Mad Men 6.13 “In Care Of” Review: California Dreamin’

24 Jun

At the end of season 1 of Mad Men Don Draper gave one of his best pitches and then returned to an empty house for Thanksgiving; the final episode of this penultimate season also occurred post election (with Nixon as the winner this time) and Don used nostalgia once again to sell a product but spills a little more of his soul in the process. This has been a tumultuous year for these characters and the trauma that the country is experiencing both overseas and at home has impacted the tone. While this season has been a tough slog in places thanks to the darkness that it has tapped into, it has also been highly rewarding even if Don is no longer a character that is easy to defend.

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The Carousel presentation is probably still Don’s most touching pitch as he used nostalgia to sell a product – “the pain from an old wound, it’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.” Don uses a similar tactic for Hershey’s, first telling a made up story about his father buying him a Hershey’s bar and he even has the perfect tagline to accompany this fake tale “Hershey’s is the currency of affection, it’s the childhood symbol of love.” After all the lies Don has told he can’t let the Hershey executives leave without revealing the truth about why he has such strong feelings for this brand of chocolate. This season has had multiple flashbacks to Dick Whitman’s whorehouse living past and while a lot of this has felt superfluous, in this moment it made sense as to why there has been so many. Quite often the flashbacks feel like they should be on a show like Boardwalk Empire and while we probably didn’t need quite as many (the one in this episode only felt necessary because of the final shot) it gives further context as to why Dick became Don.

Don has come across as vulnerable in previous pitches, it’s part of the charm and heartbreak of the Carousel speech and this technique of making it personal is part of the great Don Draper show. This season Don’s work has taken a new direction; imagery of death has been rife and the product they are selling has been absent from the art work on several occasions. Don doesn’t want Hershey’s to even consider advertising so while he doesn’t have a say in his taking leave from work, his heart really isn’t in the game at the moment. This is the most honest we have seen Don at work and the story he tells makes him vulnerable in the eyes of his co-workers and clients. The Hershey executives don’t really know how to respond to Don’s second pitch (they love the first one) and even ask if Don wants them to use that suggestion (this comment caused me to snort laugh, possibly as a reaction to my own horror/wonder at what Don had just revealed – this episode has a lot of hilarious lines underneath the dark overtones).

It has been hard to feel sympathetic towards Don this season as he is the maker of most of his misery, but the meeting on Thanksgiving morning that’s part intervention, part firing might make me retract some of my “Falling Out of Love with Don Draper” statements. It’s an ambush and while it has been a long time coming and he probably deserves it, it is a shame that a rare moment of honesty is what tipped their collective hand; at least when Freddy Rumsen got put on six-month leave he was taken out for a night on the town as part of his send-off. For Don he gets a lot of concerned faces but no follow up, other than an awkward moment with his replacement and Duck (who is clearly relishing this downfall). Where does this leave Don and SC & P? For a start they’re probably happy that they left the D out of the new name. Don has no return date and Peggy looks good in his office (and in an amazing pant suit, is this the first time we have seen Peggy wearing pants in the office?) and once again Mad Men ends a season with the future looking uncertain.

Stan and his magnificent beard came up with the idea of setting up a Californian office, an idea that soon gets taken by Don much to Stan’s dismay. California soon becomes the beacon of new hope as several characters believe it will provide them with a fresh start; Don tells Megan that they’re going and so she quits her job. This looks like it could be place to make their marriage work, much like the hallucination that Don had when he was last in LA. Instead he gives up his chance for sunshine and doesn’t become the monster that Peggy called him as he lets Ted have his spot; Don ruins his marriage to save Ted’s. Don’s marriage has been over for the whole season really and a new climate would probably only act as a band aid for a much larger wound (to borrow a line from Pete Campbell). While it isn’t clear if Megan has left him permanently, she’s finally come to terms with what a sham their relationship is and she’s in the same drifting boat as Don’s children. The main difference here is that Don is with his children at the end of the episode and Megan is nowhere to be seen, so while Megan didn’t meet the violent end that some had predicted she isn’t present in Don’s life in the final shot of the season. I’m a big Megan fan (a sentiment that I know isn’t widely shared) and while I know it’s been hard to work her storyline in this year (mirroring the past issues with getting Betty into episodes), I do hope that this isn’t the last we see of Jessica Paré on Mad Men.

In an earlier episode Sally mentions that she doesn’t know anything about her father, so when he shows his humble beginnings the look that is shared between father and daughter suggests that while their relationship is broken, it isn’t beyond repair. Sally has barely been at her new school for a month and she’s already been suspended for buying beer with a fake ID. While Betty despairs about this, blaming herself Don does a good job of reassuring her that this isn’t her fault. Kiernan Shipka is only in a couple of scenes but shows once again what an exceptional young actress she is; from the disdain in her voice on the phone to her father to that look in the final moment. This is a complicated relationship and one that isn’t going to get fixed instantly by revealing the dilapidated house where he grew up, but it’s a moment of real honesty between Don Draper and his children. It isn’t the first time this has happened; Don took Sally and Bobby to Anna Draper’s house and they asked who Dick was and while he didn’t tell them the whole story he’s beginning to reveal more of who he is. Don’s children are more receptive to this than his colleagues are; this is what unconditional love is and while his revelation leads to what looks like the loss of his job, it might help heal his fractured relationship with his children.

