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.
10:02pm: 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.