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The Best Mad Men Recap Reader Comments: ‘A Tale of Two Cities’

Photo: AMC

In this week’s Mad Men recap, Matt Zoller Seitz called Don and Roger’s California escapade “a lament for the stillbirth of the counter culture.” He avoided dissecting Don’s hash-fueled almost-drowning, and focused instead on the “transmogrification” of the other coast. Readers had much to add. Here’s what you had to say about “The Tale of Two Cities.”

You made note of metaphors …

* “What was with all the water metaphors last night? Joan didn’t want to get pushed off the diving board, Peggy was carried into the deep end of the pool by Don, Don actually falls into a pool and drowns? Everyone’s in the water, but nobody’s getting clean.” — Commenter kth818

… partnerships …

* “I thought the fact that Ted and Cutler embraced when Ted came back with a win from Chevy was fascinating. Can you imagine Don and Roger ever hugging after a successful pitch?  The relationships are so different.” — Commenter buttersworth

… guys named Jack …

* “I liked how at the beginning of the episode, the partners joked that everyone at Chevy is named Jack. Then when Don and Roger went to meet with Carnation, they met with a guy also named Jack.” — Commenter tinmanic

… and costume choices.

* “Roger’s outfit at the party reminded me of Ted Knight from Caddyshack.” — Commenter derekmaddog

You discussed the plight of the powerful woman …

* “‘Joan’s skeptical reaction to Peggy’s insistence that she never slept with Don suggests that this entire time, Joan assumed that she did.’ I read her look at Peggy as showing her being taken aback that even Peggy, her female colleague, would imply that Joan only got to the top by sleeping her way there (“I never slept with Don,” emphasis on the I). Joan expects this from her male colleagues, but from Peggy it’s particularly disappointing — hence, her surprise.” — Commenter adara

* “Just the way Hendricks neatly sat in the conference room, posture perfect, wholly composed, taking a beatdown from the two (standing) men, and with her eyes tearing up — you could see her willing herself not to cry, but her body was betraying her — that scene alone is worth a nomination. (As a woman who has clawed her way up in a male-dominated industry, I was brought back to all those confrontational meetings where I thought, “no, don’t cry, for god’s sake!” and yet …)” — Commenter swift_ny

* “Actually, I wonder if Joan is shaping up to be a new breed of agency creature — the account planner. When she said that she is in charge of ‘thinking of things before people know they need them,’ that’s basically what a planner does. The account exec represents the client, the creatives represent the idea, the planner reflects the consumer. JWT started a planning department in the late 60s’. So it’s possible that Joan is creating a new role for herself the way Harry created a TV department.” — Commenter copydrone

… while managing to intelligently defend Pete Campbell …

* “I think people are too quick to judge Pete because he is a slimy character and not the smoothest of operators, but he is arguably the best man, business-wise, working for the agency who also happens to be ahead of the curve, only no one listens to him. All the way back in one of the early seasons it was Pete who embraced and suggested the idea of the agency advertising to African Americans specifically. No one signed on to what would become and still is a very clear advertising demographic. The way he handled the Joan situation, while cruel perhaps, was the most honest and dare I say, progressive, of any of the men on the show. He treated Joan like an equal in as much as he generally is willing to use anyone for personal and professional gain. No bs paternalistic posturing from Pete. He presented her with a choice, negotiated the terms, and let her do as she wished. Of course moments like this seem undercut by his attempt to steal away Avon, but I don’t think that was because Joan is a woman, but simply because he views himself as the account man and he would’ve done that to anyone else as well.” — Commenter BambooLounge

… and wondering if we ought to start worrying about Ginsberg. 

