|Photo Credit: AMC|
What's the meaning of life? What's really important? What will our legacy be beyond what we do for a living, or is work our entire legacy? Mad Men has been asking these questions (along with many others) in one way or another for the past seven seasons. And for the past seven seasons, the man at the center of all this ennui, has, for the most part, been trying avoid answering them for himself, instead finding temporary comfort in booze, women, or his work, which in part involves distracting people from the aforementioned big questions long enough so they'll buy something.
“The Forecast,” finds Don in a contemplative mood, and he spends much of its hour trying to suss out whether he's the only one thinking beyond the next account or level of professional success. Given recent events—learning of Rachel Katz's death, finalizing his divorce from Megan—and the fact he's not responding to them by going on a self-destructive tear, it makes sense Don would be in this head space (one helped along by Roger pawning off writing a big speech for McCann execs on him). He's selling he and Megan's old apartment, not even bothering to replace the furniture Marie had hauled off and arguing with the Realtor over how to best sell the place.
Being that they're both in the business of selling, and that Don can be pretty damn stubborn, it's not surprising he has his own suggestions about how she handle potential buyers. But while Don pushes her to sell fantasy—the previous owner made a million dollars and left in a hurry to live in a castle is one gem—she punctures it with the dreary facts.
“It looks like a sad person lives here,” she says. “It's a $85,000 fixer upper.” Don typically buries himself in work when his personal life falls to pieces, but with the security provided by the McCann deal, things at the office no longer carry the undercurrent of do or die they once did.
Don says as much while talking shop with Ted, before attempting to change the topic to the future. But Ted's biggest desire at the moment is landing a pharmaceutical account. The conversation goes the same with Peggy, whose sights are all set on professional success—becoming the first female creative director, creating a catchphrase and making something of lasting value. Don asks if that's all, subtly pushing her to confront the other things they both know she desires—a husband and children—which makes her bristle.
“I thought this was about my job, not the meaning of life,” Peggy says, and Don being Don (i.e. his own current obsession blinkering him to others' feelings), puts his foot in his mouth when he doesn't pick up on the shift in her tone and body language, and says those two things are not separate.
“Why don't you write a list of your dreams. So I can dump all over them,” she says before walking out.
His interactions with Johnny Mathis—the fictional SC&P employee, not the singer—don't go much better. Mathis goes to Don to ask him to come to a meeting for he drops an F-bomb in front of their peanut butter cookie client. Don refuses, instead offering advice on how to smooth things over with a story about how he embarrassed himself early in his career at a Lucky Strike meeting. Mathis thanks him and leaves, and is it just me, or does it dawn (no pun intended) on you in that very moment just how far Don is removed from the day in, day out artwork-pitching-meeting cycle of SC&P? Lest Matt Weiner has more tricks up his sleeve, the disastrous Hershey's pitch could've been Don's swan song.
Anyway, Mathis tries to make Don's joke at the meeting, and it bombs, getting him pushed off the business. He confronts Don, blaming him and saying he should have just apologized; Don retorts he should have been better at apologizing, with Mathis countering a guy who looks like Don Draper never has to apologize. A valid point, one we've seen Pete Campbell make in one way or another lo these many years; it's true much of Don's abhorrent behavior has been more readily forgivable, than say, Harry Crane's, because his of looks and charisma. But Mathis is barely on Don's level creatively in his current state, let alone the genius we met back in 1960, and the fact he used Don's joke apology instead creating his own is telling. Lee Garner Jr.'s huge crush on Don notwithstanding (which Roger and Mathis cite as the real reason Don's line went over so well), what Mathis realizes too late is trying to be someone else rarely works. You have to accept the truth about yourself in order to succeed, whether professionally or personally.
It's a lesson Joan had to learn. She's in California to help out at SC&P's Los Angeles office, where Lou's been exiled/transferred. A case of mistaken identity leads to a date with Richard Burghoff, a real estate developer. She takes him back to the hotel afterwards for a good roll in the sheets, but puts off his offer of extending her stay and driving to Malibu. During the pillow talk, Richard reveals he's divorced.
“I built somethings, I built a lot of things. But I put off a lot of things. Now I'm free as a bird,” Richard says of his 22-year marriage. Joan obviously wishes she had the freedom she once wielded back in her steno pool queen bee days, and is anxious for Richard to see her as a single career woman with no baggage. It's probaly why she drops revelations about herself in increments. When Richard pops up in New York, they go on another date, during which she tells him about Kevin. He puts on a happy face about it initially, but his real feelings eventually come out; Richard tells her he's done with that part of his life, and disappointed, she leaves.
“You're ruining my life,” she says to the babysitter Maureen the next morning, a none-too-subtle comment on the ways being a mother is hampering her romantic prospects, since Maureen is holding Kevin when she says it. Richard brings flowers to the office as an apology, and Joan gives the whole truth—that she's living with her mother and twice divorced—and he responds positively, saying he's buying a place in New York and wants her to visit. Hope springs eternal.
Glenn Bishop re-enters the show via a surprise visit to the Francis residence. He still gushes at the sight of Betty, responds in kind and turns flirtatious, an exchange Sally picks up on. Glenn reveals he joined the Army, which angers Sally but earns him respect from Betty. However, like Joan's reluctance to cop to her single motherhood, Glenn hangs his reasons for joining the military on a noble idea--citing the disproportionate number of black kids being sent off to Vietnam compared to white suburbanites like himself—so he can be viewed in a certain way, as a hero rather than the college dropout he really is.
Sally has endure watching her other parent work his seductive magic when Don has dinner with she and her friends before they depart for a cross-country field trip. Sally squirms as Don turn on the charm when one of her friends starts flirting big time; the whole thing carries a extra layer of awkwardness when you consider she's seen the end result of her father's Lothario routine. She calls him on it later, sniping that like Betty, he “oozes” whenever someone shows an interest in them, and vows to become a different person. Don however, lays out a harsh truth: that Sally is like he and Betty, and she'll realize it sooner or later.
“You're a very beautiful girl. It's up to you to be more than that,” he tells her before she boards the bus. Later, he arrives home to find his apartment has sold for the asking price.
“Now we just have to find a place for you,” the Realtor tells him. And with that she closes the door on his old place, leaving him standing in the hallway alone as Roberta Flack's “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” cues ups.
So what's the forecast? Not even Don seems to know the answer.
--According to Roger (who really should hire a ghost writer and put out a second edition of Sterling's Gold), Lee Garner Jr. would require Don to be at every Lucky Strike meeting, and fantasized about jerking him off. I could totally believe that.
--The secretary in Los Angeles says Lou's working on some big—a meeting with Hanna-Barbara—which really sounds like he's taking company time to push his decades-old cartoon ambitions.
--Pete and Peggy spend the episode doing battle over the peanut butter cookie account, and it's worth it just to here Peggy snap at him “You can't fire my men!” when a meeting goes south.
--Meredith: “He's very busy.”
--Peggy: “Stay out of this.” My my, Ms. Olsen, have we forgotten our roots?
--Peggy: “Stay out of this.” My my, Ms. Olsen, have we forgotten our roots?
--Betty on Sally's anti-war stance: “Don't listen to Jane Fonda over here.”