Sunday, May 10, 2015

Going Mad: "Lost Horizons"

If I was lazy or had no love of writing whatsoever, the wrap up of last week's Mad Men would be simply these two screenshots:

Anyone who didn't like Peggy before had to have changed their minds after seeing this episode. Plus, all the rest of us that already adored her were given more reason to keep cheering on her coolness. These images have been bouncing around the internet all week and with good reason, because those moments alone will make this episode go down in the television hall of fame.

Although, as badass and carefree as those scenes were, they sadly don't sum up every characters experience in this episode. We would have hoped that all of our friends at the now defunct SC&P, would still be thriving, but not everyone is taking the new office by storm like Peggy did.

Well, with the exception of Ted and Pete, who, based on the previous episode, had already made it clear that they were more accepting than the rest about joining McCann Erickson. Let's just say, they fit right into the crowd.

This episode then fell on the shoulders of four of the main players - Joan, Roger, Peggy, and Don - where each one of them had very different stories to tell in "Lost Horizons".

Let's first start with the most frustrating tale, which belonged to Joan Holloway. 

In the previous episode, it was easy to tell that Joan was becoming worried about her new position. She was taken very seriously at SC&P, but who's to say about her treatment at this large corporation. Well, the run in she and Peggy had with those stereotypical "bros" in the fist episode this season was definitely foreshadowing to her future.

At first it looked like everything was going to work out grand for Joan - the female copy writers [Peggy ain't the only one now!], all smiles, instantly tried to brown-nose their way onto her accounts, she had her own office, and she still controlled all of the business that she had personally maintained at SC&P!

Quickly though, it is made clear that in the advertising world SC&P was Shangri-La, and now after being dragged into reality, Joan slammed into that glass ceiling, which forced her down a couple floors.

In general, the new office just doesn't give off good vibes either. Everything just feels a tad off putting. The hallways are tight and dark and the people are extremely fake. Once Joan started dealing with her coworkers up close, people really showed off their true colors and everything became rather hellish.

"To help with her transition" into the company, a very unprofessional man was set up to help with Joan's accounts. He quickly made an ass of himself and her by not studying up on her notes about the clients, and while on a call with one of these people (who is in a wheelchair), asked if he liked to play golf.

Instead of apologizing to Joan for hurting one of her clients, he instead sassed,  "I thought you would be fun". Oh, because women can't be professional AND fun. I really don't know how women put up with his garbage.

In this case, Joan tried to stand up for herself and went to ask one of the higher ups, Ferg, for help. Let's put it this way, Ferg was only worse. We should have known just based on his terrible impression of Don. He did the typical creep move, like hinting they should take a trip together to visit the client and "fix the relationship" that may have been hurt by that phone call. What, he just wanted to get to know Joan - what's the harm in that? Thank God Joan wasn't born yesterday. She already sacrificed enough to get where she was in her profession and didn't want to take this treatment any more.

As she was extremely over these guys, Joan went to the top. Surely the big boss, Jim Hobart, would help her, right? What ensued was the standoff of the century and a proud moment for Joan, and all the female characters on the show.

The conversation started off civil, but when it was clear that Hobart only cared about defending his male employees, Joan started to lay down the law, even threatening to contact the ACLU and file a lawsuit. Herb  got angry and admitted he didn't care about losing her accounts or if she was part of the company at all.. Here's the thing - under her contract, Joan is still owed a large chunk of dough and she was not going down without it. She earned it! If only it were that easy. Hobart only offered her part of the money and then angrly told her to get out of his office.

Anyone, like me, who has been rooting for Joan this whole series, had to be disappointed by this outcome. She came so far, and then ended up getting shot down anyway. It is very upsetting, but probably very true to the way things worked out for many women most of the time. Joan at first didn't want to take the money and was going to insist on collecting all of it, or nothing. Only Roger convinced her to take the offer and run. It doesn't feel fair, but if she pushed any more and it went to trial, she probably would have lost everything.

Joan loved her job, so this really felt terrible. Hopefully though, before the end of the series, Joan will be established at a job that respects her talents once again. She's too smart and good at what she does to end up jetting off with that new beau of hers and just spend the rest of her life as a decorative piece on the arm of a dude.

While Joan jumped right into the new office only to fail, Roger (her closest confident) was feeling nostalgic and hanging around the offices at SC&P as long as he could. He's the captain and he will go down with his ship! The old office was looking a wreck - the main lights were shut off, cables and wires were hanging out of the ceiling, papers were thrown all over the floor, and (almost) all of the furniture was gone. The only ones left were Peggy (whose office at McCann wasn't set up yet and was busy being annoyed about being mistaken for a secretary), Roger, and a couple of the people who didn't get hired on at the new place.

