Mad Men Thread: Don Draper’s Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

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There’s been a lot of kvetching among the Mad Men punditocracy and fan base about New Business. Much of it is based on animus towards Megan and her big scary teeth, and some of it is from people craving big plot developments. It *is* a still episode, but I’ve always liked Mad Men for its moments. It’s what the show is all about: moments and characters, not fast paced action. And yes, I, too, want to see Sally, Jim Cutler as well as Ted Chaough’s latest sweater. I suspect he’s moved on to sweater vests by now…

Viewers may be expecting big things from the last few episodes but, like Peggy and unlike Stan, Matthew Weiner doesn’t give a damn what others think. He’ll pursue his artistic vision to the, more likely than not, bitter end.

I’ll dive in to the deep end of  the episode after the break, but first the divine Mimi Rogers as Pima Ryan:

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Greta, Marlena, & Pima: My favorite sub-plot of the episode was the appearance of arty farty photographer Pima Ryan. She’s hired for a Cinzano shoot and is on the make for  assignments. She seduces Stan and makes a pass at the Pegster. The latter is a tougher nut to crack than insecure Stan and declares Pima a hustler who won’t be offered future work. It’s hard being a bisexual, Steichen wannabe in the city.

I saw some grumbling out there about Pima’s outfit. Yeah, it’s 4 years before Diane Keaton in Annie Hall but Garbo, Dietrich, and Kate Hepburn all went there in the Thirties. Calling Sylvia Scarlett:

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We hadn’t seen Stan’s pad for awhile so I was gratified to see that the Moshe Dayan poster is still on his bedroom wall. Even with his Deadeye Cosgrove-like eyepatch, the swashbuckling Dayan would have seen through Pima in a heartbeat. He wouldn’t have resisted her dark room charms but wouldn’t have hired her for future work either. Players don’t get played. Now that I think of it, Dayan was kind of an Israeli Don Draper. Stan is not. He’s an insecure nebbish under all that hair.

Betty Francis: Shrink- It was a brief scene at the beginning of the episode but I love the notion of Betty as a therapist. We’ve never seen her listen to anyone during 7 seasons of Mad Men, and the idea of her as confidant to the world is hilarious. I hope she goes into family therapy and offers bad parenting advice to the masses. Step one, belittle and ridicule your children…

Harry Crane: Professional Asshole- Like death and taxes, one can expect Harry to do something creepy at least once during every appearance on the show. Remember when he shtupped Paul Kinsey’s Hare Krishna girlfriend on his desk? He was helping Paul too. Hare Kinsey, y’all.

Harry tried to put the moves on Megan in the guise of job advice. Harry is a born show biz agent, only his casting couch side manner needs improving. Shameless flattery doesn’t always work but creeps like Harry don’t know that. Megan as Ali McGraw and Bridget Bardot’s love child? She looks more like Julia Ormond to me…

I loved how he raced in and kinda, sorta told Don that his ex-wife was a crazy she-devil. As always, Don waved Harry off. Wise choice. In fact, Don chose the calmer reaction instead of losing his shit throughout the episode. More on that later.

Calvet Family Melodrama: Don *may* have ruined Megan’s life as she’s so fond of saying but her mother, Marie, got there first. The Calvet women take Manhattan to “help” Megan pack up and move her things out of the Zou Bisou Bisou memorial penthouse. Help in this instance involves boozy theatrics and sibling rivalry. Megan’s sister Marie-France is a moralistic pill and Mere Marie makes Joan Crawford look like a timid housewife. Hmm, I wonder if she left only wire coat hangers in the closets…

Megan’s plan was to take a few things but while she’s fending off Harry’s creepy advances, Mere Marie decides to punish Don. No, not by moving in, but by having the movers take all the living room furniture. She doesn’t have enough money, so who ya gonna call? Not Ghostbusters but the human ATM, Roger the silver tongued devil Sterling. She gives Roger  the sort of tip that he likes. Ooh la la.

The Calvet family melodrama concludes with Mere Marie finally dumping her communist academic husband and staying in New York, NY, the town so nice they named it twice. Sister Marie-France blames Megan and the not-so nice Big Apple for everything and makes all of the events of the day about herself. Drama thy name is Calvet.

