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Friday, 16 of April of 2021

Mad Men – “Blowing Smoke”

“We’ve created a monster.”

The women shake hands as Faye says goodbye to Peggy.

Don Draper Confidantes Unite!

How many times are they going to beat into us that Betty has the mind of a child? Short of giving her a rattle and a diaper, I’m not sure how much more obvious they make it. It seems almost like the only development we get on her anymore is just how childish she can be. Even though she’s graduated to bitchy high school cheerleader in this episode, we usually get no breakthroughs, no progress, no plot points with her except at the end of this episode but it’s only to get back at her daughter in some sick competition for a creep show.

You’re totally picturing January Jones in a diaper, aren’t you?

While Betty showed off more of her juvenile side, Don showed what makes him special but it’s so far out that not even his own partners can see what he did. To be fair, though, radical moves don’t look great to partners when the walls are caving in. You know who gets it though, 100%? Of course Peggy does! It was partly her idea!

Also: I want to be able to say “get me my shoes” and have people worried that I’m leaving the company.

Cooper steals just about every scene he’s in and the confrontation with Don is classic, only emphasized by Sterling’s understanding of what “get me my shoes” means. I love how the collapse of the company blinds the partners to Don doing what they’ve always asked of him: to be the radical messiah that leads this company. They’ve always pushed him into being the visionary but, when he does something that’s actually visionary, that could redefine their scope, that “changes the conversation,” they can’t see it through the drastic measures they’re having to take in order to keep afloat. It’s understandable and logical. But funny that exactly what they demanded Don do all season they chastise him for now.

Don had a little bit of help coming to the realization of taking a full-page ad in the paper, denouncing the industry that broke up with him. Obviously, Peggy’s goading to “change the conversation” had a hand in it (because Peggy is the external voice in Don’s head). But what Don needed was to realize the power of addiction. Because, clearly, it’s hard to see it when you’re in it.

The visit from Midge did a multitude of things. Initially, after she invites Don over, I said to myself, “Man, it’s really pouring for Don right now in the ladies department.” He went from not being able to swing anyone but a prostitute to suddenly being able to lay a doctor and a secretary, keep them separate, and now gets to screw around with Midge again, too? It’s not like he stopped drinking and got his groove back unless you count his three drink minimum to be recovery from his rampant alcoholism (if you do, you might have a problem). Thankfully, it’s not pouring but just a ploy for Midge to sucker Don into donating to her heroin habit. Her after-image paintings are pieces in horror imagery based on her feelings about addiction. She is thinner, her carefree lifestyle suddenly shackled by the “full time job” of getting a fix, and, rather than accepting Don whenever he breezes into her life, taking him or leaving him as she pleases, she seeks him out because she needs him. Midge is a husk of the person she used to be. Don’s reaction to her, pity, throwing money at her, refusing the opportunity to connect (when she asks him about her work) is, in his way, formally denying her. She has transformed from a foil to an abjection as she represents the addiction with which he struggles, though his takes a different substance. Her painting #4 is the physical representation of their same prison and the inspiration to write a published Eff You to Tobacco. “Screw it, I don’t need you. You’re killing people anyway. Addiction is a monster and I’m going to tell everyone about all the people that help you kill their mothers, brothers, sisters, and mee-maws. How you like me now?”

While Don crafts his note to pin on the door of Big Tobacco in order to change the game, Betty and Sally are engaged in a twisted little competition of their own. Sally seems to be doing better and her therapist decides to knock her down from three times a week to just one session. Of course, this is only because Sally needed a little bit of an emotional connection and she has it, maybe with the psychiatrist but more so with Creep Show Glen. Nothing untoward but their friendship has blossomed though has to be kept clandestine so that Betty doesn’t find out. You see, I don’t know if you gathered this from every episode Betty has been in for this season (or the series) or if you skipped over my rant about it at the top of the review, but our original blonde bombshell has the mind of a sub-adult. She insists on seeing her child’s mental health professional, maybe because she’s been able to open up to her in a way she couldn’t with her last go-round in the “professional help” arena. Or maybe she’s comforted being surrounded by toys and cartoon animals on the walls. While Sally has floating dreams (the renowned symbol for a low-stress life as she is finally able to relax), Betty is just as high strung as ever.

