Everyone’s Waking Up in Lady Lazarus

Written by  //  May 8, 2012  //  Televised Entertainment in Review  //  6 Comments

Breaking: I just might have to take my hate for Pete Campbell back… Maybe

The title of this week’s episode, “Lady Lazarus” is taken from the 1962 poem by Sylvia Plath. Written just a few months prior to her suicide at the age of 30, the poem recounts a woman who has tried several times to end her life only to be revived, and thus reborn. She vows at the end that the next time she rises she’s going to devour those that try to keep her alive. Referencing the Phoenix rising from the ashes, the poem/episode title also ties in nicely with the Beatle’s song featured at the end, “Tomorrow Never Knows” which also deals with themes of death and rebirth, but in a more positive spin. Whereas “Lady Lazarus” seems to celebrate the death of the body and thus the end of suffering, TNK focuses on the potential for reinvention and for opening one’s mind to letting go of past constraints and embracing the potential for new beginnings.

And that’s what this week was all about – life is changing for all of our friends at SCDP – some more than others, but no one seems to be immune from the passage of time and the repercussions of their actions. This week belonged to Megan and Peter; with Don, Peggy and Roger playing central roles as well. At the start of her storyline this week, Megan tells Don she has to work late and can’t accompany him to a client dinner. After he goes she tells Peggy that she’s been summoned to the dinner she just bailed on and leaves in a nice sweater dress – not what she wore to work. Don calls later wondering where Megan is and Peggy gets flustered, unsure how to answer, and her “PIZZA HAUS!” shout into the phone is pretty hilarious.

When Megan gets home, dressed back in her work clothes, Don mentions that he called the office and upset Peggy. Megan tells him that she only said that to Peggy to get out of work so she could meet friends for drinks. The next morning Peggy corners Megan in the bathroom and demands an answer, assuming that Megan is cheating. Megan swears she’s not and reveals she went to a call back audition. She admits she doesn’t like being an ad-writer and misses acting. Peggy initially tries to convince her to stay, but when Megan admits how much she hates the job Peggy lashes out at her for taking a position that many people would kill for, and tells her to admit how she feels to Don ASAP.

They all then head into Don’s office to talk about upcoming projects. The discussion of the day is Cool Whip, and Ken mentions that “everyone’s” buzzing about how Don and Megan tag-teamed Heinz at dinner to win the account. He wants to use the same banter he and Megan exchanged for Heinz on Cool Whip – Don and Megan pitch the idea for a commercial, and it’s very cute and flirty. The others love it, and they set up a meeting at CW’s test kitchen to pitch the ad.

That night Megan wakes Don up and admits that she lied about where she was yesterday. She tells him she really wants to act and doesn’t want to be at SCDP anymore. He’s resistant at first, but then concedes that she has to do what makes her happy, and tells her he’ll make it happen the very next day. That next morning he pretty much hustles her out of the office – he makes a quick announcement to Joan and asks her to take care of it and Joan suggests lunch with the girls.

After Megan makes her announcement to her team (Peggy, Stan & Ginsburg) that she’s leaving and has to walk out so they don’t see her cry, the guys make fun but Peggy interjects that she thinks it’s incredibly brave of her to leave in order to pursue her dreams. She bumps into Joan afterward and admits that she’s afraid Megan’s leaving because of how hard she was on her the other night. Joan cracks that she’s following in Jane Sterling’s footsteps – she started out as a secretary, and now she’s using the veil of acting aspirations to get out of having to work a “real” job. Peggy disagrees, and thinks that Megan is going to be great at anything she tries. I wonder partly if Peggy’s rumored latent homosexuality is going to rear its head here, but I hope not – I like that Peggy’s supportive, it’s too often that you see girls being catty with each other on TV (and everywhere) and I like to see that not every woman is a jealous vindictive bitch (there can be only ONE).

There’s an interesting exchange at the end of Megan’s storyline as she’s leaving for lunch: She says she’s going to come back for her things – Don tells her not to bother, he’ll bring them home, and to spare herself the hurt of having to say goodbye all over again. He walks her to the elevator and after she leaves he presses the button for one for himself and the doors open to an empty shaft. He stares down at it for a long time before stepping back and letting the doors close. I think the writers are trying to toy with us here – making the viewers really guess who’s going to bite it this season. It seems silly to me to think that Don would be the one to die, as the whole show is centered on him. But he’s so sad this episode, so conflicted with how he feels – wanting to keep his beautiful wife close to him but at the same time not wanting to hold onto her so tightly that she suffocates and leaves him.

He goes back to talk to the Chevalier Blanc team – Ginsburg has pitched the idea of a musician running from crazed fans hungry for his scent, and they’ve picked the song “Remember September in the Rain” (it’s pouring outside, if that means anything) as the song playing as their Beatlesesque model runs away from the screaming girls. Don hates the song, recognizing that it sounds far too dated for what they want to achieve. He admits he knows nothing about current music – and the first inkling that they really need Megan back is planted. This is reiterated when Don, Ken and Peggy go to the Cool Whip tasting to pitch the ad. Don and Peggy totally bomb – Peggy forgets her lines, Don doesn’t have the same chemistry with her that he does with Megan – CW obviously isn’t interested, and they try to come up with ways to fix the damage they just did, Don blaming Peggy for it, and Peggy getting angry. She’s pretty much angry this whole episode, just go with it.

