Saturday, June 29, 2013

You Are Okay

I am posting a quick update to my blog post, "Special Lady Friend" ( First, and foremost, I was humbled and stunned at the outpouring of support I found online. Although I'm a regular consumer of social media, until I posted about my break-up, I had no sense of the compassion of total strangers. Not only were people willing and happy to give some really amazing advice, but your heartfelt comments and support mean more than you will ever know. I cannot thank you enough. 

The days after I posted were hard, there were more tears, endless replays of scenes of happier times, head shaking at how this all went to shit and yes, a final attempt (pathetic, I know) to try and get some closure (my voice mail last Tuesday went unresponded to). 

But as with most things, if you talk about it enough, the answers, or at least the plan for moving forward, starts to come into view.  So first, I accepted the fact that regardless of why we broke up, the manner in which it was done was totally inappropriate and said far more about her than me. That helped. Not because it is easier to think less of her (though that doesn't hurt) but because I need take ownership of the fact that my emotions and feelings have value and need to be valued by the people in my life. 

Next, I accepted the fact that "why" may never be answered and that also says far more about her than me, and particularly, the idea that she feels guilt and shame (ok, I won't lie, THAT does make me happy). Whether she cheated (as some have theorized, though not something I subscribe to), felt things were moving too quickly and got scared (as others have, and is the Occam's Razor in my opinion), simply lost interest or got freaked out about my still sometimes fragile post-divorce state, the take away is that in the moment of the relationship, I was true to myself, vulnerable at times and always honest, supportive and caring, and willing to put myself out there to another human being. A MAJOR step forward in my emotional growth. 

At the same time, two things others picked up on really stood out to me - (1) the similarities between SLF and my ex-wife in terms of their personalities (strong, speak your mind types who are not fond of being challenged and emotionally withholding) and (2) that my natural tendency toward self-deprecation can quickly read as devaluing myself, which, in turn, serves to suggest that I don't like myself and, that being the case, how can I expect someone to love me?  Both are BIG red flags and "issues" that have actually got me leaning toward seeking therapy to understand. I have resisted therapy for forever, but this whole debacle has put into sharp relief that someone trained in not just understanding where issues come from (I've got a good handle on that part) but who can offer some constructive strategies to address them, might actually help. Who knew?  

In the meantime, I am committed to reminding myself on a daily basis that I am a good and decent person who tries to do good in the world and has a sterling professional reputation earned over many long years of hard work, dedication and always above board dealings with people (you're just going to have to trust me on this one). In my personal life, I will remember that I have, on myriad occasions, been the person who someone breaks the glass, pulls the emergency lever and reaches out for help, advice of counsel. And also, that whatever challenges life places in front of me, I have an insane amount of willpower to get through them and this break-up is not even in the top five. In other words, I am going to look in the mirror and, as Roger Sterling did in "Far Away Places" tell myself "You Are Okay." (although I won't have half-salt, half-pepper hair, be tripping on LSD or hallucinating that Don Draper is telling me these things). 

More importantly, I've come to realize I truly want someone in my life who offers support, affection and values me - in other words, the healthy romantic and platonic love two people should feel toward each other in a committed relationship. I have it pretty good otherwise - a job I would do for half of what I make, a nice house that I love and interests that stimulate me (if not put me in constant touch with the outside world as much as I'd like). And at the same time, when someone comes into my life, I am open to sharing all sides of me, but in doing so, not to be so quick to harp on my own insecurities, be more of my own cheerleader and remember that I have things to offer to someone interested in receiving them. I'm not sure it's the entire answer, but for the first time in weeks, my heart isn't beating like a rabbit's at all times, my hands are not shaky and I have some semblance of an appetite. I'm even sleeping through the night. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mad Men Season Six - A Moment of Clarity

In perhaps the understatement of the television year, the on-screen cable guide for last night's season finale of Mad Men simply said "Don has a problem." You don't say. For the better part of 1968, whatever humanity Don had has been kicked away, his darkest secret revealed to his daughter, Peggy's affection for Ted aroused Don's masochistic streak as he bullied and humiliated his new business partner, he became obsessed with death, utterly removed from his wife and, as always, was tortured by the memories of his impossibly cruel and unloving childhood. 

That Don would hit rock bottom was a given, but now, not only has his humanity been stripped away, but all of the elements of the life he manufactured by being "Don Draper" have too - his partners send him on an indefinite leave of absence, his wife leaves him and his former protégé now inhabits his office. As with many people who attempt to turn their lives around on their own, Don simply could not do so before others decided to intervene. Landing in the drunk tank may have finally convinced Don he needed to get his drinking under control, but ritually pouring all the alcohol in your house down the drain is no more a long-term solution than tossing out the pack of cigarettes you now swear you won't smoke. 

Moving to California to be a "homesteader" for SC&P was something out of Draper 101 - beat a tactical retreat and start anew, wash away the failure of whatever it is you are running from and pretend like it never happened - but Don's plan to walk away from the chaos he created in New York is complicated by Ted, an otherwise good and decent man who recognizes he is in over his head with Peggy, and does not have the wherewithal to stay where he is and blow up his own life in the midst of everything that is going on around him. While Don's immediate reaction is to reject Ted's request that they switch spots on Sunkist, ultimately, Don capitulates, perhaps because he no longer felt the need to assert his dominance over Ted, or maybe because Don knew his life would not actually change, but Ted's could. Maybe he just felt a spark of decency toward his fellow man. 

But in agreeing to stay in New York, Don finally lights the spark that sends Megan out the door. Having already put in notice at her job and with a list of interviews in Hollywood beckoning, she leaves to pursue her own dreams. And who can blame her? Her once loving husband fell down a bottomless well of whisky, rarely talked to her and seemed completely unconnected to the world around him. Of course, Don's fly by the seat of his pants decision making (or, as Pete referred to it, being Tarzan, swinging from vine to vine [1]) is largely to blame. Having tried to solve one problem (needing to leave NYC) he created another (Megan quitting her job) that creates another problem (Megan leaving him when he decides not to move) when he goes back on the original plan.

Don's erratic behavior also finally caught up to him at work. Unaccustomed to getting work over the transom from the likes of Hershey's, Don has not adjusted to being a partner at one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. He will still disappear with no notice to drink himself silly, but the trump card of his own brilliance in pitch meetings can no longer justify his otherwise selfish behavior. There are simply too many people relying on his work, too much money at stake and too much prestige to lose. 

