Friday, June 28, 2013

Mad Men Episode 6-13: In Care Of...

Recap: Stan approaches Don at the agency and, anticipating that Don will decide which individual to send to California to handle the Sunkist account, volunteers for the position. Don tells him it would be a demotion, says “It’s like Detroit with palm trees,” and listens to Stan paint a picture of an exciting opportunity to “set up a homestead” and turn it into a little agency. Don rejects Stan’s proposal, but privately considers the role for himself and eventually decides to take it. First he convinces an incredulous Megan, who is seduced by his promise that they were happy in California and would be happy there again. Then he presents the idea to an even more skeptical SC&P executive board. Hearing of this, Stan confronts Don disdainfully for stealing his idea, and later Ted begs Don privately to let him go to California instead. Whether touched by Ted’s reason for wanting to go to California (to escape the temptations of Peggy and stay true to his marriage and family) or due more to his memories of being uncared-for as a boy and his subsequent decision to be a better father to his children by remaining in New York to be closer to them, Don changes his mind and tells Ted he can have the job.

Meanwhile, Ken and Jim present Don with an RFP from Hershey’s Chocolate. Don says it’s pointless because Hershey doesn’t advertise, but admits that he loves the candy bar. He asks what Ted thinks of it, and Jim says: “His plate is full and yours isn’t. If you take the lead on this, I think he’ll follow.” Don goes to work on it, and by the end of the episode he presents his ad campaign to the client in front of Jim, Ted, Bert, and others. The artwork he displays is a simple Hershey bar wrapper, and he explains that it’s the best billboard for the candy because everyone has their own memorable childhood experience of it. Don weaves a tale about mowing the lawn as a boy and being rewarded by his loving father with the opportunity to choose any item at the store – and he always chose a Hershey bar. After the executives comment warmly on the idea of childhood memories for this ad campaign, Don suddenly confesses that he wishes Hershey wouldn’t advertise, and that he grew up in a whorehouse and received Hershey bars as a reward for picking the pockets of Johns. Instead of feeling loved, eating a Hershey bar made him feel like a normal kid, whereas he usually did not. The executives are dumbfounded.

At home, Megan works hard to take care of Don by influencing him to limit his drinking and eat more meals. Don goes along with her suggestions to a point, but continues drinking behind her back.  She also tries to help Don manage Sally, who receives a letter in care of Don subpoenaing her to testify about the burglar who entered their apartment when Sally was babysitting a few weeks earlier. Don explains to Sally on the phone that she’s required by law to testify, but Sally says, “My calendar’s full” and “You know what? Why don’t you just tell them what I saw?” (referring to both the burglar and Don’s tryst with Sylvia). Later, Betty phones Don late at night, and Megan wakes up to hear Don discussing with Betty Sally’s latest trouble: getting suspended from school for using a phony ID to buy beer and get herself and other girls drunk. Don is sympathetic and reassuring towards Betty. Feeling like a third wheel, Megan asks if there’s any way she can help, and Don settles back to sleep without answering or even acknowledging her question.

During the following workday, Don goes to a bar and gets into an argument with a Christian minister who’s there to proselytize the clientele. Meanwhile, back at the office the clients from the Sheraton Royal Hawaiian arrive to see Don, and Jim and Ted can’t locate him so have to handle the account for him. At the bar, Don ends up punching the minister and lands in jail overnight. During his night in jail, Don remembers a time during his boyhood in the whorehouse when a preacher told his Uncle Mack and the ladies they were sinners. Uncle Mack threw the man out, but young Don walked outside to observe the preacher, who turned around and yelled: “The only unpardonable sin is to believe God cannot forgive you.”

When Megan sees Don the following morning, he’s still inebriated. She demands to know where he was. Don claims that while in jail, he realized how far out of control he’s gotten. Megan tries to be sympathetic. However, when Don informs Megan that they’re not going to California after all, Megan explodes because she’s already given notice at work. She says the marriage isn’t worth fighting for since they don’t have kids together, and since he just wants to be alone with his liquor, his ex-wife, and his screwed-up kids. Megan gets her coat and leaves, saying, “I can’t do this; I can’t be here right now,” and slams the door.

On Thanksgiving morning, Don goes to the office for a 9:00 executive meeting. There he’s confronted by Bert, Roger, Joan, and Jim and told that “the verdict is reached”: he’s being placed on indefinite leave. As Don waits for the down-elevator, the door opens and out walk Duck and Lou Avery, apparently Don’s replacement. Don says, “You’re early,” and Duck replies, “Sorry about that, old chum.”

