Dreams of Racine, visions of Burt Cooper and Peggy Olson roller-skating through the empty confines of SC&P: last night’s surrealistic episode of Mad Men, “Lost Horizon,” marked a turning point for the main players and played with anxious conspiracists.
With one shot of Don Draper (Jon Hamm) peering through a window (and watching a plane), Matthew Weiner teased at the opening credits sequence along with the idea that Draper is actually D.B. Cooper. After all, Don could be on his way to Portland to hijack a plane since he’s already headed west. And he could be imagining everything — EVERYTHING — after yet another encounter with the ghost of Burt Cooper (Robert Morse). But what’s really going on with Mr. Draper? Well, he’s seeking redemption. At the beginning of “Lost Horizon,” he gave Betty (January Jones) a loving shoulder rub and offered genuine verbal support without a roll of the eyes or well-placed snark. Don cares…Don cares.
It’s just unclear what Don truly cares about. After Jim Hobart (H. Richard Greene) of McCann-Erickson gushed over the new introduction of his “white whale,” Don split town and chased after the unattainable Diana (Elizabeth Reaser) from Racine, Wisconsin. And rather than speaking the truth to some innocent Midwestern woman, Don played big shot and tried to swindle the woman and her pissed-off husband. At this point, I’m not convinced that Diana is even an actual human being, but if she is, Don may certainly be seeking a flawed, female version of himself to begin anew.
Speaking of new beginnings, Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) is officially television’s new symbol of female empowerment after standing up to the creeps of McCann-Erickson, and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) symbolizes free will. In one of the series’ most unforgettable shots, Peggy walks through the empty halls of SC&P with shades on and a cigarette dangling from her mouth. Whose house? Peg’s house.
Roger Sterling (John Slattery) doesn’t seem to give a shit about anything except good times and booze, but he’s deeply loyal to Peggy and helped Joan make a difficult decision. It would be thrilling to discover that all three characters were actually projections of Don’s imagination (and perhaps based on people he once knew), however it would be deeply upsetting for many to learn that Peggy and Joan’s accomplishments weren’t actually real (in the world of Mad Men). Part of me imagines a traumatized Dick Whitman combining real-life experiences with news stories for his own narrative of what life could have been. In that scenario, the “Megan is Sharon Tate” theory makes sense, along with the idea that Don Draper encountered a Minnesota-bound Bob Dylan at the end of “Lost Horizon.” One could find evidence in every episode of Mad Men to support this theory, but the hard facts are that Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) referenced Don’s death in last night’s episode and Roger Sterling was playing the organ. The mental imagery of a near-death Dick Whitman?
Don Draper is clearly experiencing some type of reawakening, and he can’t jump from a New York City skyscraper if he doesn’t go back. Next week’s episode of Mad Men is titled “The Milk and Honey Route” — a reference to life as a hobo.
Q.V. Hough (@qvhough) is a freelance writer and founder of Vague Visages. He lived in Hollywood, California from 2006 to 2012 and has bachelor degrees in Communication-Mass Media and History. He now resides in Fargo, North Dakota.