Thursday, 1 May 2014

MAD MEN, 7.3 – 'Field Trip'

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Don pays his wife a surprise visit after hearing about a professional meltdown from her agent, Betty accompanies her son Bobby on a school field trip to a farm, and the SC&P partners consider Don's return to the agency at Roger's behest...

DON DRAPER - welcomed back with folded arms

Having spent a few episodes examining the mighty Don Draper (Jon Hamm) without a purpose to his life, "Field Trip" eventually saw him return to the frosty bosom of SC&P. But it wasn't the easiest of journeys, as it involved visiting Roger (John Slattery) to show heartfelt remorse, then walking back into the office and quickly realising the staff weren't even aware of the agreed meeting to discuss his future employment. There was a marvellous sequence with Don walking back into SC&P after his two-month "sabbatical", which was nicely edited to make you half-suspect it was all playing out in Don's imagination.

Watching Don interact with his inferior replacement Lou (Allan Havey), before being shunted into the middle office with the creative team, squirming as the hours passed with no sign of Roger, was as uncomfortable as the writers intended. For all of his personal flaws, there are very few Mad Men fans who don't want to see Don reinstated as the agency's top ad man. It's just too much of a downer watching him without a reason to get up in the morning.

What was most notable about Don's inevitable return (which was only down to finances, because buying a partner out is expensive), was his immediate acceptance of their humiliating terms: to never again be left alone with clients, to stick to a script vetted by the other partner during pitches, to move into Lane's old office, to never drink while at work, and—perhaps most demeaning of all—report to Lou as a subordinate. I guess Don's either so desperate to get back to work that he'll do anything, simply doesn't care about the politics involved, or doesn't have the heart to negotiate. Or all three.

MEGAN DRAPER - professional meltdown

In a relatively small sub-plot, Don had to fly back to L.A at the behest of his wife's agent, Alan (Johnathan McClain), who informed him Megan's (Jessica Paré) lost her confidence and embarrassed herself by interrupting a director's lunch with Rod Serling. It wasn't a particularly memorable storyline, but it was notable for the moment when Megan was told about Don's problems at work—which explains, to her, why she's never heard any background office noise during her conversations with him recently. Unfortunately, Megan's taken this news as unequivocal proof Don chooses to stay away from her, even when he has the availability to do otherwise.

BETTY FRANCIS - maternal self-doubt

I don't dislike Betty (January Jones) as many do, but I do sometimes wonder why the show is still so invested in her as a character. Beyond the fact she's the mother of Don's children, there rarely seems to be satisfying reason for her continuing presence. This episode, like so many others, again promoted the idea Betty has serious doubts about her own abilities as a mother and is convinced her kids don't love her. The kicker is that she's probably right, even if her husband doesn't agree. Here, a school field trip with Bobby (Mason Vale Cotton) resulted in him trading away her lunch for sweets, and it was enough for Betty to again sink into familial bitterness at home. It was also a reminder that Betty's always been incredible childish in her reactions to relatively trivial matters.

  • I was shocked by how resolute Joan (Christina Hendricks) was about denying Don the chance to return, as she likes how things have worked out without him. As one of Don's biggest allies and friends in the past, I must admit this personal betrayal of Joan was unexpected. Is Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) the only person who didn't like the post-Don world? But even she doesn't claim to have missed him! He has some bridges to rebuild, that's for sure...
  • Amusing to see the sudden desire for SC&P to get a snazzy computer, as we're on the precipice of the 1970s. Have you also noticed how '70s-y the show's set dressing and colours are this year?
written by Heather Jeng Bladt & Matthew Weiner | directed by Christopher Manley | 27 April 2014 | AMC