Mad Men: “Meditations in an Emergency”

Well, my two favorite football teams – the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Pittsburgh Steelers – both lost this past weekend. Normally, I’d be a horrible mood about it… but Sunday was the season finale of Mad Men… so let’s get right to it:

Many viewers wondered what Sally’s “Mommy, you’re bleeding!” comment was about near the end of the previous episode. We didn’t have to wait long to find an answer: Betty’s pregnant, thanks to her liaison with Don in “The Inheritance”. Betty’s physician, Dr. Aldrich, is all excited about the pregnancy… until Betty tells him that she can’t possibly have a baby right now. The doctor looks at Betty and says that “if we’re having the conversation I think we’re having, there are alternatives”.

He then says that he can’t believe that Betty – a wealthy, married woman – would consider even “it”. He tells her that as soon as she tells her husband and friends that she’ll “get into the swing of things” and that she’ll be OK. Dr. Aldrich apparently works out of his home, and when he leaves the room for a moment to go find a portable heater (so that Betty can undress for the examination), Birdie picks up her coat and purse… and leaves.

Back at Sterling Cooper, the “usual suspects” – Harry, Paul, Ken and Peggy – wonder why management wants all of their numbers way before they’re due. Paul wonders if the urgency has anything to do with Don’s absence in California. Harry says that he’s figured it out: Pete told him that the aerospace industry is about to take off (heh) out there, and that Don must be landing a giant account. Paul wonders if Don’s breaking off to start his own agency. Harry counters that he might be working to open Sterling Cooper West. He then laments that President Kennedy is giving a speech that night; since ads don’t run during presidential speeches, that’s revenue that Sterling Cooper is missing out on.

Peggy then goes to visit Pete, who’s eating a sandwich in his office. She asks if he’s told anyone about Clearasil yet; he sarcastically says that “it slipped his mind”. He also says that he’s waiting on a call from North American Aviation about a possible new deal. He then asks Peggy what to say to Duck. Peggy tells him to just tell him the truth, and that people respect that.

Contrary to her doctor’s orders, we next see Betty riding her horse. As she approaches the parking lot, she sees someone she knows… her long lost husband:

The two have an awkward conversation. Betty asks where he was. He says he needed time to think. Betty says that “it must be nice”, just taking time off like that. Don says that he’d do “anything I could” to take back what happened, and that he “wasn’t respectful” to her. He says that he can’t walk away from “all this”, and that he can’t go it alone. Betty is noncommittal. He says he needs to see the kids. She says that she can’t deal with this right now, and that she’ll call him “to make arrangements” to see the kids.

Back the Sterling Cooper, Pete meets with Duck to confess that he’s lost the Clearasil account. He’s slightly taken aback when Duck asks him what he wants to drink, but nevertheless says that he’ll have whatever Duck’s having. Duck says that he admires Pete’s honesty, and that Pete shouldn’t be worried because Sterling Cooper is merging with Putnam, Powell, and Lowe, and that Clearasil would have been a conflict of interest with Lever Brothers (a much larger PPL account). Duck also says that he will be president of the merged company, and that he wants Pete to have his old job. Pete asks what Don will think of his (Pete’s) promotion. Duck says that he will be president so it won’t matter: Don will have to like it or “find a new line of work”, thanks to a non-compete clause in his contract.

That evening, Don sits in his hotel room watching President Kennedy’s first public speech about the Cuban Missile Crisis on TV (this dates this episode to around October 22, 1962).

The next morning, Don walks into Sterling Cooper for the first time in three weeks. As he walks through the office, it seems like everyone has a radio turned on to get information about the crisis. When he gets to his office, Joan welcomes him, saying that he’s “a sight for sore eyes”. Peggy also welcomes him… from the door of her new office. She explains how she got the new office, which makes Don smile, if only for a second. He asks Joan if, aside from Peggy’s haircut and office, there’s anything he needs to know. She leads him into his office, where he spies a giant stack of mail, which Joan says is only half of what came in during his absence. She also says that Roger wants to talk to him badly, as does Duck. Don asks her to assemble his team as soon as possible, then call Roger in 30 minutes to tell him he’ll be at his office in 30 additional minutes. As for Duck, Don brushes him off, saying that he might run into him in the men’s room.

