Don is ready

 Posted by on April 14, 2015 at 6:00 am  Season 7
Apr 142015

Don, being all ready.

Don, being all ready.


What’s actually interesting about this, and even about my rant of a question, is just how “nuts” operates. Don, like most of the characters, like many humans, is not lacking in introspection. But, like most of the characters, like most humans, his introspection lands him exactly where he’s always been. We search and search and come up with the answer we want to hear. Ain’t it the truth.

Don is self-searching and intelligent. Maybe “rebound” wasn’t a thing yet, but he certainly gets it, and he knows, to a degree, what that looks like. What he doesn’t know is it’s the big ones; the ones that move him; the ones that feel like The One–those are the true rebounds. Rebounds from his childhood, I suppose. He’ll always find another one; a woman he can rescue; a woman who can be his savior.

He doesn’t know it isn’t about which woman it is he screws over. He doesn’t know it’s about more than keeping it in his pants.

Diana: Can’t you see I don’t want anything?
Look, I’m pretty sure I had a worse day than you. Please don’t be in a mood.

He might try listening for a change. Just once. To one of these women. Listening to who they are, what they say, and what they want.

Diana: I’m not in a mood. And you’ve never had a worse day than me.
You don’t think I’ve felt grief. You knew that about me the first night we met.

Honestly nearly every line Diana utters, Don counters with an assumption or a negation.

Don isn’t in that room with Diana. It is his big fat narcissistic ego, and woman-for-whom-the-world-must-stop-turning. If he would just leave ego in the umbrella stand, there might be an opportunity for actual Don, the human, (Don, Dick, whatever), and actual Diana, who has something to say. And maybe they could have a chance.

But for now, he’ll continue to not-so-secretly mock Betty’s choice to get her Masters, all while believing he’s made his mistakes, sown even more wild oats, and that now, he is ready. Everything is status quo.


  46 Responses to “Don is ready”

  1. “Building a strategy to avoid the almost certain future binds you as much to the almost certain future as committing to it.”

    This is something I waited six and a half season for Don to get, to latch onto, as if his very life depended on it, because it does. I hope that he will finally get it, but that hope diminishes, with each passing episode.

  2. Don Draper had to marry Betty. She’s the only woman Don could marry.

    Dick Whitman, for all intents and purposes, is still 17, stuck in Korea in an oversized combat helmet. Or better yet, still digging change out of married guys’ pockets.

    Becoming Don Draper simply meant a shorter rebound. By 1970, from all evidence, Don Draper has nearly vanished, in everything but name. It’s all guide books and milk shakes and folksy stories about Uncle Mack.

    What we’re seeing is Dick Whitman trying to understand women and relationships and his place in the world.

    FWIW, in the two episodes since coming back, we haven’t seen Don, like, work. We’ve only seen him schmooze the broads and spill red wine like it’s A Tale of Two Cities.

    I’d love, in our precious remaining moments as a show, to see a campaign – actual work – influenced by Dick, filtered through Don’s experience. That would be worth seeing.

    • B. Cooper, this is fucking genius. And I REALLY want you to write a post fleshing this out.

    • Coop! Yes! I think that’s why I have such a love-hate relationship with this show: it’s just like Don Draper. Smart, interesting, intriguing, insightful, reflective, but somehow still lacking in self-awareness.

    • One thing stood out particularly in Diane’s room, which reflects back to your comment, B. Cooper, about Dick being more present now than Don – the iron bed, the main piece of furniture in the room.

      It reminded me of Don’s upbringing, the beds in the whorehouse and possibly in his mother’s room, before he was born. I haven’t checked by revisiting that episode, but I spent a week in a cheap room in NYC in 1974 when I landed in town – no beds looked like that. I thought it was evocative.

      One other thing about that encounter –

      Diane is the embodiment of staying in place with her grief and not wanting to emotionally work through it in order to move forward.

      Don is the embodiment of thinking you can only move forward if you don’t let yourself grieve or try to work through what happened to create the conflicts and emotional unhappiness you’re encountering. And the way he moved off from Diane and out the door – it wasn’t just her rejection of him. He sensed something in her that spooked him…and then he stepped back into an empty apartment. Talk about desolate.

      I’m not sure how much Don will change, but the 70s were all about psychotherapy. If the last shot of Mad Men has Don suspended between going or not going into therapy, I won’t be disappointed, though I hope it’s more subtle than that.

