Now is the time to say “No!”

 Posted by on May 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm  Season 5
May 092012

From the second Megan said “Start with this one” as she gave Don the Revolver album, I knew it was going to be the final track, Tomorrow Never Knows, and I was thrilled. I couldn’t think of a better way to cap Lady Lazarus. Tomorrow… encapsulates all the change swirling around Don and everyone at SCDP.  And one change prevalent in this episode was the power of saying ‘NO!’.

Megan says no to SCDP, she will follow her dream to be an actress instead. (Good for her!)

Beth says no to Pete Campbell, and means it. Even when he blatantly kisses her in her own home with her husband only a room away, she is adamant and quite smart about letting their fling be a onetime event.

Peggy says no to Don when she blows up at him in the test kitchen. We’ve seen them argue before in The Suitcase, but this time, Peggy won. (Yes!)

The Beatles say no, saying “No, we’re not just the happy, silly mop-tops from A Hard Day’s Night.”  Tomorrow Never Knows was their doorway to psychedelia, with a great cacophony of hypnotic drum beats, bird cries and a message of ‘surrendering to the void.’

Don says no to Tomorrow, cutting it off before Lennon can sing “That ignorance and hate may mourn the dead.” Don has had enough of that. He doesn’t want to surrender to any void or listen to the color of his dreams.

Will Don ever listen to the rest of Revolver? He’d probably like Taxman and Good Day, Sunshine. Will more characters say ‘No!’ to their circumstances? Or will Don just stick to his guns and “play the game ‘Existence’ to the end“?

 Tomorrow never knows.


  21 Responses to “Now is the time to say “No!””

  1. Anyone recognize what album that is to Don’s left in the picture (above)?

  2. I wondered about that too– maybe some mellow jazz, although as I look more closely, it appears to be a classic album. Two people are seated with their instruments, facing another musician who is standing with a bass.

    • Actually, I’m nearly sure that that’s a cello from how the player is positioned (especially looking at a higher resolution from my iTunes copy of the episode) and I don’t see the woman seated in the front holding an instrument. The man in the back seems to be lifting his hands from the piano. I doubt it’s a classic jazz album — at least none that I recognize — although I don’t doubt that Miles Davis or Charles Mingus are a part of Megan’s record collection.

      The arrangement piano, voice, and cello would suggest to me that it’s more likely a soft classical album: arrangements of art songs. I don’t recognize the exact album cover. I think it’s a set piece meant to imply that albums like Revolver aren’t usually the type of album played around the apartment, rather than an subtle homage to a classic album of the mid 60s. Revolver is an album to sit down and confront, whereas that blurry LP on the side is purely for background listening and relaxation.

      My best guess as a musician and Mad Men lover.

      On a related note, what is that black and yellow pop art print behind Stan as they’re passing the joint?

  3. I thought the song was also appropriate because the client during the meeting said they wanted music that was chaotic and fun, I believe. Even though Megan did not hear the client ask for this, the song she picked definitely fits that description.

  4. In the latter part of Season 4, after Dr. Faye Miller had put Don onto Heinz baked beans, Don had a secret meeting with Raymond Geiger of Heinz who laid out his agenda for the future. At first sounding positive about changing advertising firms, Raymond at the end of their conversation shifted gears and told Don he was not sure SCDP would be in business in 6 months and therefore his answer to do business with Don was not NO but NOT NOW. And we have learned in season 5 that Geiger was a man of his word in giving SCDP this opportunity and that in episode 7, through Megan’s huge input, that the firm has now sewed up the Heinz baked beans account long-term.

    And so with respect to the NO’s apparently offered by Megan, Beth, Peggy and Don can we definitively say it is a NO, or is there a possibility that their NO is a NOT NOW.

    I’ll start in reverse order. Could Don’s positive frame of mind that he has developed since The Summer Man (season 4 episode 8) being at home relaxed and his own admission he is not an expert on modern music put him off finishing the Beatles song, and Don’s decision is NOT NOW in the sense he will listen to the song at work among his colleagues so they can brainstorm it? Let us not forget, it is not a question of Don liking the song PERSONALLY, but how the song will contribute to the success of SCDP which is a completely different issue.

