Monday, October 18, 2010

Mad Men: lives carry on

Henry to Betty: "There is no fresh start. Lives carry on."

And that's what happened this year.

In this episode titled "Tomorrowland," Weiner and company had Don finally choose between being Don or Dick, and he chose Don but without rejecting all of Dick, perhaps owning more than just a nickname.

Should this episode have been titled "Fanstasyland" because Don's self-image includes being the "handsome prince" and, in his fantasy Megan, is "Cinderella?" Faye would have had trouble avoiding the "wicked stepmother" role with Sally. Megan will have trouble, but it will only be because she's trying too hard to be Maria Von Trapp.

One can't help but feel that Don is enchanted with Megan. She's the perfect French-speaking au pair (to use a word not commonly used for a "nanny" in 1965)  for the kids. And she's smart, but at 25 not "too seasoned" and therefore not yet aggressively cynical. And she's attractive even if a bit "toothy." She thinks she knows Don, and in some ways she does know Don - she just doesn't know Dick.

But all in all, Don thinks he has found a way to replace Carla and Betty. And it is a significant improvement over the latter for the kids.

We don't really know anything about Megan who at ...what, 23 or 24?... moved from Montreal bringing her French Canadian heritage to New York City. And if we don't know anything, think how little Don knows about what "Tomorrowland" means to a 25-year-old French Canadian woman in 1965 in the United States.

What are these two going to talk about? When Megan calls home all excited about her engagement, Don wants to talk but Megan points out he doesn't speak French.

Some things are clear from this episode:
  • Don/Dick has severed his formal ties with California by selling Anna's house.
  • Don/Dick wants the life he thinks Don would have had and impulsively uses the ring dead Don gave dead Anna as a charm to get it.
  • Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce may survive the Lucky Strike crisis, but it will require hard work particularly by Peggy and Joan.
  • Peggy and Joan have bonded as the underestimated women of SCDP.
  • Joan, as we suspected, did not have the abortion and is misleading her absent and fully deserving husband.
Some things are not so clear:
  • Don/Dick is a less hung up guy in California and it remains to be seen if live Don can in any way be that guy in New York.
  • I don't know why Anna gave the ring to Don/Dick but as a charm with death all over it, can it symbolize a better life?
  • Will Don and toothy Megan (played by Jessica ParĂ©, who is either very talented or takes direction very well)  be a married couple in episode 1 of next season?
  • What year will next season be set in, as 1966 doesn't offer much background, 1967 does offer the Montreal World's Fair, and 1968, with all of its violence and death, just seems to push the kid's ages?
The future of two characters seem to have been nicely wrapped up into "so long, don't let the door hit you" moments.

In a gut wrenching scene, Betty fired Carla exerting what little power she has over the one adult she could. And she won't even write a letter of reference. (Let's hope Don will handle that.) But Carla has been a significant element of stability for the kids. Maybe that is the point for next season - no stability for the kids or maybe Don and Megan will form the perfect family ... naw, that would be too 1950's sitcom.

And poor Faye. You have to know that she's crying at least in part because at the beginning of this season we saw her, as a seasoned veteran of the office romance risks, predict Don would be remarried within a year. Yet she let Don know she was actually not married - just a ruse to avoid the problems - stepping right into the arena to become another victim of his charms. And we know he did use her.

About Peggy. This is a great character to watch. While she seems thrown by the development of the engagement between Don and Megan, her perception of getting the first new account since Lucky Strike, the  $250,000 Topaz pantyhose account, as her saving the company made me smile. Yes, it will serve as a psychological boost to the few left in the company. Saving the firm? Well, maybe a little.

The Joan and Peggy moment after they learn about Don and Megan is a classic:
Joan: “Whatever can be on your mind?”
Peggy: “Can you believe it!?”
Joan: “It happens all the time — they’re just all between marriages."
Joan:  “Well, I learned a long time ago to not get all my satisfaction from this job.”
Peggy:  “That’s bulls—!”
Roger's reaction is also amusing. Wasn't Don giving him grief for marrying his secretary not so long ago?

Unfortunate for Don, Roger, Joan and Peggy, they didn't get Ken's message: “Cynthia’s my life, my actual life."