This is spelled out in perhaps the finest of the mirroring effects utilized this season. Don's pitch to Hershey's harkened back to his iconic presentation to Kodak at the end of season 1. [2] There, Don manufactured a narrative of his life with Betty and their children as being as American as apple pie, a life filled with opened Christmas presents, kisses at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve and snowball fights. The conceit, of course, was that we knew this sepia-toned framing was a figment of Don's imagination, but hey, whatever it takes to sell some slide carousels. A similarly touching story unfolded for the Hershey's executives, one where young Don, fresh from mowing the family lawn, would go to the corner drugstore with his proud papa, hair tousled and stomach growling. There, Don got to pick any treat in the store and of course, picked a Hershey's bar. That connection, between pure childhood memories and their association with the eponymous candy bar, is what Don wants to sell. In other words, nostalgia in a foil candy wrapper. 

A pregnant pause and Don's now shaky hand later, we do not get what we might otherwise expect - dazzled executives happily agreeing to the well constructed pitch. No, instead we get a confessional, a raw, emotions-bleeding-out-on-the-floor monologue every bit as powerful as Don's Kodak presentation, but this time, the story is real, not fake. You see, young Don did have a connection to Hershey's, but it came from being rewarded by a prostitute who would get him the treat if he successfully pilfered money from the pockets of the men she serviced while they were otherwise indisposed. Don's connection to Mr. Hershey stemmed not simply from love of chocolate, but discovering there was a place where orphans like Don were raised in a good and decent environment, loved and cherished, instead of being looked upon as mistakes that could not be eradicated. 

It was a breathtaking moment, mesmerizing in its delivery and devastating in its impact. Laid bare was the ugly truth of Don's creation and rearing, a confessional that lifted a weight off of Don's shoulders even as it nuked the agency's chances of landing the iconic chocolate maker as a client. It also became the final straw for Don's partners, who call him in for an emergency meeting on Thanksgiving to tell him that he's out, at least for now, from the agency. His solo act, which worked to great effect when the firm was a small fish in a big pond, will no longer do. With Megan out of the picture, Don takes his first, hesitant step to whatever the future holds by driving his children to the whorehouse he grew up in. The structure is still standing, though it is now rundown, garbage strewn around it and a forlorn little boy sitting on the front porch. Don shares a a glance with his daughter Sally that can't wash away all the hurt he has caused her, but at least begins to open the door so she can understand who her father is. 

It appears Don's replacement at the agency will be Peggy. Don's body isn't even cold before she has started using his office to review client matters. This may be small consolation for her, but the hard lesson she learns is that the work is the thing - the men in her life are unreliable and withholding. The transference of father figure from Don to Ted may be overly simplistic, but their inaccessibility was the same. Don was no sooner going to give her the credit she so desperately craved than Ted was going to leave his wife and kids to be a "scandal" with his copy chief. For now, the corner office will have to be her consolation prize. 

The other threads of the finale also suggested second chances. Joining Ted in California will be Pete Campbell, who, it turns out, really cannot tangle with Bob Benson's "kind." The scam Bob and Manolo started because they thought Pete's mom was wealthy comes to a predictable end - a rush wedding between Manolo and the dementia-addled Mrs. Campbell followed quickly by a mysterious (and hard to investigate) death at sea. The manservant disappears soon thereafter (perhaps when he discovers Mrs. Campbell has no money), but Pete's desire to take his revenge on Bob blows up in his face. In Detroit, Bob sets a trap for Pete, suggesting Pete take a spin in a Camaro. Pete, a poor driver, accidentally drops the car into reverse instead of first gear, and like that, Bob is now the senior account man on Chevrolet and Pete is packing his bags for the left coast. Bob has gone from the farm team to the big leagues and is spending Thanksgiving with Joan and little Kevin. Meanwhile, Roger, snubbed by his actual family and looked upon solely as a breadwinner, is left to try and bond with a little boy who does not even know who "Uncle" Roger is, another penny to put in his pocket on the way to you know where. [3] 

Ultimately, I am leery of Don's conversion. A flashback to a minister preaching forgiveness and a drunken swing at a proselytizer in a bar does not a new man make. In this way, In Care Of reflected back Don's other attempts at conversion. At the end of Season 2, he came clean to his wife about his infidelity and was allowed back into their marriage. At the end of Season 3, he came to terms with losing that marriage (and his agency), choosing to start anew. At the end of Season 4, he started a new life with a new soon-to-be wife, but for all of the time fans spend rooting for Don to get his act together, it feels as though the writers of this show spend just as much time beating us over the head reminding us that whatever we are seeing is not real, it will not last. 

Don has had opportunities before to truly look into who he is and has demurred. His own worldview has been out there for all to see - "people don't change" - [4] and he was self-aware enough to tell Megan long ago that he would try, but likely fail, to be a good person. [5] In years past, Don's armor of cool distance, of being, as Lane described him, the boy everyone followed but was unaware of anyone else's presence, [6] made him hip, desirable and we excused his play-by-his-own-rules attitude, but now, creeping into middle age, the veneer that shielded him from the rest of the world largely stripped away, it is not envy we feel towards him, but pity. 

Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy


1.  For Immediate Release, Season 6, Episode 6. 
3. The Doorway Part I, Season 6, Episode 1.
4. The Mountain King, Season 2, Episode 12.
5. Tomorrowland, Season 4, Episode 13. 
6. Commissions and Fees, Season 5, Episode 12. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Special Lady Friend

We "met cute," or at least what passes for cute with me. It was a Friday in mid-April and I was in a room waiting for a meeting to begin when she walked in. She was the last person I expected to meet - not because of the fact that a nanosecond after extending my hand in greeting I was instantly smitten - no, because I had "stopped looking." It had been months since I had been out on a date, the last one not so much a spectacular crash and burn as an evening devoid of any chemistry or electricity led me to a long winter's hibernation and a blizzard of work to distract me from the idea that nearly three years after my ex-wife had moved out, that I would ever find love. 

As she closed her hand in mine, I introduced myself, but instead of returning the courtesy, she said, "you know, someone from your office could have told me what this fucking meeting was about." I was hooked. I laughed, told her to give me her card and I would personally call her prior to any future engagements. We settled in with the larger group and I'm not going to lie, I placed myself in a spot where I could take a good look at her. She was opinionated, passionate and believed very much in her cause; I spoke once or twice, but was completely taken with her. A few hours later, in the spirit of dishing a little bit back to her, I called her at her office … something something about being a man of my word and making sure she had my contact information. We fell into a casual conversation that crept past 10 minutes, then 15, 20, and well past half an hour she was as smart as she was foul mouthed, sharp as she was sexy. 

She told me she was meeting a friend for a drink and I should join them. She asked me to go outside my comfort zone (I'm introverted by nature and can be reluctant to just up and meet strangers). I was nervous, didn't know if she was dating someone, engaged, yell, maybe even married (though she wore no ring), but I took a chance, and said yes. Her friend peeled off after about an hour, the sparks between us were unmistakeable. We sat and talked for another four hours, the time just flew by. I felt as comfortable in her presence as if I had known her for years. I had woken up that morning not knowing she was a person that existed in the world and went to bed that night not believing the world could exist without her.

