"Mad Men" episode 12: The Warmth of the Sun

Even the weather went berserk.

We’re talking about the ambient temperatures inside the literal offices of Sterling, Cooper — where it’s freezing cold one day, and blazing hot the next — but as metaphorical gives go, this barely discussed element cast a long shadow across the hour. Because if you can’t count on stability in your office environment. . . .if all the promises that the building staff always know what to do, everything will be fine. . . if you have to wear gloves at your desk one day, and then glisten with tropical heat the next, can you count on anything making sense?

But onward. To Pete’s awkward meeting with Lane, who breaks the news that he has lost the race to be head of accounts (because while Pete makes clients feel they’re needs are being met, while Cosgrove makes them feel like they haven’t any needs, whatever that means) then congratulates him on taking the news so well.

The world is hurtling through space. Margaret Sterling, her wedding a day away, is infuriated to be lunched, gifted, and advised by her dad’s extremely young 2nd wife, Jane. Margaret bursts into tears and threatens to cancel her wedding, prompting Mona to call Roger, who orders Jane to back the hell off. Jane, in her role as the mature step-mom, locks herself into the bathroom.

Meanwhile, President Kennedy is headed to a pre-campaign visit to Dallas.

Duck, cover and follow the jump. . . .Oh yes. It’s November 21, 1963. Then it’s the next day, the 22nd, and give or take the office temps, such a normal morning at Sterling, Cooper. Pete feels sorry for himself. Peggy scampers off to entertain Duck in a nearby hotel. Don complains bitterly because Lane won’t let him hire a new art dept chief to take Sal’s place. “Bert still has a say in this,” he grumbles, storming out of the Brit’s HQ to take it up directly with Cooper. And not even guessing that the Brits are keeping costs low specifically to enhance their bottom line in hopes of dumping the firm on whichever buyer will enhance THEIR bottom line.

Then there’s a newsflash from Dallas. And you know what that means.

Confusion. Grief. Tears. Everywhere. The adults rendered into children. Peggy’s housemate has her friends over to write notes to Jackie (the Manhattan working girl’s life revealed as elementary school). Margaret Sterling’s wedding thrown to chaos. Hardly anyone shows, so the rigidly detailed seating plan seems absurd. “Everyone grab your plate and sit wherever you want!” Roger proclaims. Meanwhile: No waiters, and also no cake.

Then there’s Don and Betty Draper. Their world’s chief illusion fell to ashes last week. And so they’re careening through empty space, too.

Don is a shadow of himself – sad-eyed, cowed, yearning. Betty, the blonde puppet wife to end all blonde puppet wives, is done with that role. Turns out her husband didn’t really exist in the first place. She’s lost, but also infuriated. And desperate to have her world restored. Henry must be the man of her dreams – he’s even more of an established, establishment man than Don. He could ride with Rockefeller all the way into the White House. Betty won’t be the next Jackie, but she’d be awfully close. And he’s already proposing marriage.

Only, what does the future hold for moderate, east coast Republicans?

The future, it seems, is entirely up for grabs. And maybe, just maybe, a shock like this will move it in an interesting direction. Don’s already rousing himself to tend young Gene in the middle of the night. When Carla rushes in and hears from Betty that the president is, in fact, dead, she bursts into tears, grabs a cigarette from her employer and sits next to her to watch and cry.

There’s been a change in the weather. The times have changed. Next week brings the climax of “Mad Men’s third season. And after that, the part of the ’60s that isn’t a holdover from the ’50s.