Christina Hendricks always looks like a painting. In this case, the long-lost Vermeer Girl With A Pearl Earring And Assless Hospital Gown.
We open with Joan, which is always a good sign. She’s at the Lady Doctor, talking about her Lady Parts. It’s a whole lot less terrible than Peggy’s “enjoy your sinful Pill, strumpet” visit, or Betty’s “whoops, looks like you got knocked up that one night you mounted your estranged husband in your childhood bedroom” appointment. In fact, Joan is very candid and the doc is downright professional, go figure, even when Joan mentions two previous “procedures” she’s worried may affect her fertility. Betty was way more euphemistic than that with her doc, and all she got was a stern look and a lecture about miracles or something. This awesomely progressive doc says the plumbing is all in order, and she should be able to conceive within the month. Nooooooo no no Joan can’t just run off and have babies! But the reality is they’re not sure when Uncle Sam will metaphorically point angrily at Greg and call him off to god knows where, by which I mean almost certainly Vietnam. This is actually starting to annoy me a little, because I envisioned this exact perfect solution to the “Joan is married” problem, and they’re telegraphing his eventual heroic death so much that there’s no way it’ll play out the obvious way. Anyway, the doc calls her Jo-Jo, which is so great, and gives her the all clear. Yay?
Allison seems to be taking last week’s Yuletide rejection in stride, so good on her and her cute new hair. Are we looking at a proto-Joan here? They’re gonna need one of those once the real Joan is at home with her stupid imaginary baby. Allison doesn’t even really blink when she awkwardly answers “Don’t worry, I’ll be here till the bitter end” to Don’s question “What will you be doing?” even though he was only asking about her New Years plans. D’oh. Somebody’s been taking classes at the Don Draper School of Cool As A Cucumber Wearing Aviator Sunglasses! Harry comes in for his 30 seconds of screentime, telling Don he should meet with Bill Asher at the Brown Derby. “He’ll probably try to cast you.” Heh. But yay, I’d completely forgotten that Don has “family” in California, so those 24 hours are spoken for. Rich Sommer, incidentally, is hilarious. Nice 30 seconds of mostly reaction shots, Rich Sommer. Lane, who was supposed to be in London a few days ago, joins the party for a few seconds to bitch about all the farting around Harry did in LA this past year, before retreating to his office to smoke his pipe and generally be super English.
Joan comes in to offer Lane some fried chicken (“Breast? Thigh?” “One of each!”) and ask for a couple of days off after the new year, so she can celebrate with her husband, whose job is a little less flexible than hers. Totally reasonable considering she holds the place together every other day of the year, but he goes a little batshit, frankly. “I understand that all men are dizzy and powerless to refuse you, but consider me the incorruptible exception!” Adding, hilariously, “Fried chicken indeed!” Oh, he also tells her not to go and cry about it. Oh hell no, you did NOT just say that to our Jo-Jo. He better have a pretty good reason to be acting like a total ass, like for example being abandoned by his family at Christmas or something. (Maybe the Draper kids would let him borrow Carla?) Joan doesn’t raise her voice or even slam the door on her way out, which is a nice passive-aggressive touch. Joan is SO AWESOME.
I shoehorn Joan screencaps into episodes in which she barely speaks, so this episode will be a JoanCap field day.
And that’s that for the office – we’re off to California! Don’s rented a convertible, because duh, what else could he possibly drive down the sunny, pastel-colored Pacific Coast Highway? He drives right up to someone I didn’t know I missed so much: Anna, the real Mrs. Don Draper. “Get off my porch,” he greets her affectionately (part of his penance to her was buying her this house). In California, his name is Dick. Don Draper is long gone. They’re so genuinely happy to see each other, and hooray for Jon Hamm, who spends most of this California trip melting from Don Draper into Dick Whitman. This feels more like home than anywhere else, and we can tell right away. He’s happy! Her leg is in a cast, and she gives some lame explanation for it, which Dick and I both find suspicious, but whatever. Anna’s sister and niece arrive right behind him. “Hello, Dick!” Patty says brightly but warily, if such a thing is possible. I wonder how much she knows about the nature of Dick’s weird friendship with Anna? They’ve definitely known him for a long time though – when Patty’s cute college-age daughter (ruh-roh!) introduces herself, Dick/Don is taken aback. “Last time I saw you you didn’t have front teeth!” Imagine how disturbing that will sound in retrospect if you, say, for example, try to make out with her at some point! She’s on break from Berkeley, but she’s not “sitting in,” which makes Don/Dick sound like an old man when he asks her about it. “I agree with what they’re doing, but somebody has to go to class.” She says, all husky voiced and Kate Hudsony (see above re: ruh-roh). My college generation, and subsequent ones, would never have the attention span for a sit-in, let alone the actual initiative to start one. We don’t hold protests, we join Facebook groups. If we’re really passionate about something, we might even put a clever sticker about it on our MacBook! Anyhoo, Anna convinces Patty to let Stephanie spend the night. Which is sort of weird, isn’t it? “I wanted him to meet you,” Anna explains to her, “and I know you’ve got grass.” Hee. “Grass.”
