Many things happened last night on Mad Men, but the one that everyone will remember was when poor, poor Englishman Guy got his foot run over by a John Deere tractor. In fact, it was a bloody good show.
That accident was unexpected (and a little unimaginable, like Rosalind Shays falling down an elevator shaft on L.A. Law) and had far-reaching consequences for all the internal shifts that continue to plague Sterling Cooper since it fell into the hands of its English overlords. Though it looked dire at first, last night's British invasion may still have some positive effects, even though it's already caused one amputation.
Blood wasn't the only motif winding it's way through the episode, which focused on office politics, Joan's departure, and future hippie Sally's crazy fear of her youngest brother. Here are the other tendons that were connecting the tissue of this visceral hour.
Lights: Much of the episode was shot with the dim lighting and inevitable dread of an ADT commercial, especially the scenes in Joan and Don's home, but each character is fixated on a fixture for a different reason.
Joan falls asleep on the couch waiting for Doctor Rapist to come home and tell her that he is the new King of All Surgery. Instead, he stumbles home and informs her that he will never be a surgeon and she can't leave her gig, or has to find a new one. In the gloom, she jiggles over to him in her nightgown (her ample cans on magnificent display) and tries to soothe her man—and herself—by taking control of the situation. She already realized that her choice was no good when all the doctor's starting talking shit about him at their dinner party, now she's stuck trying to wring the best out of a bad situation. She says that she'll take care of him as soon as she "closes the light." Like always, Joan is trying to control her own destiny, but even though she may be able to master the environment around her, the future is slipping out of her exquisitely manicured iron fist.
Don lies in bed staring at the dome on his ceiling, his mind illuminated with the thousand possibilities of a promotion at work and possibly a move to London. Last week we saw him staring at pictures of his parents in the moonlight, reflecting on the past. This week the night is just as dim, but the glare of the future is staring him down. For all the success he's had, he still wants more, and it seems like his private moments at night are the only time that he allows himself to escape the confines of "Don Draper" and really live as himself. At the end of the episode, he has another revelation in the dark, confronting Betty about their new son's name—which he doesn't like—and his honesty, with himself and his family, shines through again.
Sally, on the other hand, is filled with terror by the night, afraid that her baby brother is possessed by the spirit of her beloved Grandpa Gene. After Don hooks her up with a nightlight, she stares into it, like that is the only thing that is keeping her from being attacked by the changeling demon in the next room. But her protective aura is as false as her assumption about the reincarnated spirit of her grandfather. Only when Don calls to her, in the evening dim that consoles him, is he able to comfort his daughter and put her at peace with the newest addition to the family. It's only when enveloped in the natural light of the universe—rather than the amber florescence of the Sterling Cooper office—that we can really see these characters as human.
Drinks: Drinking on Mad Men? You don't say! However the progression of what Don is drinking had a special significance this evening. First, when he returns home from a promising day at the office, Betty opens him a can of beer. It's a Budweiser, the kind of domestic brew that he is hoping to escape with a move to London and a step up in the world. Later, at the "fête" in the office, the Brits spring for celebratory champagne. However, Don is in no mood to celebrate, when he is told that his position will stay exactly the same. It's a huge disappointment after being filled with champagne wishes and caviar dreams (did anyone else find it odd that Guy wished Joan lots of "caviar" in her new life?).
Don guzzles his last bit of bubbly while on the phone with Conrad Hilton's office, a man who he met during the Kentucky Derby episode while playing mixologist at the country club. He goes over to his suite at the Waldorf Astoria and lets the big man make him a fancy cocktail for a change. Don was hoping to leave behind The King of Beers for pints in London. When that dream was ripped away from him, is he going to go for highballs in the Hilton penthouse instead?
When an emergency interrupts his meeting, Lane buys him a Dr. Pepper in the waiting room at the hospital. Last week he was drinking whiskey in a waiting room while waiting for his son to be born, and that came from a lowly security guard. Now, his employers are only willing to spring for a bottle of pop (and a new dress for Joanie, thank God). Is Don going to be happy with a taste of soda now that he's had his mind filled with drinks of a more expensive vintage?