That same day, Don drives Sally, Bobby, and Gene to see an old, dilapidated house in a poor neighborhood somewhere in Pennsylvania. A young African-American boy stands on the porch steps eating a popsicle. Don and the kids gaze upwards and across the street to study the house after Don says, “This is where I grew up.” We then hear the final music for the episode, the Joni Mitchell song Both Sides Now.

Roger’s story starts when daughter Margaret and son-in-law Brooks visit him at the agency. Roger and Brooks emerge from a private discussion, with Roger advising, “I always thought you learn more from disappointment than from success,” suggesting that he just turned Brooks down on some request. Roger smiles at the drawing Margaret shows him, made by her son, but when she invites him to lunch, Brooks says, “We’ve taken enough of his time.” Roger says, “It’s not personal,” but Margaret says it is personal and adds, “What do I have to do to be on the list of girls who get your money?” She tells him not to bother coming over for Thanksgiving because their table will be empty.

Roger’s next encounter is a brief chat with Pete, where Roger asks, “How’s Motor City?” Pete says the airport is like Calcutta, but Roger encourages him with: “It’s a hell-of-an account.” Soon we see Roger speaking to Joan and Bob, who are standing together because Bob has presented Joan with the gift of a toy car for Kevin. Roger is less than friendly, and Bob lets him know that Chevy has already given him a real car. When Roger reaches his office, he asks his secretary to summon Bob, and Bob reports to his office almost immediately. Under the pretext of giving Bob a performance review, Roger tells Bob to stay away from Joan and not toy with her emotions. Bob assures Roger that they’re just buddies. With each of Roger’s quips, Bob has a response that’s both professional and seemingly respectful.

Later in the episode, Roger’s secretary talks to Joan and reveals that she’s worried about Roger, saying he’s forlorn. “For one thing, Margaret and the son-in-law are bleeding him dry…I’d invite him to my place for Thanksgiving but...[my family] would be too much for him.” Joan listens with interest and ends up inviting Roger to Thanksgiving dinner to spend time with Kevin. However, when Roger shows up, he is irritated to see Bob Benson carving the turkey. Ultimately, Roger has fun feeding Kevin while Joan presumably turns her attention to Bob.

At work, Roger is stunned by Don’s Hershey presentation, and afterwards asks him if any of his story about being an orphan is true. Later, at the executive meeting on the morning of Thanksgiving, Roger is the one who very calmly delivers the verdict: “We think it’s best for you and the firm if you take some time and regroup.”  

Pete’s story revolves around his relationship losses. We first see Clara, his secretary, reading him a telegram informing him that his mother has fallen off the cruise ship. Clara is upset but Pete displays anger, commanding Clara to get Bud on the phone, which she does. We then hear Pete yelling over the phone: “They got married?! Tell the Panamanian criminals they should put him under house arrest…” Then he commands Clara, “Give me Bob Benson this minute!” She replies, “He’s been waiting for you. You’re late for your flight to Detroit.” Meeting Bob in the elevator, Pete accuses him of being an accessory to murder, although Bob denies having any knowledge of what happened to Pete’s mother. Pete declares that he will never let this issue go.

Once they arrive together in Detroit, Bob and Pete meet several Chevy executives in a large GM lobby where a couple of sports cars are on display. Knowing Pete’s a bad driver, Bob challenges him to drive one of them, and Pete tries to get out of it but can’t. After successfully starting the car, he accidentally backs it into a large corporate sign that falls down, endangering some women. As if to challenge his manhood, one of the Chevy executives excoriates him with: “Jesus, you can’t drive a stick?!” Bob responds smoothly: “We’ll pay for that.” Embarrassed, Pete loses his role in Detroit and returns to New York.

When Pete arrives back at the agency, he tells Clara to find him a place to live, since a tenant has already moved into his apartment. She tells him that Bud has been trying to reach him.  Pete and Bud then have a conference call with “Alvin,” a contact from the ship who informs them about what happened to their mother. During the Roaring 20’s dinner dance, she fell off the Promenade deck. The ship was off the coast of Martinique in shark-infested waters. Alvin explains that the ship has conducted its investigation and neither they nor the nearby countries are motivated to investigate further. However, Alvin says he has a private investigator prepared to board the ship and locate Manolo Cologne, alias Marcus Constantine. “We will investigate, no stone unturned and no expense spared, until we find out what happened.” Bud and Pete become uneasy about the costs involved and decide to let go of the idea of an investigation. Bud says, “When you think about it, it won’t bring her back. She’s in the water, with Father.” Pete adds, “She loved the sea.”