    Could Peggy’s NO to Don defending her turf that her dealings with Megan or cynical feelings in the office were not the primary reason Megan left SCDP be a consideration which cannot be determined at the moment because we do not know enough about what primarily motivated Megan to leave the firm? Would NOT NOW be an appropriate position for Peggy, Don and the viewers of Mad Men to take until we get further information?

    As for Beth, is her NO a definitive NO or given the heart she drew on the side window of the car, a NOT NOW? What happens down the road when Beth becomes lonely again because Howard is not coming home from the office and cheating on her? We also learn Beth has young kids, who we all know can be trying on the nerves even if your marriage is in good shape. Regardless of what Beth told Pete, she will feel that way again if Howard does not change, which motivated her to approach Pete at the train depot parking lot in the first place. And when she does feel that way again, will Beth again turn to Pete for comfort some time down the road? Is NOT NOW that improbable a scenario?

    As for Megan is her NO a definitive NO to returning to SCDP or is it truly a NOT NOW? From the many blog posted regarding Megan’s change of direction, I would say most have concluded it is a NO. But I am of the dissenting opinion. I believe it is a NOT NOW. And here are my reasons:

    a) Megan has not taken her father’s advice and embraced the struggle and really burned her bridges. And embracing the struggle would mean leaving Don and abandoning her bourgeois lifestyle which she has grown accustomed to. Of course if Megan decides to move in this direction I would then change my mind and conclude it is a definitive NO to ever going back to SCDP.

    b) Something may go awry with the best laid plans of mice and men and Megan could get pregnant. Remember no birth control method is 100% fullproof, especially in 1966. Sure Megan might not return to SCDP right away after having her baby, but she would most likely think seriously about putting her acting career on hold and might take on a greater role in helping Don to his job better. Another reason for NOT NOW, rather than a definitive NO.

    c) Joan Harris may be right–Megan could become a failed actress and in 6 months or even a year return to SCDP, no longer seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, but acknowledge she is good in the creative side of advertising. Unlike Jane Sterling, I never see Megan sitting at home doing nothing. She has too much energy to vegetate. She could even join a rival advertising firm as Don has suggested. If you had your choice would you rather do something you are good at in your career or pursue something which you failed at, if your first choice (acting) is off the table?

    Or to put a different spin on it, how many golfers chase their dream on the PGA tour, eventually flame-out and then return to either being a golf pro at a country club or their former profession or the profession they were trained for in college? And the chances of playing on the PGA tour are about the same as a budding actress becoming a gainfully employed professional actress (I am not talking here about the Bethany Van Nuys types who are supernumeraries or extras) who make it on Broadway or even off-Broadway or TV or films and flourish in the industry. From that point of view alone, NO has to be seen as NOT NOW.

    4) And in a previous thread I explored the possibility that Megan’s decision was motivated by GUILT rather than AMBITION. In that case working at SCDP may have been a neutral factor in helping her come to her decision to leave the firm. And if that guilt ever dissipates Megan may have a change of heart as she comes to grips with the reality of relaunching her pursuit of becoming a professional actress. I am surprised frankly more people have not pursued this line of argument.

    From Chinese Wall (season 4 episode 11) to the very end of At the Codfish Bowl (season 5 episode 7), we see no evidence that Megan is dissatisfied with not pursuing an acting career. Instead she appears reconciled to her fate to work in advertising as a career and in episode 6 Far Away Places Megan is pissed off at Don for whisking her away from her work and causing her “to abandon the team.” Thinking back was this a woman really “torn between two lovers” at that time–those lovers being advertising and acting. I frankly saw no evidence of that.

