Now I Am Become Slut, Destroyer of Worlds

The host is alive. She is sentient. She is self-aware. And she knows you have programmed her to attack herself and the others.

Nope! Not a blog about Westworld! At least, most of it isn’t. I want to talk about The Bachelor and I want to explain why this show is the place to be, if you’re into the shock of watching creations outsmart their creator-controllers.  The more I read this Bach season as a rumination on feeling fictional and clawing for “reality,” the more I was reminded of HBO’s ambitious series on gnosticism, humanity, and the function of storytelling. Might even go so far to say that these two shows share a soul; Dolores Abernathy would be right at home at a rose ceremony!

Please follow me, down into a fake mansion that houses a harem, where we can take a closer look at the things that made The Bachelor so distinctive in its 21st season: existential female anxiety, textual reflexivity, and the peculiar journey of Corinne, a single trope that managed to awaken and rewrite herself.

Born into an apocalyptic Trumpworld, this iteration of The Bachelor became something kind of dark, dreadful, and a little bit out-of-control. Of course, The Bachelor is always a circus, and that’s why so many people hate it: for a television fan, it takes a strong set of stones to follow something so vapid, so dependent on tired stereotypes and romantic wish-fulfillment, so misogynistic, so corporate and disingenuous. How many different ways can producers arrange 30 beautiful women in a Love Thunderdome as they compete for the affections of one bland white man? But there was something poisonous in American culture at large that made Season 21 into something else, something crazier. Perhaps the 2016 election left a vacuum of hope that encouraged The Bachelor producers to lean into self-destruction as an aesthetic. Perhaps we, the audience, are evolving to watch ourselves watching TV, and we prefer everything to be kind of about storytelling – ergo the timely popularity of diverse “meta” shows like WestworldAmerican Horror StoryFleabag.

Either way, the new Bachelor was defined by these new and distinctive notes:

  1. Contestants who bristled inside their assigned story cages and pointedly drew attention to the process of being written as characters.
  2. The season’s primary “villain,” Corinne, who transcended the confines of the Bach with a Joker-like sense of chaotic sexuality and stunningly re-branded her arc as sex-positive feminist heroism.
  3. An unwilling Bachelor whose weird charisma relied on his apathy, nihilism, and constant critique of the format. Nick undermined our reception of the Bachelor experience by positioning himself as a bored observer – distancing himself from the contestants and the ideological underpinnings of the show.

First, I want to take on Bullet Number One – the Westworldian crises of self that entered this season of the Bachelor early on and began the process of destabilizing narratives and the women forced to live them. Take a look at what happened to Jasmine G on Night 1. Now, it’s not unusual for Bachelor women to immediately recoil from the uncanniness of this environment –  to be a Bachelor contestant, to be on a reality dating competition, is to be subjected to spirit-breaking. These women are tested every moment with the pressures of self-criticism, of being filmed, of being beautiful, of being charming, of systematically attacking and defeating your stunning competitors. But something about Jasmine G’s body language and wording struck me as a crisis of self, a dissociative episode which bespeaks her sudden awareness that she is performing and this whole thing – maybe any love-hunt – is theater without meaning.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s out of my control. There’s nothing I can do. Holy shit. Who the fuck am I? I’m blown away right now. Who am I?”

Night 1 would be the first of Jasmine’s many system failures, glitches in her personality and physical affect which provided an alarming counterpoint to the self-policing composure we’re used to seeing on these women. Nick eliminated her because of her unpleasant urge to question the “realism” of herself, of him, of the experience. And this was not the only instance of unusual meta-awareness amongst the women. Many of the others expressed a certain repugnance at the roles in which they were pigeonholed – at their status as storylines. Liz’s only mission, with mounting desperation, was to rewrite her way from Nick’s opportunistic ex-fling all the way to romantic legitimacy. Taylor realized too late that her Bachelor persona and “real” professional life were being mapped onto one another and she’d dug herself into the “bitch bully” hole (with the help of her nemesis Corinne). Taylor also literally theorized that some women are better-programmed for love! What could be more Westworld than attempting to parse the resident slut’s “emotional intelligence”?

