Mad Men 713 recap/ review
The Milk and Honey Route
“Mad Men” spoilers below.
“The Milk and Honey Route” serves as the penultimate episode for one of the most audience and critically acclaimed programs in television history. We pick up with Don Draper where we last left him—on the road like Kerouac. The Merle Haggard song “Okie from Muskogee” suggests that Don currently drives through Oklahoma. He nervously pulls over to the side of the road as a squad car lights up behind him with blaring sirens. The officer tells Don that he knew “they’d” catch up to him eventually. Don thinks the man is mistaken and the camera suddenly takes us to Don sleeping in a motel bed. It was all a dream—a tense, frightening nightmare for a man who expects his past to catch up with him at any moment. We then jump to Pete dropping his daughter, Tammy, off at Trudy’s. A bee stung Tammy, ruining lunch for her and her dad. He kisses his daughter and leaves as Trudy and her friend discuss divorce and how divorced parents can turn a child against the other parent. We cut back to Don, in the middle of a phone conversation with his daughter, Sally. She’s quit the field hockey team, but certainly won’t back out of touring Madrid later in the year. Don expresses that he wants to go to Madrid before Sally compares Madrid and Wyoming—Wyoming because he’s already gone through there and sent Sally a postcard. Don’s been on the road a while now. She wants to know where her father’s headed next and he indicates the Grand Canyon. Before they each hang up, he reminds her to sell her field hockey gear because she has “no idea about money.” Ha! That’s rich coming from Don. At college, Betty meets a fellow (younger) student and then promptly falls while ascending some stairs. She’s out of breath and says that she’ll need a minute before rising.
At McCann-Erickson, Pete boards an elevator with Duck Philips, who hints that he’s there to help replace Don. He wants to know if Don left millions behind which turns Pete off completely. Duck sticks with Pete and notices how well he’s fit in after a month. (Don’s been on the road for roughly a month.) Pete doesn’t deny it, pointing out that he even saved Avon and got Burger Chef back on their team. Pete tries to rid himself of Duck, but can’t do it until he agrees to help Duck get a job at Learjet that could potentially land him some new clients. Also, Duck drank through the office scene showing that he still hasn’t kicked the habit. We briefly cut back to Don as his vehicle dies and he pulls over to the side of the road. Following this, we check in with Betty after her fall. A doctor interrupts the nurse with Betty to ask if they can reach Henry. It’s serious. The next scene takes place in Henry’s car, right after Henry and Betty leave the hospital. Henry, angry and confused, threatens to sue the hospital because of what the doctor must have said to Betty. The hospital probably had nothing illegitimate going on, it should be noted, as Henry just didn’t know how to handle the doctor’s news. She retrieves a pack of cigarettes from her purse and Henry immediately throws it in the back seat. Betty has cancer.
A tow truck drops Don off at a roadside motel in Oklahoma where he rents a room and meets the owner and his wife. We cut back to Pete, in a pleasant meeting with Learjet where he suggests the company begins marketing to corporate executives over Hollywood celebrities. In the middle of dinner, Pete finds out that he’s applying for a job with Learjet and that Duck set him up without any intention of appearing for the meal. He comes clean, but it doesn’t seem to upset the Learjet executive as they agree to order a brandy on Duck’s dollar. We look in on Betty again, who learns upon second opinion that the cancer spread from her lungs to her bones and lymph nodes. In the background, a doctor tells Henry that she has nine months to a year as she keeps a stiff upper lip. Betty’s ex-husband sits in his motel room reading The Godfather when a man unlocks his door and walks inside. He introduces himself as the maid/ messenger and tells Don that he should have put a sign up to indicate that he was occupying the room because he didn’t think anybody was checked into that one. They never speak about this, but it doesn’t add up that the man would enter an empty room to clean it—he was there to loot through Don’s belongings. Don gives the man, called Andy, ten dollars to retrieve some booze. He then heads out for a dip in the pool and admires a sunbathing woman before her family tears outside to ruin his gaze.
Duck calls Pete the next day to let him know that he got a job with Learjet on the condition that Pete bring his wife to the next meeting. Pete doesn’t wish to continue lying to Learjet, nor does he wish to forfeit his contract buyout. It seems like Pete declines, but he momentarily scribbles down some details before we check in again with Betty and her hard news. As she brushes her hair, Betty listens to Henry list off the doctors she’ll have to see and their upcoming itinerary of medical appointments. The kids don’t know yet and she doesn’t know how to tell them. “You’re being morose!” Henry accuses. Over at the motel, Andy arrives with Don’s booze and cons him out of ten more dollars. Don asks if his folks know about his conning, but all Andy wants to know is how Don gathered his riches. “I was in advertising,” Don says. Was. Over in New York, Pete lowers Tammy into bed and stops in the doorway to endearingly look at his daughter and ex-wife before turning the attention over to Don again. Draper’s television dies out on him in the motel room. He enters the check-in cabin and asks for another, but not before he repairs the typewriter belonging to the owner’s wife. After finding out he’s a vet, the kind woman invites him to an event for local veterans.
