New business always brings new hope. Yet with every new business venture or personal relationship comes the shadow side – the risk of a new loss, along with reminders of losses past. Pete puts this succinctly when complaining to Don: “You think you can start your life over and do it right, but what if you never get past the beginning again?” Characters in this Mad Men episode demonstrate different ways people react to loss – some ways decidedly more effective than others.
To me, Don wins the prize for handling his losses in this episode with mature acceptance. In the very first scene, he holds a cordial enough conversation with first wife Betty as he drops off the boys after their weekend together. On leaving the house, he looks back with some regret at his beautifully dressed ex, but to his credit, he processes that emotion internally, without lashing out or acting out his pain.
With his surprisingly enraged second wife, Megan, Don attempts to make peace throughout most of the episode as they complete their divorce arrangements. It’s almost comical to see how Megan flips from her soft-voiced “You don’t owe me anything” stance with Don to the self-righteous, self-pitying “I gave up everything for you! I believed you! And you’re nothing but…an aging, sloppy, selfish liar!” This attitude aligns perfectly with Roger’s warning to Don in an earlier scene, based on his own experience with second ex-wife Jane, although Don disregards the advice when offered. Nevertheless, Don’s response to Megan is: “You’re right,” and as they sit there waiting for the attorneys who never show up, he finally writes her a check for one million dollars (equivalent to more than $6 million today). Based on their respective attorneys’ previous haggling, this is a huge concession for Don, but he tells her, “I want you to have what you deserve” and “I don’t want to fight you anymore.” In saying this, Don gives up the relationship and the money with impressive equanimity.
Finally, Don seriously pursues a new relationship with Diana, a waitress with major relationship baggage from her first marriage and family back in Racine, Wisconsin. Divorce is one of the experiences these two have in common and they bond over their losses. Don feels ready to begin this new relationship with the hope of doing it right this time, and he works protectively to help Diana escape her grief over the death of one of her daughters. Yet later, at her apartment, he learns that Diana is not ready for something new, as she clings to her past and feels guilty about having forgotten “her” when she was sleeping with Don. In the end, she deals with her loss by shutting down, telling Don, “I told you about my heart. I don’t want to feel anything else.” Oh well…new relationship, new loss for Don, despite his supportiveness and empathy. Don grapples with this rejection by quietly turning away and going home, only to discover a capstone to his losses: Megan’s movers have not only moved her stuff out but have cleaned out his living room furniture.
On Megan’s side, her dramatic divorce rant is calmed at the attorney’s office once she realizes that Don’s million-dollar check is authentic. In response, she gathers sufficient maturity to return Don’s wedding ring, which has great sentimental value to Don because it originally belonged to the late Anna.
Unfortunately, Marie, Megan’s mother, has already whipped up her own drama around Megan’s divorce. Marie declares, behind the scenes, that Don has ruined their family. Thus she directs the movers to clean out Don’s furniture, apparently to avenge her own feelings of loss – feelings that seem over the top even to Megan. Next, Marie tells Megan’s sister, Marie-France, that she is running off with another man and that Marie-France can fly back home on her own. This makes Marie’s claim about Don ruining their family rather absurd but also sends Marie-France into a dramatic blaming rant to Megan: “She’s leaving Papa!” and “You poisoned her with New York!” All these dramatic responses to loss seem to do more harm than good among the family members. On the other hand, Megan’s response to Marie-France, though expressed in an intolerant way, puts their erratic mother’s behavior into a more positive light: “She’s been unhappy for a very long time. At least she did something about it.”
Other notable responses to loss in this episode are illustrated by Pete, Harry, and Stan.
Pete basically rants to Don about his frustrations and relationship losses as they drive to the new client golf outing. It’s as if he believes the world isn’t fair, or that somehow women aren’t fair, never mind the lack of fair play toward women exhibited by Pete and most men in his social circle. This anger response is typical for Pete, and as always, it
gets him nowhere.
Harry is rebuffed by Megan when he hits up on her during their luncheon, where he is supposedly helping her find a new agent for her acting career. After he suggests that she isn’t getting parts because she’s not willing to sleep with people like him, she storms out. Harry then seeks revenge by reporting to Don how unstable and crazy Megan is. Happily, this distortion of the truth gets him nowhere because, by that time, Don doesn’t care.
Stan, the SC&P Art Director and a photographer in his own right, craves validation from Pima Ryan, the artsy head of a photography studio with a big reputation that Peggy has decided to use for a vodka ad campaign. Although Pima thinks little of the photography samples that Stan shows her, she compliments his drawing skills and then seduces him. Feeling hot, Stan later brags to Peggy about his sexual conquest – until Peggy informs him that Pima tried to seduce her, too. Peggy tells him that Pima is a hustler, not the great artist she pretends to be. Stan’s response is: “I don’t believe you!” However, Stan soon realizes that his quest for Pima’s validation, first as a photographer and later as a man, has failed, and his final reaction is a look of confusion. Meanwhile, co-worker Ed, observing the entire conversation between Stan and Peggy, is likely feeling envious that Pima didn’t try to seduce him, too.
On another note, I loved the comic relief in this episode. For instance, when Diana admits to Don, “I lied to you,” Don quips, “Already?” In another scene, Meredith and Harry converse in front of Don’s office and Meredith asks Harry, “How do you go to sleep at night [in California] knowing that the Manson brothers could be running around?” Harry corrects her, “It’s the Manson family!” as Don walks by and asks, “Are they coming in?” And when Marie phones Roger for money to pay the movers to rip off Don’s furniture, she begins the conversation with “I am in desperate need of you!” Roger replies glibly: “Well, hello to you, too.”
Which new beginnings will take root? Are Don and Diana really over? Is Roger the mystery man Marie has run off with? Be sure to watch episode 7-10 of Mad Men this Sunday night, 10/9c on AMC.
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