So there was a significant change in the show here, in which the women’s grasp or ignorance of “being produced” was of paramount importance to how we perceived them. To compare these women to WW characters like Dolores and Maeve – remaining basic, guileless, and easily overwritten ensured a measure of success in the competition and preserved their classic Bachelor likeability factor.

So with that said, I’m dying to get back to Corinne. Here was a contestant who really jumped off the screen for reasons I’ve never seen an antagonist “pop” before. Unlike a villain such as, say, Season 20’s Olivia, Corinne worked to distinguish herself as a breakout character – not just through behavior but through actual world-building. Starting the show out by mentioning her current nanny Raquel was a stroke of genius; Raquel was a framing device that indicated Corinne inhabited a bizarre fantasy world inside and outside the show. In so many ways. Corinne deliberately ate endless blocks of cheese on camera. She feigned naps, eyes closed, smiling beatifically as she “dreamed” of Nick. She self-consciously and joyfully delivered dialogue she knew would light up the internet. Clutching her breasts and huffing, “Does this seem like someone who’s immature?” Staring soullessly into the lens and intoning, “My heart is gold, but my vagine is platinum.” Luring Nick into an inexplicable bounce house and toplessly dry-humping him with abandon. Corinne’s promiscuity, and her persona, were over-the-top but deliberately, defiantly, and delightfully self-choreographed. We know the floozy never wins, but when the floozy knows it, ignores it, and enjoys her role, she transcends happy endings.

And most interestingly, Corinne elevated her self-awareness and self-programming into a magnificent final act. During “The Women Tell All” (a reunion episode which airs before the finale) Corinne, in one fell swoop, ret-conned her entire Bachelor journey as a feminist rumspringa. “I was just doing me,” she demurely insisted, while the other contestants fought to defend her sexual agency. They leaped to defend the resident slut as the bravest and most authentic person amongst them. Corinne sat, resplendent, her eyes bearing no trace of the mischief and malevolence that had been her character cornerstones. She’d accomplished a rewrite akin to “it was all a dream.” Later, women sobbed while Liz declared her sexual encounter with Nick had not “defined” her, and they took turns praising their sister for her humanitarian work. The thematic tide-turn from “a search for true love” to “an inner journey toward female unity and empowerment” made for the most overtly political and topical episode The Bachelor has had, maybe ever – and it bespoke the malleability of reality fiction in a way the show has never previously approached.

In many ways, it was Bachelor Nick’s abdication of his role that allowed the TV text to refocus itself on the women “waking up” and growing through their relationships to one another. It’s hard, as a viewer, to engage with story about passive female players being driven toward romantic fulfillment, when the end-goal is a guy who’d be content to go home immediately and eat cold pizza. As we know, the guy had already been through two seasons of The Bachelorette and one summer of Bachelor in Paradise – his entire narrative was “last-ditch effort for love.” Nick made it his business to call out the fakery of The Bachelor, and the futility of it: “Let’s try to be as normal as possible in an abnormal environment.” “I’ve been in their shoes, and I know how much it sucks.” I certainly like Nick as a person – I like that he cries when he feels stuff, and I like that he hates being The Bachelor but loves being famous, and I like that he let women who were too good for him go, so they could fly and be free and be the first black Bachelorette. But if Nick did anything other than represent a neat resolution of the presented Bachelor narrative, he effectively denied our suspension of disbelief and exposed this particular season as “reality farce with no point.” Prince Charming was just in it for the international travel and the free food. I sympathize. And it’s fun to watch The Bachelor pretend that this isn’t a huge problem.