Just as Joan is leaving, Pete walks in. He, of course, has a hundred questions about Don’s disappearance. He reminds Don that he simply disappeared, and that, as he can’t drive, he had a hell of a time getting to meetings. Don asks “But you made it, didn’t you?”. He also says that he left Pete there because he thought that Pete could handle it. Whether he’s being sincere or not, I don’t know.

A short time later, Don goes to see Roger, where he learns that Sterling Cooper has been sold. Don is visibly shocked by the news. Sure, he appears to be more than happy about earning $500,000 from the sale… but he doesn’t look like he wants to leave the agency. He also looks suspicious when he finds out that Duck was behind the sale.

The next scene takes place at Peggy’s church, where Father Gill is delivering an impassioned homily about the “most important summit meeting of all” – the one between God and ourselves. Peggy is at the Mass, and actually bows her head and prays along with Father Gill.

Betty, meanwhile, is taking some time for herself at the beauty parlor. Several of the girls talk about the rumors flying around – Russian troops in Key West, the feds closing the interstates. Francine decides that she’s had enough, and orders everyone to keep quiet in front of her daughter. Marie storms off, creating a moment of silence, which Betty uses to tell Francine than she’s pregnant. Francine knows that she’s not happy about it, so she suggests going to a doctor in Albany… or perhaps Puerto Rico, where “they do it in hospitals”. Both women decide that Puerto Rico is not really an option (with the whole “Missile Crisis thing” going on). Francine says that sometimes the best thing to do is just wait.

Back at Sterling Cooper, Sal, Paul and Ken are in Harry’s office, where they’re trying to verify a rumor about the Soviets attacking U.S. ships. Only the TV’s not working, and Harry breaks it completely after Sal has futzed with it. Harry, the head of the television department, now has a broken TV… awesome!

Harry spies a memo on his desk, which asks each department head for the breakdown of people in their departments. Harry recognizes that the management is counting both employees and money. Just like how “Joe Six Pack” has no idea what’s going on in Cuba, Sterling Cooper employees have no idea what’s going on in the executive offices. And just like the average citizen during the Missile Crisis, the employees are getting only bits and pieces of information. Fed up, the boys track down Lois the receptionist. She tells them the truth: that Putnam, Powell and Lowe have bought Sterling Cooper, that it’s a done deal, and that they’re coming by Friday to “pick up a key”:

Harry, Ken and Sal are beside themselves with worry. Lois begs the men to take her off the switchboard if any of them survive the “redundancies”. They say they will, although they’re not too assuring.

That night, Betty drops off the kids at Don’s hotel room. Although Betty is curt with Don, the kids are ecstatic to see him. Don offers to take them to the movies or get Chinese food, but they opt instead for room service (and what kid wouldn’t?). Don asks Betty is she wants to stay; she says that she already has plans. We next see her looking at a store window, perhaps thinking of her former life as a model:

After doing some shopping, Betty goes to a bar (by herself!) where a man buys her a drink. At first, Betty rebuffs his advances. She then walks towards the bathroom, giving the man “the look” as she passes by him. He follows her, and the two end up having sex in an office in the back of the bar:

Wow! Betty is so hot, even when she commits mortal sin! We later see her at home, contentedly munching on a chicken leg in front of the open fridge… after Sally had said that “Mommy doesn’t eat” back at Don’s hotel room. Speaking of which, while Betty was off cheating, Don was busy writing Betts a letter while the kids watched Leave It To Beaver on the TV.

We then see Peggy talking to Father Gill. Peggy is obviously upset by the thought of nuclear war, and Father Gill picks just that moment to play hardball with her. He says that he knows that she believes in God, and that he feels that God called him to this parish to “save her”. He says that she needs to “unburden herself” (a code phrase for “go to Confession”) before anything bad happens. Peggy says that she understands, but that Father Gill is upsetting her at the moment. Father Gill says that its not him but her own guilt that’s upsetting her. “Don’t you understand that this could be the end of the world, and you could go to hell?”, he asks. Peggy says that she can’t believe that’s the way God is.

