Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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'Mad Men' Recap: Don Draper is definitely going to hell

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED THE LATEST EPISODE OF MAD MEN, RE-EVALUATE YOUR PRIORITIES IMMEDIATELY AND WATCH THE EPISODE BEFORE READING ANY FURTHER.

'Mad Men' Recap: Don Draper is definitely going to hell

Jon Hamm as Don Draper in "Mad Men". (AP Photo/AMC Frank Ockenfels) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Jon Hamm as Don Draper in "Mad Men". (AP Photo/AMC Frank Ockenfels) (ASSOCIATED PRESS) AP Photo/AMC Frank Ockenfels

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED THE LATEST EPISODE OF MAD MEN, RE-EVALUATE YOUR PRIORITIES IMMEDIATELY AND WATCH THE EPISODE BEFORE READING ANY FURTHER.

Don Draper is so going to hell.

Mad Men's sixth season opened with a shot of Don Draper reading Dante's Inferno on the beach. Fast forward to episode three and Draper's still cheating on Megan with his downstairs neighbor, Sylvia. They're so brazen with their affair that they're making out in the building elevator and she's leaving a penny under her doormat as a signal. Then, when Megan's actual soap opera storyline gets some attention from the writers and she tells Don she'll have a love scene, he practically trips over himself to slut-shame her, even though HE'S HAVING AN AFFAIR WITH HIS DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR.

This blatant contradiction is another reference to Inferno, where hypocrites are forced to traipse around the eighth circle of hell for all of eternity. Not only do they have to walk around in a circle forever and ever, but they've got to do so while wearing cloaks lined with lead. The cloaks are lined with lead so that they're really heavy, but they're golden and elegant for appearance's sake. This concept is often interpreted as a reference to the Bible's Matthew 23:27.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness."

"...appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness?!" Sound like anyone we know? HINT: Don Draper—with his fancy advertising agency, high-rise Manhattan apartment, and happy marriage—is the golden cloak. Dick Whitman and all of the "uncleanness" is the lead lining.

Don Draper is so going to hell.

Then there's the whole Heinz debacle. You'll remember that, when What's-His-Face from Beans & Vinegar threatened to leave the firm if Don and Ken Cosgrove flirted with Ketchup, Don's initial reaction was, "Sometimes you've got to dance with the one who brung ya." He couldn't hear his own conscience and foresight over the deafening grunts of lust, which, in case you hadn't noticed, is kind of a recurring theme for him. They flirt with Ketchup and subsequently lose Beans & Vinegar.*

And how awesome was Peggy in the Heinz pitch? Their concept was simple, sleek, and BIG (literally, thanks to the idea to put the ad in Times Square). Plus, she used Don's "If you don't like what they're saying, change the conversation" line in her pitch.

"Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal." - T.S. Eliot

Things got a little awkward when Don and Megan go on a double date with Megan's boss, Jefferson Milhouse D'Arcy, and his wife. They, ahem, proposition the Drapers, who politely decline the invitation to participate in the extracurricular activities. Megan is surprised at how open the other couple was about their swinging lifestyle. The scene and Megan's comment—along with Don and Sylvia kissing in the elevator and Megan's love scene—means that everyone's personal lives were creeping out from behind closed doors. A stark contrast to all of the secrecy surrounding work at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, where Don and Stan plug away at Project K in a private room with the windows covered.

Later, we see Don eavesdropping on Peggy's meeting with Ketchup, which takes place in a hotel room SCDP rented for the occasion. The firm loses its steady (Beans & Vinegar) and its mistress (Ketchup). This is probably a sign of things to come for Don, who'll push Megan away, but not before he loses Sylvia.

In Marginal Characters Lashing Out to Remind Us They Exist news, Harry Crane is still aperson. Turns out he still works at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and is capable of feeling things (mostly just a lack of appreciation). After Joan fires Harry's secretary for sneaking out of work early and having Dawn punch out her time-card, Harry barges into a partner's meeting and basically says that there will be hell to pay if everyone doesn't start putting gold stars next to his name on the refrigerator chart. He wants to be made partner. He gets a $23,000 bonus, but doesn't really care because he wants to be made partner.

No Betty Draper this week (thank God) and no Trudy Campbell because she's probably still cooling off from (metaphorically) castrating her scumbag husband last week. Also, Dr. Rosen was too busy saving lives to make an appearance.

In response to the season premiere, I wrote that Mad Men seems to be talking about itself. Linking the show's dialogue to this type of symbolism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. But, since I'm looking for it, the most notable instances in which the characters seemed to be talking about the show itself were:

A: When Megan's telling Don about her love scenes, she begins hypothesizing what he should say if he were a supportive husband. She tapers off and Don quips, "No, please, I'm dying to hear what I'll say next." As scores of bloggers and viewers—myself obviously included—pontificate about the show and spend a significant amount of time (probably more than is considered healthy) trying to predict what Don Draper will do next, this line speaks to the notion that it's all just conjecture.

B. When Sterling and Cooper are talking about the upcoming election, they bring up the idea that Nixon isn't campaigning against Johnson as much as he is against Kennedy's ghost. The line immediately reminded me that Mad Men might not be competing against current television shows (it only pulls in approximately 2 million views). It's entirely possible that Weiner is pitting Don Draper up against the ghost of Tony Soprano.

At the end of the episode, Don finally shows up to Megan's set to watch her in action. SURPRISE! It's her love scene with that guy. Don gets all pissy about being fictionally cuckolded, starts a fight with Megan, and then slinks home to Sylvia's apartment because, self-righteous misogyny.

Right before he and Sylvia consummate their affair for the upteenth time, he inquires about her crucifix necklace. She explains that it means a lot to her and confesses that she prays Don will find peace. He spins the necklace around so that he doesn't have to look at it while they have sex. Again, this is could be a nod to Inferno, where Caiaphas (the guy who allegedly organized the plot to kil Jesus) is crucified to on the floor and trampled by all of the other hypocrites marching in their lead-lined cloaks.

Don Draper is so going to hell.

*An earlier version of this recap stated that Peggy and Chaough won Ketchup. It was actually J. Walter Thompson who "won it in the room."

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