And we all know that Don has no clue about Faye's comment: "I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things."

So, we end the season with Don staring out the window, the perfect immature teen angst love song in the background:
Cher: They say we're young and we don't know
We won't find out until we grow
Sonny: Well I don't know if all that's true
'Cause you got me, and baby I got you
Why do I find that a bit foreboding. After all, it worked out so well for Sonny and Cher, and of course for Chastity Bono.

On to next year....

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mad Men: There's a time for beans and a time for ketchup....

So the guy from Heinz tells Don: "There's a time for beans and a time for ketchup."

That statement was one theme of this episode, a theme that is dominating the last half of this season. A can of beans is food. When times are tough, you buy food. You don't buy the little things that make food taste better. This is the situation that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is in. Some members of the firm feel at risk of becoming part of this 1930's scene:

Panic sometimes crosses the faces of the partners for whom this is a real memory of what hard times means. “It’s because we’re desperate—they can smell it on us,” Don tells the partners. Fear of failure eliminates the possibility of a little humor like this:
But there has been another important theme running through this season.

“What’s it like?” Don asks. Midge shockingly explains “It’s like drinking a hundred bottles of whiskey while someone licks your tits…it’s heroin, Don, I just can’t stop.”

Addiction or "substance abuse" has been a theme this season. And it brings us to the real twist of this episode. By bringing Midge back from Season 1, we see a person who was a happy, promising, bohemian artist who is being destroyed by the ultimate addiction.

We can tell this has made a huge impression on Don and has him thinking about the whole issue of addiction.

Now bring out the other woman who frequently focuses Don's mind, Peggy. She draws him into one of the better pieces of dialog. After it's clear that they aren't going to get the Virginia Slims account (the cigarettes for women) and everyone is down in the dumps, Peggy approaches Don saying she's been thinking about the firm.

Peggy asks: "Why don't we just change our name. If this was a dogfood we'd change our name."

When Don explains that it wasn't an option as the firm had just started, Peggy plants an idea.

"You always say if you don't like what they're saying about you, change the conversation,"  she responds.

Don, dismayed, says "To what? What they're saying about us is true."

Peggy: "So there's nothing we can do?"

Don: "Sure there is, we're going to sit at our desks and keep typing as the walls fall down around us because we're 'creative,' the least important most important thing there is."

(We'll come back to Peggy in a minute.)

If we were following the dialog back when Don was talking to the guy from Heinz, we know that it ended when the guy told him to leave the negotiating to "accounts."  Yeah, right, "accounts." "Creative" got a Clio this year,"accounts" failed in a way that has threatened the very existence of the firm.

Don mulls all this over and "changes the conversation" as Peggy suggested for better or worse, without consulting the other partners. That it is a full page letter in the New York Times essentially denouncing tobacco is going to make waves.

About the letter, Megan notes, “I know it’s all about “he didn’t dump me—I dumped him’.” She also notes that it changes the feel of the firm. "I love that you stand for something." to which Don honestly replies, "That's not what it's really about."

Here we have a continuation of another theme this year - Don Draper. This Don Draper isn't interested in playing the fiddle of complaining and self-pity while his ship goes down. Of course he has to tell a lie to maybe make it all work.

At this point, we have to take a little history detour about a real life character of the period. Among the message slips Megan hands Don is a call from Emerson Foote. "I wonder who he is" she muses. That's your cue to Google his name. That Don didn't recognize his name is not likely as we can see from his 1992 obituary in the NY Times:
Emerson Foote, the outspoken co-founder of the Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency and former chairman of McCann-Erickson Inc., died on Sunday....

The two agencies he led rank among the biggest in the world today, and Mr. Foote, tall and distinguished-looking, stood as one of the giants of the industry. He became known to the general public for his acerbic views of tobacco advertising, which eventually prompted him to leave advertising. He was a former chain-smoker and was a director of the American Cancer Society.

Mr. Foote resigned as chairman of McCann-Erickson in 1964, saying he was opposed to handling cigarette accounts. He was then a member of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke and endorsed the Surgeon General's report that linked cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

He ridiculed protestations that billions spent on promotions had nothing to do with people taking up the habit. "I am always amused," Mr. Foote said, "by the suggestion that advertising, a function that has been shown to increase consumption of virtually every other product, somehow miraculously fails to work for tobacco products."
He certainly should have been in Don Draper's field of vision, but this is fiction, after all. Still the firm is being approached by the American Cancer Society.

