Previously on Mad Men, ‘Lost Horizon’
Don may have escaped from the advertising world but he’ll always be running from some part of his past. He dreams he’s been pulled over by a cop who tells him “you knew we’d catch up with you eventually.” No matter how many miles he puts between himself and New York, or how many personal effects he sheds – he’s down to a plastic bag full of clothes and his car at this point – he’ll always carry the secret of his former life.
We learn through a conversation between he and Sally that Don is now in Kansas and plans to make his way down to the Grand Canyon. The trip is detoured though when his car breaks down somewhere in small town Oklahoma. With little to do but read in his middle-of-nowhere hotel room, Don pays Andy, the young hotel cleaner, to find him a bottle of whisky. Don should have been suspicious of the kid as soon as Andy made him pay an additional $10 upon delivery. This wasn’t the first time Don was swindled in a hotel room after all.
Though Don is eager to hit the road as soon as he possibly can, the hotelier’s wife hopes he’ll stick around over the weekend. There’s going to be a get-together for army vets and her husband would love someone new to share his stories with. Don is hesitant to be around army folks, of course, but he ends up making an appearance. Turns out, it was actually a fundraiser for some guy who’s kitchen burned down. These people definitely knew Don had money to spare.
Many of the men in attendance fought in WW2 but Don is introduced to someone who also fought in Korea. Don instantly relaxes when he discovers that this man’s tour of duty was a few years after his own, leaving his secret still unexposed. They do have stories to share – that part was true. They even want Don to feel comfortable sharing his own experiences.
As usual he stays quiet, until one fellow comrade shares the story of how he killed German soldiers who were in the midst of surrendering. The mix of honesty in the man’s story and the acceptance it was met with by the other vets propels Don into telling his own tale. He admits that he killed his C.O. when his lighter fell in the wrong place at the wrong time and that he got to go home as a result. Perhaps sharing this has helped to lighten the load, but since it’s far from the entire truth, the brunt of its weight still sits on Don’s shoulders.
Unfortunately, this admission didn’t make him and the army boys fast friends. When the fundraising money goes missing, Don is first to take the blame. Two of the vets hold Don down while a third whips him across the face with a phone book, multiple times. They take his car keys as collateral until they get the money back. One of the men remarks that his car is probably stolen, and there’s an odd resonance to the accusation since Don’s entire existence is essentially stolen. Knowing that Andy must be the real thief, Don confronts the young man.
When Don looks at Andy, he can see a version of himself. Instead of turning the kid in for the crime, he appeals to him to make a better choice, to choose a different path than he once did. If Andy keeps this money he’ll have to disappear and become someone else. Despite how tempting that may sound, Don knows all to well how burdensome it truly is. Once the money is returned he agrees to drive Andy to the bus stop. When they arrive, Don hands his car keys over to the kid saying, “don’t waste this.” Left with just the clothes on his back and a small bag of belongings, Don waits alone for a bus.
Duck Phillips has been hired by McCann to find a replacement for Don. At least that’s what he tells Pete he’s up to. Since Duck is back to his, never-too-early-for-a-drink ways, it’s near impossible to tell when he’s being honest. He allegedly wants Pete to meet with Mike Sherman who is the head of Learjet, a super fancy executive class airline. Pete thinks he’s being sent to talk up Duck’s headhunting services, while also building the possibility of a relationship with McCann. It becomes clear very early on though, that this is actually a job interview.
Pete has been happy with McCann thus far and he’s on track to land Coca-Cola, so it’s easy for him to turn down other opportunities. On top of that, he still has four years left on a contract before he can collect the two million dollars he’s entitled to. Duck uses this knowledge to negotiate an offer from Learjet; Pete’s in the running for the job with only one other candidate now. Sherman wants a second dinner, this time with wives. Against his better judgment, Pete asks Trudy if she’ll accompany him but she’s happy to no longer have to oblige these account dinners. In the past, this is when Pete would have flown off the handle, enraged that someone would say no to him. Instead, it seems as though he truly respects Trudy’s answer and doesn’t push her to comply.
Instead of meeting with Sherman again, Pete has dinner with his brother to ask for advice. When he discovers that his brother is having an affair, Pete wonders aloud why people are always looking for something better, something else? Perhaps Pete wasn’t looking for a new path, but Duck leaves him with little choice on the matter. The drunk and desperate headhunter has taken the liberty of telling Jim Hobart about Pete’s opportunity and luckily for Pete, Jim is thrilled at how this prospect could help McCann. Both Sherman and Hobart are willing to give Pete whatever he wants.
With this bright future on the horizon, Pete rushes to Trudy’s place at 4am to deliver the news. He has another idea in mind as well, that the two of them deserve a new beginning. Pete wants them to start fresh in Wichita – where the Learjet business is. Though Trudy is cautious at first, she wishes Pete would have said all these lovely things years ago, she’s won over in the end by the thought of her family being together again.
Betty is pleased to be getting her own fresh start when she trips and falls up the stairs on her way to class. Though she believes it’s merely her pride that’s been injured, the doctor has far worse news to deliver. In addition to a broken rib Betty has been diagnosed with a very advanced and aggressive lung cancer, which has already spread to her bones and lymph nodes. She’s been given anywhere from nine months to one year to live.
Henry is optimistic. He’s climbed high on the political ladder and believes that this power should grant his family with the best possible medical care. Betty has accelerated her way through the stages of grief all the way to acceptance; she’s not interested in treatment, she’s just trying to figure out how and when to tell her children.
In the hopes Sally will help convince her mother to get treatment, Henry shows up at her school to give her the news. Sally is stunned and though he tells her it’s okay to cry, it’s Henry who ends up breaking down while Sally comforts him. Sally returns home with Henry to surprise her mother but this only irritates Betty. As Sally smiles and opens her arms for a hug, Betty walks directly past her without a second look.
Later that night Betty apologizes, not for giving Sally the cold shoulder but for the way Henry “scared” her with the news. I wish I could say this was the heart-to-heart I’ve always wanted to see between Sally and Betty, but it’s far from it. Betty is very matter-of-fact with her daughter. She won’t receive treatment because, what quality of life would she have only to extend her time by mere months? She doesn’t want Sally to watch her die the way she had to watch her own mother pass. Betty believes that one of her greatest strengths is being able to recognize when something is over. Knowing that Henry won’t be capable, Betty entrusts Sally with a list of instructions for after she dies.
Determined to live the rest of her life in the way she wants, Betty continues to attend classes. While we watch her struggle once again with the stairs, Sally opens the instructions despite being told to wait. In true Betty fashion she’s outlined how she would like to look when she’s buried, complete with a picture for reference. She finishes the letter though, with what is probably the nicest thing she’s ever said to her daughter. Betty admits that she always worried about Sally because she marches to the beat of her own drum. She now realizes however that this is a good thing because her life will be an adventure. She closes with “I love you” and poor Sally loses it.
I know there are a lot of Betty haters out there and while I’ve had a tough time defending some of her shittier moments, I’ve always liked her character. I could always empathize with her frustration at never being taken seriously because of her looks, even though she’s a fairly intelligent woman. I don’t think Betty was ever given the opportunity to find herself. She was a victim of the times, handed from one man to the next – from father to husband. Just as she found something that could fulfill her, her life is being cut short. It’s really tragic. *sniffle, sniffle* NO, YOU’RE CRYING!