SONIA BRAND-FISHER: I left this week’s episode of “Mad Men” feeling uneasy. The last shot of Don Draper’s secretary, Meagan, applying her lipstick as Draper watches with that infamous look made me cringe. A few shots before, I was reveling in the idea of Draper and Faye Miller being an item. She’s a headstrong woman with the perfect garnishes of confidence, class, and care that Draper seems to need right now. They appear to have an adult chemistry to their discourse that contrasts beautifully with Draper’s previous marriage to Betty’s Coca-Cola grin. Episode 10 of Season 4′s “Mad Men” seemed to focus on the couples: Don and Faye, Joan and Roger, Lane and Toni, even Pete and Trudy, who emerges so disgustingly in a maternity outfit that bares frightening resemblance to a pimple.
I was walking down the street with my mother and father who came to visit me at college last week. We, of course, discussed last week’s episode and my indisputably psychic mother says “Well, watch Joan get pregnant now! Remember, she went off the pill at the beginning of the season??” My father made a joke about Joan and Roger finally giving in and getting married and Peggy and Don getting together and living happily ever after and everyone reforming their drinking and smoking habits. We had a good laugh about that absurdity and continued on to get ice cream. Joan and Roger. My favorite couple “Mad Men” indulges me (and boy, is that saying something!).
Joan Harris’s urgency upon interrupting Roger Sterling’s zone-out was abrupt. In the 25 second infancy of the episode, we knew what was going on even before she said it. “I’m late, Roger. I’m very late.” Sterling’s approach to this situation seemed characteristically passive but genuine. They went on another dinner date and she said she would go alone to her procedure. Both of them are facing the reality of the situation with bare knuckles; Greg is still very much in Joan’s thoughts as she moves on after her abortion to the Meeting of the Partners’ while Roger sits, sipping something bitter from the chipped edge of his consciousness. When he turned to Joan and said “You are so beautiful” before leaving her office, I smiled a sad little smile.
The awkwardness of the scene in the Playboy Club reminded me of that infamous scene between Joan and Sheila at Paul Kinsey’s party in the second season. I would like to give Lane the benefit of the doubt and believe that he is in love with Toni and that his father was being an old coot in his rejection of Lane’s relationship with her. However, I honestly don’t think Lane Pryce’s father cared about the big pink elephant in the small apartment he met the couple at before their intended evening out. I think he genuinely wants his son to, for lack of better terms, “get his shit together.” Is the divorce finalized between him and his wife back in England? Does Lane want to see his son again? What is he going to do over in London on his leave of absence? Will Toni be in the picture when he returns?
Finally, Don and Faye. I want to fly into the big bustling world of “Mad Men” and perch myself on Don Draper’s shoulder and every time he dares eye another woman, smack him upside the head. This is the only consistent, solid, warm presence that Draper has in his life at the moment. He is not going to get care and level-headedness from Meagan putting on her lipstick before going out into her own life. Faye Miller knows about Draper’s past now; she’s in with the women like Betty Francis and Rachel Menkin who know the truth. He trusts her with this very sensitive, and now very scary, information that followed him throughout the episode. I am just hoping that he will give her a reason to trust him. Draper needs her right now, but will he show it in moments not caught by the camera that Faye cannot see? Is Meagan going to become a factor, or was she strategically placed there to throw us off? Are Joan and Roger’s passions going to escalate? And, finally, ARE WE GOING TO GET TO SEE DON TAKE SALLY TO SEE THE BEATLES AT SHEA???
HOWARD MEGDAL: I want the same things for the characters in Mad Men that Sonia does, but I see their reactions quite differently.
Is Don ready to move on from Faye? Well, we have a ton of evidence suggesting that he is ready to let her in like no one before-with the identity information only a small part of that (witness the afternoon of the panic attack, for instance). And the evidence against is that he watched Meagan put on lipstick. Well, my goodness, who wouldn’t? The whole office has noticed her, but Don’s been too wrapped up in solving his own spiral to do so. I took that last moment as Don’s ability to notice beauty again, nothing more. Sonia and my wife both disagree.
But how can we call this “same old Don” when he’s never really had this opportunity? Betty certainly wasn’t emotionally available to him; Rachel was someone he met while still married. This wouldn’t be realistic if Don simply molted at once; indeed, he still drinks, though we notice the long absences between drinks now every time he picks up the glass. Call me crazy, but I’m not buying Meagan as anything significant.
As for Roger and Joan, why didn’t she keep this prospective superchild? If only the two of them would stay together, raise a child, and let their lesser spouses find consolation prizes? It would be best for both of them, and best for me. And that child would have been astoundingly great.
On Pete and Trudy: Pete seems to forget the extent to which Don has brought him along and nurtured him. And frankly, people in houses where they got someone who wasn’t their wife pregnant shouldn’t throw stones. But most of all, Trudy’s maternity outfit looked nothing like a pimple. Allison Brie alone makes that outfit work. It was hysterical, a product of the time, and one of the finest visual jokes of the season.
As for Lane: we see how he got to be so obedient during his run with the Brits. Again, he is a grown man: if he wishes to stay in America, that his father and wife (who left him, remember) should conspire to keep him from his son is not a reflection on his unfinished business. Is Toni temporary? Hard to say, but as an adult, Lane should have the right to find out without getting cane-whipped.