“Hey sis, mind if I borrow your blonde, nubile daughter so we can get drunk and hang out with the recently divorced manwhore who stole my dead war hero husband’s identity?”
Joan comes home to her Army surgeon husband. Who is only a surgeon because the Army has lower standards than New York hospitals. Just a reminder! She tells him the Good News is the Lady Doctor gave her Lady Parts an A+, as many before him must certainly have done. The bad news is she can’t get any time off to have a belated, babymaking New Year’s weekend like they’d planned. “Just don’t show up!” he tells her. He still doesn’t seem to understand that she likes her job, and by the way, she’s very good at it, which is patronizing and assholey and I’m tempted to call him Rapey McFail or Douchey Howser MD, but I’ll refrain for now. He says so what if she loses her job? They’ll make it. “Until when?” she says, annoyed. Until Basic Training, he says, which will only be a couple of weeks. “…And then you’re going to Vietnam!” she finishes. Hey, they don’t know that for sure! Which doesn’t make Joan feel any better. “Just keep marking off the days on the calendar while we keep planning for our future!” They had pretty much this same conversation about a year ago, so yeah, maybe their plan needs some retooling. (Luckily, Greg is a tool, so that should come in handy.)
After an anecdote about a Jesusy roommate that gives us our ironic episode title, Stephanie leaves the old folks alone at a bar table to talk about old folks stuff. Don: “How would you feel about me bringing the kids out here this spring?” Anna and I both smile. What a great idea! I like how happy he looks at the thought of all of his favorite people being in the same place at the same time. Surely nothing bad will happen between now and then! Dick/Don has apparently told Anna the gist of the Betty situation, but they haven’t really discussed it at length. In fact, I can’t imagine that Don’s really even let himself think these words, let alone say them out loud. “I could tell the minute she saw who I really was that she never wanted to look at me again,” he says. “Which is why I never told her.” It is pretty heartbreaking that Betty ended up doing exactly what he was always terrified she would do in the first place. Them’s the breaks, Dick. I suspect, and I think he does too, that Betty might have stuck it out with a cheating bastard – Baby Gene and their Roman Holiday and whatnot, that almost seemed like it was working – just not a cheating bastard who’s an actual literal bastard. If he’d been faithful and devoted she might have been okay with a secret history, or if he was a cheater but his big secret was that he was a rogue Rockefeller, she could have forgiven the lies. One or the other, but not both. “I’m sorry she broke your heart,” Anna tells him. “I had it coming,” he says, and even he seems to appreciate how hilarious that understatement is. And here he goes, off to dance with this teenager, and seriously, what the hell, Anna? “Keep your hands at ten and two!” she jokes, but like, what? Is she giving her blessing, or does she just think that Don is all bark and no bite, when in fact he is almost entirely bite? (Lane could probably get us a more accurate percentage.)
“How’s about you give your creepy old drunk Uncle Dick a closer look at those new front teeth!”
