By Brian Moylan, Hollywood.com Staff
The centerpiece of last night's episode of Mad Men is an idea that Megan came up with for a commercial for Heinz Baked Beans (seriously, how much did they have to shell out for their product to get so much damn attention this season?). In the commercial we see a mother with her child, feeding him baked beans throughout the ages. As Megan says, things change but a mother feeding her child is something that is permanent, something that is passed on through the generations. That's what this episode was about, passing on the beans from one woman for the other. Yes, the episode was almost entirely concerned with the lives of the women and how they are raised to believe what they believe and how they pass on those beliefs to both their peers and their daughters. No, these weren't beans they were passing on, it's a heaping, steaming spoonful of dysfunction.
There was really only one scene of unadulterated man-on-man action last night when Leland Palmer told Don that he murdered his daughter when inhabited by the spirit of evil named Bob and that society would never recognize Don for his achievements. Well, the American Cancer Society would, for the ad he placed about tobacco being evil, but the fancy blue blood types in the ballroom would never accept him, and they would never do business with him. They like his politics, but they don't like that he bit that had that fed him, to use Leland's idiom. They wouldn't have accepted him regardless, with his studied manners and vague back story. Don may get invited to the ballroom, but he'll never know the steps to the dance.
Other than that, this is women all the way.
Mothers and Daughters: The episode is marked by the arrival of Megan's parents from Canada. Holy shit, Megan's mom is Juliette Binoche! Holy crap! (I'm sorry, but I need to get this out of the way: Juliette Binoche looks really Frenching good for a woman of her age. I mean, she's beautiful. Even more beautiful than Megan. And unlike the other Hollywood actresses of her age, it doesn't look like she has done a thing to her face. Sure, she's been genetically gifted her whole life, but good for her for either aging gracefully and still looking like a million francs or having the best damn plastic surgeon in the whole damn world. Juliette, will you marry me, or at least be my mom and take me to brunches where we sip mimosas until the early evening?) Megan and her mother have a very strained relationship and Megan explains that her mother was always jealous of her because her father loved her more than he loved her mother.
Megan's mother is a careless woman who will fall asleep in bed smoking and expect Megan to come in and put the cigarette out for her. She seems more concerned with her own feelings than anyone else around her. From what we see of Megan and her mother, it's obvious that they are the same person. They're both gorgeous, married to older philandering men, and both in marriages that make them wildly unhappy.
However Megan's mother still seems to be a large part of her life, unlike Sally whose mother was physically absent as opposed to her usual emotionally absence. Instead Sally is left in the care of Mrs. Frances, her step father's bumbling mother, who Sally unknowingly sabotages when she drags the phone into her room, creating a tripwire booby trap for ""Bluto"" (as Sally calls her) and breaking her ankle. So we see Sally given other surrogate mothers, Megan (who once comforted her after running away) and Megan's mother, Juliette Binoche. But Megan is more of a friend to Sally, like a peer, and takes her shopping, buys her an inappropriately mature outfit, and teaches her how to put on makeup. Don is more attracted to Megan when she's acting a mother than anything else, but still he disagrees with her parenting decisions. Thus Sally is set adrift without any real mother figure of her own, left to figure out the mysteries of her life through absence rather than presence.
While Megan is destined to become her beautiful but bitter mother and future lesbian Sally Draper is left to forever be searching for a mother figure, it is Peggy who is rebelling most against her mother. From the moment Abe asked Peggy to move in with him, I knew that Peggy's very Catholic mother was not going to be a big fan of this idea. When her mother arrives at her apartment (with a very delicate cake that we never get to see) Peggy breaks the news and it does not go over well. Duh, Peggy. Her mother says, ""Don't put it in my face. You think you're the first person to ever do this?"" It's not that Peggy's mother cares about her living with Abe, it's that she cares that Peggy has to make a big deal about it. Peggy's mother seems fine with her rebelling, she just doesn't want her daughter to rub her face in the fact that she chooses not to believe in the morals and values that she instilled in Peggy. It's like her life decisions are saying that her mother is somehow inadequate. This is what Peggy always struggles with, doing things that are different and modern have their price, and the price for Peggy is that it is going to create a strained relationship with her mother.
