A black fly in your chardonnay

 Posted by on April 11, 2008 at 5:56 am  Season 1
Apr 112008

(I don’t usually issue spoiler warnings, because we started this blog after the first season had aired, but this little entry does reveal something from the finale, so if you’re about to see it for the first time this weekend, just hang out and read this next week.)

In the Wheel, Don finds out, through a disgruntled Bertram Cooper, that Rachel has gone on a three month ocean voyage.

Rachel’s objection to Don’s let’s-run-away panic was, among other things, that she couldn’t just up and leave her life.

(Though I’m not gonna lie. A three month ocean voyage seems a perfect plan to get away from and potentially over a romance gone bad. Especially one that mixes with your professional life.)

But also of course, it is ironic because Don’s let’s-run-away panic was, as it turned out, premature and unnecessary. Everything turned out fine. Oh, it’s hindsight week here at BoK.


  45 Responses to “A black fly in your chardonnay”

  1. At first, Rachel was okay with running away, until she realized that Don had no plan. The problem is having no plan.

  2. Love the topic title. It's so graphic…evocative. But anyway…

    I find it interesting that she couldn't (or wouldn't) just up and leave, yet that's exactly what she did. Her departure may have coincided with the closure of the store, but it seems odd that Menken's would close at the height of the holiday season, rather than wait until the beginning of the year. Seriously, what 5th Avenue retailer foregoes Christmas time in the City?

    I definitely think there were other "issues."

  3. Hullaballo! Oh, my God, yes!! Good catch! That would also explain how Rachel's father got wind of her relationship with Don and his subsequent angry exchange with Cooper.

  4. Wait… what? What are we saying here.

    I mean yes. Good call about the holidays. I cannot believe, as a woman who worked 15 years in malls, I did not catch that.

    But what issues are we hinting at? Am I being slowww?

    (And Loo, the black fly line is from Alanis Morissette's Isn't It Ironic?.

  5. I don't know, I thought Hullaballoo (I love that name) was hinting at Rachel having to leave so suddenly because she had to get an abortion overseas. That's the only way I could see that her father would find out about her and Don; after all, she lied to her sister about the carnal aspect of their relationship. That would also explain her rather sudden departure. She would have to have an explanation for leaving the store during the holidays.

    From what I understand, that's the only way to get a safe abortion in those days; to go away. Anyway, am I right, Hullaballoo? Is that what you meant?

  6. Wow. Wow! Interesting…

  7. And you know why I think a secret abortion would be in keeping with the last episode? Bc in analyzing that episode (yes, I broke it down with an Excel spreadsheet, all right?), one of the themes was obviously "the production factory". All the talk about babies and fatherhood, beginning with the opening scene in which Pete is pressured into fatherhood which, ironically, is exactly what he does do in the show, unbeknownst to him. In fact, the structure of that episode is very elegant. We haven't talked about narrative structure in relation to this show but it's one of the elements that makes it so satisfying and that adds tension to what are not always bombshell denouements.

    Also, it's an episode about the consequences of the actions all the characters chose throughout the season. It seems like the only character who really faced what he did and was punished for it was Harry (even Peggy didn't face anything directly) but in reality, the plot was slowly unspooling toward an inexorable climax (which we have yet to truly see).

    Now, imagine if Rachel decides at the last minute NOT to have an abortion but to keep the baby. It'd be easier to find a husband (which I don't think she'd do, btw, but we can imagine) double-quick and then pass off the child as his. Another wrinkle in the illegitimate child theme. Anyway, at the very least I'm going with the idea that Rachel goes away because she's pregnant. We should have a pool about story developments for Season Two. Place your bets, folks.

  8. Eme, you hit it. And I totally want your Excel spreadsheet. Does it have macros? I also think your analysis of the final episode was spot on. I hadn't made all those connections, but now that you mention them, yes, of course! Those things make perfect sense.

    Matt Weiner's favorite thing to say about the show is "there will be consequences…" Certainly there is heartbreak and disappointment in getting involved with a married man, but that's kind of…ordinary? An unintended pregnancy makes Don and Rachel's relationship far more tragic, which is more in keeping with the nature of the show. It also extends the storyline further than your garden variety romance–it doesn't end when the affair does.

    I remember reading a really great interview with Matt Weiner (or maybe it was a compilation of interviews?) where he discusses one of the things that really influenced him as he developed the show. It was the story of this woman–a well brought-up Jewish woman in 1960–and the outcry that resulted because she had to leave the country to get an abortion. He also talked about the options women had when they found themselves pregnant and unmarried. If you had money, you could shuttle off somewhere and resolve the issue. If you had no resources, you did what Peggy did, you got a shotgun wedding, or you tried to pawn the kid off as your orphan nephew. Think Olive Oyl and Sweet Pea (or, if you need a real-life example, how about Jack Nicholson?)