I have one major cavil with the Calvet family. Their French accent is pure Paris and they’re allegedly from Montreal. I may have to report them to the Bloc Quebecois…

Don Draper’s Boulevard Of Broken Dreams: Don’s soda jerking with his boys sends him on another trip down memory lane. You can see it in the wistful look on his face as he exits. He isn’t even annoyed by Henry’s milkshake making dick measuring. Anything Don can do, Henry can do better, according to no one except for Henry. Don ignores Henry’s putzery.

Don spends much of the episode not letting things get to him. We’ve seen him to try to reform before and I’m uncertain as to whether or not he can. BUT when Megan goes off on him for ruining her life, he says “I’m sorry” and cuts her a seven figure check. It’s not blood money but guilt money. As one of Megan’s non-fans, I’m not sure if Double D really ruined her life: she’s a bad actress who walked away from the thing she did well, advertising. But Don did marry her impulsively and returned to boozing and tomcatting around with indecent haste. Don was never big on decency, y’all.

Don has been musing on Rachel Katz as the one who got away, but I think dumping mature, sensible, intelligent Faye Miller for immature, dreamy Megan was his major misstep. Faye was Don’s equal, which is, of course, why he kicked her to the curb. I hope we see her again but if we do, she’ll just tell Don to go shit in the ocean.

One reason Don dumped Faye is his desire to play hero and save a damsel in distress. Neither Faye nor Rachel were that woman, but Diana the waitress from Racine is. Like Dick Whitman, she came to New York to lose herself and forget her past. Don sees her as a kindred, wounded spirit and, more importantly as someone he can save from her past and from herself. It’s always ironic that Don thinks he can save or change others when he can’t even change himself.

I was on the fence about the whole Don-Diana interlude but the crispness of the dialogue and the chemistry between the players won me over. The repartee reminded me of Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man movies even if Diana resembles Sylvia Rosen more than Myrna Loy. The scene where Don and Diana ran into Sylvia and Dr. Cuckold on the elevator was classic.  Mad Men is all about awkward and uncomfortable moments, which is why so many memorable things on the show have occurred on elevators. What’s more awkward than running into people you know on a moving box full of strangers?

I thought Diana’s eyes were going to pop out of her head when she saw Don’s digs. It, and him, gave her a “twinge” in her heart. It all came crashing down when they met at her dumpy apartment. She admitted to abandoning her daughter in Racine so she could come to New York and lose herself in sex and drink. That was a bridge too far for Don, and it was over. One of Don’s redeeming characteristics has always been his love for his children. He may not have always been the best father but he loves them in his way.

Episodes like New Business are why I always watch Mad Men a second time and never, ever hang out with my MM cronies on Twitter during episodes. It’s a subtle, layered drama and I always pick up something different on a second watch, especially with the “lesser” epsiodes such as this one. What’s not to love about a show that ends with a Hopperesque image like this?

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Circling back to the post title and the Dubin and Warren song that inspired it, here’s the great Anthony Benedetto long before his left his heart in San Francisco:

6 thoughts on “Mad Men Thread: Don Draper’s Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

  1. Aaaargh says:

    Usually this show leaves fairly clear clues as to exactly when they are set, but these first two episodes have me baffled. In some senses it feels like not a lot of time since the end of the first half-season as of July 20, 1969—the merged firms are not quite together and everyone is still very much feeling their way—-but sometimes it feels like years have passed (the Draper divorce, for instance). Have I missed the dating clues? When is this happening?

  2. Towa says:

    Many people thought this season would be in 1976 because the song in the promo, Love Hangover was released then. The fashions don’t look like that to me, and based on the progress of Don & Megan’s divorce I’d say only 1 year or so has gone by. Wouldn’t that put them in 1970?

    That elevator scene! OMG I was cringing. Gotta rewatch the episode before saying much more. There are so many small touches I miss on the first viewing.

    • Adrastos says:

      It’s the Spring of 1970. Tricky Dick is announcing the Cambodian “incursion” when Don has the teevee on. Weiner chose to skip Woodstock, which is okay since it’s been done to death.

      • Towa says:

        I saw that and knew the date could be pinned down but hadn’t looked it up. Thanks. Also the date on the check Don writes to Megan is dated May 27, 1970.

  3. Aaaargh says:

    Thanks, totally missed that.

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