He drives Stephanie home, which is a terrible idea for so many reasons. On the way, she quizzes him about divorced life, about “those dates where you sit and ask each other questions,” (“A means to an end,” he tells her) and she catches him off guard with this: “Nobody knows what’s wrong with themselves, but everyone else can see it right away.” It’s a little heavy-handed, but I’m fine with that. In fact, I kind of want to put it on a sticker on my MacBook. Don just makes a face that says “touché!” Also, there’s probably a makeup campaign in there somewhere. Mental note! And just when you think he might surprise us, no, gross, he doesn’t. He makes a lame pass at her in her driveway. “What are you doing?” she says, more amused that squicked out. “I don’t know,” he laughs. It’s pretty sad really. When it becomes clear that her panties haven’t magically dropped to her ankles the second he touched her, he assumes it’s out of some loyalty to her aunt. He doesn’t realize how utterly fucking creepy he is at this moment. He explains that he and Anna never had a romantic relationship. No, asshole, that’s not the issue. And now that you mention it, here’s the greatest bonerkiller of all time: Anna has fucking CANCER. What’s the opposite of “schwing!”? But it gets better: Anna doesn’t know. Don/Dick is horrified, because holy shit, what? They just haven’t gotten around to telling her she’s wasting away? He’s furious, but Stephanie begs him not to tell Anna. The doctors said it was better this way, and Patty believes them. So um. Enjoy the rest of your vacation!
Anna’s asleep on the couch when he gets back. He carries her into the bedroom, then time-lapse sits on the couch all night. It’s a weird scene, way less creepy than Paranormal Activity but still kind of jarring stylistically. I like it – I think it’s part of the show’s contrast between worlds. NYC/LA. Dark brown/bright sun. Night/day. Don/Dick. He’s decidedly Dick by the time Anna wakes up. She finds him in a T-shirt and boxers (“I want to go to there!”), painting over the mold stain on the wall she hasn’t gotten around to fixing, because eh, what’s the point? Which is exactly the kind of thing a woman might do if she knew she was dying of cancer, I might add. She smokes a joint and talks about UFOs while he paints. She swears she saw something once that knocked her sideways. “I started thinking of everything I was sure was true,” she says, then, oddly bitter, and staring off dramatically into middle distance: “…and how flimsy it all might be.” Oh yeah, she knows. Surely she knows, right? I welcome evidence to the contrary! She grabs his hand and stares right into his eyes. “I know everything about you,” she tells him. “And I still love you.” Exhibit C! But also, Jees Louise, what an incredibly sad thing to say. Whether she knows she’s dying or not, she definitely knows that she’s the only person on the planet who can say that.
Jon Hamm, performing manual labor, in white boxers. You’re welcome.
Patty interrupts this little moment, barging in with groceries. So there’s Anna smoking “grass,” and Don in his boxers, and it’s downright scandalous. “You’re going to get arrested!” She tells Anna. And then, to Don/Dick, “You just can’t keep your pants on, can you?” Dick puts his pants on (so there, Patty!) and follows her out to the car. Dick lets Don do the talking, since Don is the one who’s really, really good at verbally bullying people into submission. He wants to know when she plans on letting Anna in on the teeny little secret that she will soon wither away and die painfully. Surprise party maybe? Fortune cookie? Skywriting? “I’m here now,” he says, “and she’s going to see some real doctors, and she’s not going to live in the dark.” Don stresses that she’s very important to him, and he’s going to do what he has to. But Patty bursts his righteous little bubble by reminding him: He’s not family, not really. He has no say in this. “You’re just a man in a room with a checkbook.” Ouch. Got that, Don? You too, Dick. No family left in the world, and you can’t even say a proper goodbye to the closest thing you have to a real one. Happy New Year. He plods back into the house. Anna tells him if it weren’t for Stephanie she and Patty would have killed each other. Dick pauses. “Speaking of dying…” No, actually, he defends Patty. “She means well. And she’s family. Not everybody has that.” He starts with the “I have to tell you something” but ultimately chickens out. Patty may not be exactly right, but it’s true that it’s not his place to tell her, even though he thinks what they’re doing is really really terrible. “…I have to go,” he finishes lamely. The fact that she doesn’t follow up with “Wait, that’s not what you were going to say! Oh my god, you’re actually choking back tears, what the fuck?” is Exhibit D or E or something, I’ve lost count. She knows, and now she knows that he knows. It’s very sad.
