Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has already said there’ll be no spinoff once his AMC series ends, but just in case he has second thoughts, this week’s episode provided the perfect planted pilot: The Calvet Women.
Michael Ausiello will kill me for saying so, but Don’s estranged wife and her French mother and sister put more life into this week’s installment — which also wrapped up Mrs. Draper’s storyline nicely — than the rest of Sterling Cooper & Associates combined.
Excuse moi for saying so, but that’s not a good thing. I understand that not every hour of the award-winning series is going to be “The Strategy” or “The Suitcase.” But I also understand that when fourth-tier characters like Marie and Marie-France Calvet provide the most entertainment in the hour, it’s probably because — as was the case this week— the rest of the action isn’t that compelling.
Allons! Let’s review what took place in “New Business.”
DRAPER’S LADIES | Don’s making milkshakes for his boys at Betty and Henry’s house, when the first Mrs. Draper enters looking rather done up. She explains that they were at a fancy dinner, then can’t help but add that she’s going to start a master’s degree in counseling. (We’re with you, Don; that seems ill-advised.) On his way out, Draper seems to have a moment as he looks at the Francis family going about its evening. The life not lived? Try, the life you napalmed, Don.
For the rest of the episode, Draper deals with two women: the outgoing (Megan, with whom he is finalizing a divorce) and the incoming (Diana, the waitress from the diner in last week’s episode). Let’s deal with the latter first. As it turns out, Diana’s no longer working at the diner where Roger left the $100 tip. Her new restaurant is a wee bit classier, or at least, that’s what I infer from the pilgrim-esque uniform she wears. He tracks her down, calls her, and she winds up at his place one night after her shift is done. When she plays a little coy, Don says, “It’s 3 in the morning. You know why you’re here. Do you want a drink or not?” Damn, he’s smooth.
Of course they sleep together, and of course we later find out she’s an emotionally damaged wreck of a woman with a sadsack back story (one of her daughters died, the other is living with Diana’s ex in Wisconsin) and a taste for vodka. Still, Don seems besotted, because he’s always good at the beginning of these things. (Remember Megan in California?) But Diana eventually chooses complete and total numbness/self-flagellation over being with Don, which is probably the best decision she’s made in years. Because as we are reminded during the episode, Draper is a ruiner of lives.
OOH LA LA! | Which brings us to Megan’s presence in New York. She’s visiting to clear the last of her things out of the apartment and to meet with Harry about getting a new agent. For the first task, she is accompanied by her mother and sister, who spend more time lamenting the ruins of Megan’s marriage than they do actually helping her square away her things for the movers. Something about the way that the three women switch back and forth between English and French and casually toss off cutting, passive-aggressive insults really entertains me. Plus, when Marie says of Don, “He drinks red wine?! It’s a wonder you don’t have syphilis,” I FEEL LIKE SHE GETS ME. (Anyone else? Or is this a fromage-stands-alone situation?)
When Megan leaves to meet with Harry and her sister stomps off in a huff about being treated like a servant, Marie is left to deal with the movers — whom she instructs to take everything. She can’t believe it when they want to be paid for the job they did (rather than the job Megan ordered, which cost a lot less), so Marie winds up summoning Roger to the apartment to foot the bill. And then since he’s already there… yeah, they sleep together again, and after Megan returns from the lunch (which ends abruptly when Harry implies that sleeping with him — and others? — would be beneficial to her career), she realizes that her mom is un peu slutty.
BUY BUY LOVE | Angry and in possession of all the furniture, Megan meets Don at the lawyer’s office to sign the divorce papers. She insults him, but you can tell from Don’s face that all he can think about is what Harry told him earlier: By asking Megan to quit her soap gig and move to California, Don effectively killed any career momentum she might’ve been gathering. So Don writes her a check for $1 million (!), saying, “I want you to have the life you deserve.” She sputters, recovers, takes the money and leaves her engagement ring behind.
Back with her family — and with a cool million giving her a new sense of calm rationalism — Megan dismisses her frantic sister’s cries about Marie choosing to leave their father and stay in New York. “She’s been very unhappy for a very long time,” Megan says. “At least she did something about it.” And that just may be the last time we see Ms. Draper Calvet, everyone!
SAY ‘CHEESEY’ | A well-known photographer named Pima is hired to shoot the Cinzano ad, and when we finally meet her, she’s a forthright auteur in a three-piece lady suit (and played by Mimi Rogers, who looks… odd here. Took me a few moments to place her. And even once I did, I had to really look hard to convince myself it was her).
Stan doesn’t like Pima’s shtick, which doesn’t bother her: She sees his hostility as something else entirely. “I can feel the tension of your need for my opinion,” she says, which is a line I’m definitely going to use at the office this week. As it turns out, he is in desperate need for her to critique his photography, and when she likes it (but not his girlfriend, who’s his subject), Stan and Pima get it on in the SC&P darkroom.
Later, Pima makes a play for Peggy, who responds with her signature mix of awkward, mean and flustered. But when Pegs realizes that Pima is just hustling whoever’s at hand, she quickly figures out what’s up. “She tried the same thing with me, but she didn’t get as far,” Ms. Olsen tells her shaggy art director. “So that’s why I’m not going to give her another job.” This seems as good a time as any to reiterate that I’m going to eat an ascot if Mad Men doesn’t give me some Peggy-Stan action before the finale.
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Did you like seeing the Rosens again? Did you catch the sly Manson family reference at the beginning of the hour? Is Harry even bigger of a slime than you previously thought? Are you happy or sad to see Megan go? Sound off in the comments!