by MOLLY LAMBERT
Weird things happen when Don goes to California. We all do things on vacation we would never ever do at home. It's one of the main reasons people go on vacation. It doesn't even matter where you go, all that matters is that it's not your home. You can be whoever you want and behave however you like. It can be fun to create some expectations for yourself that people hold you to and then go dash them on the rocks out of nihilism. It can also be terrible! That's part of the fun! It's Russian roulette!
How often do we tell everyone that we would never ever do something and then turn right around and do it? We love contradicting ourselves, if only to prove that we are static beings at heart. There is no promise that can't be broken, no statement that can't be undone, no relationship that can't be ruined with the dreaded cliché "I met someone." No life is so stable it can't come unhinged with one bad snap decision.
Don told Dr. Faye he was going to miss her, but he was lying. Megan told Don she just wanted to fuck, but she was lying. Betty and Don are kind of soulmates because they are both incredibly good at lying, and concealing any remorse they may have from themselves and others. When Don told Betty he was engaged, and he just had to tell her didn't he, she put up a good poker face. Why do people tell you things that are blatantly meant to hurt your feelings like you will be proud of them for being honest?
People love to write big checks they have no idea if they can actually cash. They love to do it because it is fun, because other people love to see you do it, and because it makes you feel super good about yourself that you are the kind of person who can write such a big check. The problems only come later on. Can Don put his money where his mouth is? The chances seem prettyyyyyyy prettyyyyyyy prettyyyyyyyy slim.
People love having secrets because it makes them feel powerful to have information and boundaries on it. Don loves Megan because he doesn't really know anything about her yet. She said as much when they were schnookling. Dr. Faye managed to get in one ice burn during The Worst Phone Call Ever about how Megan should know that Don only likes the beginning of things. True, but who the hell likes middles and ends?
Don Draper and Kenny Powers could not be more alike. In last night's episodes they both overplayed their hands, under the assumption that there was no way they could possibly cross the line from confident into creepy (MISCALC). It took Don's ridiculous engagement to get Peggy and Joan to be friends. Chalk one point up for stunts.
I thought Don said he didn't go in for stunts? Too bad it looks like the Don Draper's Midlife Crisis Stunt Spectacular is just starting and it's bound to be every bit as breathtaking and ball-draining as Jackass 3D. I guess we should know by now that Don says a lot of things but means very few of them. He has terminal narcissism.
The worst among several worsts for Don in this episode was when he told Peggy that Megan reminds him of her. NO DON. The unspoken romantic aspect of your friendship with Peggy only exists if it goes unacknowledged with words. There's an invisible line and you crossed it. You deserve all the side eyes you will be getting from boss bitches.
Recognizing out loud in any way that you would totally fuck her if she were only traditionally hot instead of just smart and awesome and cool is creepy and gross and so very condescending. Peggy's ice burn was that the nicest thing she could think to say about Megan was that she's very beautiful. Don probably took it as a compliment.
Don should know better because this already happened to Roger. I guess nobody even knows how miserable Roger really is with Jane except for Joan (and Roger), because Roger does a lot of emotional work to seem happy-go-lucky in public. Don had to do some emotion work to get into Fun Dad mode, but then he loved it, because Don loves playing a character so he doesn't have to be himself/decide who he is.
All I'm saying is that if Don Draper had seen Sex & The City, a TV show a lot of guys secretly watch the box set of in their dark bachelor apartments after their divorces/bad breakups, he would have seen what happened with Big and Natasha and he would know that it's not going to go well or smoothly no matter how awesome the wedding announcement in the NYT looks. And I mean, it will totally look awesome.
Okay so Matt Weiner hates spoilers but he also hates when we guess things like Joan's pregnancy, which I definitely did not believe in, because it seemed too obvious. So that means I was genuinely surprised? So, point Weiner? That said, I really wish Joan had gone through with her abortion because you never get to see TV characters have abortions without some kind of crazy reversal where the fetus lives. Blergh.
Kenny Powers and Don Draper both read strong negs from realistically cautious sex partners as demonstrations of much higher value. Dr. Faye's push for Don to confront his true self was probably spot on, but I mean, it kind of made me want to dump her too. Who wants to deal with your dark places when you can run away to Disneyland?
I went to Disneyland as a kid (I'm an Angeleno) and it remains my referent for everything. I compare all architecture to Disneyland and all experiences to its dark rides. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is a metaphor for existence that ends with a literal drink-soaked descent into hell from which you emerge jarringly back into the daylight world with no real narrative closure. There is no more accurate simulacrum of life.
Have you noticed that every Kanye West album from now until forever is going to be a breakup album? Doesn't it seem like all those dudes on the "Deuces" remix should invest in therapists/blogs? I mean, you jumped on a Chris Brown remix. Look at your choices, guys. Reading Kanye's twitter is like listening to Don blather on to Megan about how she makes him feel. You made a rebel of a careless man's careful Draper!