As much as you all know I can’t stand this guy, the real star this week was Pete Campbell – many are speculating that he’ll be the one to die this season in a possible suicide. The writer’s have made several hints that this may be the case – we know from passing conversation that he keeps a gun in the home, and this week he mentioned a suicide clause in his life insurance that kicks in after two years of employment as he’s speaking to his train buddy Howard Dawes, a life insurance agent. He’s chatted with him before on the way home, and this time Dawes advises him to get life insurance to provide for his family and then get himself a pretty mistress in the city to spend weeknights with, as he has. It surprised me that the idea didn’t seem more appealing to Pete given his tryst a few weeks ago with a prostitute, but then he stepped off the train the next night – sans Howard – and bumps into Howard’s wife, Beth. She’s waiting for her husband to come home, and Pete attempts to cover for him. She admits that she needs a ride as she’s locked her keys in the car, and Pete obliges.

During the ride Beth tries to pump him for dirt on her husband, but Pete won’t tell her where he really is. She becomes upset and storms out of the car when they arrive at her house and Pete follows her inside. I think this might be the first time that I can say I actually enjoyed Peter Campbell – he’s still a total skeez, don’t get me wrong – but this week he was a heartbreaking skeez. There’s something about Beth that turns him on – at first I couldn’t pin it down, but the more I thought about it, it made perfect sense. Beth Dawes, played by Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants’ Alexis Bledel, is a kind of woman he’s never encountered. She’s not the cookie cutter, freakishly pleasant at all times suburban zombie his wife Trudy is, she’s not a whore to be used – she’s a real woman. She’s honest in a way that Pete’s never seen before, and he’s immediately infatuated. They have sex right there on her living room floor, and when it’s over Pete’s obviously smitten. Beth tells him this can never happen again, and Pete’s completely bereft at her rebuke.

The next day he calls her trying to arrange a meeting and she turns him down, telling him to forget her, but she’s all he can think of. When he finds out from Harry Crane that Megan is abruptly quitting he lashes out, making a crack to Harry that he should save his opinions for his “convention whores” (which made me giggle as I wonder if that’s a crack at the recent Secret Service flap), but it’s obvious his anger is really directed at Beth and her refusal to see him again. “Why do they get to decide what’s going to happen?” He can’t let this end and when he sees Howard on the train that evening he comes up with an excuse to get a dinner invite. When he shows up at the Dawes house he pretends not to know Beth, then when Howard leaves the room he sets himself on her, kissing her passionately, slipping her money and a hotel name written on a slip of paper, begging her to meet him that night. She feigns a headache and can’t cook dinner, and Pete leaves. He goes and gets a room, but gets stood up. The anger and sadness on his face is crushing, it makes you forget that he’s cheating on his wife, and asking another man’s wife to cheat with him. You just want him, for one second, to really feel something honest with another human being. You realize that Pete’s growing up – that he wants that for himself more than he probably ever realized. And it makes you wonder just how desperate is Pete going to get? And how far will he go to obtain some sense of peace with himself?

Just as Pete’s struggling with his feelings, so is Don – he’s lonely, but wants Megan to follow her dreams and not turn out like Betty – sacrificing her own goals for Don’s to the point that she becomes miserable. But there’s also a part of you that wonders if it’s actually Don that’s going to be left feeling empty – he comes home that night and Megan is just getting ready to leave for class – she kisses him, and seems so happy, then tells him she was thinking of him, and that she went and got the new Beatle’s album (Revolver,  which came out in ’66, for those wondering exactly where we are right now, historically) and says to listen to “Tomorrow Never Knows” to get a vibe for what’s hot right now.

He seems so sad to be left alone in the house. He puts on the record and as he listens, there’s a montage of what the others are doing: Peggy is at the office with Stan & Ginsburg, writing and smoking pot, and you’re struck by how empty her life is becoming too. Yes, she has Abe who’s moved in, but really her entire life is this job – perhaps Peggy is going to realize soon that she wants more out of life than just a successful career.

Pete gets off the train and gets in his car; he sees Beth and looks at her with his heart just utterly broken to the point that you actually feel sorry for him. She barely glances at him, but reaches up and traces a heart with her finger on the fogged up window, she looks at him one more time then looks away as she rolls the window down to erase her message before they drive away. He looks near tears, his face breaking up in his sadness. We go back to Don and he’s sitting in his den looking out the window, listening to the song and it’s hard to gauge his thoughts – is he sad? Wistful? He turns off the music, and walks to his room; a long shot of the empty den closes the episode, and I couldn’t help but be left with this feeling of sadness for these characters we’ve grown close to – watching them just now starting to face the consequences of allowing a job to consume you so completely.

