Mad Men Live Blog: Season 5, Episode 13 – “The Phantom”

Mad Men Episode 513 (AMCTV.com)

Final score: Megan Draper inexplicably wins Season 5. Who saw that coming? Megan has a rich husband in Don Draper and a nascent career as an actress, all while avoiding becoming another Betty Draper.

[You can read my full live blog for Episode 513 below, starting from 10pm Eastern through 11:02pm Eastern.]

We saw all that coming. The surprise was her contribution to Don’s morality and business, both of which make Don complete. Megan added value to Don in a way that Betty never cared to contribute. For that reason, Megan Draper wins the season.

But can Megan stay out of the Betty zone? Megan was cast in a commercial because of Don’s connections, as was Betty. Megan made a plaintive wail about how she lived for Don’s love, as did Betty. Sally Draper stopped trusting Megan, as she did with Betty.

So what keeps Megan from becoming Betty? First, Don’s respect for Megan is substantially higher than his respect for Betty. Don never really believed that Betty was a partner, but merely just a prop. Megan has held her own in front of Don’s clients and helped him win business, and Don must admire her assertiveness in asking for the role in his commercial. Second, Megan is ambitious. She wants more than to be Don’s pet, while that’s all Betty ever really wanted. Even if Betty were born a decade later, she doesn’t have Megan’s drive. Third, Megan is outspoken. She comes from a loud family, so she’s loud, but productively loud. Where Betty shut down and sought to shut her kids and family down, Megan looks to engage. She wants to be a part of the discussion.

Now, Megan needs to keep Don on the moral path. Don became the series’ moral center in Season 5, largely due to Peggy’s work departure and Joan’s moral departure. Season 5 ends on a cliffhanger of whether Don will go back to his cheating ways. I believe that Megan’s drive will be enough to keep him in line while he builds SCDP into the big firm he was born to lead.

Thanks for joining my Mad Men live blogs this season! See you for Season 6!

11:02pm: Season 5 ends as follows:

  • Don on the set of Megan’s commercial, first wishing her well, then walking off into an empty room and eventually into a bar.
  • Peggy watches two dogs mate.
  • Pete listens to music while wearing headphones, because he’s already made enough women cry for one night.
  • Roger stands naked before a window looking onto New York. He’s on LSD!
  • Back to Don’s bar, where he’s propositioned by two young women, because they want nothing more in New York than an aging ad man.

Don wins this round.

11:01pm: The partners look at SCDP’s new office space. It could have been an iconic photo for Season 5, but instead will be the promo photo for Season 6, assuming no one dies in the next two minutes.

11:00pm: Like Season 4, this season seems like it’ll end with the penultimate episode having more action than the finale.

10:59pm: Don notices that Megan’s commercial audition reel lists her name as “Megan Calvet.”

10:58pm: Trudy Campbell to Pete: “I can’t live like this.” Translation: Pete gets an apartment in New York. He’s like Don Draper as a 30-year old, only with less hair.

10:57pm: It’s a preview of Season 5 of Breaking Bad! Walter to Saul: “We’re done when I say we’re done.” Yes!

10:55pm: Commercial break. It’s Season 2 of the new iteration of Dallas, which is a mildly better idea than another season of The Pitch.

10:53pm: Pete also gets punched out by the train conductor after giving him a 1960s’ version of the “educated loudmouth” speech. Pete’s just getting punched by everyone this year.

10:52pm: Pete and Alexis Bledel’s husband fight on the train back to Connecticut. As usual, Pete loses the fight.

10:51pm: Peggy tells Don that she’s going “on a plane” to visit the cigarette factory in Richmond, Virginia. That’s not a train ride?

10:50pm: Don goes to the movie theater after his dentist appoint and finds Peggy Olson in the seats. Don asks Peggy how she likes her new job, and she says it’s great. Oh, they’re just old friends at the movies together.