    Rachel is so involved with every aspect of her store. I don't see her abandoning it at the busiest time of year just to clear her head of an affair gone awry. And if her departure truly was a buying trip, as she claimed, wouldn't she have timed it to coincide with the big fashion shows that happen in January or February? This is not a woman who just drops everything, although that's precisely what she did. She must have had a huge reason to leave so precipitately.

  9. Wow. I hadn't heard that story (the Matt Weiner inspiration story), but it does make sense.

    The thing about Rachel that strikes me again and again is her total strength of presence. More than anyone else on that show (except, truth be told, Hildy), Rachel speaks the truth. More than that, she actually kind of knows the truth; is in touch with her feelings. She doesn't spend a minute in denial. She's so like… clear. Unblocked.

    So it never occurred me to look beyond the surface of this story. It didn't feel mysterious. She is so exceptionally good at saying no, and this just seemed like a strong choice to support that. But everything y'all are saying makes sense.

    (Yeah, Deborah has brought up Nicholson when we've discussed Peggy in here.)

  10. A wealthy Jewish woman might well know a doctor who would perform an abortion in New York. I used to work for a doctor who performed illegal abortions. It was easy; you signed your patient in as needing a D&C and you were vague about why. As Roe v. Wade worked its way through the courts it became difficult because those hospital cases were more closely scrutinized.

    If you didn't have a doctor whom you could trust, either to agree to perform the abortion or to keep his mouth shut, then you went to Europe.

  11. Admittedly, the pregnancy theory has some validity … but only about as much as the face-value of the story actually presented.

    Also, I put a lot of weight on the fact that the entire first season was probably written, if not shot, prior to AMC renewing it for a second season. Therefore all loose ends needed to be wrapped up by the final ep. Rachel going to Europe is highly convenient, and in keeping with what Mr. Weiner learned from Mr. Chase – the penultimate ep is where all the real action is, and the finale is more denoument.

    The reason I'm hesitant to dive right into the "Rachel was pregnant" theory is that I'm hoping this isn't a show where "consequences" means every relationship results in a pregnancy. We have one in Peggy and it seems that the producers had to explain that one all over the place against charges of it being so soapy. So a hidden plot line that includes Don knocking up Rachel seems a bit unnecessary.

    I'm inclined to believe Rachel was indeed shaken to her core by how things turned out with Don. And let's face it, they had to offer some explanation for what happened to her after she dismissed Don the week prior.

    I agree she has a clear headedness that sets her apart from other characters on the show, and I'll believe that's the reason she needed to escape to Europe. She's not in denial, and not going to bullshit herself and pretend it didn't happen. She's pissed at herself for getting involved with Don in the first place and can't just go back to work.

    My guess as regards S2 is 14 months later Mencken is no longer a SC account and only Don and Bertram Cooper know why.

  12. Dans, that is my feeling as well. Particularly about the self-contained integrity of S1 and that storyline. And I agree, there is a cheesiness to two affairs, two pregnancies.

    Or, put it this way… big fat obvious hints were not dropped. They may now, in fact, decide to go this route, and it won't NOT fit. But it's not a missing piece if they leave it as it is, if it plays simply as you have described.

  13. Only for a few hours.

  14. To me it isn't cheesy, if by cheesy you mean repetitive. Firstly, there are the parallel elements in Don and Peggy's storyline; secondly, in real life pregnancies do come in clusters (as evidenced by the weird effect of women in an office or in a group of friends all seemingly getting pregnant close to each other–people always say that in a story it's coincidence but does it happen a lot in real life or is it just me?).

    Thirdly, and most importantly, with all the illicit sex happening in Mad Men, sooner or later there are going to be other pregnancies. It is the ultimate consequence of sex; you can't just walk away that easily. The stakes for single women were HUGE. The average woman was risking not just her reputations but her future fertility and even her life if she chose abortion. What darker aspect to sex is there? Why would Weiner pass up exploring that, especially if his goal is to explore what is really at stake when a man and a woman sleep together? Hell, even without twists, if he just dealt with abortion realistically, it'd count as a fresh perspective since our culture is so terrified of addressing it in any way other than "and they decided to keep the baby after all and that's how they realized they were really in love and then they lived happily ever after." (And now that I think about it, given that Weiner deals in parallels between the 60s and today and given that the idealized family still has such a hold over us in the 21st century, for God's sake, well, I don't see how Weiner isn't going to delve deeper into pregnancy and its discontents. It would just be irresponsible.)

