Mad Men

Season 2 Episode 13

Meditations in an Emergency

Aired Sunday 10:00 PM Oct 26, 2008 on AMC
out of 10
User Rating
247 votes

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Episode Summary

Sterling Cooper is in play and the office scrambles without Don and Betty learns some disconcerting news.

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  • The end of Mad Men's second season.

    In case you didn't pick up on it the whole Cuban Missile Crisis was used as a metaphor here. The idea that the "end of the world" was coming symbolized the impending doom for several Sterling Cooper employees, but more importantly the marriage between Don and Betty Draper. Fortunately the world did survive the 1960's and Don and Betty are back together.

    This episode did a good job putting over the importance of the events going on. Everything felt real and felt like a huge deal. The business meaning regarding the merger and the announcement of ultimate megalomaniac Duck being named President only for Don to oppose and walk was the kind of intensity this show has been lacking.

    I have been quick to point out the suddenness of the conclusions of previous installments, but here things ended at a climatic point with the revealing of the pregnancy. I realize some fans are excited about the prospect of this and what it will mean to the world of Don Draper if he can continue cheating on a pregnant wife, but I just cannot seem to get into it. This is something better suited for The CW Network not the Emmy winner for Outstanding Drama Series.

    A good way to finish off a mixed bag of a season for Mad Men. I do not see a repeat at the Emmys for the AMC drama but I will say that I was entertained by this episode. I look forward to seeing the progression of Pete and Peggy's unique relationship and Round 2 of the fight between Duck and Don.moreless
  • Betty, yes! Don, yes! Peggy, yes! Pete, yes!

    Go Betty! She got even with Don, she took him back and she's so in control! I gulped when I saw Don at the stables. And although it is a bit like last season (don at the end realising he wants to be with his wife and kids), it's still very fitting in this episode. Great how they used the anxiety of that moment to help the stories along. There's no tomorrow, so why lie. Revealing everything Peggy and Pete will be in for a great story next season, maybe even taking over the lead from Don and Betty. Don and Peggy are so cute together. He noticed her haircut straight away :)

    I didn't quite get the meeting with the Brits, but will probably be explained later. Great season finale!moreless
  • Don's. Back. :)

    When Peggy told Pete about the child, it was probably because of the pressure from her priest. She believes her sin is between her and G-d, but she probably figures Pete should know, too. Now, I didn't see them leaving together from that office to track down the child she gave up, but I can definitely see Pete doing so, especially since he's desperate for a biological child and his wife is barren.

    I noticed this in the last episode more, but there was some of it in this episode, too. When people are forced to think about where Don is, their answers are sort of like a Rohrshach test. One says he's off establishing a West Coast office, and another says he's having marital troubles, and another says he's pursuing accounts. That was Pete, by the way, who was more confrontational than his boss, even. And also, he was so hungry for praise that he left straightaway Don gave him some, without demanding the explanation he was demanding seconds before.

    Oh, that and he's been put in charge of accounts in the new regime -- on the heels of losing Clearasil -- so he's feeling pretty secure.

    Duck, duck, ducky, you are so transparent. Don is playing you from here. The second Pete let him know about Duck's big move, Don set about undermining him. Hell, Don had been absent from the building and incommunicado with everyone, including his wife, heading into that meeting. He had more confidence heading into that PPL meeting than any of his colleagues even just finding out about PPL. That meeting would've torn the floor from under a lesser man. With Don it was just, Oh, me? Well, um, you said you don't need me and so you don't have me. I'm not under contract. BYE!

    Glass of water for Duck. Never mind Pete, I'm more worried Duck will be out on a ledge. He just can't win, and Don seems to expend zero effort in his victories against him.

    And that letter from Don to Betty said everything she needed to hear, especially in the time she took "getting even." I still think she's a flaky tramp, and I loved that how after exiling him from his home, she's offended when he's unavailable. Betty, Betty, Betty.

    Of course, the women in the beauty shop were so on edge in sniping at each other I wouldn't have been surprised if Rod Serling walked in.

    The whole episode rests in the context of the Cuba Missile Crisis. The title is taken from the copy of "Meditations in a Emergency," a slim paperback introduced at the beginning of Don and Betty's most recent troubles and resurfacing in "Mountain King" as part of our window on Dick's reinvention of himself as Don Draper. Don cleans himself of his past in a few conciliatory words (again, the exact words Betty needs to hear) and in even fewer at the office (he tells Roger "I'll stack my absences up against yours any day.") Roger's threats of firing him are impotent before they leave his head. Don knows where every single body is buried, and in a time of transition, that's some serious power.

