Mad Men Musings: Time Zones

If you’re a Mad Men fan, join us regularly for Mad Men Musings – a space to discuss selected highlights, low points, or just plain water-cooler worthy moments of each episode.

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“Are you ready? Because I want you to pay attention. This is the beginning of something,” intones Freddy Rumsen, opening the premiere episode of the final season of Mad Men. As meta as this dialogue is, Freddy is really – what else -pitching copy for Accutron watches, but he’s right. It’s the beginning of the end, actually, and the coyotes are howling in both Cali and New York.
Not to raise any Biggie vs. Tupac beef, but let’s get bicoastal:

East Coast: Freddy’s pitch, a surprisingly good one, is to Peggy. He’s freelancing for Sterling Cooper & Partners, and Peggy seems to be in charge. Except, she’s not – the big boss is Lou Avery, who wants to get the work done and get out. Peggy, being Peggy, has control issue over the Accutron copy, but the more she tries to sway Lou towards Freddy’s tagline, the more resistant Lou becomes.

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Even worse, she has a run-in with Ted, stopping in from LA. After snapping at Stan and dealing with an angry tenant’s clogged toilet, Peggy ends up wracked with sobs in her apartment – she’s deeply, grievously alone. Those symbolic pants she was wearing last season? Apparently, they weren’t the perfect fit after all. Oh, and that smooth copy Rumsen delivered? Yeah, that was from Don – even though he’s persona non grata at SC&P, he just can’t let it go.

Roger, on the other hand, is into a different kind of “work”; he’s basically squatting in a hotel with a bunch of hippies, and it’s all kind of squalid and weird. He’s also putting in zero time at the office right now – running a mini-commune is a lot of work, I guess. His daughter calls and asks him to brunch, where she proceeds to tell him, “Daddy, I forgive you,” in that creepy, can-I-talk-to-you-about-our-Lord-and-Savior kind of way. That kind of talk never bodes well.

Stretched very thin is Ken Cosgrove – and he’s being a real jerk. I mean, having to run accounts practically solo is no cakewalk, especially with an eye patch, but c’mon, Ken – screaming? Demanding buttered rolls? Talking down to Joan? He asks her to deal with a Butler Footwear exec, because “This is a hierarchy, don’t you understand that?” In that hierarchy, he’s treating Joan like she’s still in the secretarial pool, rather than the partner she is.

When Joan meets with the exec, he’s patronizing and dismissive, but implies Butler is going to move their advertising in house – no SC&P account. The ever resourceful Joan, determined to change Butler’s mind, meets with a business school prof to talk strategy, and there’s a heart-in-throat moment when it seems like he’s propositioning her (Jaguar déjà vu.) Luckily, he’s not, but he’s still totally patronizing, quelle surprise. Joan manages to buy some time with Butler, but Ken isn’t appreciative – HE THROWS JOAN’S EARRING AT HER.

West Coast: Don flies out to visit Meagan, and he looks so…anachronistic. There’s a long moment of Megan walking from her car towards Don, all beauty and youth – out here, she’s the one in the driver’s seat. They go to an awkward dinner with Megan’s agent, who subtly negs her about “fixing her teeth” but also drops the news that she got a call back for an NBC show. Much champagne ensues.

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At home in the hills – and everything is so very dark there, right down to the chilling howls of coyotes – Megan gently rebuffs Don and passes out. The next morning, she’s off to class, and she thinks Don is off to work in the LA office…Don still hasn’t told her that he’s been suspended.

Instead, Don meets Pete for lunch (at LA institution Canter’s Deli!). Clad in plaid pants and a golf sweater, Pete is happy, charmed by the Cali “vibe,” and frankly it’s all a little disconcerting. I mean, he only complains like one time at lunch. Back at Pete’s apartment, Don makes eyes at Pete’s girlfriend/realtor and accepts her card.

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Later that evening, Don has a giant, ugly TV delivered, and Megan starts to fight with him but realizes they don’t have time to argue, as Don’s leaving the next day. They’re finally intimate, but Megan is “nervous.” The dynamic between the two of them is definitely weird and off-kilter, continuing the unraveling of last season.

On the plane back to New York, Don’s seatmate is a gorgeous brunette, played by Neve Campbell. Now, call me crazy, but this whole interlude seemed strange, almost dreamlike. After all, California seems to have a dark magic over Don – reality seems to bend and warp. The two cuddle up and get cozy, and at first it seems like Don’s up to his old tricks.