We were on the phone the next morning, that afternoon and had a dinner date the following night. Hours bled away as the details of our lives unfolded organically, naturally, like two people who just knew each other. That we ran in similar professional circles helped, we could relate to each other's work and laugh at the absurdities we saw every day, but also that we were independent types who did not suffer fools gladly and liked being the smartest people in the room. The attraction was intense and unthinking, something I had not experienced in a very very long time.  Friends and family told us how happy we looked and sounded and were shocked that we had literally just met. 

It was a magical time. The following weeks were a blur of hours-long phone calls, new experiences (Brooklyn bar on a Wednesday night? WHY NOT! Shad Fest in New Hope? I'M THERE!), nary an hour during the work day passed without a quick call, text message or meeting for lunch. It was like floating on air where your every thought is just consumed with happiness and good feeling. Hell, even the first time we had sex was jaw dropping - none of the awkwardness that all too often happens when two people first become intimate. The details started to get filled in too, as we learned each other's interests, I'd see something on the Internet I knew she would like, she told me she wanted me to give her a Twitter tutorial. We were boyfriend and girlfriend without having to "define the relationship" but it actually felt like the best of both worlds - a new romance that was passionate and intense but also had a level of familiarity and comfort that you would ordinarily associate with a long-term relationship. It just felt right

Two weeks in, we went to New York to spend Mother's Day with her family (not a typo), a not insignificant step for me, but also for her, as she underscored that not only does she not just randomly bring guys she's dating around to meet her family, but that in doing so with me, she was saying something deeper about where she thought things were going. Wow. The day was great, her family noisy and loving, but not dysfunctional or spiteful (see, MY family). Things were moving fast and I won't say I didn't get scared a little bit along the way - after all, for almost 3 years I had been (largely) on my own, deeply wounded from the failure of my marriage and all the emotional carnage that went on inside it, the post-divorce spottiness of failed first and second dates and my own feeling of insecurity about a range of things from whether I was still a decent lay (answer: yes) to whether I was worthy of love (a deeper question not so easily answered). 

And while I was nervous to expose these raw nerves, she never judged them. In fact, she was relentlessly positive and encouraged me to look at myself in a more healthy (and balanced) way. It bothered her that my default was to self-deprecate, to diss myself and devalue (fill in the blank) my professional achievements, sociability or my "goodness" as a person. Admittedly, much of that was internalized from years of being married to someone who told me I had little value and when I tried to explain this, I know it sounded defensive and raw. Maybe that scared her a little bit - in fact, I know it did. She worried that although far along from the smoldering ashes of my divorce, that I was not ready for a long-term relationship. I tried to assure her, through word and deed that not only had I learned important lessons, but pointed her to a line in a blogpost I wrote at the one-year anniversary of my ex's departure - that I promised to be a better person to the next person in my life. Indeed, it was through her support and encouragement that I did start to speak up for myself, particularly at work, where I had felt stagnant for a while but was able to jump start things by seeking out new assignments from supervisors. I wanted to show her that I was capable of working on "issues" in my life and I also burst with pride when I succeeded because of her help. 

Memorial Day weekend we went "down the shore" and spent the day with her family and a larger group of her family's friends who get together every year at that time for a day long party. Another affirmative statement of the seriousness with which she viewed our relationship. I could not know it would be the last time we would see each other (at least on good speaking terms). The following day, she got called out of state on business for a week - I was totally supportive, offered to do what I could in her absence (check her mail, stop by her house, etc.) and we kept up our nightly calls while she was away. 

When she came back … I don't know, she was different. She called me the afternoon she returned (a Saturday) and I offered to make her dinner. She had to take another call and then … around midnight she got around to sending a text message saying she had been pulled into work. We spoke the following day with another offer for dinner and she again demurred. We made plans for lunch on Wednesday. When Wednesday rolled around, she did not return a message I left until 12:30 claiming she lost track of time (we both had meetings at 2 so by 12:30 it would have been impossible to meet). I asked her what was going on. She was cagey, she sounded stressed and distant. The thing is, she had not been like this AT ALL until then. In fact, knowing she had been out of the office for a week, I kept trying to give her outs to NOT make plans, but she would make them and then totally ignore them. It was so out of character for her and it made me confused, not mad. She was always good about keeping in touch, in fact had told me early on that touching base for no other reason than making sure the other one wasn't lying in a heap at the bottom of the stairs was important to her ("help, I've fallen and I can't get up.") but now, almost out of nowhere, all that went out the window. 

We talked briefly on Thursday, and then again on Friday from work. She had to go but told me, "I'll call you tonight." And that was it. She was a ghost. Never called, never returned a call, voice mail or the (humiliating) "so I guess we broke up" email I sent 10 days later after she went totally radio silent. 

The sick feeling I have has lingered now for weeks - the endless rewinding of trying to understand where things went wrong, how I could have completely misread her, feeling deep shame because years of being married to an emotionally manipulative person made me default to the assumption that whatever bad thing happened had to be my fault because damaged people convinced me for a long time that was always the answer, not wanting to feel anger at having my emotions treated so callously, wondering how someone could be so .. soulless (?) as to lay bare their own feelings in such an honest and deep way and then pull them back entirely. 

None of it made sense. How do you go from wanting to know someone else is not in a pile at the bottom of a flight of stairs to shutting them out completely? Not even saying goodbye? People date, things don't work out, you move on, but this was not a went-out-once-there-was-no-chemistry-so-you-just-dont-return-a-phone-call-or-text-message situation. I was left to wonder what was really going on and why this woman, whose FIRST WORDS TO ME were rather blunt, suddenly couldn't scare up the courage to just explain what happened, even if it was to pick up the phone for 2 minutes to say, whatever, "it's not you, it's me" "thanks for the memories" "good luck, asshole." My relationship history may be a bit spotty, but even *I* know enough to know that pulling this kind of disappearing act is wrong. 

As I have unwound this experience, shared it with family and friends, they have been supportive - that I needed to understand that even if it was "me," a person does not treat another person so shabbily on the way out the door but more so, that it likely was not "me," but her. That the irony may be that it was her, and not me, who was unprepared for a serious relationship and that she simply got scared at how fast things were developing. 

It has not lessened the heartbreak. I do not sleep well, or for long periods of time, my appetite disappears for days at a time, the last thought I have before I go to bed is about her and the first one I have the following morning is too. I think about how someone can go from intimate partner to total fucking stranger in the blink of an eye, can just walk away without an explanation and be okay with doing that to someone who they valued and cared for.  I want to talk to her, not to confront her, but to understand her, because my better angel wants to give her the benefit of the doubt - that there is some GOOD reason for her disappearing act, and perhaps that is part of my failure of personal growth, because even if she did have a good reason, she still could have been a decent enough person to say goodbye (and I am told by mutual acquaintances there hasn't been a serious illness, death in the family or other reason for her to just drop off the face of the earth). 