SO! I posit here that, at least for this season, The Bachelor evolved beyond the story of single women and their search for love. You might say that instead of being about singlehood, this show became about “the singularity” – that moment when program/character/trope/story/world comes alive and begins to adapt and change itself. I wonder: is it a better ride for the reality-consuming audience, when “we know they know”? At what point does watching a character with meta-awareness become confusing, or tiresome, rather than thrilling? And most importantly, what are the differences between watching reality television and prestige drama when we’re grappling with these issues? This question, perhaps, is of paramount importance for TV fans as we go forward; if there’s something in the water that’s poisoning every genre of narrative experience (or making it tastier), we have to put our fingers on it. Why do I watch so much television about women in traps, whose self-actualization and creative escapes are catalyzed by patriarchal violence? Why is it so easy to find that story?

I think it’s easy to brush aside shows like The Bachelor precisely because they are so heavily consumed, across political and cultural lines, and “mass appeal” television has the reputation of reifying harmful structures of power. For really good reason. But it’s important to locate these small moments of medium-transcendence within these TV texts. More and more, the characters we use and abuse are turning directly towards us. These fictional delights have real ends, and it’s never, never about the final rose.

→ Day 7: Denver to Topeka

AND WE’RE BACK. I am writing to you from a Starbucks, forever my oasis in the unfamiliar desert. I walked a mile and a half here before 9 AM on a Sunday, dragging my sorry self from the car repair shop. More on that later.

I have spent the last few days immersed in family time between Boulder and Denver (and one night/hungover morning in Arvada). It’s been JAM PACKED and kind of amazing. I just ker-plunked myself in the middle of everyone’s lives and ended up running through the rain with a pack of 4-year-olds, slamming Cherry Bombs, strolling through a bonsai garden, and generally collecting rich snapshots of the lives I’m usually so disconnected from. My uncles and aunts are all really fascinating human beings and are raising their families in utter mountain paradise; plus, got the bonus of quality time with my cousin Olivia, who’s close to my age and moved here relatively recently. It was pleasant and a little disorienting to have people offering to make me comfortable; these 4 days have left me slightly spoiled and have added a pound or two (worth it).

I rolled into Boulder in the late afternoon on Thursday. That night, and most of Friday, I got to enjoy my preternaturally chill Aunt Robyn and Uncle Dan, and my brilliant and dangerous little cousin Lil. She is a firecracker of life, so smart and intuitive, and overflowing with charm. The first night was generally tame – dinner, ice cream downtown, lots of trampoline time, an extended visit to the novelty toy shop where Lily transformed into a frightening and majestic hybrid:

found this CREATURE in the colorado wilderness #mylittleunicorn

A post shared by Leah Steuer (@popmitzvah) on

Much relax, so family, very delight. A nice transition to the chaos of Friday.

Chaos in the good way, though. In the morning, I joined Robyn and Lil’s whole daycare class for a field trip to Chautauqua Park – we bussed up to the park and saw a quaintly cute orchestra perform “Peter and the Wolf” for a lot of squirmy kids. These 4-year-olds were SO INCREDIBLY CUTE (I am, of course, biased: Lily is the cutest one and there’s no contest). I ended up becoming an extra pair of supervisory adult hands as we herded the small army of children into a gazebo to wait for the shuttle. Minutes turned into more minutes and rain began to fall. Lily dug her little paws into my hair and created a bird’s next to pass the time. An hour passed before Robyn finally called the po-po to complain about our stranding and demand bus service. Rescued!

After that, the three of us went to see Inside Out, which was…kind of devastating. I thought it was an absolutely gorgeous movie, one of Pixar’s finest artistic achievements, but it boldly went to the saddest depths of human emotion. Not since the 2D experiments of my youth has a kid’s movie felt so dark: at points it was frightening at Brave Little Toaster level, and as depressing/profound as The Iron Giant (which I’ll never watch again due to trauma).The only counterpoint to the really heavy stuff was the visual style; there’s an INCREDIBLE sequence set inside the “abstract mind” that took creative animation to new levels. The central conceit of it is so ambitious: What if feelings had feelings? And in what way do they form us, in the moment and forever? The story of the personified emotions inside one girl’s head – Joy, Disgust, Anger, Fear, etc – has such high stakes because it’s not about the characters, it’s about those concepts. And how they prepare us for the biggest loss we’ll ever experience: growing up. The loss of our innocence and, inevitably, even parts of who we are. Precocious children will love this movie for years to come.