We next see Pete visiting his old house, where Trudy and Tammy still live and where Pete is storing some of his mother’s furniture. Trudy tells him, “I don’t want your mother’s things, Peter” and Pete replies, “Well, Bud’s not getting everything.” He and Trudy exchange a few words, and Pete goes to Tammy’s bedroom to sit with her and caress her head while she sleeps. Trudy watches him from the doorway, apparently moved by the scene of fatherly affection.

As for Ted, we first see him listening to Jim complain that representatives from the Sheraton Royal Hawaiian, Don’s client, have arrived at the office but Draper can’t be found. Ted says, “Again?” Later, Ted walks through the office past Peggy with his dressed-up wife and two young boys on their way to the theater. When the boys run to the candy machine, Ted shouts, “Absolutely not! We’ll have candy at the theater.” Nan says “hello” and “goodnight” to Peggy as she walks by, communicating nonverbally: “He’s mine and you can’t have him.” Ted looks back at Peggy apologetically.

Don informs the executive board that he wants the position in California with Sunkist. Bert tells him it was intended to be a junior position, but Ted comments: “I think we could spare you.” However, as soon as Don leaves the room, Ted worries, “What if we need him?” and complains that everybody’s decisions are subject to 10 opinions except Don’s.

Later on, Ted sits around a table at work with Jim and Harry when Peggy stops in, all dressed up in her fancy black and pink dress, to tell them she’s leaving early because she has plans – clearly mirroring Ted and Nan’s promenade through the office in their fancy clothes prior to attending the theater. Ted appears at Peggy’s apartment building later that night, saying he doesn’t want anyone else to have her. They exchange quips and Ted makes his way into her apartment to tell her he loves her. They kiss and have sex, and Ted fantasizes about the two of them travelling to Hawaii together over the Christmas holidays. Ted says he plans to leave his wife, and Peggy tells him she’s not “that girl.” Peggy is convinced that Don “terrified” Ted into ignoring her. She keeps encouraging Ted to go home, and eventually he does. When he arrives home, Nan wakes up and greets him sweetly in bed, saying he works too hard. She snuggles up to him, and Ted looks confused and conflicted.

Ted’s conflict becomes more apparent when he later goes to Don’s office and tells him he wants to have the Sunkist job in California. “I need you to help me put 3,000 miles between me and [Peggy] or my life is over.” Even though Don says he can’t help, Ted advises Don to have a drink before the Hershey meeting, and Don does so.  At the Hershey presentation, Ted is shocked by Don’s confused and all-too-personal revelations about his childhood as an orphan.  After the meeting, when Don tells Ted he can have the Sunkist position, Ted thanks him honestly. Next, Ted goes to Peggy’s office and announces his decision to move to California. “You can stay here and have your life and your career, and let this be the past.” Peggy’s response is: “I can’t believe Don did this. I knew he wasn’t going…it’s Siberia…” Ted explains that he made this decision because, although he wants her, he has a family and needs to hold onto them or “get lost in the chaos.” Peggy yells, “Get out!” and Ted replies, “Someday you’ll be glad I made this decision.” Peggy’s reply is: “Well aren’t you lucky to have decisions?” On Thanksgiving morning when Don is placed on indefinite leave, Ted is absent. Presumably he’s with his family that day. However, Peggy and Stan are both at work. Stan walks by Don’s office and sees Peggy in Don’s chair. We view her from the back of her slightly tilted head, similar to a “Draper” pose but without the cigarette in hand. She tells Stan she’s there because “it’s where everything is,” and Stan laughs at her trying to take Don’s place. We hear the song Moon River as she gazes out of Don’s office window.

The final song, Both Sides Now, suggests the theme of seeing life from both sides. Probably the most prominent activity supporting this theme is reversals.

·         Stan proposes to work on Sunkist in California, and Don talks about how bad it is out there, but then reverses his position and thinks it would be a great opportunity – for himself.

·         When Don first proposes to his fellow executives that he take the Sunkist position in California, Ted tells Don, “I think we could spare you.”Yet as soon as Don leaves the room, Ted asks Jim, “What if we need him?”

