In Jacques Demy’s Model Shop, the 1969 movie that Don Draper is watching at the beginning of last night’s Mad Men, Los Angeles is both the setting and a main character in the story of a man whose relationship with a wannabe actress is rapidly falling apart. Instead, he meets another woman – the same character played by the same actress (Anouk Aimée) from Demy’s 1961 film, Lola – with whom he quickly becomes obsessed. So it was no real surprise when Don got a desperate call from Los Angeles, his hardly-a-marriage marriage reached its breaking point, and women suddenly started throwing themselves at him again.
It’s April 1969, and Don is still stuck in work limbo five months after being put on leave. More importantly, it’s episode 3, and the show still hasn’t pointed Draper towards his destiny. Fear not, because “Field Trip” put all the show’s oars in the water and catches up with some of our most beloved and loathed characters (Betty! Harry!).
Don has literally nothing going on – but he’s still getting dressed up to harass the newly promoted Dawn, ordering her to fetch him typewriter ribbon and keep him in the SC&P loop. His only business-related call is from Megan’s agent, who shares the awkward news that Megan made a spectacle of herself after a recent audition, stalking the director at his Sunday brunch with Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling and melting into a puddle of tears. (BTW: there apparently is a Mad Men spec script where Draper actually meets Serling…)
Don heads west to surprise Megan and survey just how bad the situation is. Short answer, it’s bad. Megan is honestly thrilled to see him, but after some “extra special hankering” on the sofa – which is clearly foreplay for the discussion that follows – Don opens up his playbook for How to Upset An Insecure Wife and follows it to a T. She’s already vulnerable, telling him “it’s sunny here for everyone but me.” And when Megan grows suspicious of his probing questions about her career, Don sneaks in the always effective retort, “Stop acting like a lunatic.” She kids(?) about slitting her wrists in the bathtub and sarcastically mocks his concern by calling Don “Daddy.” To be fair to Don, Megan is kind of acting like a lunatic. Or just like someone who is very much alone, who is facing professional rejection every day, and who is not living the life she hoped with the man she loves.
Megan tries to turn the tables on her husband, as she understandably suspects that when she is in L.A., the Don will play. As soon as she accuses him of infidelity, you know he’s going to play his only ace and tell her the truth about his forced leave of absence. But Don hadn’t thought this one all the way through; if he’s not working, why isn’t he in L.A. with her? Upset, Megan sends him packing, saying, “This is the way it ends. It’s going to be so much easier for both of us [now].”
Two months after Valentine’s Day, Peggy’s life hasn’t exactly improved. The CLIO nominations were just announced, and she’s been totally overlooked. Even Peggy’s brilliant Rosemary’s Baby spot for St. Joseph’s aspirin got nothing. Making matters worse, Ginsberg’s Playtex ad earned the lone CLIO mention from the agency – a poor showing that was likely guaranteed by the fact that Lou Avery only submitted work that he personally developed. Lou Avery: what a gem. The way he speaks to Peggy – “Who put a knot in your pantyhose?” – and all women, for that matter, is his most defining characteristic. Allan Havey, the actor who plays Lou, is so good in the role that I fear he’s drifting into Bob Gunton territory (and Lou Avery is this decade’s Warden Norton from The Shawshank Redemption). I’ll never be able to see Havey as anyone else but a dickish, disagreeable character.
NEXT: The return of Betty