The ninth episode of “Mad Men’s” final season is titled “New Business,” but save for a few smatterings of mentions of client wooing (Pete has his golf clubs on standby and two assistants attempt to keep Roger on schedule), the episode was very much determined to wrap up some of the show’s old business without advancing much of the current storylines.
Early in the episode, Don is seen winning the award for Best Weekend Dad by letting himself into his ex-wife’s kitchen to make milkshakes for his sons just in time for Betty and Henry to catch him in the act. He looks back sadly at his kids as he leaves, off to his huge empty penthouse in the city with only an anticipated parade of random women to keep him company.
This could be why he tracked down Diana, the diner waitress from last episode (Elisabeth Reaser). She’s got a new gig and, as we learn through throughout the episode, a tragic backstory involving divorce and children lost through both death and abandonment that is exactly what Don’s looking for when he wants to feel empowered (Remember Sally’s teacher, played by Abigail Spencer, and her troubled brother from season three?). When she comes over for a 3 a.m. visit, he quickly changes out of his pajamas into a suit and tie. “Do you sleep like that?,” she asks, surprised. “I’m vain,” he says nonchalantly.
Don is feeling particularly vulnerable, as Megan has come into town with her mother and sister to pick up her things and settle the divorce. But she has her own issues to contend with, in the form of Harry Crane, who hits on her clumsily over a lunch to discuss her career. (Her attire, it should be noted, was the skimpy light blue mini she wore when she picked Don up at the airport before dragging him to another career-focused meal in Los Angeles in the season seven premiere. Is this a (un)lucky dress? Or just an example of her own vulnerability?)
Megan’s day goes from bad to worse when she finds that her mother (Julia Ormond) and Roger have rekindled their relationship — back in Don’s apartment, which Megan’s mother took it upon herself to liquidate. Megan takes this out on Don, telling him she doesn’t want anything of his and that he took advantage of her naivete when they got together. Don tries to make good on his earlier offer to take care of her with a check for $1 million, saying he wants her to have the life she deserves. “I know it’s not real. Nothing about you is,” she says before finally taking the money.
Meanwhile, Stan is feeling pretty proud of himself when he gets a somewhat significant B storyline involving a dramatic female photographer (Mimi Rogers) who challenges his work before seducing him in the darkroom. He’s feeling like a big shot until Peggy tells him she tried the same thing with her — but Peggy knew it was a scam to get more assignments and she wasn’t going to hire her again.
• Betty tells Don she’s tired of being a bored housewife and plans to go to back to school to study psychology. “People love to talk to me,” she says somewhat unconvincingly.
• “I don’t know if I would like it,” Meredith, Don’s secretary, says to Harry when he says she should go to LA sometime. “How do you go to sleep at night knowing that the Manson brothers could be running around?” See what they did there?
• Don and Diana share an awkward elevator ride with Arnold and Sylvia Rosen. This cannot be the first time this has happened.
• There will definitely be a few happy people involved in this show about profoundly miserable people who sell happiness for a living: production designer Dan Bishop and set decorator Claudette Didul, who now get to redecorate Don’s newly emptied apartment.