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Sola Bamis as Shirley and Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson
There is a comfort in childhood innocence. The world seems huge, everything seems to make sense and there's an order to it, if only because mommy and daddy might be there to explain it. As we get older, we realize that mommy and daddy don't always know everything, and we see their flaws. Sometimes those flaws are small, and sometimes they're huge and hurtful, but there can still be love and respect if there's honesty. And beyond that, in the greater scheme of things, it's the first sense that we get in our lives that sometimes people in authority are wrong, and the way we look at things may need to change.

The latest episode of Mad Men is very much about these themes. If there was a feeling of stagnancy to the characters in the previous episode, the sense of a change coming for everyone at Sterling Cooper & Partners dominates this hour. More after the jump.

"I'm so many people." —Sally Draper
This entire episode occurs on Friday, February 14th, 1969 (a.k.a. Valentine's Day), and almost every character is struggling to find some form of comfort and stability in their lives, either personally or professionally. The quote from Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) above applies to a lot of the characters in this show, especially her father Don (Jon Hamm). And in a lot of ways, that conflicted feeling of identity is nothing new, but this time it feels like the entire office, as an organization, is shifting in a different way too. A lot has been made in the past about some of the subtexts in this show being patriarchy, white privilege and the beginnings of corporate culture. And in this episode, you can definitely see the future coming.

In almost every storyline of this episode, the female characters asserted new authority, while the male characters were searching for firmer ground in a shifting landscape.

"Our collective ex-wife who still receives alimony"
  • An existence without meaning: Don Draper's life is in the crapper, but he still tries to keep up the facade and routine of the way things used to be from within his apartment, which just makes things even more pathetic. Somewhere, down deep inside, we all want to believe we're irreplaceable, and that the world won't be the same without us. But Sterling Cooper is still humming along without Don. So Don is testing the waters of finding work somewhere else, but as time passes the rumors about Don have grown. He has Dawn (Teyonah Parris), who's still loyal to her old boss, feeding him info about what's going on at work, with Don working her for useless minutiae about who was sitting where at a conference table. But he's powerless to do anything from his apartment, except hope that someone will call and let him come back. So all he's relegated to is watching TV and consumption of cheap shit. And one interesting thing about that consumption is that he's consuming all the products he used to create ads for in the office. (e.g. Ritz crackers, Canadian Club, etc.) A big difference between the Don of the present and the Don of the past is that this Don is staying put and wants a way to resolve things. At the very least, he hasn't run away.
  • Flowers and Peggy's authority: I've seen some websites compare this to a story idea out of Three's Company, and in truth it's a classic "misunderstanding" that blows up in a character's face. But no matter how clumsy it might seem, I was more interested in what it says about Peggy. She's still a character with pride who wants respect, and gets touchy when she feels embarrassed. Peggy is, in her own way, just as "alone" as Don, with the previous episode ending with Peggy weeping alone in an empty apartment. The flowers at first represent what she thinks is a gesture of apology from Ted (Kevin Rahm). However, when she finds out that not only were the flowers not from Ted, but they're Shirley's flowers from her fiance, she takes out her embarrassment on a secretary whose only "crime" was trying to protect her boss's feelings. And now poor Shirley has to deal with Lou.
  • All black people look alike: There's a moment in the episode where Shirley and Dawn meet and say "Hello, Dawn" and "Hello, Shirley." It's not only a comment on the people at the office mixing up their names because they're the two black employees, but a reflection that they feel like parts in a machine that can be moved and thrown away on a whim. Both Lou (Allan Havey) and Peggy demand that Dawn and Shirley be reassigned for trite reasons. Dawn gets moved to reception, but then gets a promotion to head of personnel when Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) comes to believe in "the advancement of colored people" when it means they're not the first thing people see coming off the elevator.
"Our fortunes are in other people's hands." —Bonnie
  • Pete's marginalization: Pete and Ted feel like they're in limbo out in Los Angeles. So much of life is wasted on power plays. So much wasted time trying to figure who controls what, and how big of a share do I get, where if you worked together so much more could have been accomplished. That's the story of Pete and Ted's working relationship. But it's now compounded by the fact that he doesn't have as much authority as Pete thought he had. And since he's in purgatory at work, Pete tries to find some control in his personal life with his real estate agent girlfriend, Bonnie (Jessy Schram). So he rolls over to one of her apartment showings looking for sex, only to be shot down. He enters the scene carrying one of Bonnie's yard signs, and the scene ends with her telling Pete to "put the sign back."
  • Roger is not in control: Pete's marginalization is a result of Roger (John Slattery) not being the "alpha dog" at the agency anymore. This episode makes clear that Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin) is calling the shots now. The office politics of Sterling Cooper has always been a plot point, but I think both the Pete and Roger storylines may be harbingers of how the business is shifting more towards the corporate culture that defined the '70s and '80s that was somewhat different than the one of the '50s and '60s. With Cutler asking Roger if he's going to be an "adversary," a civil war might be afoot.
  • Joan moves upstairs: Joan (Christina Hendricks) is a partner. So why does she have to suffer these fools that want secretaries moved around like a game of musical chairs? By episode's end, Joan doesn't have to worry about it anymore. Now she has to worry about accounts. But her new office might be part of Cutler's consolidation of power. If the season moves to a power struggle between Cutler and Roger, will Joan be loyal to Roger, her sometimes lover and the father of her son, or Cutler, who just got her out of "personnel hell" and giving her a chance at something different?
“Why would you let me lie to you like that?” —Don Draper

