Lost Horizon Re-Recap: The SC&P and Shangri-La

 Posted by on May 8, 2015 at 1:00 pm  Mad Men, Season 7
May 082015


We’re not done being mad about the latest episode of Mad Men, Basketcases. Both the lovely husband (White T Jim B) and I still have notes:

  • On what Sterling Cooper and Partners meant to the show, and us;
  • On Don’s obsession with Waitress Die;
  • On the eternal Mad Men question (why does Don Draper cheat?); and
  • On the possible fate of the nameless hippie who took a seat in Don’s Cadillac.

WTJB: Let’s start with Sterling Cooper and Partners.

AB: I loved SC&P. Megan Draper met her future stepdaughter there; Ida Blankenship and Lane Pryce died there; Peggy and Don pulled a brutal and beautiful all-nighter there. Pete Campbell got punched in the face and fell down the stairs at SC&P; Joanie led a Christmas conga line in a red dress, and later threw an airplane at Meredith. Ken Cosgrove tap-danced in its hallway, and Don and Peggy slow-danced to “My Way.”

WTJB: It was Shangri-La.

Lost Horizon (1933), a novel by James Hilton, describes Shangri-La as a remote mountain paradise:

Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, and particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia – a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. The people who live at Shangri-La are almost immortal, living years beyond the normal lifespan and only very slowly aging in appearance. … If they leave the valley, they age quickly and die. (Wikipedia)

But I’ll come back to this. Go on with your gloomy-waitress rant!

AB: All the other women we’ve seen with Don have had one thing in common: they’re warmer that he is, more optimistic, positive. Each of them is a life force, a soul — even if, in Midge’s case, that soul later becomes a liability.

Waitress Die is suicidal. She is a death force. And I understand that Don’s attraction to her is an attraction to that. I just want Mad Men to be alive until the moment we lose it — and these reminders of her disrupt that life, drag it down. She’s not a character: she’s a narrative device. Why is he wasting time on her? Still?

WTJB: Anne B., with those lovely gams of yours, you must have heard of Occam’s Razor? 

One of the great unsolved mysteries is why so many women continue to ascribe such complex motivations to Don Draper’s sex life. “He screws this one woman and then just a couple days later, he’s doing it again with a completely different one! He must be battling existential angst!”

AB: So loving him isn’t the worst way to get to him?

WTJB: “What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons.”

Among the men I know, there is a sort of koanQ: Why does a dog lick his genitals? A: Because he can. That is Don’s motivation. He can.

AB: So he’s not chasing women because he fears death?

WTJB: Maybe he’s looking for his keys in there?

Seriously: Don went through death and it broke him. He spent the night in a foxhole with a dead man. Don has PTSD, Roger probably does too; Pete and Harry don’t, which is partly why they will never fit into that circle. Even Duck was damaged enough to belong to the destroyed-psyches club; these are literally the Mad Men.

AB: About that destroyed psyche: What if the hitchhiking hippie is Don Draper’s next mark?

The morning after Lost Horizon, it hit me: Don is going to roll that hippie, take his ID, and slip into another life.

He’s done this before, almost. In The Jet Set, Don gets spooked in an aerospace convention, and slips away — without warning Pete, picking up his things, or saying a word to anyone — with a young woman named Joy.maxresdefault

In Palm Springs, he hangs out with Joy’s slippery people for a while, and seems quite comfortable with them — until a pair of young children arrive. Don sees in the boy’s silence echoes of who he once was, who he’s lost, and who he might leave behind. When he goes back to Betty, I think he goes back for his kids.

In Lost Horizon, I think Don got spooked again in the box-lunch beer meeting. He goes to Betty’s house, but she doesn’t need him anymore, and neither do the kids. It’s not just that he can’t find anything he likes, in the 1970 New York City of McCann and his unfurnished flat; it’s that nothing in that place needs him.

Why wouldn’t Don move again? Into a completely different life?

WTJB: I don’t think Don is spooked, but I do see him get that feeling of “this room doesn’t need me.” And that was a sorry-looking lunch. The outcome of that beer pitch was not going to change one iota due to Don’s presence. Same with Betty and Sally: their lives are all set. They’re waiting for him to hit the roadSo that’s what he does.