After the movie, I drove separately from the Boulder Steuers to convene with the Denver Steuers for a BBQ (and the start of my short Denver leg). Then, TRAGEDY STRUCK.

On the way there, my car stalled out with no warning!! One moment I’m at a stop sign, the next I’m creeping over to the shoulder with my hazards on and a pounding heart, hissing out a litany of fucks. I kept telling myself that car trouble was “bound to happen,” but I didn’t really think it would actually manifest in my reality. I eventually booted her up and was able to take her to my uncle Gary and aunt Sophie’s place with my grumpy face on.

Save the stall, Friday night in Denver proceeded in EXCELLENT fashion. I finally reunited with my cousin Olivia, who is truly one of my favorite human beings. She just started her life here in Colorado after college and is a source of hilarity, kindness, and endless family gossip. Also squeezed the life out of my other tiny cousin, Esmé, who has one of the sweetest dispositions ever created on this earth. She’s also whip-smart and knows more about fashion than I can ever, ever hope to. Along with Olivia’s friend Ally, the 9 of us enjoyed a super delicious home-cooked dinner and sunny warm time on the patio. And Olivia and I (of the June/July birthdays) both got candles in our ice cream and presents! Yaaaaas.

TOGETHER ❤️💜💛💚 #cousins #reuniontour

A post shared by Leah Steuer (@popmitzvah) on

That night, I pretty much raged with my cuz and bar-hopped a bit in downtown Denver. How I love pulsating beats and rude girls in long lines. Just like the social evenings of my recent youth. Drank, danced, met some very strange guys from Liverpool while we waited for our Lyft. One of them had just gotten a salmon tattooed on his groinal area, which he readily opened his pants to display (twice). Once we got back to O’s place in Arvada, I legit died on her couch in all my clothes and slept like the grave.

Did a nice eggy breakfast the day and then headed back to Denver to spend some time with Gary, Sophie, and Ez. We did Cheeseman Park and the botanic conservatory, where we beheld some really weird-looking plants and lots of gorgeous greenery. Ez is eminently fashionable, and cuts a very adorable figure in a garden. After that, had an INSANELY DELICIOUS dinner at a place called Shells & Sauce. I love a place that puts its strengths on display. I was so hungry I didn’t even bother to snap a food pic, which is very serious for me. Esmé introduced me to the wonders of caperberries (what a palate on this one!). It was such a fun night, felt like I walked off a little bit of that heavy cream sauce afterward (though not much).

This morning I woke up at the crack of OMG NO THANK YOU to take my car to the only place in Denver that was open on a Sunday. Turns out my engine’s got mad problems; fingers crossed that they can fix it quickly and without too much agita and extra $$. Of course, being up this early and without a vehicle made my feet start walking towards The Bux. They know and understand me here, and have wifi.

May end up having to stay an extra night in Denver if my auto-troubles are that bad – if not, I’m setting out today for beautiful (?) Topeka, KS (I changed my destination from Wichita after I realized it’d take an extra 2 hours from there to St. Louis). Please keep your fingers crossed for me and my beleagured Civic!

→ Day 4: Grand Junction to Boulder

I slept in this morning and woke up to warm sunlight and the smell of fresh lavender. First thought: Have I died and gone to heaven? Second thought: Do they have bagels here? BOTH WERE TRUE. Grand Junction is a magical gift.

My host, Claire, greeted me with coffee, breakfast, and some fresh-picked cherries for which she traded her organic lavender. What?? Where have I gone wrong, that I’m not trading my farmed flowers for fruit on the regular?

