Aloha everyone! So starting off let’s just get a few things straight:

  • It’s 1967-1968
  • Megan and Don vacationed in Hawaii
  • No of course Don isn’t mute, just wait a few minutes, I promise
  • Facial hair was in back then
  • Megan is a soap opera star
  • Sally hates cops
  • Don and Megan have couples friends
  • Betty is still overweight
  • Despite what you’ve heard, Don Draper is not an astronaut now
  • Sally’s friend, Sandy, is staying with the Francis’s because her mom died
  • Peggy is also still with Abe who is starting to resemble Frank Zappa
  • Roger’s mother died

 So are we all caught up? Good.

The opening scenes of Hawaii are so beautifully shot. Don later tells the client, Royal Hawaiian Hotel, about how the experience of staying there washes over your senses and watching these opening scenes I feel like I’ve been baptized in water from Jordan. This was the first of the many “experiences” of this episode, going to Hawaii and letting the local culture bathe you anew. You hit the beautiful beaches of this paradise and you “jump off.” All your past attachments are gone and forgotten but that’s completely fine because “you don’t miss anything.”

Last season we saw a glimpse of Don at a sort of decline. His creativity and devotion to his work was in absentia. He was being eclipsed by the up-and-coming talent of Ginsberg. So where is he now? Has he recovered? This is up for discussion but I think he has a gained a little footing. I like his speech about the trivialization of love. He even works in an Eros allusion, and—as we learned from the carousel speech—ancient Greek references are groovy.

I, like Stan, think the ad for the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was brilliant for the same reasons. But let’s consider the subtext here: Does Draper have some kind of suicidal wish? Is he feeling the death instinct? That opening line from Inferno surely seems applicable to Don and Dante is often said to be suicidal in the beginning of that book. Roger reminds him that they used to ignore the subject of death when they were selling Lucky Strike but both of these guys are fixated with death it seems. Anyway, the client thought it was a little too lugubrious, which it undeniably is, and it also bears resemblance to some old James Mason film that Roger has evidently seen. Don did not have a solution for this.

You know who is full of solutions? Peggy Olson. Peggy is at Cutler Gleason and Chaough  is running the shop over there. We see her confidently dispensing orders like the Don Draper of past. She is working on a Koss account and evidently due to some late night humor, their campaign is—much like Draper’s—tarnished in a sea of morbidity. But she pulls it together with some outtakes from the shoot and a new line about how the clarity of sound is so tangible you can see it. I’m not crazy about the tagline but good work Pegs.

Betty Francis still has that inimitable charm. While discussing the adorable violin prodigy in bed with Henry she offers a suggestion: “Why don’t you go in there and rape her. I’ll hold her arms down.” Oh, Betty! How I have missed you! Betty has taken an interest in Sandy and her future. I suppose she felt a kinship for Sandy’s wanderlust at that age as well. Betty tries to disillusion her to the reality that life isn’t so “glamorous” but it falls on deaf ears; Sandy runs away and we see a chilling sequence of Betty searching for her in an abandoned building.

 This episode hinges on the scenes with Roger and his shrink. All that talk about the titular doorways and their intoxicating allure, how they seem so fascinating until you realize there isn’t anything new on the other side. It doesn’t change you. You’re not different. It just closes on you and presents another door. It’s the facade of progression, the illusion of change.

You may think you’ve changed. You may think that just because you went to Hawaii you’re a new man, or because you slummed it up in St. Marks for a few hours that you’re humbled.  But you’re not. Any change is as superficial as the tear on Betty’s coat. You may desperately want to believe you’ve changed, it may even be your New Year’s resolution, but you’re deluding yourself. You still end up in the bed of a woman who is not your wife.

It is as Roger tells his shrink: “Experiences are nothing.” 

Additional notes:

This episode was loaded with callbacks. We have the lighter which conjures up memories of Dick Whitman stealing the dog tags off of Don Draper’s corpse. Also, throughout this episode Roger is also repeatedly paraphrasing an old nihilistic Draperism: “I don’t feel anything.” The last one I noticed was the reference to Don’s carousel speech, as Don is going through the slides of their Hawaiian vacation.   

Award for best facial hair goes to Stan for his Grizzly Adams beard.

Roger’s one liner of the episode (regarding Don vomiting at the funeral): “He was just saying what everybody else was thinking.”

Everyone’s favorite doorman, Jonesy, has an experience of his own: He nearly dies. A drunken Don inquires as to what he saw. “I don’t like to think about it”, replies Jonesy.

I love how earnest Stan is when Don asks him if he made the suicide connection with the “jumping off point” ad: “Of course, that’s what’s so great about it!”

Roger’s line about how the only thing left for him to experience is “losing everything” was heartbreaking.