Don is adept at throwing his cards in and playing a new deal. He was dealt a bad hand at birth; that’s where he learned it.

I’m more concerned for Roger. His arrogance has always come from being lead dog. And now? Not only is he too lazy to go to battle for Joan, he doesn’t even have an initial on the letterhead. What room needs him now? 

The Shangri-La of Roger’s (and our) Lost Horizon was in the offices of SC&P. Think of that final display of art. Bert’s erotic Japanese art and priceless Rothko were somehow still there. Roger’s music, Peggy’s dance on skates: no one will ever forget that place, Roger least of all.

Roger knows he is extraneous now, even more so than Don. If anyone goes out the window I think it will be him, maybe with a couple tabs of LSD in him. He knows how lucky he was to find Shangri-La, and he knows what happens now: he will age and die.article-roger2-0430

AB: I hear there’s still some lighter fluid in Don’s old office. Want me to go get it?

WTJB: Nah. As Roger would say: “I’m not there yet.”


NOTE: This post has been edited: to correct the spelling of Shangri-La, and to remove a *perfectly lovely* reference to pot-influenced singing that actually took place at Sterling Cooper. (Thanks, Deb.)


  47 Responses to “Lost Horizon Re-Recap: The SC&P and Shangri-La”

  1. Among the men I know, there is a sort of koan: Q: Why does a dog lick his genitals? A: Because he can. That is Don’s motivation. He can.

    As Chris Rock likes to say, a man’s as faithful as his options.

    Anne – LOVE the parallel between Palm Springs and the McCann/Miller meeting … totally makes sense.

    Guys, please continue to do 2 recaps for each MM episode, starting with Smoke … come the 18th, we’re all gonna need something to do.

    • Cheers, Coop. The two-party recap is a bit of a sausage mill sometimes. I am very glad you enjoy the final product but the actual process is not pretty.

  2. There seems to be almost no more story to tell, ‘cept for Peggy and Don.
    Ken, Joan, got goodbye scenes.
    Harry, and Pete are ‘happy’ with/at McGoon.
    Rajah is irrelevant.
    Sally is a rebel with a sneer. Big whoop. So is every kid in an affluent nation on the planet.
    Put all the teens on Haiti and see what happens.
    Ted, pffffffffffft.
    What an underutilized character he turned out to be!!!!
    Sharp, handsome, earnest, talented guy, Ahhh…….
    no use for him on MM, but S5 gets dominated by she who shall remain unnamed.
    Where is Stan on that McGoon skyscraper; 14?

    Don has to die. There ain’t nothing left to tell.
    We came in on DD facing professional death with the It’s Toasted meeting coming up.
    Now, he’s unencumbered.
    Fucking FREE, man.
    Aw, you know he’s gotta pay.
    I never thought Dick Whitman would turn out to be Peter Fonda?!?!

    I was really holding out for D.B. Cooper.

    • I remember when Ted was praised by fans as the better, morally superior equivalent of Don. I don’t think his reputation could survive that mustache.

  3. Looking for his keys in there almost killed me.

    The Tigertones sang in season 3, that’s before SCDP or SC&P.

    I love what you guys are doing here. Love. I have a big post planned about Shangri-La, except I’ve been crazy busy. Did I mention I’m moving?

  4. Many situations from earlier in the series have been repeated, but often in reverse.

    What if it’s the hitchhiker that rolls Don for his identity? The draft is still on I believe. Dick stole a Don to get out of the war…

    Don having picked up hitchhikers in the past (with the “ruse” of saying they were trying to keep the boyfriend from being drafted) got the living shit beat out of him. Yet still he picks up a hitchhiker. Is he following Diana’s siren death song?

    I also felt that our scene at the Bauer house let us know that Don is not as persuasive anymore at pulling off other people’s identities. I think he has developed enough new identity that isn’t easily rubbed off, like young Dick Whitman was. He’s lived too much. It’s much easier for the young, who are transitioning from childhood to adulthood and trying to find their identities anyway to assume a new identity. It’s a young mans game.

    But I still think Don will return home, like Jonah. And he will make that big crack he still needs to make in order to heal, love himself, and therefore be less alone. But it won’t be perfect and hell still have more to go after this story (series) ends. Just like Jonah.