I'm also trying to look at the bright side (not an easy thing for me). I was a better person to the next person in my life even if she didn't end up being the same to me. It reminded me that I am not broken, I'm mending and I know this because were I truly broken, I would not have been so open to the possibility of being in a committed relationship, shared so much of my past that caused me to feel shame and embarrassment (and trusted her enough to know she wouldn't judge me for it), and been emotionally vulnerable in a way that I knew might end up hurting me in the end (but did because I wanted to be with her, even at the risk of having my heart broken.)

Ironically, we saw each other a few days ago - same meeting, same office, and she would not even make eye contact with me. I wanted to believe it was because she feels ashamed at how she has acted, but in moments of weakness, I took her behavior as a rejection of me, some failing I have that made me unworthy of her. And in her inscrutability I was left to wonder and ask "why?"

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mad Men Season Six - A Monster

Mercy is something that can be sought or offered. For those who seek it, mercy is often asked for at some tipping point where vulnerability has been exposed or the order of things simply cannot be sustained and change is required. For those who offer it, mercy is a powerful weapon. It can be denied, resulting in total submission and capitulation by the weaker party, or it can be wielded with grace, releasing the person seeking it from further damage. 

Unlike other seasons, where the penultimate episode had major plot development [1], The Quality of Grace pulled its shock value punch. Oh my god, they DID NOT kill Kenny, the yahoos at General Motors only clipped him, but a man on the verge of being a father for the first time cannot risk that the next time a drunken client discharges his weapon, all Ken will get is a face full of buckshot and an eye patch. An account man who cries uncle may have reduced his chances of landing a corner office, but Ken's request for mercy is granted, in part because Pete, whose dorsal fin is far higher (and sharper) than Ken's, has little to live for - he is separated from his wife and his daughter is practically a stranger. and thus, can handle the predations of a client as prominent as GM

The hand off to Pete is also okayed because the partners have grown comfortable with up and comer Bob Benson. But any question that Pete was repulsed by Bob's advance is quickly removed as he employs Duck Phillips to get Bob out of his (thinning) hair. When Duck does some digging into Bob's past, he discovers Bob's deeper secret, not his homosexuality, but rather, that his entire CV is bogus - the schools he went to, the places he worked, the jobs he held, all made up out of whole cloth. The mirroring that has been so prevalent throughout this season again came through here, both between Pete and Duck [2] and Pete's decision to keep Bob's secret. [3] Pete's show of mercy was not without cost to Bob, who was told the lone condition of Pete's decision to not betray Bob's confidence was that Bob had to cease his romantic interest in Pete. 

Bob having a secret life naturally draws comparisons to Don's checkered past, but I think this interpretation is a bit too facile. Don's reinvention was the direct result of a need to walk away from a prior life. We simply don't know enough about Bob's backstory to say the same. Whereas Don might have been underhanded in the way in which he secured his job at Sterling Cooper [4], he was actually a copywriter (albeit one "in house" at a fur company). Bob, on the other hand, is more like Cosmo Kramer, who famously showed up to Brant Leland and ingratiated himself to his co-workers but without having any skills appropriate to the office. [5]

Meanwhile, when the first and last image we see of you is your being curled in the fetal position, things clearly are not well. Don is now being shut out by Sally and he has blocked Megan out as he stares blankly at the television screen. His morning starts with a vodka-fortified glass of orange juice and he reflexively reaches for his trusty Canadian Club throughout the day. Don tipped his hand that it is emotional intimacy he craves more than physical closeness [6] and the only people he has gotten that from are now dead (Anna), won't speak to him (Sally) and have fallen for another man in the office (Peggy). 

Don's visceral, and highly negative reaction to Peggy and Ted's flirtation was that of a jilted lover, that her transference of platonic affection toward Don to romantic affection for Ted is a betrayal far deeper than casual infidelity. The eye is constantly drawn to any scene involving Peggy, Don and the intimate space they share. Pregnant in any interaction between mentor and student is that Don and Peggy forged a bond years ago that ties them together in ways that are deeply personal, almost co-dependent. Don has spent much of their "reunion" time trying to steer Peggy away from her infatuation with Ted by explaining to her that he is not all she has him cracked up to be, while Ted acts like a lovesick puppy dog, jeopardizing an account by tripling the budget for a commercial simply to please the object of his affection. Of course, he also dangles his own affection just out of reach, dipping his toe in the water, but refusing to jump in with both feet. 

Even in his addled state, Don recognizes the risk Ted and Peggy have taken with St. Joseph's, but instead of hanging the two out to dry, Don pulls a vintage "Don Draper," explaining to the client that their desire to run the commercial was an homage to the last advertising pitch made by the now-deceased Frank Gleason. And while Don may have also had ulterior motives in pulling Ted and Peggy's chestnuts out of the fire, Peggy slips the dagger between Don's ribs after the meeting, calling him a "monster" and storming out of his office, his attempt at explaining himself (and warning her off of Ted) having fallen on deaf ears. And of course, Peggy is right, Don *is* a monster. Much of this season has been about Don cruelly snuffing out any happiness that others might experience - either subversively (emasculating the good hearted Dr. Rosen by shtupping his wife) or directly (essentially calling his wife a prostitute for acting in "love" scenes on TV), but a whole episode since he promised to "lower his weapons" at Ted, he gutted the poor man like a fish in front of a client and crushed the spirit of his once promising protege. That Don immediately curls into the fetal position after Peggy insults him suggests he knows just how far he has fallen too.

Finally, Sally, although a young teen, wisely sidesteps seeking mercy, and instead crafts an exit strategy for herself from her overbearing mother and her now estranged father. Life at boarding school may simply be a "Total Draper Move" of beating a strategic retreat while more favorable options present themselves, but Sally has seen enough of the adults in her life to know that whatever trials and tribulations she may experience with the "mean girls" at Miss Porter's School, they cannot be worse than the monsters she lives with. Mercy is asked for when you are ready to give up; Sally decides to forge her own destiny. 

And so we are left to await a finale in which the TV Guide preview only says, "Don has a problem." You don't say. 


1.  Lane Pryce's suicide (Commissions and Fees, Season 5, Episode 12), SCDP teeters on the brink of failure after Lucky Strike pulls its business (Blowing Smoke, Season 4, Episode 12), JFK is assassinated and Betty tells Don to move out (The Grown-Ups, Season 3, Episode 12), Don confesses his sins to Anna, Duck negotiates the sale of Sterling Cooper to PPL (The Mountain King, Season 2, Episode 12), Pete tells Bert about Don's stolen identity (Nixon v. Kennedy, Season 1, Episode 12). 