His ardor is kind of dampened, though, when she tells him about her dead husband: “He was thirsty,” she says. “He died of thirst. His company sent him to a hospital. I was supposed to be part of the cure somehow, and all I did was observe. I thought he was really getting better and a doctor told me he would be dead in a year. They all would be. I’m going to close my eyes now.” Man, that was even more chilling than the coyotes. Throw in Don asking if he “broke the vessel” and the nightmarish feel is complete.

Close to landing, Don seems as though he’ll accept her offer of a ride, but he demurs. He tells her that his wife knows he’s a terrible husband, and follows that with “I really thought I could do it this time.” In the context of Don’s karmic wheel—betrayals of all kinds, over and over – this basically refers to everything, I suppose. Did he think he could start over, now, and stop wounding everyone that loves him? He pulls up the window shade and lets the harsh, bright light in, dispelling the darkness. But the dark will come again, soon enough.

Readers – Who else wanted to snap Ken’s eye patch and tell him to knock it off? Were you also kind of dying to see what Bob Benson’s up to? And represent your hood – East or West coast?

all photos: via AMC

Amity writes and teaches in Central PA. Her obsessions include: Rodarte (she can’t afford any Rodarte, mind you, but a girl can dream), espresso, books, vintage/thrift fashion and fountain pens. She thinks you should dress like a weirdo once in a while, just to shake things up.

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Written by amity

12 Comments

    1. Avatar of amity
      amity

      East Coast represent! Honestly, I knew it was Neve right away because she has that really distinctive husky voice…

  1. Avatar of Tyna Werner
    Tyna Werner

    Yay! So happy to have Mad Men – and your fab recaps – back! While I was born and raised on the East Coast, I think 20 years in LA qualifies me as West Coast. Or can I claim both?

    On to the episode – poor Don – still floundering around trying to get his bearings as the world moves past him. I cracked up when Megan made him sit in the passenger seat – and cringed when it was so obvious she did not want to sleep with him while he was in town. I wonder how long those two will try and make a go of their bi-coastal marriage?

    Also poor Peggy – while she kind of set herself up for that crappy tagline being used (why did she rewrite the Don/Freddy one?) I felt bad for her trying to get in the good graces of Lou – he was very much “immune to her charms” – heh.

    Yay Pete! I loved seeing him so happy and chill in LA and discovering the wonders of Canter’s. Of course, I’m sure down the line we’ll find out he’s really super miserable, but for now I enjoyed him getting into the California scene. Also Veronica Mars fans – did you recognize his realtor girlfriend? That was Hannah – Logan’s very innocent girlfriend in season 2. Wow, I totally did not recognize her.

    I also did not recognize Neve – the whole time I was like “who is this gorgeous lady?” but never got to the part where my mind placed her until I read it online. I thought she look ah-mazing and I loved her smokey eye makeup. Hoping she makes more appearances as the season goes on.
    Tyna Werner recently posted..The Mad Men Dictionary: Defining Our Favorite Moments

    1. Avatar of amity
      amity

      As soon as I saw Pete practically glowing, I was like, “Well, Tyna’s going to be pleased!” And I think Peggy is just a little too controlling sometimes for her own good.

  2. Avatar of turboterp
    turboterp

    East Coast! I’m so happy Mad Men is finally back, and with it your recaps, @amity . You keep us all on track– for instance, I didn’t know that was Neve Campbell either. I did think she looked like Neve Campbell and let it go at that.
    For all my Megan-hating, I thought her look (and her car) was amazing when she picked stodgy Don up at the airport.
    The howling coyotes made me remember last season, when I was sure the Manson Family was going to kill Megan.
    Was I wrong to laugh when Ken threw Joan’s earring at her and missed by a mile because of the eye patch?

    1. Avatar of amity
      amity

      My “Party of Five” radar went off the second I saw her! And I don’t know what was prettier, Megan or that car.

      Ken was like a petulant three year old with that earring.

  3. Avatar of heather
    heather

    @Tyna Ah, that’s why I recognized Pete’s girlfriend! I thought it was Brittany Snow at first. I knew she looked familiar. Happy Pete is DEFINITELY disconcerting.

    I was amused by the tongue-in-cheek “fix your teeth” stab to Megan’s character – Jessica Pare has mentioned how people say crap like that to her. Don and Megan felt so uncomfortable together.

    I love Peggy but she was pretty annoying this episode. Hope we get to see her thrive more before the end.

    And yes, Ken – stop being such a jerk!

    Hooray for your awesome recaps @amity!

  4. Avatar of krista
    krista

    East Coast! I was so stoked to see Neve Campbell in this episode! She looked flawless!!! Love her!

    Ken needs to go back to tap dancing. That is all.

    I loved how Joan took the bull by the horns and used her brains instead of her body to solve the problem at hand. Go, Joanie!

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