Mad Men Recap: "Time and Life"

By Ty Duffy

This week: plot. How novel! In “Time and Life” SCDP discovers McCann plans to absorb it, after getting a notice about their lease. The agency must leave the physical Time and Life building. Doing so forces them to reflect on time and life, the show’s subject matter.

The SCDP partners spot a way out. Lou Avery departs for the Japanese cartoons’ world, telling Don to enjoy the rest of his miserable life. This leaves the L.A. office vacant…for Sterling Cooper West. They siphon off business that would have been cut loose. Pete, again, lands the vital Secor Laxatives account at the decisive moment. They are going to move to California and work out of a tiny office. Then, Don gets cut off before he can make his magical pitch.

McCann informs them they have won. They can stop striving. They are going to advertising heaven. It’s the end of history (or at least their history). Now, they can kick back after their hard work and focus on those fractured personal lives. They don’t tell the rest of the agency until they have to. When they try to sell the move, no one listens. Not even imploring Harry Crane can rescue them from the engulfing din.

Pete finds out his daughter was not accepted to Greenwich Country Day. Trudy needs him to come fix it. Combined with the agency news, this sets off Pete’s full range of personal and professional anxieties. He displays guilt about his choices with Peggy and Trudy and how those affected potential offspring. As with the agency, Pete finds out his daughter’s schooling is more than a matter of space. He tries to use his family history to get his daughter in, only to discover family history is what’s keeping his daughter out. The headmaster is a MacDonald and, obviously, still smarting about the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692.

Pete still has feelings for Trudy. He’s concerned. He wants to defend her honor. He thinks she’s timeless. Importantly, she’s doing as miserably single as he is. Perhaps, there’s a light there. Though, as we have seen this season, characters compartmentalize things. They don’t forget. Hard to forgive Pete.

Peggy is warned, by an ashamed Pete, about the agency move. This sets off her range of professional and personal anxieties. She’s exploring other career opportunities. Auditioning children remind her painfully of the motherhood she gave up to facilitate that career. Peggy blows up at a stage mom, who leaves her daughter at the audition. This results in her confessing her secret about the baby to Stan (now single again). We leave with the two of them, renewing their extended conversations on the phone. Once the alpha man, Stan is hirsute and willing to learn about women.

After this episode, we’ve seen glimpses of how things may end up alright for Joan, Peggy, Roger, Ted and perhaps even Pete. What remains cryptic is what becomes of Don who, in a few days will have neither a home nor a purpose. Don once severed himself from a life ruined for him by birth. Could he do the same from a life ruined by his own choices?

Don settled things with Megan. His children are being brought up better without him. SCDP does not need him to save the day. Other characters have tangible tethers. There’s little keeping Don, besides his guilt.