2.  When Duck negotiated the sale of Sterling Cooper to PPL, he offered to make Pete Head of Accounts. Pete stabbed Duck in the back and warned Don about Duck's power play, allowing Don to trump Duck and have him removed. Meditations in an Emergency, Season 2, Episode 13. 

3.  Faced with a similar choice in Season 1, Pete tried to leverage his knowledge into a promotion. When Don called his bluff, and Pete told Bert Don's secret, Bert gave Don permission to fire Pete. Don chose not to. Nixon v. Kennedy, Season 1, Episode 12. 

4.  After getting Roger drunk at a pre-lunch cocktail hour, Don simply shows up to the office the next day, claiming Roger had offered him a job. Waldorf Stories, Season 4, Episode 6. 

5.  The Bizarro Jerry, Season 8, Episode 3.

6.  The Better Half, Season 6, Episode 9. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Book Review - The Unwinding

George Packer's outstanding new book, The Unwinding may be the definitive account of the Great Recession. As opposed to other books that have examined this dark chapter in our nation's history from Washington's perspective [1], Packer's kaleidoscopic view toggles between the hollowed out Rust Belt in Youngstown, the sun-baked asphalt jungle of Tampa Bay, the two-lane highways and backroads of the North Carolina/Virginia border and loops back to the power centers of Wall Street and our nation's capital, to tell individual stories, mostly of heartache and hardscrabble, in a way that is both humanizing and haunting. 

Within the book's 430 pages, Packer introduces us to ordinary Americans who could easily be our family, friends or neighbors. There's Dean Price, a hard charging small businessman with a big vision but iffy business skills and Tammy Thomas, who grew up as northern Ohio's industry was collapsing, finding her way through untold personal challenges and heartache. On the flip side, Packer offers brief snippets on more familiar names, people who also came from modest means to become hugely famous (Jay-Z), successful (Colin Powell), and rich (Sam Walton). 

The one thing many of these stories have in common is their quintessential American-ness. The middle and lower class people Packer profiles all have an abiding desire for what we call the American Dream - stability, employment, a home to call their own and a glimpse of a hopeful future. But to people like Price and Thomas, and the others Packer weaves into their narrative, it seems as though the American Dream is always just out of their grasp, and when the economy cratered in 2008, their stories became darker, filled with what we now know is familiar - homelessness, dislocation, bankruptcy and death. 

Packer's storytelling gifts are on full display throughout the book, but are particularly strong in the chapters about Tampa Bay. Tampa, as Packer notes, was identified in 1982 as America's "next great city" but instead, seems to have contracted every aspect of the rot in our economy. Through his profiles of a scrappy defense lawyer who represents homeowners being threatened with foreclosure, a lower class family toggling between roach-infested motel rooms and homelessness, a Tea Party-infused mom who leads a campaign to kill a light rail project and the agitation of a local reporter for the St. Petersburg Times who uncovers a bit player in the international Ponzi scheme that was our home mortgage market only to watch as the federal government does nothing to track down the bigger fish in the scheme, Packer deftly ties together the threads of this "unwinding" - the toxic blend of poor education, government indifference to things like financial regulation and land use, and a disconnect between the everyday suffering of people who have no voice in the corridors of power that combined like a perfect storm to land us in the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression.

It is left to Packer's profile of Jeff Connaughton, a longtime "Biden guy" and poster boy for the revolving door of lobbying and government service that is endemic in Washington, D.C. to drive home the cleaving that has formed between the governing class and those they represent. Connaughton is a plucky Democratic aide who, through hard work and some contacts, finds himself in the White House by his mid-30s and, thanks to the incestuous relationship between government and lobbying, with a seven-figure net worth (not to mention a beach home in Costa Rica) by his 40s. But when the economy collapses and his former boss is elected Vice President, it is his brief tenure as Chief of Staff to Biden's appointed successor in the Senate, Ted Kaufmann, for Connaughton to truly appreciate how deeply the game is rigged. 

Connaughton thinks little of the economic team Obama assembles, many of whom had their fingerprints on the collapse. He is non-plussed as Chris Dodd, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, negotiates "Wall Street regulation" behind closed doors with the very banking and investment houses he is supposed to regulate and keeps his colleagues in the dark about the contents of his bill. Meanwhile, Dodd's fellow Senators vote down an amendment to Dodd's bill that would have required breakups of "too big to fail" banks. Connaughton commits a bit of political self-immolation on his way out the door, but it is difficult to feel sorry for someone who fed at the trough for so long and semi-retired to a comfortable home in South Carolina after his disillusionment with D.C. became complete. 

It is between the gap that now puts New York City and Washington, D.C. on one side and the rest of the country on the other that the book is drawn into its sharpest relief. Packer's villains are familiar. The corporate executives rewarded for ceasing to treat their employees like people and instead like commodities from whom efficiencies are to be squeezed (or mercilessly let go). The  bankers that are able to tap dance around any attempts at oversight and, after their actions implode the economy, think nothing of taking government handouts. And of course, the government that blithely turned its eye away from the human toll that the Great Recession took in communities around our country while bending over backwards to aid those who caused the problem in the first place. 

But Packer's brush stroke is defter than a populist's screed or a Tea Party polemic. The Unwinding allows its characters and Packer's rich narrative to bring the key parts of this story together. For people like Dean Price and Tammy Thomas, their roller coaster ride has far more to do with broader forces that took decades to take root and affect their lives. Industrial plants closing in the Midwest, an agricultural industry that centralized, small businesses struggling against larger competitors who are able to undercut their prices, driving them out of business, and life's run of the mill kicks in the balls - divorces, unplanned pregnancies, deaths in the family and all the rest. 

But within this otherwise sobering book is a glimmer of hope. Although Packer himself does not offer policy prescriptions, his chapters on Silicon Valley, although focused at least in part on a libertarian named Peter Thiel, whose enmity toward government is clear, suggests that innovation and know how still have value (although the number of jobs the Valley produces is not massive, its impact on our culture is enormous). And even in the stories of Dean and Tammy we see the American work ethic, as each overcomes long odds (Dean, itinerant employment and failed small businesses; Tammy, single motherhood at a young age, an early, and forced retirement from the assembly line leads her to a second career as a community organizer) to find their place in the world. Succeeding financially? Not so much. But each keeps trying. 

While that very American attitude that if you get knocked down, you dust yourself off and try again still exists, the true fear that The Unwinding exposes is not just the thread bare cushion tens of millions of Americans rest upon, but also, that the erosion of the basic social contract that has forged our country for at least the last 80 years is disappearing forever. Indeed, the Great Depression and Great Recession may turn out to be odd bookends to this period in our nation's history. The former resulted in sweeping regulation and oversight that staunched the boom-and-bust cycle that had afflicted our nation since its founding, but the steady erosion of those protections that led to the latter has not resulted in laws or regulation to cauterize the wound. Rather, our political leaders have been cowed by the titans of Wall Street, rescuing them from their own fiscal armageddon without requiring much in return. 

