Mad Men 5.13 – The Phantom

“Not one thing you said was true. No dinner, no chaperone, no conversation.”
“Stop being demure, you’re already on the bed.”

It’s two or three months after Lane’s death, and it’s sad but true that life goes on after tragedy, often in the most mundane ways. Don has a toothache, Megan can’t get auditions, Megan’s mom Marie is out for a visit and makes Megan’s life worse instead of better as always, Joan finds out that being a partner also means being the office complaint box (not as dirty as it sounds), and unsurprisingly nobody wants Lane’s office. Not that I can blame them.

But not everything is of the everyday variety. Pete sees Beth on the train and even though she can’t get out of his sight fast enough, she still wants him enough to call him later and ask him to meet her at a hotel. He angrily refuses, but you just know he’s going to cave like a drunk game of Jenga. Even stranger, Don sees his very dead half-brother Adam getting on the elevator at work like he’s just another ad man. Is it a vision? A daymare? I guess we’ll find out.

Life at the office isn’t going so well with Peggy gone. Hahahaha! This fills me with glee, I’m not going to lie. Ginsburg is finding out that it’s not so easy to please the clients who need a woman’s opinion, no matter how “brilliant” the ad campaign. And unlike Peggy, Ginsburg doesn’t take Don’s shit lying down, so all the yelling and kicking of chairs makes for a rather unpleasant work environment.

But as these things usually go, it’s not all rosy for Peggy, either. She worked with a gifted bunch of people back at SCDP but at the new firm they’re all a bunch of newbie idiots cringing and scrambling to avoid her wrath…which is admittedly fun to watch. However, since she’s the star (with her mofoing name on the door of her mofoing office plus fancy new duds) she also gets plum assignments like planning the entire strategy for the top-secret women’s cigarette Phillip Morris is unveiling. But no pressure or anything.

It’s yet another partners’ meeting, and Joan is well on her way to world domination with her groovy new hipster glasses (some things never change) and her new-found ability to actually boss everyone around for real now instead of just because everyone is terrified of her. She reports that SCDP just had its best quarter ever, so naturally the other partners want to expand! Build! Borg it up! Joan’s less sure, but she still agrees to scope out office space on the floors above them. The men chafe under her obvious superiority to everyone everywhere, and Pete up and leaves in a huff (“We can do that?” says Don with his scotch and toothache). Of course, Pete just wants to get to the hotel on time, screw work.

Beth is waiting for him, and he finds out to his horror that she’s due for a few days of electro-shock therapy at the local hospital, and she wants one more tryst with him in case she forgets ever knowing him afterward. Because she lost quite a bit of memories the last time she had this done. Um. That just might be a warning sign, call her me crazy. He “tries” to be strong against her wiles, but it only takes half a kiss to push him over the edge into wild passion. Like there was ever any doubt.

Megan and a friend from class are scouring the want-ads for acting jobs and bemoaning the lack thereof. She’s extra-annoyed because someone keeps calling the house and then hanging up. Her friend works up the courage to ask Megan if she’ll use her connection to Don to get her an ad audition with a client of the firm. Megan is reluctant to use Don that way, but finally agrees. After all, her friend really, really needs the work. Her friends kisses her on the mouth in thanks, and for a second I hope—I mean, wonder—if they’re going to fall into each others arms, but no such luck.

After the sexy shenanigans, Pete is sadly happy, if you know what I mean. He’s also delusional, thinking that he and Beth obviously love each other, and she’s only crushingly depressed because they can’t be together. It’s like he’s wearing a pair of idiot-coloured glasses that blinds him to every bit of reality, both good and bad, in his actual real life. Beth agrees with me, but lets him think what he wants; what does she care, she’s going to be zapped out of her own awful reality in a few hours.

When Don and his toothache get home from work, Megan tentatively broaches the subject of the commercial with Don—but instead of asking on her friend’s behalf, she asks on her own. That little minx! Don doesn’t miss the chance to rub it in that she gave up the icky ad job to pursue her true artistic endeavours, which admittedly were on the snobby side of crass commercials. She’s sorry she even asked, but they’re interrupted by a call from Megan’s dad wanting to speak to Marie. Megan goes to take a bath, where she promptly break out the ugly cry.

Except! It wasn’t her dad on the phone, it was ROGER! Using a lousy French accent, oui oui. Hee! It was him calling and hanging up throughout the day, hoping Marie would answer. He wants Marie to meet him the next day at his place (which is presently a hotel). Just for conversation, no hanky panky, he swears on his ex-wife’s future grave. She agrees, with the clear and unequivocal understanding that it’s just for conversation, nothing more. God, I hope not.

