Mad Men s6e1 Doorway

Posted on by TheLastPsychiatrist and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

(It’s hard to write about a show that has exactly as many viewers as commentators and make it interesting.)

This season, Don Draper learns what women already know: you can be hot and bitchy up until the time you are only bitchy, and then you better hope you’ve accumulated a lot of money or a loving spouse because people are way less tolerant of you when your hormones downshift. One of the lessons of midlife that everyone talks about is that you realize a lot of doors are forever closed to you, except the last one, and that’s the lesson the show explores; but the real lesson no one ever talks about, not out loud, is that now everyone else can see clearly whether there’s any value in keeping you around.  “And then you go back to your office and take a nap,” says Campbell, giving old man Don an overly aggressive shoulder pat to reinforce his point, would he have dared to do that five years ago?  Answer: no.  Better hope you’re still creative, it’s the only reason no one has stabbed you yet.

So Don comes up with an ad campaign for Sheraton Hawaii:


The clients don’t like it: it reminds them of suicide. (? Am I the only one who see this as  sex?)  And Don doesn’t deny it, “jumping off point for souls” going to the after life, and, he adds as if he is high on quaaludes,  “in order to get to heaven something terrible has to happen.”

Umm, first of all that’s backwards but I’m no biblical scholar; second, what kind of a dummy commits suicide in an ocean wearing his shirt and his pants?  (“Virginia Woolf?”   That was a river.)  Which means that this isn’t so much a suicide as…… a baptism.  “In order to get to heaven, something terrible has to happen.”  Spoken like a true, make-it-up-as-you-go-along American agnostic.  Try Buddhism while you’re at it, you’ll like it, there are no rules.  Over at his mom’s funeral super-rich Roger tries to give his grown daughter a jar of water from the river Jordan, she accepts it and conveniently leaves it behind a minute later– what she really came for was his cash. He gives it, what’s he going to do?  Still, she should have taken the water, too, might come in handy when she turns 40 and has to decide what “jumping off point” means for her.  (It’ll be about 1987.)


Did you try and read the text in the ad?  I did, it’s “lorem ipsum” randomly generated: “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, sagittis ac….” You’ve probably seen it in bad websites.  Except lorem ipsum wasn’t randomly generated until there were computers to randomly generate it; the standard version used in the 1960s ran, “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit…”   So the text in the ad is wrong.  Let’s call it an anachronism.

But lorem ipsum is derived from Cicero, and it’s worth good bread to know the original:

No one rejects pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure.

… when our power of choice is untrammelled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain circumstances and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted.

Let me translate that last sentence into something a little more hipster:

zippo mad men




“Could you hear the ocean?” a drunk Don asks the doorman about his recent near death experience.  Jonesy is evasive, apparently God told him to keep his mouth shut.   Later as Don is staring pensively out of his office window, we hear the ocean.  Either he’s dead, or we are.  Time for a drink.


Speaking of drinking, “jumping off point” reminded me of something: Chapter 11 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:

He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place. He will wish for the end.

Sounds like Don!  “That’s a coincidence.”  There are no coincidences.  There is only pure contingency, with meaning applied in retrospect.  Unless you are writing your story towards an ending, then the story of your life is being written in flashback.


See, when we show Don reading The Diving Comedy at the opening of the show, that’s an obvious clue that Dante’s book is the key to understanding the season.  Meaning in retrospect.

But when you hear obvious in psychoanalysis (did you see any psychoanalysts in the show?) you are in the presence of a defense.  The name of the game is identification.

When Roger’s mother dies, it doesn’t seem to affect him.  Then he later admits: “I don’t feel anything.  At all.”  He thinks it’s pathology, he thinks there is something wrong with him, which is why he says this from the analyst’s couch.

Yet when his shoeshine guy George dies, he breaks down into wretched sobs. So he doesn’t have a problem feeling, he contains all the correct amount of emotions, they just come out at the wrong time.  That’s America: massive anxiety when nothing seems amiss; insomnia when you are exhausted; rage at some meaningless news story; lust for the hill troll who smiled at you just the right way; mourning your shoeshine guy.  The question is not why do you feel these things, the question is why don’t they come at the right times?  Why must the energy be displaced?

The answer is that since the emotions are going to come out one way or another, it is way easier to have them come out over your shoeshine guy and say that it’s really about your mother or your own mortality, then it is to let them out when it is clearly about your mother or your own mortality.   Because saying it isn’t the same as feeling it, saying it allows you enough wiggle room to disavow it.  Kind of like when you say I love you.

That’s a fetishistic identification.  More on that alter, and by later I mean the porn book.

Many stupid people were horrified by Betty’s suggestion to her husband that they hold down the (not) sexy teen in the next bedroom and rape her: “you can put a sock in her mouth!”  Guys, that’s not a plan, it’s a hint.  Betty identifies with that girl, which means that what Betty was really suggesting isn’t that the girl get raped, but that she– Betty– get “raped” by her husband: role play.  This is a good time to ask what is the state of the relationship when the best way to get your mate activated is to become someone else?

