“I Got You Babe”, Sonny And Cher
Tomorrowland, Season 4 Episode 13
Megan Calvet is one of the most notorious late-game characters in recent TV history. She gets denigrated by some viewers, and I can sort of understand why. They see her as a plot device that outstays its welcome, as a salve allowing Don’s bad behavior to continue, or are just irritated by her cheery disposition.
But I can say with some confidence that all those interpretations miss the point. The show presents her as a vivacious, fascinating new addition to the cast, whose relevance to Don and the agency clearly makes itself known, and who isn’t as perfect as she first appears. This is my take on it: She’s a self-actualized, well-rounded optimist at an agency full of blinkered, damaged cynics, and her straightforwardness and emotional honesty are wonderful contrasts to everyone else.
The end of Mad Men season four is a panic over saving the agency after they lose more than half of their client shares in the form of Lucky Strike’s evacuation. Everyone is at each other’s throats, and they struggle to gain accounts. But that conflict is gently dispelled by the end of the hour, as Peggy’s hard-won business and Don’s newfound love seem to suggest that everything will work out.
Nevertheless, to bounce back from all that they still had to cut important things out of their lives. Don lost Anna this season, for example. In conjunction with his professional woes, these trials weaken his resolve and he makes an impulsive decision. When he gets the wedding ring back from Anna’s niece Stephanie, he plans to use it for a proposal.
Yet, much like the turnaround of the cigarette fiasco, the show takes a left turn. The whole season, he has been courting Dr. Faye Miller, an intelligent and career-minded contemporary who is good at getting him to open up. Of course, Don can only get pushed so far towards what is good for him before he regresses to what feels good. As I noted, Megan is fun-loving and good with Don’s children, and she is supportive rather than interrogative, which is alluring to him. Therefore, after being in a committed relationship with Faye for months, he instead asks Megan to marry him while on vacation in Disneyland.
This is perhaps the series’ most subversive endgame, given that the year’s big plot arc gets sort of undermined and unresolved, while the life-changing romantic twist comes seemingly out of nowhere (until you look back and realize the signs were all there). So the climax of this important episode follows suit, using yet another timely tune to soundtrack happiness in a stolen moment before a quick fadeout that leaves the viewer wanting more.
More than any other musical choice thus far in the series, “I Got You Babe” is a definitive calling card of the groovy Sixties as we know it. It mutates the antiquated swing band arrangement, with looser drums and rudimentary guitars rather than strings. With heavenly chimes on top and an odd woodwind low end, the resulting effect is mildly psychedelic. The lyrics touch on changing culture and class norms, which the fourth season had in abundance. It’s performed by a famous young idealistic duo in an era where their stylistic flash and vivaciousness would soon be the standard. Sonny and Cher’s happy, hypnotic rhythms are a good match for the flair and freshness Megan brings to Don’s life.
Though it’s not totally clear from this particular episode in isolation, Don will always have Betty in his life as well. Despite the fading acrimony of their split, she is a source of some wisdom and stability to him for the remainder of the series. The fact that their subdued rendezvous is the penultimate scene has some significance. It’s one last look at the old Draper home and a final clear-eyed exhumation of an unsuccessful marriage. There’s another ominous line in the scene before, where Don finally confronts Faye about their breakup and she angrily says “I hope [Megan] knows you only like the beginnings of things”. These contrasts provide some necessary bitterness to the tableau of the happy engaged couple in bed, warning us that Don Draper can certainly bounce back, but he has a harder time making things stick.