* Ginsberg is the ticking time bomb in the office, not Bob Benson. I am not the first to note that he has become increasingly unstable this season, seemingly less and less comfortable with normal social interaction. I think this may be deliberate foreshadowing. The fight with Gleason was illuminating in several ways; first, Ginsberg should have known better than to have it at all. It was completely out of line and unprofessional, more evidence that Ginsberg’s grip on normalcy, however slight it may have been to start with, is slipping. Second, it makes us aware of his political passion and his disgust with “the establishment”. Lastly, it makes him question himself because as Gleason points out, he has been cashing those checks from Dow. Later during his near breakdown before the Manischewitz meeting, I don’t think he was saying random throwaway nonsense lines — “I’m a pig, I’m part of the problem” and especially “I can’t turn off the transmissions to do harm” — are not boding well for me. He wasn’t anxious about the pitch, as Bob Benson understandably assumed. He is in the middle of his own existential crisis, and just may be grappling with the onset of severe psychosis. Early-to-mid-twenties is a common time in one’s life for this to happen.” — Commenter lmb03f

You made observations that mostly spell doom for Don …

* “SC&P = SCDP minus the ‘D’” — Commenter KalindaFan

* “Did anyone else notice when Don was kissing the blonde woman at the party, she calls him ‘Don’ and he says ‘I told you that’s not my name’ — do you think there’s any significance to this? Might he have told someone something he shouldn’t while he was blacked out?” — Commenter balenciagamos

* “So to wrap up, Cutler and Chaough slyly seized power at SC&P while Don and Roger wandered off and got absolutely nothing done, completely oblivious to the systemic changes afoot in their agency. Draper’s name is off the door. How much longer until Don’s out of the company? Don might have listened to Pete if Pete wasn’t prone to regular histrionics.” — Commenter HollowayNotHarris

* “About the extra nipple: so much of this season has revolved around Dan being abruptly cut from his mother. I think the “extra nipple” might be part of this, too. Obviously there is a sexual connotation to nipples, but there is also the breastfeeding/nourishment connotation too. That Don was never breastfed — his mother died giving birth to him — and that he was offered an “extra” one seems to add to the lost-boy-without-his-mother theme that’s been playing out this season.” — Commenter jenninyc

* “I was really struck by what P.F.C. Dinkins said to Don: “My wife thinks I’m MIA, but I’m really dead.” This is what exactly what happened with the real Don Draper. As far as the army was concerned, Don Draper lived and Dick Whitman died — so even though her husband never came home, Anna was told he was still alive. She didn’t know for sure what had really happened to her husband until she tracked down Don/Dick.” — Commenter artgal987

* “I think Don/Dick went out to the pool after he expressed thirst and his hostess said “There’s water in the pool.” The hallucinations were what he saw in his near-death experience after falling into the water.” — Commenter CrunchyFrog

… and found plenty of evidence that Megan’s fate is sealed. 

* “MZS — Really? No mention of the fact that half of us entered this episode half-convinced that Megan might be murdered sometime this season? To not mention it at all seems a little too deliberate … seems like the elephant in the room to me. And although they say, “If you’re thinking of purple cars, you will see a purple car”, I think there were a couple things in the episode that might end up pointing to the theory of Megan Draper = Sharon Tate. Megan is (maybe/probably) pregnant, and there’s the notion of her being out in California. Her overdone hippie chic, her allusion to communes (“we share everything out here, don’t we?”) just kept me thinking about the theory. Also, during her conversation with Don on the phone, her clothing and the room were lit even darker than we usually see them. I just smell death for poor Megan — she dies, Don drowns (metaphorically), etc.” — Commenter Hendoism

* “Am I the only one here who thinks that Megan may be already dead? I took that whole Don coming on to blonde, then seeing Megan, then seeing the dead soldier as the dream/nightmare he’s having while fighting for his life after near-drowning. Megan’s hair looks wet — like she had been in the pool of death. And she refers to the baby — who is already dead … everyone in that hallucination could have been dead … Yes I have totally bought into this theory — especially given how Sharon Tate-esque that party scene felt … ” — Commenter StacyPL 

But, most important, you’re hoping everything is being documented in a book by the conspicuously missing Ken Cosgrove.

* “I’ve mentioned it below and I’m gonna say it again: WHY, GOD WHY IS KENNY NEVER AROUND?!” — Commenter PianoPlayer

* “Kenny is keeping busy writing his novel based on everyone … seriously.” — Commenter itsagas

The Best Mad Men Recap Reader Comments