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The Ballad of Don and Megan: Back to Normal

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In one of the early episodes of the fifth season of Mad Men, Roger Sterling asks the question that stated a major theme for the entire season: When are things going to go back to normal?

When it comes to Don Draper and his third wife, Megan, the answer may lie in Don's come-hither look at the blonde in the bar in the final scene of the the fifth season finale.

When Don asked Megan to marry him at the end of the fourth season of Mad Men, I was disappointed. I wanted Don to do things differently than he had with Betty. He seemed to have a chance with the blonde career woman. But he dumped her for Megan, a model-esque secretary who he slept with one night on the sofa in his office. Shades of Betty, whom he met while she was modeling fur coats for him. Both Megan and Betty were intelligent, well-educated women who seemed to be following a then-stereotypical female trajectory: from daddy to college to starter-job to wife.

At the time, I consoled myself by saying that Don would soon realize his mistake and would cheat and lie his way out of the relationship, as he had done with Betty. Thus I was surprised when the fifth season opened with Megan as a copy writer at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, with Don and Megan traveling to and from the office together each day, taking care of one another in what appeared to be a rather egalitarian relationship. Apparently, I had been wrong about Megan being just "another Betty."

The relationship between Don and Megan seemed nice for a brief time this past season. We discovered that he had told her of his Dick Whitman identity, which told us that he trusted her and that she was not judgemental of him. They were playful together. They seemed to have an interesting sex life. She was good with his children. She motivated him to keep trudging to work each day even when his creative juices were not flowing.

Then Megan changed. It was not enough to be center stage in Don's life. Instead, she wanted to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. In one fell swoop, she quit her job and broke an unspoken contract between herself and Don. She was no longer the girl he married. The basis on which they had come together no longer existed. Megan had become restless and bored, just as Betty had when she tried to restart her modeling career with a job for Pepsi.

In the fifth season finale, Don decides to do things differently than he had with Betty. Whereas Don got Betty fired from the Pepsi campaign, Don acquiesced to Megan's request for career assistance: with Don's help, Megan was cast as "Beauty" in the Beauty and the Beast-themed Butler Shoes ad campaign. It seemed sweet and kind, and for a moment, I wondered if Don had learned from his rookie-marriage mistakes.

I did not need to wonder for long. In the powerful final scene, Don walks out of Beauty's lair into an empty production set, from lush decor to bare walls, from the bright lights of a set to near total darkness but for a bare overhead lightbulb. And he emerges from his long transformative walk into a sexy 1960's lounge, where he orders an old fashioned and is chatted up by a beautiful blonde who inquires for her beautiful brunette friend as to whether he is alone.

We won't know how Don actually responded to the blonde until next season. But apparently, whereas Roger placed the "order," Don may be the one who is will drink in the old-fashioned.