·         After Don proposes to work on Sunkist in California, Ted privately tries to get Don to reverse his position and send him instead. Don says no but later agrees to do it.

·         Ted sees Don as the only person at the agency who can make final decisions without going through multiple approvals, but at the end of the show the entire executive board decides to put Don on leave, and he has no choice.

·         When Don waits at the elevator after being let go at his company, Duck arrives with Don’s replacement, Lou Avery. This is a reversal because, in the past, the agency let Duck go for the same reasons: alcoholism and inappropriate behavior.

·         Don learns about Sally being suspended from school for inappropriate drinking behavior and tries to play the responsible adult in his relationship with her; yet Don gets to see what it’s like on the other side when he’s “suspended” at work for his out-of-control drinking and related bad behavior.

·         Don at first doesn’t want to submit an ad campaign to Hershey because he says they don’t advertise. By the end of the conversation he says, “I love Hershey” and accepts the assignment. When he later presents his ad idea to Hershey, he starts with a fake childhood story, then reverses himself and says: “If I had my way, you wouldn’t advertise” and starts talking about his real childhood experience, which is linked with Hershey but not with advertising.

·         In Don’s flashback from childhood, he recalls the minister passing harsh judgment on Uncle Mack and the women by calling them all sinners. However, after the man leaves, he says, “The only unpardonable sin is to believe God cannot forgive you,” which seems like the opposite message.

·         When Megan sees Don the morning after he spent the night in jail, she first confronts him and then tries to be sympathetic. Later, when Don reverses his decision to move to California, Megan reverses her commitment to him and walks out.

·         When Megan is telling Don off, she first says rather cruelly that his children are screwed up, but then she says she loves them dearly.

·         Pete tries to sideline Bob when they meet the Chevy executives in their corporate lobby by saying that Bob isn’t feeling well. Bob immediately turns the situation around by cleverly forcing Pete to drive a stick shift car, sidelining Pete.

·         We see Roger denying Margaret and Brooks some sort of financial help, but later Joan hears from Roger’s secretary that Margaret and Brooks are “bleeding Roger dry” – a reversal of the audience’s perception of the young couple.

·         When Joan hears about Roger’s woes, she reverses her decision to block Roger from her life altogether and allows him into Kevin’s life – although not back into hers.

·         Pete is adamant about finding out the truth about his mother’s death on the cruise ship and tells Bob he’ll never let it go. However, once Pete and Bud learn about the expense involved in a private investigation, they change their tune, saying that “She’s with Father” and “She loved the water.”

·         Bobby and Sally Draper notice that they’re not in a good neighborhood when Don takes them to the place where he grew up. However, once he points out the house and says he grew up there, they begin to gaze on it with a more sympathetic and inquisitive attitude.

·         Roger asks Pete how things are going in Motor City. Pete says the airport is like Calcutta, but when Roger says it’s a great account, Pete agrees with him. This isn’t a reversal of Pete’s perception, but a reversal of attitude.

·         Ted secretly meets with Peggy and tells her he doesn’t want to sneak around.

·         In seeing Peggy at her apartment, Ted tells her he will get a divorce; however, when he gets back home to Nan, he reverses his decision and decides to leave Peggy.

·         In the course of the episode, Peggy goes from fantasizing about a life with Ted to fantasizing that she’s the new Don at the office.

·         Peggy gets to feel the excitement of being Ted’s first choice of women; later she gets to feel what it’s like on the other side, when Nan becomes Ted’s first choice and she’s the loser.

A major theme in this episode is stepping up to fatherhood. This is suggested by the title, In Care Of, because a major challenge of fatherhood is to be present to take care of others, to lay down boundaries so that children don’t go down the wrong path, and generally to make decisions in the interests of the family, not just oneself.

·         After his childhood memories of being uncared-for, Don steps up to try to become a better father. His decision to remain in New York represents a decision to place the needs of his children above his own urge to run away and start over.

·         Pete makes an effort to spend some time with Tammy. Because he isn’t often with her, those few moments are precious to him.

·         Roger is a failure as a father to Margaret, at least in her eyes and probably in his own. However, he’s happy to have a second chance at fatherhood by forming a relationship with baby Kevin.

·         Roger also plays an almost fatherly role with Pete when he asks him about Motor City and then gives him some words of encouragement.

