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Mad Men: "Lady Lazarus" OAD 5/7/12 **SPOILERS**


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#1 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 12:10 PM

"A cigar is sometimes just a cigar," is an apocryphal quote attributed to Sigmund Freud. No one will ever say that about anything appearing in an episode of Matthew Weiner's "Mad Men."

In this latest episode we have the following:
  • The episode title "Lady Lazarus" is the title of a poem written by Sylvia Plath (one of her "Holocaust poems" that uses Nazism as the ultimate symbol for oppression); this one alludes to the mythological bird called the Phoenix, and the speaker describes her unsuccessful attempts at committing suicide not as failures, but as successful resurrections.
  • The book Pete was reading on the train was a novella by Thomas Pynchon, published in 1966, The Crying of Lot 49, a mystery of sorts in which novel's protagonist discovers a group that has for centuries been connecting the disinherited and the discontented via a secret underground postal system.
  • Pete explains to his fellow commuter Howard, who sells life insurance, that he has a great life insurance policy which, after two years, covers suicide!
  • Pete dragging the Head skis; the company was founded in Baltimore, Maryland in 1950 by Howard Head who thought skis should be made of materials other than wood; as a "future" point, the company is currently headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Kennelbach, Austria, and is listed on the Austrian Stock Exchange.
  • The first song to appear in the show, suggested by a client, was a verson of a 1937 song "September in the Rain" done by The Wedgewoods in 1964; but it was also the 13th of 15 songs performed on January 1, 1962, by Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Pete Best in the legendary audition with Decca Records after which The Beatles were rejected with the dismissal comments that "guitar groups are on the way out" and "the Beatles have no future in show business."
  • The second song to appear in the show being played by Don as recommended by Megan was the final track of The Beatles' 1966 studio album Revolver, "Tomorrow Never Knows" the lyrics of which are adapted from the book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead co-authored by Timothy Leary.
  • Don, after seeing Megan off in the elevator to his left, pushes the button and the doors to the elevator to his right open, offering him an empty elevator shaft to leap or fall into.
  • Cool Whip, introduced in 1967 by the Birds Eye division of General Foods, the ultimate laboratory-created product, made of made of water, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated coconut and palm kernel oil, sodium caseinate, vanilla extract, xanthan and guargums, polysorbate 60 and betacarotene; the sodium caseinate was the only product derived from milk and it wasn't until 2010 that both skimmed milk and light cream were added to Original Cool Whip.
  • And this:

Posted Image


Pete, whose experiences were one of two story arcs this week, hooks up with (and I'm deliberately using a term that would never have been used in 1966) Howard's wife Beth (played by "Gilmore Girls" star Alexis Bledel). But Pete wants it to be more - he's desperate to connect, but on his terms. Like everything in his life, he neither connects nor gets anything on his terms.

Pete ponders: "Why do they get to decide what's going to happen?"
Harry replies: "They just do."

And I'm not quite sure what the deal was with the picture of Earth from space. My memory is that in August 1966 the Lunar Orbiter did take some pretty impressive picture of the Earth rising over the Moon. But it was black and white. In 1968 we saw some color pictures. But I feel that Weiner may have taken some artistic license to create the scene where Beth compared Pete's eyes to pictures of Earth from outer space. It allowed her to say: "It didn't bother you to see the Earth tiny and unprotected, surrounded by darkness?"

We sure seem to be headed for some tragic consequence involving Pete.

Megan's choice to leave advertising was the second story arc of the episode. Megan came to New York to be an actress. But everyone is so supportive of her successes in advertising, she doesn't want to disappoint them. So we have a series of events that, given the past on "Mad Men", might make one think she's cheating on Don.

But her cheating is that she went to a call back on an audition for a part in a play. "I felt better failing in that audition than when I was succeeding at Heinz," she tells Don. And so he supports her seeking her dream.

But he says to Roger: "I was raised in the thirties. My dream was indoor plumbing." He also says"I don't want her to end up like Betty, or her mother."

Peggy doesn't respond so well to Megan's dreams, saying "You know there are people killing to get this job.You're taking up a spot and you don't even want to do it?"

Joan tells Peggy: "She's going to be a failing actress with a rich husband. That’s the kind of girl Don marries." But Peggy sees a winner in Megan.

Megan and Don spend a great deal of time assuring each other of their mutual love. But Megan is removing herself from Don's world, actually rejecting it. What does that mean for their future?

The other memorable quote of the night was from Roger who said: "Jane wanted a baby, but I thought, 'Why do that to somebody?'" But we know that Joan's baby is his.

