The penultimate episode of Mad Men’s final season blindsides you with something you never see coming, and “The Milk And Honey Route” could have easily gone very badly. Instead, we got an episode that captures everything good about this entire show. Let’s go……
-We open with Don getting pulled over by a cop who says, “You knew we’d catch up with you”….before Don awakes from a dream. Just to remind you that he has been living a borrowed life for the last seven seasons and really doesn’t have much to show for it.
-Pete is playing the good dad, although Tammy got stung by a bee and he asks Trudy to have lunch, but she declines. Matthew Weiner has worked hard to bring Pete back around at the end after years of being incredibly smug, but he has always been a fun character to watch and I’m kinda rooting for him to be happy by the end of all this. He just wants his family back, and I’m happy with any amount of Alison Brie we can get over the last two hours.
-Speaking of, Trudy is with her friend who was there while Pete was, and her friend was amazed that Trudy wasn’t poisoning Pete’s name to Tammy. I think overall for everything that Pete has done, he has always done right by Tammy and you gotta respect that. Shoutout to Trudy for not being petty.
-Sally and Don are talking on the phone about a trip Sally is taking to Madrid, while Don just took a Midwesteren road trip, so I assume he’s done at McCann-Erickson. But like Roger told Jim Hobart, hey, he does that sometimes. Meanwhile, Betty is at school, struggling to walk the stairs, when she falls and you can tell she is in serious distress. That’s not good.
-Duck Phillips makes an appearance with Pete in an elevator as Duck is apparently there to help ME replace Don, so yeah, that answers that question (or that could be a lie, whatever the reason he is here, it can’t be good). But he gets off at the same floor as Pete and pitches him on an idea, but first, he fixes himself a drink because, Duck Phillips. He wants Pete to meet with an exec from Lear, pushing them on the idea that they need a new marketing director and Duck is the man to help them, but he wants Pete to meet with this exec. He doesn’t want to at all, but for some reason, Pete does him a solid.
-Don is driving along and starts hearing noises in his car, and he stops somewhere. Cut to Betty in the hospital, where the doctor tells her that she should call her husband and Betty is like, nah I’m good, my rib is just broken. The doctor was like, seriously…..call your husband. So Henry comes down and starts talkin’ about suing people for scaring Betty, who just want to go home. But then she goes to light up a smoke and Henry angrily grabs the pack from her and there it is: she has cancer. Shit. SHIT. FUCK.
-A tow truck driver takes Don to a motel owned by some nice older couple, and the husband tries to get Don to take a weekly rate, but Don decides on the daily. I don’t even know where Don is at this point. I think Sally is the only person who does.
-Pete is at dinner with the Lear guy and after Pete goes through his spiel about Duck being the right person to help them fill that role, the Lear guy instead wants Pete for the job and they both realize they’ve been duped. But they share a laugh and order brandy because fuck it, Duck is paying. Still, even though Pete is happy at ME, they do get on rather well.
-Cut to an X-ray of Betty’s lung while the doctor explains to Henry what is going on, while Betty is just staring ahead, processing the news that she has 9-12 months to live. I had to pause it and take a minute. This wasn’t in the top ten scenarios I had for the Mad Men finale. I’ve had my beef with Betty Francis and she isn’t the best mother (or person) in the world, but you had hope that she would get better, especially with Sally as she got older.
-Don is reading and meets the maid/messenger, Andy, who knows a lot about this little town, including where to get a bottle of booze. Then he goes to the pool and sees a beautiful brunette, and they hit that 70s shot, the long one where the camera starts at her head to goes all the way to her toes. That’s some Red Shoe Diaries shit right there. Don stares, but then her husband and kids run up and Don jumps in the pool. Don don’t care about your family, bruh, and if he wants her, he’ll get it, so don’t fight it.
-Drunk Duck calls Pete to tell him that the Lear guy is impressed and he wants to have a “last-round” dinner with the wives, between Pete and the other candidate. However, Pete has a job and he doesn’t have a wife, so he isn’t much of a candidate either. But somehow, he ends up agreeing to this dinner and takes down the name of the restaurant. Ducks seems psyched on it, so Pete is obviously hesitant, but curious.
-Betty is brushing her hair when Henry runs into the bathroom to give her all this information about doctors and he yells at her to stop wasting time moping, but when she starts yelling, he asks her if she wants the kids (Bobby and Gene) to hear and she’s like, they’ll hear what I want them to hear when I decide what to tell them. Henry doesn’t know how to handle these situations and walks away. So now the question is, when does she tell Sally?
