Mad Men – “In care of” – Season 6, Episode 13

Honestly, I have bigger problems than this – Pete Campbell

What I’ve perhaps always guiltily envied in Mad Men’s main character Don Draper was his capacity to make everyone forget his betrayals and endless affairs by simply standing up, buttoning his suit’s upper button and engaging in a tirade about the emotional value of a condiment. During the past thirteen weeks of Mad Men’s Season 6 however, I have slowly found myself losing sympathy for him. From the affair with his neighbour (leading to a fall out with his daughter) to a careless attitude towards his children (leading to a break in) and an insensitive attitude in the office, his behaviour has made me wonder whether he understood how cruel he can be. Of course the answer is no: has Don Draper ever had a proper understanding of who he was in the world?

Following the 5th season’s finale, season 6 focused on the idea of death not coming quickly enough. The life that is taken in In Care Of is that of Pete Campbell’s demented mother who apparently married her (homosexual) nurse, hopped on a cruise ship and fell overboard. Perhaps some will disagree, but as the viewer observes these scenes as they unfold through Pete’s hopeless eyes, the story line becomes quite comical. Pete was the one that made me smile and laugh in this episode.

In Care Of seems to offer freshness and warmth to the viewer through Matthew Weiner’s aesthetic direction and introduces the theme of family and caring around the holiday of Thanksgiving. Family touches most of the characters this week:

The first main family connection and one of the most painful relationships of this season was that between Don and his daughter Sally. Part of the reason for Don’s excesses is the distance between them since she caught him sleeping with his neighbour (told you it was a bad idea).

Joan decides to let Roger into their child’s life, “but not into” hers. After an entire season almost ignoring this connection, the transition may seem quick but then again, it fits with Joan to make this decision swiftly and move on.

After Ted’s family pick him up at the office, Peggy tries to get back at him by wearing a revealing dress and mentioning she has a date. Ted ends up sleeping with her and promising he will leave his wife. However, while she may not want to be “that girl” who is left for too quickly, he, on second thought, certainly doesn’t want to be “that guy” either and decides to move to California with his family to start over.

The theme is amplified when Hershey’s come to the agency to hear a creative advertising proposal.  What starts as a cliché presentation by Don about his made up relationship with his father breaks down and reveals where he actually grew up. His only true pleasure as a child was that of feeling normal when eating a Hershey’s bar. While he ultimately succeeds in pointing out how Hershey’s is anchored in culture and doesn’t even need introduction, everyone else at the meeting can only see the line he’s crossed. It does not help that they all know that he has long replaced chocolate with alcohol.

To say that Don is a lost man sounds like an understatement: after being denied the chance to know what it is like to be cared for by a parent, the first person he forgets to care for as an adult is himself. For instance, while his forced leave of absence seems like a brand new opportunity for the viewer, he asks for a return date, forgetting that stability is not what will save him. I only hope that if it turns out that he can’t turn around on his own, he will be able to listen to those who love him.

A few questions and notes remain:

  • Is Megan leaving Don? Will she move to Los Angeles?
  • Does Ted’s departure mean that the actor Kevin Rahm is out of the picture?
  • Don’s leave from the agency hopefully announces many new interesting outdoor scenes. Until next time!

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