This week’s Mad Men episode “Time Zones” features some intriguing new relationships – not just among people, but also between people and their environments. Impersonal relationships go a long way in this episode to shaping people’s attitudes, thus energizing or poisoning their personal relationships. At the same time, toxic attitudes derived from relationships gone bad are destroying some characters’ ability to enjoy life at all (Ted, Peggy, Roger). Yet antidotes are available to those who seek them.
New relationships this season include Ken and Joan, whose new business relationship as manager and account rep is polluted by Ken’s negative attitude resulting from his career environment. Remember how well-balanced Ken used to be? He was the one guy who understood early on that there’s life, and then there’s work. He kept his personal life private, maintained an easy-going attitude, and wrote fiction for the Atlantic in his spare time. Now that his work environment has finally come to dominate him, it poisons his personality – although this could change if his work environment improves.
How does Joan handle working with Ken? Her personality is the antidote. Striving for professionalism, she constantly strategizes to work around the problems of others. She also dumps people (Greg, then Roger) when they become too toxic. Now with Ken, she relies on her quick thinking ability to develop new strategies to get what she needs while working to neutralize their relationship.
Remember how toxic Pete was at the end of Season 6? In this episode, it’s amazing how excited he is about tasty sandwiches, fresh-picked oranges, lovely weather, plaid pants, a casual girlfriend in real estate, and a good “vibration” in an ugly, polluted part of Los Angeles. As a result of his new relationship with a new city, he’s cultivated an improved outlook and even gets along with Don. His detox solution? As he describes to Don, after spending his holidays with his (toxic) in-laws, he got away from them and felt just fine again. In other words, as soon as he can, he moves away from people and places that don’t support his personal needs and reestablishes a relationship directly with life.
Meanwhile, Roger’s entire life seems poisoned by an unwillingness to grow personally and connect deeply with others. Daughter Margaret tries to detoxify their relationship by offering forgiveness, but Roger isn’t ready for that antidote any more than he’s ready for alcohol rehab. Don, also slowly being poisoned by alcohol, receives a wake-up call during his flight back to New York through a fleeting encounter with a widow. Additionally, his new partnership with Freddy Rumsen brings Don two detox opportunities: the AA influence, which could literally save his life, and Freddy’s ability to deliver his advertising pitches dramatically, which may revitalize both their careers. Is that what will happen next?
Tune in to Mad Men on AMC this Sunday at 10 p.m. ET to find out.
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