    But what we all saw at the end of episode 7, Emile Calvet laying a huge guilt trip of his daughter Megan and reminding her of her dreams and making her feel guilty about supposedly abandoning her dreams. In Inside Mad Men, Jessica Pare, called those parental reminders very painful. And as we all know GUILT is a very painful and powerful emotion that can trigger a major change, including a decision to change careers.

    But we also know GUILT is an extremely negative emotion. Notice the words that Megan chooses to use during pillow talk with Don after she wakes him up from his slumber. Go inside the words or phrases that Megan uses to explain why she wants to pursue acting again–since I was a little girl, I felt better failing at acting than succeeding in advertising, I gave up too easily, I never made a decision to quit acting, I don’t go the theater now out of envy; I’m afraid of growing bitter, there is no guarantee, working at the firm gave me confidence I didn’t have before, I’m rusty-I need to go back to class and what do these words or phrases all have in common? They all deal with the past or the future and except for going to class not the present and they all lack the sense of Megan really wanting to devote her total soul to acting and that she wants to be a professional actress in the worse way, that acting for her is like breathing. Ask any professional actors who have succeeded, they all had a burning desire to succeed, were willing to do whatever is necessary to succeed, and were super-ambitious and told the world of their ambition. I don’t get that from Megan at all.

    Instead I see Megan going through the motions of leaving SCDP but without the necessary passion to pursue acting as a career. Too many folks at SCDP listen to the words coming out of her mouth rather than the tone of her words. And GUILT will cause that lack of conviction to occur. Could Megan take her GUILT and eventually convert it into passionate ambition and eventually succeed as a professional actress? I suppose anything is possible but then you have to consider Megan’s talent for acting. If Megan was really that good of an actress would she realistically have given up her so-called dream so easily? In my experience people don’t give up their dreams most often because of a lack of ambition but simply because they have come to the conclusion, often painfully, they simply are not good enough. Ask any country club golf pro, and they will tell you the number one reason they are not now on the PGA tour is that they are not good enough–the desire has always been there.

    And thus Megan’s NO is imho not definitive; it is NOT NOW.

  5. Regarding Beth Dawes could this episode be a preview of what is historically coming down the road in American history regarding changing attitudes and views towards the concept of when a women says NO, whether that it should be perceived as a come-on, and how men are supposed to react to when a woman says no.

    We only have to go back to episode 2 to see when NO did not mean NO in the case of Megan Draper telling Don while on her knees cleaning up the apartment, “I don’t want it” and Don forcing himself on Megan on the carpet and Megan voluntarily wrapping her legs around Don’s midsection. And we see the afterglow and aftermath and we clearly see Megan welcomed her husband’s aggression.

    So in 1966, we see an episode where a husband imposing himself on his wife is not deemed inappropriate (obviously in 2012 it would be deemed highly inappropriate by most Americans imho). And most states wouldn’t have prosecuted such actions then in a marital relationship.

    But in 1966, how many men would have known enough to take the first NO as a NO? Would they have been as unsure in 1966 as men are in 2012 in a casual encounter or a date?

    And is Pete expressing his exasperation at how women dictate the rules of engagement, and perhaps venting at his own hesitancy to or inability to judge whether to accept the first NO, could Pete if he were a young man in 2012 have felt the same way?

    How does a man really know when a woman means NO or if she is saying NOT NOW or if she really doesn’t mean it?

    Perhaps the answer resides in the grace or ineptitude of the man. For Don, he will never be accused of rape because he has a sixth sense to know when to back off when a woman says NO; perhaps that is why he searched for women who were more likely to say yes than no and Don would also know the types of women who would be so inclined. Also notice in Rachel’s apartment in season 1 episode 10 Don did something he doesn’t normally do–he asked her if she really wanted to have sex with him? Even Don may not be absolutely sure of the lay of the land on all occasions?

    As for Pete part of his ineptitude is he has little clue of what NO means when a particular woman says it. He cannot distinguish between NO, NOT NOW, and she really wants me to pursue her despite what she says. Honestly I am a Pete. So I know exactly where he is coming from and I fully understand his frustration of dealing with the Beth situation.

