Don, who requests a glass of ice water as “no one told the sun that it’s October.” Joan is there to see him with some questions about a client luncheon, as he is in charge in Roger’s absence. Don simply instructs her to keep doing her usual job, which seems to have in large part consisted of preventing Roger from having to do any work. She asks how he’s doing, and Don says he’s “less sickly,” which doesn’t seem like a rousing vote of confidence, and Joan, only a touch less composed than usual, says she hopes Roger knows how concerned “we all” are about him.

All the Smarmies are there for a meeting with Don, which Pete opens by declaring that Joan has been a real bitch lately. They all agree, though Sal approves. The meeting apparently has to do with some kind of contraption in a case that they lay on the table. In exchange for kicking another agency over a bit of tire business, they have been repaid with this fascinating-looking device, which is some kind of electronic weight loss belt. It’s called something boring, so it needs a name, and it’s got a lot of testimonials but no picture proof that it actually causes weight loss. The reaction among the wives has been mixed: Jennifer told Harry to wear it himself, Freddy’s wife hasn’t seen any results, but she’s going to keep using it anyway. Ken points out that it doesn’t matter if it works, they have to sell it so they can get paid. Pete’s skeptical about promoting fake weight loss claims. In an unfortunate bit of coincidence, Peggy enters bringing Don his water, effectively volunteering herself for a little bit of nastiness as soon as she leaves, and as a guinea pig for the contraption. Freddy, with sincerity, says she did a great job on Belle Jolie and they should give her another shot. Pete sneers that Peggy is not the answer to their problems, but Don overrules him.

Don calls Peggy in and asks her to give the thing a whirl and contribute her thoughts. Peggy is excited at the possibility she could be getting another account, but certainly not naïve to the implications of the assignment. Peggy’s first question is whether she’s allowed to change the name. Yes, says Don.

Peggy, in her tiny room of her tiny shared apartment, is looking over the literature on the contraption when her roommate, drinking a bottle of Coke with a straw, which is a cute touch from the props department, comes in demanding her half of the phone bill, Peggy never uses it, and reparations for eating all their food, Peggy claims to have had some people over, which we know is a lie because when have we seen Peggy have friends? Not that I’m passing judgment, since what I did this holiday weekend amounts to: work, read, school work, school work, eat all the things, school work, booze, eat all the things.

She slips the belt on, which looks like a pair of rubber panties with wires popping out, lies down on the bed, and hits the on button on the machine. It only takes a moment to feel its, uh, affects (IN HER LADYPARTS, GUYS) and she makes a noise of surprise, turns off the machine, strips off the rubber panties, and kicks them across the room. Don’t be so hasty, Peggy. I mean, really.

Elsewhere, in perhaps not equally but at least similarly sexually repressed bedrooms, Betty reads a Family Circle alone. She hears a noise, but convinces herself it was nothing and turns off the light.

Less alone is Don, who is in Rachel’s bed. She asks if he has to go home, and he decidedly says no, he does not. They kiss a bit, and Rachel says this is hard for her, “mostly because I can’t even imagine how hard it must be for you.” 1) That’s what she said, 2) You’d be surprised, Rachel, 3) Ugh, I love you girl, but you are just feeding the massive bullshit monster protein cookies at this point. Don, to his very slight credit, says truthfully that he doesn’t think about it. Rachel is impressed, though not entirely believing, at his powers of denial. She’s worried that what they have is a fantasy (it is), but Don assures her that it isn’t and he is precisely where he wants to be (true, but for how long?), and then shuts her up with his preferred method: sexy times.

Then, like the cheating machine he is– and it sounds like maybe I’m being overly critical of Don, and I am being critical of him, but I don’t think that he cheats with malice, you know? He just doesn’t know how else to be– he pulls one of many fresh white shirts from his office drawer and gets dressed. Peggy comes in, apologizes, and asks if he’d prefer she wait, he says it’s up to her and she chooses to stay. She says she did the work on the weight loss panties (“belt”), and when he remarks that that was fast she simply says, “You asked me to.” He asks her what her take was, and she says it’s all in the report, but he asks her to summarize for him, which is precisely what she was hoping to avoid. Peggy says it’s hard to put into words. Don: “Then you have failed.” They go back and forth a little bit, Peggy euphemizing and Don hilariously clueless, but eventually he figures it out. “Oh. A sensation.” He’s excited to at least have found a benefit, now they just have to figure out how to sell it. She says she’ll work on it, and he tells her to think about it deeply and then forget about it and an idea will come to her.