    I think Don isn’t desperate to leave his life like he was as a young man. He’s desperate to get in to his life. The life he has. Not the elusive thing he’s chasing right now.

    In the scene with Betty in her kitchen, it was also a kind of reversal. Don wanted her attention when he got there, (in a way that Betty longed for his interest when he got home from work) but instead Betty was like Don, interested in her stuff, her day, and he listened.

    As for Don chasing women: I think there has been a difference between the ones he’s had because “he can” and the ones that are more meaningful to him, the ones whose names we know, the ones we discuss what they mean for him.

    Re:Shangri la. If aging can be taken to mean maturing, we are definitely seeing that! First with Joan, especially. What a lesson! And if dying can be taken as in Tarot, a big change, possibly rebirth, we see that also. Everybody will be changed.

    And another nice idea in your write up: the no rooms for everyone. It made me recall Cooper’s statement to Pete: a man is the room he is in. (I’m bungling that quote I’m sure!)

    • Re-viewing S1E1, am I the only one who noticed that the stripper at Pete’s bachelor party was performing to an organ rendition of “Shangri-La”

      –“Your kisses take me,,, to Shangri-La…. for everywhere you are is Shangri-La.”

    • My husband had the same thought about the hitchhiker taking Don’s identity, perhaps after a car crash. Don does have that envelope with him with his SS card, etc.

      • I think the hitchhiker would be way too young to take on the ID of a 40 something person

        • Here’s one out of left field …

          The hitchhiker is connected with the August 1970 bombing of a building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that killed a physics researcher and injured three others. The timeframe of “Lost Horizon” was in August. If the kid is on the run, he could very well have the authorities chasing him. If they catch him while he’s with Don, even if he had nothing to do with the bombing, they’d check up on his background and whereabouts when it happened, if only to clear him as a suspect. I’d think that if Don was with him. they’d look into his background too.

  5. “I’m more concerned for Roger.”

    Me too. He was by far the saddest, haunting the old place in full Phantom-of-the-Opera mode. I was surprised we even saw him at McCann. No one there is going to find him “very amusing.” From what we saw of the frat-boy level of humor there (the idiots in the first meeting with Joan and Peggy, Ferg’s Don Draper ‘impression’) his witty quips will earn blank stares. He was unable to fight for Joan (Poor Joan, Richard told her to “get a guy,” and when she did, it was Roger. Still always picking the wrong man). And what was the key part of the Navy story he told Peggy? Not that he was unable to swim, but that he was afraid to jump(!) Until someone gave him a push. Foreshadowing ….?

    “She’s not a character: she’s a narrative device. Why is he wasting time on her? Still?

    It makes no sense, yes, but the more I think of it, a lot of Don’s hook-ups made no sense. He didn’t even like Bobbi Barrett, Suzanne Farrell was never going to work out, and we were never given an explanation of why he was with Sylvia Rosen. Even his two marriages were typical, classic even, mismatches. But maybe they were riveting to watch because you felt the connections despite, even because, of that. They were all going to be wrecks and you waited for the self-willed crash. But Don and waitress Die don’t even work on that level. You look at them and think “Wha?” In the immortal words of Margo Channing “It won’t play! Either that’s the point of the whole thing (we’re supposed to see that Don’s endless chasing has become utterly empty of meaning and passion, or always has been), or Weiner and company have unfortunately cast the one actress on earth who doesn’t have chemistry with Jon Hamm. We’ll find out soon enough.

    • Diana is a narrative device, but I get why he’s fixating on her. He didn’t mistake her for one of his past hook-ups. She’s not an amalgam of his other women. Diana is Don. He’s looking in a mirror. He’s never going to go to therapy (which he so desperately needs). By trying to save Diana, he’s trying to save himself. I don’t know that the story is working, but it’s not over yet and I’m still willing to see where it goes.

      • I’m with you on this one Maryann.

        Diana is not an amalgam of his other women, nor is she Rachel incarnate. She is narrative and I think we have put this one to bed

        The whole guide book subtext really illustrated to me that it was Don who needs that book a helleva a lot more that Diana. Hence we find him S7E12 completely lost in midwestern USA

    • Each time I’ve watched the Peggy/Roger scene from “Lost Horizon”, I’ve noticed a very audible whoooooshing sound, like elevator hydraulics, once after Roger says something, and it does it as well with Peggy.