The next morning, we begin at the Campbell residence, where we see Trudy packing. She’s going to stay with her parents in Rehoboth Beach (my earlier guess was correct: it is in Delaware). Trudy is terrified of either a nuclear war, or rioting that may occur after such a war. She’s even boxed up the silver, about which Pete asks “a mob is going to come to the 14th floor of this apartment building?” Trudy says that she wishes Pete would go with her. Pete says that Rehoboth Beach is 90 minutes from DC, and that if there were a nuclear war her parent’s deck chairs “would end up on 5th Avenue”. She then gives him an envelope with several hundred dollars in it, to use to pay a taxi to drive him to Delaware if there is a nuclear war. She says that she wishes Pete would come with her. He says that if he’s going to die, he wants to die in Manhattan. Trudy says that if Pete loved her, he’d want to be with her. Pete says “you’re right… let me help you pack the car”. It looks like things might be over for Pete and Trudy!

Back at Sterling Cooper, Ken, Sal and Paul are huddled over a radio listening to the news (do these guys ever work?). Harry walks up to tell them the bad news: that the conference room is booked solid for the day and that the fridge is full of canapes (“really good ones”). Paul mentions that they even shampooed the carpets last night. Pete walks up, just as Harry tells the guys that they should all remain neutral during the merger. Paul says that he likes Sterling Cooper just the way it is.

Pete walks over to Don’s office, where he tells him of the “secret plan” to put Duck in charge of the new company. Don asks Pete why he’s telling him this. Pete says that he doesn’t know, that he just thought that if he were Don he’d want to know. Don thanks him for the information, and I believe that he was being sincere. Pete mentions that the Navy stopped a Russian ship this morning, and they the Soviets might reconsider now that “we’ve taken a stand”. Prophetic words?

At the Draper home, Betty comes in from riding. Carla hands her Don’s letter, which he dropped off with the kids earlier that morning:

Dear Betty,

I’m sitting in The Roosevelt, looking at the backs of Bobby’s and Sally’s heads as they watch TV. I’m not letting them change the channel, because watching the news makes me sick, and they can see it. I think about you, and how I’ve behaved, and my regret. I know it’s my fault you are not here right now. I understand why you feel it’s better to go on without me, and I know that you won’t be alone for very long. But without you, I’ll be alone forever.

I love you.


Man… can Don Draper write good copy or what? Betty looks genuinely sad after reading it.

Back at Sterling Cooper, the meeting is underway between the senior partners of Putnam, Powell and Lowe and Sterling Cooper. Tellingly, Don, Roger and Bert are on one side of the table, while Duck, Saint John Powell and Alec Barton are on the other.

Bert asks who will run the new company, to which Saint John Powell says that, because he knows both companies, Duck Phillips will be the new president. Duck tries to act surprised by the announcement, and readily accepts the position. Roger says that it makes sense. Bert wishes him the best of luck. Duck promises to treat the founders of Sterling Cooper with “the respect they deserve”.

Saint John turns the meeting over to Duck, who claims to have nothing prepared, but nevertheless launches into his vision of the future. He says that he wants to bring Sterling Cooper into “financial maturity”. He further states that “good creative is important, but it can’t be running the show” (he’s staring directly at Don when he says this). This business, Duck says, is about “buying time and space”. Bert says that Duck didn’t mention the word “client” once. Duck says that when times are good, people buy things, and when times are bad, they don’t, and that there’s no reason for the agency to buy into Creative’s “fantasies of persuasion”.

Bert turns to Don, who simply says “What?”. He says that it sounds like a great agency, and that Duck is the man to run it… but that he won’t be a part of it. Duck blames Don’s “artistic temperament” for his opinion. Roger asks Don if his leaving is necessary. Duck answers for him, launching into a diatribe about how Don loves to hear his own voice. He tells Don that he can either play with the team or “walk out that door and start selling insurance”. Don says that he doesn’t have a contract (implying that he can get a job at any other agency).

Duck looks as if he’s been kicked in the nuts. As an explanation, Roger says that they (Don, Roger and Bert) are close friends, and never thought that they needed a formal contract. Don stands, and tells everyone that he sells products, not advertising, and that if there isn’t a nuclear war before then, they can talk on Monday. He then walks out of the conference room.