Betty, still in her nightgown, answers the door to find an air conditioning salesman. She says she isn’t interested, but he asks for a glass of water and her hostessing compulsion gets the better of her. As soon as he’s had a drink, he goes back to his sales pitch. She giggles, and says her husband is a salesman, the implication being that his usual deal is probably not going to work on her. He points out the places that her house is losing cool air instead and starts talking about science. He’s cute and she’s interested, so when he offers to take some measurements and write up an estimate she agrees. She gets about halfway up to the bedroom before thinking the better of it, and saying that her husband would probably rather go to Sears. Thinking this is actually about air conditioning, the salesman offers to just write a quick estimate and put it under the door for when her husband comes home, but Betty asks him to just please go.

Don is dictating something to a recorder in his office, when Bert comes in and announces that he just finished talking Lucky Strike (the senior Southern Gentleman in particular) off a ledge. They’re nervous and want to check to see if Roger’s still alive. Bert told them to come see for themselves, and they called his bluff, so Don’s on the spot to distract them from Roger’s “less sickly” state of being.

Rachel is having lunch with her sister, who is trying to sell her on someone with an impressive resume. Rachel says her heart probably wouldn’t be in it, and her sister gasps, “Are you seeing that goy?” with gossipy affection. “A little bit,” admits Rachel, which is not quite the same as, “I’m sleeping with him.” Rachel also, hypothetically, and reluctantly admits that the goy is married. Her sister says, “Jesus,” but is a little impressed, I think. “Nothing’s happened,” lies Rachel. Her sister, who is in like five minutes of the show total, but whom I totally want to be friends with based on that five minutes, is wearing a gorgeous yellow blouse and points out that Rachel doesn’t want to end up the girl from the movies who gets murdered for getting pregnant with a married guy’s baby. Well, touché. Her sister grabs a fortune cookie and reads, for Rachel’s benefit, “You are your own worst enemy.”

Don and Betty get into bed together. Betty observes that Don looks tired and he’s working too much. Yeah, “working.” He gently rebuffs her advances, and she says it’s too hot anyway. She does that thing that Betty does where she takes something someone else told her and announces it as if she just came up with it, “You know we’re losing a lot of our cool air through the windows in the dining room?” Don is like wait, what? She gives credit for the concept to the salesman, knowing exactly how Don is going to take the word “salesman,” which is poorly. She plays dumb, and he starts yelling at her for letting strange men into the house. She continues to prattle about air conditioning, and he, exasperated, says goodnight and they both turn to their separate sides.

At Sterling Cooper, Mona leads Roger by the arm into the office to applause from the staff. Roger: “I feel like I should make a speech. Get back to work.” Mona grants him one hour out of bed to charm Lucky Strike and bids him be a good boy.

The Smarmies observe, to themselves obviously, that Roger looks like death. Pete thinks not so much.

Roger is sitting, slightly limply, on the couch in Don’s office observing that this is the spot where his heart attack happened. Bert has gone to fetch Joan to do up Roger’s makeup so that he looks less like death. “Hey, honey,” Roger greets her weakly. It’s clearly more than a pithy hello, but Don and Bert wisely ignore it, and leave them alone. They, Joan and Roger, not Don and Bert though that would be interesting, kiss and Roger sighs as Joan starts to do him up. Roger says they should have put Nixon in makeup before the debates and starts to ramble about the campaign. Joan tells him not to get worked up, and he says he missed her. Roger says he wants to tell her something from the bottom of his damaged heart, which is that she was the “finest piece of ass I ever had.” That is not what she was expecting precisely, but he continues that he won’t regret being with her. She starts to cry. He says that isn’t what he wanted, but Joan only needed a second. She raises her head, makeup barely smudged, and says he looks better. She closes her purse and leaves.

Betty is visiting poor Francine, who has finally had the baby. “Damn it,” says Francine, “soon the milk stains are going to meet the sweat stains.” Love you forever, Francine. They complain about the heat, and Betty brings the subject around to the air conditioning salesman, whom she characterizes as “pushy,” even though he was very polite to her. Betty confesses she let him in when Don wasn’t home, though she puts the blame on the salesman. Francine says Carleton would break her arm. Just like that. She says, “Carleton would break my arm.” That’s”¦ too specific to be an exaggeration, I’m thinking. Betty says it was foolish letting the man in, and Francine asks the obvious question of why she would bother to tell Don. Betty says “it just came up” as if she didn’t specifically engineer the conversation to bring it up. She says he lost his temper, but it’s just because he’s protective. Okay.

