Put your house in order
The whole world is unraveling and we haven’t even hit the riots of 1968! This episode did a marvelous job of bringing us to the core of the Don enigma – a man exhausted by his own double life. If we’ve ever been tempted to think that Don wears his borrowed identity so smoothly that he barely remembers the man he used to be, this episode pulled the wool from our eyes. Don lives in existential torment that he is about to be discovered. When he called the lawyer in to start setting up trust funds and when he told Pete he’d do whatever he had to, I half expected to learn that he keeps a packed suitcase in the hall closet. He has clearly imagined this moment of unmasking many times, but that does not mean he is any better prepared. The physical, palpable shock and strain were contagious. I felt my own stomach tighten and my hands shake as he doubles over grasping for air. I have to admit, when I thought about it, like Faye and Pete I kind of wondered if it really was as big a deal as he was imagining. Couldn’t a good lawyer find a way to clear it up, at least with minimal damage? Maybe that is too glib – after all the country is at war again and draft dodging is no laughing matter (or desertion for that matter). Then again, the legal ramifications may not be Don’s biggest concern. Simply being exposed, no matter what the actual context, might be more than he can bear the thought of. The loathes the mask he wears and is staggering under its weight, and at the same time, it is his complete protection.
Which is what made his confession to Faye so startling and amazing. The sheer exhaustion of lying and the innocent relief of telling the truth were both so endearing. And what better woman to unburden yourself to than Faye, the daughter of a two-bit gangster who was clearly imagining much worse before his confession? If we agree that they shared one of the few intimate moments of Don’s life – she is, in fact, the only woman besides Anna who knows the truth and is not repulsed – what was up with his semi-leer at Megan at the end of the episode and his semi-cold shoulder toward Faye? Was it simply the rush of a man who feels the full weight of his freedom returned to him looking wistfully a pretty young thing? Or is it sensitive-Don retreating into the ego-centric bore he threatens to become?
And since Faye’s reaction was obviously supposed to counter Betty’s rejection last season, what do we make of Don and Betty’s little phone exchange? Even though Betty can be petty and cruel, I was not surprised that she hid Don’s secret. I think her own sense of decorum would be so horribly breached if it came out that she is protecting herself as much as him. But I also think she is still protecting him. Watching them both snap into character and ad lib there way through a conversation they imagined would be suitable for eavesdropping ears, reminded us how much history is there. They’re lives have been, and to some degree are, so entangled they fall into their own charade so easily. On a Betty aside: was that her first genuine smile of the season, learning about the Beatles tickets [and oh, the Beatles tickets! how fun to see Don desperate for this token of his parental affection].
As if Don’s existential torment weren’t enough, we have Joan and Roger’s drama too. What a cad! What a washed up jerk of a man Roger proved himself to be. If there was any part of me that thought maybe he was charming enough to deserve Joan (and I know I argued for them to stay together last week), I take it all back. His convoluted speech in the cafe was about as low as it gets: first suggesting that an unwanted pregnancy was an unsavory way to begin an adulterous affair and then wishing Greg might die so no one would know the baby wasn’t his. But however little backbone he proved to have, Joan had more than enough for both of them. The question is, does she have enough to go ahead and have the baby? I have no absolute proof, but I am going to bet she is still pregnant. We guessed she might trick her husband into a baby, and I am thinking she will try it this way instead. I don’t know how she will manage it, but I think she is going to try.
Here is one thought: maybe Peggy will recognize the signs and confide her secret. Maybe that secret will leak. Because I kind of can’t believe Pete is going to get to make a speech to Trudy about being the only honest man in the office without it coming back to bite him in the butt. Though maybe Trudy can loan Joan that incredible pregnancy nighty. I have no idea what I thought I was doing spending my late pregnancy in leggings and t-shirts. It is a wonder my husband didn’t leave me.
So much more to say: Lane in the grips of his own family crisis, cowed by an overbearing father and divided from his lady love. Do you think his penchant for a “chocolate bunny” is another lame attempt by the show to get to race one way or another, or is it a suggestion of the way Brits still think of America as a colonial outpost – a place for exotic experimentation?
How does one become a key-holder?
Just finally watched it – and I know I wasn’t going to post this week as I was out of town…but I can’t resist it! I just have a couple of things I want to add!
I think you’re dead on about Faye being the perfect person for Don to confide in, but I thought you were going to say that it was because she was a shrink, not just because of her gangster dad (although, yes, great point!). She has served again and again as an ear to hear Don’s burgeoning self-expression, thus performing again and again her own vocational role. Who better to give one’s secret to than one’s therapist (even if that therapist is really your lover!)?
And yes, yes, yes to Joan keeping her baby – we thought the same thing over here! Back at work the next day so easily, ominously saying, “we’ve averted a tragedy”, the simple fact that this would be her third abortion, and that might just be one too many for Mrs. Harris – this whole season just gets messier and messier. And I had to notice she was in virgin Mary blue again at the abortion doctor’s office…a lovely touch.
So everyone around the table at the partners’ meeting was hiding a secret – Don with his identity, Pete’s (as you perfectly point out) history with Peggy (the consequences of which within his own marriage they keep threatening this season – and which have to, have to blow up soon), Roger’s affair with Joan and the whole Lucky Strike fiasco (which will possibly mean they have to keep the aviation contract!), Lane’s abusive father and secret ‘chocolate bunny’, and of course Joan’s potentially hidden oven-bun…which leaves me wondering, what’s Cooper’s secret? And which has had me humming ever since the closing Beatles song – which is, quite possibly, the funnest one to sing on Beatles Rock Band (just saying). Listen, doo doo doo – do you want to know a secret, doo doo doo – do you promise not to tell, wohoo woh oh…
And yes, I’m with you – Betty and Don were in sync in this episode in a lovely way. Her smile to his Beatles tickets actually made me back up the dvr to rewatch it, I thought it was so beautiful. And her covering for Don was more class-act than anything else, as I saw it. As she snuggled into Henry that night saying she just couldn’t live with secrets, I realized that she didn’t leave Don because she doesn’t love him, and perhaps not even because of his betrayal – it seemed to me that she had left him because she couldn’t invest herself in that type of life. And whether or not that’s a sign of integrity or immaturity, I don’t think we get to fully know.
Yeah, so where, oh where can I get that nightie! For the umpteeth week in a row, Mad Men season 4 is playing the visual jokes in some fascinating ways!