·         Ted plays a fatherly role with his sons when we see the family together at the agency before they’re off to the theater. He sets a strong boundary in not allowing his sons to have candy until they get to the theater.

·         Ted struggles with his feelings for Peggy vs. his feelings for Nan and the boys. His desire to be a good father helps him decide to stick with Nan.

·         Ted takes an almost fatherly approach towards Don when he tells him, “I know there’s a good person inside” and when he advises Don not to try to quit alcohol all at once, briefly alluding to his father’s alcoholism.

·         As the executive board, Bert, Roger, Jim, Ted, and Joan act “fatherly” towards the agency, ensuring its continued success by eliminating Don, at least for a while. They are also somewhat caring towards Don, as they don’t fire him rudely, but instead encourage him to pull himself together, as a father might encourage his wayward teen.

A parallel caretaker theme is women who watch out for others.  This is not necessarily the same as motherhood, unless you consider that typical mothers in 1960s America were expected to serve men and children and watch out for them despite getting few rewards in return. Many of these women could be called “invisible” characters because they’re “just” secretaries whose names we may not recall; the wives are more “visible” but nevertheless dwell in the background of their husband’s life. These women generally experience financial dependence on their man, while their man feels absolutely entitled to their caretaking.

·         Beyond her own career, Megan tries hard to manage Don’s drinking and erratic behavior, Sally’s problems, and the boys’ daily needs. Like a lot of women in the 1960s, her caretaking work is taken for granted and hardly acknowledged by Don.

·         Pete’s secretary, Clara, watches out for Pete both professionally and (to some extent) personally, as most secretaries were expected to do. Yet she is a background character, often yelled at and little appreciated.

·         Roger’s secretary pours her care and concern into Roger’s emotional life, although he simply expects it. She even fears that her family Thanksgiving dinner might not be good for poor Roger.

·         For all her inadequacy as a mother, Betty works hard to manage Sally and admits that she can’t do it by herself.

·         We see Nan getting rewarded when she gets to go out with Ted to the theater, and especially when she gets to rub it in Peggy’s face. However, Ted is more sympathetic and appreciative to Peggy than to Nan in that instance. At another time, we see Nan being patient and caring when Ted comes home late after cheating on her.

Finally, there’s the theme of “turning the page”: leaving the past behind and moving on. The song, Moon River, somehow reflects this sentiment, with each character wending his/her way through life and chasing his/her own “rainbow’s end.”

·         Even before being placed on leave by SC&P, Don turns the page in his life when he decides to become more honest about his childhood during his Hershey presentation. Later, he reveals more about his past to his children, another move towards honesty. What looks like a breakdown in his personality that makes him lose his job is caused not only by alcohol, but also by a personal decision to become more authentic. His transition to greater authenticity is actually facilitated when he’s placed on indefinite leave at work.

·         Don also turns the page in his life by deciding to become a better father.

·         Megan turns the page in her life by walking out on Don. We don’t know if she’ll leave him permanently, but she’s put up a stronger boundary than before, signaling that something will have to change significantly before she would return to that marriage.

·         Roger turns the page in his life when he says no to being a money-machine for Margaret and Brooks, and finds a way to bond with his new son, Kevin, in an appropriate, fatherly way. He also seems to accept Joan’s decision to exclude him from her personal life, although we don’t know for sure if he’s really given up on her.

·         Pete turns a page in his life when he says goodbye to Trudy and Tammy, to his deceased mother, and to his brief term in Detroit. He even says goodbye to his apartment, which now has a tenant. About the only things left for him are his job and his relationship with Clara, although in the next chapter of his life Pete will no doubt encounter lots of new people through work.

·         Ted turns a page in his life by deciding to drop Peggy and to focus his attention on his family. In addition, he and his family will be moving to California. If this move occurs as planned, it will help to make the next chapter of his life new and different.

·         The SC&P executive board turns the page for their company by dropping Don and hiring Lou or someone else to replace Don.

·         Peggy turns the page in her life by abandoning the dream of a life with Ted and returning to her old professional dream: being a corporate executive just like Don.

Will Don be rehired at SC&P in the next season? It’s hard to imagine that all of the wonderful characters at the agency would suddenly be out of the show for an entire season. Maybe he’ll be hired at a competing agency the way Peggy was in a previous season…but we hope he’ll be back at SC&P soon so we can continue to enjoy the fabulous cast of characters at the agency!


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