SPOILER ALERT: Do not read unless you’ve seen “Mad Men,” episode three of season 7-B, “The Forecast.
Don Draper is both seeker and sage in “The Forecast,” an episode that is chock full of references to the long and winding road of “Mad Men.”
The episode — written by Jonathan Igla and Matthew Weiner and directed by Jennifer Getzinger — packed a lot of goodness in an hour and four minutes (according to my DVR) for Don, Joan, Sally, Betty and Peggy. There was a lot of plot but it still had time for quiet moments with our heroes.
Once again, Jon Hamm is masterful in an episode that sees him dispensing advice and counsel and searching for deeper meaning in his life and work. He gets beat up pretty good by underlings and his own daughter but by now we have learned that you can’t keep a good Don down for long.
Christina Hendricks has a meaty storyline involving a chance encounter in Los Angeles that follows her to New York and forces her to take stock of her life and her unfulfilled desires. Always ahead of the curve, she faces the classic Single Mother Conundrum, thanks to a terrific guest spot by Bruce Greenwood. “You know what? You’re ruining my life,” Joan laments in frustration, and she’s not talking about the babysitter.
Sally tries to come to grips with growing up and her parents growing older, perhaps with less grace than she would like (or “ooze” as she calls it with such a convincingly teenage snarl). But unbeknownst to her, both Don and Betty do the right thing when presented with the alternative. Don delivers perhaps the best piece of fatherly advice he’s given Sally: “You’re a beautiful girl. It’s up to you to be more than that.” Kiernan Shipka is so good at delivering the teenage ennui and sass that torments Don and Betty in different ways.
Peggy usually channels Don but this episodes she almost seemed to be channeling Roger, the way she was snapping at secretaries right and left. It’s clear that post-merger, Don’s back to his exerting his old authority around the office, and not just on paper. He’s a referee between Peggy and Pete when things go south with Peter Pan. He fires Mathis for being an ungrateful doofus, although not before Mathis delivers the insult that hits Don especially hard, coming at a time when he’s genuinely looking for “the meaning of life,” as Peggy puts it in her frustration.
“You don’t have any character. You’re just handsome. Stop kidding yourself,” Mathis hurls at Don, after he mangles Don’s advice in trying to repair the Peter Pan relationship.
Don is tasked by Roger in coming up with a 2,500-word speech about where SCDP is headed in the next year. The task sets Don to thinking not about the agency but about what he wants out of life. He notes that the buyout from McCann-Erickson may have sapped most of the entrepreneurial drive out of the place — they’re all fat and happy now. “Before McCann I thought ‘Will we be in business next year?’ ” Don says.
Interesting that we see Peggy and Ted Chaough on the same wavelength of being unable to see much past the job in describing their hopes and dreams. Ted wants to land a pharmaceutical company. Peggy wants to create a great tagline and have a Big Idea. I’m not saying those two were made for each other but … Funny, Don and Betty echo each other in some ways. Don tells his real estate agent that he has “a good feeling” about her ability to sell the apartment without furniture. Betty tells Vietnam-bound Glen, “you’re going to make it, I’m positive.” Maybe they both just took the same Power of Positive Thinking course.
Don is incredulous — so much so that Peggy feels like he’s dumping all over her dreams, which include being the agency’s first female creative director. Don is faced with a lot of no-nonsense ambitious females in this episode, from Peggy to his real estate agent Melanie to Sally and her friends. One of Sally’s friends declares she wants to be a senator. And one of them, Sarah, creepily comes on to Don as they stop for dinner while en route to the Greyhound station where the girls will begin their “teen tour” (“12 states in 12 days”). Don handles the whole thing better than Sally does.
Speaking of creepy inappropriate teen/adult relationships, Glen comes to the Francis manse on the pretense of visiting Sally — but what he really wants is a cuddle from Betty. Betty, to her credit, is not having any of it. But she is moved by Glen’s story of joining the army to ship off to Vietnam. Glen is moody-intense as usual but good in his grown-up pants — so much so that Betty doesn’t recognize her one-time crush at first. And Glen delivers the quintessential Betty characterization: “You look exactly the same.” The same could be said about Don and his look — not much has changed there either — maybe the ties are a quarter-inch wider than in season 1.
Joan meanwhile goes on impulse after meeting Richard the real estate developer by chance while on a business trip to Los Angeles. She informs Richard that her job as an account exec and partner at Sterling Cooper “is the job I always wanted.” Interesting to see that as Joan enters Lou Avery’s L.A. office, his secretary is excited to meet her while Lou treats her like a secretary.
Don is symbolically cleaned out in this episode — “an $85,000 fixer-upper,” as his real estate agent Melanie calls it. He struggles to write the ad copy, as it were, for Roger’s speech. His home furniture (other than the bed) has been commandeered by his ex-wife, reducing him to dragging the patio furniture into the living room. And by the end of the episode, his agent has sold the place to an expectant couple — ensuring that he has to get on the move ASAP.
Among the touches that seemed to reference “Mad Men’s” past:
** Roger tells Don. “Come in. Have a seat,” which is awfully close to the season three episode title “Shut the Door, Have a Seat.”
** Don references the formation of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in December 1963.
** Don references the voracious Lucky Strike scion Lee Garner Jr. in his ill-fated conversation with Mathis. Can Sal be far behind?