Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mad Men Episode 5-6: Faraway Places

Recap: In this episode, three couples take trips, physically or mentally, and relationships are affected. By the end of the show, the honeymoon is over for Don and Megan.

First we see Peggy spending time with Abe. Then she relates to her Creative associates at work and presents an ad campaign to the Heinz client. After a negative reaction from the client, she takes a trip out of the office to see a movie set in far away Africa. At the movies she trips on marijuana with a stranger and shares a sexual experience with him. Next she works late with Mike Ginsberg, where she hears his odd tale, and finally she seeks out Abe again. At the end of the day, her relationship with Abe remains strong despite her reckless behavior at the movies, but her relationship with Heinz is destroyed.

Second, the weekend is replayed through the experiences of Roger, who begins the weekend at work trying to persuade Don to accompany him on a boondoggle to an upstate Howard Johnson’s for the weekend. When Don decides to go there with Megan instead, Roger goes along with Jane’s plans to spend the evening with people he calls her “snooty friends” and they take an LSD trip together. The next morning, Roger and Jane break up, after having achieved clarity about their relationship during the LSD trip.

Third, the weekend is again replayed, this time through Don’s perceptions. Don listens to Roger invite him to an upstate Howard Johnson’s for a fun weekend, and decides that he will go with Megan instead, taking off early on Friday. This forces Megan to miss Peggy’s presentation to Heinz, which she regrets. Don and Megan begin to clash as he makes decision after decision without asking for Megan’s feelings, views, or input, and as she begins to protest. Don gets mad when Megan doesn’t like the orange sherbet ice cream that he ordered for her and he accuses her of trying to humiliate him in front of their waitress. Don drives off without Megan. Megan takes a bus home to New York and Don tries to find her but can’t. After calling Peggy, Megan’s mother Marie, and talking to the waitress, Don finally returns home alone. There he finds Megan and they have a fight including a chase scene. Each one talks about his or her bad feelings and neither responds to what the other one says. The fight ends when Don comments on something Megan says, but long-term damage has been done.

The next day, Don and Megan try to look normal when they return to the office, and life goes on at SCDP. Peggy feels bad about the Heinz account situation but remains confident of herself. Bert Cooper calls Don out for not working hard enough at SCDP and for going on “love leave,” and Roger greets Don with a smile and an announcement, “Today’s going to be a beautiful day.”

A major theme of this episode is truth telling and consequences. This theme is articulated at the dinner party attended by Jane and Roger, Jane’s therapist and partner, and other client couples, where the conversation is about “truth.” One person says, “The truth is relative, but good and bad are not relative.” Jane says, “I think the truth is always good because it’s real.” By the end of the episode, she gets the opportunity to face herself and be more real with Roger. A second theme is the changing role of women in personal relationships.

·         Peggy presents an ad campaign to the Heinz guy, and he is offended by her confident, forthright manner and her forcefulness, as he doesn’t believe they are befitting of a “girl.” As a consequence, he demands that Peggy be taken off the account, even though all she did was to behave exactly as Don would have done in such a presentation.

·         Peggy delivers her equally forceful opinions and personal truths to Abe concerning their relationship. As a consequence of that truth-telling and the equal stature she claims in the relationship, Peggy appears to be accepted by Abe as an equal. We also see Peggy stray from Abe by having an anonymous sexual experience in the movie theater, although she doesn’t tell him that particular truth, at least in this episode.

·         During Peggy’s afternoon movie, Born Free, she worries that the small animal isn’t going to make it on her own. She may have been seeing herself in the small animal out in the wide wilderness, as she is a small woman out in the big world of NYC advertising.

·         Michael Ginsberg tells Peggy the story of his childhood, being born in a concentration camp to a mother who was then murdered by the Nazis; being raised in a Swedish orphanage where his father visited once and then sent him a command: “Stay where you are.” This story is about growing up without a mother (similar to Don). As a consequence of his truth telling, or what appears to be a truth telling, Peggy is shocked by the story and calls Abe to discuss it, which brings Peggy and Abe back together.

·         Jane tells Roger, during their LSD trip, her true thoughts about their relationship, and Roger responds by being equally truthful about the relationship being over.  As a consequence, Roger chooses to leave Jane the following morning, at which time Jane is surprised and unprepared for being dumped.

·         Jane shows personal strength in taking LSD and speaking the truth during the trip, but the next morning she falls back into her “dependent female” role and appears not to want to be such an independent, equal woman. However, having spoken the truth to Roger, she is now being forced to step into the role of a more progressive woman.

·         As Roger and Jane discuss their impending breakup, Jane warns him of the consequences: “It’s going to be very expensive.” When Roger replies, “I know,” we see that Roger is willing to accept the consequences of his truth telling.

·         Megan is accustomed to talking honestly about her feelings, although during this weekend with Don she kept them to herself at first during the drive to Howard Johnsons. As Don continues to treat her like a child, she eventually gets mad enough to speak up. By the time Don overrules her choice of dessert and patronizingly “treats” her to the orange sherbet instead, she speaks the truth about how she thinks it tastes, and as a consequence Don is suddenly flattened by the realization that she isn’t happy with all of the choices he has imposed on her. When Don starts assessing HoJo like an ad man, Megan points out the basic inequality of him working during the weekend, but rendering her unable to contribute to Peggy’s team for the Heinz presentation. As a consequence of this inequality of sex roles, which he takes for granted and she rejects, their weekend becomes a disaster.

·         When Megan stands in the parking lot of HoJo’s and yells at Don to listen to her, Don responds with “Get in!” Refusing to accept his dictatorial command, she says, “Don’t you dare drive off while I’m talking to you.” Don accepts the dare by driving off, and as a consequence he loses track of Megan and ends up frightened and alone that evening.

·         As an independent woman, Megan finds her own way home by taking a bus and a cab. As a consequence, though, she suffers frustration and exhaustion. She also complains about the indignity of having cab drivers hit up on her or mistake her for a prostitute, suggesting that she thinks it’s unfair for women to be treated that way.

·         When Don arrives at home to find Megan has locked him out, he commands her to open the door or he will kick it in. She refuses, and as a consequence, he kicks in the door and is angrier than ever. As a further consequence of her truth-telling attitude in telling him she doesn’t want him there, Don is provoked and they have a chase and tackle, which stuns both of them.

Overall, the “little girl” role of women, which was prevalent in past generations, isn’t working for these couples. Peggy has always rejected the notion of not being equal to men – offending the Heinz guy, impressing Abe, and interesting Don (as her boss). When Megan rejects the notion of being treated like a child and refuses to be bossed around by Don, though, he is not interested – he’s more confused and feels personally rejected. For Jane and Roger, it’s the other way around. Roger has always liked the independent type, including Joan, and including his first wife, Mona, who seems to be a very strong woman. Jane seems fairly comfortable, if miserable, in her “little girl” role with Roger, and is frightened at the thought of getting a divorce and becoming strong and independent. The part of her that wanted to do LSD with her therapist, however, must have been urging the rest of her toward becoming stronger. Under LSD she is willing to speak the truth, although she later blames what she said on the LSD – as if what she said wasn’t really true – it was the drugs talking. Roger knows better, and Jane is therefore forced into a more independent role as a divorced woman.

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