Duck then throws a tantrum over Don, and it becomes clear that Duck’s main motivation for arranging the merger isn’t power or money, but simply for the pleasure of firing Don. He even slams his hand on the table so hard that it makes all the glasses and china shake. In short, Duck makes a giant ass of himself, so Saint John Powell asks Duck to “give them a moment”. Duck leaves the room, which makes Roger cheekily ask if this will affect the merger. Powell says no, that Duck could never hold his liquor. While not officially stated, it’s heavily implied that Duck is now out. Out of the company altogether, or simply out as president? We’ll have to see.

Joan gives Don some good news: Betty called and wants him to come home! Don tells Joan that she should go home too. Joan says that she can’t even think right now, as Greg’s hospital is “on alert”. Again, radios are blaring bits and pieces of information to the worried staff. Joan gets Don’s coat and hat, and offers him his briefcase. He says that he doesn’t need it… and walks off.

Pete spies Peggy leaving the office, then asks her in to his office for a drink. She accepts, and takes a seat on the same sofa where Pete impregnated her. Pete asks Peggy if he can “tell her the truth” about something. He wonders who would care if he died. He says that Peggy knows him, and that he knows her, and that he thinks she’s perfect. Peggy says that she’s not perfect. Pete tells Peggy that he loves her, and that he wants to be with her. Peggy looks at him and says that she “could have had him in her life forever” if she wanted to. Pete asks what she means by that. She says that she could have had him, that she could have shamed him into being with her, but that she didn’t want to. Pete says that he doesn’t understand. She swallows, then looks up at him and says “You got me pregnant. I had a baby, and I gave it away”:

“Are you serious?”, he asks. Peggy nods. She says that she “wanted other things”. She says that “one day, you’re there, and then all of a sudden, there’s less of you… and you wonder where that part went, if it’s living somewhere outside of you… and you keep thinking, maybe you’ll get it back… and then you realize… it’s just gone”. Pete asks why she would tell him that. Peggy apologizes and leaves.

Don walks through the door of the Draper home to happy squeals of “Daddy!” The kids are sitting on the floor watching TV, so Don sits down next to Betty on the sofa. The two don’t exchange a word.

We then see Pete, alone in the dark in his office at Sterling Cooper, holding the rifle that caused him so much trouble last season (see “Other Stuff”, below).

We then see Peggy alone in bed, praying. She crosses herself, then turns off the light and goes to sleep.

Finally, we see Don walk into the kitchen. The kids are in bed, Betty is cleaning up, and a radio is once again describing the situation in Cuba. Betty says that she has to tell him something. Don sits at the kitchen table, where Betty joins him. She hesitates, and we don’t know what, exactly, she’s going to tell him. She eventually says that she’s pregnant. Don says nothing. After a quiet moment, Betty reaches for Don’s hand… the camera slowly pulls away, and the scene fades to black.

Season 2 of Mad Men is over…


– Am I the only one that was taken aback by how quickly Dr. Aldrich mentioned abortion? It wasn’t legalized until 1970 in New York state, and I’m sure there were harsh penalties for doctors mentioning it. Of course, my own birth was nine years away back in 1962, so I wasn’t around. Dr. Aldrich appeared to be a longtime doctor of hers, so perhaps doctors “talked amongst themselves” and did refer their rich and\or longtime patients to doctors that would perform the surgery.

– Something else I missed: the Cuban Missile Crisis. I’ve only seen documentaries and a few movies about it (like the Kevin Costner film Thirteen Days). All of these were made after the fact, so we have a “bird’s eye view” of how things happened. In this episode of Mad Men, we see people huddling over radios, newspapers and TVs for bits and pieces of information. I had never thought about it, but I guess it went down like that. Just as I sat at home on 9/11 watching CNN while information and misinformation trickled in, so too did people in 1962 get their information in pieces. Only, in their case, it lasted two weeks and everyone thought a nuclear holocaust was going to happen.

– Speaking of the Missile Crisis, the full text of Kennedy’s speech is available here.

