Mad Men, "The Good News"

Stephanie: “Nobody knows what’s wrong with themselves, but everybody else can see it right away.”

Despite finding themselves in a precarious financial position as New Year’s approaches, 1964 was a good year for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. It has not been a great year for most of our characters’ personal lives, however. The episode focuses mainly on Don, Joan, and Lane — each of them dealing with the loss or potential loss of someone they love. Don discovers that his best friend, Anna Draper, the one person who knows absolutely everything about Don and still loves him, is dying of cancer. Joan is living a life of waiting, not knowing exactly when Greg will be sent to Vietnam. Lane’s wife, who never liked New York City, has returned to London for the holidays and made him feel alienated from his colleagues. Obviously, 1965 is not looking too bright for these three.

Don does follow through on last week’s mention of a trip to Acapulco, but he makes a stop in Los Angeles to visit Anna. The relationship between Don and Anna has always been fascinating and wonderful to watch; there’s a tremendous amount of love between them, but it’s never been romantic. Anna convinces her uptight sister to let her daughter, Stephanie, stay for dinner. Stephanie is a college girl, bright and outgoing, and slightly wary of Don’s corporate persona. It’s obvious that something is going to happen between them, but I couldn’t tell if Don or Stephanie would be the one to make the first move. I cringed when it was Don, and luckily Stephanie didn’t reciprocate. Instead, she told Don that Anna has terminal cancer and that the family decided to spare her the pain of knowing because she doesn’t have much longer to live anyway. She didn’t want Don to leave and not know that this would likely be the last time he’d ever see Anna. He decides to skip his flight to Acapulco to stay with her, confronting her sister and vowing to take her to the best doctors. She’s already been seen by specialists, the sister explains, and Don has no say in the matter, so he should just do the decent thing and leave. I don’t remember what Anna was like the last time we saw her, but this time she’s carefree and funny, she smokes pot with Don and talks openly with her niece. I think she already knows that she’s dying and wants to protect the people she loves. Either way, Don can’t bring himself to tell her. When he says he’s leaving, Anna smiles at him warmly. “Oh, I don’t care. I want you to. I want you to do everything you want to do,” she says. They talk about Don’s kids meeting Aunt Anna and them going to Catalina, a trip that will likely never happen. Don signs her freshly painted wall before he goes: Dick + Anna ’64. It’s like what sweethearts do, but not quite. It’s more like a memorial.

Joan and Greg are thinking of starting a family, and they’re also thinking of going away for a few days during the second week of January. Joan tries to sweet talk Lane into giving her the time off, but he’s irritable and says no, and then makes the major mistake of telling Joan not to “cry about it.” She is not at all pleased and storms out of the office, nowhere near tears, for the record. She and Greg argue when she tells him she can’t get the time off from work, and he in turn storms out of their apartment. On New Year’s, Greg arrives to a nice meal that’s quickly ruined when Joan slices her finger open in the kitchen. I basically covered my eyes for most of this scene. Joan wants to go straight to the hospital, but Greg insists on stitching her up himself. This is the same guy who lost out on a job because of his shaky surgery hands, so I was convinced that Joan was going to end up with a mangled paw. It turns out, though, that Greg isn’t such a bad doctor. He calmed her down and made her laugh, and then she started to cry — not because it hurt, but because she was going to lose him. “When?” she pleads with him through tears, but he can’t give her an answer. How is it possible for this show to make me feel bad for a character that is referred to as Rapist Greg on the internet? Damn you, show.

At the office, Joan is busy removing pencils from the ceiling (clearly, someone was bored) when Peggy brings in a flower delivery for her. Joan is furious when she sees the card, which reads something like, “Darling, I’ve been an ass. Hugs and kisses, Lane.” Turns out, he was also fighting with his wife and his secretary mixed up the cards for the flower delivery. Lane’s wife received a card that read, “Joan — forgive me.” She predictably calls Lane to tell him that she won’t be returning from London. The rest of the episode focuses on Don and Lane drowning their sorrows with booze, steak, and film. Don fills a flask to take to the movies, but he’s spilling the fancy alcohol all over the carpet. When Lane points it out, Don says, “I’ll have to smoke the dress,” something Anna said earlier, which obviously makes no sense to Lane. Other people can’t see why Don needs to drink tonight, but he knows. Later, Don calls his “lady friend” (we’ll call her Ginger) and asks her to bring someone along for Lane. They retreat to Don’s apartment, where Ginger’s friend leads Lane towards what I think is Sally and Bobby’s room. “Not in there,” Don tells them, and they go to his room instead. He and Ginger stay on the couch, the same spot where he slept with Allison last week. The next morning, Lane wants to pay Don what he owes for the evening. He wants to know how much the girl cost, and Don relents: $25. “Fascinating,” Lane says. “Here’s $30.” He wasn’t so oblivious after all; he knew all along that Don was paying these women, that their affection wasn’t real. Earlier, Stephanie told Don that nobody knows what’s wrong with themselves, but that’s not necessarily true. Lane knew the reality of the situation, just like Anna probably knows that she’s seriously ill.

At work, the men gather for a staff meeting with Joan at the head of the table, queen of SCDP. “Shall we begin 1965?” she asks. Don looks tired already.

AUGUST 15: An edict from Roger and Lane puts Pete in a personal dilemma in “The Rejected.”

Photo courtesy of AMC TV.

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