    And I think I just oversold that. My fingers took over. Sorry, mamalehs.

    There's still the question as to why Rachel would tell her father about her relationship with Don–she lied to her sister, after all. You'd think that you'd tell your sister about an illicit relationship (esp. with a client) before you'd tell your Dad. And her sister doesn't look like the kind who would betray that confidence to Daddy. So, why else would Rachel be forced to reveal that?

    Rachel would probably leave for three months to get away from the relationship. But she seems like the kind who'd prepare first; you know, those women who put everything in order before they fall apart? Especially when she took over the helm. She's an ambitious woman, she's in the middle of a huge project that she engineered. She's grounded enough to leave in order to clear her mind but she's too grounded to leave with such huge projects up in the air.

    This show didn't even do big fat obvious hints within the arc of S1 when there was still room for development either. That's not within the style of the show anyway. Like Roberta said, it could go either way.

  15. One of the main reasons I loved Rachel as a character was her straightforwardness. She was a "truth screamer!" She followed her "ovaries" when getting involved with Alpha Dog Don, but she had the decency to want him to take care of his kids. I thought Rachel went sailing to Europe to get over letting herself down in the sense that she fell for a married man, one who worked for her, no less. Her father, who was just as insightful as she, knew there had to be a serious reason for her to take a cruise. And probably had the "daddy sense" it had to do with the "dashing" Don Draper.

    Hopefully, the writers bring Rachel back! She's a fabulous character and Maggie Siff rocks the hell out of that role!!

    Also, I pray that Mr. Weiner and Co. don't take season two into a cheesy, soap opera route, with an overload of unplanned pregnancies and "Who's your daddy?" stories.

  16. I don't think Weiner could do soap opera. Soaps are all drama, no insight; all noise, no introspection. If you think that's what I'm pulling for, then I wasn't clear in what I was saying.

  17. Eme Kah…I wasn't really targeting your comments and insights. After all, we are just speculating on storylines. And your writing always carries clarity.

    It's just…there have seen shows with an amazing first season and then lose their "edge" when the second season rolls around. Kind of a sophomore slump, if you will. I'd hate for Mad Men to do that!

    Plus, I simply cannot stand "baby daddy" storylines! That's just my own distaste for that kind of thing….

  18. Thanks, Kay. Sorry I got defensive. Smooch!

    I was thinking about this afterward (obsessive much? no!!) and I thought that the baby daddy issue wouldn't come up all that much (except in those two particular cases), if by baby daddy you mean having the suspense of whether a woman would ever tell the guy.

    Notice how both Hildy and Peggy are so quick to reassure the married men they've slept with that "nothing happened." It's heartbreaking how these women expect to carry the burden of whatever took place. It's as if they were protecting the men from the consequences of their actions, hence, if someone like Hildy were to get pregnant, she'd take care of it on her own. I don't think any of these women would even think of approaching the men. These women would keep these secrets to their dying day and thus any melodrama would be averted on the show. A lot of what matters in this show is the internal impact of the choices these people make. And in that way, even the men are not getting off scot-free.

    And, again to draw a parallel to our times, isn't that what we think of as "liberated and mature", too? Sleeping with someone and then immediately reassuring him that there are no strings attached so that we don't freak him out? I don't mean this in a puritanical stance; in fact, until I watched the show, I never realized how unfair this expectation is. What I like about Mad Men is the honest exploration of sex and attachment; there's no prudishness but there's no deluded "hey, lust is just a beautiful expression of our bodies" bullshit either. Thank you very much, we are not all different colors in a box of Crayolas.

    Because it IS bullshit, let's face it. There is also none of the bullshit about how men are commitment-phobes utterly unaffected by casual sexual dalliances. I think what was beautiful in the scene between Harry and Hildy is that when she reassures him that nothing happened, he doesn't know how to respond. He knows it's not that easy and that's bc he obviously does like her as a human being, whether or not he's in love with her. There's that great monologue that Dr. Dreyfuss gives in The Apartment, where he's dressing down Jack Lemmon for being a man-whore: "Be a mensch! Do you know what a mensch is? A human being!" Harry knows this instinctively and I think a lot of the other men do as well.

    Okay, I gotta get going. I'm wasting precious carpal-tunnel-free time. I need my wrists for other typing.