– The morning after Kennedy’s speech, Don walks into Sterling Cooper for the first time in weeks. Judging from the water spots on his jacket, it was raining outside. I spent around 50 minutes searching through dozens of websites to find out that yes, it did in fact rain in New York City on October 23, 1962. That’s an hour of my life, gone, just for this stupid recap!

– Does anyone else really like having Joan as Don’s secretary? I do. I think they have a good relationship. It’s obviously not romantic in any way, but I think that they see the world in a similar light.

– It was tragic seeing Betty smoke and drink after finding out that she was pregnant. Of course, that was then. I don’t know when the whole “mothers can’t do anything whilst pregnant” ideal came into being, but my Mom once told me that her doctor said the occasional drink was “fine”, and that was in 1970. Of course, people in medieval times drank gallons of beer a day and managed to reproduce, so maybe we’re just getting a bit too paranoid.

– Of course, Betty seemed to ride horses even more after finding out she was pregnant, against doctor’s orders. So it’s possible that she was trying to hurt the baby.

– Although the symbolism is a bit over the top, I loved the scene with Betty staring at the store window. We see her reflection, and know that she’s reflecting on her life.

– The guy at the bar that had sex with Betty is Ryan McPartlin, who plays “Captain Awesome” on Chuck!

– I guess Betty cheating on Don was inevitable. We saw what a sexual time bomb she was in season 1, and Don’s cheating just gave her the excuse she needed. I wonder if she actually enjoyed it, though. Betty is a good person at heart, and I think she would have waited forever for Don to come around… until she found out about Bobbie Barrett. At least Betty waited until she was already pregnant to cheat on Don, so at least we know whose baby it is.

– Until the “hardball scene” with Peggy, Father Gill has been one of the new “kinder, gentler” priests that would become “hip priests” later in the 60s. It’s good to see that Father’s Gill’s the same as any other priest under his facade, however.

– Rehoboth Beach, Delaware calls itself “The Nation’s Summer Capital”, due to the fact that many residents of Washington DC go there for brief vacations.

– If the meeting between Putnam, Powell and Lowe and Sterling Cooper took place on the Friday after Kennedy’s speech, then that would have been Friday, October 26, 1962.

– Is Duck’s hatred of Don really such that he’d throw everything away once he found out that he wouldn’t be able to fire him? I mean, he was going to be handed the presidency of the new Sterling Cooper… and he pissed it all away when he found out that he wouldn’t be able to fire Don! Well, he could fire Don, but since we’ve seen other agencies court Don in earlier episodes, the lack of a contact (with its non-compete clause) means that Don could take his $500,000 (remember, that’s around $3m in today’s money) and get a job wherever he wants. So Duck loses with Don no matter what… but then he threw his entire career away just because of that? Is Duck that vengeful, or is the liquor affecting his judgment?

– Speaking of, wouldn’t the fact that Don has no contract have come up in PPL’s due diligence? “Due diligence” is a legal term that has many meanings, but generally it refers to one company investigating another. For example, PPL would do “due diligence” before the merger to make sure that Sterling Cooper didn’t have any massive lawsuits pending against it, or any other liabilities that PPL would want to know about. The fact that Don, a minor partner but a partner all the same, had no contract should have set off alarm bells somewhere in PPL. If you want to learn more about due diligence, check out this page at Wikipedia.

– Of course, it’s possible that Bert and Roger somehow met with Powell and Barton and told them to keep Don’s contract status a secret from Duck. I’m not sure why Powell and Barton would go along with this, unless they were just using Duck as their “in” with Sterling Cooper. Perhaps we’ll find out about it one day.

– I like how the radios were on all over the office throughout the entire episode, giving it a sense of urgency and fear. Nice touch!

– So Peggy does end up giving a confession… only it’s to Pete, not Father Gill. We also find out the truth finally: Peggy did give the baby up for adoption. So the baby at her sister’s house is, in fact, her sister’s.