10:48pm: Pete’s going on a long speech here about his life to post-electroshock Alexis Bledel, who appears to care more for shiny lights than anything Pete’s saying. Pete’s speech is typically woeful, and he calls his life “a temporary bandage on a permanent wound.” Maybe he’s going to join Lane soon.

10:47pm: Pete goes to visit Alexis Bledel at the hospital, though whether it’s pre- or post-shock is uncertain. She’s forgotten their tryst at the Hotel Pennsylvania, but that could be either from the electroshock or from Pete’s performance.

10:46pm: Don’s half-brother Adam appears to Don as a vision at the dentist’s office with a rope burn around his neck.

10:45pm: Don is finally at the dentist’s office. Will he get found out as Dick Whitman at the dentist’s office?

10:44pm: Megan’s mom tells Don that Megan is not an artist. Well, she says it as “not an ar-teeee-st,” but the message remains.

10:43pm: Megan evokes Betty Draper by telling Don that he’s all she lives for. She’s dangerously close to Jessica Pare territory again.

10:42pm: Back to the episode. Megan is drunk at home, alone, by the time Don returns. Don’s tooth hurts too much for him to kiss her.

10:41pm: A Mad Men-style ad for Turn, an online ad network, showed a jealous wife/girlfriend shooting at her husband/boyfriend and his new lady friend. Very dark for a commercial, but hey, so is Mad Men.

10:40pm: Twenty minutes left in this Mad Men season. Why does it feel like someone’s about to quit or die or both?

10:39pm: Commercial break. There’s a Bing ad that implies that my friends will lead me to finding a great rental property. I can see the search ad for a time-share right through the TV screen.

10:37pm: Roger to Megan’s mom: “Stop being demure. You’re already on the bed.” In other news, Roger asks Megan’s mom to take LSD with him. Megan’s mom tells Roger that she won’t take care of him emotionally. Just emotionally.

10:36pm: Pete arrives home after his afternoon with Alexis Bledel and immediately makes his baby cry. Women everywhere hate Pete.

10:34pm: Mrs. Pryce yells at Don for “filling a man like that with ambition.” She also yells at Don for only offering her a $50,000 payout ($350,000 in 2012 terms). So, the whole condolences thing didn’t work out well.

10:33pm: Don stops by Mrs. Pryce’s apartment to offer his condolences. Mrs. Pryce to Don: “We’re not ones to wallow.” Stoic.

10:32pm: Back to the episode. Megan’s mother calls Megan’s attempted acting career “a phantom.” She then curses at her in French and storms out. Montreal’s still awesome.

10:31pm: I’m still marveling over the size of Lane Pryce’s insurance payout. Given his limited value to the firm, it’s a shock he earned that much in death.

10:28pm: It’s another commercial time. Don’s tooth still hurts, so we’ll be on the lookout for a good local dentist.

10:26pm: Joan is talking with Don about Lane’s death benefit payable to SCDP: $175,000, or $1.2 million in 2012 terms, according to Dollar Times. Wow! Lane is more profitable in death than in life.

10:25pm: It’s morning at SCDP and Don sees his dead half-brother again, working at a drafting table.

10:23pm: Roger calls Chez Draper and asks for Megan’s mother. Remember what Sally Draper learned about the birds and the bees at the Codfish Ball? Yep, that’s coming up again.

10:22pm: Don to Megan: “You want to be someone’s discovery. You don’t want to be someone’s wife.”

10:20pm: Back to Chez Draper. Megan attempts to get Don to hire her actress friend the gig in SCDP’s shoe commercial. No, just kidding. Megan asks Don to cast herself in the commercial. This could be Megan’s decline back to being called Jessica Pare, so let’s be careful here.

10:15pm: Commercial break, and there’s an ad for Superman Strikes Back or whatever the series re-boot is called. Denis Leary plays a police chief, and he’s got a great temperament for a bureaucrat.