  19. As far as the show goes, I don't know if Rachel leaving to terminate a pregnancy is that much different than her leaving because Don unnerved her– there's no real resolution one way or the other. Nor is there one in Peggy turning away from her baby, or Betty and the kids being gone, or even Don sitting alone on the stairs with his head in his hands. This may indicate closure to specific periods in these people's lives, but what happens next will still be a result of what happened to them over that 9 month period in 1960. It will also inform who they become 2 years down the line–even if we don't see it or it never becomes integral to the plot. It's about the choices they make or don't make in order to maintain…the ruse.

    I absolutely love the Rachel character, but one of the reasons I do is because she's flawed. While she's certainly more clear-eyed than other people on the show, she still had her bouts of denial. Don't forget, She knowingly entered into an affair with a married man. And once she did that, she fell into the same pattern that affects many women in similar situations. She began to demand more of his time, she lied to her sister about the nature of their relationship, and then she started making excuses for him, all the while believing that what they had was special…

    Don wanting to run off to Los Angeles brought her back to reality. But really, how is Don staying in New York every night with Rachel all that different from him flying off to live with her in Los Angeles? His spending time with her is time away from his family. Does proximity make it any less a case of abandonment? If he's not where he belongs, it doesn't matter whether he's around the corner or on the other side of the world. His family is still missing him. This aspect of their affair only becomes an issue for Rachel when he wants to do it in Los Angeles instead of New York. That smacks of denial to me.

    My point is that Rachel is human. She makes mistakes. It's part of what makes her character so interesting. She's strong, independent, honest, and smart–really smart–yet she's so vulnerable…and lonely. That's a dangerous combination.

    "…with all the illicit sex happening in Mad Men, sooner or later there are going to be other pregnancies. It is the ultimate consequence of sex; you can’t just walk away that easily. The stakes for single women were HUGE. The average woman was risking not just her reputations but her future fertility and even her life if she chose abortion. What darker aspect to sex is there? Why would Weiner pass up exploring that, especially if his goal is to explore what is really at stake when a man and a woman sleep together?"

    To me, this point says it all, and I only wish that I could have said it so eloquently. I don't think a Rachel pregnancy necessarily spirals the show into soap operadom. Nor do I believe it represents some stealth plot mechanism. In 1960, you couldn't just pick up an EPT at your local CVS. I think it took about 6 weeks before they could make a determination one way or the other. And I couldn't see her making an issue of it unless she knew for sure. So even within the course of their very brief affair, had she suspected she was pregnant, she wouldn't have known officially until about the time she high-tailed it out of Dodge.

    If you think about it, it's kind of a brilliant way to wrap up her storyline. There's no fanfare, no crazy cliff hanger a la Desperate Housewives. Just the ambiguity of her sudden departure, and her having to live with whatever that means. It's Don sitting on the stairs with his head in his hands, or Peggy turning away from her baby. It's realizing too late that the choices you've made up to that point are responsible for your current predicament. That to me is really in keeping with the nature of the show…

    …Or not…

    But at least it makes for good blogging…

    Anyway, here's one of the interviews where Weiner talks about the Glory and the Dream. I swear there was another one where he went into greater detail about the Jewish woman and talked more about women's choices, I just haven't been able to locate that one…It may not have been online, but I'll continue my search.

  20. I don't think Rachel turned Don away because he wanted to go to LA. She was disgusted that he hadn't thought it through.

    I think Rachel could justify participating in breaking up Don's family if she felt he was truly unhappy and took the necessary steps to get out and provide for his children.

    What turned her off was his capriciousness and lack of planning. Suddenly he wasn't a grown up stuck in a bad marriage, but a foolish boy running away from a problem.

    And in sublime MM fashion, that was the splash of water that gave Don the answer to his problem with Pete.

    See, Don knew what Bert Cooper thought about the election … that Nixon shouldn't contest the results because "you don't want to win that way." What's done is done.

    As soon as he realized this he went back to his office and challenged Pete to go to Cooper because he knew that Cooper wouldn't care. He tells Pete: "You haven't thought this though," just as he'd been told by Rachel.

  21. I remember Weiner quoting that event in the Glory and the Dream, also, Hullaballoo. I also remember my aunt –who was around Sally's age in 1960–telling me about girls in her high school who got pregnant and how they'd suddenly run to have a "vacation" in Puerto Rico. (vacation being code word for abortion, I don't know why they had to go all the way there, though.)

    I agree with Dan about why Rachel didn't want to run away with Don. On the other hand, whether or not she actually would run away with him if he'd planned better, well, I don't know. We often think and fantasize about things and when given the chance to do it, we don't. There's a reason that Rachel fell for an unavailable man, after all. She gets all the romance but she also gets the freedom to live her own life.

