Mad Men recap: Candle in the Wind
- TV Show
“To Monday morning, it’ll come sooner than you think.” So said poor sodden Freddy Rumsen, after whiz dribbled down his leg before an important pitch meeting and he got the boot from not just his job, but also his very identity. This was an episode of existential crises flying fast and furious, as men wondered whether it was worth it to stay married and women worried over their very worth. Hanging over everyone’s head was the breaking news of Marilyn Monroe’s apparent suicide.
Don and Peggy, always fighting so hard to deny their swollen hearts, were a study in detachment in the elevator up to Sterling Cooper. The only one in that airless box with any sense of empathy was Hollis. “You hear about Marilyn? Poor thing,” he asked the duo. “It’s very upsetting,” bleeped Peggy, sounding like Hal from 2001. Don, in the same voice one would use to read off the price of peas, allowed himself only to say that, “Suicide is disturbing.” Hollis, in answer to Peggy’s careless question of what a movie star could possibly have to be upset about, delivered a character study of his passengers with this one line: “Some people just hide in plain sight.” Okay, so maybe that sums up our hero and heroine in too pat a fashion, but Mad Men so rarely indulges in cliché that the scene still had real oomph. Hollis has it in him to be thinking about what another person, in this case Joe DiMaggio, is going through, while Peggy, under Don’s approving gaze, could only think about the woman’s death in relation to the Playtex account.
While the secretaries huddled in sniveling pods — and one narcissistically declared that she’s “never even taken pills, even when I had a headache,” — Joan sought private refuge for her grief on Roger’s couch, thinking the boss man was gone on cocktail hour. “What’s wrong, Red?” Roger said when he walked in on her. “You miss me?” (It’s always about him with this guy.) After Roger tsked her for mourning Marilyn’s death, Joan sadly teased that “Yes, I’m just another frivolous secretary.” But she didn’t apologize for her tears. “This world destroyed her,” she said, as Roger gripped her wrist like a vise and reminded the curvy bombshell that she was nothing like Marilyn, except maybe in the measurements department. Joan coolly withdrew herself from his hold and, like a specter out of a Charles Dickens story, told Roger that one day he would experience real loss and finally understand what it means to be in pain.
If Joan knows her way around matters of grief and loss, Jane can only playact at such depth. Oozing self-entitlement, she sat in Don’s office and announced that his daughter had called wondering when her Daddy would be getting home from his business trip. She batted her lashes and, like a boob, told Don she was there for him if he ever needed a bony shoulder to cry on. First Don dumbly explained away his marital discord — “Mrs. Draper is working on some things” — and then he coldly reminded Jane that he did not know her at all and she’d better back off with the concerned doe eyes.
NEXT: Home sweet homeAt home, Mrs. Draper puttered around in her housedress, busying herself with manufactured tasks and barking at Carla. (A quick word about matters of race on Mad Men. There was a moment tonight when Roger told Don that a rival ad agency had gone and hired a black man. “What do you think of that?” Roger asked glibly. “I think I’m glad I’m not that kid,” Don said. Hoss, Carla, Kinsey’s girlfriend: They’re all largely invisible to the main characters on this show, props there primarily for everybody else to ping off of. How I’d love to see them have a counter show of this quality all to their own.) Back though to Betty, whose friend dropped by to borrow a party dress. Sara Beth said she was clinically bored, felt invisible, and had a doting husband who thinks she’s the cat’s pajamas. “What did I do to deserve him?” she wondered before indulging in some mooning about Arthur down at the stables. Betty told her to get better at flipping on and off her female switch, and then shut her own self off when Sara Beth pronounced Don the perfect husband. Later, Betty tromped back down to the stables, eyed Arthur giving a brunette a lascivious once-over, and invited the cad to lunch. She ended up splitting though, leaving Sara Beth to flirt with Arthur alone, and it was hard to tell why this odd game of matchmaking seemed to momentarily lift Betty’s spirits. A harmless pick-me-up for a friend? Or a bitch move?