    In his own unique fashion Freddie Rumson addressed this issue while talking to Peggy about leading men on. He called it “physically uncomfortable.” And he told Peggy it was NOT a joke implying men would not take kindly to women sending mixed or unclear signals. But on the other hand if a woman says NO and really means NO that is not a mixed or unclear signal, is it?

  6. And in the spirit of NO, let’s flip it around with around. When should a man who says NO, be taken at his word. Think about it: In Chinese wall, Don said no to Megan in a manner off speaking before succumbing to her charms.

    After their first kiss in his office, Don said, “Megan, I don’t think this is a good idea.”

    Then after the second kiss Don interrupts her and says, “I can’t make any mistakes right now.”

    Sure Don didn’t say NO, but wouldn’t you concede he was saying NOT NOW? When should a woman stop coming onto a man? Or does NO not mean the same when uttered by a man.

    • I think it’s more of a physical power thing. It’s important for a man to respect a woman’s “no” because often that respect is the only thing protecting her will. See, i.e., Dr. Whatshisface and Joan in the office a few seasons back.

      When a man says “no” it doesn’t really matter if the woman wants to listen. When a man says “no”, that’s it; end of discussion. So, there isn’t the same need for the woman to respect and honor his wishes.

  7. As my namesake, the mighty Herman Melville, once wrote “Only the man who says ‘No’ is free.”

    I somehow knew that Tomorrow Never Knows would be the song Megan meant, too. It’s the perfect punchline to the earlier talk about how “we all know what the Beatles sound like” and Stan and Ginsberg going through the list of the other bands that sound like them. If Don felt out of it because he didn’t know who Herman’s Hermits or The Zombies were, he would feel hopelessly behind the times at listening to this proto-psychedelia. But I like your interpretation of his saying No: He’s not just refusing to keep up with the times. Maybe surrendering to the void isn’t such a good idea. Don knows a little something about the void. Maybe Roger found some truth by going there, but for Don … not a good place.

    On a semi-related topic, has anyone identified what the godawful record was that Stan and Ginsberg played for Don in his office?

  8. I’m think Don should listen to “Janine” on David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” when he gets to 1969.

    Your strange demand
    To ‘collocate’ my mind
    Scares me into gloom
    You’re too intense, I’ll have to keep you in your place
    I’ve no defence, I’ve got to keep my veil on my face

    Janine, Janine, you’d like to know me well
    But I’ve got things inside my head
    That even I can’t face

    Janine, Janine, you’d like to crash my walls
    But if you take an axe to me
    You’ll kill another man
    Not me at all

    Sadly, I don’t see ol’ Don as a Bowie guy.

  9. Maybe Don will one day get around to listening to the third track on that side of Revolver, “For No One”. It may be too late by then.

  10. Am I the only one who thought that Megan was recommending “Eleanor Rigby” to Don?

    “He’s going to play Eleanor Rigby.” That’s what I said as soon as she pointed out a specific song. “Tomorrow Never Knows” was actually my second thought, but I really thought that “Rigby” was the obvious choice.

    “Ah, look at all the lonely people.” No?

    I guess I lost the bet 😉

    • If MW has another quarter mil to drop on a single, maybe that song will come later. Don’s the ultimate lonely person.

  11. This reminds of the famous William F. Buckley quote that “A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!'”

    One of the least predictable aspects of MAD MEN is which characters will embrace tomorrow and which will say “No”, or “Stop!”. Both Don and Roger have proven far more adaptable than I would have expected. In contrast, Betty has become deeply conservative.

    • I agree completely. I wrote before that Don’s ongoing effort to survive for most of his adult life is a trait that will serve him well in a rapidly changing environment that makes it harder for everyone to survive. He will not have to adjust his game plan for life very much in contrast to characters who are rooted in the past or status quo.

      And to boot I don’t think Don gets enough credit for openly acknowledging what he does not know or is not totally conversant with (eg. modern music) and then showing his willingness to enlist assistance or outside input to help him to better understand the issue and to help him come to a more informed decision. In no way, shape or form is Don a stick-in-the-mud.