Meanwhile, little has been done to aid the middle class. And in the same way that tectonic changes in industry have impacted our economy, the same forces are impacting those areas that used to help build the middle class - our failure to ensure the next generation can access affordable and quality education, the lack of investment in infrastructure and research and development, and the unwillingness of our country to do big things that were once common place, like landing a man on the moon, building an interstate highway system, and developing modern technology and transportation. Packer is not a declinist. Indeed, the optimism and American can-do spirit is strong throughout The Unwinding even if the narrative is often unsettling; however, it is difficult to see a brighter tomorrow when the picture painted is so bleak.  


1.  See, e.g., Confidence Men (Ron Suskind), The Escape Artists (Noam Scheiber), Do Not Ask What Good We Do (Robert Draper).

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mad Men Season Six - Secrets & Lies

Aside from the sex, adultery is just another form of gambling. Gambling that you won't fall in love, that you won't get caught and can live with yourself in those quiet moments when it's just you, alone with your thoughts. Cheating on your spouse is a selfish act where the consequences are always clear but difficult to quantify unless and until the day comes when you do fall in love, get caught or can no longer live with yourself. 

And so it was that through a confluence of events that led Don back into Sylvia Rosen's arms, that the big reveal in the episode titled Favors was Don getting caught cheating by his daughter Sally in the tawdriest of ways - in the heat of passion, with his pants literally around his ankles as he and Sylvia rekindled their affair. Sylvia's reaction was one of shame and anger, she had escaped Don's clutches without getting caught and thrown it all away again because she could not resist him at a time of vulnerability. Don hid at the bottom of a bottle, fully expecting to walk into his penthouse apartment and a shitstorm from Megan, but instead, finds an ordinary (if icy) dinner playing out with Megan, Sally and Sally's friend from school. 

It is only when Dr. Rosen stops by to thank Don for helping put the Rosens in touch with the Air National Guard that Sally's rage surfaces. Megan, unaware that Don had done this favor, lovingly kisses him, calling him the "sweetest man in the world." This is all too much for Sally, and she storms off, locking the door to her room and weakly (and unconvincingly) accepting her father's excuse that he was simply "comforting" Mrs. Rosen during a time of need. In this moment, as we have at so many other points along Don's continuum, we were left to wonder whether it was the consequences or discovery of his secrets that Don feared more. When Betty found out about his Army desertion, Don came clean, feeling unburdened; [1] but when forced to confront his liaison with Bobbi Barrett, the best he could choke out was that he had been "disrespectful" toward his wife. [2] 

Now, as the closing shot made Don's bedroom seem like a million miles away and as ominous as something out of the Overlook Hotel [3], we are left to wonder in which direction Don will go. On the one hand, his interest in his wife waxes and wanes, but a man who only likes "the beginnings of things" did not back up his admission to Megan that he had been "away" with much in the way of action.  Forget the one off he had with Betty, Don's eye was already wandering again during his trip to California, and it took little to get him back into Sylvia's apartment. Now, he has shamed himself in front of his daughter and must live with the gamble that a rebellious teenager will not divulge his secret, never mind the corrosive effect her discovery will have on the parent-child relationship.

Spilling the beans may be the least of Don's concerns as they relate to Sally. For years, she has generally ignored his spotty parenting. All the way back in Season 1, he got drunk and forgot to pick up her birthday cake, but returned home with a dog to make up for his error. [4] More recently, he scored tickets to see The Beatles after a dust-up with his sometimes wayward daughter. [5] Of course, Sally has always been precocious and in the aftermath of the "Grandma Ida" incident she told her father that she didn't really know anything about him, but now, she knows more than she would ever want to. The devastation, to parent and child, that played out after her accidental discovery of his liaison felt total, complete and irreparable.

Of course, favors also come with strings, or at least the opportunity for the one granting the favor the chance to ask for something in return. For Bob Benson, who referred Pete to a male nurse named Manolo to care for his ailing mother, this meant finally, albeit elliptically, expressing his feelings toward Pete. And while this is far from the first time that the show has flirted with closeted gay men, [6] the Benson "reveal" must have crushed the army of Internet bloggers and commentators who were hoping that Bob's presence at Sterling Cooper & Partners was either more nefarious or surreptitious. [7] 

It was unclear whether Pete's impotent rage, taken out on an empty box of Raisin Bran, was directed at Bob's flirtation or Pete's own lonely lot in life. He got to share intimacy with Peggy as the two of them decompressed after their Ocean Spray pitch, but regardless of the years (not to mention parentage) between them, Pete sees Ted's infatuation with Peggy and is non-plussed. For her own part, Peggy is thrown when Pete's mom encourages their reunion, only to realize that the older woman is confusing her for Trudy. Another secret revealed, another shame experienced. 

Ted Chaough's request to Don for helping him get Mitchell Rosen into the Air National Guard seemed more innocuous - a truce to the undeclared war that Ted felt has been waged ever since the two men came up with the idea to put their heads (and agencies) together in an effort to secure General Motors. And while Ted certainly has an interest in the appearance of laying down his arms, he has been schooled by his now deceased partner Frank Gleason about doing battle with the enigmatic Mr. Draper. [8] With GM firmly in Ted's pocket, pulling a small string because Don feels sympathy for young Mitchell or wants to ingratiate himself with the Rosens or simply make himself feel like "the sweetest man in the world" is of no moment. Don, a man of his word (at least when it comes to things outside his wedding vows), earnestly thanks Ted for this favor, and (perhaps) with it, handing a strategic gain to his longtime rival. After all, a favor is rarely done without consequences.

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1.  The Gypsy and the Hobo, Season 3, Episode 

2.  Meditations in an Emergency, Season 2, Episode 13. 

3.  The name of the hotel in the book and movie, The Shining.

4.  Marriage of Figaro, Season 1, Episode 3.

5.  Hands and Knees, Season 4, Episode 10.

6.  The Hobo Code, Season 1, Episode 8, Out of Town, Season 3, Episode 1, Wee Small Hours, Season 3, Episode 9. 


8.  Gleason quoted from Sun Tzu's Art of War in advising Ted "If I wait patiently by the river, the body of my enemy will float by." He also suggested a nascent version of the rope-a-dope, allowing Don to win "the early rounds" and expend all his energy, allowing Ted to win a victory as the "fight" wore on. Man With a Plan, Season 6, Episode 7. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Media Fail: Obama "Diversity Problem" Edition

Back in December, the media was up in arms about a photograph taken in the White House of the President with a clutch of advisors. [1] Ordinarily, such a photo would be unexceptional, but because there were no women in the picture (the leg of longtime female advisor Valerie Jarrett was the closest the photo came to revealing a female figure) and the natural transition of first term Cabinet members seemed to include a lot of women and minority leaders with some of their replacements either unselected or being white men; suddenly, the President had a "diversity" problem. [2]

The story had a few days life and then, the media, as is their wont, moved on - the fiscal cliff, Sandy Hook, the Inauguration and on and on caused this story to fall into the memory hole of faux outrage and opprobrium quickly forgotten. Funny thing though. The story ended up being complete and utter bullshit, but few journalists circled back to follow up or admit their reporting was lazy and bogus. 

