I think a better title for this episode would have been, “Don and Lane’s Excellent New Years Adventure.” That segment last night was hands down the funniest seven minutes or so of Mad Men in this viewer’s opinion and was a brilliant addition to an already terrific season of Mad Men.
But we will get to that in a bit as we first have to travel into the world of Dick Whitman. Don’s real persona is brought out again this week and per usual the episode soars when Don becomes Dick. Don is off to Acapulco for New Year’s but he decides to stop over at Anna Draper’s house for a night before heading to the beach. God is Don happy when he just gets to be “himself”. Anna’s sister stops by to check on her injured sis, Anna’s leg is broken, and Anna convinces her niece, Stephanie, to come out with Don and her that night to celebrate. Stephanie is college student at Berkley and Don gives her crap for being a bit of a hippy but the two connect and we get our wheels turning on where Don is going to try and go. And sure enough he tries to reel her in, with little success again, but Stephanie has a couple things to say to Don instead.
“Nobody can see what’s wrong with themselves. And everyone else can see it right away.” Stephanie utters this line while Don drives her home and it is a loaded quote. We find out shortly that she is mostly alluding to Anna who unknowingly has terminal cancer, but that comment perfectly describes Don Draper right now. His co-workers see that he is a drunk, all of the women he tries to pick up see right through him, and Don sits back and is more or less oblivious to it all. The camera lingers on Don for a moment here and I hope this is the beginning of the turn around for Mr. Draper (after one last hurrah with Lane that is).
But back to Anna, the cancer is in her bones and she is done for. But her sister has chosen not to share this info with Anna and let her pass as happily as possible till the end. Don is of course furious as he loves and owes Anna his life and as her mortality sets in Don is filled with sorrow as the last person who truly loves him is about to be no more. Watching Don struggle with Anna’s sister over telling her about her sickness and then sadly agree to move on was one of his most poignant moments and it was terribly sad watching Don walk out Anna’s door knowing his kids won’t get to finally meet her at Easter.
Don decides to skip Acapulco and instead heads back into the office on New Years Day where a sullen Lane Pryce sits around the empty halls. Having just been more or less dumped by his wife, Lane, has nothing else left in his life besides SCDP and, like Don, the office is the only place he really knows anymore. Sharing a drink from Lane’s birthday present from his father, Don and Lane end up getting bombed alone in their respective offices before joining forces in a night of debauchery.
The following sequence is the “Excellent Adventure” I reference above and was the highlight of the season so far. The pair head off to the theater to catch a Japanese monster flick, Gamera (thanks @PattonOswalt), in which the two dissect the number of hand jobs being given in the theater at the moment and Lane puts on an excellent impersonation of the Japanese civilians running around in terror as he rudely brushes off a mother and her child. At dinner Lane drives home that he loves NY and proceeds to show off his meat for the entire restaurant to see. Excellent audio segway here as well as the next scene’s applause plays over Lane’s hilarious outburst making me think the patrons of the restaurant were applauding his Texas belt buckle for a moment. The fun didn’t end there as Don gets his favorite “lady friend” to bring a friend and Don and Lane wake up the next morning in Don’s apartment oddly at peace with themselves after their night on the town. Let’s just hope Lane doesn’t join Don in his tailspin of self pity.
It is now 1965 at SCDP and one has to wonder where we are off to from here.
Some notes on the rest of the episode:
-Sterling looked really grumpy at that conference table at the end of the episode
-The TV guy, what’s his name, Harry Crane, continues to be admonished at every turn and I have to imagine he is on his way out sooner rather than later. Not a good sign when it is the fourth season and I still can’t remember his name, though I think that is the point of the character.
-Joan has had two abortions we find out and has gotten the green light to start a family with her hubby
-Joan had a couple good scenes this week showing great chemistry with her husband, he is nice enough and they are cute enough for me to almost forget he raped her in season 2
-The best Joan scene though was a tiff with Lane over flowers and watching the two completely forget about their differences to strip down and fire Lane’s secretary was a great moment of power for both of them
-I can’t stress how nice it was to see Don happy again in California and I am worried and hopeful at the potential of Anna’s demise. It is going to either get him back on track or far deeper into the hole he keeps digging himself into
-Don and Lane’s adventure seemed to be cathartic for the both of them and let’s hope they move in the right direction in their lives in 1965.
-Will Don’s date in the opener reappear like she predicted after the New Year?
-Allison and Don have seemed too moved past their sexual mishap after the Christmas party and I am for one glad to see that Allison will stick around.
-Joan’s husband keeps getting closer and closer to his presumed death when he inevitably ships off to Vietnam in the not too distant future.
-“Does Howdy Doody have a wooden dick?” best line in years on TV.
And that is about all I got for now. Next week looks to be a Pete episode and I can not wait. Lots of no shows this week, lets hope those friendly faces come back from vacation.