Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Happy Valentine's Day"

Mad Men, Season Seven, Episode Two, "A Day's Work"

It's not often that an episode of "Mad Men" ends and someone with whom I live walks into the TV room to discover me on the couch actually smiling happily, but tonight that is what happened because our boy Don achieved an incredibly good "day's work." And was paid beautifully for it. Last week, I posited the work that Don kept telling people he had to get back to was the work of Purgatory--working off his sins--after he was able to crawl out of the Inferno at the end of last season, thanks to his truth-telling with his colleagues, Hershey clients, and his children. Tonight he told Sally that he "said the wrong things to the wrong people at the wrong time." But at least he knows enough to keep telling her the truth when she demands it. ("What's the note supposed to say?" Don asks her. "Just tell the truth," she suggests, knowing that he lied about being at his office that day.) After some of his old defensiveness in the car, with Howard Kaylan crooning "Elenore, can I take the time to ask you to speak your mind?" in the background, he hears some of Sally's truth: "Do you know how hard it is for me to go to your apartment?" she asks him. She's afraid she might run into "that woman" and get stuck in the elevator with Sylvia, having to smell her hairspray. She forces Don, again, to recognize that his shitty actions in the past continue to cause his daughter pain. But, instead of running away from it, he stops at a restaurant and, though he can't make her eat at first, does make her listen to his confession. He acknowledges several things that a Don of the past wouldn't have: he didn't want anyone to know he wasn't working, he was ashamed, and he doesn't know what he's going to do to try to "fix" things with his firm. I know this is only the second episode of the new season, so Don has plenty of time to screw things up again, but this is hopeful. After she comes back from calling her classmate and accepts a patty melt, they have a pretty genuine talk about her room mate's mother's funeral: "It was awful," she confesses. "Sarah's mom was yellow." While Don didn't like her going to a funeral, when she tells him she only went so she could go shopping, he says, "I doubt that." He knows her and when she's lying too. "Life goes on," he advises.

Meanwhile, back at the office, Don's soul mate, Peggy, is having a really lousy day's work. After being reminded in the elevator by Stan and Ginsberg that Valentine's Day is coming up and she's got nobody, she spends the day obsessing about Ted--whom she, sadly, has not been able to get over--and misinterprets her secretary's gift of roses from her fiancé as a Valentine from Ted. Like Don, she clearly has some work to do on her personal life, but isn't yet ready to do it. Instead, she is mean and spiteful to Shirley, whose engagement ring evokes Peggy's jealousy. I feel for her that her talents are unappreciated at the office and that she has the misfortune to be in love with a married man--perhaps the only "moral" (as Pete accusingly terms him) married man we've met on this show. Part of her might feel right now that an engaged secretary is really what she'd like to be since a married professional woman (what she really wants to be) still might seem impossible in 1969, but taking it out on those below her in the hierarchy is something I hope she figures out how to stop doing soon. Other working women are not the enemy. She's behaving like the worst of the men.

While Peggy's trying to figure out how to be a woman in love in a "man's job," Don is being feminized--but he oddly seems almost okay with it. Cutler refers to him as "our collective ex-wife who still receives alimony," Dave Wooster kids him about having time for lunch and tells him what he'd like to do on their "second date;" he spends the day watching TV and eating junk food, performs the job of primary parent to Sally, and focuses his energy on his personal relationships. Yet, it's working for him. While Pete Campbell is angry because he doesn't know how he can move up in his job--always wanting more--when Don finally drops Sally off at her school, he receives a much better 'paycheck' than any he ever received from the ad agency for dealing with all their squabbling over accounts: "Happy Valentines Day. I love you." And, as a stunned Don watches her climb the steps, the Zombies sing "The warmth of your love is like the warmth of the sun, and this will be our year, took a long time to come. . . And I won't forget the way you held me up when I was down . . . you gave me faith to go on." Maybe this will be Don's year. And maybe Sally really is his Beatrice. Or maybe he'll get back to messing things up again. But, he's making it part way up Dante's mountain.

A few other observations:

--Glad to see that Joan had a good day's work--and a new office up where she belongs.

--Yeay for Pete's new girlfriend! How's he going to deal with a working woman who won't just drop her work to go to a hotel with him because he's tired of his job at the moment? Her thrill at working a job, the success of which is not in her hands is in such stark contrast to his need to control every aspect of what goes on in his work. Either she'll be good for him or he won't be able to take her for too much longer.

--Bert Cooper's an asshole. 'Nuff said. Okay, just a bit more--such an asshole that he probably doesn't even realize what a bad day's work he's put in. The image at the end of the three women (Joan, Dawn, and Shirley) wandering around with their boxes of stuff, with only the Caucasian Joan "advancing," (Cooper's word) was quite telling.

--That Peggy caused part of that tableaux makes me sad. And Pete said that Ted just mopes around. Is he still pining for Peggy? There's unfinished business there but I wish Peggy would figure out that there's a sisterhood out there.

Oh, well. Happy Valentine's Day!


  1. I really like your writing about Mad Men! Keep the good work!