“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.” – Kurt Vonnegut
Here you were thinking I’d only use ONE Vonnegut quote to begin a Mad Men recap this year. WRONG! What can I say? He was a great writer, and and his quotes are very applicable to this season of Mad Men. To be honest, the editor of this site complained about all my Kanye references so I went back to Vonnegut.
Don Draper certainly loves to build, and he’s quite great at it. Whether it’s building pitches, companies, or even relationships with women. But he’s not so great at sticking with things. He’s always changing his name, getting married again, trying to attract a new business to save his ass etc. It’s something we all do. When I get halfway through a script and get stuck, I always want to just start the whole thing over. I mean I’ll be honest, I get stuck halfway through these recaps sometimes and instead of finishing I just go drink 2 gin and tonics, throw eggs at my neighbors mailboxes, and rearrange my roommate’s food in the fridge so they’ll think they are stealing from each other (they are real a holes). But sometimes starting fresh is just a form of running away.
Don actively avoids maintenance the entire episode. He hides in his office reading books and when he’s finally given some work to do, he realizes he has to answer Peggy, so instead of doing the work to maybe get back into the good graces of Sterling Cooper, he plays solitaire in his office and ignores her. He even gets side tracked by the new printer being built in the office.
The office is freaked out by the “monolith” being installed in the office but as the salesman tells Don, there is no reason to be. He says that people are freaked out by the computer’s ability to do infintie work, because humans themselves are finite, but we made the machine, so we’ve mastered the infinite.
Feeling inspired by this, (and not having any mailboxes to throw eggs at), Don says “screw it” to the work he’s supposed to do for Peggy, and tries to get a fresh start by pitching an advertising idea for the computer company. Don thinks that he can circumnavigate the maintenance he needs to do by waltzing into Burt’s office with a shiny new business. Burt instead enlightens Don to his real place in the company, which is basically keeping the office of a dead man warm. Don seems to imagine in his mind that he has built and saved this company many times but it was he himself who got them in trouble in the first place. He was the one who got Chevy, but he was also the one who lost Jaguar. Burt is tired of doing Don’s maintenance, and he’s comfortable with the company in it’s current state because it’s not bouncing up and down, it’s just steady.
So Bam! There it is, Don finally finds out what the company really thinks of him, so what does he do? He crawls inside a bottle of course! He’s always so ready to hit the reset button, but as Freddy asks him “are you just gonna kill yourself and give them what they want?”. Don needs to learn that he can’t always cheat his way out of trouble. Sometimes you have to just sit and do maintenance on the things you started.
But Don isn’t the only one who needs to learn this lesson. Meanwhile we have Roger’s daughter Margaret, who believes she is no longer capable of doing maintenance on her marriage or her child, because she “isn’t happy”. What’s her decision? She runs away to a hippy commune to have sex with strangers, smoke pot, and just do nothing. It feels weird that of all people, Roger is sent to go get her, as he’s been doing the same thing for years, but he can afford to do it in Manhattan rather then a commune.
Margaret, or should I say Marigold, basically tells Roger she’s a shitty parent and a quitter, because that’s what he was. He left her for the office, so she’s allowed to leave her kid for the commune. She says she doesn’t worry about her kid anyway, because if she survived it, so will her son. Ouch!
Listen internet, we all have issues with our parents. My father left when I was 9 years old, and his intermittent interactions with me since then have been nothing but trouble. Sure I struggled at times with not having a father, and yeah his genes make me fatter and angrier then I’d like to be, but it’s still up to me to fix those things. I can’t blame him for that, but more importantly, just because my dad was so shitty doesn’t mean I will be a shitty dad at all. Marigold, much like the people in the office, misinterpret what is finite and what is infinite. Our parents may have been finite in what they were capable of, but we still have infinite capabilites despite them. Look at me saying “our” and projecting my problems on to you. I’m sure you all had great parents, I mean you’re smart enough to watch Mad Men.
I’m sure there is greater meaning in the title “The Monolith” and it’s some amazeballs reference to 2001 A Space Odyssey, but guess what? I’ve never seen it. I’d watch it tonight but I have a lot of rearranging to do in the fridge.