At SCDP, Joan is on a ladder plucking pencils from the ceiling. Peggy calls her down to open the awesome box of roses she got. “It’s so encouraging to see someone happily married around here,” Peggy chirps, but as soon as Joan reads the card she storms over to Lane’s office and hurls the roses right at him. Awesome. Apparently the card says “Darling, I’ve been an ass. Kisses, Lane.” Which, ha. Joan is AWESOME. She’s furious – she rages that even after all the shit she’s gotten from all the other guys, he’s the only one to consistently make her feel like a little girl. Meanwhile, offscreen in London somewhere, Mrs. Pryce reads a card that says “Joan, Forgive me. Lane.” Sad trombone. Once they realize what’s happened, Joan’s wrath transfers neatly over to Lane’s poor secretary, who may or may not have mixed up the messages with the two boxes of flowers he sent out. This has the fun side effect of giving Joan and Lane something to team up about, because goddammit, this office is going to run smoothly and they have no time for incompetence. It’s something they have in common. Poor Sandy says it was the florist who screwed up. “Sandra, everyone makes mistakes,” Joan says carefully. “But the fact that you’re the kind of person that cannot accept blame is egregious.” Lane’s eyes light up with sudden and utter respect for Joan. Sandy: “…I don’t know what that means.” Well, it means she’s fired, poor thing. Picked a bad day to…well, probably not really do anything wrong at all. Sorry. And that’s that for the big Lane-Joan feud! I hope they team up more.
No worries, Don! I’m sure the next dead war hero whose identity you steal will have a widow just as forgiving and unconditionally loving as this one!
Another that which is about to be that: Don’s farewell to Anna. He’s all packed up and dressed up for the plane ride (you know, how your grandparents always talk about how people used to dress up to get on airplanes, and how wanting to wear comfy jeans for hours and hours in a cramped pressurized cabin is somehow a symbol of everything that’s wrong with America, or whatever) and he finds her in the living room, painting a little flower on the wall he just finished. She invites him to sign his work, so he writes “DICK & ANNA ’64.” Aww. He hugs her like I don’t think I’ve ever seen him hug anyone. “You’ll make the best of it,” she tells him. “You always do.” And that, as previously mentioned, is that.
On the plane, he stares off into space as a stewardess tries to get his attention. She has to say “Mr. Draper?” a few times before it occurs to him that oh right, that’s me! Apparently it’s midnight. “Happy New Year,” she says, handing him some kind of hideous dessert and one of those ridiculous rolly uppy “PHOOOOOT” things. Phoooot indeed, Don. Phooooot indeed.
Anyone who turns this….
Dr. Greg “FAIL” Harris comes home in the wee hours to what he expects to be a dark apartment, but finds the awesomest wife in the universe instead. She puts a lei around his neck and says that since they missed midnight in New York, they’ll just celebrate with Hawaii. Aww. Joan and her adorable hair slip into the kitchen to make him some fresh-squeezed orange juice he doesn’t deserve, but she slices into her finger instead! Oh no, somebody call a doctor! Seriously, Joan actually says “we should go to the hospital!” I don’t know if she realized it before now, but she doesn’t trust Greg any more than I do to be even a competent finger-sewer-upper. But guess what? He’s calm, he’s gentle, and he treats her with genuine affection. He jokes around, calms her down, and generally mans up and gets that shit DID. Go figure. Now, he does say “For me this is like filing papers is for you!” proving again that he just thinks Joan sits in a typing pool all day or something. “I don’t do that anymore, I have other people do that,” she mutters irritably, like it’s maybe something she has to clarify on a regular basis. Joan watches him stitch her up, by the way, instead of looking away like you’d expect a poor fragile woman to, which is a completely awesome choice by either a great director or a great actress. She gradually starts looking at him like cartoon hearts might start shooting out of her eyeballs, and by the end of his hillbilly joke (punchline: Donkey dick!) she just melts into tears. I don’t know if it’s guilt for not trusting him, or hell, maybe she’s suddenly remembering that she actually loves the rapey faily bastard. Her plans for the future have all been very businesslike, but here she is, actually seeing her husband, and realizing that at some point he’s going to leave, and she’ll be alone, and she doesn’t know if he’ll come back. And who’s gonna sew up her finger next time? “Everything’s going to be okay,” he says. “When?” She sobs pitifully. Touché.