      And yes Don married Megan because of the sex and that she was good with his kids, but Megan also demonstrated her modern approach to life and that she was open to and more tolerant of new ideas than for example Betty ever exhibited. Remember how Betty bemoaned the fact of so much change in her life and implied she had a problem coping with it. Don told her in Tomorrowland she could always move again. I don’t think that was an answer that Betty wanted to hear.

      For the majority of men in 1966 obsessed with the status quo, Megan would NOT have been their cup of tea. But for Don, Megan represents his desire to embrace the future with confidence and her youth represents her ties to the modern Zeitgeist which forms the basis for that confidence and his optimism. Don has truly not only moved on from Betty as a person but also from women who think like Betty, because he realizes he cannot survive, given their desire to hold back the future.

  12. I love the Mad Men Beatles intersection. Don understood and accepted the Beatles and their initial appeal when it came to getting Sally tickets for the Shea Stadium show. They were not threatening then. He whistled “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to Megan on the way back from the airport after California. But now things are headed in a different direction. Clients want their ads to embody the Beatles and Don doesn’t get it. He asks Megan for help and she gives him their least accessible song on Revolver (she could have eased him in with “Here, There and Everywhere”). I can’t wait until “Helter Skelter” finds its way into the plotline in Season 7.

  13. The concept of NO can be seen from a variety of different angles, personality, ideology, situational, emotional etc but a side of NO that seldom is discussed is the rational side of NO.

    As youngsters are we not raised to believe NO is a sudden impulse, a parental injunction to prove who is in charge or to protect one’s turf, an emotional reaction to a negative event or circumstance, or a product of one’s subjective vested interests or an effort to keep or save one’s face regardless if it is the best decision in the long-run?

    And TV or movies tell us NO is rarely a considered decision or one that has been thought through with great analysis and a lot of input. Although the answer was YES, I thought a great movie scene was in The Longest Day (1962) when Eisenhower and his staff were contemplating the launching of D-Day and were very close to putting the kibosh on it again because of poor weather. NO was definitely a consideration and if Eisenhower’s decision had been NO, would it have been less appropriate?

    And in respect to Don’s NO to listening to the end of Tomorrow Never Knows, is it less considered than Eisenhower’s decision? Sure Don did NOT consult with advisers before making the final decision, but from what we know about Don and what Don has said about modern music (early in episode 8 that he would rely on Megan’s judgment) can Don’s decision be considered against the grain, that Don is protecting the status quo or that he has disdain for anything he cannot understand.

    Could Don simply be tired after a long day of work and realize he is NOT the best judge whether Tomorrow Never Knows is good or not? Could Don instead realize as he has stated in the past that his lack of understanding of this kind of music does not make him qualified unilaterally to judge the merits of the song and that brainstorming it with his colleagues at work makes a lot more sense. And Don can at anytime talk to Megan about it as well? Telephones did exist in 1966. Megan was NOT always in class.

    And back to episode 7 where Don told Sally that she could wear the dress to the Cancer benefit but not the boots or the make-up. Was this another example of Don being rational with his NO? And notice Don told Sally later at the banquet that one day she would be wearing make-up like the grown-ups. In other words he was telling her his NO was really a NOT NOW and not a permanent injunction.

    Don has come a long, long way since the first three seasons of Mad Men and it is in his increased rationality of saying NO, that indicates his growth as an adult. And finally I can’t prove it but it feels like Don does NOT say NO as much anymore to anything whether it is at work or off-work. Instead he has become more of a NOT NOW person or a person who is searching for a reason to say YES. Would the old Don have lost his temper, put his foot down and told Megan an abrupt NO to the changing of careers in midstream? I believe he would have. Even Megan was surprised I believe to how real the new Don was. Megan never expected Don’s unqualified support for her to follow her dreams.

    Don really is on the cutting edge of becoming a 21st century Renaissance man. He is truly a man ahead of his times.

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