      It’s strange and very noticeable.

      More elevator teases?

  6. I have always loved “The Jet Set” and I agree with Anne B 100%. I feel like it is such an underrated episode. I think Don could definitely disappear or take the hippie’s identity or he could take Don’s.

    • Part of me has wondered if “Don Draper” (who was part of the Army Corps of Engineers) would get reactivated and sent to Nam — to build the bridge in the morning, so the troops could blow it up at the end of the day.

      • Probably not in a “limited” conflict. In general, unless you have really specialized knowledge, you aren’t that useful to the military at 40.

      • Just for clarification, Don Draper would have been part of the inactive reserve of the US Army. We assume that Lt. Don Draper(Dick Whitman) was honorably discharged from the US Army before he encountered Anna Draper. Any military obligation that Don Draper would have had would have ended in 1956 assuming he entered the US Army in 1950. Men over age 35 including all veterans who served in the US Military had the draft status of 5A. They were considered too old for military service. In the Korean War men who had served in World War II were recalled to active duty such as pilots. That didn’t happen in the Viet-nam War. The actor who played Lt.Draper in season one was older than Jon Hamm. Lt.Draper may have been called back to active duty for the Korean War.
        We should remember that Dick Whitman has assumed the identity of a man that may be several years older than he is. Don Draper was 36 in 1960, but is Dick Whitman?

        • Back in the S-3 season opener, Out Of Town, Don tells the stewardess he’d met on the flight to Baltimore, that it was his birthday, but didn’t show her his driver’s license as proof. The reason, I think, was because it was Dick’s birthday and Don’s license would’ve indicated the real Draper’s birthdate. When he went to the doctor’s for a physical in S-2, an age was mentioned, but it would’ve likely been Draper’s age. I’m not sure that enough clues about Dick’s age have been provided in the show, to figure it out.

          • Dick Whitman was born in 1925 or 26.
            When Betts sees the pictures of Dick and Adam one of them says 1944.
            Dick was 18.
            In the season 2 opening scene which was Valentine’s day 1962 his doctor tells him he is in good shape for a 36 year old.
            In Out of Town Dick mentions it’s his birthday. That episode occurs in March 1963.
            In Zou Bisou Zou, it’s mentioned that Don is 40.
            That was May 1966.

            • I’m still unsure why he wasn’t drafted for WWII. My dad was born in 1925 and he was drafted, or rather he knew he would be and joined the Navy, went to college for two years, went to sea as an Ensign and spent two more years doing clean up operations in the Pacific. Everyone his age did the same thing. I think maybe this is just part of the whole mystery of who Dick/Don really is.

        • This was all addressed. When Pete first found the Whitman Sampler Box, he specifically stated that Don Draper was older than the Don they knew. And the age that Don tells people is his actual age, not the first Don Draper’s age.

          • I assumed that the real Draper was older, but I hadn’t realized Don has been truthful about his age all along. This makes sense since I’m just recalling that incident when Allison submitted the background check paperwork for the military contractor account. The military would’ve had the real Draper’s age on file somewhere, but the background forms had Dick/Don’s birthdate information, which would’ve raised red flags.

            • Dons troubling timeline might make more sense if he took an age in between his and Lt Draper’s.

              It’s never made sense to me why he didn’t enlist as soon as he could instead of waiting for the ripe old age of 24.

              Maybe he was 18-20 in 1950 and was afraid he couldn’t play 33 or whatever Lt Draper was. And gave himself four years.

              Maybe that thing Betty says out of the blue this episode “I’m younger than you and will always be younger than you” is a bit of a nod. What if Betty were older than Don? She’d die! Women were not supposed to be older than their man!

              As well, he’s always been complimented on how well he looked for his age, despite his hard drinking, smoking and generally hard living…

              Something to think about…

              It’s never actually been said he uses his real birth year has it? I thought it was assumed…

            • I don’t think it’s been said that he’s using his real birth year in so many words, but that’s been the implication. In “A Little Kiss” when he was talking to Megan about his birthday and his turning 40, he said that he’d already been 40 for months. So while the birth date is not the real date , the birth year is.

