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'Mad Men' recap: Rise of the machine

By Marisa Nadolny and Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: theday.com

Published May 05. 2014 1:21PM   Updated May 05. 2014 11:14PM

Dear Marisa,

So, one door closes and an elevator door opens. Roger gives up on his daughter Margaret, who has turned into a hippie and lives on a commune. Don swallows his pride and begins work for Peggy — do the work Don!

Not sure what to make of this episode. I was a little bored, truth be told.

Drunk and sloppy Don? I forgot about him.

Insecure Peggy? I wanted her to go next door to Don and yell at him — do the work Peggy?

Harry Crane taking charge? Finally installing the computer he’s asked for and wanted, ho hum. The office in an tizzy because the creative lounge is becoming the computer room? Seemed a bit contrived.

Pete with his real estate girlfriend blossoming in LA? But then he hesitates when he hears his soon-to-be-ex-father-in-law had a heart attack.

Maybe it was me ...

How’d you do?

-K.

*** 

Dearest,

I agree that I was waiting for something ... more ... although we can’t undervalue the role of an IBM-360 (the “Monolith” to which the episode’s title refers?) in a creative place like SC&P. Though Ginsberg didn't need to put it so crudely (re: Harry Crane taking a “big dump”), you and I know too well the disruption that technology can inflict, particularly on a fleet of creatives. (ContentWatch, anyone?) Not sure how well the Ginsbergs of the world will adapt to this brave new world. PS. How ridiculous were Harry and Jim Cutler in their stupid hard hats? Pul-lease.

Funny though, the noise doesn’t really seem to bother Don. Just sayin’. And seriously, I kinda forgot about sloppy drunk Don too, and it was distressing and disappointing to behold.

I tweeted my support for St. Freddy Rumsen when he got Don up for work and gave him the stern talking-to Don needed. “Do the work,” indeed. Perhaps a precursor to “leaning in,” ay?

As for Margaret/Marigold, I continue to hate her guts. Yes, Roger was not father of the year, but that does not give a person license to abandon a child in apparent retaliation. We’re supposed to grow and evolve and NOT use our personal pain as a pass to be useless citizen of the world. I loved sensitive Roger, looking up at the moon with his little girl, and I loved Super Dad Roger, literally dragging Margaret back down to earth. He tried. I think she’ll be back though. Child abandonment is no joke.

Also loved how we saw a less glamorized side of the whole hippie lifestyle. It’s been romanticized quite a bit in recent decades, and it was sobering to see that at least some of these kids, as Mona pointed out, were “lost, and on drugs, and have venereal diseases.” Note: my own mother, who frolicked at Woodstock clad in India prints, had similar impressions of some of her peers. Margaret's pals, in their homeless-chic castaways, seemed terribly vulnerable, and I couldn't help but see that main dude there as a sexual opportunist and little more. Equality? Not sure about that whole deal. I wanted to take a shower after watching those scenes...

Still cool, just not a camper,

M. 

***

Dear M,

You’re not a camper? I wouldn’t have guessed.

I liked the whole Margaret/Marigold story. Clearly she’s rebelling against “the establishment.” And who doesn’t like a good rebellion? Someone had to break from that conservative, buttoned-up, put-on-a-happy-face public lifestyle of the '50s and '60s. How about when Roger was told his little girl had run away and he said “Where? To Bergdorf's?” I love when Marigold called Roger on his partying and cheating lifestyle, and let her mother know she was hip to her locking herself in the bathroom with a pint of gin to get through the day. I say her kid is better off without her. I know that sounds harsh, but she really has some issues to work out. Think of Betty and how she treats her kids. Just because you’re the mother doesn’t mean you’re the best for the children, in my humble opinion, anyway.

I liked that the firm is modernizing with a computer that will cause a “cosmic disturbance,” and what about all the other timely references — Don reading “Portnoy’s Complaint”; Pete planning a trip to Catalina Island, Yosemite or Palm Springs, how tres chichi; Roger’s Peter Max poster in his office; a reference to “The Guiding Light,” a popular soap opera; and Margaret and her husband going to a “marriage encounter” — that was a 1960s, ’70s phenomenon. And Don playing solitaire at his desk, with cards. How quaint that seems.

Love the late ’60s,


***

Dahling,

Talk about a revolution! I surely would have thought you’d diss Margaret forever for the child abandonment tactic, but you raise an excellent point about whether the kid will be better off without Marigold. However: is it better off with Brooks? Roger and Mona? Eek!

And listen, I gave points to Mona for actually TRYING to relate to her daughter about the challenges of being a young mother. Granted, she lasted about 30 seconds no thanks to Margaret noting Mona’s gin-in-bathroom regimen. And seriously, if Marigold was as evolved as she pretends to be, she’d realize that Mona’s need to self-medicate to such a degree reflects a huge, gaping emotional hole (read: humanity) in her mother. She’d forgive and forget and ditch the passive-aggressive mommy-baiting. Hippie, schmippie. She’s a brat, through and through.

