Times are changing. We are on the cusp of 1965 for this third episode, “The Good News.” And what is it? Joan’s off the pill and hoping to be able to start a family with her rapist/husband who will be soon off to Viet Nam and not a moment too soon for me. I can’t stand the sight of Greg. His exit and Joan’s freedom would be good news. Hang on to your diaphragm, Joanie! He’s a loser!
Don’s soon off to Acapulco for New Year’s after a little pep talk from California-lover Harry who’s heard Don’s got a 24-hour layover in LA. He urges Don to go to the Brown Derby and meet “Bill Asher.” Bill Asher the producer of “Bewitched”? Why?? What is up with this bizarre moment? Harry also alludes to someone who runs out of gas, and presumably Don (and we?) know who that is. But I certainly don’t.
Lane’s to spend the holiday in London with his wife. But Allison is still there. And all is back to normal. She’s definitely his best secretary since Peggy or Jane. Too bad he schtupped her. But they seem able to pretend nothing happened. If only we could.
Joan sashays into Lane’s office to offer him the chance of fried chicken from “uptown.” But once he realizes it’s a ruse (or a “roos”) so that she can wangle a couple of days off in January, he becomes angry and refuses to allow it. “Don’t go off and cry about it.” Is this what his wife did? Another example of displaced anger, like Don’s throwing the clients out of the office but not the Francis-squatters in his house?
Don on a plane. A red boatlike convertible driving up the coast, Don at the wheel. He arrives at Anna’s cottage, of course. Not a surprise. I knew his LAyover was to see his old friend who tells him he just needs a “little R&R.”
We meet Anna’s sister Patty who seems to know Dick/Don. With her is her daughter, Anna’s niece Stephanie, a cute co-ed in shorts who’s invited to stay. “I wanted him to meet you,” Anna tells her. “And I know you’ve got grass.” It was one thing when Midge and her pals smoked grass. And even Paul and his college buddy and Smitty (and Peggy!) But even a piano teacher in San Pedro. The times are changing.
Anna tells Don/Dick “the young people are going to save us.” A thought a lot of us had back then. Too bad that didn’t quite work out. But what’s obvious here is Anna’s appeal to Don. He can be himself around her, something he’s not able to do anywhere else. About his divorce he tells her, “I could tell the minute [Betty] saw who I really was she never wanted to look at me again. Which is why I never told her.”
But is that true, Don? Didn’t Betty reject you because your life was a lie? It wasn’t enough to make their marriage a joke with his infidelity but his lack of inauthenticity extended to his entire being.
Anna kindly, if not accurately says, “I’m sorry she broke your heart.” I think it’s safe to say that Don broke hers.
Don/Dick (who is “safer” than some “creep” who might pick her up if she hitches) drives Stephanie back home. She makes an interesting point “Nobody knows what’s wrong with themselves and everyone else can see it right away.” Perhaps that’s why his half-hearted attempt at a pass falls flat. But anyway, she tells him that Anna’s riddled with cancer and doesn’t know and they have no intentions of telling her.
Back at Anna’s, Don spends the night sitting on the sofa. Sleepless in San Pedro. In his skivvies, Don/Dick paints the damaged wall for her. Anna says she’s seen UFOs as she plucks a joint out from under her, making a joke about smoking her dress. Sister Patty implores Don/Dick not to tell Anna the truth. Just go to Acapulco, “there’s nothing for you to do here.”
Don/Dick looks at Anna gravely, announcing that he has to tell her something. Pause. We think he’s going to tell her she has cancer. But no, “I have to go.”
Back at SCDP, Joan plucks pencils out of the ceiling panels and throws roses at Lane. His secretary got the cards mixed up and Joan got his apology to his “Darling” wife while the card addressed to Joan went to London. He’s pretty well toast. And so is his girl. Joan fires her.
Don/Dick returns to NY instead of going to Mexico and has his drunken adventure with Lane complete with a bizarre scene in a restaurant when the Brit stands and holds his steak at his groin and yells something. I completely missed the point of that. Except that I think we have seen the last of his whiny NY-hating wife, thank goodness.
And Joan’s near-hysteria over a cut finger tended to by her rapist-MD-husband. What was the point of that? That Joan doubts his medical skills? Or that Greg is a patronizing jerk who tells her the “Donkey Dick” joke to distract her. He will be Donkey Dick to me from now on. This behavior of hers didn't seem consistent with the woman who tied a tournaquet on the lawn mower guy's leg. What is Matt Weiner up to? Is this a test?
I have to say that this was the least enjoyable episode of Mad Men ever. That viewership has plunged since the high of the premiere is not surprising considering Don’s tracjectory. I will stick with it and hope to be rewarded. But it feels sadly similar to my feelings about The Sopranos, a show with much in common with Mad Men. I adored Sopranos from the beginning and then somewhere, I don’t remember exactly, but it stopped being fun and interesting. We kept being taken on tangents for characters I didn’t care about or for and it was no longer worth it. And I drifted away. I hope that doesn’t happen to my current fave show.
Come back, Don Draper and Joan Holloway! More Peggy! Bring back Sal and Paul and Ken!!