      As for the work situation as SCP, I wondered how many of their own new accounts they can bring in, now that they’re a subsidiary of McCann, or if they work on the accounts they’re given by McCann. In part, it would explain Don’s seeming boredom in the job at this point. And a bored Don always medicates himself with booze and broads .

      • Great post, great comments. I really like the idea that Don is now only Don in name and mostly Dick. I also really hope that the ending with the possibility of Don going into therapy is presented. He has been mentally, physicially and sexually abused as a child and he’s held it all in for decades. If anyone needs therapy it is him. I just hope that Betty studying psychology isn’t a reason for him to poo-poo it more than he probably already does.

      • Anne B had this very simple, elegant contribution:

      • Thank you, tanta– great insights!

        I, too felt that Don looked spooked by Diana and that he couldn’t get out of there quickly enough.

        I think your suggestion of Don entering therapy is fascinating, particularly in light of Betty’s pursuit of a masters degree in psychology. In season 1, it was clear that he thought therapy was a crock, although he DID parrot Betty’s psychiatrist’s words back to her in a fight: “It’s like living with a child!”

        He was also skeptical of Faye’s profession, but I think she got too close to the truth and spooked him in another way, in that he couldn’t or didn’t want to look at his reality.

        Now, it seems he is spooked by what happens when one refuses to deal with one’s past/emotions, as Diana has. Perhaps the suggestion of that bleak future seen in Diana may be what nudges Don/Dick into truly coming to terms with his demons.

      • This is great insight. Ever since the Hershey meeting, and taking his kids to his home, Don relies less and less on the draper facade. (Maybe even since telling Megan the truth?) He is becoming more authentic and honest, integrating his true self (Dick) into his life and “trying to be a person like the rest of us”, as Faye said. Diana seems closer in station to Dick than to Don, so he is trying, but he isn’t there yet as is shown above. His journey is about becoming a more authentic and whole person and allowing himself the opportunity to have genuine connection with others. This is true of Betty and Joan too, who are breaking away from Faye’s “what is expected of me” (homemaking) into “what I want”. And Peggy, who tried to be Joan and then Don but realizes she has to be herself. Elisabeth Moss discussed this in her interview with HuffPost, saying that it takes so long because you dont know who you are yet when you’re young. Don has to stop running away from his past, look honestly at it and accept what happened in Korea and forgive himself.

    • I’d love, in our precious remaining moments as a show, to see a campaign – actual work – influenced by Dick, filtered through Don’s experience. That would be worth seeing.

      Eureka! This is what we must see. It’s been pointed out before that Don finds his salvation in his work, and that his genius is his ability to express his own feelings and experiences through his work. (When he explained it to Peggy in The Strategy she immediately understood, since it’s her genius, too). All of Don’s ads are reflections of his inner life: think of Season 6, when every ad (the hotel, the ketchup, the car) avoided showing the product, a reflection of his desire to disappear. At the end of that season he actually told the Hershey people his real experience with their product (i.e. Dick Whitman’s experience) and it got him fired. But if he could create a genuine ad that came from his Dick Whitman experiences (assuming he’s overcome his lifelong shame about them), truly express his art as Dick Whitman … Yes! It would be the nostalgia of The Carousel renewed.

      • When I re-watched the whole show in the build-up to 7.8, I noticed that just about all the ads Don works on tell an aspect of his life: his loss of family, his double identity, his feeling of not being ok; his need for privacy; his alienation.

      • Melville, Nevada- how intriguing to think about Don’s life as seen through his ads! It makes perfect sense but I never thought of it quite that way, except for the ad in Season 6? where Don “escapes” to or from the beach, leaving shoes and tie behind. Also, the Jaguar ad was very revealing.

        Damn! I wish I had the energy to make a list, episode by episode, of all the ads Don created but, alas it would be daunting. Maybe the trail would lead to the outcome of the last episode.

        • Oh fuckk! This is very dark but the very first campaign is “Lucky Strike.”

          The “lucky” strike for Don was the lighter falling, starting the fire that killed Don Draper and gave Dick the horrifying opportunity to take over Don’s life…


    • Very insightful regarding Don not working, except he did suggest that Topaz change its name and become a department store brand. He asked Meredith to set up a meeting with Rachel Menken Katz before learning that she died — this is probably more “business strategy” work, and not the “creative” work that we know is where Don’s genius truly lies.