    I imagine the Civil Rights movement, the death of Marilyn Monroe and the end-of-the-world atmosphere they explored this season caused quite a lot of people to re-evaluate their social ideals. If life can snuff out at any moment -- the first time in human history that was really possible, btw -- it's only sensible for people to do whatever it takes to be happy. Get out of bad marriages. Get out of bad career choices. Paint everything orange. Kill yourself -- at least take that amount of control. Burn your bra. Burn your draft card. Live life to the fullest because you might not get a tomorrow.

    These are the sorts of pressures that fuel a counterculture, and we haven't even hit November of 1963 yet.

    Now ... put all of that -- including all of the subtext we're aware of -- up against that final image of the Drapers as the happy nuclear family watching television together.

    Meditations in an emergency. Nicely played, people. Come back soon.moreless
  • Best programme on TV at the moment

    What an ending to the season, with the Cuban missile crisis playing out in the background, people's lives are changed forever and it's the women that are to the fore, Peggy shatter's Pete's unrealistic dreams and leaves him contemplating his future, after behaving just like Don Betty takes Don back but it looks like it's for her own selfish reasons, but Don has realised that Betty and his children complete him. It leaves loads of questions to be resolved next season, will the merger still go ahead and what will happen with Duck & Don - will either of them be at Sterling Cooper next season, although this season has been slow in places I've loved the fact that the writers have delved more into the characters and look forward to season 3moreless
  • season finale set against the cuban missle crisis. The series is excelent in showing the times and how it impacted the characters as major decisions were made.

    I was very pleasantly suprised by this episode. It cleverly used the cuban missle crisis as a catalyst for the characters decisions.

    First, Betty got even by picking up a guy in a bar. Loved the fact they didn't even leave the bar. The bartender was appalled! loved that as he thought she was classy. After that, it seems Betty has decided to take Don back (it was implied rather than stated) The missle crisis rearranged priorities and both Don and Betty made big decisions. Don rediscovered his love for Betty and I believe Betty's decision was more practical as she discovered she is pregnant again. January Jones was great as she plays icy wonderfully. Her lack of enthusiasm for the preganancy was poignant. She did consider abortion, but it looks like she decided against it and took Don back instead.

    I was also surprised by Peggy revealing the preganancy to Pete. I didn't think she would do that, but the writiers again used the missle crisis emergency to allow the characters to be unusually honest. Pete also stated he loved peggy, and it looks like there will be interesting developments next season not that he did that and also has to process the fact he is a father.

    Don also threatened to quit when it was announced Duck was taking over. It looks like the Brits don't have a great opinion of Duck. Loved the Brit dismissively saying about Duck, "he could ever hold his liquor". They were clearly taken aback by Don threatening to quit.

    All in all, a very good episode and I am looking forward to next season.moreless
Colin Hanks

Colin Hanks

Father John Gill

Guest Star

Ryan McPartlin

Ryan McPartlin


Guest Star

David Doty

David Doty

Dr. Aldrich

Guest Star

Anne Dudek

Anne Dudek

Francine Hanson

Recurring Role

Crista Flanagan

Crista Flanagan

Lois Sadler

Recurring Role

Myra Turley

Myra Turley

Katherine Olson

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • Sterling Cooper sold controlling interest for approximately $8.2MM in 1962 dollars or $58.1MM in 2010 dollars. Duck said they are buying 51% controlling interest. Sterling says that Draper will clear a little more than $500K. In the partner meeting, Cooper says Draper owns 12%.

    • The song "Stranger on the Shore," which plays during this episode, is by Acker Bilk. It was the first song by a UK artist to be No. 1 in the Billboard charts and the the first to be No. 1 in the US & UK at the same time.

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Peggy: One day you're there and there's less of you and you wonder where that part went. If it's living somewhere outside of you and you keep thinking maybe you'll get it back and then you realize it's just gone.

    • Pete: Is Don on board with my promotion?
      Duck: I'm the President, I don't need his permission, do I?

  • NOTES (1)


    • The title of this episode, Meditations in an Emergency, refers to the poetry collection of the same title by Frank O'Hara. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is reading that same book in the the first episode of the second season, For Those Who Think Young (S02E01).