"You can't tell how people are going to behave based on how they have behaved." — Don Draper
Though a number of characters during this hour of Mad Men behave differently than we've seen in the past, Don's sentiment isn't exactly true, no matter how much he wants to believe it. The episode, devoted mostly to Peggy and Pete, shows how much has changed for both of them since they were the pair dealing with awkward sexual tension in the office. Peggy's got a bunch of hip, young friends who smoke pot and refuse to sell their artistic souls to the corporate devil of advertising. Pete is now a partner who isn't afraid to push around his father-in-law, especially since Pete has given Tom the promise of a grandchild. But Pete's already been a father, and even though Peggy gave the baby away, it's still there between them. And just as Peggy catches Pete's eye through the glass doors that separate their two current lives at the end of the episode, the two will never be able to truly escape the behaviors of their past.
"Wherever you're doing this job, you're doing this job." — Pete Campbell
So, who else has changed? Ken Cosgrove, for one, seems much more worn down by the job than the carefree Kenny of Sterling Cooper. When Pete first gets the bad news that he must cut Clearasil loose because of a conflict with Pond's Cold Cream, the last thing he wants to do is meet Ken for lunch. Pete has always been competitive with Ken, and the idea of seeing him flourishing after Pete has suffered another blow can't be appealing. Instead, after calling Pete out for trashing Ken behind his back, Ken reassures Pete, remarking how life at the new agency must be exciting compared to his. (A good Cosgrove one-liner, comparing the workers at McCann to a hospital his mom worked at in Vermont: "I never thought I'd see as many retards in one building.")
Ken also gives Pete an idea. Ken moans about chasing a Mountain Dew account in hopes it will also land him the parent company, Pepsi. Ken is convinced that he will always have only the parts, never the whole. So rather than just dump Clearasil as Roger and Lane instructed, Pete gets proactive, guilting his father-in-law into bringing all of Vick's Chemical's business to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Tom always dangled Clearasil in front of Pete as if it were some prize for producing a grandchild, and now that Pete has done that, he wants a bigger carrot. And how classic a Pete Campbell moment, when Tom calls Pete a "son of a bitch," and Pete just shrugs it off. Pete has grown up considerably, but he's still childish.
"My problem is not your problem, and honestly, you should get over it." — Peggy Olson
Peggy's the much more complicated case. The changes in her life seem as though they are a response to the assumptions of the status quo. Peggy's cold cream idea is about the ritual of women looking at themselves in the mirror and seeing beauty, not just trying to look pretty enough to land a husband. But the women in the focus group hold up the status quo: "You can only do the best with what God gave you. I feel like it doesn't matter what I see. It matters what he sees," says a tearful Dotty. But Peggy does as well, as even she can't resist trying on Faye Miller's ring.
Still, Peggy doesn't want to be pegged. It's fitting, then, that when Peggy goes to comfort Allison, who ran out of the focus group in tears because of the way Don treated her after their Christmas quickie, Peggy has to again distinguish herself from Allison's assumptions. Although Peggy clumsily tried to hold Don's hand on her first day, she never became the secretary who slept her way into her current position. Allison, however, incorrectly assumes that Peggy must be the only person who understands her pain. "I don't know how you stand it. The way he turns on the charm one minute and then yanks it away," Allison says, earning the harsh reply from Peggy printed above.
So Peggy agrees to go to a party downtown with Joyce, the assistant photo editor at Life who perhaps misunderstands Peggy's interest in looking at nude photos. But does Peggy really see herself in this Bohemian world? Clearly, the natives find it appalling that she would even call advertising art. At the same time, Peggy doesn't seem uncomfortable by Joyce's sexual advances, as she shrugs them off politely. (Think back to how Joan handled her roommate much differently.) Even if Peggy isn't so different from the norm, she wants to try to be, which is more than I can say for SCDP's receptionist, Megan, who decides to decline the cool kids' invitation to lunch.
But even with her exploration of counterculture, Peggy is still following in the footsteps of Don Draper. And all it takes is a little bit of reality to pull her back to the past Don insisted she figure out how to forget. After learning of Pete's baby, she bangs her head against the desk and lies on the couch, a la Don Draper. Her acceptance of Joyce's lunch offer seems more an escape from her troubles rather than actual life change. (See also: Don's jaunts to California.)
But since Peggy had probably grown the most in the course of the series, perhaps these changes will stick. I don't hold out the same hope for Pete: On the other side of that glass door, Pete is still the same old Pete. He's schmoozing the clients, wanting to be a part of the man's game. He embraces his place in the status quo, accepting happily that his life is going to plan. At least until he sees Peggy, who almost took him down a different path those few years ago.
