Everyone’s Waking Up in Lady Lazarus
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.