As usual, there was much more in this episode.

Edited by phrelin, 07 May 2012 - 01:36 PM.
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#2 ONLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 01:29 PM

Great research, great summary! Per usual, I might add, and I look forward to these almost as much as the episodes themselves!

I was close, but "no cigar" as to analyzing this ep. Wonder if we'll see more of Mrs. Howard beyond an ep or two. Same for Mr. Howard.

Will Pete drop acid? A frightening proposition, to be sure.

It was odd seeing Pete cart the skis home. With no bindings, but with poles! It would have seemed natural to have left them in the office. Will the Heads come back to haunt?

Will Pete go really crazy at being unable to (re) hookup with Mrs. Howard?

Tune in next week, same bat time, same bat channel....:nono2:
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#3 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 02:10 PM

A great episode, and the acting is what really set it apart. Mr. Hamm, especially, is to be congratulated for an extraordinarily nuanced performance. Let's talk about what wasn't said, but was so obvious from Mr. Hamm's eyes:

There was a time Don thought he'd found Miss Right. Even as recently as last week, he counted himself incredibly lucky. When he married Megan, he found someone who knew his business and didn't want to retire. Not only that, she's a natural!

When Don tried to turn the office into an extension of his home life, he was rewarded by the realization that it was far better to keep doing business; Megan is a talented wife, a willing stepmother, and an excellent copywriter. She's everything he could want.

Megan knows about Dick Whitman and doesn't care. She is eager to please him, even if she doesn't know how. She's great with his work friends and both a direct and indirect (through Peggy) studen of the Draper style of advertising. In short, she's Galatea, but ten times better since she already loves him back.

I could almost hear Don's heart breaking. I saw his shields go up as Megan told him she wanted to be an actress. He tried to convince her to hold on a little longer but it didn't take, and then his relationship survival instinct kicked in and he started telling her what she needed to hear. This may not be the end of the relationship, but it's the surest sign that the honeymoon is over.

It was in that moment that I stopped, at least for a second, thinking of these as characters and started thinking of them as friends. I felt so bad for Don; he may have realized that he won't ever come any closer to the perfect woman than that. I felt even worse for Megan. When Don starts straying she won't know what she's done to deserve it. (Not that she deserves it at all, but she'll feel the pain of betrayal and like everyone, think it's partially her fault.)

I also felt bad for Peggy who, as Don's protege and "work wife" has no idea why she is suddenly "at fault" for everything. She unfairly takes the brunt of Don's anger; I don't blame Don for blowing up but certainly Peggy didn't deserve it.

As Don sits in his easy chair listening to Revolver, we see how firmly rooted in the past he is. He's talked about growing up in the 1930s, he doesn't really know what 1960's pop sounds like, and now, he can't even make it to the end of a 3 minute song without turning it off.

-----

Of course there's more going on here. Peter Campbell, that reprehensible slug that he is, sleeps with another woman who on the face of it is a mirror of his own wife. Why? Because he can? Because he's weak? There was a time we thought Pete would eventually grow up but all his growth has been in the wrong direction.

There is something about Pete with which I identify though. He's an "intergenerational." He's too young to be in "the greatest" generation and too old to be a "baby boomer." He was born in 1935, so can lay no claim to understanding the Depression, did not fight in the war, and missed rock-and-roll by "that much." He is the Mad Men Generation X'er... and if you were born between 1967 and 1980 you know what I mean. Always following one dominant generational trend and predating another can get a little tiring. Think about it... although he doesn't know it, his generation will never produce a U.S. President, never change the face of politics, never redefine popular culture. His generation, like mine, is the period at the end of the previous generation's sentence.

Not, of course, that this forgives him one bit.

-----

A final word, and that is that "Tomorrow Never Knows" is my least favorite track on Revolver and not because it's poorly written. In fact it's quite brilliantly written, prophetic and (at the time) futuristic. It's just, in my own opinion, not very good music. It doesn't sound good. I wonder if Don Draper would have lifted the needle if he'd listened to one of the most incredible compositions of the 20th century on side A, "Eleanor Rigby." By listening to one side over the other, his perception of popular music may have been forever fixed.

And that's an interesting thought to end this episode.
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#4 OFFLINE   haggis444

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 03:46 PM

Kudos to the casting director that brought in Mr. Belding for a cameo:

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#5 ONLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 04:53 PM

Not the Mr. Belding who retired from FCB in 1957?? IMDB doesn't have the full cast online yet, so am stymied as to who that is.
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#6 OFFLINE   spartanstew

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 09:39 PM

I believe, Mr. Belding was on Saved By The Bell.