Don Draper 2.0 or Bob Benson as we know him played his hand in a bold manner after Pete confronted him with the news that Manolo might have murdered his mother. Instead of running Bob uses his knowledge of Pete’s shaky driving skills and humiliates Pete in front of the Chevy executives, acting before Pete could ruin Bob. Bob has essentially got the Chevy account to himself and Pete is heading to LA with Ted. Pete isn’t the only person who confronted Bob as Roger also had words concerning Joan and Kevin. Roger only sees the smile and handsome face and doesn’t believe for a second that Bob just wants to be buddies with Joan, but Roger doesn’t get to dictate who Joan spends her time with.

It’s unclear if Manolo is complicit in Pete’s mother’s death, though the evidence suggests that he could have been after the money she doesn’t actually have. Pete is unhappy about his new destination (he is a New Yorker through and through) but Trudy has some wise words for her estranged husband “It’s going to take you a moment to realize where you are.” Trudy tells him that he is now free of everything – of his mother, of that office, of everything. Will a new coast and city be the new start that Pete needs?

“Aren’t you lucky to have decisions” is a line that really cuts through the core of Peggy’s story; while she’s risen to a position of power and responsibility in the office (over at The Cut they have a great clip package of Peggy’s journey), her personal life is still in disarray. Don’t worry this isn’t the start of a “Can Women Have it All?” debate but rather how Ted looked at Don Draper and saw the ghost of Christmas Future and ran to California. Ted isn’t the terrible person that Don has been trying to convince Peggy he is all season, but he’s also not the great man she put on a pedestal either. Ted dreams big and says he’ll leave his wife for Peggy, but deep down that’s never going to happen instead he sees California as his chance of redemption and he needs to put distance between himself and Peggy to quell his desires. While I’ve enjoyed having Ted around, I’m also looking forward to seeing what Peggy can do with her new position of responsibility (plus hey Stan’s still here for late night phone calls and beardy goodness). It should also be remembered that Peggy stepped out on her own at the end of last year to end back at the very office that she had left thanks to a decision that was out of her control.

Other Thoughts

–  While Don has hit rock bottom before, a night in jail after he punches a minister is what motivates Don to make some big life choices.

– If Megan does leave Don and goes to LA without him this might fuel the Sharon Tate theories even further, especially as next season will most likely start in 1969 (there’s only a month of 1968 left). Or they could try and make the bicoastal relationship work, which will still leave her alone in LA.

– Peggy has been the other woman in the past and had an encounter with a very pregnant Trudy Campbell in the bathroom of the office (in “The Suitcase”). Her relationship with Pete was long over by the time this happened so there was no need to play any mind games, with Ted she responds to his wife and kids in the office with a dress that shows off both legs and cleavage and it sends him running to her door (also it’s a nice detail that she makes sure she locks her front door even in the throes of passion, Peggy is still very much afraid of her neighborhood). Was anyone else worried that Ted’s wife would mention Chanel No. 5?

– Bob Benson carving in a pinny. There is nothing left to say about this (until Friday and “Look of the Week”).

– James Wolk is starring in The Crazy Ones on CBS this fall, but there’s nothing to say he can’t pull double duty like Alison Brie has with Community and Mad Men. Hopefully he will be back as Bob Benson has been a season highlight.

– “It’s an opportunity to build one desk into an agency.” Don has been attempting to do this in one form or another since the show started and has done so with SCDP followed by the merger this season, he constantly wants to start at the beginning and turn something into a bigger, better thing. It’s all about reinvention and Don is still not happy with the model, so he wants to start again. What he gets is a different kind of opportunity and I’m so excited about the uncertainty of the final season.

– I’m putting my choice of Mad Men Music Monday in here with the track that closed out the episode (“Moon River” was a very close second as I love this song) and the Judy Collins version of “Both Sides Now.”

Thanks for reading and I will be chatting with Kerensa once again later this week as we breakdown the last third of the season, make sure you stop by for that.

2 Responses to “Mad Men 6.13 “In Care Of” Review: California Dreamin’”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Out of the Box: Look of the Week | TV Ate My Wardrobe - June 28, 2013

    […] to be a Mad Men special; celebrating some of the best costumes from the season 6 finale “In Care Of.” The costuming on Mad Men has always been exceptional and Janie Bryant’s work this […]

  2. Mad Men “Field Trip” Costume Design Highlights | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 28, 2014

    […] that didn’t necessarily follow the types of straightforward reviews that I have written on this site and others for previous seasons. So for the season premiere I showed an example of Mad […]

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