Mad Men – 4×02: Kissing Santa Claus…

Courtesy of AMC

It’s back! Every reason to love Mad Men is back! Don’t you just love that feeling early on in the season of a rare and brilliant show like this one when you feel like you’re living inside a character’s new drama (which is really just a more intense version of something old anyway)? That’s how I felt last night with nearly every single one of the characters on screen. After the season premier last week, I said I was a bit disappointed that they only focused on Don, the new Draper/Francis household, and somewhat on Peggy, but that I figured it was probably for the best. Watching last night’s episode validated this assumption because by the second week they’ve delved just a little more into each character simply by showing us their faces. Sure, all we got from characters like Lane and Joan were a line about his family back in London, and Joanie asserting how off-limits she is, but I can already taste the inner turmoil! Of course, all that really means is that I’m left with that kind-of-cool/kind-of-creepy feeling of: wait but what did they say again? Haha. Oh well, I must enjoy being tortured. Don could relate.

Don Draper and The Girls
“I’ve taken advantage of your kindness.”
Aside from my elation in getting some supporting character time, I was almost equally as glad for the relative lack of Don last night because, honestly, it was too painful to bare. I couldn’t believe the drunken state in which he was coming home every night. Or how about the lack of communication with his children except through that depressing Christmas letter? Most painful to watch, however, were his interactions with women. Instead of using Peggy as the go-to ballsy-girl in this episode, we were introduced to several women with whom Don has very revealing yet borderline-pathetic interactions.

We had begun to notice a significant change in the 1964 woman last week when Don’s date discusses politics with him at dinner, reveals aspirations and pursuit of a career, and then refuses to let him “walk her up”. Oh, and of course we saw the oddly masochistic moment with the hooker he hires to ride him and slap him. This week, the trend of women demolishing Don’s dignity continued.

First, there was the assertive yet sweet neighbor nurse, Pheobe, who called Don out on his routine drunkenness, grunting, and his bullshit claim “not to have noticed [her] before.” She helps him into bed only to get improperly groped by him and simply leaves the room the same way she came in, much to his drunken disappointment. How sad was that line: “my father was a drunk, too“?

Then we meet Miss Ponds Cream Sales Pitch, Faye: “the carefree girl in white pants.” She too calls Don out on his increasingly more obvious personal issues, this time on being “a type” (and not a very flattering one at that) who’ll remarry within the year. Plus, she doesn’t flirt with him in the least, which surprises Don. But do you think she was right? Will Don be married within the year? I can’t picture it. I truly can’t imagine that he would be stupid enough to marry someone again before figuring himself out first. Do you?

Finally, Don’s failed sexual advances culminate when long-time secretary, Allison, whom he’s known since their days at Sterling Cooper, willingly and innocently cares for him after another drunken night (this man needs a mother, not a girlfriend!). Just like Pheobe, she gets the inebriated groping treatment. From the beginning of the episode I thought the way Allison treated Don was strikingly informal in comparison to earlier seasons. There was no “Mr. Draper” once in their conversation as she reads Sally’s letter, for example. Also, the familiar way in which she said “Hi. Good time? Bad time?” before she entered the office, and the warm smiles they gave one another, caught my attention. I didn’t think of any of this as flirtatious but, it struck me as odd only in a relative sense, considering the much more structured male-female interactions we’ve been used to seeing on the show. Even still, by the time he drunkenly pulls her down into his lap in the final act, I was sure she’d politely squirm her way to the door and go, thus continuing the rejection theme of the episode. I couldn’t believe what I was watching! That’s his secretary! WHAT ARE YOU DOING, DON? I had to pause. Take a breather. After I’d had my moment and I’d uncovered my eyes, I pressed play again, and then I saw her reaction: who am I kidding? There are a very limited amount of women on the planet who would actually turn this man down. Sure he’s a drunken divorceé but, goddammit, he’s Don Draper! Certainly women are changing, and he’s met quite a few of them as of late, but not all of them are, and I’m glad they gave us that. But sleeping with a co-worker? Don Draper is hitting new lows.

That final bit with Allison’s Christmas bonus ($100), the card (“Thanks for all your hard work“) and that line (“I’ve taken advantage of your kindness too often“) were the equivalent of three slaps in the face. The obvious parallel is that he’s paying her off like a whore, and she obviously feels this way, however I don’t think it was at all Don’s intention consciously or subconsciously to buy her off, necessarily. He already had the bonus ready for her before he or she walked into his office the next morning. However, he really needs some help in being less of a douche bag and treating women with more respect, despite of their decision on whether or not to sleep with him. And was that a letter of resignation she begins to type up at her desk? It certainly appeared to be. I don’t think we’ll be seeing her next episode, but I could be wrong.

