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Monday, May 7, 2012

Mad Men: "Lady Lazarus"

Tonight’s Mad Men was all about putting the men and women at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in unfamiliar places and seeing how they would react. Some of them wanted to be in their new environments, while others reacted quite badly.

For something we’ve never seen before, that phone booth saw quite a lot of action tonight, as Megan used it to answer a phone call she didn’t want to take in Don’s office, and Pete used it to try and arrange a tryst with his friend’s wife.

Pete Campbell is definitely a “grass is always greener” type of guy, and it’s sad that he doesn’t realize how pathetic his desire for Beth is. He’s blindly optimistic that life with Beth would be better than life with Trudy, without anything to base that on. (Oh to be in a position to choose between Alexis Bledel and Alison Brie!)

Then there was the Cool-Whip test kitchen, where Peggy flubs her lines, depressing the client (Mr. Belding!) and angering Don, who had done the bit flawlessly with Megan.

As Peggy says, Don is really mad at Megan, but the scene should be instructive for Don. He and Peggy have about as healthy a professional relationship as Don is capable of with a woman, but she’s an incredibly poor substitute for a wife. Perhaps it’s good for him that his real wife is taking her talents in a different direction.

As for Megan Calvet Draper (for some reason I love using her full name), what are we to make of her sudden decision to quit SCDP and pursue acting again? Is she just listening to her father? Is Joan right that Megan is destined to become the next Betty?

Both Peggy and Don try to talk Megan out of leaving, and their appeals are markedly similar. Megan is good at this, and you don’t always get to choose where your talents lie. In the end both are pretending to be alright with her decision, even if neither of them can quite understand it. I’m most curious how Don will handle a wife who wants fame, attention, and something she can call her own. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that would sit well with him.

I think Stan might have the closest read on Megan, when he says that she’s facing the reality that she worked hard for eight months on Heinz baked beans. It’s a frustration that he clearly shares, and it seems to really hit Peggy too. Maybe she kept saying “try” for “taste” because she just didn’t care to see the difference anymore.

Other thoughts:
-I’ve never understood why Alexis Bledel isn’t a huge star, and I hope we see more of her.
-Loved seeing Roger playing Don’s therapist late in the episode.
-Poor Harry Crane, relegated to self-effacing comic relief. He did get off a great Henny Youngman joke when Pete asks if the pictures of the Earth from space made him feel small and insignificant: “That’s Jennifer’s job.”
-Add Chekhov’s Elevator Shaft to the list of foreboding elements in Mad Men that will most likely never pay off (see: Pete’s shotgun, Roger’s suicide jokes, etc.) Seriously though, Don should probably have alerted the maintenance people about that.
-Like Roger, I got a kick out of seeing Pete try to carry those skis.
-I found the use of “Tomorrow Never Knows” and Don’s distaste for the Beatles in general to be one of those things where Mad Men gets too on-the-nose. We get it, Don’s falling further behind in the times.
-I may have to give back my English degree, because I can’t really connect Sylvia Plath’s poem “Lady Lazarus” to anything that happens in this episode.


  1. I think the title is foreshadowing for something about Joan in coming episodes. With all the Herr Doktor/Herr Enemy stuff in the poem, it may be about the real-real wrap-up of the end of her marriage to the incompetent/amoral wartime surgeon. The last bit of the poem, especially makes me think it's for Joan:

    "Herr God, Herr Lucifer

    Out of the ash
    I rise with my red hair
    And I eat men like air."

  2. Hey, hey, hey, hey, HEY -- WHAT is going on here?