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MAD MEN 7x01:
Broken men,
forgotten women

April 14, 2014 - Ray Eckenrode

Episode title: “Time Zones”

Significance: An obvious reference to the bi-coastal storylines and lives of some of our lead characters, but also a reminder of where four of them – Don, Peggy, Roger and Joan – are perilously perched in life.

Time passages: The episode takes place in January of 1969 as Richard Milhous Nixon is preparing to be inaugurated as the 37th president of the United States and Peggy Olsen has yet to take down the Christmas tree in the upper West Side apartment building she owns (and struggles to manage alone). It is two months after we last saw Don Draper take his children to visit his boyhood home in eastern Pennsylvania.

Episode essay:
“I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind. I am like a broken vessel.” –Psalms 31:12.
The hint of reconciliation, maybe even change, that we saw in the final scene of Season 6 of “Mad Men” seems long forgotten in the premiere of its final turn – a reminder that change doesn't come easy and our actions, as Roger's daughter reminds him, can never be undone.
Don Draper is out of sight, out of mind with both his old agency and new wife, who's already talking about "her" next house. Roger Sterling is indulging in the free love movement for the “free” part, but can’t even allow himself to be forgiven properly. Joan Holloway is as objectified as ever, despite her partner status and “accounts woman” dreams. And Peggy Olson, who’s been let down (or allowed herself to be let down) by every man in her life, is suffering a high achiever’s nightmare. She can’t get anything done, professionally, personally or plumbing-wise.
“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner has suggested the show’s final season will be about the consequences of action and whether the characters have a capacity for change. If “Time Zones” is any indication, it will be an especially bumpy ride into television history.
Our reminder that people can change in this episode is Freddy Rumsen, the former pants-pissing idea guy, now a straight and sober freelancer, playing Christian to Don’s Cyrano. Freddy gives Don a pep talk at one point about getting off the bottle and back in the ad game.
“You don’t want to be damaged goods,” he says.
But Don seems to know it’s much too late for that, ending the episode by giving in to the patio door that's broken like everything else in his life, embracing the cold and allowing himself to be fully on the outside looking in.
“I thought I could do it this time,” he confides without a hint of irony to the beautiful stranger on the plane ride back from L.A.
Neve Campbell’s character doesn’t have a name because she’s every woman. She’s Rachel Mencken and Faye Miller and Sylvia Rosen and who knows how many others. Don had no sooner hit his the seat for that red-eye plight when every single one of us thought, "Here we go, again."
Don Draper knows how to sell things because he’s the ultimate buyer. He always longs for what’s new until it’s not new anymore. Then, he wants the next thing.
But for the first time in a long time Don Draper had the new thing gift wrapped for him – and he passed on it. Time will tell if we learn this every woman's name. If we never see her again, it might be the smallest sign that Don is capable of changing. But if we learn her name, it'll be part of the story of broken vessel sinking slowly but surely.

Quick hits:
+ Not surprisingly, Neve Campbell says she's been sworn to secrecy by Weiner as to whether she'll have any more Season 7 appearances.
+ Checking the "Mad Men" scorecard: Pete Campbell and Ted Chaough are in L.A. Lou Avery has replaced Don as creative director. Ken Cosgrove is director of accounts. Joan is handling Avon. Bob Benson is in Detroit working with Chevy.
+ More scenes with Peggy screaming at children please!

Brand names:
+ Pete was sporting the Lacoste alligator when Don met him at L.A., interestingly a “hippie” icon before it became a preppie one.
+ That meeting took place at Canter’s, the famous L.A. kosher deli to the stars.

Historical notes:
+ The scene where Don arrived in L.A. was a clear homage to the opening scene of “The Graduate,” which featured a similar moving sidewalk at LAX and a similarly aimless lead character.
+ The movie Don was watching at Megan’s was Frank Capra’s 1937 adaptation of “Lost Horizon.” The story of the lost city of Shangri-La was then one of the most expensive films ever made.
+ Don also caught a little bit of “The Joey Bishop Show” on the tube in L.A., a short-lived (1967-69) ABC attempt to compete with Johnny Carson. Bishop’s “Ed McMahon” on the show was none other than Regis Philbin.

Our closing number: Playing over the credits this week was Vanilla Fudge’s cover of The Supremes “You Keep Me Hanging On,” written by Motown hitmakers Lamont Dozier and Briand and Eddie Holland.

Sweet tweet: From @kmgxny: Well, #MadMen effectively opened 475 story lines that need tying up before the series end. (Blogger’s note: Matt Weiner said it would be dense!)

Lines of the night:
+ “This is the beginning of something.” –Freddy Rumsen
+ “I feel like we really got somewhere last night.” –Roger’s bedmate
+ “Can I get a splash of whiskey in this?” –Joan Holloway
+ “We see around us empty lives wanting fulfillment.” –Richard Nixon
+ “You can blame that on Madison Avenue.” –Don’s seatmate

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Don Draper's grey flannel suit is seeming more old fashioned every week as "Mad Men" hurtles toward the end of 1969.


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