-Don gets his bottle from Andy, who gets another $10 out of Don and we see that this kid is a hustler, but he has no idea who he is fuckin’ with. But both parties get what they want, and Andy asks Don how he got rich; he is very impressed that Don made commercials for television, and you can also tell this is a very small town.
-Pete puts Tammy to bed and stares at his ex-wife and daughter before going downstairs, while Don sits in a hotel room, watching the great Redd Foxx on a TV that then cuts out. He goes to tell the wife, Sharon, who is fussing with a broken typewriter, but Don fixes it right away and proves that he is handy. She asks him to go to the legion with other Army vets on Saturday night, which seems to be a while away and Don doesn’t know if he’l be there. Something doesn’t seem right with this place.
-Pete is eating pie in the dark when Trudy comes in and is like, why are you still here, b? He asks her to come to the Lear dinner this weekend and she’s like, nah, I don’t have to do that shit anymore. He pushes and she thinks about it, but she eventually goes into ice mode and kicks him out. Something is still there for her, but she can’t let go of the past.
-Sally gets back to her room and it’s Henry, who sits Betty down to tell her that her mother is sick and she instantly puts her hands over her ears. But Henry wants her to persuade Betty to get treatment, and that she’ll listen to Sally, which shows he really hasn’t been paying attention to how they treat other. He then tells her that it’s okay to cry, but it’s Henry who breaks down and leaves Sally with a look of “is this really happening?”. When I first watched this, I felt some kinda way about Henry telling Sally; I thought it should be Betty, or even Don. The only reason I feel like this is because Henry isn’t doing it for Sally, he’s doing it for himself because of his love for Betty, and we’ve had no indication that he has had a relationship with Sally, even though he has been married to her mother for a while now. I don’t know, it was just weird. But Sally at least tries to put her arm around him while she figures out what to do next. My guess would be to call Don.
-Don’s car seems to be running, so it seems like his time there has come to an end….but the husband is dead set on Don staying one more night to party at the legion. He also points out that they get a lot of tourists coming through, and Don has only made two phone calls in six days, which is even creepier because why are you watching me this close? He even throws in the room for another night on the house and another night for to fix a Coke machine, so hey, Don gets to finally work with Coke; that was a selling point for ME when they absorbed SCPLMNOP. Much like Pete, Don, somehow, gets roped into a situation.
-Henry arrives home with a surprise for Betty: it’s Sally, and the two have the most awkward staredown we’ve seen in a while on Mad Men. Betty walks past Sally (who thinks she is getting a hug, but NOAP) and she’s fuming, I think because Henry went behind her back to tell Sally and again, I think it was Betty’s place to do it. I don’t know, I have a poor memory with everything, but I just haven’t seen enough of a relationship between Henry and Sally to give him the right to do that. Henry goes to Betty, while Sally sits down with her brothers, and I notice that Gene is being played by the kid who played Abel on Sons of Anarchy. Get that work, little man, get that work.
-Don gets to the legion and apparently, the hook is that it’s a fundraiser for a man whose house burned down, so Don gives $40 and gets applause, while someone gets a $5 fine for swearing. That’s at least two episodes, maybe three, where there has been swearing, it’s like Weiner was saving them all up for these episodes.
-Pete is out to dinner with his brother instead of at the Lear dinner, and the two start talking about life and infidelity, both of which they’ve been guilty of, and Pete obviously starts thinking about Trudy. I’m picturing Pete drunk in the dark, listening to Drake’s “Marvin’s Room” with the first six digits of Trudy’s number dialed.
-Don is listening to old war stories when he meets a man who was from the same area in which he served, and he asks Don to see his face and Don is like, oh God please don’t recognize me. He doesn’t, but the man is good and drunk by now. Anyway, some woman jumps out of a cake and starts dancing, and they haven’t seen a woman in years, it seems.
-I was close. Pete is indeed drunk at home, and I bet he is thinking of calling Trudy when he gets a visit from Duck, who is pissed about Pete skipping out on the meeting, but it worked out because Lear is now offering Pete the job, $100,000 a year and use of the corporate jet, plus stocks to make up for the money he leaves at ME. Pete kicks out Drunk Duck, who doesn’t know which way to turn when he leaves, but Pete is now thinking about the Lear job….he has to be.