      Your post has made me wonder whether the creative genius that has been Don Draper will survive the devolution into Dick Whitman. I think Matt Weiner is too smart to pit humanity against creativity and I hope that some balance between love/life and work is achieved by Don as well as Peggy.

      • Maybe you meant this already, but both those descriptions describe Don:reinvention.

        He reinvented himself into Don, and Rachel reinvented Mencken’s Department store.

        As well, SC has reinvented itself how many times now? 🙂

        I just thought of something that ties the recent episode in. Megan’s ad: passing on the parent child “food” from generation to generation.

        Both Don and Megan suffer from family ills passed down from their parents. Many people don’t understand Megan, but as an adult child of an alcoholic and dysfunction, Megan fits the behaviors to a T. :/

        Don raved at Megan: “do you know how long it took me to learn to use my own life [in my work]?

        • I’d say SC has reinvented itself twice – once to escape McCann Erickson and once to bag GM’s XP. Sales to PP&L and McCann don;t count.

    • Scratching below the surface, and on my psychotherapy kick, isn’t Don’s chronic boozing, screwing, and ‘paying’ women, just an updated version of what he learned from his only role model, Uncle Mack, way back when? I mean, what else would Dick Whitman know about women,or men for that matter, except for the behavior that he saw by Uncle Mack and the john’s that came to the whorehouse?

      Don’s ‘ready’ alright – for the couch!

      • He had another role model too. The Hobo. He was only briefly part of his life, but I got the sense this stranger passing through had a big impact on Don.

        • The hobo may well have had a bigger impact than anybody realized. The hobo code markings and the explanation he gave young Dick about them, can be taken as a type of ad campaign. One aimed toward a select target audience: Gentlemen of the Road, about the occupants (products) in the houses (boxes), they encountered in their travels.

          • LOVE THIS!

            • Chris – If you enjoyed that one, have a look at my (admittedly far fetched) thoughts about the hobo, in the “Mad Men Recap: Severance–Second is very far from first” thread, at comment #23.

    • B.Cooper,

      “By 1970, from all evidence, Don Draper has nearly vanished, in everything but name. It’s all guide books and milk shakes and folksy stories about Uncle Mack.”

      Like everyone’s said, great observation! The only part I see of him still being Don Draper is the new model on his arm every night, and everyone in the office knowing it. It may be because he knows he’s a twice divorced 40 plus year old and wants to create the image of a man who’e enjoying his single life.

      With his ads, the Bel Jolie preacher slam down seemed to from his past with Abigail.

  3. Don has two significant others for whom he parks his ego before stepping out of the car.

    With Peggy he sometimes sees things through her eyes.

    With Sally he almost always adopts the dad role and sets aside his ego – especially when she was younger. I’ve often thought he was at his best with Sally. As she grew older he gave her respect by treating her as an adult with adult expectations.

    Along with that Don offers Sally a big helping of his other big flaw – Lying as glibly and automatically as he did with Betty.

    While he lies to Sally I’m not sure he has lied to Peggy. Peggy gets the honest brunt of his expectations and often his shit when he’s having a shitty day.

    Exceptions? Anyone?

    In The Strategy Peggy asked him what he does when he not sure the idea really works.

    When he’s stuck: “(he) abuse(s) the people who work for him then (he) takes a nap.” Even that, I suppose, is ego-ridden.

    After this this big downer of an episode, it’s high time for some Don with Peggy and Sals.

  4. This episode, chewing upon it I will be, for eternity.

    Weird personal cultural connection – When I heard Don’s “I’m ready” I almost immediately and incorrectly recalled the penultimate scene in Kill Bill.

    (I guess the following is the much feared “SPOILER!!”?! – if you can in fact spoil a 12 year old Tarantino movie.) Beatrix tells him he looks “ready”. Bill stands, straightens his jacket, turns, walks five steps and then his heart explodes.

    Five episodes left.

    Also up-thread, I too like B. Cooper’s last ad campaign idea. It would be interesting and a rewarding payoff for us, the Watchers, to experience but I’d bet it would be misunderstood and completely rejected as horrendous advertising on Mad Ave. Career killing in fact. And that in itself might make it a most poetic end.