The next morning Don and his toothache carpool to work, which is bustling with new workers and not really enough room. He’s stunned but not to see Adam the dead half-brother typing away at one of the desks. I think it’s safe to say Adam is officially haunting him. But why now? Don goes to his office where Joan is waiting for him with a cheque from the life insurance policy the company apparently had on Lane, for a cool $175,000. The guilt over Lane’s death is eating Joan up, and getting this blood money didn’t help. Don advises her to stuff all her emotions down into the deepest black part of her soul like he does. Maybe not in those words, but still. He tells her to write a cheque for fifty grand to Lane’s wife to pay back what he put into the company when they started out. Behind the other partners’ back, because breaking the rules rules only applies to Lane, not Don. Urk.

Megan stays in bed the next day, depressed out of her gourd. Marie advises her to look at all the good things in her life instead of the bad but, just like Pete, Megan doesn’t want to do that when she can just go ahead and wallow in her misery. Her mom is practical when she tells Megan to give up on her little girl dreams, but when Megan accuses her mom of settling for a sad little life of broken dreams, her mom calls her an ungrateful bitch. Which is sort of awesome, but probably not recommended in Parenting 101.

Don goes to give the cheque to Lane’s widow. She’s obviously had to sell some stuff to keep afloat, but is keeping a very stiff upper lip in the face of such heart-wrenching grief. Not only is she not grateful for the money Don gives her, she outright accuses the firm of driving him to suicide, what with filling him with unrealistic dreams of success (just like Megan and every other person on this show). Don is flabbergasted and gets up to escape her fury, but she still has time before she slams the door in his face to assure him that he didn’t do this for anyone but himself. And you know, she just might be right.

Pete comes home after his fantasy day of afternoon delight, to his loving wife and sweet baby, who are obviously the cause of all his misery. He can’t be miserable alone, and so rains on their parade until Trudy is barking and the baby is crying and there, that’s how he wants life to be. One where he doesn’t even have to try to make it better, just judge it as wanting so he can escape it as quickly as possible.

Roger and Marie have better luck, as she barely gets her coat off before they’re on the bed making out like teenagers. It might have something to do with what Megan said to her about settling, but apparently Marie has decided to find her happiness where she can get it, and I’m all for it. As is Roger. He’s also been affected by Lane’s suicide even if he doesn’t show it at work, and he asks Marie to take LSD with him, so he can get enlightened (because his wore off, remember) without him having to do it alone. She refuses and tells him not to ask her to take care of him. She’s already raised her kids, and if the men of this show are anything, it’s perpetual children, am I right, ladies? For what it’s worth, Roger still accepts the meaningless sex.

They didn't even have time to take off their shoes.

Don comes home to find Megan plastered and desperate, accusing him of holding her back so he can have a pretty little Stepford Wife waiting for him every night. He won’t even dignify that with a response, and tells her to sleep it off. When Marie comes home Don yells at her for not taking care of Megan, to which she replies, “She’s married to you—that’s your job. She left my house a happy girl.” Marie is sort of my hero, even though she’s poison. Who isn’t in this universe? She tells Don that Megan has the artistic temperament but not the talent, and if he can ease her through her disappointment he’ll have the perfect wife. Which is just so fucked up, but not necessarily untrue. In other news, I think Don has the soul of an artist, but only lets it out in the strict confines of the ad men world. No wonder he’s a mess.

The next day Don goes to the dentist and gets his rotten tooth removed, not a minute too soon. The dentist gives him some gas for the pain, and leaves him in the excellent care of Dead Adam who tells him, “You’re in bad shape, Dick.” His brother graphically reminds Don the he hung himself, too. And why was that, again? Oh yes, because Don couldn’t be bothered to find an ounce of empathy for his situation, just like with Lane. It seems to me that perhaps Don held on to that tooth for so long to punish himself for his sins that can’t be forgiven, by him or by the people he wronged. When Don begs him not to go, his brother says, “Don’t worry, I’ll hang around. Get it?” I’m sure he will, too, for the rest of Don’s life. Good lord, this show is good. And wrenching. And amazing.

Pete goes to visit Beth in the hospital, pretending to be her brother to get in to see her. She’s very happy to see him, which thrills him…until he realizes she has no idea who he is. He sadly tells her he made a mistake and came to the wrong room. When she asks about who he’s visiting there, he tells her about himself as he comes to terms with his life and his broken dreams, that his family was just a “temporary bandage on a permanent wound.” Which is a roundabout way of saying that you can’t love anybody else until you love yourself first, Pete. You’re welcome.

