"Mad Men" goes from dwelling on the past to looking toward the future. Don's outlook? Not so good.
At least in in the advertising world.
"The Forecast" goes beyond Don's uncertain future and explores the goals of fan favorites, like Peggy, Joan and Sally. It's a refreshing change from the endless loop of overplayed and dreary themes from recent episodes.
Roger has Don writing a speech on what the future has in store for their company. "Reasonable hopes and dreams," Roger says. "It doesn't have to be science fiction."
It should be an easy assignment, but for once we see Don struggle with writer's block. How can he speak to the future of the company when he's unsure about his own fate? Or his own interest in his job?
Don never discusses his own dreams, but he hints that advertising isn't in the cards for him. Any of his coworkers' dreams that involve the workplace makes him bristle.
"Bigger accounts ... that's your dream?" Don sounds crushed when he asks Ted for his aspirations. He's desperately looking for the right path to steer his life out of the office and finds little inspiration along the way.
Likewise, Peggy's dream is lofty and work-related. We discover this when she goes into Don's office to ask for a performance review.
(Side note: Remember when Don reported to Peggy last season? Whatever happened to that? It's like the show and the Women's Rights Movement reverted five years.)
Don goes off-script for the performance review. Not for Peggy's benefit, but for his own. "What do you see for the future?"
"I'd like to be the first woman creative director at this agency," she says beaming with confidence.
Don smiles and gives a light chuckle, which Peggy mistakes for a chauvinistic, "aw, that's cute, sweetheart" attitude.
No, he's smiling because she has it figured out and he doesn't. "Get it together, Don," he must be thinking. He prods to see what she wants beyond the corporate world.
"I want to create something of lasting value," she says. "In advertising?" he asks puzzled.
"Why don't you just write down all of your dreams, so I can shit on them?" she snaps. Damn, go Peggy!
Peggy doesn't realize that Don's having his never-ending existential crisis, and she shouldn't take it personally.
In fact, Don knows her dream is going to happen. He's not progressive enough to think Sally's girl friend can be a senator, but he knows Peggy can run the show at SC&P.
Joan, on the other hand, just wants love. You'd think it'd be easy for her, but she's a single mom with an impressive job, and that makes 1970s men run.
While she's in California working with Lou (ugh, him again) on new recruits, she meets a dashing millionaire named Richard.
He seems like a good catch, but we all know Joan doesn't have the best taste in men. (See: Roger, her rapey ex-husband Greg.)
But the more we learn about him, the less appealing he seems to be. He recently left his wife so he can gallivant around the world. And when he discovers Joan has a son, he gets pissy that his travel dreams with her are squashed. Apparently he's never heard of a babysitter.
So, this is Joan's new guy? A man who ditches his family so he can "have a plan, which is have no plans" and ends it with Joan because she "can't go to the pyramids" thanks to her kid?
This is Joan "Eighth Wonder of the World" we're talking about. The pyramids have nothing on her. When she's interested, you make it work.
At first, Joan takes it hard. "You're ruining my life!" Joan screeches to her babysitter when she makes her late for work. Just like with the infamous airplane incident with Meredith, this isn't about her babysitter's ditziness.
Her outburst was actually directed at her adorable 4-year-old son, Kevin. Careful, Joan. You're creeping up on Betty for Worst Mother of the Episode award. As he says "buh-bye" to her, you can see how remorseful she is.
All seems lost for Joan's dream, until Richard comes to the office, bouquet of roses in hand. Then he tells her about his new plan.
He's going to invest in property in New York City to be closer to Joan to make things work. I'd like to say good for her, but I have no doubt she's settling.
Sally's dream is the saddest of them all: not to be like her parents. Considering her parents, it's a good goal to have. But no one should have parents they regret sharing DNA with.
Last night we saw both Don and Betty's insecurities get the best of them as they flirt with their daughter's friends. Just, ew.
A very grown up Creepy Glenn comes to visit, muttonchops, chest hair and all. Much to Sally's disappointment, he's not there to see her; he's there to make a move on Betty.
Betty's self-esteem is dependent on others noticing her, so of course she flirts right back. Later when he makes a move on her, she only resists because she's married. Barf.
But at least Sally's dad has more sense than that right? Ha, nope!
Before Sally goes on her summer trip, she has dinner with three of her girl friends and Don. One of them shamelessly hits on Don. He flirts back, because of course he does.
When Sally calls him out on his sketchy ways, he says he "didn't want to embarrass her [friend]." Please, Don. You're only embarrassing yourself here.
As she says goodbye to Don, she tells him her dream is to "get away from you and Mom, and hopefully be a different person than you two." That's rough for Don.
"You are like your mother and me," he warns her. "You're going to find that out." That is the most terrifying — and sadly, the truest — thing you can tell a kid with messed up parents.
Too often when you focus on what you don't want to be (in Sally's case, someone whose self-esteem is hinged on others paying attention to them), you become that.
Instead, she needs to focus on what she wants to be, which someone who's confident enough not to "ooze everywhere" whenever someone finds them remotely interesting.
She's a smart kid, but that means very little to her emotional development when her parents have deprived her of the attention she so desperately needs. She might go find her self-worth in unsafe places, much like her father has.
As for her father, Don could end up in a ditch for all I care. It's Sally's future I'm worried about. What do the last four episodes have in store for her?
Best Meredith one-liner: "More money, bigger accounts, more awards, international business ... And a space station?" she rattles off the goals for SC&P in 1970. "Gas station," Don corrects her. That Meredith. Always shooting for the moon.
Best Sally one-liner: "I'm sorry, Mother, but this conversation is a little late. And so am I." Sally's the best. I'd be heartbroken if we didn't see more of her before the show ends.
Most ominous quote: "Before McMahon, all I ever thought was: would we be in business next year?" Don says, discussing the company's future with Ted. "Or will I be here at all?" he replies. Was that a hint that Don wouldn't be at the office or here on Earth? Cryptic.
Biggest unanswered question: Joan's been married twice. The second must have been Greg, so who was the first?
Dirty Diana: No sign of the mopey, frumpy waitress this time. Let's hope that trend stays.
Return of Lou: Almost forgot about him, didn't you? Lou's been relegated to California, where dreams go to get crushed. (See: Megan, Pete and Ted.) I'm not interested seeing him again unless he receives a devastating letter of rejection from Hanna-Barbera for his "monkey Gomer Pyle" cartoon.
Moving out: Don's real estate agent is the worst. How hard is it to sell that mod penthouse, even if there's a stained carpet and no furniture? Plus, she insults her client: "It looks like a sad person lived here." I don't care how true that is (and it is very, very true), you don't say that to a client.
What's even sadder is that Don says that there were good times in that apartment. Um, when? Looking back, I can't think of one happy scene there. I hope he finds happiness at his new place, but I don't think he'll have that until he finds something more fulfilling than advertising.