Mad Men

Season 2 Episode 13

Meditations in an Emergency

Aired Sunday 10:00 PM Oct 26, 2008 on AMC

Episode Fan Reviews (6)

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out of 10
247 votes
  • 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.
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