  22. I thought the reason Rachel fell for Don was his great hair and square jaw….;-)

  23. Lord, is that man gorgeous! And such a great actor.

  24. The thing about his not having a plan is also… suddenly it's not about her, not about their relationship. Of course I've thought about it; we've talked about it (that was from memory; I'm not guaranteeing it's the quote). She saw the panic, the immaturity, but also, it's not our plan, it's your scheme. Pretty much: Hey Don, whatever's wrong, work it out yourself.

    I've said it before… I love you guys. It doesn't matter if we're right or wrong, the intelligence and insight you all bring to these discussions is why Deb and I started this blog.

    That and the great hair and square jaw.

  25. "She saw the panic, the immaturity, but also, it’s not our plan, it’s your scheme."

    Good point. In a relationship with two people, both are supposed to come up with a plan together, right? It's not just one person who dictates. That would piss me off.

  26. And also press your own panic button. It started out sounding romantically impulsive, but then she saw through it, and it scared her. Suddenly it's, Who IS this guy?

  27. "I thought the reason Rachel fell for Don was his great hair and square jaw….;-)"

    And the cut of his suits. Don't forget about how he strikes a figure in the cut of those suits…

  28. Great hair, square jaw and nice-fitting suits…no wonder Betty really didn't give a damn about Don's family background. Hee!

    Seriously, though…I'd be very stunned and kinda creeped out to find out the man I married switched dog tags with some other soldier and then just became a new man, like that! It'd make me think when times get tough, this man will run out on me in a moment's notice….

  29. Even if he hadn't switched dog tags, it's pretty creepy to find out that someone you're close to is someone entirely different than you thought.

    Many years ago when I was hired for my first job, the woman in charge of HR told me that she'd once hired a lady who had passed herself off as someone else bc she didn't have legal work papers. When she finally got her green card, she unmasked herself and told HR the story (very nonchalantly, according to the HR woman). Of course, they fired her on the spot. This was back in the early 90s, btw.

  30. Yup. Speaking of which, what would be your reaction if you were to find out that the man you married had the backstory that Don does?

  31. It’s heartbreaking how these women expect to carry the burden of whatever took place.

    Sigh, go away for a few days, and y'all keep talking.

    I think that this is a lie women tell in order to be non-threatening. Tell, not told; we still tell it. We still tell men, Don't worry, so that they'll come back for more. Because if we cause them a moment's worry, they might not come back.

    Rachel doesn't do that. One kiss and she asks about the future. Go, Rachel!

  32. Having met my husband’s family, I’d prefer a dog tag switch. 😉

    I don’t mean that — exactly. Most of his family is lovely, really.

  33. Yup.

    Deborah taught me the rules years ago.

    Rule #1 Men are dicks.

    Rule #2 Women lie.

    And when I'm ever questioned on Rule #2, (I am certainly never questioned on Rule #1), my answer is, You don't have to call me.

  34. Sigh, Glass, with the exception of my brothers-in-law, that’s how I felt about my former in-laws.

  35. So it’s agreed: the gorgeousness of Don Draper could make a woman do just about anything…

    …including cause Rachel to run away at a moment’s notice without a plan, after chastising him for wanting to do the same thing…


  36. Roberta, I think I'm going to start playing by your rules…

  37. I respectfully disagree with #1. But if I had it all figured out… I'd probably outrank and out-earn Dr. Phil and Oprah. I'm just going to have to be satisfied with having better hair than both.

  38. The truth is, Eme, I am neither that angry nor that bitter. I love me some men.

    But it's not a bad guideline to guard with.

  39. My guideline is to regard love and trust as if it were my life savings; if some dude comes from out of nowhere and asks me to invest in his scheme and I hand over my nest egg without due diligence, I've got no one to blame but myself if I get swindled. Our hearts are so much more valuable than money and we women are so much more trusting with them… Trust is something people gotta EARN and that takes time.

    My boyfriend taught me that.

    [And I can't tell you how many times I was sure I was buying the Brooklyn Bridge. Man, did I suck the life out of that metaphor…]

  40. Eme, that is awesome.

  41. Thanks. I was just feeling kind of embarrassed that I sound like a grandma. But my love life has seriously been so horrific that this is what I'd tell a daughter if I had one.

    To clarify, I wasn't talking about hard to get, btw; more like "wait and see if he's a worthwhile investment." He might very well be but you don't want to close the deal until you know for sure. And you know what I mean about closing a deal…

  42. Men: Prime Real Estate or Swampland in Florida?

  43. Har, Deb!!! Love it!

  44. […] ago we got into a feisty discussion about Rachel’s reaction to Don wanting to run away in […]

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