  5. “Don isn’t in that room with Diana. It is his big fat narcissistic ego . . .”

    Yeah, this is pretty much it. And in the context of his position in time this is why the ending will be mostly sad I think.

    Though we’ve seen evidence that Don is capable of so much more understanding and empathy than his peers, he is ahead of the curve on much of it, his ego is sustained by the predominant patriarchal structure of his society. As a white man with money, his grief will always be assumed as being just a smidge more important than a woman’s. He will never truly be able to experience a walk in a woman like Diana’s shoes (non-Butler I presume). He’s only heard and told stories of their grief, he can’t live those stories.

    Even at his best and for all his mostly genuine attempts, he is still fundamentally a privileged man trying to answer the question, “what do women want?” He can’t completely understand (and my guess is never will) that the question is really “what does a human being want?” This is the tragedy that brings down the curtain on him.

    • And also, “I’m not going to let a woman speak to me that way”.

      • Yes, Roberta, totally on the mark, as ever!

      • It isn’t so much that Don is revealing himself through all his ad campaigns over the seasons, though that’s a really great insight. It goes beyond that. Don/Dick IS the product. He implied this in the pivotal meeting, at the end of S-2, when the Brits had acquired the agency. He told Duck “I don’t sell advertising, I sell products.” He may as well have added “And I am the product.” Earlier that season, Peggy was taken with the notion “Sex sells.” Don reminded her, “You are the product.” She’s the product. Don’s the product. Pete is the product. Roger is the product. Bert is the product. All the major characters in the show are the product. By the time the series ends, we will have seen them all, having engaged in various campaigns to sell themselves, with varying degrees of success. And, who are WE in this story? We’re Sam, the Black employee in the bar, who we met in the first episode, who is hard pressed to be convinced to switch from his Old Golds to Lucky Strike.

        • So true and so haunting. In addition to the literal ad campaigns, I’ve been thinking about the unofficial, real-life “ad pitches” throughout the show. Moments like Bob Benson’s weird proposal to Joan – that was pure ad campaign. And, urgently, as pointed out in SmilerG’s earlier comment, the hobo code – both the code itself, and the hobo’s explanation of it to Dick – maybe the first time anyone ever pointed out alternatives to him, ever suggested there could be alternatives.

          But mainly, this notion that the characters “are the product” evokes the sad and obvious repetitiveness of these characters foolishly convincing themselves, just as ads attempt to convince consumers, that this or that “product” will save them or solve their problems. Whether it’s Henry Francis, Dr. Greg, the fainting couch, Rachel, Megan, Diane, Hare Krishna, LSD, California, Joan’s shopping spree just now… “Don Draper”… SmilerG, your post suggests they’re not only trying to “get” products, often they actively try to “be” products – sometimes successfully, but always at a cost. Especially if, like Lucky Strikes, the product is actually bad for you.

        • This is so brilliant that it gives me chills.

      • Roberta,

        Great post! I wonder if his self centered ego in that scene is partially the Archie Whitman’s influence on Don’s psyche after years of watching him belittle Abigail.

  6. Roberta, B. Cooper, Melville, everyone – This post is really helping me make sense of this episode and this final season.

    “New Business” got pretty much blasted as an episode and I’ll admit it won’t make my top 10 list but over the years I’ve learned to trust the show and its creative engine MW. Everything we’ve seen so far has actually been consistent with what we know about Don-Dick, his past and the way he deals with life To me this consistency and realistic development of character has been the real gift of MM as a show and when a new character like Diana is introduced at the end it isn’t to steal precious time from the last few episodes but is there to reveal something more about an old character – this is a good thing!

    The difference now as B. Cooper points out is that Don now has one foot in Dick Whitman land (maybe more). We truly have seen some progress with Don – particularly being more honest. But opening up more as Dick Whitman and beginning to deal with the pain of his past is the new business referenced by the title of the episode.

    Don thinks that the solution is a relationship with a deeply wounded woman who happens to remind him of Rachel Menken and likely at some level his unremembered Mother. The reason the Hopper-looking diner, old waitress uniform, Diana’s nightgown, hotel room, etc. etc. look so out of place and time is intentional and symbolic. Everything about Diana feels more like a ghost or echo from the past than a contemporary relationship. Obviously her name is emblematic but even her child dying of the flu sounds a lot more like something from the 1930s than 1970. Not unlike Anna, Diana remains in essence a symbol and a guide to Don from the past (This explains why a contemporary guidebook of NY is rather unappealing to her!) Diana pulls powerfully to Don-Dick from way, way back when and he is understandably pretty scrambled by it.