Now back to Peggy, the symbol of the changing status of women throughout this show. We learn that Faye has to leave because her firm can't risk losing tobacco company business by remaining associated with SCDP.

As she leaves, Peggy tells her:  "They respect you, and you don't have to play any games."

Faye responds: "Is that what it looks like?"

You can't tell what Peggy gets from that. We know that Faye has portrayed herself as a married woman in order to thread her way through the jungles of the very sexist business world of that period. We don't know what else she has done in her career to get ahead.

In Sunday's Washington Post an article written by Stephanie Coontz headlined Why 'Mad Men' is TV's most feminist show explains about the show:
Historians are notorious for savaging historical fiction. We're quick to complain that writers project modern values onto their characters, get the surroundings wrong, cover up the seamy side of an era or exaggerate its evils -- and usually, we're right. But AMC's hit show "Mad Men," which ends its fourth season next Sunday, is a stunning exception. Every historian I know loves the show; it is, quite simply, one of the most historically accurate television series ever produced. And despite the rampant chauvinism of virtually all its male characters (and some of its female ones), it is also one of the most sympathetic to women.

"Mad Men's" authentic portrait of women's lives in the early 1960s makes it hard for some women to watch. Over the course of its first three seasons, I interviewed almost 200 women from the same era for a new book on the Greatest Generation's wives and daughters. Many had suffered from the same numbness that plagued Betty Draper in the first season. They had seen psychiatrists who were as unhelpful and patronizing as the one Don Draper hired for his wife, or they had been married to men who displayed a sense of male entitlement similar to Don's. Those who had worked, whether before or after marriage, had experienced the same discrimination and sexual harassment as the female employees at the show's ad agency.

Yet to my surprise, most of these women refused to watch "Mad Men." Not because they found its portrayal of male-female relations unrealistic -- in fact, many recounted treatment in real life that was even more dramatic and horrifying than that on the show. It was precisely because "Mad Men" portrayed the sexism of that era so unflinchingly, they told me, that they could not bear to watch.

The rest of us, however, should tune in for a much-needed lesson on the devastating costs of a way of life that still evokes misplaced nostalgia. We should be glad that the writers are resisting the temptation to transform their female characters into contemporary heroines. They're not, and they cannot be. That is the brilliance of the show's script.
Everything else about this show notwithstanding, it can, and is, being used in sociology and women's studies classes already.

Most of the women in this show win or lose partly because of their relationship with Don/Dick. Men are not that significant for him except as foils to mislead for his gain. And that is something he has in common with the women. He has had to discard his identity to advance, he has had to lie, he has had to manipulate the men around him, all because his talent would never have gotten Dick Whitman in the front door except as a janitor.

In this episode, the men partners are livid at Don. Most particularly Bert Cooper, apparently quitting the firm in disgust, says of Don: "We have created a monster." (Does this mean we'll see even less of Robert Morse?)

Only Pete among the men sees Don's talent in terms of respect. And once Don bails him out financially, he's relieved, and though still apprehensive, willing to let Don's gamble play out.

We don't know if Don has saved the firm. Probably we won't know after next week's season finale, but it has been an intense ride this season.

As usual, there was too much to cover in this episode. But I can't ignore completely what's happening to Sally. For she has attempted in the Don Draper mold to reinvent herself in order to get along with her mother, whose neurotic mind sees male and female roles in some weird version of the traditional model. Sally's psychiatrist sees Sally's reinventing herself as progress. Really? Or as a psychiatrist does she sense Sally is in danger from her mother.

For Sally, who is after all still a child, this isn't working out too well. Betty catches her hanging with Glenn and assumes ... what, exactly? Based on her strange intimate past with Glenn the boy, of which Sally is ignorant, Betty decides it's time to move the family to Rye. She knows this will crush Sally now. So she does it, knowing that her psychologically troubled daughter is making some progress. Some mother you've got there Sally.

And as this episode ends we hear Etta James singing "Trust In Me." Well, maybe Don has made the right move....