-More war stories at the legion, and by this point, they’re HAMMERED. Somewhere, Don decides to tell the story of how he, as Dick Whitman, accidentally killed his CO, and he has to feel good to Don to get this out because I’m not sure he has ever actually told someone; Betty and Pete both found out, but I’m not sure they know the story and here, he leaves out the stolen-identity part because they don’t need to know that.
-Betty goes into Sally’s room and says she wanted to tell Sally, who says Henry said she didn’t want treatment because she loves the tragedy of the situation, so yeah, fuck Henry Francis, b. Betty also says that she watched her mother die and doesn’t want Sally to do the same thing, and that she doesn’t want Betty thinking she is a quitter because she has fought for plenty in her life. Betty is another woman who has been looking for acceptance in the world of Mad Men, but for this last year, it seems like she just wants to enjoy it for what it’s worth. She also leaves Sally with instructions concerning when she dies, and she says that things happen very fast when people die. As someone that has gone through that, no truer words were ever spoken and shoutout to my sister, who took care of everything when our mother died. You gotta be on top of everything, hurting like hell inside, yet having to keep a brave face for everyone else. Shit is rough. Anyway, Betty tells Sally to go back to sleep, leaving her to sit in the dark with instructions on her mother’s death. Sleep. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
-Don gets woken up by the guys from the legion, who accuse him of stealing the money they raised and he is like, the fuck are you talking about? They hit him with a phone book and take his car until he gets the money. Honestly, I don’t think he did it, but Don has done some stupid-blackout shit before….there’s like, a 7.4% chance he did it.
-Pete drives to Trudy’s in the middle of the night, blasting Drake, and wakes her up to sweep her away, so I guess he’s planning on taking the Lear offer and moving to Wichita, which is a long way from New York. He pours it on thick, but eventually she gives in because we know she doesn’t want to be alone either; she just has to let go of the past so they can have this family. Again, the continuing humanization of Peter Jermaine LaTroy Campbell.
-Andy swings by Don’s room, and Don instantly knows it was him who stole the money and says he has shitty instincts for a con man, so Weiner was DEFINTELY banking these curse words. Don explains to him that he has to get outta town and he has to give back the money because it’s no way to live as another person, which Don knows all too well. The kid also looked like he wanted an award when he told Don that “he didn’t steal nothing”. Bitch, you want a cookie? Anyway, Don gets the money and gives it to the old man and leaves without paying for the room because fuck yo’ hotel and your town and your stupid Coke machine. I’m not quite sure that we need to go this long away around the path to Don telling that kid that living a lie ain’t what it’s cracked up to be, but it entertained me.
-Then the kid has the nerve to ask Don for a ride to the bus stop, but Don does it, so he must respect Andy’s hustle a little bit. And whatever happened to the hitchhiker Don picked up at the end of “Lost Horizon“?
-Betty is going to class and Henry asks her why she is doing this, to which she replies, “why was I ever doing this?”. Because she wants to accomplish something, let her cook.
-Sally opens Betty’s letter, which has instructions on where she wants to be buried, what dress she wants to wear, included with a picture of the dress, where it is hung up and how he wants her hair and makeup to look. Oh Betty, don’t you ever change. That’s when it hits Sally, who breaks down and I wanna give her a hug. Betty tells her that her life will be an adventure and ends it with a “I love you, Mom”. Might have welled up for a minute there. And I’m still here for this “Sally Goes To College” spinoff.
-Don is driving along and sees a bench, and gets out, leaving the car to Andy, who is stunned with what is going on right now. Don tells him, “don’t waste this” before watching Andy drive off, and we close with Don, just sitting on a bench, somewhere in middle America with a dumb smile on his face.
So, we get the end of two characters as Pete is off to Wichita to start over with his family, and I wonder if we’ll see him again because next week is the finale, and we have a LOT to deal with. We gotta see Joan and Roger off, we definitely have to see Peggy (and maybe Stan) off and I’ve very interested to see how that works out. Peggy is one of my, if not my favorite, character on the show and it would really suck if Weiner didn’t do her justice.
Then there is the Betty thing, and I’m still shocked at how bad it felt to watch Betty get that news, and that’s why Mad Men is so great: we’re invested in this characters so much that even the ones that you haven’t necessarily liked over the run of the show, you still want them to be happy and even though this was a crazy sad episode, for the first time during the last six episodes, I get the feeling that there could be a ray of sunshine somewhere in this story, which is strange.
Anyway, series finale, folks. Try and keep it together.