“Because it’s more embarrassing for me to catch you in a lie than it is for you to be lying.” —Sally Draper

  • Lies my parents told me: Sally catching Don in his affair with Sylvia shifted that relationship, perhaps irrevocably. Last season ended with Don trying to rebuild some trust with Sally, but this episode brings things back to that dynamic, the impetus being Sally catching Don in a lie. Sally goes to Sterling Cooper and finds Lou Avery in Don's office and finds out that he hasn't worked there in months. When she later asks Don where he's been during the day, Don lies to Sally and says that he was "at the office." Sally doesn't seem surprised by the deception. But she also does what she's done in the past, which is take on the role of an adult who wants to hear truth from her own father. Sally, like her father, feels boxed in and yearns for something different, but unlike her father there's an ethics to her that yearns for reality over self-delusion. And she is in a lot of ways Don's best confidant. So when Don sits down and tries to explain himself in a "fatherly" way at the diner, it might just be a beginning to digging himself out of the mess.
"Happy Valentine's Day. I love you." —Sally Draper
  • The little things: As I've gotten older, I've appreciated more the little things people that I care about have done for me over the years, especially when I was low. You remember the times that people said "I love you," when they didn't have to, and made a bad day brighter. Sally telling her father "I love you" in a casual way as she exists the car is not sweet, or a statement that she trusts and respects her father again. But it's a smidgen of hope for Don, and he needs all the hope he can get.
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Comment Preferences

  •  just watched the episode. good recap. (13+ / 0-)

    that is actually the way more than one black person got personnel/Human Resources jobs in the 60s.  it was a convenient way to kick people upstairs while still keeping them out of sight

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:38:19 PM PDT

    •  So true..... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TrueBlueMajority, chimene

      Something I've noticed at every job I've ever had is that most HR/Benefits departments were always filled with tons of black people, and specifically black women. Next was the IT department. As you intimated these are areas of a company with least visibility to clients of the company.

      Leadership positions were often the least diverse.

      I think some of that is changing......just very slowly.