    • “The Jet Set” is my favorite episode. When I first watched it, I intended to write a long post comparing it to the Odyssey, with Joy as Calypso.

  7. Random brain fart-upon my second viewing the other day, I noticed something. Althought it’s a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, that hippy actually bears a pretty good resemblance to Jon Hamm. Same coloring, facial bone structure and a similar type of handsome under all that fur. You have to freeze frame to see it, (just as he settles into the passenger seat) but it’s there. There also appears to be roughly the same age difference between Don and the hippy as there was between Dick and the original Don. Maybe I’m just spinning and this means absolutely zip. Probably. Or maybe it is something. I’m getting a Dread Pirate Roberts feeling here. That there is always a Don Draper somewhere, that he’s always between 25 and 45 and he’s always a man out of place. An architect in nowheresville, Korea. A poor whores child in the upper west side. A free wheeling hippy running a roller disco in Fresno?

  8. The skates used by Peggy have toe stops. The skates earlier in the kitchen did not have toe stops. What gives?

    • All of the usual Mad Men precision seems to be off this half season. I wonder of it is purposeful? Leaving us with a things are off feeling…

      • For just one example McCloud is on tv, yet that screws with the taking Sally to school timeline as well as the having to move out of SCDP by the end of the month timeline, etc.

        There have been many such glitches that are really unusual for MM…

        • Will Victoria Principal tell Hamm in the shower that it was all a dream?

          • You’ll know for sure this has happened, when you hear the distant sound of me using Pete’s rifle for Skeet Shooting, using all my Mad Men DVDs as targets. PULL!

  9. In the closing scene, we see Don’s car heading west. This got me thinking about the car. In 1970, he’s still driving the 1962 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.

    In ‘The Gold Violin,” S-2 Ep7, the salesman on the showroom floor, referring to Don’s current car says, “Those are wonderful if you want to get somewhere. This is for when you’ve already arrived.” It’s obviously a line that’s part of his pitch, but it’s also meant to convey to Don that he’s made it professionally, which indeed he had.

    I think he might have also seen himself as having arrived, when we see him, via flashback, talking to the father and son at the used car lot in the 1950s. By then, he had fled the Whitman homestead and Uncle Mack’s brothel. He’d also managed to escape being killed in Korea, along with obtaining a new identity and a status bump from having been awarded a service medal. Compared to where he had been, he really had made it. Then Anna shows up. While it initially looks like the jig is up for him when she does, meeting her ultimately works out in his favor. You can almost imagine him thinking, “Whew. I made it!”

    Between the timeframe of that flashback and the scene in the Cadillac showroom in 1962, other examples of his having arrived or made it, have been seen. And, we’ve seen still more examples of this, between 1962 and 1970. Now, he’s on a lonely road, in an 8-year-old car, that once represented his having really arrived – and then some, yet it’s obvious to him and us, that he hasn’t really.

    It’s right there to see. For all intents and purposes, the Caddy has become merely a wonderful means of conveyance if you want to get somewhere. Long gone, is all the bright and shiny and that new car smell. It’s gone from the car and it’s really gone from Don. The Coupe DeVille isn’t the only clue. Ahead of him, is the wide vista of the horizon, laid out before him.

    A funny thing about the horizon, is how you never stop seeing it – out there. From where you are when you really notice it, the notion of actually arriving at some distant, invisible point seems impossible, but you drive on anyway – hopefully, relentlessly, expectantly. When you think you’ve made it, that you have finally arrived, you look again and the horizon is still expansively laid out ahead of you.

    There’s no ‘there’ there. On some level, I think he has begun to grasp this. Don no longer seems driven, in the non-vehicular sense. It’s what prompted his walking out of the Miller Beer meeting at McCann. Advertising and everything that it once represented to him, is showing up for him now as a string of non-there ‘theres.’ In recent weeks, we’ve seen him cast off many of the fruits of his labor. The apartment is a big example of one. I think he is also letting go of his fixation with Diana. He has now left his SC&P/McCann associates behind. All that he has retained, is the 1962 Cadillac, though he’s no longer concerned about Silly Putty getting stuck between the seats, as evidenced of his giving a ride to the hitchhiker. The Caddy’s sole function now, is one of utility.