Peggy and the boy
“I want to be your first.” – Mark
Was anyone else initially confused at the “previously on ‘Mad Men’” clip of Duck and Peggy pre-sex on the couch from last season? I didn’t understand the point of it until the final scene were Peggy and Mark are lying in bed after having slept together for the first time. He worries for her, under the belief that this has been her first time ever. I’m assuming that the clip of Peggy and Duck was simply put there to clarify to new viewers that Peggy is lying about being a virgin. Still, I’m perplexed by Peggy’s actions and her lack of intelligence when it comes to matters of love and sex and men. It would appear that she wants to be seen as a virgin and “respected” by Mark, for whom her feelings are still unclear, but by the end of the episode she has given up on it, and why? Obviously, she doesn’t “want to be alone on New Years” so in a way its sheer loneliness and her desire to be in a relationship and feel that a man wants to be with her. But also, what seems to have pushed her into it was Freddy’s advice that men won’t respect you in marriage if you give it up beforehand, and her belief that he is “old fashioned” causes her to do the exact opposite. Freddy wasn’t necessarily right but Peggy’s problem is that she can’t seem to make any of her own decisions when it comes to men. They are either completely misguided or based on someone else’s opinion. For her ambition and intelligence, she’s just no good as a woman, of the 60s or of today. As out-dated as Freddy Rumsen may be, it appears he can still teach Peggy a thing or two about blue balls (or not?):

“That is physically very uncomfortable, you know.”

Sally and the other boy
“I saw your new dad. My mom said that would happen.”
I love that this little girl has become a larger character than Betty! Getting a child’s perspective adds so much to a show like this considering how many baby boomer viewers were her age at the time and are today running the country. Better yet, she’s not alone! She’s got Glen, her male counterpart. My favorite epiphany in this episode was Sally’s revelation to Glen that she hates living in that house because she thinks her dad is going to be standing there every time she turns a corner. While Betty, a traditionally selfish character, has honestly stayed there for what she thinks is the well-being of her children, it appears she’s still getting it wrong. Unfortunately, I can’t say I blame Betty for this one because I would have assumed the same in her shoes, wouldn’t you? Still, the lack of real communication with her children perpetuates the problem by parenting through guesswork. But is it a problem of the times? Can we blame Betty as much as we can blame her environment?

At first I was angry at bratty Glen (played by showrunner, Mathew Weiner’s, son) for trashing the house, but then I realized why he was doing it. He was doing it for Sally! It was almost romantic! He clearly likes her but he cares about her happiness even more. Perhaps now Betty will finally leave the neighborhood and Sally can begin to let go…

SCDP, Freddy Rumsen, the Christmas Party, and the return of Lee Garner, Jr.

Courtesy of AMC

Oy! Seeing Lee again brings back bad memories from the last time he was on screen: ordering Don to fire Sal from Sterling Cooper. We know that Lucky Strike is now 69% of SCDP’s revenue, and seeing the way they treat him (Polaroids? Roger in a Santa costume?!), it makes me even more sure that Sal will never come back to work for them. They simply wouldn’t risk it! Maybe Lee will die a tragic death? Hopefully something as funny as getting run over by a lawnmower a la season three. By the way, how hard did you laugh at Roger’s line the morning after as he and Don shamefully walk back into the office together:

“So, did you enjoy the Fuhrer’s birthday party?”

Oh Freddy Rumsen, I missed him. I even got misty-eyed the night that Don and Roger break it to him that they are letting him go. Remember that scene when he gets into a cab in the alley looking miserable and wondering what he’s going to do with his life? Roger makes it seem like everything will be okay but you get the feeling it wont be. Well, looks like Roger wins again. I was so happy to see Freddy sober and working, despite still living in the age of “grand dames and typewriters”, as Peggy puts it. I don’t think he’ll be a regular in the office but it’ll be nice to see him pop up every now and again when they have an issue with Ponds.

Roger had the best lines of the episode, yet again. It’s a mix between giving him the best lines and the way in which he delivers them that make them so memorable. This was my favorite, regarding the Christmas party:

“We need to change its rating from convalecent home to roman orgy.”

Joanie and the red dress with the bow
“I don’t mean it that way. All I was saying is, this is the office, and that’s life; and this is good, and that’s life.”
Great, Roger! Now where is that life of hers? Where is that husband of hers? We don’t even get a clue into her out-of-office life and I’m dying to see it. Can a woman like Joanie really be with a man like that? At least we get to see her adorable conga line. She should win an award just for the way she danced that. Major girl crush, she’s incredible. And of course she’s still got that chemistry with Roger. I hadn’t seen him look at her in that way since maybe season two. I’m sure he’s happy with Jane, as a matter of fact — and by the way she looks stunning at the Christmas party — but Joanie will always be the one that got away for Roger, and I’m glad because that’s the kind of girl she is.

Last Night’s Theme
Big surprise, last nights theme seems to have been: male advances. For Peggy and Mark, for Don and all his girlfriends, and in a much more PG version, for Sally and Glen. That’s why I think the song at the end of the episode, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, was so perfect! But wait, a secondary theme, or perhaps one of equal importance, was the idea of becoming “old-fashioned”. Mark calls Peggy this. Peggy calls Freddy this. But in the end its Don who can’t seem to figure out that women have changed and that only 1 out of 4 is going to give in to him, despite of his ‘sales-pitch’ and his heavenly good looks and his great job. They might all desire him, but it doesn’t mean they are going to drop everything for him… not anymore. Nurses, corporate psychologists, actresses, secretaries. These are not old-fashioned girls. Ironically, Don’s drink of choice has always been an “Old Fashioned”. Time he starts drinking some Manhattans.

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