“You really think this is going to save you, don’t you”

The older I get, (I’m 24, SO OLD!), the more I realize that life is very difficult. When you’re young (because 24 isn’t young?), it’s much easier to be happy for lots of reasons. You don’t have bills, you have a structure (school) and a schedule provided for you, and you have very clear goals (Kiss a girl, graduate, play videogames, get drunk). But once you get to be about 22 or 23, all of those things are gone, and it’s up to you to figure what you want to do with your life, what makes you happy, and what you have to do to accomplish those things.

I’ve always assumed everyone knows what they want, and struggles with how to get it. But the older I get, the more I find out that no one seems to know what the hell they want to do, and it’s driving them insane. I certainly get depressed because I struggle with money, relationships, etc. and when I’m inbetween scripts or comedy gigs, I get very angry. But I never lose my mind (my ex disagrees), because I know what it is I want to do with my life and If I keep working at it I’ll get it.

I take it for granted, because what if you didn’t know what you wanted to do? What if you didn’t know what made you happy? Well you do pretty much one of two things, you dig your heels in and just keep doing the same things you’ve been doing (even though the times are changing and they don’t work anymore) or you just go bat shit, faye dunaway crazy! My god so many of my friends either still live with their parents, or have just gone nuts; moving to random countries, dating bizarre women, doing/selling drugs etc. That’s what seems to be happening to the characters of Mad Men in “The Runaways” episode. Characters are either digging their heels in and getting left behind, or they are having threesomes, running away to communes, and cutting their nipples off (WTF!!!!). As Jim Cutler points out, they think these things are going to save them, but will they?

When Anna Draper’s niece Stephanie shows up in California, Don wants to take care of her, but Megan is immediately threatened by her. She and Don have a level of intimacy that Don and Megan will never have, and it especially makes Megan mad when Stephanie says she “knows all of his secrets”. Megan quickly gives Stephanie money and gets her out of there before Don gets to California, because she couldn’t bare to watch Don have a better relationship with Stephanie then her. Feeling inadequate, Megan hatches her own scheme to be “intimate” with Don, she has a threesome with him of course! Wait… What? Is she sleeping with Amy all the time while Don is away? Is that why she thinks this will bring them closer? Or is she just trying to impress him? (like this is Don Draper’s first threesome, give me a break). I don’t think this will save them, but does Megan? She certainly seems to be losing her mind, having banjo and flute players over while she does drugs and has threesomes. It was like being at a party in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Ginsberg of course went full on crazy, because he can’t cope with the new computer in the office. So what’s his solution? To cut off his nipple and try to have sex with Peggy. Yikes. Some people felt this came out of nowhere, but we’ve seen Ginsberg express signs of mental illness before when he’s super bizarre on his date last season, and tells us he thinks he was left by aliens.

Meanwhile, Betty tries to dig her heels in and pretend it’s the old days. She orders Sally home so she can boss her around (because Henry made her feel powerless, but Sally doesn’t stand for that). She talks right back to her mother, telling her she’s only good for he looks, and dropping inappropriate words like “abortion”. Lou Avery too tries his hand at pretending the times aren’t changing with a silly old time comic strip called “Scout’s Honor”, which he is mocked by the entire staff for.

Don is the only one who seems to finally be realizing he needs to get with the picture. He is working for Peggy now, and their relationship seems improved. When Lou demands he stay late, he really does stay late and does the work requested. But when he finds his job is in jeopardy once again, he decides to listen to the word’s of Pete’s girlfriend, “our fortunes are in the hands of others, and we have to go take it from them”. Don barges into the cigarette meeting he wasn’t invited to, and quickly sells his soul to save his job. He once wrote articles against cigarette companies and worked with the government, but now he’s willing to use the information they gave him against them. That’s what Don does, he’s a survivor, he does what ever it takes to keep going. There was much discussion last season/this season that Don would give up being Don Draper and become Dick Whitman again, but I think it’s entirely possible he becomes neither. We think Don is going to come to California and be Dick Whitman and take care of Stephanie, but he doesn’t get to. Then it seems like he’s going to waltz into the cigarette meeting and be full throttle Don Draper, but when the meetings over, his job safety is still ambigious. We want him to have his mojo back when he goes to call a cab for himself, we expect it to pull up immediately and let him ride off into the sunset like a badass, but it doesn’t. I think it’s very possible by the end of Mad Men, we could see Don Draper change his name and become someone else all over again. But certainly for Don, he was the only one that seemed to take advantage of being somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be.

So many of the characters this week seemed to be so out of place. The episode was full of odd pairings, and characters outside of their comfort zone. Peggy and little Julio hanging out? Sally back at Betty’s House? Amy answering the phone at Megan’s? Harry Crane at Megan’s Party? Lou’s comic on the copier? There were lots of things in places they shouldn’t have been. There were also a lot of red herrings and loose ends, and a lot of people have complained this episode was too all over the place, but that’s precisely the point. These characters are losing it, and the chaotic atmosphere of the episode helps us feel as lost as them. The episode had a scattered plot that didn’t know exactly where to go, so it jumped to suddenly violent and sexy images, just like our characters are doing. But the question is, is it enough to save the episode? I think the answer is yes. It was one of the most entertaining Mad Men episodes in recent time.

Stray Observations

– I love Harry Crane showing up at Megan’s party. Don is so uncomfortable and out of place that he’s actually happy to see Harry Crane. Then when they go have a drink in a dark bar, Harry exclaims “this is so much better”

– I was talking today with someone who said Betty’s behavior reminds them of Pat Nixon/Betty Ford. I think that’s an interesting thing to keep in mind as the season goes forward. What was Betty thinking saying those things at the party? She’s more interested in seeming smart than NOT running her husbands career. She’s such a child. But she’s one of my favorite characters because she’s just like so many people I know in real life.

– Bobby made me want to cry when he said he gets sick to his stomach over Betty and Henry fighting. If I were Bobby, I’d go straight to Don’s place and ask for money for boarding school