So when she finally catches her little girl running around with the boy that she snipped a locket of her hair for, Betty freaks out. With Glen’s most recent antics (like wrecking their house while they were away), Betty has banned Sally from seeing him but the conversation sparked by their found-out relationship shows the real reason behind it. Betty treats the situation like two girlfriends talking about how the boy one of them likes is trouble. And she knows because she’s been there. Do you see what I mean? There’s an tone of mother-to-daughter in that her instructions aren’t suggestions or pleas to not hang out with Glen but authoritative demands that they not see each other, complete with consequences. But Betty’s insistance that “I know him better than you” is kind of twisted. And the fact that Betty is willing to relinquish the House that Draper Built in order to exact revenge on Sally and Glen is horribly vindictive. Betty almost seems triumphant when Sally runs from the table to rub the boondoggle Glen left for her. Henry, of course, is pleased as punch to ditch the wreckage of the Draper marriage.

Other things:

  • I was struck by how natural and realistic the conversation Don has with the guy from Heinz was. Complete with buzz words and cliches like “I’d love to have that conversation” in reference to advertisements talking to the consumer, I was almost fooled into thinking this might actually be a guy from Heinz.
  • Does Faye suspect what’s going on with Megan? The show hints as a possible separation by framing Megan between Faye and Don when they shake hands. And, when the three stand together, it seems to get a little frosty from Dr Miller’s end. As Don and Faye transition from being secret lovers to something more open, they tread some territory I’m not sure Don is ready to cover and Megan might be his self-destructive outlet for that. We also have to account for the new receptionist (the one filling in for Megan while she plays Don’s secretary) being blonde and, at least in her out of focus scene, attractive. If she went to Vanderbilt, we’ve got a new horse race.
  • Sally hates sevens. Significant or just a demonstration of her oddity? Did I miss a reference? Her fear of the concept of eternity (or “forever” to be more specific) is interesting, especially given the terminal nature of everything in her life. Marriage is supposed to be forever and her parents’ ended. Her acceptance of death in nothing is not only kind of depressing but also a sign of her being content with mortality and life. It’s more evidence that she might becoming more sage than her juvenile mother, even if her revelation is couched in a child’s knowledge of grocery store brands.
  • On that note, too, Go Fish is a great game for therapy. It’s about honesty. Sally’s reaction to her therapist saying she’s proud of her is great characterization, showing that Glen is really the reason she’s doing better, and makes me think Kiernan Shipka is a robot.
  • I like that Don preps for his presentations like an actor, tongue twisters and everything. Faye even leaves a message saying to “break a leg.” I suppose layered acting, acting in a play you’re already acting in, is tough work.
  • Glen is still the one of the creepiest characters on television. I mean, he didn’t really say anything creepy this week (his dialogue was actually pretty pedestrian) but somehow he squeezes every bit of creepiness out of every word. Just saying “see you later, alligator” sent chills down my spine. His run about twenty feet away after he’s caught so he can turn around and look back nervously — this kid might be a serial killer for real.

    The destruction of Don’s diary (source of my derision in “The Summer Man”) to create a tabula rasa was especially exciting to me. Yes! Tear up those inside feelings! It’s time to get to work!

  • Sigh. Goodbye, Doyle. But it’s a dog-eat-dog world. I swear he says “doggie dog” world. Even if he doesn’t, I’m going to believe that he did.
  • Don’s candid talks with Peggy have been a welcome addition to this season where Don is constantly in a storm of his own feces. That he wants her opinion on the letter and her retort about him “not going in for those kinds of shenanigans” followed by a smirk and his “you got me” face — clearly this is the most well-defined relationship on the show and, as Faye lurks to usurp that role from Peggy (even if Peggy’s connection to Don is non-romantic), the shaking hands bit at the end of this episode might be the beginning of a small competition of their own, friendly for now, especially with Peggy’s reverence for strong female professionals.
  • It’s curious that Peggy would even suspect that she’s going to be fired. Does she think Don is that cutthroat? I mean, he even paid the share for her future grow-old-together partner, presumably so he can shut up about the pears. What would Don do without Peggy?
  • Crane continues to be a punchline on this show. But a hilarious punchline. “I didn’t think they’d start with him.” They should make a web series about him on what he does while he’s out in Hollywood.

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