Welcome to New York, as the timeless song goes, it's been waiting for you. Gee, that's a pretty vague it's. What could it possibly represent? Since one of last night's central tenets dealt with what the city is capable of, it's the perfect opportunity to explicate what this city brings to those who set foot here. On "New Business," the 87th episode of Mad Men, for Marie Calvet, New York was a chance to bash your no-good-ex-son-in-law right where it hurts (pockets and home) and smash his handsome business partner, American mustache be damned (sup, Roger).
For enigmatic server Diana "Di Could Stand for Lots of Things, Not Just Death and Dying" Last Name Unknown, New York's been waiting since the light in her life went out after her daughter took her last breath. Unable to face her remaining family, she ditched small town Wisconsin for the Rotten Apple and, talk about crummy luck, she met Don Draper. Now she's drinking vodka from one of those cheap handles in a single room apartment while Don mansplains what must be Di's shitty feelings of jealousy and mistrust w/r/t the last days of conscious uncoupling from his second ex. Don understands. Except, no. Di doesn't want to recline in his arms because then she'll forget about the pain she's carrying as a torch for her lost daughter and as punishment for the other daughter (and husband) pining away back in America's cheese land.
For Megan, New York is a way to get in touch with loutish trash via Harry Crane, who we've always known was a sleaze but who last night got the chance to let his creepy, toxic dick hang out in unprecedented ways. Last week, Don was the one doing the porn audition auditioning; here, it's Harry. In a spiel he's surely given before, he pitches Megan on the best way to break into the business and guess what: the best way is via fucking Harry Crane. Bold move, Crane. Hope you die soon.
New York was also a way for Megan to connect with her mother. Marie is one of the minor characters on Mad Men who, when the "previously on Mad Men" footage indicates that she'll make an appearance, a surge of anticipation rushes through the crowd. Oh, shit: Marie's back? She's just so mean. On "New Business," she got in insults like second-hand smoke exhaled into a baby's face through the side of the mouth. Inhale. Exhale. "It's amazing you don't have syphilis," she says to Megan when talking about Don's sexual appetite. Delicious.
Because she's on Mad Men, she's got a lot of hurt behind those quips, and Megan gets that. During an argument with her sister about Marie running off with Roger, Megan comes to her mother's defense in a powerful display of empathy. Marie had been unhappy with their father for a long time, Megan says. She knows that feeling.
Meanwhile, Don's world is vanishing as quickly as the million dollars exiting his bank account to settle business with Megan. It's funny and kind of awesome when Di, after a night of what must've been really wounded sex, tries to kick Don out of his own pad, but it's also foreshadowing the episode's final shot. Marie strong-arms the movers into taking not just Megan's things from the apartment (the occasion for her visit from the West), but taking every object that isn't nailed down, too. Which means Don is coming home to a void. It's a stark contrast to the bustle of the Francis home that opens the episode. All those things, the smiling children, the milkshakes you can make on your own, no sweat, when the blender at the diner kicks the bucket—there's so much life in this scene. But then Don, as he was at the shiva last week, is pushed into an outsider's position when Henry Francis arrives. The boys are only his sons on certain days of the week. He's only entitled to portions of his family, and on a strict timetable. Time is up when Henry and Betty return from the fundraiser. The coach is a pumpkin. Your kids go to their other daddy. You stand outside what was once your life.
Sing it, Taylor:
When we first dropped our bags
On apartment floors
Took our broken hearts
Put them in a drawer
Everybody here was someone else before
New York kinda sucks.
Firmly nestled in the city's bosom, where boys and girls can want who they want, Peggy and Stan are caught in an awkward triangle with art photographer Pima Ryan, brought in to shoot a vermouth ad that looks like a 1970 prefiguration of The Craft. Pima, serving Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, is a boss who does want she wants, and she cuts through Stan's macho posturing to see it for what it is: insecurity about his own talent and a keening desire for validation. She mothers him, fucks him in a dark room, and offers some disparaging words about his current flame. (Great, we finally meet Stan's girlfriend and now she's gonna get dumped.)
Then, Pima makes a pass at Peggy. Peggy's worldly—she's been to parties with Joyce. She can take a pass and keep it moving—and throw it back in Stan's face when he wants to brag about his sex game is oh so satisfying. Cool story, Stan.
After last week's hour spent communing with the intersection of sex and death, "New Business" raised more questions than it answered. Will we see Di again? Is this the final other woman Don will be paired with? Maybe Don needs to be really alone for the remaining five episodes, and not "Are you alone?" season 5 finale alone, I'm talking alone on a level we haven't seen before. Existentially-at-peace alone. Walk-out-into-the-ocean alone.
Like any great love, all this keeps me guessing.
Ross Scarano is a deputy editor at Complex. He tweets here.