This week on “Mad Men,” Peggy became the proud owner of 19th century erotic octopus art, Joan called it quits for good, and Don embarked on an impromptu cross-country road trip. Buckle up, kids, because “Lost Horizon” was one wild ride.
Episode 12 begins with a classic “Mad Men” shot, the elevator scene. This time, however, the show uses a familiar shot to introduce us to a new frontier: the offices of McCann-Erickson. With the acquisition finalized, SC&P is truly dead and gone. “Mad Men” spends much of “Lost Horizon” following the partners as they adjust to life at McCann — some with greater success than others.
I said it last week, and I’ll say it again: poor Joan. After a call to Avon goes terribly awry, thanks to the fumbling of a McCann account man, Joan appeals to Ferg Donnelly for help. She wants to service the account in the best way she knows how: by herself. Ferg agrees to help her, but his eagerness seems entirely too good to be true. That’s because it is. The pair meet in Joan’s office, and it becomes clear that while Joan just wants to protect her piece of the Avon account, Ferg just wants a piece of Joan.
What follows is one of the most palpably sickening meeting scenes in “Mad Men” history (and there have been many). Ferg makes it clear that in exchange for his help, he expects sexual favors from Joan. “We can’t lose those accounts,” he smirks as he leaves Joan’s office. “What would you do around here?”
Ferg’s reminder is a not-so-thinly veiled threat: Sleep with me to save the accounts, or lose your job entirely. And after a similarly explosive meeting with Jim Hobart, Joan does indeed lose her job — though she’s able to do so with her head held high and her dignity intact.
Meanwhile, Don spends most of the episode staring out various windows. Seriously.
First, he looks out the window in his new office, gripping the sides of the glass pane with both hands — a detail that fans, many of whom believe the falling man in the title credits is none other than Don himself, are sure to pick up on. Next, he stares out the conference room window during his first big meeting as one of McCann’s many creative directors. The meeting is with Miller beer, an account McCann bought an entire agency in Milwaukee to secure.
Perhaps nothing better illuminates McCann’s corporate character (so different from SC&P’s by-the-bootstraps vitality) than the greed underpinning McCann’s litany of buyouts. First, McCann bought SC&P because Jim wanted to get his hands on Don. Then, McCann bought a no-name Milwaukee agency to secure a single account.
It is clear, then, that McCann is a sprawling, labyrinthine mega-agency — a fact supported by an array of details throughout the episode. First, there’s Don’s beer meeting, where he’s just one of half a dozen creative directors in the room. As the meeting gets underway, we get a shot of his companions, all of whom — like expressionless automatons — open their briefs at the exact same moment. Peggy is left out of the loop entirely after a management mix-up leaves her without an office for the week. Instead, she’s forced to camp out at the empty SC&P offices, where — through a delightful turn of events that may or may not have included a bottle of vermouth and a dejected Roger Sterling — she ends up roller-skating through the office, accompanied by Roger on the organ. When “Mad Men” goes surreal (which happens with surprising frequency), it is always either utterly unsettling or entirely charming. In the case of late-night office organ music and roller-skating, it’s a bit of both.
But back to Don’s window-staring proclivities. This time, he’s staring out the windshield of his Cadillac as he drives off to Racine, Wisconsin. The late-night trip, we learn, is a quest to find Diana, the former waitress who skipped town in last week’s episode. Don shows up at the home Diana’s ex-husband, Cliff, shares with his new wife and tries to con his way into finding out Diana’s whereabouts. Cliff sees through Don’s ruse and sends him on his way. ““You think you’re the first one who came looking for her?” Cliff admonishes Don. “She’s a tornado, just leaving a trail of broken bodies behind her.”
It’s not the last shot of the episode (that would be Don, driving into the distance after his trip to Racine), but it’s certainly the strongest: Peggy, clad in Clubmaster-style sunglasses with a cigarette dangling between her lips, walks down the hallway at McCann. She’s headed to her new office, with an erotic octopus print (a gift from Roger) under one arm and all the confidence in the world. Don’s headed for who knows where, but for Peggy, the horizon is clear and the future is bright … at least until next week’s episode.
- So much Meredith in this episode! It turns out that everyone’s favorite secretary is a former Army brat with a serious knack for interior design. True hero that she is, she’s even taken up the task of decorating Don’s new apartment and lying to Jim on his behalf.
- That print of Bert Cooper’s that Roger gives to Peggy? The one he describes as “an octopus pleasuring a lady”? It’s a Japanese ukiyo-e woodcut by the artist Hokusai. The 1814 print, known as “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife,” is very famous — it even has its own Wikipedia page.
- It’s always interesting to watch Don’s post-divorce interactions with Betty, and this week’s casual shoulder rub was no different. It also seems fitting that Betty, whom we saw struggle through some old-school psychoanalysis in season one, is now reading Freud and pursuing a master’s degree in psychology. “Mad Men” isn’t a show particularly concerned with tidy endings, but some things truly come full circle.