I did have a fun day yesterday, though by the end my brain felt frazzled and overcooked. On the ride from Flagstaff to Moab (picturesque as always), I passed through some very small clusters of civilization in Utah. Saw a very creepy-looking sign for a Dinosaur Museum in the town of Blanding, and on an impulse I turned off and decided to have myself a side adventure.

i had to; the closest i can get to #peeweesbigadventure 🐉🚲

A post shared by Leah Steuer (@popmitzvah) on

Seriously the oddest place I’ve been to yet. It was almost fully deserted, so all I had for company were the life-size dinosaur replicas, clinging to dusty fake vegetation and prowling the fluorescent corridors. I was so tickled by the fact that they had an “exhibit” of posters for dinosaur movies. It’s nice to see someone else agree that The Land Before Time should be preserved for future generations. Once I’d taken in all the information (including a description of a creature I am SURE is made up, the “Supersaurus”) I hurriedly purchased a postcard and hopped back in the car.

Stopped in Moab briefly to gawk at the red rocks and the Arches and snap a few pics. A very beautiful place, but I was a little bit tapped out by this point, so a half hour walk was all I could muster.

I also had the unique terror/pleasure of driving through a summer storm as I crossed into CO…please note my haphazard dashboard photo of the oncoming black cloud. It was a refreshing blast of cool humidity and splashy, fat raindrops that SPLATTED with such a satisfying sound. The rain continued all down I-70, for almost 90 miles. Kept my windows open for the clean soaked-earth smell and it was pretty much my favorite part of the drive. Also, to my delight, Spotify decided at this moment to shuffle up “Sunshowers,” one of my ultimate summer pick-me-ups:

Once I got here, the gale-force gusts in Grand Junction kept me inside for most of the night – I had the whole house to myself, complete with the ghosty sounds of wind through the door cracks. Was deep asleep even before my body hit the bed.

My next update will probably take a few extra days, because today I meet up with my family in Boulder/Denver!! Can’t wait to put my cabin fever on hiatus and spend some EXCELLENT vacay time with my two uncles and aunts and three flawless cousins. Let the bonding and hiking and gossiping begin.

 

Mad Men S7BE1: “Severance”

“Is that all there is?”

Peggy Lee, you said it. This premiere episode was a tough nut to crack – a lot of unsteady philosophical meandering leading to a casual ending. It was a visually dazzling hour (What color! What mustaches!) but…inscrutable. What just happened? What does it all mean? How is this episode going to set up the finale? Is that all there is?

I have oodles of faith that the rest of Season 7B will be vastly more enjoyable. The Mad Men premieres have always been weird and uncomfortable and slightly creaky under the weight of theme introduction (remember “The Doorway”?). So let’s talk about this strange episode – its fast-paced structure, strained dialogue, time-jumping, and sense of cheerless nostalgia.

“Severance” followed four major storylines: those of Don, Joan, Peggy, and Ken. Let’s start with the big D.

tumblr_nmdxyf7Trc1qe9t4zo1_500

tumblr_nmdxyf7Trc1qe9t4zo2_400

The opening scenes give us a full blast of voyeuristic discomfort, without the usual pleasure that used to come with watching Don go all Draper on some girl. It’s an audition for a fur campaign, a very intimate roleplay – and, the camera reveals, it’s happening in front of a roomful of other men. At this, I admit my heart sank. After the tenderness of the 7A finale, I wanted to believe we’d advanced past Don’s super gross side. He’s always needed to dominate and decorate women in order to define himself; this first scene is meant to prepare us for a disappointing Don rewind. It’s an interesting way to begin the half-season; a faithful callback to what we first loved about our protagonist. But now, in 1970, in this clinical brown office, it’s not so sexy anymore. It’s a regression. It’s pathetic and it’s sad.

