Monday, September 28, 2009

At the Mountains of Madness- Part Seven: "Seven Twenty Three"


For the second time this season, Matt Weiner and co. have gotten all artsy-fartsy on us. Unlike a few weeks ago when we were treated to some trippy, uncharacteristic dream sequences, now we are given glimpses of what will be occurring later in the episode before it even happens.

Our story begins with Peggy waking up in a swanky-looking bedroom next to a mysterious stranger followed by a shot of Betty reclining on a luxurious chaise lounge or some other old-timey piece of furniture. Finally we're brought to Don, face down on the floor of a motel room littered with half empty beer bottles. He rises to reveal what appears to be a broken nose. He goes over to the mirror to get a look at himself and suddenly he's his normal perfect self, going through his daily morning routine. He goes downstairs to find Betty consulting with an interior decorator about an awesome new 1963 makeover for their living room. Wait, what?

What's going on here?

Peggy's situation comes from the problem she's had all season- the goldfish is becoming too big for the bowl. Where she once was a humble secretary from Brooklyn, now she's a happening copywriter from Manhattan and she expects more from her life. We're very well aware that Peggy is feeling ignored and unappreciated at Sterling Cooper and when Duck keeps calling with fancy gifts and job offers, we'd imagine that all things considered, she'd still stay loyal, right? Well, don't believe the hype, Peggy's getting closer to defecting to Grey with every episode and she takes her biggest step so far tonight. Following advice from Pete that she should send an expensive scarf Duck sent her back, the man named for a water fowl invites her to his hotel room to return it in person. It sounds like a terrible idea until Don rebuffs Peggy's attempts to get on the Hilton account (more on that later). Feeling that much more vulnerable after such a blow to her self esteem, Peggy opts to accept Duck's invitation. After all, what's the worst that could happen? Well, sex, and it happens. Duck is able to seduce Peggy into bed with the kind if talk we didn't think he was capable of, promising to undress her with his teeth(!) and give her "a go-around like [she's] never had". While it may be a one-time thing (maybe) the affair represents a big move toward Grey, Duck's new firm. Will Peggy stay with S-C or will she turn traitor? Maybe Pete can pull her back from the edge, hmm?

Betty's couch story also leaves possible plot threads open for the future. The Ossining chapter of the Junior League is upset at a big water tank being put in on the Hudson, obscuring some scenic hiking country. It turns out that the new chapter secretary, one Mrs. Elizabeth Draper, might know someone at the governor's office. Remember the Touch-of-Grey belly-toucher from the country club a few weeks back? Well his name is Henry Francis and of course it turned out he's an advisor to Governor Rockefeller and he might just have the political clout to keep the tank from being built. He and Betty agree to meet at his favorite local bakery (he's an Ossining native, you see) for a chat. Turns out, the tank's already under construction, he just wanted to meet again. He has to be in Albany by the afternoon, but they agree to take a hike together sometime in the future. Before they part ways, Henry introduces Betty to the concept of a fainting couch, a piece of furniture that dainty Victorian housewives would lay down on when the pressure of wearing a corset took its toll. Sounds right up Betty's alley, no? She eventually buys the couch featured in the antique store window which they spied on the way out of the bakery and places in front of the fireplace in the newly-redecorated living room. Great, just great. What's going to happen on that couch in the future, I wonder?

Don comes off as especially powerless this week, which is of course unusual for the all-American pater familias we know him as. Conrad "Connie" Hilton comes calling and asks Don to handle the advertising for his New York hotels, which is what Don has been gunning for since he figured out who he was last week. Everything looks great for Don until it turns out that Connie's lawyers want a contract, which is something Don doesn't like signing .You see, Don doesn't like being tied down, and what with his propensity to cheat on his beautiful wife, I'd say that's pretty obvious. With his cheating he's able to escape his home life and without a contract he isn't tied down at work either. Don has absolute freedom. Though he fights it for a while, things keep going downhill for the ad man formerly known as Dick Whitman. At a father-daughter eclipse-viewing event, Don again encounters Ms. Farrell, Sally's teacher who definitely has the hots for him. When he tries to strike up some innocent conversation about summer vacation plans, Ms. Farrell accuses him of hitting on her just like all the other dads. Don is somewhat taken aback by this because while yes, he certainly would like to play teacher's pet, he certainly wasn't trying to. After all, she's the one who drunk dialed him. But as she points out, he's wearing the same shirt as all the other dads (but the other dads don't have his sweet Draper Shades!). If you ask me, she's just playing hard to get.

Don's professional woes mount when Roger calls Betty and not-so-subtly asks her to try and get Don to sign. This pisses Don off to end and strains his relationships with both Roger and Betty. When she gets angry with him about not sharing his work with her, he storms out in a huff and engages in one of his favorite activities: drunk driving. On the road he encounters a guy-girl hitchhiking pair who claim to be off to Niagara Falls to get married so the young man doesn't get drafted and go to Vietnam (hey, remember that place?). Of course, they subscribe to the "ass, gas, or grass" rule of the road and offer Don some pills in exchange for a lift which he takes two of, which I assume is double the Dr. Nick Riviera recommended dose. At a roadside motel the three party it up where Don has a reds-and-alcohol-fueled vision of his father, Archie Whitman. Archie shares some hillbilly jokes (I thought it was funny) and chides his sun for being a no account bullshit farmer. Don's new friends decide he's being a detriment to their lovemaking and punch him in the back of the head, causing him to fall down and break his nose, knocking him out cold. I think this is where we came in. The next day the two have fled with most of the contents of Don's wallet, though they left him his car, how thoughtful! At work, Don explains his injury as a fender-bender (I always preferred "old football injury") and comes to find the not-at-all eccentric Bert Cooper waiting for him in his office. Coop offers him a nice juicy three year contract with a $5,000.00 signing bonus. Nice, right? Don still won't sign, until Coop asks him "would you say I know something about you, Don?", which of course he does, having learned about Don's secret identity from Pete at the end of Season One, though he didn't care then. Don finally caves and signs, though he adds that an unwritten clause of his contract must stipulate that he have no further involvement with Roger. What's cooler than being cool, Don? Ice cold.