(Note: This is a recap for the 2nd episode of Season 7 of 'Mad Men', originally published for Vintage Fashion at Examiner.com.)
THE LOOK ~ This dress is an up-cycled sari, redesigned to be a lady-like 'hippie' festival frock. Dark blue and floral, the dress fits particularly well with S7E4 –– since Marigold and friends could conveniently (being well within proximity) attend Woodstock, arguably the most influential music festival in our collective history. The gang of hippies will likely want to keep their one (debated) vehicle on the premises, after all.
Considering this fella also insisted the moon landing was faked and a conspiracy (knowing well my own father worked for NASA and helped build an earlier Apollo space shuttle, so I'd have personal interest in the import of that particular work) this person simply liked to push people's buttons; he realized my great interest was in the historical significance of the 1960's –– the lifestyle, the mindset. Needless to say, it wasn't meant to be. Who even has time or energy for button-pushers? Lucky for me, I met 'the right one' immediately following that one.
THE RECAP(S) ~ S7E3 starts with Don at the movies (smoking and watching 'Model Shop') and ends with Jimi Hendrix's 'If 6 Was 9'. It also ends with a punch to the gut (for some viewers) after seeing Don get a relentless whooping from his partners.
In S7E3, both Megan and Don are struggling with not easily getting what they want. They've both experienced enough success in their respective careers to feel worried when their talents are not immediately sought after. Don flies to LA to surprise Megan –– and try and console her and advise her to be more patient (at her agent's request.)
There is a deep level of understanding and love between them, but while Megan is raw from a sense of struggle, her angry reaction to Don's confession about his job is heightened. The normally easy-going Megan might have been irritated, but she would've managed to brush it off. This frustrated version of Megan has a fit and tells Don to go home. She practically asks for a divorce, even. (But not quite.)
We also see Betty and Bobby spend the day together on his school field trip. In cheerfully agreeing to attend the trip, Betty has set out to prove to herself she loves handling her duties as a mother. Bobby beams with pride and joy in her presence. As usual, Bobby is such a painfully sweet child –– he's both heartwarming and heartbreaking to watch. But much like what is about to happen in his father's world, to some extent, the person whose acceptance he values so deeply turns cold to Bobby after he makes one mistake during the picnic. Bobby is terribly sorry for giving away Betty's sandwich to a classmate. He loves his mother and desperately wants to be close to her. But Betty holds a grudge against him for the rest of the day –– and even hours later, she mentions what he did. Poor Bobby. He even tells Henry he wishes it was yesterday. He wishes he could start the day over with his beloved mother, mistake-free.
Don's return to the office the next day turns into one of the most chilling occurrences of the series. Chilling mainly because his colleagues (especially his partners) are so incredibly cold to him. A few are notably compassionate and warm: Ken Cosgrove is very welcoming to Don, and even speaks to him with reverence by telling him that going to the carousel with his kids reminded him of Don, in reference to his game-changing pitch in the first season. Ginsberg is also happy to see Don and immediately invites him to help out with their current pitch.
Don feels eager to roll up his sleeves and get to work, and cheerfully makes small talk. And he waits. He waits for a dreadfully long time. He sits there like a bull in a china shop. When the moment of truth finally comes, the partners sit with Don and treat him like a troubled child by listing off the stipulations for his return. These rules made me uncomfortable to hear or even imagine for Don –– I found myself hoping he'd refuse.
But surprisingly, Don agreed. My next hope with this decision was that Don actually feels so confident and ready to work, he doesn't care what challenges are presented to him. He believes he can handle anything –– even this terribly cold behavior from people he expected to be happy to see him.
Maybe he's so at peace with himself that, as Jimi says: "If the sun refused to shine, I don't mind, I don't mind."
* * * * * *~ S7E4 begins with Pete and Bonnie having dinner and chatting about planning a getaway –– possibly to Palm Springs. (Coincidentally, the photos accompanying this piece were taken this past week in Palm Springs, during our own little getaway.) An interruption (George, who previously worked for Vicks) leads to a possible new account with Burger Chef. Pete also discovers during the conversation that his father-in-law has suffered a stroke.
Don's first official day back that office begins awkwardly due to lack of communication. The entire office had gathered upstairs for a big announcement that a gigantic computer will be soon be joining them. Roger wants a drink, Ginsberg wants the couch, and Don just wants to know what's going on. Sadly, this lack of communication continues throughout the episode to a distressing degree.
The partners gather to discuss Burger Chef without inviting Don, who is now very much present in the office. We viewers were privy to the tough stipulations of Don's return, none of which were that he's not to be invited to partner meetings. Don is mentioned in the meeting as Roger champions for their in-house 'creative genius' to take over the Burger Chef account. Cutler agrees, and that seems to be that. Until Lou (feeling competitive with Don) decides on his own to hand the account to Peggy and to offer her a raise. This seems highly inappropriate, but no one is communicating with Don. The first Don hears about Burger Chef is when Peggy –– awfully smug Peggy –– informs Don he is to work on the account with her as the lead. But Don is a partner, still –– and as Harry points out to the computer guy, Don is also one of three creative directors.
Expectations for upper crust, higher society youths had to have been confusing when their values were being questioned in the midst of young marriage. Margaret has had to worry about her husband's career, and their welfare, but she was not raised to know how to handle anything but frivolity. It all became too much for her at some point, and we've witnessed her slow descent; so when an opportunity presented itself for her to escape what has become a confusing life, via a new way of thinking, she was vulnerable and took the risk. So Margaret's becoming Marigold and living in a commune (heartbreaking, in that she is refusing to take responsibility for her innocent, young child) is not even surprising. In fact, one can easily argue that it's Roger's own fault she ended up there. She had reached out for his help repeatedly, and he refused her every time. But this is also a great look into how the 1960's affected youth who came from money to want to reject everything and escape into a life of simplicity –- particularly those who felt vulnerable and confused, like Margaret.
One also has to wonder how Don's workday might have gone if Roger, his one supportive partner, had been around the office. After Don secretly succumbs to having a few drinks to deal with what has been a hellish day, he calls the one person he's come to trust: Freddy Rumsen. Don then redirects and spews his anger and frustration towards the bewildered computer guy. Don is a guy who needs friendship and understanding at the moment, more than anything, and no one has been caring enough. No one except Freddy, who advises him to get back in there, roll up his sleeves and prove himself by doing the exceptional work for which he's known.
This is exactly what I hoped would happen when Don bravely returned to the agency he helped to create –– head down, delivering the goods, with a new 'bring it' attitude. With nothing to hide now, the partners would be wise to try and see what new level of genius can come forth from this raw individual. It was deeply satisfying to see him resolve to do just this at the end of S7E4. The Hollies' 'On A Carousel' begins to play to close this episode out –– the 'carousel' having been referenced twice now this season. We know it has come to represent not only to Don's game-changing pitch, but also his life. And with that, Don is officially back at work. Cruel partners and competitive attitudes be damned.