Natasha VC and I hashed it out during the last of our Sunday night Peggy and Joan close the door in the office and talk shit all night sessions. Natasha's insight was that "Don medicates with women when booze is not around," and she is totally true. Don barely touched the stuff this episode after a long hard slide into The Lost Weekend during the bulk of the season, but he replaced booze with a desire to totally overdo it on the snugglebug tip with Megan. Don's proposal was his best pitch of the season.
We all know that what Don Draper is drunk on is oxytocin, a prescription as valuable as ecstasy. That he doesn't even realize he is totally fucked up on the stuff, bound to sober up eventually, and probably with a hard serotonin murdering comedown, is where the comedy lies. Joan and Peggy and basically every other person on the staff sees this, but Don doesn't see because he is blind drunk. She totally megged him!
We are attracted to people for what they represent, and we always have aspirations that exceed our grasp. That is the crux of the Annie Hall who wants to be in a club that would have you as a member thing, and the motor behind all conquests, both personal and professional. The finish line is always receding into the distance because the horizon is always shifting. Goals are rendered meaningless once achieved.
What you can get is easy/boring. What you can't have is hard/fun. Why bother wiring this into our infrastructures? Because sometimes you actually succeed against all odds? Carla may have been right in theory, but who else thinks Glen Bishop could totally have worn down Sally into making out with him. It's exposure theory, and it often works.
Not that our ambitions even make logical sense most of the time. You would hate Jordan Catalano if he were your actual boyfriend, because he would be terrible to you, but that doesn't make the fantasy of "Jordan Catalano" any less intense. Low risks and easy rewards are just never that satisfying. High risk/high reward/high chance of horrible consequences. Why try unless there's a chance you will die? It's liberating to face death, and one way we cheat it is by making crazy spur of the moment decisions.
Likewise Dr. Faye is chasing a Don that nobody can even prove exists, a responsible Don that is so far purely theoretical. Don is totally kissing the mask with Megan and even she kind of knows he can't possibly be attracted to her yet for the person she really is. But she's young and maybe dumb enough to buy into the fantasy of their future Don is presenting her with, because Don sells fantasies. It's his job and his life.
Faye likes Don because she likes to think she can fix anything. Don likes Megan because she makes him feel powerful and hot and (let's face it) young. Joan likes her husband Dr. Rapist because he makes her feel sexy and wanted and feminine. Roger likes Joan because she makes him feel powerful and hot. That she can make anyone feel powerful and hot is a big part of Joan's whole deal. Joan is a kingmaker and she gets off on it. Ken Cosgrove and Peggy Olson remain my secret/obvious OTP.
Megan is fine but she is also the worst. It is every woman's nightmare that her ex that got away's next girlfriend will be an Anthropologie catalogue. She sings in French! If she were in 2010 she'd have bangs and live in a twee teepee in Brooklyn. Don likes her fucked up teeth because everyone likes a cute flaw on an otherwise physically perfect woman! Just like everyone likes a fucked up personality in a physically perfect man!
Since this is the Mad Men finale post I might as well throw in this aside about how Don Draper is the prototypical testosterone-heavy alpha male in terms of looks that women are scientifically supposedly more attracted to while ovulating, while Pete Campbell is the baby-faced boyish more androgynous kind of attractive that women are (again, supposedly) more attracted to during the rest of their cycles. Not that I believe in binaries, and there is a lot of junk science out there, especially about sex.
Peggy's lesbian buddy Joyce bagged the hottest girl, Carolyn James, and she didn't even have to propose. It reminded me of going to see WALL-E at the Sherman Oaks Galleria with my family, where we saw Snoop from The Wire in the parking lot, getting out of a Denali with the hottest chick I have ever seen, who was wearing a The Chronic baby tee. You think Carolyn James cares about your dumb little casting couch Harry? She's dating an artist. Watch Peyton Place and brush up on emotional cues.
In the S&M fashion of season 4, Matt Weiner is punishing us by giving us what we really want. We don't want Don to straighten up and fly right. We chafe against Dr. Faye's desire for Don to grow up just as much as Don does. We want our favorite characters to make the wrong choices, to do the bad things that they know better than to do. We live vicariously through them. It's a way of acknowledging the subversive impulses in our own lives that we all have daily even if we manage to quash them.
I hope you've enjoyed this final edition of Molly Draper's Secret Diary/This Recording's Mad Men reviews. I will be back next season, but your childhood will always be over!
Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. Her favorite ride at Disneyland is the Haunted Mansion tied with Pirates of the Caribbean. Tomorrowland is where OC teen goths hang out. She also tumbls and twitters.
"Transparency is the New Mystery" - Marnie Stern (mp3)
"Nothing Left" - Marnie Stern (mp3)
"For Ash" - Marnie Stern (mp3)