    Should we be surprised that Don protects himself shifting to DD mode? That interaction with Diana in the hotel is pure Don Draper not listening and trying to close the deal. No surprise that he falls back to DD in his current state. Is Don-Dick actually ready? What a colossal joke! The only thing Don shows up ready to do is continue avoiding the real work and pretend he can fix things externally. Don needs help a lot more than Diana. Diana is on the front end of dealing with a lot of big stuff but at least she recognizes that you can’t ignore, distract or block out the pain if you expect to get better.

    Don as Dick is on the very front end of a very long journey and the creatives at MM would not be doing us any favors to serve up a short cut – like Don-Dick we viewers gotta take the long route home and we probably won’t get to see the real ending.

    • We never see Diana outside her waitress uniform (except when she’s just in her slip). Perhaps this is because if we saw her wearing her own contemporary clothes, it would disrupt the associations with the past that she has in Don’s mind.

      • We do see her out of her waitress clothes in her apartment – where she gives Don the boot. The past meets the present.

    • d davies denver you said everything I’ve always thought.
      Don will not be healed. None of the characters will be. They are all shades of him.
      The ending will not occur on this, show.
      Genius line.

  7. Roberta, your choice of screenshot – with that caption – is cracking me up.

  8. I was surprised to see Diana again in this one too. But her past and her choices of grief reminded me of one of Peggy’s line (to Pete? Back in the Sterling Cooper years) that was something like: “you have to embrace your feelings, you can’t run away or hide them with booze or sex”.

    It was a great line (that I just got wrong here) and also a great statement for the behavior of the characters in the show, but I wonder that Di got it wrong. Where is her grief taking her? How long can you “sink in” with it?

    I don’t get Di. In the show. In the final episodes. Seriously.

    I think we’re still in the “Is that all that is” and “life not taken” theme (loved the opening at The Francis’, is like last week episode haven’t finished)

    • That line by Peggy that you quoted was said to Stan in the Season 6 episode, “The Crash.”

      • Thank you! It goes:

        “Peggy Olson: I’ve had loss in my life. You have to let yourself feel it, you can’t dampen it with drugs and sex. That won’t get you through.”

        (And thanks BoK, I found it easy in the episodes guide)

    • Way back when, Don could have told Diana “It will shock you how much it never happened.”

      While last week’s “Is That All There Is?” seemed like a perfect fit to the episode and the season so far, I wondered how “C’est Si Bon” fit in the scheme of things. I looked up the lyrics of “C’est Si Bon” and was intrigued by the following:

      “I don’t know if there is anyone more blonde,
      But more beautiful, there is none for me.
      She is truly all the joy in the world.
      My life begins the instant I see her,
      And I go, “Oh!”
      And I go, “Ah!”…
      These little feelings,
      It’s worth better than a million—
      It’s so, so good!”

      • “my life begins the instant I see her”

        This is pointing me in the direction of the importance of Peggy.

        The show begins on Peggy’s first day. When Don first meets her he is “waking up”

        He has always treated Peggy -for the most part- and not always as an actual connection versus all his other connections (save Sally as noted above)

        Even this instant connection to Diana, while compelling, seems incomplete or unreal or dreamlike. His connection with Peggy has always been grounded.

        So possibly Dons process of integrating Dick, honoring his real self began that first day in episode one…

  9. One theme seems to be predatory females. Betty wants to study psychology because people confide in her, not because she may want to help anyone. You can imagine where that will end up. Megan takes the one million dollar check without flinching. Her mother takes on Roger to clear the apartment. A bisexual photographer takes on Stan and and tries with Peggy until Peggy clears her out. And Diana is a special case who lies and slowly reveals.

    Feminism says we are no different under the skin, This is the episode that displays that regardless if the prey deserves it or not.

  10. I wonder if Don’s blue shirt in the opening scene is a visual signal that Don is starting to wake up, or starting to feel his real feelings?

    Janie Bryant use to call this Betty’s sad coat.

  11. […] expand a little on a recent comment about New Business, it’s worth exploring the idea that, at this point in the story, Dick […]

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