10:14pm: Was that just the “brief” in the brief nudity? We’re back at the Hotel Pennsylvania, where Alexis Bledel and Pete are being their same miserable selves after sleeping together. She keeps calling him “Peter” for some reason. Anyway, Peter invites Alexis Bledel to Los Angeles because he’s ready to blow up his current life, and she declines like every other woman does.

10:13pm: Back to Chez Draper. Megan and her actress friend (who looks like Ivanka Trump) are hanging out at her apartment, looking at listings for actresses. The actress friend wants an in with SCDP because they’re casting for a role that she’d fit well, Megan says she’ll put in a good word with Don, and the friend then kisses Megan right on the lips. Montreal is awesome.

10:11pm: Before her electroshock therapy, Alexis Bledel begs Pete to give her “this” (yes, “this” is that), and Pete complies. Let’s hope she’s not like Claire Danes in Homeland, just to remember how wimpy Pete is.

10:09pm: Alexis Bledel welcomes Pete to the hotel room, and Pete is petulant, which is just typical Pete, blowing a chance with a lady because he’s a wimp. Alexis Bledel is in New York to get electroshock therapy, which is totally normal for the 1960s.

10:08pm: At the next partners’ meeting, Joan presents a sunny view of SCDP, despite the fact that Lane is, well, dead. No one thinks to mention it. Lane is gone and forgotten.

10:07pm: Peggy is with Ted Chaough at her new gig, wearing a hideous dress. Just sayin’. Anyway, Ted Chaough says that she should be able to write for women because she’s a woman.

10:06pm: Pete Campbell gets a call from Alexis Bledel and asks him to meet her at the Hotel Pennsylvania. Hmm.

10:05pm: MICHAEL GINSBERG is attempting to convince the creative team that it’s OK for Topaz panty hose to be viewed as cheap. The Topaz guy makes a racist remark about Dawn. MICHAEL GINSBERG is clearly not a woman and therefore does not understand panty hose. Didn’t he go to college?

10:04pm: Don arrives at work and thinks that he sees Adam (his brother) in the elevator on the way down. Note that Adam is supposed to be dead.

10:03pm: Pete Campbell is on the train with Alexis Bledel and his creepy life-insurance salesman husband. He grabs at her scarves before she walks to the smoking car. Creepy.

10:02pm: Don’s toothache might come from Megan’s mother, who’s staying at Chez Draper for an indefinite period.

10:01pm: Don Draper has a toothache to start the show. Megan comes into the apartment with something that looks like CDs.

10:00pm: Tonight’s Mad Men episode promises “brief nudity.” I’m guessing it’s from Bert Cooper.

9:59pm: It’s Mad Men time!

9:58pm: The equivalent of Pete Campbell on The Killing is now a prime suspect in, well, the killing. Why is it called The Killing? Why not The Murder or The Show that Prevents AMC from Showing a Replay of Last Week’s Mad Men?

9:53pm: The Mad Men season finale is less than 10 minutes away! In other news, it’s still raining in Seattle on The Killing. I want to become more emotionally invested in The Killing‘s storyline, but Lane Pryce’s departure last week from Mad Men trumps the relevance of a random in a Washington state casino.

9:46pm: Each of the mayoral candidates on The Killing has a huge staff. The city councilor candidate has had the same campaign team for years, following with him up to his mayoral race. How does Seattle, a city of 600,000 people, have enough money for each candidate to afford a contingent in the teens?

9:45pm: The Killing just had a major plot breakthrough at a valet parking station. If this were Mad Men, the valet lot would be at one of those New York lots with the car elevator, just so Don could look down the elevator shaft and contemplate his mortality. On The Killing, we get a cop that tells the valet attendant to avoid a run-in with the “po-po.”

9:34pm: While waiting for the Mad Men season finale, we’re watching Part 1 of The Killing‘s season finale. Or, alternately, the penultimate episode of The Killing‘s season. If a season finale is two 1-hour episodes, split into two separate airings, then only the second hour is the season finale.