Meanwhile, Don’s wife is on the fast track to become a superstar– on a soap opera.  How very modern.  Don’s not happy, he prefers reruns of The Donna Reed Show, which he watches before going to Roger’s mom’s funeral.  “I don’t think anyone’s going to show up!” says Donna Reed on TV (the only words you can hear over the noise of the vacuum cleaner.)  Gee, I wonder what that could be a reference to.

When a man’s wife get’s bigger then the man, you got to make yourself feel manly somehow, so after a New Year’s get together, when Dr. Rosen has to rush off to a patient, Don takes the opportunity to bed Dr. Rosen’s wife.  We are all supposed to be shocked.  Back to his old ways?


We are told over and over that Dr. Rosen is Jewish, but what we are never told is that his wife isn’t.  Not only is she Catholic, but she’s a practicing Catholic, as evidenced by her crossing herself, wearing a cross, and fornicating underneath the cross.

sylvia catholic

It’s an odd backstory to give a minor character… unless you plan to make it a frontstory.

“What’s your New Year’s Resolution?” Rosen’s wife asks Don during pillow talk.

“To stop doing this,” he says.  Oooh.  Harsh.  Don’s guilt has finally caught up with him…

No. Here’s the Hail Mary prediction: Yes, Don meant” stop cheating”– but not stop seeing her.  He’s falling for her.

Maybe if Don offers her husband a Leica, he’ll let her have his wife?  I mean, the guy married outside of his religion in 1949, how badly could he want her?


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9 Responses to Mad Men s6e1 Doorway

  1. HP says:

    Two posts in short order! Does this mean TLP is coming out of his winter hibernation?

  2. Supastaru says:

    “We are told over and over that Dr. Rosen is Jewish, but what we are never told is that his wife isn’t.”

    Yes, we are. When we first see Dr. Rosen (in the elevator with Don). Don says something like “Guess I shouldn’t say “Merry Christmas” to you”, to which Dr. Rosen replies ” Save that for Sylvia”.

  3. araj says:

    Because saying it isn’t the same as feeling it, saying it allows you enough wiggle room to disavow it.

    Don’t quite understand this statement. Does the act of saying give permission to disavow the feeling, or does the act of saying you have a displaced emotion give wiggle room to disavow the feeling?

    I disagree with the interpretation of “To stop doing this,” he says. Oooh. Harsh. Don’s guilt has finally caught up with him….

    I think Don believes his primary problem, his original sin, is the changing of his identity. Don sleeps around as a displacement for his double identity anxiety. But by this point, he also recognizes that he sleeps around to cope with his anxiety which means that he doesn’t actually see the whoring around as a problem. Hence, the quote by the doc about getting paid to think about or not think about anxiety.

    Don talks to Pete at the whorehouse about cheating in s5e5 and says “I’m just trying to tell you because I am who I am, and I’ve been where I’ve been, that you don’t get another chance at what you have.” Pete: “Brave words for a man on his second time around,” Don: “Yeah, and if I’d met her first, I would have known not to throw it away.” Don doesn’t see cheating as a moral problem, but a practical one. Furthermore, maybe we can say that Don “wants” to throw his current life away due to guilt.

    I see the Catholicism thread as being a way to influence Don to confess his double life.

  4. Lakai says:

    Maybe my parents fed me too much battery acid when I was younger, but I don’t understand what this post is trying to say.

    “in order to get to heaven something terrible has to happen.”

    I understand (I think) that Don is ignoring the good things that have to happen for him to get to heaven. But why is this relevant? How is this relevant to Roger’s daughter?

    Sounds like Don! “That’s a coincidence.” There are no coincidences. There is only pure contingency, with meaning applied in retrospect.

    I don’t understand how the first half of this quote relates to the last half. What do contingencies have to do with no coincidences? If you apply meaning to something in retrospect, then doesn’t that make something a coincidence?

    See, when we show Don reading The Diving Comedy at the opening of the show, that’s an obvious clue that Dante’s book is the key to understanding the season. Meaning in retrospect.

    If the book is at the start of the season, how is this meaning in retrospect?

    Again, maybe its the powder bleach that my parents always mixed with my oatmeal, but I really wish Alone would flesh out some of these points some more.

    • Surfin Cypherz says:

      To Lakai:
      I am not Alone so I can only offer my interpretation, but it seems straight forward to me.

      A future event or circumstance that is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty.

      A remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.

      My deduction would be that Alone is stating there is nothing remarkable about these events or circumstances, and actual causal connection or not you apply meaning to the circumstance in retrospect. The reason you apply meaning in retrospect is because you can not be certain of what will happen in the future, therefor the possible future is a contingency.

      The word coincidence is used for contingencies with meaning applied in retrospect, but again there are no coincidences, because there is nothing remarkable about a connection you project onto something.

      I’ll leave the rest for you to figure out.

      • DannyGoldberg says:

        Thanks for responding, Surfin Cypherz.

        I never heard “coincidence” used to describe a remarkable event. I usually see it used to describe two events as unremarkable because they lack a causal connection.

        When you say “the word coincidence is used for contingencies with meaning applied in retrospect,” I don’t know what you mean because when I see the word “coincidence” it’s usually used to describe events that have no meaning (because they have no causal connection.)

        P.S. For some reason my name was changed from Lakai to DannyGoldberg. I’m the same person.

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