I’m pissed at last night’s episode of Mad Men. Not only was it pretty crappy, but due to some technical difficulties, I lost my entire recap that I just finished writing so now I have to write it all over again and you’re just going to miss some of my wonderful insights, because I just don’t have the time or energy to devote that much time to writing about a crappy episode for another several hours. Oh, Mad Men and my computer, I am so angry at you both. Here’s the recap of what my recap would have looked like.
The episode seemed to be all about work and how it affects our lives and, for a show that’s about an office full of people, that seemed a little easy-peasy pudding and pie. First we got Harry, who seems fine with his job until he goes a-chanting with Paul Kinsey, the old Sterling Cooper creative and civil rights warrior who is now the head recruiter for crazy cult Hari Krishna. After finding a bit of enlightenment (and getting a boner for Paul’s girlfriend Lakshmi), Harry agrees to meet with Paul to discuss his crappy script he wrote for Star Trek that he thinks will get him and Lakshmi out of a cult and into a new life. Apparently Paul has struggled professionally ever since Don didn’t ask him to join Sterling Cooper and his self-esteem never recovered until he looked for solace and human interaction in a cult.
Lakshmi shows up at Harry’s office and bends over the desk so he can Hari her Krishna, but her motivations don’t make sense. She says she doesn’t want Harry to help Paul because she wants to stay in the cult and she doesn’t want the cult to lose Paul because he’s their best recruiter. She’s a former prostitute and drug addict so shouldn’t she know to get her payment up front before sleeping with him? Why go crazy on him after she slept with him? Why does Harry think this whole thing is as crazy as we do? Are we supposed to think that it’s crazy? Is this the “imitative fallacy” in action?
Later Harry has a bit of a touching moment when he offers Paul some fake confidence and gives him $500 to go to Los Angeles and try to add himself to tap into the city’s one renewable resource: struggling writers. We’re not sure if Paul takes the money and gets on the bus or goes right back to his cult, but is Harry really saving Paul? Isn’t he just setting him up for another failure and more disappointment, for another bruise to his already fragile ego? Why shouldn’t he stay with his cult, where he found a bit of solace in the love of another and a job that he’s actually really good at? Maybe he needs to be better at a job that’s controlling his mind rather than bad at a job where he’s free?
Now we have to talk about Lane Pryce, who is embezzling money from the company so that he can pay his $8,000 tax bill to Queen and Country to keep from going to prison. His plot gets more and more complicated as more roadblocks stand in his way from dishing out his fake Christmas bonuses so he can save his ass and set up a scheme that could lead to his and the agency’s destruction. What’s surprising is that he is so proud and his self-esteem so low that he can’t ask for help. He lies and makes it seem like he’s needed and in control rather than saying to Roger or Don, “Hey, old chap, can you buy me an $8,000 hamburger today and I’ll gladly pay you back on Tuesday?”
The interesting thing about Lane’s story is that Harry mentions something to him about the Russians plotting against America and later we see Lane in a Russian-style winter hat out in the rain. He’s now a spy, a character in an espionage movie, where he’s forging signatures and sneaking around in the middle of the night. It’s as if the foreboding chaos that has been churning in the atmosphere all season is finally seeping into his pores.
Joan, our Joan, is served divorce papers by her husband Dr. Capt. Rapist, and she freaks the flackentush out and throws a plane at a secretary. (Where, oh Internet, is the animate GIF of that?) Don makes her feel better by treating her the way she is used to, by taking her to buy a fancy car, getting her drunk in Midtown, and sending her flowers the next day (a touching gesture that we don’t often see from Don). Joan’s problem is that her life plan has completely fallen to s**t and she doesn’t know what to do with herself. She says that her mother raised her to be adored but all that adoration has gotten her is a no-good husband, a lot of faded flowers, and Roger’s kid. And while Roger is living in his past (hence his boozy observation of Pearl Harbor Day), Joan is trying to find a way into the future. Only her prominence in the office gives her a sense of fulfillment. She married a doctor like she was supposed to and it was a disaster. So, what is next for Joan when all the values she held in the past are discovered to be lies? We’ll just have to find out (but we have a feeling it has nothing to do with more handsome strangers across the bar).
Then there is Don, who Joan says got “something better” when he married Megan after Betty, but he’s not sure anymore. First, Megan takes him to some really awful experimental theater (really, is there any other kind?) where the actors are making fun of the emptiness of advertising. This sticks in Don’s craw because he just heard about this from Megan when she quit and now she’s living the high life off of advertising’s profits but also making him listen how awful it is. It may also be because he’s starting to think that it’s a little bit empty himself. Maybe that’s why Don has been taking more naps than meetings this season.
The real trouble starts when he gets home from his bender with Joan and finds Megan waiting for him with a cold dinner plate at the kitchen table, just like he found Betty all those times. She’s pissed that Don didn’t show up or call and orders him to eat dinner with her. (We know that Don loves a dominatrix.) Didn’t he have this exact same fight with Betty? Don thought that he could change his life by changing his woman, that Megan was somehow better or different than Betty, but she’s not really. It turns out that if you treat different women the same s**tty way, they end up having similar reactions.
Megan tells Don that before he met her he loved his work, so he needs to get back to that. The problem is that there is a tie between Don’s life professionally and personally. There always has been. Maybe his opiate daze at the office has to do with the lull of happiness in his home life. Maybe his sense of stagnation is from both or has one affecting the other. Either way, the show ends with Don giving a rousing speech at the office (his first in a long time) about how they are going to work their asses off and land Jaguar. It’s as if this is a last-ditch attempt to save his agency as well as a last-ditch effort to save his marriage to Megan. Either that or he’s rediscovering his old love for both.
Either way, I hate this episode. Not as much as I hate my computer right now, but there is certainly plenty of hate to go around.
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