In 1970, differing beliefs about issues like the war in Viet Nam, marijuana, and how much to help the poor created a generational divide throughout society. In this Mad Men episode, as Don Draper struggles to pen an inspiring vision of what SC&P will become over the next year, he‘s hit with both personal and professional criticism from younger people. These and other relationship entanglements – Betty, Glen, Sally, and Paula – Joan, Kevin, the babysitter, and new love interest Richard – provide plenty of intergenerational fireworks as characters express their deepest convictions, hopes, and dreams, with some forging deeper bonds.
Working to sell Don’s penthouse apartment, young real estate agent Melanie complains bluntly about his lack of furniture: “It looks like a sad person lives here.” Don replies that the emptiness is an opportunity, and that she should tell customers that someone lived here who made a million dollars inventing the Frisbee and had to move to a castle in France in a hurry to avoid taxes. Unimpressed, Melanie continues, “This place wreaks of failure. It’s an $85,000 fixer-upper.” Don fires back, “Don’t blame your failure on me. A lot of wonderful things happened here…I have a good feeling about things.” Fast forward to the final scene and Don’s “forecast” prevails, as the apartment sells at full asking price, 30-day escrow. But when Melanie follows up with, “Now we have to find a place for you,” he seems surprised by the pace of change.
At the office, Don mediates a blow-up between the younger Peggy and Pete on how to handle Mathis, a still younger creative employee who’s just behaved badly and sworn in front of the client who rejects their presentation. Pete threatens to fire Mathis, but Peggy says that Mathis was just frustrated and that Pete doesn’t have that kind of firing authority. Pete yells at Peggy, “I can fire you!” Don calms them down with, “Nobody’s going to fire anybody” and Peggy gloats in her victory.
Later Mathis enters Don’s office seeking advice on how to approach the client following his bad behavior: “Do I apologize?” Don tells Mathis a story about how he once embarrassed himself in front of Lucky Strike’s Lee Garner Jr., and how, instead of apologizing the next time he saw Lee, he joked, “I can’t believe you have the balls to show up here after you embarrassed yourself like that!” Mathis doesn’t understand the approach and thinks Don is suggesting that he use the same line on his client. More directly, Don suggests that Mathis bring a bar of soap to the next client meeting and offer to wash his own mouth out if necessary.
After the next meeting with that client, Mathis storms into Don’s office and rips him: “I tried your little joke and now I’m off the business!” “The soap thing?” Don asks. “No,” Mathis replies, “the one where I told them they were assholes.” Mathis says his idea was to apologize but complains that people like Don don’t understand that approach because they don’t have to do it. Don counters: “Guys like me know how to do it.” Then Mathis tells Don that Roger tells the same story about the Lee Garner Jr. meeting, only Roger says Lee Garner Jr. laughed because he was in love with Don. This blindsides Don and has the ring of truth. However, Don continues scolding Mathis, advising him to take responsibility for his failure and saying he lacks character. Mathis counters: “You don’t have any character. You’re just handsome. Stop kidding yourself!” With that, Don fires Mathis, turning Peggy’s victory into Pete’s.
In another scene, Don takes daughter Sally and three of her girlfriends out to dinner before bringing them to the bus terminal to embark on their school field trip – 12 states in 12 days. Don converses easily with the girls, asking each what she wants to do when she grows up and offering encouragement. One of the girls, Sarah, flirts heavily with Don, and to Sally’s disgust, he plays along to a point. When he asks Sally what she wants to do, she says, “I just want to eat.” “Nothing like practical goals” Don quips, and everyone laughs except Sally.
As the girls board the bus, Don tells Sally that it’s normal to be nervous about going away. Sally lashes out, “You can’t control yourself, can you? . . . Sarah’s 17 you know . . . but it doesn’t stop you, and it doesn’t stop Mom. Anyone pays attention to either of you . . . and you just ooze everywhere.” She says her dream is to get on a bus and get away from them, “and hopefully be a better person.” Don fires back, “Hey, I’m your father, and you may not want to listen to this but you are a lot like your mother and me.” He also advises, “You’re a very beautiful girl. It’s up to you to be more than that.” Not bad advice from someone who’s taken so much criticism in the last few days.