      I need not thank the rich for the crumbs they have tossed me, rather, I curse them for the bread stolen from our tables. -- MinistryOfTruth

      by sephius1 on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 06:57:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow, that segment was quite emotional. I ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    burana, Bethesda 1971, RiveroftheWest

    guess they all are.
    I watched the 1st 3 series on video from the library. I gave up cuz I started drinking wine in the afternoon while watching them all at once, hours at a time.
    I don't do Netflix. I did earlier when they sent videos in the mail.
    Thanks for keeping us updated!

    I share a birthday with John Lennon and Bo Obama.

    by peacestpete on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:44:06 PM PDT

  •  I don't watch the show, but have to say; (4+ / 0-)

    DAMN that Shirley has style! Love her look.

    Rand Rick Ted Huck Scott / Republican power ON! / Five watt light bulb glows - haiku by Bill IPM

    by Fordmandalay on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:45:30 PM PDT

  •  For the first time ever, I fell asleep in Episode1 (0+ / 0-)

    Borrrrrrrrrinnng. I'm a huge Mad Men fan, but this season seems particularly heavy-weighted toward the business end.  Too much ad-talk that noone outside that world knows about, and the emotional details seem like the prize after the dry build-up.

    "You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying."Edward Snowden -6.62, -6.92

    by CanyonWren on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:53:24 PM PDT

    •  Woops, clicked on post too soon (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Doctor RJ, RiveroftheWest

      I loved this week's focus on AA issues. We have been led to believe that Peggy is forging her own 'I am woman' path, but she succombs to racist belittling like any of her male cohorts--this was a disappointing (but brilliantly written) character flaw. Peggy will end up acting just like the men in many situations, imho.

      "You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying."Edward Snowden -6.62, -6.92

      by CanyonWren on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:57:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  IF Don is redeemable ... (8+ / 0-)

    he'll be redeemed through Sally and no one else.

    Things I noticed about this episode:

    1. No Meghan. Thank God. I just find her storyline and the back-and-forth with Don boring.

    2. But where's Betty this season? I want to catch up.

    3. So great when Pete's realtor lady put her job first and put him in his place.

    4. Joan upstairs! Huzzah!

    5. Bob Benson is like the ghost that haunts everyone in the office but is never seen.

    6. Peggy has been my favorite character for a long time, but I'm rapidly losing sympathy for her. Perhaps because she has so much self-pity for herself ....

    •  So agree about Meghan and Peggy and Joan. (3+ / 0-)

      Meghan I don't really care about but like you I was a Peggy fan and my fandom is fading. otoh, Joan keeps rising both in location and in my admiration.

      As for the men.  Oh, dear.  First, Roger. His bad boy charm has taken on an edge of something I can't name yet but I'm not liking it.  As for Don he may win me over again if what we saw with Sally turns out to be real and lasting.  Now, Pete.  His new location and wardrobe just don't work for me.  He was such a weasel for so long but he wore it well.  Now he's just a weasel with a bad haircut and terrible taste in clothes.

      Proud to be a Democrat

      by Lying eyes on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 08:59:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  lol (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dirk McQuigley
        He was such a weasel for so long but he wore it well.  Now he's just a weasel with a bad haircut and terrible taste in clothes.

        Il est dangereux d’avoir raison dans des choses où des hommes accrédités ont tort. - Voltaire
        Don't trust anyone over 84414 - BentLiberal

        by BentLiberal on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 09:47:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Don/Sally diner scene was great (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Doctor RJ, Lying eyes, RiveroftheWest

    It sucks we only get seven episodes this season, then we have to wait another year for seven more.

    I've always liked Peggy, but she was quite nasty and pathetic in this episode. Lou is an unpleasant piece of work, I'm hoping he'll soon get his comeupance.

  •  Very nice recap, thanks (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Doctor RJ, Lying eyes, RiveroftheWest

    I also liked the little detail where Don was pretending that they were going to run from the restaurant without paying the tab.  