After Pete left his daughter’s bedroom, he ate dinner in the kitchen where Trudy finds him. He asks Trudy to step in as his date for the “wife dinner” with Learjet. She turns him down and he excuses himself as they leave on good terms. The next scene features Sally and a friend walking into her dorm room where they find Henry waiting for Sally. He excuses her friend and breaks the news to Sally about the lung cancer, Betty refusing treatment and that no one else knows. “I’ve breached her confidence because I want you to talk some sense into her,” Henry states. She holds back tears as Henry tells her that it’s okay for her to cry right before he breaks down sobbing in front of his step-daughter. Don, unaware of Betty’s sickness, pulls up in front of the motel in his repaired vehicle and exits to pay the bill. The owner, however, wants Don to attend the veterans’ fundraiser event and offers him a free night to sweeten the pot. How can he decline? At the Francis house, Betty cooks for Gene and Bobby as Henry introduces Sally. Betty glares at Sally and brushes right past her on the way out of the kitchen. Sally lies about getting in trouble at school to the boys to cover up for her mom. She then takes a seat and calls Gene over to her lap, enjoying a quiet moment with her brothers. At the fundraiser, the motel owner explains to Don that a fellow vet’s kitchen burned down, thus fundraising. The man asks about Don’s military service to which Draper replies that he was a lieutenant in Korea. And the lie continues.
Pete dines with his brother in the city to talk about Learjet and their conversation heads off the expected trajectory. Pete is skipping his Learjet meeting because Trudy wouldn’t attend. They blame their character flaws on their father, prompting Pete’s bro to reconsider seeing his side dish as Pete’s eyes grow big—he’s figuring out his future. In Oklahoma, Don quietly drinks as others talk around him. They call over another Korean War veteran so that he and Don can connect. Don tries to keep a low profile and hide his face in order to not give himself away in case the vet, Jerry, knows the real Don Draper. After making eye contact, the man fails to recognize Don Draper/ Dick Whitman/ what have you. The drums pick up the pace as a burlesque dancer emerges from a cake to entertain the gentlemen. At the Carlyle Hotel, Pete relaxes in front of the television (lot of that going around this episode) until Duck, drunk (still or again) interrupts by pounding on the door. When Pete lets him inside, Duck explains that the folks at Learjet mistook Pete skipping the meeting for a bargaining tactic and have upped their offer so that he can’t possibly turn it down: a signing bonus with stock options to make up for the money he leaves at ME.
In Oklahoma the evening winds to a close. The men are tired of Don’s silence, prompting him to tell most of the story of what happened to him Korea. He admits his actions killed his CO, but leaves out the identity assumption and the continued identity assumption. Betty wakes Sally in the middle of the night to give her a letter to open in the event of her death. Sally can’t make sense of Betty not fighting cancer because she’s never quit, but the mother explains she never quit but only knows that it’s her time to move on with her life and death. Don wakes in the middle of the night, as well, when three of the vets break into his room and beat him for stealing the money from the fundraiser. The owner takes Don’s keys and tells him that he can have them when Don returns the money. Finally, a third person for the third scene in a row gets woken up in the middle of the night when Trudy answers the door to find Pete. He can’t hold in the news about Learjet and tells her all about it, trying to sell her on the idea of reconciling and moving to Wichita, Kansas, together with Tammy. “Good morning,” Pete says. The sun has finally risen for their future.
Don nurses a black eye in his room the next morning when Andy appears. He violently throws Andy on the bed, demands the money, insults the conman’s instincts and threatens to kill him. Andy hardly feels guilty stealing the money because the man who needed burned his own kitchen down while drunk. “You’re gonna give me that money, pack your bag, and get out of town.” Don warns Andy about the slippery slope of conning, citing the tribulations he’s lived with since Korea and finally excuses the conman to retrieve the money. The next scene jumps a little in the future as Don drops off the money and retains his car keys, not paying for his room. When he exits, Andy waits outside for a ride to a bus stop. In New York, Betty lets Henry know she’s going to school, but he can’t figure out why she’d want to do it given her illness. She leaves and the camera cuts to Sally, reading the note that she was supposed to read after Betty’s death. As Sally tearfully reads, shots of Betty struggling up the stairs are intercut. In the letter, Betty expresses that she used to worry about Sally marching to the beat of her own drum, but now realizes that Sally will experience a much more fulfilling, adventurous life because of it. The final scene finds Don pulling over to the bus stop where he promised to drop off Andy. He tosses the keys to Andy and tells him not mess up this shot as he exits and takes a seat on the bench as Andy leaves him. Don wears a big smile as Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” plays to bring on the credits. Don’s future seems to be of his making, as if it was anybody else’s? Will he continue as Don? Will Andy assume the Don Draper mantle now that he has the car? Although the Sterling-Cooper people (Pete notwithstanding) were left out of “The Milk and Honey Route,” we learned the fates of a few principal characters. Betty has life-threatening cancer and Pete is moving to Kansas. Don, on the other hand, is merely enjoying life on the road as it comes to him. Will Don’s con go on? We have but one episode to learn his fate. But why, oh why, did he relinquish his wheels to a two-bit moron who thinks he knows how to con? Did he see himself in Andy?
(If you’re one of the people still expecting Don to become D.B. Cooper, I can’t imagine how all that is about to go down next week. Sounded better a few years ago than it does right now.)