At the Lucky Strike meeting there are many sandwiches. I want all of them. All the sandwiches. Southern Gentleman Senior approves. Roger and Don enter, and SGS says cautiously and probingly that it’s nice to see Roger. Roger jokes about the fact that they’d given him up for dead and SGS says they had every right to be concerned. SGS complains about the lawsuit, and seems disappointed that all his lunches bought for his government representatives didn’t prevent him from losing it, though there were no damages. Oh, hey, and a rape joke. Cool. They speculate about how long they’ve got before they put warning signs on packages. Roger and Don put SGS at ease, and SGS pronounces that he missed the New Yorkers and their sandwiches. Roger stands to propose a toast, with a sandwich naturally, to New York when he collapses groaning, “Not again.” Don rushes to loosen Roger’s tie while Pete looks panicked.

Mona comes back to the office to find Roger strapped to a gurney while Joan looks on, worried. Don admits the whole idea was stupid and apologizes to her. She turns on Bert and SGS with a dangerous look, and he stammers to find the words to apologize. She says she used to think you couldn’t put a value on a human life, but she never asked him. Then she tells him to go to hell, and it’s awesome.

Pete overhears the hedged finangling that’s going on between SGS and Bert that at first appears as if SGS is doubting Don’s ability to keep everything under control. Pete leaves without hearing that SGS’s real worry is that without Roger, if the company loses Don they’re totally fucked, so Bert better make sure that he can keep him.

Harry pronounces Roger dead whether he survives or not. They all freak out a little about whether the firm can survive, but Harry says it’s obvious that they’ll just bump Don up to partner and everything will calm down. Pete all but spits on the idea of Don making partner. He throws out a bunch of other potential names, but it’s obvious to everyone else that Don is going to be the one moving up the ladder. “Do you think Draper likes me?” wonders Paul. Paul, never change. Pete, who has been quietly verging on what might be hysteria ever since Roger collapsed in the conference room, says that there isn’t a man in the room who isn’t holding Don Draper up on his shoulders. Harry pretty much rolls his eyes and says Pete isn’t going to get fired, if that’s what he’s worried about. Pete pretends like that isn’t at all what’s occupying the weasel turning the wheels in his brain. Paul is like dude, when the old guys die and the younger old guys move up it leaves spaces for the young guys to move up too. Pete looks unconvinced.

A clean cut young man is talking about his mother. To Peggy. At lunch in a fancy restaurant. Oh, la la Peggy! She is less than enthralled with the whole thing. She tries to intimidate this wholesome young fellow by lighting a cigarette and asserting she smokes all the time. She wheezes, but it works. She changes tactics and tries to intimidate him by talking about Joan and then more generally about how totally awesome Manhattan is. “So, you drive a truck?” she continues. He explains about the truck and his route, and honestly he isn’t being that boring, but it’s pretty clear she isn’t interested at all. She talks about her Belle Jolie copy, and he responds by declaring that advertising doesn’t work on him. If there’s one thing you could say to make sure Don Draper’s protégé never ever takes you seriously, I’m pretty sure that’s it. That or, “I’m feeling [feeling].” Peggy asks why he’s insulting what she does, and her date rightly points out that she’s been nothing but condescending to him all night. Then he really drives it in where it hurts and says, “You may act like you’re from Manhattan, but you don’t look like those girls.” Peggy immediately gathers her things to leave, her date puts his hand on her arm and apologizes, and she spits, “I feel sorry for you.” Okay, so you’re allowed to say “I feel” if you’re insulting someone. That’s an exception. He apologizes again, but she’s leaving anyway. “Those people in Manhattan?” she says, “They are better than us. Because they want things they haven’t seen.”

Don and Betty are watching television at home. Betty gets up, turns off the set, and gives Don the “coming to bed, eh?” look. Don says he’ll be up after he makes a call to check on Roger, which we know is a lie, but what we may not have guessed is that he’s calling Betty’s therapist. Betty’s therapist quickly identifies Don’s tone as “hostile,” and Don accuses him of doing nothing but making Betty more unhappy. Don says he’s afraid to leave her alone, she’s weaker than she was. All the therapist has to offer is the suggestion that these are Don’s feelings about the process that we’re hearing, and that therapy takes time, and that they could put her in more sessions a week if Don wants to speed up the process. I’m not sure that’s how that works, really. Don obviously thinks he’s full of shit.