As for the “cosmic disturbance,” I’m starting to wonder if “2001: A Space Odyssey” (which was released in 1968 and ponders its own monolith) got under everyone’s skin. In a bad way. Don goes from progressive about the IBM to suspicious (drunk) of it and suddenly turns on Lloyd the Lease-Tech guy. “You go by many names,” Don says to Lloyd, who, himself, goes from sunny to cloudy in a millisecond. Dunno, despite its boozy origins, that whole exchange literally made me squirm. Cue "Thus Spake Zarathustra"! Thoughts?

Of course, we know who's partially to blame for Don's crappy mood. That would be Bert Cooper, otherwise known as my greatest disappointment of the season. First, we learn that he’s too racially intolerant to leave Dawn at the front desk; and then he quickly turns down a very good idea from Don, citing the re-employment stipulations set for him. Don’s working; pitching ideas is work. How is THAT a breach of the rules? Why in holy hell would you stymie a hunch that could lead to “exponential” growth? He seemed nothing short of gleeful in reminding Don of whose office he’s currently occupying. What the frack? He needs to head out to pasture with Lou Avery. Print it.

Luv,

M.

PS. As for camping, yes, I’ve camped, and indeed, I (partially) camped my way across the country in my youth. But there’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s called college! And I love running water a whole lot.

***

Dear M, 

Not sure if Marigold is "evolved." I think she's more lost. But then, isn't everyone in this show lost? Really, is there anyone grounded here? Was anyone in the 1960s "normal," or, I don't know, happy? There had to be some yang to all this yin. 

Yeah, what was up with the tech guy? I must say a sloppy, drunk Don is not an attractive Don, no matter how good looking he is. But what was that exchange? Is he the devil in Don's drunken eyes? Don't know. 

I never liked Bert Cooper and now I like him even less. I can't believe I'm going to write this, but I almost felt sorry for Don when Cooper reminded him he's residing in his dead partner's office ... that was cold. 

Also, what's with the Mets? 

Continually confused,


*** 

Lady K, 

I hate to even mention this, but aren't the Mets perennial losers? Ug. Hate to even extrapolate from there.

Another creepy moment about the computer vs creative? Lloyd says to Don, "They all become obsolete eventually." Sigh...

But you're right, we've got a lot of lost souls here, and even some of our stalwart stars are extra burdened, Peggy among them. I was so relieved that she managed to rein it back in after she bit Joan's head off as Joan was passing by her office and heading out the door. PS. That emerald ensemble was absolutely stunning on Christina Hendricks. LOVE that hair! Anyway, I'm very glad Peggy and Joan had one of their old-school, get-a-load-of-these-guys conversations, and, indeed, when Joan wisely determined that nothing about dumping Don on Peggy was premeditated (except, perhaps, by Lou. More on that in a sec), I know my fears were assuaged. We need our Peggy on board and thinking straight! 

Back to Lou. This guy... Is it me, or does he seem more intent on making Don "implode" vs encouraging good work from him and the rest of the team? He TOTALLY gave Peggy that raise as a big thumb of the nose to Don, am I right? Of course, we know Peggy will pull it off with aplomb, but I. Hate. Lou. As much as Jim Cutler bugs me, I thought it fabulous when, confronted AGAIN by a cry-babying Lou, he says, "There's nothing to be afraid of... you might get some good work." Jim's a weird one, to be sure, but he has this great way of articulately summarizing everyone else's drama. 

Re: drunken Don, I think that's one of the top-5 most drunken Dons we've ever seen. Pouring (stolen) vodka into a Coke can? Wow. How very high school! 

But he's still cute,

M. 

***

Dear M, 

It's all so emotionally draining to see week after week, these miserable people struggling just to get through the day. I'm tired for them ... I think I must take a nap. 

But first, can we talk music and fashion?

Yes, Joan's dress was great. At first I didn't like that geometric number in browns and greens that Peggy had on, but she wore it so well, I liked it despite the horrible colors. My favorite outfit was the real estate lady's white tasseled shawl. I'm pretty sure I wore a similar shawl to my prom in the mid-1970s. And all those hippie outfits. If they weren't so filthy they would have been fab. Bring back the poncho shawls, the long skirts and the peasant blouses — updated of course. 

Final tune — "On a Carousel" by The Hollies. Some pretty nice lines there: "Trying to catch up to you ... So near yet so far ... People just fighting for their places."

And so they all go round and round and round. That's the job I want — picking out the final song for each episode. 

'Til next week, 

K

***

Wise K,

I think I'm still wearing those rose-colored grannie glasses you were on about last week, but here goes: I thought the use of that song is an indicator of hope. Don's best campaign was for Kodak and its slide carousel. Remember when Ken Cosgrove brought it up last week? I thought that was incredibly sweet, BTW.

It also made me think of Holden Caulfield and his epiphany as he watches his sister, Phoebe, ride the Central Park carousel in child-like bliss. 

Round and round we go!

M.

 

We're on twitter: @edgecombday and @TheMDesk.

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