Seventeen months. That’s how long I spent waiting for Mad Men to return. That’s how long I spent re-watching Season 4 Episode 7: “The Suitcase,” in hopes that it would magically extend on infinitely instead of ending in a mere 47 minutes. That’s how long I spent muttering Roger Sterling one-liners to myself in my sleep. That’s how long I mourned Ida Blanketship’s death. And most importantly, that’s how long I spent asking myself: why did Don randomly propose to that French Canadian, horse-faced 25-year-old secretary now known as Megan Draper?
Megan is, how shall we say this, not a popular character. And it’s no secret why. Last season, Megan appeared out of nowhere—she literally only had one episode of note before Don proposed—and even then, her only qualification seemed to be that she was nothing like Betty. The episode played out like this: “Look, Megan is able to talk to children without saying ‘go upstairs’ or ‘watch tv.’ Look, Megan doesn’t freak out over spilled milkshakes and seems capable of using a napkin!” And then, boom: ring. In short, bitch swooped in and stole our man.
Don’s love life has admittedly taken some strange turns (Midge, anyone?), but the overarching theme of all of his dalliances is that they are brief. Don’s lovers are not supposed to stick around, and he is most certainly not supposed to profess his love and propose to them. Especially when said lover is a 25-year-old secretary. Roger Sterling co-opted “the-marrying-the-much-younger-secretary” move with Jane “I’m-so-blatantly-inferior-to-Joan” Seymour.
But all of my resentment and skepticism was washed away in the long-awaited season five premiere last Sunday, when Megan got up in front of all of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to serenade Don with the French song “Zou Bisou Bisou” as a “present” for him on his fortieth birthday. If the goal was to further separate the young and energetic Megan from the immature, uptight Betty in the most embarrassing way possible, mission accomplished.
Singing solo at public gatherings is already a no… especially when the only words to the song are pronounced zubi zubi zu. But the new Mrs. Draper took it one step further. She put on a full burlesque show in front of everyone, complete with awkward sensual swaying, arm flailing, and aggressive leg poses. Take a moment to picture Betty doing that. Take a moment to laugh hysterically. Proceed.
I can’t tell which was better: the train wreck performance, the moment where Don’s soul visibly left his body out of self-preservation, or Roger’s “Frere Jacques” imitation the next morning in the office. Actually, I can tell. It was Roger’s “Frere Jacques” prance. Can we seriously devote an entire episode to Roger singing in French?
But the entire spectacle, embarrassment and all, had a strange effect. It made Megan, the woman that the whole Mad Men fan base spent 17 months loathing, sort of, well, legendary. Perhaps not likable, but legendary. This was Megan’s version of Betty’s “shooting-pigeons-in-your-nightgown-with-a-cigarette-in-your-mouth” scene. It’s an instant classic.
And in retrospect, it wasn’t even Megan’s fault that she was so despised in the first place. It’s not poor Megan’s fault that she can’t possibly dream of holding a candle to the incomparable Peggy or Joan. And let us not forget Don’s girlfriend throughout all of season four, Faye, who everyone was quietly (and naively) rooting for. Don and Faye were almost too poetic — the woman who can figure out anyone with a man that no one understands.
But let’s face it. Faye, as perfect for Don as she is, never stood a chance. This is Mad Men, not a soap. Don is never marrying his equal, a woman who dared to suggest that he face his past. And he’s certainly not marrying Peggy, the only person who actually understands him. Nor should he. That would ruin the show. Don was always going to marry a ridiculously young, ridiculously peppy coquette. But we shouldn’t hold Don’s inevitable choice against poor Megan. She’s a delightful, ridiculously young, ridiculously peppy coquette, and I daresay, an excellent addition to the Mad Men family.
And the truth is we likely won’t have much more time to appreciate Megan. While the campaign to publicly stone the new Mrs. Draper has been put on hold, I wouldn’t count on her sticking around. Everyone knows Don only married Megan because he needed a wife. Without Betty, his life was in free fall, and the only safety net was Wife #2. As Joan said, these men are “between marriages.” I give Megan a solid four episodes until Don cheats on her and a season before he leaves her for another 25-year-old secretary.
But until then, a zou bisou bisou to you, Megan. Well played.