    I think it was self-serving on this part -- because he sort tricked her, just in fun. But he also was making the point of, "hey, I still have money" and he pulled out the money to pay.  But beyond that, I thought it sort of a nice little joke between them and diffused the tension at the table, which up to that point could be cut with a knife

    And Sally finally did eat some food too. Just a real nice couple of scenes with those 2

    Il est dangereux d’avoir raison dans des choses où des hommes accrédités ont tort. - Voltaire
    Don't trust anyone over 84414 - BentLiberal

    by BentLiberal on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 08:57:28 PM PDT

  •  A good Don & Sally story is difficult to beat (5+ / 0-)

    On this show, and this was one of their best.  Matthew Weiner really struck gold when he cast Kiernan Shipka all those years ago.

  •  Best line of the episode... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Doctor RJ

    "I'd stay here 'til 1975 if I could get Betty in the ground."

    - Sally Draper

    •  Balance (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Trix, Lying eyes, Dirk McQuigley

      The writers and Kiernan Shipka have done a perfect job of giving a mixture of Don and Betty's qualities.

      I'm surprised you didn't pick this gem:

      "She has plans. Look at her calendar. ‘February 14: Masturbate gloomily.’" —Michael Ginsberg
      •  Sorry to disappoint you... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Doctor RJ, Lying eyes

      •  Peggy is in effect his immediate boss (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        madronagal, Doctor RJ

        right now. He would never have dared to say anything so personally nasty directly to Don.

      •  I was going to say that. (5+ / 0-)

        Oh well. Some random observations:

        I think there will be redemption for Don somehow. I don't think Meghan will be in his future plans however. I'm starting to wonder if Don starts a new firm and makes Peggy a partner. THAT would be something.

        Not that there is anything wrong w/ it, but Pete Campbell is dressing like he's gay (says the straight guy). I see him killing himself. He's just fooling himself into liking LA what with the sunshine and eating Brooklyn Avenues but in reality he's miserable. Getting shafted on his Chevy deal exposed this.

        Hoping for some Bob Benson. Great character. Maybe he puts the insufferable Pete in his place again in front of a GM audience.

        Love Jim Cutler. Thank you Harry Hamlin. Best role since Michael Kuzak. Weiner needs to get Corbin Bernson, Jimmy Smits, and Susan Dey in future episodes.

        Sally is incredible. I don't see her becoming Betty 2.0 because she has too much Don in her. Possible romance with Glenn because she's no longer an adolescent. Not a full adult but certainly more mature than we've seen her in the past.

        I DO see Joan siding w/ Cutler in any Cutler/Sterling power struggle. Why? She's not respected by Roger. She's an object. Cutler is shrewd and he sees Joan as an asset and ally.

        I want more Ginzberg and Stan Rizzo. I love stoner Stan. He and Peggy are going to hook up. I can sense it a mile away.

        Meghan will have  to suffer the Sharon Tate experience. Weiner is setting us up for it.

        •  Draper, Olsen and Partners (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Is a logical conclusion to their current respective statuses. Don is a pariah, and Peggy's talents and achievements are being completely overlooked.
          Also agree that there is a possibility of a Peggy/Stan relationship. At times he has looked at her very tenderly. (NOT in the elevator scene!)
          They sure did set Meghan up for something bad to happen out there in her cabin with the coyotes. But a Sharon Tate experience seems too heavy for the show - it might unbalance it dramatically. But you sure could be right - speculation on that point is rampant.

  •  In the end, Don will go to jail (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Doctor RJ, jes2

    for being AWOL and stealing the other guy's identity. And we'll feel bad for him, because he might finally stop being an asshole.

  •  By sheer coincidence (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Doctor RJ, jes2, Raggedy Ann, NoStampTax

    I happened to see this episode right after watching "12 Years a Slave," and I was struck by just how similar the treatment of African Americans was in both eras - a difference more in degree than kind.

    Of course, it's a lot more subtle in the 1960s than the 1840s, but there's still the same attitude of privilege and superiority on the part of the white people and the same subtle denigration of the blacks.

    It was quite unsettling actually.

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