Part of Sally’s anger comes from a recent event at home with her mom. The doorbell rings, and it’s Glen, there to invite Sally to join him and his new girlfriend, Paula, for a day at Playland. Sally runs down the stairs excited to see Glen, but soon Betty comes to the door and asks to be introduced, dampening Sally’s mood. Surprised to learn that it’s Glen (now age 18), Betty and Glen converse in a highly personal way that looks to Sally as though there’s something going on between them. After Betty steps away for a minute, Paula asks Sally if she has any grass, and Sally says they can get it at Playland.
Through the conversation, Glen reveals that, after a year of college, he enlisted in the army and is supposed to report soon for active duty. This enrages Sally, who yells, “Are you f-ing stupid? You hate the war! What about Kent State? You were crying. You were going to join the movement . . . You’re going to die – for what?!” She also fires at Paula, “Was that your idea!?” and Paula responds, “We just met.” Then Betty reassures Glen, “Don’t listen to Jane Fonda here. It’s a very brave thing to do.”
Sally continues lashing out at Glen: “You know what? Have fun at Playland! Just remember: those kids are the same age as the ones you’re going to be murdering in Viet Nam!” and she runs upstairs. Betty ends the conversation by apologizing for Sally’s behavior and wishing them well.
In a later scene, Sally feels remorseful and calls Glen at home to say a proper goodbye before he ships out. However, he’s not at home and she ends up crying on the phone to Glen’s mother, who shares Sally’s sentiments about the war. On that issue, Glen aligns himself with the older generation and Glen’s mother aligns herself with the younger generation.
After Sally has departed on her 12-state field trip, Glen visits Betty with the clear intention of holding a private conversation. Despite their generational difference, Betty and Glen continue to feel secret fireworks toward each other, just as they did when Glen was a boy and she confided in him as if he were a true friend. Glen tells her that both Sally and his mother are mad at him but that she’s not because she really knows him. Betty explains that they’re afraid for him, and that she is too.
“Do you want me to say that I like it?” she asks. Glen replies, “I know you do, because I’m brave and I love this country, and I want to protect it and everyone in it . . . I know something could happen to me, but I feel safe because I know you’re mine,” and he pulls her in by the waist to kiss her cheek. Though surprised, Betty doesn’t push him away but asks him to stop because she’s married. Feeling frustrated, Glen reveals his own “forecast” for his life: “This was going to be the good thing that came out of this. This is all I thought about!” Then she says, “Glen, please don’t tell me that you did this for me. I couldn’t live with myself.” Glen leans on her and confides, “It’s so much worse. I flunked out.”
Glen describes how angry his stepdad was about his poor grades, but how proud his stepdad has been of him since he enlisted. Betty then caresses the back of Glen’s neck while he stands there facing her, basking in her energy field and loving attention. Next, she takes his hand and places it on her cheek in a romantic gesture, apparently trying to give Glen something to live for or to dream about when he’s away at war. After Glen leaves, Betty looks afraid and upset.
Unlike Betty’s, Joan’s attraction to a man of a different generation is socially appropriate. Richard Berghoff mistakenly knocks on the SC&P–Los Angeles office door and is greeted by Joan, who mistakes him for job candidate Jim McLeod and introduces herself to him as a partner at SC&P. Richard plays along, but soon Lou shows up escorting the real Jim McLeod into the office. Surprised, the beautiful, voluptuous Joan stands back and says to Richard, “Who are you?” Richard tells her he was looking for his optometrist, but “if a woman like you wants to talk to me, I’m a little nearsighted, I’m not blind. Have dinner with me.”