Don goes through a lot of back-cycling during “Severance.” It’s an episode that interrogates the way he’s built an identity through sex and intimacy, a cobbled-together Perfect Man built from the dreams and projections of so many women, so many loves, so many first kisses.

tumblr_nmdepgvtTv1sq9xy6o1_500

Two women from his past confront Don in a compressed period of time. One of them is Rachel Menken – we all remember her from Season 1 (and I screamed out loud when we first saw her because I’d missed her so much) Rachel was the first woman in the series whose emotional magnetism truly prompted Don to consider abandoning his facade and starting anew. She’s a powerful symbol of nostalgia in Mad Men, as it was Rachel’s presence that brought out the Don we first came to love – his iconic poeticism (“Love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons”) and his wild romanticism.

But Rachel’s already dead by the time she reappears (in a dream sequence which, no matter how beautifully it’s done, always makes me feel betrayed). Her avatar in Don’s mind is pretty on-the-nose – she smiles mysteriously, glimmers in her fur, and tells him, “I’m supposed to tell you you missed your flight.” She wasn’t his only chance to live passionately and authentically, but she might have been his first. When Don attempts to reconnect, inspired by his vision, we find out that she’s only just succumbed to leukemia a week before. The cosmic devastation throws Don off for the rest of the episode. He attends shiva at her apartment, struggling to make sense of the loss, staring at her young children knowing that in another life, they could have been his. He’s frightened and needing answers about the coincidence of her reappearance in his subconscious. She was gone as quickly as she returned. Is that all there is?

tumblr_nmdm98Yx5W1rm0qhbo8_r1_250

Don’s assisted in his existential crisis by a sad-eyed waitress named Di (I mean, talk about on-the-nose). He’s convinced he knows her from somewhere, and they share a soulless quickie behind a diner. Di does look like a lot of girls Don’s pulled over the course of the series – she’s got the hawkish beauty of Midge, the mysticality of Rachel, and the uniform of the dozens of waitresses he’s winked at for decades. For God’s sake, Don’s already shtupped a random flight attendant during the course of this episode! He’s deep in the throes of dark neediness, repeating his romantic cycle. Don doesn’t know Di, but he knows how this starts and how it ends. He’s fucking a memory.

It’s an extremely depressing setup for the rest of 7B.

tumblr_nmdooccysL1rm0qhbo2_250

Another character who’s grasping for a do-over is Ken Cosgrove, who makes a really welcome return in this episode. The title alludes to Ken’s unceremonious firing by Roger and the head honcho at McCann. Said honcho is an Irish brute named Ferg, who’s long had a professional vendetta against the company-hopping Ken.

Kenny has always been a unique character on which to map the war between creativity and pragmatism. He’s a rare kind soul amongst his colleagues, who hid his idealism and writerly spark in order to advance in the accounts department. Although he’s Head of Accounts, his wife thinks he ought to go back to penning beautiful science fiction novels and leave the ad game altogether. And just as he’s made the decision to bow out gracefully and follow his dream, he’s canned by McCann. Ferg is cruel about it and Roger is cool about it, and both approaches fill the normally level-headed Ken with bewilderment and rage.

tumblr_nmdm98Yx5W1rm0qhbo3_250tumblr_nmdm98Yx5W1rm0qhbo4_250

“The life not lived” is Ken’s succinct restatement of Don’s problem (and Peggy’s as well, but we’ll get to that in a moment). Ken could just walk away from this sour turn of events and begin to build the existence he always wanted – a farm, a family, a writing career. But it turns out that for Ken, the best revenge isn’t living well, or living differently. It’s just revenge. His corporate maneuvering provides the absolutely high point of the episode, a fun bit of comeuppance that’s quick and lively and a phenomenal hint of a very amusing storyline to come.

tumblr_nmdcuyD1m81se7sd6o1_400tumblr_nmdcuyD1m81se7sd6o3_400tumblr_nmdcuyD1m81se7sd6o4_400

Let’s move on to Peggy and Joan.