The funny thing about Peggy is that when Abe calls her and says they need to talk at dinner, she thinks that a proposal is coming and goes out and buys a dress and prepares her answer. It's almost as if she wants that traditional life and is prepared for it. But when he offers a more modern arrangement, she agrees to it in what we assume is second best, but it's something she sees fits her. Peggy is at once drawn in by her mother's traditional sensibilities about relationships and repelled by them. She was raised on the expectation to meet a nice boy and get married and always envisioned her life that way. She has no alternative until one is present to her. But that staunch Catholic upbringing is hard to rewire and that is why Peggy needs her mother's approval. She needs her mother to change her world view so that hers can be comforted. She needs her mother to tell her that it's alright, but that's not something that's going to happen.
The best part of their fight in the hallway is that Peggy calls up the spirit of her dead father and says that he would want her to be happy, even if it's living in sin with a Jew. Peggy's mother says that her father would think that she is stupid. It is women arguing over a man, competing for his love, even he's dead and gone. Speaking of which, what worries Peggy's mom the most is that Abe will leave her. She's concerned that, without the bond of marriage, he'll get sick of Peggy at some point and leave her old, alone, and worthless to other men. Then she advises Peggy to become a crazy old cat lady rather than living with some man who she's not married to. Oh, this is how a million Cathy cartoons are made. Thanks, Momma.
Next: Let's Be Friends[PAGEBREAK] Woman to Woman: I've always loved the relationship between Peggy and Joan, who are the closest thing we have to sisters on this show. The very first shot of the series is Joan showing Peggy around Sterling Cooper, acting as her guide and her mentor, trying to teach her about bedding an ad man to make her life as the wealthy wife of an ad exec. Of course, this is not Peggy's path and while she diverges from the plans that Joan and more traditional woman would have for her, she still needs their approval and guidance (note the dinner with her mother, we just discussed).
When Abe calls and asks Peggy to dinner, she initially assumes that he's going to dump her. She makes up the pretense of rescheduling a meeting so she can talk to Joan. What she really wants is to ask her advice. Joan says she sees a proposal on the horizon. ""I'm not you,"" Peggy says, setting herself apart from Joan, failing to see that men group all women together and don't hold the same distinctions between their station that women see among each other. Joan says that if he wanted to dump her, he'd just ignore her until she made him declare his hatred. She tells Peggy to go get a new dress and prepare her answer, advice Peggy takes.
After the dinner, Joan comes and asks Peggy how it went, genuinely concerned if only so that she can gossip about it in the office. Peggy says that they're going to move in together and starts to give it the hard sell to Joan, who would seemingly want Peggy to get married rather than ""shack up,"" as she calls it. Joan, while always the traditionalist, has changed thanks to her nontraditional arrangement with her husband, Dr. Rapist. Peggy says the ""piece of paper"" of marriage doesn't matter to her, and Joan agrees, saying that her ""piece of paper"" with Dr. Rapist means less to him than his ""piece of paper"" with the Army. Joan even calls Peggy ""brave,"" a rare compliment from the usually withholding Joan. It's nice to see Peggy getting support from her peers when she's not going to be getting it from her mother.
Shockingly, right after this, Peggy congratulates Megan on her job thinking up a commercial for Heinz and saving it at dinner with Don. I initially thought she'd be pissed an threatened, but Peggy, like a true feminist, sees what's good for one woman as what is good for all women. But still the difference in their paths is remarkably different, with Peggy having to work nights on creative projects after filling her days with administrative work while Megan just marches in, marries the boss, and moves to the top of the ladder. Still, Peggy says that this is the best the job gets, and to enjoy it. Peggy may not have a mentor of her own, but she's taking the first chance she can to pass the beans to more women coming up the line.
Next: All the Unhappy Couples[PAGEBREAK] Husbands and Wives: As much as the women are defined by their relationships to one another, still the relationship that matters the most and has the most impact is the relationships that they harbor with the men in the lives. Megan is finally showing herself to be an asset to Don. She comes up with the idea for the Heinz commercial and she charms Evil Heinz Rep Man's wife so much at dinner that she tells Megan in the powder room that Heinz is going to fire SCDP. Megan imparts this info to Don and then sets him up to make his pitch at dinner, which wins Heinz over and brings the business back in house. (A great moment was that after Megan saved the day for Don, Evil Heinz Rep Man shuts down his wife trying to convince him to take the pitch.)
After her performance, Don is so turned on by Megan that he needs to sleep with her right away. While he likes her as a mother, he also likes her as a coworker, but this is problematic. Don likes Megan the most when she's saving his ass, either as a babysitter or a copywriter. He doesn't love Megan for who she is, just what she can do for him.