Gifts: All of the gifts on this week's episode backfire. Lane's colleagues from the home office bring him a snake, a cheeky gift to let him know that he's being shipped off to India to turn the Bombay office around. As he explains, he doesn't want to leave New York, where he has just gotten settled, and where he seems to be doing quite well, even though Don, Roger, and the rest of the SC crew aren't very fond of his McKinsey-like cost cutting measures.
Sally is equally nonplussed by the gift that Betty got her from her "little brother." When Sally figures out that Gene can't write out the card, Betty explains that he had a fairy do it. We don't know where Sal finds the time to write cards! Anyway, any child would revolt if she got a brunette Barbie (or was it a Midge?). Give us the real-deal blond or don't bother at all. No wonder the thing ends up in the bushes. When Don transports it back into Sally's room, she awakes and freaks the fuck out. It's the latest evidence that her baby brother is possessed (maybe the fib about fairies wasn't such a good idea after all, Betty). In the end, Sally gets what she really needed, some comfort from her father, not some disposable plastic plaything.
The final gift was the secretaries' cake for the departing Joan. When it's wheeled out, she lets out a sob. She plays it off pretty well that she's sad to be leaving, but we know she's crying because she hasn't figured out how to tell anyone that she has to stay. Of course, Moneypenny already stole the impact of the gift from his archenemy, when he informed her that a surprise party had already been planned.
Peggy, who was mostly silent this episode, also felt left out of Joan's gift and decided to get her one of her own. When telling Joan about it (over the roar of the tractor) Peggy says that not everyone can be like Joan, but that she has been listening to her advice. Once again, she may have the fancy position, but Joan has all the power. We never find out what Peggy's gift is though, or just what she learned from her spiritual big sister, because of a tragic accident.
Blood: This time literal blood was spilled on the Sterling Cooper carpet. As Joan said, "One minute you're on top of the world, the next some secretary is running over your foot with a lawn mower." Why was it even in the office? It was a gift for Ken, who just landed the John Deere account. More interesting than the red stuff is how everyone dealt with it. Joan snaps into action, taking control of the situation and ordering people, probably saves poor Guy's life in the process. Peggy faints, because she can't handle the gory truth. Harry, who was sprayed with fleshy bits, gets rid of his sullied clothes and blanches at the atrocity, unlike his more stoic coworkers.
The literal goring of one of the British invaders led to a messy (and somewhat comic) clean up and squeegee effort in the office later. How everyone will handle the bloody aftermath of the figurative attack of the Americans on their European overloads has yet to be seen.
This scene played an interesting parallel to the story Roger told Don during their forced bonding session at the world's butchest nail salon. When getting a manicure, Roger tells Don that his father died in a gruesome car crash where his arm was cut off by the windshield. In the accident at the office, another man loses a limb and the tractor crashes through the window.
Career Plans: Everyone faced career setbacks last night. Don grew dissatisfied after imagining himself in a different position. Lane was being shipped off to India, much to his chagrin. Guy found himself out of a job when the Brits decided that a man with no foot could never land new business if he couldn't walk or golf. Roger was left off of the reorganization chart proposed by his new bosses. Pete continues to suffer in Ken's shadow as he lands a new account. The only person who benefited was Harry, who was made the head of a new TV department. Of course, much of that is up in the air now that Guy is out of the picture and the Brits need to rejigger their plans. Maybe Don will get the attention he wanted after all.
All of these demolished plans stood under the looming shadow of Conrad Hilton, a man who has achieved great success—such success that his fortune will one day give us the pop cultural boon of great-granddaughter Paris. Not only does Hilton get Don to give him some work for free, but he seems savvy enough to want to woo Don over to his company. We'll see whether or not his aspirations, or anyone's, come to fruition.
The one to worry about is poor Joanie. This is the kind of cliff-hanger you get on Mad Men: will Joan get to keep her job and how will she manage to do it? We're actually more worried about that than whether or not Jack and Sawyer managed to turn back time on Lost! We'll have to wait to see what the future holds, but when you place a wily attack dog like Joan in the corner, the results are bound to be as bloody as her fierce green dress.