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rupert Murdoch - A threat to the world's TV viewing audience including you and me

Most are not aware of two burning disputes between one media billionaire and two others. At issue is the price of your monthly cable or satellite TV bill. It could go up 50% in a very few years.

Rupert Murdoch of News Corp, #148 on Forbes World's Billionaires list, has decided to take on Charles Ergen of Dish Network, #117 on the list, and Charles Dolan of Cablevision, #367. Rupert is trying to force the two Charles to charge their subscribers a 50% increase in monthly charges for his TV channels.

The News Corp owned Wall Street Journal article headlined News Corp., Cablevision Square Off explained:
News Corp.—which is seeking higher fees for its channels in negotiations with Cablevision— on Sunday began running ads addressed to the cable-TV company's subscribers, warning that if a new TV-rights deal isn't struck soon, viewers could lose Fox shows including football games and "Glee."

...Carriage contract talks have become more bruising as TV companies push for the first time to land monthly cash fees for broadcast networks. Cable- and satellite-TV operators say they try to withstand fee demands to avoid passing on costs to their customers' bills. As contract deadlines creep closer, each side blames each other for possible losses of favorite shows.

Ultimately, deals often are struck without programming interruptions. But this year, Cablevision customers lost the Food Network and HGTV cable channels for several weeks after a rough-and-tumble fee dispute with Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. In March, Cablevision lost access to ABC and some other Walt Disney Co. channels for nearly 24 hours, including during the first few minutes of ABC's Academy Awards telecast.
Regarding the Dish Network situation, News Corp has pulled all of its cable channels off of Dish including all its regional sports networks. And it is threatening to pull 27 News Corp owned or controlled local Fox TV stations on November 1, stations serving about 50 million TV households representing about 44% of the U.S. market.

In an article headlined Dish CEO defiant after losing Fox channels we learn:
With Fox and Dish also facing the end of their current arrangement for Fox's owned-and-operated TV stations at the end of the month, [BTIG investor analyst Richard Greenfield] argued that waiting to renew both arrangements in several weeks makes no business sense.

"What's the benefit of going dark for four weeks and losing subs, only to ultimately pay Fox what they are demanding," he asked. "We can only presume [Ergen] is prepared to be dark for the long-haul."

A Dish spokeswoman said in a response that programmers "are increasingly bullying pay TV companies into extraordinary rate increases in an effort to pay for expensive sports acquisition rights."

She said the Fox sports channels represent less than 2% of the content that Dish makes available in its most popular programming package. And of the hours that Dish customers spend on watching TV, less than 1% are spent on regional sports networks, she added.
Investment analysts generally are stupid and Greenfield is no exception. The Fox broadcast network's shows aren't doing all that well in the ratings and pulling them off of cable and satellite systems won't improve that. It is true that Dish is already losing subscribers. I know that those upset by the loss of the News Corp sports channels and cable channels don't understand the concerns of the few over the reach of Rupert Murdoch's tightening tentacles on the media, particularly TV.

Over in Britain concern is growing over his latest move. From The Hollywood Reporter:
BBC director general Mark Thompson has again spoken out against Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp.'s bid for the remaining 61 percent of BSkyB, this time using an interview on PBS' Charlie Rose Thursday to warn against the consequences of the deal.

Thompson's comments on U.S. television come ahead of a hotly anticipated speech later this month by News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch, who is expected to give further details of the bid when he delivers the inaugural Baroness Thatcher lecture in London October 21st.
And from The Guardian/Observer web site:
Murdoch has managed to achieve what most assumed was impossible, a more or less harmonious agreement between, among others, the BBC, the Daily Mail, the Guardian Media Group (which owns the Observer), the Telegraph Media Group and the owners of the Daily Mirror. There probably hasn't been such a disparate and determined alliance since Wellington mustered Prussians, Saxons, Polish, Dutch, Belgian, English and Irish troops to confront Napoleon at a little village south of Brussels in 1815.

This isn't Murdoch's Waterloo and, after 40 years of bending Britain to his political will, the 79-year-old probably is not losing much sleep over the new alliance. Still, even he must be aware of the unprecedented strength of feeling in boardrooms against him. There is almost no one in the business outside News International who disagreed with the director general of the BBC, Mark Thompson, when he said on US television that there was a case for looking at Rupert Murdoch's media ownership systematically because of the "potential for abuse of power".