Anyway, on The Killing, it’s now Election Day in rainy Seattle. The title incident of The Killing occurred about a month before the election, the incident is related somehow to both candidates in Seattle’s mayoral election, and two Seattle detectives have dedicated the greater part of that month to solving the crime. Does Seattle’s city government have that much money to spend on solving one murder? And would a mayoral candidate in Seattle be involved in that type of crime? Seattle’s current mayor ran the state’s Sierra Club branch, while the candidates in The Killing are involved with the mob.

9:05pm: Don Draper could end this season finale as the only moral character on Mad Men. Joan Harris, arguably the moral center of the show, sold herself for a little bit of SCDP. Peggy Olson quit, hopefully not for the remainder of the series. Lane Pryce took the easy way out after Don discovered his embezzlement. Pete Campbell got knocked out by the same guy who took the easy way out, so any shred of hope is gone from his life. Roger and Bert are checked out, and Bert shouldn’t even be in the series at this point. Don’s the only one left who’s worth saving.

Tonight’s episode is titled “The Phantom,” which could refer to the Rolls-Royce Phantom that launched its sixth edition life in 1968.  The title could also refer to the Dick Whitman phantom that’s followed Don ever since Season 1. Or, perhaps, the writers of Mad Men are all fans of the Steel Phantom, the greatest roller coaster ever.

How does Season 5 rank in Mad Men lore? My sort order is Seasons 1, 4, 2, and 3 in the rear. Season 5 has had more shark-jumping that any other season, but it could be due to Matthew Weiner’s need to wrap up the series soon. If only the series can live on in fan fiction, with Joan’s departure from morality removed.

It’s an exciting night! See you for the Mad Men season finale tonight at 10pm.

Mad Men Live Blog: Season 5, Episode 12 – “Commissions and Fees”

Mad Men Episode 512 Thumbnail
Mad Men Episode 512 – AMCtv.com

Final score: Don Draper wins the night by asking for Lane Pryce’s resignation. In Season 5, Don is Mr. Integrity, which is a perplexing byproduct of marrying Megan. Don is responsible for SCDP and not responsible for how Lane reacted to getting fired. While Don may feel sadness about Lane’s death, he should feel no liability.

[You can page down for the play-by-play or read my review of the night starting here.]

With Lane’s departure, the biggest question in the season finale next week is who takes Lane’s place at the agency. Joan can probably handle most of the finance and accounting of the firm, and she is now a partner, so does SCDP become SCDH? Even that acronym sounds like a better fit for the show.

Lane was a vestige of the British invasion story line from Seasons 2-3. That plot line was contrived, as was Lane’s decision to jump to the new company. He extended himself without redefining himself, and he paid the price.

Lane Pryce’s character was weak. He won’t be missed. His departure is the right move for Mad Men heading into the Season 5 finale.

Thanks for joining me! See you next week for Mad Men‘s Season 5 finale.

11:03pm: While taking Matthew Weiner’s creepy son back to school, Don asks him what he’d do if he could do anything. The answer: drive Don’s car. Given Lane’s attempt to drive drunk earlier, Glen is the safest driver in tonight’s episode.

11:00pm: The SCDP crew, despite being told by the police not to disturb Lane’s body, have disturbed Lane’s body. They also take a note on his body, which is just a simple resignation letter. Lane can’t even do goodbyes right.

10:59pm: Don, Roger, and Pete break into Lane’s office and see his body hanging from the ceiling. Considering Sally’s maturation into womanhood earlier, this is the second-worst visual on Mad Men tonight.

10:58pm: Bert Cooper informs Don and Roger that Lane Pryce hanged himself.

10:57pm: JJ and Sally Draper, something, something. Lane’s dead!

10:56pm: Lane appears to have died. So who gets his racing green Jaguar?

10:55pm: Joan: “I think something’s terribly wrong in Mr. Pryce’s office.” A little understated, but she’s not a copy editor, so…

10:54pm: Joan attempts to get in Lane’s office, but it’s blocked by a chair.