– In the first season of Mad Men (specifically, episode 7, “Red in the Face”), Pete goes to a department store to exchange a duplicate “chip n’ dip” tray he and Trudy had received as a wedding gift. Pete, in true “Pete Fashion”, tries chatting up the clerk doing the return, only to be rebuffed. Because Pete doesn’t have a receipt, the clerk only allows him to get a store credit. For some reason, Pete decides to buy a rifle with the credit, a move which enrages Trudy. She can’t believe that he’d exchange a wedding gift for a “toy” instead of something else on their wedding registry. Pete apparently decided to keep the rifle in his office. Was that an allowable practice back then? While I can imagine a small business owner in a bad neighborhood carrying a handgun, I can’t imagine anyone keeping a rifle in their office today!

– I wonder what the balance of power will be like at the Draper house now?

– Gosh, I love this show SO MUCH! I hate that it’s gone! I almost wish they signed the actors to “permanent contracts”, where they’d act and dress like the characters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We could have a Mad Men channel, where wwe could tune in any time of the day… would that be awesome or what?

9 Replies to “Mad Men: “Meditations in an Emergency””

  1. Are we to assume that Duck will be forced to Sterling Cooper, because he lost his temper over Don’s lack of a contract? That’s ridiculous and hard to buy. No, that’s ludicrous.

    Don had lost his temper with a potential client – namely Rachel – in the series’ premiere. In fact, he acted like a goddamn child. And yet, he kept his job. And now we’re expected for Duck will lose his over a similar act?

    Is it any wonder I find it more difficult to like the Don Draper character as this series continues?

  2. “In fact, he acted like a goddamn child. And yet, he kept his job. And now we’re expected for Duck will lose his over a similar act?”

    Sure… but those were completely different situations. If you acted like a “goddamn child” in front of a minor customer, most companies will either not care, or give you a slight reprimand if they do. If you acted like a “goddamn child” in front of all the management team… of course you would expect to be fired. That’s just how the world works.

    It was the same when I worked in desktop support for companies. If I went to some peon’s office and pointed at a picture of a woman on his desk and said “who’s the ugly cunt?”. I *might* get fired, or at least get a stern talking to. If I did the same thing in the CEO or president’s office, I’d probably get fired on the spot.

    Perhaps it’s not fair, but it’s how the world works.

    Don Draper rocks.

  3. As I recall, Roger and a good number of the staff was there when Don lost his temper with Rachel Menken.

  4. “As I recall, Roger and a good number of the staff was there when Don lost his temper with Rachel Menken.”

    Yes there were. Point being?

    “Not in my eyes, he doesn’t.”

    So then don’t threadcrap?

  5. “It wasn’t legalized until 1970 in New York state, and I’m sure there were harsh penalties for doctors mentioning it. ”

    I can’t speak to New York state, but when my mother became pregnant for the second time (about 1961), the doctor advised her and my father that because it appeared the baby would have serious birth defects — don’t ask me how he knew that — and my mother already had a child with serious congenital health conditions, he believed my mother should have an abortion on the basis of the health (mental) of the mother. I know very few details, as my father told me this without her knowledge when I was in college and started asking questions about the nine-year gap between my older brother and me (i.e., was my birth an accident?) and about the mysterious item on my birth certificate that claimed I was her third pregnancy and that there had been one stillborn child. I know that Mom once told me that a doctor, in asking if she had had any miscarriages, asked if she had had any “abortions,” which upset her because even though the technical term for miscarriage is “spontaneous abortion,” she felt the doctor was being deliberately provocative. Because she has never admitted to the truth about the second pregnancy, I don’t know if this question came before or after. Their home at the time would have been either Birmingham, Alabama (!), or possibly Chicago, depending on when in 1961 it happened.

    As for the due diligence, another tiny possibility is that it was so unheard of for someone of Don’s status not to be under contract that PPL’s investigators didn’t ask about that situation and/or Bert and Roger decided not to screw up the deal by mentioning it since they were certain Don wouldn’t jump ship. My dad’s business has had non-compete clauses in everyone’s contracts since opening in 1967, yet with his best friend, he had sidestepped a contract in exactly SC’s way and for this same reason … a choice he came to regret when said friend broke away in 1980 to start his own company and took off in the night with work product that was not legally his. He was like a godparent to me, and the ensuing legal disputes (after my father did everything biblically prescribed to avoid that route) destroyed our whole congregation and did me a good bit of harm for a year or so before we found a new church home where I could heal. Thirty years later, we’re all still getting over it.

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