About the Author

"Two Fingers" Berben

Our illustrious managing editor, Vanessa “2 Fingers” Berben, gets in fights with her friends about how much deeper they should be feeling this episode of TNG. A researcher/curator for Nintendo's i.TV app, you can stalk her around the web at The Huffington Post, Starburst Magazine and FEARnet and in the latest issues of Starburst and Stiff Magazine. Follow her (preferably whilst humming the Imperial March) on twitter , facebook and tumblr.

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6 Comments on "Everyone’s Waking Up in Lady Lazarus"

  1. Maximilian Archimedes Stonebuner May 8, 2012 at 7:07 pm · Reply

    Very solid setup episode for things to come… Still not quite sure what the open elevator shaft means… Maybe foreshadowing that Chiclets McGee will in fact leave Don? He tries to catch her but encounters an empty elevator shaft? Who knows what Wiener is thinking ever. Great to see Mr. Belding though! You know all the younger guys were taking pictures with him, getting him to say, “Hey hey hey HEY! What is going on here??”

    • Alistair Blake Arabella
      Alistair Blake Arabella May 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm · Reply

      I couldn’t believe that Mr. Belding was there – so awesome. Other bloggers are calling this episode “Saved by the Bledel” – ha!
      I hope Megan doesn’t leave – I think she’s good for him. But he’s grasping at her so tightly. Although, he IS trying – I have to give him that – he’s trying not to be so controlling – I think the whole ditch & tackle thing made him snap out of it a bit. Although as soon as Chicky Chiclet’s gets any kind of fame you know he’s over it.

  2. Mark in Omaha May 8, 2012 at 7:31 pm · Reply

    Great review as always. Crunch time at work and flying out on Friday so this will have to be short and sweet. Also will miss Sunday’s episode and will have to pick it up on another showing or something so won’t post for that one until I can watch it.

    Still don’t have any sympathy for Pete. Was the whole thing a setup by Rory Gillmore? First she is waiting for her husband and “accidently” locks her keys in the car needing a ride home, then she says she knows he is staying in the city and has a girlfriend, then is all over Pete before he knows what hit him. I’m thinking revenge sex.

    Have no idea who Mr Belding is/was and never saw the show he was in.

    I think the open elevator shaft was another metaphor and didn’t really exist.

    Did you get the song lyrics I sent? Close your eyes, relax, and float downstream. You are not dying. You are not dying. (Second favorite Beatles song after She Said She Said off my favorite Beatles album and my late girlfriend bought me a necktie of the Revolver album). Heard they spend $250,000 for the right to play that song on their show. Another poster on another site (Sorry, I’m a web player, but you are still my favorite) asked how many zombies that could have bought? Don’t think it touched Don the way she was hoping.

    Don and Peggy fighting like a married couple. Also from another site, do you think Peggy is throwing off gay vibes? I don’t see it myself.

    Joan’s comment about second wive’s and do they have a play book or something? Another failed actress with a rich husband. Fabulous. Or maybe she succeeds and leaves Don in the dust? I still have my money on Mr. Don Draper not surviving. Jon Hamm probably wants to start doing other projects and hasn’t Mad Men already said everything they have to say?

    Beth drawing the little heart on the window then erasing it, total mind fuck. Also did you catch the comment she made about men paying attention to her even before it was appropriate? I’ve been with a few and this chick’s persona screams sexual abuse. Maybe Pete will buy it, at the hand of a psycho or Trudy’s Dad.

    • Alistair Blake Arabella
      Alistair Blake Arabella May 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm · Reply

      Awww I’m your favorite!! Yay! I’m going to miss you next week!
      Okay – so to be totally honest – I DON’T get gay vibes off of Peggy, but I did engage with some of the HuffPost viewers, and many of them think that she’s gay – I just don’t see it. I think she’s open minded enough that if she wanted to mess around with girls she would, and just keep it from her mother. Do you remember a few weeks ago when she had Dawn come back to her apartment then eyed her purse? A few people thought she was hitting on Dawn then it got awkward – I totally missed that, but thought it was worth throwing it out there in case some people reading think she’s a touch of the gay.
      I love the Beatles – I think Blackbird might be my all-time fave because it reminds me of my father. He was always hoping to get out of the south, out of economic depression – he enlisted to see the world and get a college education, first of his siblings to get a degree. I hear Blackbird, and I always cry from memories. I’m a bit of a sap.
      I love Tomorrow Never Knows – it’s another fave – nice call with the tie! When I got married we were at the Mirage in Vegas and LOVE was the one show we saw – so incredible.
      Dennis Haskins (how freakish am I that I didn’t even have to look that up) played the harried Principal Mr. Belding in the 90’s teen comedy “Saved by the Bell” – it’s HUGE in the 20-30’s crowd – it came on every day, sometimes several times a day – and just followed the shenanigans of a group of friends. But we love it because it was total cheese, and Haskins was a big part of the show, and a very much loved character – seeing him this week was just a total thrill to our pre-teen hearts.
      I don’t know why you keep thinking Draper’s going to die! They can’t kill the lead! I know they’ve only got one season left, but come on!

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