That is a glorious understatement. Give almost any politician a guarantee of anonymity and he or she will say much more but, as Peter Oborne's Channel 4 Dispatches programme made clear, most are too frightened to challenge him or his executives. Successive generations of politicians have allowed Murdoch to extend his power so, in the estimation of the respected media analyst Claire Enders, Britain has long passed the "Berlusconi moment".

No newspaper company can buy ITV because of rules against cross-ownership, but because Sky was founded after the law was enacted, these rules do not apply. The anachronism means that Murdoch can merge Sky, which has a turnover roughly three times the size of ITV's and is growing at a rate of about 400,000 subscribers a year, with his newspaper group....
This is what Americans also should know. Murdoch's media reach leaves us also with politicians "too frightened to challenge him or his executives." Murdoch manipulates political and economic power in the pursuit of his goals better than anyone else in the capitalist world, East and West, today.

For instance, we had the big uproar in June 2003 over the FCC's move to increase by 10% the number of local TV affiliates a national broadcast network could own - from 35% to 45%.

Even a Republican controlled Congress had trouble with that. But after first voting to keep the ownership cap at 35%, both the House and Senate raised the aggregate cap to 39% by attaching a rider to a massive funding bill. The 39% cap allowed News Corp/FOX to keep all their stations.

Thus I have no delusions that American politicians - liberal, conservative or moderate - have the courage to take him on. But if those two other billionaires, Charles Ergen of Dish Network and Charles Dolan of Cablevision, take him on at the same time, at least some opportunity exists to reign him in. One can hope that if the public loses it's Fox channel in New York City and Philadelphia on both the local cable system and Dish Network, politicians might take notice.

Otherwise, I have to be content with the knowledge that he's 79 and likely will die in the next 20 years. At that point, it is likely his empire will slowly lose its clout as others have done in the past.

Still, in the pursuit of his economic goals, the damage he has done to the arena of American political discourse has already exceeded that of William Randolph Hearst.

(Incidentally, this has nothing to do with partisanship. Hearst was twice elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives. Nor does it have anything to do with Murdoch's Australian origins. Hearst's patrilineal ancestor, John Hurst settled in Plymouth Colony around 1620. These guys are/were just missing something found in billionaires like Warren Buffett - a semblance of humility.)


Friday, October 8, 2010

Caprica - the reimagined version

First of all, I'm very uncomfortable watching these SyFy shows on any other day but Sci-Friday. But whatever NBCU wants to do with scheduling and ad sales, they do. Which, of course, leads to the fact that I was also uncomfortable with them running half a season of this show, leaving us with what for all intents and purposes was an action-filled cliff-hanger episode.

So you can imagine my surprise when what was supposed to be a second half of a season looked more like an all new season or all new show introducing new concepts and story arcs, and returning to the really, really slow pace of the first few episodes that put off so many scifi fans.

"Battlestar Galactica" had two incarnations, the original in the late 1970's and the one of the late 2000's termed the "reimagined series." Tuesday's "Caprica" episode felt like a "reimagined" series.

Writing credit for this episode is given to Ryan Mottesheard exclusively and I have no idea what that means as he was script coordinator on "Battlestar Galactica" having a writing credit for one episode which was shared with show creators Moore and Glen Larson.

We have to recognize that from the beginning Moore warned everyone that the show would not be BSG. In 2006(!) Moore said:
It's a very different show; it's not action – adventure and it's not even in space. It takes place on the Planet Caprica and it’s more of a family drama, with political and corporate intrigue.

We also have to recognize that it is a prequel to BSG, except we have to be aware of the "Galactica" explanation that "all of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again" but events are not exactly replicated each time. This "Caprica" period is one of those repeats or the original. We don't know and it doesn't matter. Earth was discovered 150,000 years before now in the "Galactica" finale. Simply, Caprica is a tale of ancient history rather than future history, ancient history that has a civilization that appears somewhat like ours.

I'm beginning to think the "Caprica" creators Remi Aubuchon and Ron Moore have fallen in love with the idea that an audience is out there to be had by careful and slow structuring, offering much detail, with rarely anything that looks like scifi action.