Don goes to the movies to clear his thoughts, and who else is doing the same thing but Peggy. They’re so obviously thrilled to see each other it’s like they’re life jackets for each other. He tells her he’s proud of her, but he just didn’t know her success would be without him. Ah, I like this honesty. It suits him. She tells him she’s going on a plane for the first time to tour a tobacco factory, and she’s pretty stoked about it. “Give my love to Megan,” she says as the lights go down. “We should all get together.” He agrees, like he could actually have a normal life where people get together and like each other. Peggy is probably thinking she’s on Breaking Bad The Walking Dead The Killing. Never mind, as long as she’s on AMC there’ll be no normal happy life for her!

Pete’s on the train, and when Beth’s husband Howard tells him they should go get into some trouble, Pete is so revolted he blows his cover and lets Howard know that Pete knows Beth is in the hospital. They get into an awesome fistfight, and when the train conductor breaks it up Pete gets into a fistfight with HIM. Poor Pete’s face has had a hard time of it this season. For all of you who hate Pete, mazel tov. The really sad part is that Pete’s done everything to his wife that Howard did to Beth. He just didn’t enjoy it as much.

And just because he totally doesn’t deserve it, Pete goes home where Trudy is waiting for him, shocked and upset when she sees that he’s hurt (from a car accident, of course—he should ask for his money back from those driving lessons). She showers him with concern and love, and tells him he absolutely has to get an apartment in the city after all. Yes, Pete will get to eat his cake and have it too, all the while complaining about how awful it tastes.

So, it seems Don bit the bullet and helped Megan get an audition after all, because Don has Megan’s audition reel, in which she’s pretty and young and faking her happiness so well, just like everybody else he knows. It’s a testament to John Hamm that we watch him wordlessly fall out of love with her as he realizes that she can’t save him. Nobody can, except himself, and he’s likely not up to that job.

The sky's the limit

Joan shows everyone the new office space they’re going to get, and Pete is already bragging about how his new office is going to be just as nice as Don’s. Maybe that will make him happy, what do you think? The future is bright for this group…at least that’s how it seems for anyone looking in from the outside. Never mind that Roger has to find his enlightenment by himself and buck naked, and Peggy has a view of two fornicating dogs from the motel on her first business trip. It’s the image that counts.

I told you so!

Good news! Megan got the commercial part, and now she’s happy and loves Don again after all, at least until she needs him to save her the next time. I guess selling her soul to the devil wasn’t as hard as she thought it might be. While she gets prepped for her shot, Don walks off the set, away from her, into the darkness and beyond.

Beyond being, of course, a bar, where he’s quickly approached by two lovely women who want to know if he’s alone. Alone? Don Draper? Alone in the cell he’s made for himself in his desolate heart, trapped by his own overwhelming guilt and shame? Or alone and available for a hot threesome and damn the new wife? He slowly smiles at them…and we’re going to have to wait until next season for his answer.

What an amazing season of Mad Men this was! Thank you so much for watching along with me, and we’ll see you next season, which will probably be around the same time Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth get a divorce. i.e. about a year and a half.

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  • Sally R

    I need to go back and look at the actresses again, but was the girl in the bar at the end the same girl who asked Megan to get her the commercial? They were similar enough that I wondered, but I was too tired and lazy to find out.

    Don and Peggy hanging out together forever! I adore the relationship between the two of them, that they’re connected in a way that is not (and never will be we hope) sexual.

    Naked Roger! And Joan’s glasses rock almost as much as Joan does.

    • I don’t think it was her…now I need to go back and look, too!

      I think Peggy is the only person in the world that Don shows his true self, so it must have been doubly hard to lose her. It makes me happy that Don has platonic friendships with the two most awesome women he knows, Peggy and Joan.

      Naked Roger is looking pretty damn good for a chain-smoking alcoholic, I must say. :0P

      • Sally R

        The more I think about it the less I think it was her. But at the moment I was staring at the screen saying “Is that…? No way!” ;-)

        Don’s relationship with Joan is pretty awesome too, yeah. I loved how he was kind of protective of her in the whole “sleep with the client” episode. And then there was Anna, possibly the only woman he’s really been able to be honest with. It’s too bad he can’t be open and caring about the women he sleeps with.

  • D.L. Singer

    She refuses and tells him not to ask her to take care of him. She’s already raised her kids, and if the men of this show are anything, it’s perpetual children, am I right, ladies?

    Yes, they are! Great recap; I love your insights on how all the men on this show expect their women to take care of them, without ever feeling the need to reciprocate. Megan’s mom is right about all of them.