10:53pm: Another Mad Men commercial break observation: We’re getting a Foxwoods ad in New England, and it sure makes gambling seem like the avocation of young, pretty people. That’s exactly how I remember Foxwoods at 11am on a Monday morning.

10:51pm: Off-topic during the commercial break: Bing search is now positioned as how “search goes social.” But what if my group of friends all use Google for search and Facebook for social? Do we really want another layer in between us and information?

10:49pm: JJ triumphantly calls Megan and celebrates Sally’s period, stating that “she just needed her mother.” Actually, JJ, Sally needed any female authority figure, and Megan was out at auditions, so you continue to be her second choice.

10:48pm: Sally heads back to JJ and Henry Francis after getting her period. She takes a cab back from Manhattan at a $25 fare, which is $171.48 in 2012 dollars per Dollar Times, my favorite inflation calculator.

10:47pm: Don to Dow Corning: “What is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness.” So…why be happy?

10:46pm: Don to Dow Corning: success is temporary. As evidence, he cites the Vietnam War. This is a good start at a pitch meeting.

10:45pm: Ken’s father-in-law is taking Don to the woodshed in his Dow Corning meeting for his anti-tobacco letter.

10:42pm: Hey, it’s an Audi commercial. I’m guessing Jaguar didn’t want to advertise after Lane’s failed effort to start the car.

10:40pm: Sally is becoming a lady in the museum’s ladies’ room, and AMC decided we should see visual evidence of her maturation. Not necessary.

10:39pm: Matthew Weiner’s creepy son is less creepy and more boring. He just called Sally a “little sister.” Borrrrr-innnnng.

10:38pm: So Sally and Matthew Weiner’s creepy son, two teenagers interested in each other, alone in an apartment, decide to leave and go to a museum. Courtship was different in the 1960s.

10:37pm: It’s Monday morning and everyone’s getting ready for meetings. Sally’s meeting Matthew Weiner’s creepy son, Don and Roger are meeting Dow Corning, and Megan is meeting rejection at her next audition.

10:36pm: Lane goes into the office late on Sunday night to type a letter. Perhaps it’s his suicide note?

10:35pm: Sally Draper invites Matthew Weiner’s creepy son to Don and Megan’s apartment in the city. I sense an educational opportunity.

10:34pm: Lane’s trying to off himself inside his Jaguar through carbon monoxide poisoning, but he can’t get the Jaguar to start. He can’t even succeed in killing himself.

10:33pm: Sally Draper just poured a metric ton of sugar into her coffee.

10:32pm: Laura on Megan’s makeup: “She doesn’t look good with a skin-tone lipstick.” I confirm.

10:31pm: Lane is sober now on Sunday morning after getting drunk two days in a row. I think it’s Sunday. I’m as sure as Lane is of the date.

10:30pm: Commercial break. John Malkovich loves Portuguese sausage. This and many other insights, courtesy of Siri.

10:28pm: Lane vomits in the parking garage, due to some combination of alcohol abuse and financial abuse. Lane’s wife appears to still give him the keys.

10:27pm: Lane’s wife bought a Jaguar? And she’s giving her clearly inebriated husband the keys to the car?

10:26pm: Lane returns home to see his wife waiting on him for dinner. Can Lane even afford to go to dinner?

10:25pm: Megan complains to Don about how awful a person he is. Don responds by telling Megan that he had to fire Lane, mainly because Lane is a worse person than Don is.

10:24pm: Don arrives home to Sally on his couch, watching TV. Why does Don work? Does he even care about his family? He just let Sally cancel school because his meeting’s more important. Again, parenting in the 1960s is complicated.

10:23pm: Ken to Roger: “I don’t want a partnership. I’ve seen what’s involved with it.” But beyond that, he won’t stand in the way of SCDP getting the business of Ken’s father-in-law.

10:22pm: In lieu of firing Ken, Roger attempts to get him out of the way by asking him not to pick up the phone when his father-in-law picks up the phone.

10:21pm: Sally lands on Megan’s doorstep. Megan is nervous.