That evening they share a lovely dinner and continue to get acquainted. She tells him she has an early flight the next morning, and he asks if she has mouths to feed. She claims she doesn’t but that she just landed the job of her dreams and that she needs to work for her own personal satisfaction. Richard talks about his retirement from real estate development and says he’s now “free as a bird.” Joan quips, “Yes… you’re a millionaire developer. You must think I just fell off a truck. Are you a movie producer as well?” Richard laughs, “No, but the rest of it’s the truth, honey.”
The next day, Joan answers her phone in the New York office and Richard jokes, “Well, your story checks out.” To her surprise, he’s hopped a flight to NYC that morning and asks to have dinner with her. That night they dine at another extravagant restaurant, where Richard talks about a golf course he was trying to develop in Palos Verdes, and about a bunch of demonstrators for low-income housing who came to protest. Joan teases him about how “radical” it is to want low-income housing, and Richard realizes Joan, probably 20 years his junior, is on the other side of the issue.
Soon Richard turns suspicious: “Where did you tell him you were? . . . Tell me the truth, are you married? . . . Please don’t lie to me.” After reassuring him that she’s divorced, Joan admits, “I have a little boy. His name is Kevin and he’s 4 . . . Does that make a difference?”
Richard says no, but later in his hotel room his story changes: “I love kids, but I raised mine already, and I know it sounds selfish, but . . . I’m done with that part of my life.” Joan counters: “You’re being presumptuous.” Richard yells: “I know what this is, and so do you or you wouldn’t have lied . . . This is not how I saw this! I had a plan, which is no plan. You can’t go to the pyramids. You can’t go anywhere!” Joan concedes meekly: “You’re right. Nice meeting you,” and she exits the room as Richard sits on the bed staring off, deeply frustrated.
At home, Joan’s college-age babysitter, Maureen, enters Joan’s apartment, and Joan greets her with, “Where the hell were you?” “Good morning to you, too. I was at class,” says Maureen as she picks up baby Kevin affectionately. “Why didn’t you mention that last night?” demands Joan, to which Maureen counters, “Didn’t Gail [Joan’s mom] give you my schedule?” Joan continues her attack: “You really need to take a vacation,” and Maureen continues to counter: “I think you need a vacation.” As Joan leaves for work, she shouts: “You know what? You’re ruining my life!” No response from Maureen, who’s probably just rolling her eyes, but baby Kevin sings out a sweet “Bu-bye” to his mom, giving Joan pause that helps her regain her composure.
Busy at the office, Joan is alerted by her secretary that Jim McLeod is here to see her. Suspicious, she walks out and discovers Richard waiting there for her, floral bouquet in hand. He leads with, “I’m a heel, okay?” and she replies softly, “No, it’s my fault . . . I like you too, so if I have to choose, I’m giving my son away.” “What? . . . That’s not what I said!” he protests, but she insists, with pointed determination, “That’s exactly what you said.”
At last the healing begins when Richard states, “Well, I’ve thought about it, and I want to be a part of your life, and your little boy, too.” Despite learning that she lives all the way down on 12th Street (eeeeewww) with both her son and her mother, he tells her of his new plan to buy some property near Central Park and have them all in his life. Joan replies cautiously, “We’ll see.” But when he asks her if he can call her, she smiles and green-lights it.
Isn’t it funny how many forecasts don’t pan out in this episode? Melanie is wrong about Don’s apartment needing furniture to sell; Don is wrong about nobody getting fired; Betty is wrong in predicting that Glen will have all the comforts of home over in Viet Nam; and Richard is wrong in planning Joan’s schedule for her when she already has a busy life of her own. Mistakes happen, but still, forecasting is so much fun! What’s your forecast for the ending of Mad Men? My idea is that Don and Peggy end up together . . . but who knows?
Just a few episodes of Mad Men are left! Be sure to catch the next one this Sunday night, 10/9c on AMC.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00VN85RJC,B00M6X9ZTG,B00BUUAV08,B009YR7UKI]