    As Pete pointed out in the meeting with Lucky Strike in the pilot, “You still have to get where you’re going.” He clumsily tied dangerous cars to dangerous cigarettes, with his futile attempt to utilize the research from Dr Greta Guttman that Don rejected, into the meeting. Pete framed it in the form of a death wish, but in the context of this episode, “Lost Horizon,” Don is in the car, headed west. It’s a life wish. After all, he still has to get where he’s going.

    • I enjoyed reading your post, SmilerG—-so insightful and beautifully presented—thank you.

      • Thank you so much! This show offers a seemingly limitless source of inspiration. Mad Men will end, but the conversation about it will go on forever.

    • Although Bert Cooper does refers to it as a ‘shiny car in the night’?

      I would have expected Don to upgrade to a newer model (as most rich people did in the 50′-60’s), so I like your observations SmilerG.

      The Cadillac is obsolete and so maybe the moniker of ‘Don Draper’?

      • It is odd that Don didn’t upgrade his car at least a couple times, during the years between ’62 and ’70. A lot of families back then and I’m talking middle class families here (when the U.S. actually HAD a strong, broad middle class) would trade-in and get a new model, every two years or so. I remember that the unveiling of all the new car models was a huge deal. In dealerships or on TV commercials, the new cars were completely covered up and the public wouldn’t get a peek, until debut day. Given Don’s financial situation in those years, a yearly vehicle upgrade wouldn’t be unusual. We’ve seen him receive bonuses or other sizable amounts of cash back then. Once he just signed a check ($2,500, I think) over to Midge. He gave Adam a big wad of cash ($5,000 ?). When Conrad Hilton and Bert forced him to sign a contract, he received a sizable bonus – big enough to make him smile. During the “no Christmas bonus” crisis, he paid Pete’s portion of the money each partner needed to kick in, to keep SCDP afloat. So, it’s doubtful that not upgrading his ride was about money.

        • I think he did upgrade the car at least once. The 1962 car’s interior was blue, but now the interior is red. I think the red interior goes back at least to season 5, but I’m not positive on that.

  10. I just re watched the Jet Set and I think the clues to what will happen to Don are there.

    In the Jet Set Don walks out right after watching a “pitch” about missiles blowing up the world.
    In Lost Horizon Don walks out in the middle of a pitch about Miller Beer. (Don Draper dies in the middle of a pitch as Roger predicted).

    In the Jet Set Don gets into a car with Joy and heads out to a place he doesn’t know–escape. Joy tells Don that they are all nomads (rich hobos?) together and later invites him to join them.

    In Lost Horizon Don heads out in a car alone headed to a place he doesn’t know–escape.

    In the Jet Set Don wakes up on the couch in realizes that he doesn’t want to be there anymore and calls Anna identifying himself as Dick Whitman.

    If the connection continues than Don’s next step is to go to California where Anna lived and he was most content and real and himself and identify himself as Dick Whitman.

    The Jet Set mirrors Don’s journey from work, to a beautiful woman to drinking, sex and a hedonistic/empty lifestyle to finally going home and being himself, Dick Whitman.

    The Jet Set is also when the beginning of PPL taking over Sterling Cooper happens which eventually leads to McCann Erickson taking over, full circle.

    • My problem with that is that after Anna died, California lost it’s allure. It was no longer the place he could go to be happy. He nearly drown in that Hollywood pool. He no longer fit in. He could reconnect with Stephanie, but that just isn’t the same. I do see him going out to California, but it is my hope that while he’s there he realizes that there is no utopia, there are no fresh starts. I’d rather he built on the connections that he has, rather than try to start over yet again.

  11. Great discussion! Don’s cheating and chasing women recall to me the conversation in Moonstruck when Rose questions Johnny on why men chase women and why a man would need more than one woman. Johnny’s ultimate answer, convincing to Rose, is, “Maybe because he fears death.”

  12. […] old abandoned Weiner house. The sound of shattering glass in the dark made us smile. I can’t say this was prophetic; Deb said that. That’s good enough for […]

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