In the conference room, Peggy has to give her weight loss panties presentation for the full complement of Smarmies. She’s understandably nervous, but Don is encouraging. Her pitch for the vibrating panties is based on the concept of “rejuvenation” rather than its weight loss benefits. Freddy likes it, so does Ken, but they want to know what it does. Don saves Peggy the awkwardness of explaining by saying that it’s his understanding that it “gives the pleasure of a man without a man.” The Smarmies take this precisely as you might expect, and there is much giggling and innuendo and Sal trying to participate by talking about women’s outfits. Freddy helpfully explains to Peggy that the woman they’re talking about is “very attractive.” Guys, I kind of love Freddy. He’s a mess, sure, but I think he genuinely cares for Peggy and wants her to feel included. He just has NO IDEA WHATSOEVER how to go about it appropriately. I give him credit for trying, though.

Don thinks it still needs some work, and they give Peggy some ideas. Suddenly, Ken remembers that Freddy’s wife has one. Freddy: “What’s your point?” Ken: “Didn’t you say she loved it? That’s funny.” Oh, Ken. Always just a hint too slow, always getting punched in the face. Freddy doesn’t quite make it there, though, because Don has significantly better wits and reflexes than the both of them. It should be noted that everyone at the table has risen in anticipation of breaking up the fight except Pete, who clearly just wants to watch. Ugh. Pete. Don dismisses them all telling Peggy, “See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” It’s kind of like praise, so you know it is just killing Pete dead. Harry, on his way out, lets her in on the joke that Freddy’s wife doesn’t exactly measure up to the first woman they were discussing. Ken gives her a tiny punch in the arm and says, “Good work, Pegs!” Sweet, dumb Ken forever. You guys, I just figured out that Ken is like the clean cut advertising version of Tim Riggins. Do you see it? I see it.

At the Draper residence, Betty is doing laundry when the machine goes off balance. Do you see where this is going yet? She starts to push the machine back against the wall, when she feels the vibrations and decides to let herself have a moment. A moment involving a little fantasy about the air conditioning salesman. You get yours, Bets. She doesn’t, though, because the machine stops. She goes to stand in front of the fan.

Don is helping himself to some bourbon when Peggy comes in and launches right into her pitch for a desk of her own, and more time to work on her copywriting. Don rightly anticipates that she also wants a raise, and tells her to ask for it like a man. She does: “I want five dollars a week more.” Don chuckles and asks how much she makes, and realizes what a big deal it is for her when he figures out that she’s asking for a fifteen percent raise. They are interrupted by Bert asking Don for a word.

Don and Bert trek back through the typing floor to Roger’s office. Bert is shoeless as usual. Pete sees them go and demands that Hildy let him know when they come out. She gives him lip and he snaps at her, but it doesn’t appear to dampen her spirits much. You have to take your moments when you can as Pete’s secretary, I’m guessing.

Don is nervous. He thinks Bert has called him in to tell him that Roger died. Nope, says Bert, he’s pretty good. He just wants to make Don a partner. Don points out that giving the news in Roger’s office may be in bad taste. Bert is like pssh, like Roger has taste. Don accepts. Don’s starting at 12% partnership, and gets to choose his own new head of Accounts, and gets to remain without a contract. Not a bad day. Bert excitedly says he’s going to introduce Don to Ayn Rand, who would love him. Yep.

Pete, the ever watchful weasel, practically throws himself through the door as soon as Bert closes it to ask if Roger is dead. Don breaks the news that he’s been made a partner, and that he’s probably hiring his new head of accounts from the outside. Pete says he and Don make a good team, and he wants to throw his hat in the ring. Don’s aware.

Don, leaving for the day, tells Peggy that they have both had very good days, and that she can leave too. She says she has work to do, but he tells her she can have the raise and someone else will take his desk while she works on her copy. The best prize of all, though, is that she can tell Joan herself.

We don’t get to see that happy event, but we do see Pete take a swig of liquor, leave his glass maliciously on Hildy’s chair, and swagger across the office to peek at Don’s, which he has clearly already claimed as his own. He slams his feet on the desk and is resting comfortably when some poor schmuck from the mail room brings him a package for “Mr. Draper.” You guessed it, it’s Adam’s package. Pete takes it with him when he goes. No good can come of that.

At home, Don greets his kids by telling them not to sit so close to the television, and his wife with the news that he made partner. Betty is thrilled, but before she kisses him stops to apologize for not acknowledging the dangers of letting strange men into the house. Masturbation and television! They’ll make you go blind! Don says he doesn’t want to talk about that, and the exchange a chaste kiss and some small talk about the weather.

Peggy is reading and eating in bed. She closes her book, gets up to turn off the light, and looks at herself unhappily in the mirror. She lies down and sighs, then glances surreptitiously at the vibrating panty box beside her bed. Go for it, Pegs. She does.

Next time: a party!

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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