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Mad Men: Season 6, Episode 11, or How I Fucked Your Mother

Hey, not all surprises are bad.


How very Willy Wonka.

Unfortunately for Sally, some are. What an utter, complete, crushing disappointment. The whole storyline with Sylvia and the keys and Mitchell played like a comedy of errors, only it wasn't even a tiny bit funny. (Well, it was a little funny when Julia kept calling Megan Mrs. Draper just to piss her off.) It reminded me also a bit of Atonement, except here, Sally has an actual reason to feel betrayed and disgusted even though it's not exactly for the reasons she thinks.


(And Don, going with the "comforting her" excuse? Weak. What's all that cheating for if you can't even get yourself out of these kinds of situations?)

We've seen the theme of generations come out again and again this season. Fatherhood. Childhood. A war instigated by the father and both fought and fought against by his son. Don is the embodiment of shit to his own kid this week, even as he's literally saving the life of his mistress' son. (A commentary on Vietnam? "Kid's 18, 19. They have no sense of their own mortality. Or anyone else's—that's why they make good soldiers.") He is a hero and a monster.


There are, in fact, a lot of opposing poles at play. Old and young. Wife and mistress. Mistress and child. Pete the Unlovable Child and Bob the Lover of All. Cats and mice. Ted's juice and Don's juice.

(By the way, Ted, Giles called and told me to tell you that the subtext is rapidly becoming text.)


After a jaunt in compartmentalized assholishness, Ted is back to being diametrically opposed to Don. Even where he's trying to, in essence, beat Don in terms of business, he's still thinking about the company as a whole. Don, on the other hand, blunders through this episode almost ruining business with Chevy and definitely ruining his own family (well, more than he's already done). His attempt to get Pete to bail him out once again fails with barely a shrug from Campbell, his former acolyte. Now, Pete's out to hang onto Ted's every word, and who can blame him? Man flies his own plane and his flight instructor saves poor, stupid boys with bad / glorious hair from certain death.

The difference between the two men becomes starkly apparent in the office meeting and handshake. Don is almost unable to grasp that all Ted wants is to grow their business. He swoops in to fix Don's problem and it isn't some ulterior motive, no underhanded scheme. Ted hears a problem and wants to help fix it. And in return, he would just like Don to "be better about it." It's a bargain—offer, acceptance, consideration and sealed with a handshake. And then Ted goes home to his loving, if exasperated family, and looks on his children with love, and more or less doesn't cheat on them. Don goes home to his mistress, after having used his own children as an excuse to try to get some defense contractors to help out his mistress' son.


(I realize I've highlighted this point like three times already, but I really can't stop rolling my eyes about it. It's nothing to do with the nature of the act, which is in itself compassionate at least in its execution—a scared boy is saved from war. And I do think part of Don is thinking about his own time. But as dull Sylvia pointed out on the phone, that's not really why he did it. Does his complete intention matter? Perhaps not. But that won't stop me from rolling my eyes every time the Lingering Looks of Don's "Infatuation" infect my screen. Like, dude, go be a father to your own kids for five minutes. Singing one camp song with Bobby in 6 years doesn't count.)

This whole season has been about antithetical entities coming together. Right now, we're in a strange sort of stasis. We have the merger; we have the belief that Vietnam is wrong but also that we'll win. We have the UN, model and real, useless even to Henry the Great Even-Keeled politician—he's definitely someone who would believe that weak compromises leave both parties worse off. We have Dante's Inferno and Hawaiian Paradise, Don's mortality and Pete's desire to live. Whether one side will eventually devour the other whole remains to be seen. (I happen to think that the merger is all about highlighting irreconcilability, but Weiner always ruins my deep thoughts.)


Until then, we have Ted's desperate cling to life, just as Don struggles to understand that death won't make you whole: "I just have to do this until..."

"Until when?"

Other thoughts:

  • Bob Benson, guys. I don't even know. I was freaking out during that scene because I did not know how Pete would react. He's more socially progressive than a lot of the others in his office, and that's one thing he and Trudy had in common. Plus, he's always been socially progressive because usually it's been to his benefit, business-wise, and Bob is certainly a benefit in that he will do anything for Peter. (OR IS THIS ALL JUST A LONG GAME? IS BOB THE REAL SLIM SHADY?) But at the same time, we've got the lingering upper-crust propriety from his mother. So. There's more discussion about Bob in the comments on Yoana's post.
  • Pete and Peggy. I get frustrated with the show when they pick up random emotional / character threads years later without anything in between, even though I understand that there's not much choice with such a big cast and so many stories to tell. But although I was again a little annoyed, the little scene was just superbly done, so I couldn't much complain.
  • Not superbly done: any scene with Don and Megan. Is their acting getting worse? I don't generally have a problem with Jon Hamm, but in scenes with Megan, I am always taken out of the moment. I think they're terrible on the screen, and the characters are not my favourites, so that combination just leads to me rolling my eyes again.
  • I think some of Pete's scenes with his mother are supposed to be darkly funny, but I usually just find them very, very sad. Her iron insistence that she will be able to find her way home with the address written on a piece of paper and her money for car fare. His callous exasperation with her and shrug-off of her lack of affection, but his inability to really let her suffer on her own. It's just too much for me. I don't even like Peter.

Next week: Joan wears something blue. Don answers the phone. Harry still exists (to my great dismay).

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