First of all, Peggy’s on a bit of a backslide as well. She’s back in a mental place of ennui and self-pity – single but too busy to mingle. She’s set up on a date with her coworker Mathis’ brother-in-law. WHO IS BRIAN KRAKOW. PEGGY’S ON A DATE WITH BRIAN KRAKOW. I know the rest of the internet shares my delight.

tumblr_nmdi3s3wvx1sq9xy6o1_500

It’s a cute storyline, but frankly not one I feel like spending much time on. Their chemistry is easy and fun, and Stevie (that’s his actual name) seems to like Peggy for all her stubbornness and brilliance. It’s nice to see Peggy’s flirty side, because both she and we have forgotten that workplace satisfaction isn’t quite the same as happiness. Her “life not lived” is the life of a girlfriend, a mother, a second fiddle – and although that’s never going to be her style, Peg seems to enjoy roleplaying once in awhile.

Peggy’s trouble in “Severance” stems from the fact that she’s unable to be spontaneous and fly off to Paris with Stevie at a moment’s notice (because her passport is in an office drawer, surprise surprise). She finds every excuse in the book not to trust this stranger or the genuine connection she’s made with him.

It’s hard to be sympathetic towards Peggy, though, because of The Elevator Scene. A watershed moment for the episode.

tumblr_nmdbpwxAZf1qhwgauo1_540tumblr_nmdbpwxAZf1qhwgauo2_540

Some background: Peggy and Joan are tasked with pitching Topaz pantyhose to their superiors at McCann, who are a bunch of sexist assholes. Their crude jokes are nothing new to these two, but this is the first time they’ve been working together as a team in a professional setting.

tumblr_nmdakou6vj1qhhssxo3_250

Unsurprisingly, Peggy handles the toxic atmosphere much better than Joan does. She’s been in conference rooms for years enduring similar blows to her dignity, and has learned to emphasize her “masculine” side to cope – more conservative dress, a harder exterior, swift judo chops to halt any small talk.

But that’s simply not the way Joan is built, so to speak; Joan thrives off her own sexuality and finds power in deploying her femininity and emotional instincts in business dealings. We, as fans, love to see Peggy and Joan find common ground and use each other as lifeboats in their male-dominated war ground of an office – but this is 1970. This is not a time when women lived their personal truths in the workplace and lifted one another up. And Peggy and Joan’s heated conversation in the elevator as they leave that meeting is a short, terrible microcosm of that. Peggy basically calls Joan a slut, and Joan tells Peggy she’s too ugly to even be a slut. It’s a saddening interaction that recalls their Season 1 relationship in all the worst ways.

tumblr_nme2hyQoyT1roohieo2_400

As a coping mechanism, Joan engages in a little retail therapy – playing up her assets rather than taking Peggy’s harsh advice to hide her curves and bury her sensuality. In this scene, Joan also shows us the narrow gulf between her life and the life she could have lived – as the salesgirl points out, Joan’s spending thousands of dollars in the same dress department she once managed (forced, by her rapey ex-fiance, to quit Sterling Cooper in disgrace). “You must have me confused with someone else,” says Joan coolly. No one’s going to write her story, ever again. Is that all there is? If so, she’s damn well going to be dressed to the nines for it.

Loose ends…

  • I mustache you a question, Roger…WHY?

    tumblr_nmdab07a401qhmg1fo1_1280

  • Ooh, Pete’s former secretary Clara is now pregnant out of wedlock! Juicy.
  • Speaking of Pete, he’s living a new/old life too. He’s back in New York, and says of his long and lovely LA vacation: “At the time it felt so real…”
  • Ken’s father-in-law Ed (who memorably once told Don that he’d never get hired again after he screwed Philip Morris) has an amazing advertising voice. He could sell me Pop Tarts any day.
  • Stan. Looks. So. ’70s. Hot. That beard is BITCHIN’.

tumblr_nmd8vtNNVc1rdrts4o2_500

So, what did you all think of “Severance”? Did you feel confused and kinda bitter (like I did, and apparently the rest of Tumblr)? Did you love the episode? What DOES it all mean?