“New Business” is a misleading name for this newest installment of Mad Men, because the episode seems to be so fixated on the past. Sure, Don is barreling ahead with the waitress, Diana, telling her in their final scene together that he’s ready for a new start, but we’ve learned long ago to never trust a proposed Don Draper reinvention.
The truth is that no one gets a new start – you don’t get to begin again with new business because old business will always be hanging around. Roger can’t go play golf because old enemy Burt Peterson is the new accounts man, old Secor Laxatives contacts get confused in the rundown of new business because now they work for Life Cereal, Betty comes back from a night on the town to find her ex-husband whipping up milkshakes in her kitchen, Stan can’t have a creative breakthrough because he compares everything to his old work, Don still has to ride the elevator with Sylvia Rosen but without using the emergency break to steal a kiss – I could go on and on with the examples from this episode; the past always lingers.
Don’s attraction to Diana initially begins due to her resemblance to Rachel Katz, but she also could be mistaken for Sylvia Rosen and even Megan at a distance. Once again, the past repeats itself, with Don completely mystified by a dark haired woman with issues. Perhaps Don flocks to these types of women like a moth to a flame because he’s so damaged himself, and it would be nice to start a new chapter with a partner. Diana tells Don that she left a daughter behind in Wisconsin, then asks Don if he wants to know why, which he replies to with “no.”
Don wants to erase the past, make it seem irrelevant, but Diana takes issue with that. “When I was with you, I forgot about her,” Diana says, “I don’t ever want to do that.” Don wants to make new business out of something familiar, but Diana isn’t looking for a second chance, she knows that the old business has meaning and shouldn’t be swept aside or recycled.
Old business really comes into the picture with the return of Megan Draper to New York, with the Calvet clan in tow. Packing what’s left of her things and looking for a new agent with the help of the deplorable Harry Crane, Megan certainly isn’t where she thought she’d be by now. In her estimation, just as a bitter Roger Sterling predicts, Don took everything away from her, but that’s just plain untrue. Don’s resources allowed Megan to take the chance to become an actress, and it was her own idea to quit her soap opera and leave New York. Her real motivation for divorce was to find her own path toward self-creation, and yet, she accepts a check for a million dollars with little to no hesitation. She may look back unkindly on her past with Don, but it has and will continue to pave her future.
Really, the only new business that comes this week happens with Peggy, Stan, and their new hired-hand visual artist, Pima. Pima is the slice of new blood meant to blow open the sexual chemistry that’s always lied between Peggy and Stan. Sure, Stan huffs and puffs about taking orders from Peggy, and Peggy complains about Stan’s egocentricity, but Pima shows up to prove that maybe Stan loves seeking the approval of an authoritative woman figure, and maybe Peggy is the real egoist that can’t share the reins now that they’ve been handed to her. The Pima scenes were the most intriguing thing happening this week, and I’m curious how it will affect Stan and Peggy’s relationship going forward.
Other than that, this episode seemed incredibly interested in the past and how our old lives continue to inform and mutate the new ones that we are desperate to build. Don has hit the reset button more times than a kid with a Sega Genesis that keeps freezing, but he can’t escape his upbringing as Dick Whitman and all the messes that it’s created along the way. Try as he might, Don’s “new business” is always going to look a lot like the old stuff.
The Best of the Rest
- Check out the genuine pain on Don’s face as he looks into the Francis kitchen, with his boys and ex-wife happily making milkshakes as another man plays stand-in.
- Harry Crane makes a disgusting pass at Megan, then says maybe that’s why she’s not having luck on her auditions. This guy, smh.
- Last week, Stan masterfully rocked an ascot. This week? He makes wearing a bolo tie look easy. Keep on keeping on, buddy.
- Roger sleeps with Marie Calvet again, and Marie ditches her daughters to run away and leave her husband. Though her other weepy daughter doesn’t approve, Megan gets it.
- After hooking up with Stan, Pima tries her hand at Peggy, but Peggy shoots her down.
- Don fogets his golf clubs and attire, but tells Pete that he’ll just roll up his sleaves and toss his tie over his shoulder. “They’ll love it,” Don says. “They probably will,” Pete sneers back with typical jealousy.
- Betty is planning on getting her master’s in psychology, to which even Don has a hard time not laughing at. We know Betty is smarter than what she’s given credit for, but she’s not very self-aware for a psychologist.