Roger decided to use his time wisely, like scare Peggy. At one point, Peggy thought the office was empty, but instead was lured into a different part of the office by ghostly sounding organ music. The Phantom Of SC&P turned out to be Roger, but the big question here - why did they have an organ? It's a great question, but who cares, because it was a terrific, very weird addition to the episode.

It is entertaining whenever Roger and Peggy, the essence of opposites, are teamed up in scenes together. It was rare, but he, on occasion, had asked her to do crazy things, and she would always sass him back, never taking him too seriously even though he was the head honcho. Now, as they became the last members in the office, these two decided to do what everyone always did - drink. Pulling his usual tricks, Roger practically begged Peggy to run out to buy them booze. She refused to run his errands, but it turned out that she had a rogue bottle of Vermouth - they were set.

Just like the last day of school, Peggy and Roger spent much of this time reminiscing about how good they had it with SC&P. There was also a lot of stress during their tenure, but they both agreed that they definitely were going to miss the moment in time that was now being left behind. Peggy actually acted quite bitter towards Roger. She asked him why he didn't protect them all better and sold off the majority of the company. Now look what that got them!

Roger acknowledged that it was a mistake and now he must deal with being treated as an aging gentleman in a big corporation, hilariously quipping that his office was located, "on the retirement floor". Even with the tad bite of melancholy, all of their moments together in this episode are awfully sweet and a terrific farewell to the office and everything we have known as Mad Men up to this point. It felt nice to see some of the characters linger on the past and not just rush ahead.

While Roger lamented about watching his name being removed from the walls, without skipping a beat, Peggy smiled and said that she hoped to get her name on a wall someday. I think she will. And here we are folks - confronted with the past and future. But Roger isn't going down just yet - cue their last night in the office. This time there is no work to be done, just Roger at the organ and Peggy roller skating around him. Drunk and content - setting out and prepared for their next adventure.

Where Joan ran into lots of frustration and terrible treatment this episode, Peggy was able to charge ahead, and continued on her streak of strong self confidence to be the beacon of hope and progress. All pumped up after a night with Roger, lead to Peggy's ultimate bad-ass entrance to her new job - ciggie dangling out of her mouth, sunglasses shielding the pain of a hangover, and not a care in the world. That famous flight attendant guy knew how to quit, but Peggy just set the standard for how to show up on your first day of work. Please tell me someone has set this slow motion scene to some rad song by now.

These three characters were struggling and coming to acceptance about their work life, but Don, as usual, was not just questioning the job, but life in general.

Just like things were originally looking up for Joan, Don initially gave a convincing impression that he too would make an easy transition. He showed up in the big boss man's office (aka sexist jerk Jim Hobart) and with a big smile, pitched himself as a new man: "I'm Don Draper from McCann Erickson." Hobart looked like a giddy child, clapping over Don finally uttering those words, and admitted Don was his white whale - he finally caught him!

What have they gotten themselves in to? Did they just sign a contract with the devil. I think so.

All this splendor of nabbing the top dog in advertsing didn't last long. Budweiser was coming in for a pitch and Don was told to go to the meeting. He was the creative director at SC&P, but now at a huge company, there isn't just one, but probably a hundred. The Budweiser meeting was in a boardroom filled with men like Don, and apparently, that was not even the whole group who held that position.

Already flabbergasted by his state of near insignificance - I mean how many more creative directors did they really need? - he instantly got bored with the meeting. He instead looked out the window and watched a plane fly around the empire state building. To me calling to an image of King Kong, but that doesn't really make sense here. It instead seemed to mirror a scene earlier on in the episode.

When Don first walked into his new office, he was alerted from his secretary/current interior decorator, Meredith, that one of the windows was not sealed tightly. He came close to the window, with the whistling of the wind coming through the panes, as if nature was beckoning him outside. Anytime Don gets close to a window it references the show's opening credits. Even though it is continually denied, I live in fear that the writers will actually decide to do that to his character. I know, I know, stupid, because they just can't do it! They can't! I will lose it if Don actually jumps out a window. Would that be a new form of jumping the shark? The image of falling and his escaping the advertising world is better as a metaphor anyway and his desire for freedom only intensives in the next scenes.

Back to the meeting. After looking out the window for awhile, Don just decided to peace out. No one, except Ted (who has worked himself into the machine already), even noticed he left.

So, where was he off to? First stop was Betty's. Don went inquiring about his sons who turned out to not be home. Things in the show and Don's life really are getting wrapped up. Even Betty seemed to have forgiven him. They had a pleasant chat, that ended up involving a neck massage. They are entirely civil and actually seem to enjoy each others company. This scene instantly felt like a farewell and combined with his peering longingly out widows, very much created a sense of dread, and left us all wondering what the heck he was up to.