Well, yeah, AMC does have an audience for "Mad Men" and "Rubicon" made up of people like me who love complex stories with complex characters. But whether they'll come over to SyFy on Tuesday in prime time for what is as much a fantasy drama as a scifi drama remains to be seen.

On the other hand, Moore and company are doing what they are doing very well.

In this episode we learn more about the "one true god" religious organization on Gemenon, with its Vatican equivalent surrounded by the invading hoards. But guess what, the Pope equivalent is a woman called "Mother" played by Meg Tilly, an actor who can subtly express with her face and does so in this episode.

It is clear that the parallel here is not necessarily modern Christianity or Islam both of which are more decentralized and fragmented. And yet there are enough historical parallels in both faiths that we must recognize as well as some details that are obviously not a coincidence. For instance, the monotheist terrorist group Soldiers of The One or STO uses the infinity symbol. Of course we can't help but see the potential comparison:
In this episode we also learn more about the Ha'la'tha crime syndicate from Tauron and its leader the Guatrau. Is this a parallel of the Sicilian Mafia? Of course.

Now comes the new parallel story arcs:
  • Billionaire entrepreneur Daniel Graystone has lost his Graystone Corporation to his arch rival Tomas Vergis in the development of the robots we know as the Cylons ("toaster" get's introduced in this episode); he has even lost control of the now nearly demolished one that contained his daughter Zoe's avatar 'mind"; and Vergis also even took away his beloved sports team the Buccaneers; so through Joseph Adama he approaches the Guatrau to pitch the idea that if they can just get rid of Vergis, they could be in a hugely profitable partnership marketing as a cure for grief a computer system that can resurrect dead people as virtual avatars in a holoworld, something that has already happened with Zoe Graystone and Adama's daughter Tamara Adama.
  • "Sister" Clarice Willow, in an effort to wrest full control over the STO movement away from her arch rival Barnabas Greeley, travels to Gemenon and approaches "Mother" for permission to market the aforementioned computer system to resurrect dead people as virtual avatars in a holoheaven, the demonstrable immortality that the religion promises; as a marketing tool, it has the advantage of people being able to see the dead believers in heaven.
All of this involves intrigue and some violence.

Perhaps you're wondering about the last episode of the first half of the season.

Well, the fatally damaged cylon body that Zoe's avatar occupied is boxed up. And we learn that Zoe escaped back to the holoworld by watching her prove her strength as a magical warrior princess "killing" some street punks who call her a "deadwalker", of which we know two exist - her and Tamara.

Further, we learn that Amanda Graystone, who we thought we last saw step off the edge of a bridge an kill herself while Sister Clarice's car was being blown up nearby, actually is now staying in some cabin with Sister Clarice.

So much for the action-packed last episode. Now back to our regularly schedule long dramatic march.

I like this show. At least I like the potential revealed in this episode. I want to know just how the holoworld concept ultimately leads to the Cylons starting a war with the Twelve Colonies several decades from the "now" of these episodes. I like the characters being developed and I like the actors. I like a show that, if it is not going to have a current-day or historical foundation, offers a philosophical underpinning for its broader conflict story arc.

But if the unfolding process of this show is attractive to me and only 27 other people, and that's something I am concerned might happen, NBCU won't keep funding its share.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mad Men: Something good happens, something bad happens

A story arc sequence in this episode says it all about the "business model" of ad agencies like Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. (I'd also make a sarcastic remark about investment banking here, but that's another blog.)

The partners are gathered in Roger's office prior to leaving for a funeral of a fellow ad man (we really don't know who David Montgomery is). They talk about how to use the event to find new clients. Don's newest secretary Megan enters the room to announce the birth of Pete's daughter. Congrats, all around. Thanks guys.

Pete says "Let's get going." And he and the guys head off to the funeral where we see them whispering to each other about who is going to talk to whom.

“How was the funeral?” Megan asks Don later.

“We’ll see,” he responds.

Death seems to fill the atmosphere at SCDP in this episode after everyone finds out they've lost the biggest client, Lucky Strike. And yet, at the end of the episode we see a nefarious act and blood ketchup in the future. But back to the details of the episode. Let's look at four of the show's key characters.