Since this tempest in a teapot sprang to life, the President has nominated women to lead the Departments of Commerce (Penny Pritzker) and Interior (Sally Jewell), appointed the first woman to lead the Office of Management and Budget (Sylvia Matthews-Burwell), named a woman as his National Security Advisor (Susan Rice), appointed a woman to replace Ms. Rice as U.N. Ambassador (Samantha Power) and picked a woman to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (Gina McCarthy). On top of these cabinet appointments, the President just nominated two women (Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard) to serve on the highly influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and two others (Patty Shwartz and Jane Louise Kelly) were recently confirmed to appellate court seats on the 3rd and 8th Circuits, respectively. 

In addition to these selections, the President selected a Latino male to lead the Department of Labor (Tom Perez), an African-American male to lead the Department of Transportation (Anthony Foxx) and appointed a Republican to lead the Department of Defense (Chuck Hagel). At the same time the President selected Ms. Millett and Ms. Pillars to serve on the D.C. Circuit, he also tapped Robert Wilkins, an African-American, to serve as well and if they are confirmed, they will join that court's first Indian-American jurist, Sri Srinivasan, who, incidentally, cut his teeth in government serving in the George W. Bush Justice Department. 

If you are scoring at home, that's a whole heaping helping of "diversity" that the media has largely ignored. Worse than failing to acknowledge its failure, few journalists, now that Obama has made these selections, have focused on the unprecedented level of obstruction some have seen in the U.S. Senate. Ms. McCarthy was sent a questionnaire by Senator David Vitter (yes, THAT Senator Vitter. Google his name along with the word "prostitute" if you need to learn more about him) that asked her to respond to nearly 1,100 queries. [3] Hagel was filibustered (the first time that ever happened to a DoD nominee) and Susan Rice's name was smeared in the wake of an attack on our consulate in Benghazi for appearing on talk shows and echoing talking points provided to her about something she had nothing to do with. The appropriateness of the President selecting all three D.C. Circuit nominees has been questioned by Republicans, with some threatening to block their appointments [4] and a similar threat has been levied against Mr. Perez. [5] 

That the collective media reaction to all of the obstruction has largely been a collective yawn is to be expected, GOP obstruction is so de rigueur at this point that few bigfoot media types spill any ink focusing on it, but it would at least be nice if they admitted the fallaciousness of their reporting on a lack of diversity in Obama's second term. Of course, to do so would require that they admit fault, so I am not holding my breath for a mea culpa. 


2. Representative examples include:,, Suffice to say, one could go on and on thanks to the magic of the Internet. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Patriot Act, Privacy & The Rule Of Law

If you followed the news this week, you would assume (perhaps rightly) that we are living in a real-life version of 1984 where the government, working in concert with enormous multi-national corporations have wide ranging access to our phone calls, Internet activity, web searches, email, and basically anything that involves modern technology. And you are not entirely wrong about this, but in the hysterical media coverage of these admittedly troubling revelations a key point was (largely) missed - IT IS ALL LEGAL.  Now, whether something should or should not be done is a moral or ethical question, but in our form of government, whether something is legal or illegal is really all that matters and here, for better or worse, the government we elected has passed (and interpreted) a bunch of laws that basically put our electronic lives on display for all* (*spooks at the National Security Agency) to see.

The "Big Brother" story really has two pieces. The first broke early in the week, a leaked order signed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court directing the telecommunications company Verizon to turn over so-called "metadata" on every call made by its customers to the NSA. [1] Wow you say - ALL phone records. That seems like a sweeping invasion of privacy, Scary Lawyer Guy?! Well, it might be, but again, totally legal. In fact, no greater an expert than the ACLU provided this handy annotated explanation for how/why the directive is permissible under current law. [2] In fact, the whole reason this judicial process exists is because the Bush Administration was (allegedly) violating the law by requiring telecommunications companies to (1) turn over phone records without the issuance of a warrant and/or (2) engaged in wireless wiretapping. Conveniently, all of this (alleged) illegality was wiped clean in 2008 when Congress provided retroactive immunity to those telecommunications companies for all their misdeeds and the federal government successfully invoked the "state secrets" privilege to make a handful of potentially damaging lawsuits go away.

Curiously, none of what was reported about the production of this metadata was new. Indeed, the whole reason that judicial process resulting in the creation of the court order that leaked publicly this week exists is because of reporting done by The New York Times back in 2005 that exposed Bush Administration malfeasance. [3] That the media treated this as a "new" story was curious to say the least, but while reasonable people can differ about the morality or ethics of this type of conduct, it is legal. Indeed, while commentators throughout the political spectrum were cherry picking a line from The New York Times editorial page on Friday saying the Obama Administration had "lost all credibility on this issue .." they conveniently ignored another line from that same editorial - "We are not questioning the legality under the Patriot Act of the court order disclosed by The Guardian." [4]

While it was amusing to watch the media throw its arms in the air as if this was a new story, the more galling behavior belonged (naturally) to members of Congress who passed the law in the first place suddenly up in arms that power they gave to the executive branch was being utilized. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, who co-authored the law that the Bush, and now Obama Administration, rely upon for these FISA orders, claimed this was not the intent of the law. [5]  Political expediency at its absolute worst.

The second thread of this story has to do with an arguably more troubling program called PRISM. Reporting done in the media indicates that the largest companies on the Internet - Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook and others have routinely provided access to their servers so information on foreign communications such as audio and video files, Internet searches, and emails can be extracted by the government. [6] Of course, the foreign part of the story got buried in an avalanche of Twitter hashtags, web memes and loose reporting, but those who took the time to read the reporting might have found the facts deeply troubling, the conduct is perfectly legal. For example, The Washington Post story on the subject notes that a law passed in 2008 provides companies that voluntarily comply with a government request of this nature immunity from prosecution. The government, on the other hand, has had its requests approved by the FISA court in a series of rulings between 2004 and 2007 and affirmed recently, most importantly, in blessing both the scope and subject matter the government sought. [7] In other words, Congress passed a law that granted the President certain powers that he has exercised with judicial oversight, which, incidentally, is precisely how our system of government works. 

Moral judgments and matters of right and wrong are not embedded in our Constitution, the rule of law is. If people don't like the government sifting through their phone records or Internet searches, do not elect Congresspeople who pass laws that allow the government to do it, do not elect Presidents who exercise that power and appoint judges who permit unfettered access to your personal information. 