Apparently, taking a cue from Jack Kerouac was the plan. Don hopped in his car to start off on an adventure. He was heading west to Racine, Wisconsin (where Diana the waitress is from). Late into the night during a stretch of the drive, the ghost of Bertram Cooper showed up to ride shotgun - this and the roller skates/organ made for quite the surreal episode. They didn't talk about much, mostly just chit-chat and tying in a reference to On The Road, but this Cooper apparition was well timed and seemed to wrap up what Don saw in the first vision of Cooper back at the SC&P office. The first time Cooper did a song and dance that was focused on pleading with Don to understand the important things in life and now he showed up again once Don was out trying to experience that exact advice.

Once he got to Racine, Don pulled up in front of  house, and knocked on the door. With Budweiser on the mind, he pitched himself to the woman who answered the door as a man delivering the grand news of a prize! Someone in that house was the lucky winner of a brand new fridge full of beer.

It was obvious what he was trying to pull. This was Diana's house, but now her husband has gotten remarried and the woman who answered the door was his new wife. Smartly (or crazily - however you want to take this stalker-esque moment), he said Diana was the contest winner and he needed to know where she lives now so he can deliver the prize.  This lady told him that Diana wasn't there, but he can come inside and wait for her husband.

The daughter Diana left was inside - very creepily standing on some stairs behind the door [between this shot and the organ music, I can see Matthew Weiner making an eerie movie] - making this sad storyline even more real.

When Diana's ex husband showed up, he instantly knew Don was a fake and told him to get out of the house. The man stopped Don before he drove away and we found out that Don wasn't the only guy who had been trying to find Diana. This all just seems odd. I mean she seems nice and all, but what kind of pull does she hold over all these men?

The episode ended with Don driving even farther away from New York. He picked up a hitchhiker (who, allegedly, could be an allusion to Bob Dylan) that needed to go to Minnesota. Don, with no real sense of urgency to return to the job (it's okay, Jim Hobart just think he's on a bender, because that's a sensible reason to miss work...), said that sure, he could go that way.

With the sun shining and open mid western fields surrounding them, two strangers drove off down an empty highway, literally toward the horizon. I wouldn't say Don is lost, but he's definitely looking.

Based the always vague and terrific "coming attractions", I think I remember seeing Don in a suit. So, either he stays MIA on the road and still looks sharp, or he is back in NYC by the next episode. While some of the characters are now settled, and one in particular had a huge loss in their direction in life, there is still quite a lot to be determined.

We've only got two more episodes to find out where everyone will end up, or if Don and Joan will still be off wandering.

Until next time. 

Once again, my scatterbrained initial thoughts of the episode:

Ferg is terrible at don impressions
Wind whistling through window allusion to falling out??
Everyone at McCann is a suck up. Just trying to get on Joan's accounts.
Don is their white whale. Seems at first to really buy into their deal. I'm Don Draper from MCcann Erickson.
Meredith meeting don at the front if the office so he doesn't get lost. Calls her honey: does she think they're married?
Joan is working with a dummy guy who thought she would be fun when he is the ass who asked a guy in a wheelchair if he played golf.
Peggy wants an office!! Will be reached at sc&p until then.
Meredith is don's decorator
Peggy walked into the falling down office building. They turned the lights off
This new place is too formal and lame
Don walked into a whole board room of creative directors
Light beer meeting
Don looking out the window, plane over the empire state building. Then he just walks out. Is the sky open opportunity to come?
Ferg is also a creep!!! Joan deserves way more respect than this. Those dudes Peggy and her met with earlier in the season were actually quite the forshadowing. They need to keep those accounts otherwise what would she do? Jerk jerk jerk.
Don and Betty are civil. He gave her a shoulder rub. They seem happy.
Don driving to Wisconsin ghost of copper sitting shotgun. Reminding him more about best things in life are free. Talk about on the road.
Ghosty roger sterling playing an organ...why did they have an organ????
Peggy is moving to mccan.
Her and Roger have a moment where they reminisce about how good they had it. Peggy seems bitter that roger didn't protect them all better. Peggy hopes she too gets to have her name on a wall. The past and future. Rogers new office is on the retirement floor.
Don fridge salesman in Wisconsin.
Joan is laying down the law! I feel so bad for her. what these women had to put up with.ANGRY!
Then cut to another lady having the time of her life. Peggy roller skating with roger playing the organ. Then Badassing herself into the office, with a ciggie and that painting. She is the bestttttt.
Roger tells Joan to take the money and run! Noooo
Don is definitely jack keraouc.
All the stuff with him was about being out on nature. Sun, wind, the sky overlooking the office building.
Lost horizons. Don driving off in to the middle of nowhere.

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