Of course, since Megan is bound to become her mother, Megan and Don are fated to become just like Megan's parents. We learn that her father, Emile, has a long history of having affairs with the grad students that work for him and when he was rejected by a publisher, he was crying to his latest mistress, not his wife. (Didn't Don find solace with Sally's teacher when his brother died rather than talking to Betty about it?) When she discovers this she is pissed and attacks him with a passive aggressive swipe about how daughters want to see their fathers be successful. This sets off a row that takes them into the bedroom screaming at each other in French. Megan sits out in the hall, as we can imagine her doing as a little girl, and says that they fight like this occassionally, but they calm down. Now it makes sense why Megan fights with Don the way she does (and why she said, last week, that every fight they have diminishes them as a couple). She is just reenacting the pattern that her parents taught her, fighting and making up over and over, and ignoring that they are a horrible match for each other.
Roger has a very unique position in the episode. It begins with him meeting with Mona, his ex, and having a very civilized conversation about the end of his marriage with Jane and all the insights he had on LSD (the best of which: ""I'm wondering if [Jane] was an excuse to blow up my life""). He tells Mona that he should have listened to her all those years ago that she could help him bring in blue-chip clients (she thought working together would strengthen their bond like it does for Don and Megan) and he enlists her help to get intel on all the fat cats that are going to be at the American Cancer Society award dinner for Don.
When he arrives to dinner stag, he enlists little Sally Draper as his date. ""When I come back with a business card, you put it in your purse and say 'Go get 'em tiger,'"" he says, acknowledging that he needs the support of a woman and setting himself up in the role of her surrogate husband for the evening. Sally, naturally lends her support, happy to be helpful. But it's Roger's relationship with Juliette Binoche that he's really worried about. She not only helps him tie his bow tie (something he never learned because he always had a woman to do it for him) but she needs him for a bit of revenge and score settling. She wants to conquer Roger to make herself feel better about her husband's cheating and to show him that he's not the only one who can play around.
We now interrupt this recap to warn you that sexual situations are coming. Please take your children out of the room or send you teenagers to bed so that they can sext under the covers. You do not want them to see this. And for all you pervs out there, get ready, because there might not have been any raunchiness on Game of Thrones tonight, but you're gonna get it here. Blow jobs ahoy! She takes Roger to a room adjoining the ballroom and gives him fully clothed oral pleasure. Looking for the bathroom Sally Draper barges in on the scene and stands horrified watching it.
This is going to have a chain reaction for little Sally Draper. She now knows that adult relationships aren't as happy as she thinks they are and she might even have a hint that her father has been behaving just like Roger all these years, which might explain why he and Betty were always fighting so much. It also shows her how much she can trust a man who is in a relationship with her, even one as phony as the one she has with Roger. They've been together for five minutes and he's already getting head in a club chair. Also, witnessing a sex act before being fully informed about what the act is can be horribly traumatic for a child, who might think it is gross or disgusting. Here is a woman bowing down to pleasure a man with her mouth, something that disgusts Sally on a visceral level and on an emotional level because they are both cheating. This, of course, is only helping to fuel my argument that Sally Draper is, of course a Future Lesbian, disgusted both by the sex and behavior of the men in her life.
Megan is back at the table and she confronts her father about not liking Don. He says to her that it's not that he doesn't like Don, it's that he doesn't like that she has changed. He says that he doesn't like that she has ""cheated"" and decided to marry Don and skip all the way to the top, getting the money and position that so many others (like Peggy) have achieved by hard work. She hasn't earned her status and therefore it isn't valid. Oh, what a communist papa is. He says that her life is ""bad for your soul."" It's either her money that he hates or that he hates that she is turning into her mother, who he clearly has little affection left for. It seems that Emile can't take his own Freudian advice from earlier in the episode, ""eventually your little girl has to spread her legs and learn to fly.""
Just after their argument, Juliette Binoche returns from her BJ rendezvous with Roger and Don returns from his interaction with Leland Palmer and Sally returns from witnessing that which shall not be named. They all sit their unhappily, the Heinz commercial that we talked about, each with their sadness and disappointment passed down and down and down through the generations. The mistakes of the parents passed down to their children who won't rectify them.
And just like in the commercial, this episode ends with the future. In this case it's Sally and Glenn, the creepy neighbor with a divorced mother who is bigger and badder than ever and off at some sort of boarding school. These two have a long and complicated relationship (he started to talk to her because of a failed crush he had on her mother and as a way to get revenge on Betty) and it appears that their bond is still strong. He likes that people think she's his girlfriend and she might even see herself as such. It's their relationship that is the future (at least until Sally comes out) but it's not a future that is correcting the sins of the past, it is a future that is destroyed by them. That's the legacy that Don is passing on to his child like a plate of cold baked beans.
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