10:20pm: Don tells Roger to fire Ken Cosgrove if he won’t leverage his family for SCDP’s benefit.

10:19pm: Roger to Don: “You used to love “no.” “No” used to get you…[motivated?].”

10:18pm: Don to Roger: “I don’t want Jaguar, I want Chevy.” I prefer Ford.

10:17pm: Hey, it’s http://keepamc.com right before the Mad Men break. Interesting.

10:15pm: Is Lane going to jump out the window? I’ve always wanted to use “defenestrate” in a entertainment context.

10:14pm: Lane makes a lewd comment to Joan, because now he can.

10:13pm: Wow, no commercial break? That was too tense.

10:12pm: Don to Lane: “I’ve started over a lot.” It’s easier to start over when you invent a storyline, of course.

10:11pm: Lane to Don: “What will I tell my wife?” Well, hold on now — doesn’t Lane’s wife hate America and want to return to England? This works well for everyone! And Don will cover the amount that Lane embezzled. This is a tidy bow.

10:10pm: Lane to Don, angrily: “I have operated on a loss for three years!” Don to Lane: “I can’t trust you.”

10:09pm: Don asks for Lane’s resignation. Don to Lane: “You embezzled funds and you forged my signature.” Well…yep. Lane is now crying.

10:08pm: Don and Lane are now speaking about the embezzlement. Lane denies that he embezzled it initially, but Don is a good liar and therefore knows a good liar. Don asks Lane repeatedly if the check is the only one, and Lane fires back by stating that the Christmas bonus cancellation “was his money.”

10:07pm: The bomb drops! Bert Cooper, of all people, discovers Lane’s embezzlement and assumes that Don gave him a Christmas bonus. Here we go!

10:05pm: Sally Draper is arguing with January Jones about wearing sweaty boots. JJ threatens to lock Sally in a trunk, then calls Don and asks for permission to strangle her. Parenting in the 60s was complicated.

10:04pm: The SCDP partners are meeting sans danish, then start discussing whether they’re willing to switch their payment structure. The danish would have made the discussion more interesting.

10:03pm: Lane is about to get an unpaid position as the financial lead for a professional association (the 4 As?). He’s successfully embezzled before, so here’s another chance!

10:01pm: Don meets a rival at the barbershop. The rival praises Don for winning the Jaguar account, but fails to mention the real winner – Don’s hair.

10:00pm: It’s time for Mad Men! Let’s see who sells out this week.

9:57pm: In more predictions about The Killing, I bet the killer is the Canadian who was on Tilt, ESPN’s hit poker drama in 2005Tilt‘s tagline: “You’re playing poker. They’re playing you.” I usually play blackjack.

9:54pm: I’ve now been briefed on the plot of The Killing and I’ve learned that Duck Phillips did the right thing by letting Detectives Mr. and Mrs. Killing check in the key evidence. This makes up for the his behavior at the Clios.

9:50pm: Duck Phillips is on The Killing! He’s gone from being an alcoholic ad man in New York to a police lieutenant in Seattle. Is that an upgrade?

9:41pm: The shark jumps back in the water this week on Mad Men. Joan Harris has returned back to the office, with gossip abounding about why she received her partnership. Of course, if someone else were on the receiving end of a partnership, Joan would lead the gossip hounds, which is exactly why it’s still odd that she would sell herself into the role. Maybe she felt vulnerable financially, maybe she felt her youth slipping away, or maybe she felt that an abrupt 180-degree turn on her character made sense. If so, then I wish she (or the writers) would explain her motivation, because absent that, last week still seems like it’s non-canon.

This week’s episode promises genuine character development, as Sally Draper will be “going out.” If she’s going out like a regular teenager in the 1960s, it’ll be a pleasant night of movies and milkshakes. If her shark jumps like Joan’s did, she’ll probably drop acid and swim to Manhattan. Anything can happen now on Mad Men.

See you at 10:00pm Eastern!