"You go in there and stick your finger in people's brains and they just start talking. 'Blah blah blah,' just to be heard. And you know what? Not only does it have nothing to do with what I do, but it's nobody's business." — Don Draper
That leaves us with Don, who tells Faye that people's behavior can't be predicted by their past behavior, even though Don is the epitome of "the more things change, the more they stay the same." We've seen our philandering hero try to reform, only to fall into affair after affair. In fact, the only major changes we have seen in Don this season is a negative decline even deeper into the bottle. ("Why is this empty?" Don asks Allison during the conference call with Lee Garner Jr. "Because you drank it," she snaps.) Also notice his chain-smoking during the call with Lee and during the focus group session. What was once a casual backdrop of the time period has moved front and center as Don's deadly vices, his Kryptonite.
Indeed, perhaps it is Allison's noisy rejection of Don that might actually force him to make some changes. She forces him to revaluate his life's motto: "This actually happened," she screams, which is a direct contrast to Don's Season 2 advice to Peggy: "It will shock you how much this never happened." And even though it's nobody's business, Don finally admits what happened between them. But when Allison decides to move on, Don (I believe unintentionally) kicks Allison while she's down, telling her to write her own recommendation for him to sign. (He honestly wanted it say to what she wanted, but that's not what she needed. She needed to know how much, if at all, he valued her.)
"You're not a good person," Allison yells after hurling a paperweight at Don and storming out. Joan knows Allison can't come back, even if Don doesn't. But while Don's first instinct is to again drown his sorrows, his walk down the hallway at his apartment building seems sobering, especially given how many times we've seen him stumble home this season. But we again end with a reminder about the status quo: Don believes everyone's life is their own business, just like his very elderly neighbor, who refuses to discuss buying pears until she's inside her own home. How different does Don think his behavior is really going to be when he's that age?
A few other thoughts:
• This episode was wonderfully directed by John Slattery. Even though that meant we saw less of Roger Sterling on-screen, the characters sense of humor was throughout the episode. See: Peggy's head popping up over Don's wall and the unexplained image of Bert Cooper sitting on the couch in reception. Guess he's back to being virtually useless in the day-to-day business.
• Loved Trudy as always in this episode, especially when she gets to deliver cutting lines, like "How would you know what this feels like?" in reference to Pete being a "first-time father."
• Again, I love Lane Pryce. "Well, that should take the sting out of all this," is his hilarious reply to Pete's news about the baby.
• Best. Exchange. Ever. Peggy: "I have a boyfriend." Joyce: "He doesn't own your vagina." Peggy: "He's renting it."
• Also hilarious, the way the column in the middle of Pete's office keeps him from seeing people in his office. Joey in the premiere; Harry and Lane in this episode. Pete wanted to be closer to Roger's office, but he paid the price.
• The column also gives Pete a place to rest his head in frustration. Peggy, meanwhile, has to use her desk.
• I liked how the show again brought up the generation gap. We first saw it in Season 2's "For Those Who Think Young." Here, Harry suggests their crop needs to stick together, which is why he stays in touch with Cosgrove. Still, Pete clamors for the Drapers and the Sterlings of the world.
• On the flip side, Don's behavior is more like Pete's in early seasons. Pete's line to Peggy, "I don't like you like this" is one of the cruelest ever. And somehow, Pete comes off as a pretty decent guy in this episode, while Don continues to treat Allison like dirt.
• No Betty again this week, and while I didn't miss her before, it's always been interesting to me how the show pairs Betty and Pete's stories. This time out, it was all about Pete and Peggy.
• I love how much Joan's character gets to say without words. By hiring Miss Blankenship as Don's secretary, I sense that she is secretly punishing Don for sleeping with Allison. Also, I can't wait for the comedy that odd couple will bring to the show.
• And finally, Don's unwritten letter to Allison continues a theme of this season. Don can't even finish the sentence about what his life is like right now. Last week, when Don was drunkenly hitting on Stephanie, she asked him, "What are you doing?" Don's reply, "I don't know," is still abundantly clear. He is floating through his life right now and is completely lost.
Lastly, I want to apologize for not posting a recap last week. It's been a hectic couple of weeks, and between travelling and not being able to screen the episodes before they air as in past seasons, the timing just didn't work out. I honestly loved last week's episode, and I am hoping to still post a recap of it at some point in the near future, but I can't make any promises. So, anyway, what did you think of the episode?
"You can't tell how people are going to behave based on how they have behaved." — Don Draper
Though a number of characters during this hour of Mad Men behave differently than we've seen in the past, Don's sentiment isn't exactly true, no matter how much he wants to believe it. The episode, devoted mostly to Peggy and Pete, shows how much has changed for both of them since they were the pair dealing with awkward sexual tension in the office. Peggy's got a bunch of hip, young friends who smoke pot and refuse to sell their artistic souls to the corporate devil of advertising. Pete is now a partner who isn't afraid to push around his father-in-law, now that Pete has come through by giving Tom a grandchild. But Pete's already been a father, and even though Peggy gave the baby away, it's still there between them. And just as Peggy catches Pete's eye through the glass doors that separate their two current lives at the end of the episode, the two will never be able to truly escape the behaviors of their past...