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Worldly Distractions: Mad Men 7.10 - The Forecast


crazyforkate

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blog-joan.jpgjoan

After a couple of strange plot choices, many fans are suggesting that it would be good for Mad Men to go back to the old stalwarts. But do Mad Men fans know what's good for them? Of course not. Let's see what Matthew Weiner is going to confuse us with this week!

Previously on: Peggy and Pima, Roger pitches a cookie ad, Joan rejects Bob Benson, and Sally tells Don she loves him (SALLY'S BACK). Don stands in his empty apartment.

Opening credits, Matthew Weiner co-writes (I'm sure he did for every episode this season).

An unidentified woman who looks like Betty and sounds like Meredith arrives at Don's freakishly empty apartment. She wakes up Don with a sharp call of "Draper!". We learn her name is Melanie. I think she's a realtor. Don refuses to get even some token furniture, though she insists it will make the place less lonely and more sale-able. Clearly, he has already moved on.

Joan gets a late-night phone call from her mother, who is confused by time zones. (I think I should mention that Joanie is on a business trip to L.A.) She speaks with Kevin, who hangs up on her like little children tend to do. Roger has been invited to a corporate retreat in the Bahamas. He can't write speeches on his own, so he wants Don to write him one about the company's future. It needs to rival the Gettysburg address. (And incidentally, he makes a comment which strongly suggests that Don is off the sauce, at least for now.)

Joan goes to see Lou Avery, who apparently got kicked out West in the most recent company kerfuffle. She seems much more interested in chatting up Lou's friendly secretary, though, especially since Lou seems to have no time for her. Back in New York, Peggy demands that Don sign off on the cookie pitch before they present it. Pete supervises. Frankly, the idea is terrible and violates one of Don's many rules of advertising (putting down all the competition rather than promoting their own virtues). The creative peons are sent back to the drawing board.

Lou continues to snub Joan, though Dee the secretary explains that he's off pitching his cartoons (yeah, remember that?) to Hanna-Barbera. Joan is understandably pissed, especially since she's got a client on her hands. Lou arrives with the real client, which confuses Joan, until the original "client" (Bruce Greenwood) explains that he got lost on the way to his dentist and just kind of played along. He takes the opportunity to ask Joan on a date. Surprisingly, she goes for it. Aaand another "episode of strange turns" begins.

Betty is having Sally sign traveller's cheques, which is literally something I have never seen before. She's going on a road trip through twelve states. I assume that since currency's obviously not an issue, this is so Sally doesn't have a huge amount of cash on her? Betty fondly recounts taking a similar trip as a youth, and warns her daughter about the dangers of boys. "Unfortunately, mother," says Sally, "This conversation's a little late... and so am I."

And the snark award for this episode already goes to Thally.

snark

Melanie tells Don that she's having a hard time selling the apartment, as people find its availability suspicious and sad. Yeah, she apparently subscribes to a fair amount of woo. I really think this stretches credibility - who wouldn't jump on this place? Anyway, Don has to make the place less sad somehow or it'll never sell. Yeah, I'm calling bullshit.

Joan has had a successful date with Richard the fake client, and they postcoitally chat about having adventures. Joan keeps trying to get out of his grandiose plans. Especially since he keeps telling ridiculous tales. He asks if she's divorced, like him. "Do you think I'd be doing this if I was married?" she laughs.

Umm...

jroger

He talks about how he was focused on building his career and sticking by his family, and never really had time to enjoy himself. Joan replies that she loves her work, but you can tell she's really not into it.

Don goes to see Ted, which is mostly part of his grand plan to avoid Roger at all costs. Desperate for ideas, he asks him about the company's future. Ted replies that Roger asked him to do the same thing, but he managed to pin it on Don instead. To be fair, all of Ted's ideas are embarrassingly pedestrian. They conclude that, since this is the first time they can really dream beyond keeping the company open, this is an opportunity they don't quite know how to handle.

Richard arrives in New York and calls up Joan for a date, which she gleefully accepts. Hey, even a millionaire needs her thrills. And you guys, this officially marks the appearance of the show's first leisure suit. Cast your eyes upon it and weep.

sam

Pete and Peggy are at loggerheads about the pitch, which apparently went horribly wrong, so they go running to Don. Someone said the fuck word in front of Pete, and the slimeball is outraged. We need a proper Pete story before this is over, you guys, I will accept nothing less. Don delegates and mediates.

Glen Bishop is back ladies and gents! With impressive sideburns and slightly less wooden acting. Much to Sally's disappointment, he also brings his girlfriend Paula. They invite her to come to Playland with them for the day. (Sally also mentions that she's going on a "Teen Tour", which I guess is her trip. Googling it now, but was that actually a thing c. 1970?)

Betty doesn't recognize Glen, and is stunned to find that her daughter has been keeping in touch all these years. Glen's now a college student. Betty reports that she will be soon, too, with no small pride. Betty offers Glen a beer, which he accepts, because I guess we're in that short window when the US didn't have an absurd drinking age. The teens plot to get their hands on some grass as soon as they're out of the Francis mausoleum. As they're about to leave, Glen tells Betty that he has joined the army and will ship out next week. At this news, Sally herself brings out the fuck word. She's stunned that Glen would do this after being against the war for so long. (In fact, I find it a bit baffling, too, especially since he does not appear to have been drafted.) She declares him a murderer and bails on the trip. Betty drily compares her to Jane Fonda and calls Glen a fine young man. They shake hands, Glen being well past his creepy phase at this point. Betty promises to see him when he returns.