I'm sure Directv can't wait to get their hands on your unit.

 
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#7 ONLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 10:00 PM

Well, yes, he was. But I was seeking a tie-in to advertising, and while I may have been on a wild goose chase, I learned that Foote, Cone and Belding did a few TV productions in the early 70's.

Also, the long history of that firm (FCB) has a bunch of similarities with our own Draper, Sterling et al firm.
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#8 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 01:15 AM

Great insights, guys!

Yes, Don's infallable instincts are telling him the die is cast. Megan is headed for intimate nights with handsome men her own age passionate about the very craft she's willing to throw her life away for. LA is full of women like Megan. Just older and past it, yet still pathetically clinging to "one last shot".

"Tomorrow Never Knows" was just so much noise to Don. It was written for young and open ears, or like a dog whistle at 15Khz, Don's limited hearing range cannot heed the call. He doesn't get it. But Megan does. And that one metaphor for a cultural wall between them is surely a death knell for Don's dreams of an Adele-like paradise: "We could have had it all, rolling in the deep." Don now knows it's over. It was a fantasy. The elevator shaft to hell was meant to be quite literal.

Pete is headed for an operatic end. We've seen him fondling a rifle in deep depression. He's chasing after something he can never get. Or perhaps that's wrong: he's really chasing after a Wagnerian grand romantic dream of his own destruction, and if I read the tea leaves right, he may bring a few others along with him for good measure.

MM is a good measure more Shakespearean this year, and we're talking the tragedies, not the comedies. Buckle your seat belts. The play's the thing.

#9 OFFLINE   trainman

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 10:29 AM

[*]The book Pete was reading on the train was a novella by Thomas Pynchon, published in 1966, The Crying of Lot 49, a mystery of sorts in which novel's protagonist discovers a group that has for centuries been connecting the disinherited and the discontented via a secret underground postal system.


I have a copy of the exact edition he was reading (the original hardcover release), although the dust jacket on his was in much better condition than mine. :D

My copy originally belonged to my father, who was in high school in 1966.

Definitely recommended -- an easier (and shorter) read than Pynchon's later works.
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#10 ONLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 10:28 AM

Here's the link to a WSJ blog on the amount of money possibly paid to Apple Corps for the use of the one song. OMG. I would have thought that exposure of that song would prompt sales of it and other Beatles tunes, not that it was big income to the estate and personal fortunes of the parties.
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#11 OFFLINE   trainman

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 10:47 AM

I would have thought that exposure of that song would prompt sales of it and other Beatles tunes, not that it was big income to the estate and personal fortunes of the parties.


I assume the licensing fee is somewhat inflated because the producers bought the use of the song "in perpetuity," so it can be kept intact on DVD releases, future reruns, etc.

Perhaps the feeling on the part of Apple Corps is that people are aware enough of the Beatles that they don't need to offer the licensing at a discount in order to sell songs/albums.
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#12 OFFLINE   Charise

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 11:21 AM

I very much enjoy your analyses here. I just wish I'd discovered them before this season. Thanks for taking the time to research and articulate your interpretations. I wouldn't have taken the time to look up the books the characters are reading, yet I like getting that extra information. Thanks!!!

#13 ONLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 11:36 AM

I assume the licensing fee is somewhat inflated because the producers bought the use of the song "in perpetuity," so it can be kept intact on DVD releases, future reruns, etc.

Perhaps the feeling on the part of Apple Corps is that people are aware enough of the Beatles that they don't need to offer the licensing at a discount in order to sell songs/albums.


Agree on all points. Especially as the company held out for so long from iTunes- dunno if any other band or artist did as well.
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#14 OFFLINE   Gloria_Chavez

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 07:55 PM

Great insights everyone. I appreciate your work, Phrelin.

With respect to Joan, didn't she tell Roger, "I'm late" last season.

Also, interesting to compare the philandering habits of Don vs Pete. Don never became seriously involved with his friends, while Pete seems obsessed with Beth.

Finally, regarding the 250K fee for the Beatle's Tomorrow Never Knows. But just realized that each episode costs 2.5M to 3.0M, so 8 - 10% of production budget for one track, for one episode, possibly right.
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#15 ONLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 10:05 PM

With respect to Joan, didn't she tell Roger, "I'm late" last season.

Also, interesting to compare the philandering habits of Don vs Pete. Don never became seriously involved with his friends, while Pete seems obsessed with Beth.


That rings a bell, but Roger would have paid no nevermind.

And I wonder if Pete's obsession has to do with Beth telling him that that was it- probably a first for him.
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