…into this, is on my shit list, no matter how unexpectedly competent their elementary surgical skills are.
And hey, look at that, Don’s at the office. I guess “the only person in the world who loves you for who you are is about to die painfully” isn’t the best sentiment to take on vacation, so he’s going back to his real home: Work. He’s surprised to find the front door open, and even more surprised to find Lane there, alone, and decidedly not in London with his family. Lane shares some expensive birthday scotch with Don, telling him that “although things are precarious financially, it’s been a magnificent year.” They both pretend to work for a while, but eventually Don gives up any pretense. “We’re going to the movies,” he announces to Lane. He reads the listings out loud from the paper through mouthfuls of sandwich, and when he gets to Send Me No Flowers, Lane can’t say “NO!” quick enough. Heh. So the next logical step is obviously GAMERA! Awesome. (Although I recommend this version instead.) They’re like teenagers in the theater, way too loud, drunkenly estimating the percentage of hand jobs going on around them, etc. When Lane is shushed by a little old lady he responds with hilarious fake Japanese. It’s pretty great. Don needs more friends!
Their evening continues, as all good dates should, with steak. Lane loves New York. His wife hates it. And as of today, she’s officially not coming back. He asks Don when he knew it was over with Betty. “It wasn’t my idea,” Don understates, “and I’ve learned the hard way not to give advice in these situations.” And I belatedly realize he’s probably talking about his (drunken of course) conversation with Roger, in which Roger, trying to help, mentions Henry Francis, assuming he knows about Betty because absolutely everyone else does, but nope, that just makes it way, way worse. “You’re supposed to tell me to get on a plane!” Lane laughs, sadly. “Is that what you want?” Don says, quoting the psychologist from last week, “Or what’s expected of you?” DUN! Lane chooses to answer by loudly slamming the table with his fists and growling “I want my BEEF!” And here it comes, with the little plastic “medium rare!” cow stuck into it. I want some of those! Don decides that he owes this guy. This is what his last Christmas was like, and he’s feeling charitable. He’s meeting a really expensive face-slapping prostitute Lady Friend later, and she could bring a friend for Lane if he’s interested. He hems and haws awhile but eventually accepts. After which he makes a complete ass out of himself by grabbing his T-bone with his bare hands and slamming it up against his crotch, yelling “Look at me! I got a big Texas belt buckle! Yee-haw!”
He’s an alien! He’s a legal alien! He’s an Englishman in New York!
They head to a comedy club for some reason to meet up with the aforementioned ladies. The standup gives them a bunch of shit about being gay, which is actually pretty funny, especially when Lane yells “We’re not homosexuals, we’re divorced!” Their cleavagey, overly coiffed “dates” show up, and they head back to Don’s sad apartment of brownness. Don’s girl, who I think he introduced as “Candy,” which is totally her real name I bet, is rooting around in his kitchen like a girlfriend. Oh yeah, she’s spent a lot of time there. Her friend Janine likes Don’s apartment. “It’s very manly!” Don says it came this way. “I think Norman Mailer shot a deer over there.” Janine doesn’t get it. “I love deer,” she says, hilariously, then asks Lane to “show her around” this one-bedroom apartment he’s never seen before. They start towards what I think must be a dining room turned into a kid room, and Don snaps “Not in there!” So they get Don’s bedroom. Don, for the second week in a row, takes the couch.
Lane handles the next morning’s Walk of Shame better than I would have guessed. He just kind of stammers some thanks in Don’s general direction, and pays Don for the girl. $25. ”Fascinating,” Lane says, and I agree. It’s a steal! “Thank you for the welcome distraction,” he tells Don on his way out. Don was glad to have one of those too.
SCDP’s morning meeting. Joan is at the head of the table, for many obvious reasons. Lane’s a bit late coming in, but no big deal. “Alright, gentlemen,” Joan says. “Shall we begin 1965?” They shall! And good riddance to 1964. Don’t let 1963 hit you in the ass on your way out.
In case there was any confusion about who actually runs the place.
Next week: A bunch of random, out-of-context clips that say absolutely nothing about the actual episode! That’s always what’s next week. Looks like there’s some Pete and some Roger, though, and maybe even some Trudy! Yay!