Don made a brief pit stop home to the suburbs to see the kids — “poor Salamander!” — and Betty looked at him with steely anticipation in their family foyer. He’s still treating her anger as a problem he has to wait out like PMS. When he came up on the fly with a clever story to explain his absence to the kids, Betty’s jaw dropped: “Jesus, did you just think that up?” He escaped her probing eyes and hightailed it back to the city, where Roger told him they’d have to jettison Freddy for the joint offense of passing out and peeing on the job. Don gave a wobbly protest, just as Peggy would later attempt with him, but quickly resigned himself to an execution over drinks.
At the restaurant Freddy was innocently telling the guys about having to give “one of those funny speeches where you say what you don’t mean” when Roger and Don interrupted him and started feeding him one of those funny speeches where you say what you don’t mean. Freddy tried telling the guys that if he could just have the weekend to dry out, he’d be fine. He pushed his drink an arm’s length away from him and those few seconds without a sip seemed to make him practically break out into a sweat. Roger looked alternately bored and itchy through the whole scene, willing the conversation to veer away from anything resembling genuine emotion. (But he did let a personal morsel slip when Freddy brought up Roger’s drunk of a dad and Roger curdled for a second at the memory.) The silver fox wanted this firing done neat and quick so the men could get down to drinking.
NEXT: Roger and outTheir night of debauchery ended at an after-hours club, where there were waitresses who looked like the young brunette Norma Jean and the platinum bombshell Marilyn. Roger needled Don to fess up about his marital spat — “Where are you? The Stanhope? The Biltmore?” — and Don dodged his questions like a peeved boxer forced to scrap with a swinging kid, until he saw that Jimmy was in the house and he leveled that raccoon to the floor. After stuffing an increasingly sentimental Freddy into a cab, Don and Roger hit the bar and enjoyed one of those great circular drunken talks that flood a person with good, affectionate feelings the night of, but leave them hard-pressed to remember the point the next morning. Don, ripping his beloved cocktail napkins into pieces, finally came clean about getting kicked out of the house. The problem wasn’t that he missed home, though, but his odd sense of relief to be rid of the ruse of domestic harmony. “It’s your life,” Don said, trying to explain his confusion to Roger, who seemed to be memorizing his friend’s words instead of really listening to him. “This can’t be it, right?”
We’ve come now to trust that the last five minutes of every episode will reveal something genuinely shocking, so that when the end-credits song starts playing, the viewer feels pinned to the sofa cushions, her mouth hanging dumbly open. Tonight’s end scene didn’t disappoint. Don, after crankily telling Peggy to get over her nagging sense of guilt over Freddy, sagged onto his sofa for a hangover nap. In burst Mona, chewing him out for his late night call for carpe diem. “He’s leaving me…for a secretary!” she raged. I wonder if you too had a vision of red flash through your brain. Joan? Nah, just cricket-legged Jane, who sat falsely whimpering at her desk. (Their hook-up gave new meaning to Joan’s earlier somber pronouncement in Roger’s office. Will he lose his daughter Margaret or just his shifty minx of a girlfriend?)
Roger, looking like a beat old man at the ugly end of a midlife crisis, was without any glib one-liners as Mona stormed past him. As a pickled Don looked on in shock, Roger put a wobbly hand on Jane’s shoulder before she ran off whimpering.
Don, glaring at Roger in disbelief, demanded that Jane be removed from his desk before he closed the door on the episode, and Marilyn Monroe swore breathily over the credits that she was “through with love, I’ll never, never fall again.”
Best line of the night: As Pete struggled to come up with some good ice breakers before the Samsonite meeting, he remembered that one of the clients just had a baby. Sal: “Oh? Boy or girl?” Pete: “That’s good.”
Help me out, you thoughtful commenters: Do you think part of Don’s shock was that Roger was sleeping with his secretary, the woman who just a few scenes earlier seemed to tickle him with a Menkens (ha!) bag of new shirts? Was he a little jealous, or just put out to be roped into somebody else’s domestic drama? How long do you give Roger and Jane? Was Betty just stirring up trouble by arranging that little lunch date with the unctuous Arthur?