...you guys, Glen is totally going to pull a Dick Whitman, right?

One of the young creatives tries to bribe Don with gifts, asking him to come to the meeting where the creative must apologize for interrupting the cookie client. Don tells him to do it himself, and recounts a story of how he screwed up similarly with Lucky Strike and won back their respect. When the young guy (Mathis of sexy brother-in-law fame - dammit, I can hardly keep them straight) is gone, Done looks pensive, as he does roughly 40% of the time.

Joan and Richard go on another date, where we learn that Joan has a pretty screwed-up idea of what constitutes an underdog. She also tries to keep Kevin secret for a while, but fails. This shocks Richard a bit, but he's still game. For now.

Sally tries to track down Glen on the phone, but never manages to connect. Near tears, she pleads with the person on the other end (Paula?) to have him call. Joan goes back to Richard's hotel room, but kills the mood by having to check in with her family. She bribes the young babysitter into staying longer and prepares to have a night of fun. (And I have to say, her outfit looks fantastic.) Once she's back with Richard, he lets her know his displeasure at the situation. To put it bluntly, he doesn't want to take on another child at this point in his life. "I have a plan, which is no plans!" With a heavy sigh, Joan walks out on him.

Peggy has learned from Ted that they have to write their own performance reviews, and goes to complain to Don. He just wants to know what the future of the agency is. Peggy wants Don's job, and then to "create a catchphrase" - or failing that, something of lasting value. She then demands that Don get back to the point. When he laughs at this, she stomps out.

Joan's babysitter runs late, to which she snaps that the babysitter (or is that Kevin?) is ruining her life. Topical moment: Kevin is watching Sesame Street. Meanwhile, Mathis tries to apologize for his transgression, but puts his foot in further. Okay, screw all these other guys, I want a blooper reel of Mathis's Funniest Terrible Pitches.

Meredith seems to think the future will look like the World's Fair. Geez, is Don writing a speech or making a scrapbook? Mathis comes in angry at having failed in his apology. They accuse each other of having no character, Mathis claims Don was a recipient of Lee Garner Jr's interest, attributing his success to his handsomeness,  and it all winds up with Mathis getting fired. And that is why you don't shoot your mouth off.

Richard arrives with apology flowers and declarations that he is a "heel". She calls him out on his crap. He counters that he wants to settle in New York, and be with Joan, with Kevin part of the package. It's all tied up in his desire not to become rigid and old, of course. Stay well away, Joanie. Incidentally, we also learn that Joan has been divorced twice, which is news to me but not terribly surprising. You always knew there was something in that checkered past.

Glen arrives to collect on that beer, well aware that Sally is not home. He's upset that his mother and Sally disapprove of his choices. Betty says they're just scared for him, like she is. After some patriotic rambling, he plants a kiss on her. YES CREEPY GLEN IS BACK LONG LIVE CREEPY GLEN. She protests that she's married and wonders (narcissistic Betty) whether she inspired this sudden Vietnam zeal. Glen tearfully confesses that he's just trying to cover up his flunking out of university. Betty places his hand on her cheek, which is weird as fuck but oddly touching, just as they've always rolled. Callback to season 1, people!

Don takes Sally and her Teen Tour friends out to dinner. They're all diplo-brats and rich kids with impressive dreams. (Calling it now - Sally is going to be a writer, and a cynical one.) Sally's friend clearly has the hots for Don, flirting with him outrageously and getting him to light her cigarette (um, what exactly was parenting about back then?) - even kissing up to him about advertising, which is a godawful boring subject at the best of times. As he's putting them on the bus the next day, Sally calls both him and Betty out for being ridiculously attractive attention whores with no impulse control and a strange attraction to teenagers (right on the nose, kid), and vows to live a different kind of life. Baby Boomer, we got a Baby Boomer here! Don tells her she's more like them than she thinks, and advises her not to try and get by on empty things like looks.

Bobby and Gene run through the house with a machine gun (ooh, subtle) and complain about not being able to watch The Brady Bunch. Betty tosses the toy gun away. Don comes home to find the realtor signing over his apartment to a young couple. "Now we have to find a place for you," she trills, the dialogue way too on point for my liking. Don is left standing around  in his apartment once again as Roberta Flack sings "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face". End credits.

Next week: Don and Pete are grumpy, Joan stands around, Pete has something on his mind, and Roger is getting up to mischief. Simeone has an event that requires congratulations. Judging from how accurate these things are, I'd say next week will be all about sea monsters.

So, yeah, this episode was pretty heavy-handed. There's no getting around that one. But somehow, I do feel it's getting back into its Mad Men groove. We're revisiting the interesting characters, but still allowing room for growth and weirdness (especially weirdness), balancing the old threads nicely. Even with tonight's meh execution, I think this is generally a good approach for whatever they have planned next. Tonight improved over last week, and if it continues like this, I'd say we're safely back on track. And now it's time to go further - which I'm sure they can do with gusto. Until next week!

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