I’d like to spend this week’s “Mad Men” recap focusing on the fact that Lane Pryce pretty much destroyed the agency by creating the false impression that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has a cash surplus. But I can’t because —
HOLY SITAR, PAUL KINSEY IS A HARE KRISHNA NOW.
Sorry. As I was saying, Lane cut a check to himself to pay off the tax debt he apparently owes back in the U.K. And while doing so, he forged Don Draper’s name on that check, which will totally come back to bite him because, of course, there’s no way to pretend to be the ultimate pretender and get away with it.
DID YOU HEAR ME? PAUL IS A HARE KRISHNA NOW, COMPLETE WITH SHAVED HEAD AND A PROPENSITY TO CHANT AND A RELATIONSHIP WITH A FORMER PROSTITUTE WHO GOES BY THE NAME MOTHER LAKSHMI AND AN UNFORTUNATE TENDENCY TO SIMULTANEOUSLY WEAR TOGAS WITH TURTLENECKS. ALTHOUGH — AND AT THIS POINT, I’M TAKING THIS DOWN A NOTCH AND OUT OF ALL-CAPS — maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised. Paul, former copywriter for Sterling Cooper, was once a beatnik. And being a beatnik earlier in the ’60s is sort of like the gateway drug to dabbling in Hare Krishna-dom in the latter 1960s, at least from a TV narrative standpoint.
And speaking of TV narratives, in this episode, “Christmas Waltz,” Paul got to utter what might be my favorite line of dialogue so far from this season of “Mad Men”: “I think it’s the most meaningful work I’ve ever done in my life. It’s a speculative episode of the hit television show ‘Star Trek.’” I mean, that’s right up there with “Pizza house!”
But actually, come to think of it, I don’t even want to devote too much time to Paul the Hare Krishna who may have long-conned Harry out of $500, or even Lane’s behavior, which, mark my words, will have consequences. I actually want to talk about how much I want Don to sleep with Joan.
Some things about Don and Joan — who, it should be noted, we all thought early in the season might become a “thing” that would threaten Don and Megan — came into clear focus this week. We now know for certain that Roger knows Joan’s son is his, and that he’s been trying to send clandestine child support payments but Joan has rejected them. We also know that her husband Greg served her with divorce papers, a move that prompted Joan to throw a model airplane at the mouse of a receptionist, prompting Don to swoop in, put his arm around her waist and pull her out of the office and into a Jaguar dealership.
At this point, it must be mentioned that Don’s malaise since Megan left the office has not gone away. In fact, it’s only deepened. After seeing a play (also featuring people in turtlenecks) in which one of the lead characters criticized the business of advertising, it became more clear why that is.
“No one’s made a stronger stand against advertising than you,” Don told Megan after she tried to downplay the message conveyed by that piece of experimental theater. Don’s relationship with Betty ended because she never really knew him; she rejected him for pretending to be someone he wasn’t. Megan really does know Don. And in Don’s mind, by leaving her job at the agency, Megan has done something more hurtful than Betty did: She’s rejected who he is, at his core. He misses the man he used to be: the guy who was leading sort of a sham life but was also the master of any domain he graced with his magic touch.
Enter Joan, who aided Don in his research of their future big-car client, Jaguar, by pretending to be his wife and zeroing in on the Ferris Bueller car — the Jaguar XK-E. Don — in the suave Don Draper mode of yore — plunked down $6K so they could drive that car to a nearby bar, have drinks and engage in heavy flirtation. Like, heavy flirtation with a lot of heat and more than a few shots of nostalgia.
So, technically, I’ve never read “Fifty Shades of Grey.” But I’m pretty sure that the sight of Don Draper in a fedora saying things like “You wanna dance?” and “What look, baby?” has pretty the same effect on women from an arousal standpoint. (“God, you’re irresistible,” cooed Joan. Oh, amen, sister.)
Yet Joan resisted. Because clearly she couldn’t hear me in my living room shouting, “Dance with him. Do it now, or I’ll jump into the TV and do it myself!” But something tells me she won’t resist for long. Sitting together at that bar as Christmas lights twinkled wistfully in the background, Don and Joan looked just beautiful together, a portrait of an era of glamour that has now given way to Hare Krishna chants and LSD trips and guys named Ginsberg who come up with more clever campaigns for Snoball that “accidentally” get left in cabs. Joan, both fiercely independent and clearly smitten by potential prince charmings, offers Don something that Megan — aspiring actor and thrower of spaghetti plates — can’t: clear memories of the way he was at the apex of his masculine and professional powers.
And so Don, the one guy who never gave Joanie flowers, finally sent her a bouquet of exquisite roses. He said at the bar that when he first joined the old firm, which would have been in the 1950s, he thought Joan was dating Ali Khan, a presumed reference to the prince and former husband of Rita Hayworth. “My mother raised me to be admired,” Joan declared.
The card on those roses said: “Your mother did a good job.” And it was signed Ali Khan.
Is Don Joan’s prince? Is it a good idea for them to be together even if their hook-up would be a total pleasure for viewers to witness? Will Don freak out if/when he realizes that Roger is the father of Joan’s son?
Please, try to answer these questions in the comments. For now, all I know is this: the Don/Joan thing is so not over. I’ve rewatched that scene with Jon Hamm and the fedora at least six times. Oh, and also:
PAUL KINSEY IS A HARE KRISHNA!