Don is drifting. We've seen him go from sadly dismissive, handing Megan a check for a million dollars to "finally end it", to tonight's closing shot. As the dolly slowly pans away, Don is left alone, outside of his own apartment, which is being sold as he stands in the hallway and Roberta Flack sings "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", a song that is a coin with two sides, one side a dreamy paen to deep love and memory, the other side deeply sorrowful regret of remembered, but lost, love. Don looks bereft and again, the lighting around him, so dark and shadowed, only emphasizes that visual cue. Don is in a dark place and is drfiting farther from the light with each episode of this final seven. Just that morning his realtor, worrying that she won't be able to sell his apartment, tells him that it "reeks of failure". Don insists that "alot of wonderful things happened here" and we get the feeling that he's trying more to convince himself than her. In spite of her pessimistic outlook she manages to convince a young stockbroker and his wife, with a small child and a baby on the way, to start a new life in the ruins of what had been Don's home with Megan.
Don arrives back at the apartment just as the deal is closing and catches a glimpse of the young couple, the wife clearly pregnant, before being quickly ushered out into that dark hallway by his realtor, as if his presence will somehow spook the couple and screw the deal. As he stands, hat in hand alone shut out of his home, he is clearly reminded of the new beginnings represented by the young couple, which stands in stark contrast to his growing despair. I'm sure it was no coincidence that the casting director chose a brunette actor and blonde actress, so like Don and Betty, adding to his sad regret for things lost and years of his life that are gone
At the top of the hour Roger gives Don an assignment: to write his "Gettysburg Address" for Roger to deliver at an upcoming McCann retreat in the Bahamas. Don needs to write 2500 words on the future of Sterling Cooper, an assignment that the old Don would have slapped out with ease and panache. Struggling, we see Don scanning popular magazines of the day for clues of what other visionaries see for the coming decade. He tries to sneak some assistance from Ted Chaugh, who is quick to realize what Don's real mission is and calls him on it, telling Don that Roger had already tried to get Ted to write the speech but that he told Roger he was too busy with staff reviews. Plus, Ted tells Don, "you're way better at this kind of stuff anyway." Indeed. Peggy comes into Don's office asking him to review her past year's work and Don sees an opportunity to pump another unsuspecting staffer for the inspiration for his assignment. Under the guise of questioning her about her performance, Don begins to ask Peggy guided questions to lead her to ostensibly think about her future, trying to get Peggy's fresh take on what the future holds. With each wide-ranging question such as, what do you see in the future (Peggy wants to be the first woman creative director in the agency), Don seems more and more derisive of her answers, as if he's trying to warn her that his growing hopelessness is a signpost to her, warning of the ultimate emptiness of goals based in achievement at work. Peggy becomes increasingly annoyed as Don continues to ask: "then what?" until she erupts with, "why don't you tell me your dreams and I'll shit all over them!" and storms out of his office. We see him speaking to a dictaphone, prone on his office couch, telling no-one in particular, "it's supposed to get better." Don is drifting downward.
When Mathis, a copywriter on Peggy's team, following up on Don's alpha male advice on how to fix the fallout of an outburst in a client meeting fails miserably, (Don tells him the story of how he verbally battered Lucky Strike scion Lee Garner Jr only to have Garner Jr apologize to him) he furiously accuses Don and his poor advice of being the cause of his removal from the account (we see the squirm enducing scene wherein Mathis tries and fails to "pull a Don Draper" telling the Peter Pan cients: "I'm surprised you had the balls to show back up here"). An angry exchage ensues with Don firing Mathis. However, not before Mathis tells Don that Roger also regales people with the same story Don told him, only in Roger's telling, Lee Garner Jr played along with Don because he was fantasizing of engaging in gay sex with Don. "You only get away with things because you're handsome!" Mathis shouts before storming out of Don's office, leaving him looking oddly chagrined. This is Don getting some serious comeuppance from those close to him as well as the Mathis' in his life.
A quick check in with Joan finds her enjoying a business trip to the Sterling Cooper LA outpost, staying at the Beverly Wilshire and ordering room service. Clearly Joan, as Account Executive and Partner, has reached her career goal and is reveling in her new-found status. Through a mix-up at the office she meets a man in the suite looking for his optometrist. Older, divorced, with grown children, and a lucrative building empire, Richard is exactly the kind of man that Joan finds attractive and they immediately begin sleeping together. She tells him that she is not married but withholds information about her son Kevin. When Joan receives a call back in the New York office she is delighted to hear that Richard is in New York and they plan to meet for dinner that night. Dinner goes well and Richard presses Joan again about being married since she insisted on meeting him at the restaurant. Joan confesses that she is not married but that she does have a four-year-old son. Back in Richard's suite he confesses, somewhat angrily, that he can't have a relationship with the mother of a young child, telling Joan that he's already raised his kids and can't do it again; that he wants to be free to go at a moment's notice. Joan leaves, telling Richard that he's "such a disappointment". The next day, as she hurries to leave for work, late because the babysitter arrives late, Joan shouts at her and Kevin, "you're ruining my life!" Later that day a contrite Richard shows up at Sterling Cooper, flowers in hand, and apologizes to Joan, telling her that he's going to invest in property in New York and that he wants a relationship with Joan and her son. When he asks if he can call her Joan says "yes".
The episode revisits the Sally/Betty/Glen triangle, bringing Glen back to tell them that he's decided to enlist in the Army and is shipping out to Vietnam. A furious Sally demands to know why, considering how committed Glen had been to the antiwar movement. He makes up a reason, but reveals later to Betty (in an uncomfortable reminder of that icky relationship) that the true reason is that he was flunking out of college and enlisted in order to avoid his stepfather's ire and disappoinment. Betty bids him farewell and we see a tearful Sally leaving a sad message for Glen before she leaves on a 12 state 12 day trip for school. I have a feeling that's the last we'll see of Glen Bishop, which, frankly, for this recapper is for the best.
As Sally and her friends prepare to board the Greyhound for their trip Don treats them all to a Chinese dinner, He asks the girls what they want to do with their lives and two of them give an appropriately lofty answer: senator, UN translator. He advises them that, whatever they dream of doing they should write it down as they might forget as they get older. Again, a pretty clear hint as to what's preying on Don's mind these days. One of the girls begins to openly flirt with Don, calling him by his first hame and asking for a cigarette and where he lives. Sally is clearly angry with her father as she perceives that Don is responding inappropriately to the girl's clumsy flirtation. As she prepares to board the bus Sally confronts Don, telling him "you just can't help yourselves, you and Mom. Whenever anyone pays attention to you, and they always do, you just ooze everywhere." Pretty acid stuff, but it's something that Sally, now a teenager, has been observing her whole life and is now finally able to put words to. Don responds angrily, telling Sally that she's just like her parents, "you're a very beautiful girl, you can do more with your life." Sally looks at her father for a few moments and then boards the bus, leaving Don standing alone, offering a wan wave as the bus doors close, his expression distressed. It's the second time in the episode that Don has been presented with an ugly truth about himself and whereas the old Don would have shaken off such truth arrows with nary a blink, this Don is clearly now suffering the wounds of those arrows, the troubled pain clear on his face.
Which brings us back to the beginning of this post, as Don retreats back to his apartment which is no longer his home, to a giddy realtor who, as she adjusts his tie, tells Don: "now we have to find a place for you."