1.  Unsurprisingly, later revelations confirmed that other major telecoms, including AT&T and Sprint were subject to the same directives. 
3. See also,
7.  Ibid.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mad Men Season Six - Make Love Not War

Things rarely turn out well for Don in California [1] and when he and Roger head out to fish for some new business, Don has a hashish-fueled hallucination that suggests his vision of life and death is every bit as grim as ethereal "footprints in the sand." [2] The birth/death imagery is thick - Megan is transformed into a long-hair-flowing hippie incubating his love child while Private Dinkins, his drinking buddy from Hawaii, is a wraith, observing that "dying doesn't make you whole, you should see yourself" as we jump cut to an image of Don face down in a pool of water. 

Indeed, Don and Roger's "Ocean's Eleven" trip was notable more for the dissonant strains of psychedelia that were juxtaposed against their unmoving Rat Pack-era insouciance, but glib pitching to Carnation was no more successful than Roger's attempt to lift flower child "Lotus" from the grasp of former copywriter (and in-law by marriage) Danny Siegel, who reinvented himself as a Hollywood producer (or a pint sized Dennis Hopper circa Easy Rider). 

Don and Roger's lost week ends on a dour note, each spent as they jet back east, but their conversation on the plane echoed one they had years before in a dimly lit bar after bidding fare thee well to Freddy Rumsen as he was sent to rehab and advertising purgatory. There, it was Don, just having been kicked out of the Draper family home, dispensing one of his patented bromides about how you only live once, that you have to move forward in life as soon as you what direction that is. [3] Now, it is Roger's turn to share some of his wisdom. He tells Don that his therapist has explained to Roger "the job of your life is to know yourself." This is only the latest variation on the same theme - "who is Don Draper?" [4] - but the question is left dangling, or more specifically, asked and answered, because Don is no more interested in introspection or self-discovery (much less self-analysis) than he is in fidelity. 

Back at the ranch, palace intrigue is the order of the day and Joan, burdened by the weight of her (perceived to be) ill-gotten partnership attempts to secure a client all on her own. A tip from her friend Kate, who we met earlier this season [5], leads Joan to Andy Hayes, the Director of Marketing at Avon. In a scene reminiscent of Lane's lucky break meeting with fellow ex-pat (and Jaguar executive) Edwin at a pub while watching the 1966 World Cup game between Great Britain and Germany [6], Joan wants to keep the account all for herself, even after Ted advises her otherwise. Like Lane (but without Roger's glib advice), Joan decides to try and secure the account, bringing Peggy into her ruse, but failing to close the deal. When her chicanery is exposed, Pete lashes out at her, but Peggy's quick thinking (a bogus phone message that Avon is on the phone) rescues Joan from more verbal abuse. 

Here we got to see a couple of threads tied together nicely. After all, way back in Season 2, Joan took on the task of poring over television scripts to ensure they did not run afoul of the advertising the firm was doing on behalf of its clients. Harry Crane, as clueless than as he is lecherous now, missed her contribution entirely, hiring an underling to take her job, leaving her crestfallen. [7] Meanwhile, it took leaving SCDP for Peggy to receive the professional recognition she had long desired. [8] 

That each character symbolizes the treacherous waters women had to navigate in the workplace in a bygone era has long been established, but Peggy and Joan have sometimes worked together and other times at cross purposes. In this way, they don't resemble rivals so much as sisters, clearly connected and fond of one another, but also invested in nursing grudges or emphasizing the things the other has that each wants. Joan's job is to think of things before people need them, but she can't quantify that value because everything she does in the office is tainted by how she acquired her position there, a knife Peggy twists when Joan questions her rise as a copywriter by reminding Joan that she (Peggy) didn't sleep with Don to get to where she is. 

On the other hand, Peggy is not an executive, and is therefore left out of the decision making process in the office. She can lobby for her ideas or pitch clients, but ultimately, a cross word can get her kicked off an account [9] and the clients she does secure can keep asking her to prime the pump to come up with ideas for them to consider. [10] On top of all this, Peggy is now caught between Ted and Don's egos (not to mention Roger, Jim and Pete) without a voice in the management of the firm. Instead, she is left to her wits to collect office intelligence and look out for Joan. But their bond, while complicated, is clear.

Not so the machinations of Jim Cutler, who takes advantage of Don and Roger's absence to poach the loyalties of the enigmatic Bob Benson in lieu of cleaning house of the SCDP creatives that populate the large work area on the main floor of the firm's office. While Ted is trying to get Jim to sing "Kumbaya," there is a reckoning coming as the "us versus them" mentality appears untenable in what is now termed Sterling Cooper & Partners. Jim does not care about the loss of Manischewitz (a "Roger" client) and is eager to insert Bob into the bloodstream of the GM account, throwing the other partners the bone of a name change that highlights Roger and Bert's prominence while collecting what he thinks are chits that will help him marshal power in the new firm. 

And so it goes. A Tale of Two Cities was really a story of three, because while there was a mirroring of effort in New York and Los Angeles to gain clients, the mood music in the background was the rioting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, a thick cloud of marijuana, ever shortening hemlines and technicolor wardrobes that are now in full flower. Even Pete Campbell realized he had to tune in and turn on (dropping out is likely out of the question). 


1.  Don escapes to California during Season 2 after Betty kicks him out of the house. The Jet Set (Season 2, Episode 11) and The Mountain King (Season 2, Episode 12). He visits Anna at the beginning of Season 4 only to find out she has cancer. The Good News, Season 4, Episode 4.
2.  The Doorway Part II, Season 6, Episode 2. 
3.  The direct quote is: "It's your life. You don't know how long it's gonna last, but you know it has a bad ending. You've got to move forward, as soon as you figure out what that means." Six Month Leave, Season 2, Episode 9. 
4.  Public Relations, Season 4, Episode 1. Other nods to Don's enigmatic qualities are legion, but two examples from Season 6 are emblematic. In the season opener, a photographer tells Don to "be yourself." The Doorway Part II, supra. At dinner with Arlene and Mel, Arlene observes that Don is a man who "plays many roles." To Have and To Hold, Season 6, Episode 4. 
5. To Have and To Hold, supra. 
6. Signal 30, Season 5, Episode 5.
7. A Night to Remember, Season 2, Episode 8. 
8. The Other Woman, Season 5, Episode 11. 
9. In Season 5, Peggy attempted to muscle Raymond Geiger from Heinz into signing off on one of her pitches. He was offended at her assertiveness and had Peggy kicked off the account. Far Away Places, Season 5, Episode 6. 
10. The men at Topaz Pantyhose just assume Peggy can continue offering ideas ad nauseum when Peggy and Ken meet with them. Tomorrowland, Season 4, Episode 13.