Joe Chiarenzelli is an editor at The Gadfly Press and wishes he was Don Draper.
Mandy Lafond is a soon-to-be graduate of St. Lawrence University, studying philosophy with a minor in Asian studies. She’s currently writing a thesis on postmodernist film theory and Jean Baudrillard. In her spare time she likes philosophizing, playing with her pet rabbit and reading Wikipedia for fun.
This week I’ll be (wo)manning Mad Men solo because Joe’s “customary Mad Men wine” was dumped onto his computer by accident when he reacted adversely to not knowing where the narrative was going (i.e. he’s an idiot who lacks the coordination to not pour wine on his computer while gesticulating wildly).
In what is now surely a misdirection, “Lady Lazarus” opens with Pete on the train discussing how his life insurance covers suicide after a few years. It now seems too obvious that Pete would kill himself, though perhaps one of the other characters will. “Lady Lazarus” is a very Pete-centric episode, and like all of the episodes that focus on Pete Campbell, fascinating in my opinion. While in the first few seasons I found Pete to be smarmy and unbearable, I now find him to be one of the most intriguing and complex characters on the show. Back at SCDP, Megan is seen scurrying off to make a secretive phone call, while Michael Ginsberg makes an excellent pitch to some clients (requiring finding a band that “sounds like the Beatles”). Pete on the other hand, is told by Roger that a sporting goods client has given him some free skis as a token of appreciation. Unsure of Roger’s intentions, Pete asks, “Do they explode or something?” Pete awkwardly attempting to the carry the skis out of the office is both hilarious and endearing, reminding us that while Pete’s mouth is known to get him into trouble (see “Signal 30”), he can also be doofy and loveable.
Back at the parking lot of the train station, Howard’s wife Beth is in the parking lot and asks Pete if he knows where Howard is (Howard is Pete’s usual train companion). He knows Howard has a mistress in the city but says nothing, and offers Beth a ride home when he finds out she’s locked her keys in the car. The sexual tension can be felt almost instantaneously, and Beth flirtatiously tells Pete he’s an awful driver (Though apparently he got his license). At SCDP, Peggy’s working late and gets a call from Don looking for Megan, who’d told Peggy she was meeting Don at a restaurant hours earlier. “Isn’t she with you?” Peggy asks. “Yes, we’re playing a hilarious joke on you,” says Don, who’s clearly had a few drinks. At this point all kinds of things are running through my mind. Is Megan cheating on Don? What could she be lying about? Meanwhile, Don keeps ringing Peggy who eventually picks up, yells “PIZZA HOUSE!” and hangs up. Peggy comedy moments are my favorite! When Megan gets home, she tells Don she went out for drinks with friends.
And then the inevitable happens when Pete follows Rory Gilmore, I mean Beth, into her house and the two have sex. Hey, if you can’t have the sixteen year old blonde from driver’s ed class, why not bang your train buddy’s wife? Joking aside, Pete’s been looking for a distraction, and I think he’s found it with Beth, though she’s indicated it’s a one-time thing. Beth is a melancholy woman, and in their post-coital haze says that pictures of Earth from space make her feel insignificant. Pete seems intrigued by Beth’s loneliness and her aura of mystery so unlike Trudy’s warm, open personality. Unfortunately, it seems Pete gets far too attached, as he calls Beth from a pay phone the next day begging to see her. He really crosses the line when he invents an “insurance emergency” to get Howard to invite him over so he might see Beth. When she sees Pete, the color drains from her face, and as soon as Howard leaves the room he kisses Beth and hands her a piece of paper with information on where to meet him in the city the next day. Pete Campbell, you dog, you. Needless to say she doesn’t show up to the hotel, but I think Pete’s set himself up for continual disappointment with borderline obsessive behavior towards Beth.
Throughout the series, Mad Men’s had a way of ingeniously using the elevator as a means to stuff a bunch of characters in conflict into a small box. In this case, it’s Don, Megan and Peggy, and Peggy’s clearly pissed that she’s been lied to by Megan. Once they get out of the elevator, Peggy follows Megan to the bathroom to confront her about her lie. “Don’t put me in that position again,” she says, proving once again you really shouldn’t mess with Peggy. Megan then admits she still has ambitions to be an actress and had gone to an audition, and felt she couldn’t tell Don. She tells Peggy she’s not satisfied at SCDP, and that she realizes they’d never fire her, which incenses Peggy. Peggy proceeds to berate Megan for “taking up a job” that people would kill for, which I think is what finally convinces Megan she needs to tell Don she’s unhappy. Later that night, Megan tells Don where she really was and that she misses acting, and that she no longer wishes to work at SCDP. At first Don is hesitant, and tells her, “Sweetheart, we don’t get to choose where our talents lie,” hinting at Megan’s stellar advertising abilities. Finally he tells her he doesn’t want to keep her from her dreams, and the two agree the next day will be Megan’s last day at work.
Because everyone goes to Joan to solve their problems, Don asks her what protocol is for Megan’s departure. “Why don’t we have the girls take her to lunch? She’s not disappearing is she?” she says. Not everyone reacts the same way as calm Joan, like Michael Ginsberg who seems more concerned that Megan owes him $15 in lunch money (Stereotype much?). Peggy and Joan then share an exchange in which Joan, in characteristic catty fashion, says, “She’s going to be a failing actress with a rich husband. That’s the kind of girl Don marries.” And while Joan predicted Megan wouldn’t be any good at copywriting either, she just may be right this time (See Francis, Betty). Roger on the other hand, thinks Megan just wants a baby, to which Don replies, “Why shouldn’t she do what she wants? I don’t want her to end up like Betty.” Touché.
Finally, in one of the greatest scenes of the season, or maybe all of Mad Men, Weiner gives us a montage to “Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles. Megan gives Don a copy of Revolver on her way out the door to acting class, followed by scenes of all the other characters, the most noteworthy being when Pete pulls up next to Howard and Beth’s car and Beth draws a heart in the fog of the window, then rolls the window down to erase any sign of it. Poor Pete.
-What was up with that scene where Don looks down the elevator shaft? Is it symbolic or am I just reading into this too much?
-Don burns Peggy when he says, “You were threatened by everything about her!” It does seem like Peggy was slightly miffed about no longer being Don’s confidante, but I don’t know that I’d say she’s jealous of Megan
-Finally, how amusing was it when the lady tells Don he can’t smoke in the Cool Whip lab?
How drunk would you need to be to ski with Pete Campbell? Are you capable of drinking while watching Mad Men without breaking your computer? Is Matt Weiner raiding former Nickelodeon and CW talent? Let us know in the comments.