Don Draper

Well, Big Don didn't "go on the wagon" and neither did "Little Don." While Megan and Faye struggle to keep him from drinking too much, he couldn't keep to his limit of three drinks and couldn't keep "Little Don" in his pants with regard to Megan, who wants a mentor and wants to be successful like Peggy.

And, of course, he manages to manipulate Faye's concern for him to get a future meeting with Heinz to try to replace Lucky Strike.

For these women, Don is the traditional "bad boy." Somehow they see him in jeans and a t-shirt with a cigarette pack rolled up into the sleeve, except he's in a suit.

His pep talk to the employees was adequate, but Jon Hamm really does make Don seem uneasy and worried while struggling to make it convincing.

Losing Glo-Coat was symbolic of how crushing life can be for Don/Dick. But Megan is right in putting his Clio back together. It is a symbol of possible accomplishments.

Peggy Olson

"Every time something good happens, something bad happens. I knew I'd pay for it."

There is nothing like being a fallen-away Catholic. Think about it. Can you imagine any other character in this show summarizing his/her life this way?

For Peggy, having a fulfilling personal life is part of being alive, unlike Don for whom a personal life can never be more than a prop or an occasional escape. So when she wanders late into the gathering listening to Don's pep talk, happy from her new relationship with Abe it's a heck of a come down. (On the other hand, can being told by your lover that you have shoulders like an Olympic athlete really lift your spirits?)

Don, who actually is her mentor, bluntly warns her not to kid herself into believing what he just told the rest of the employees. She's still young and inexperienced. No wonder she thinks some kind of Catholic punishment will follow everything sinfully good that happens to her.

She nails the Playtex presentation, but not without experiencing another team member stabbing her in the back by not telling her about the lipstick on the teeth. Of course, that team member is not a part of any team. Her only teammate is Don.

Sometimes though, I wonder if an overarching morality lesson in "Mad Men" is "Every time something good happens, something bad happens."

Roger Sterling

Roger Sterling is going to be the Brett Favre of  "Mad Men" - the lesson is one should retire at the top of their game and then stay retired.

Roger catches a glimmer of the future, that there might not be a celebration of his life attended by grateful clients and coworkers, a mourning lifetime partner and children, no expression of a man appreciated. From that funeral, we hear about how that man buried himself in his work bringing tokens to his family from his business travels.

In fact, Roger behaves like a child, hiding his guilt over Lucky Strike (it's a good thing caller ID was invented later). Bert Cooper, the firm's resident elderly leader emeritus, crushes him with: "Lee Garner Jr. never took you seriously because you never took yourself seriously."

And Joan finally acknowledges that the "fun loving" Roger is also an irresponsible Roger who has been a constant source of disappointment and now has endangered her livelihood. When she makes it clear that she is ending their relationship, Roger looks like a child who's favorite toy is taken away.

But Roger has Sterling’s Gold and signs his first copy...for his young, new trophy wife who has already replaced his real wife and, unintentionally on Roger's part, Joan. One has to wonder if the writers have actually written the book to be sold at the end of this season.

Pete Campbell

Some might find it odd that Pete didn't stay at the hospital to be present at his daughter's birth. If you do, you were born after the 1960's. In 1965 husbands tried to stay at the hospital in the waiting room, but they weren't expected to hang around for days as they had a life and they never, ever were in the delivery room.

Still, for Pete the meaningful interaction was in that waiting room. His father-in-law wants him to get out of SCDP and take an offer to work for the rest of his life with people he hates. What will Pete do? He seems to forgive Don a lot, but Don pushes him away again accusing him of screwing up the Glo-Coat account.

The future for Pete is a family. But we seem to see a maturing Pete, finding his footing, not wanting to bail on what appears to be a failing firm. We know he will seek a way to take advantage of the situation, but this Pete knows full well that opportunities for real gains won't present themselves in a firm he didn't help start.

As we were serenaded during the ending by Jim Reeves singing "Welcome to My World," we realize that seasons of "Mad Men" don't wind down, they rachet up to leave us wanting more, from the show and from life. For the characters and many who lived during this period:

Knock and the door will open
Seek and you will find
Ask and you'll be given
The key to this world of mine

Welcome to my world...