Mad Men 3.2 – The Sky Was Falling, Heaven Was Calling

Okay, before we really get rolling on this week’s “Mad Men” blog, I really think we should start things off in much the same way that tonight’s episode did: by reminding the world just how incredibly hot Ann-Marget was in the early ’60s.

I mean, seriously, was she smoking or what?

It’s no wonder that Peggy immediately slid into catfight mode with that comment about how, if the client was looking for someone like Kim McAfee (Ann-Margret’s character from “Bye Bye Birdie”), they were looking for someone who’s 25 but acts 14. It was a hilariously bitchy line, almost as funny as Sal’s character-perfect reaction when the clip ended. This obviously isn’t the first time Peggy’s been so annoyed by the goings-on within Sterling-Cooper that she’s stepped out of her comfort zone and tried to be someone that she really isn’t, but, wow, her attempts to duplicate Ms. Margret’s moves and vocal stylings made for some highly uncomfortable viewing. Nonetheless, she at least ended up feeling sufficiently empowered to go out for a one-night stand with a hyper-excited college boy.

No surprise, though, that she slowed down his base-running – as well she should have, since he was clearly headin’ for home plate at a fast clip – in order to avoid a possible repeat of the Pete Campbell situation. As she slipped out of bed in a failed attempt to avoid a walk of shame, I couldn’t help but notice just how much more attractive Peggy looks when she’s out of her work clothes…but, then again, you could probably say that about most women.

Two episodes into the season is far too early to suggest that we’re seeing a new, improved Don Draper, but at the very least, you have to admit that it looks like he’s trying to be a better family man. Granted, in the Field Day sequence, the way he set his drink on the grass and slumped back in his chair to watch his daughter’s teacher offer up her best frolic gave the scene the feel of a PTA-sponsored peep show, but he certainly spent a great deal of time trying to be the best damned son-in-law that he could be. Okay, the stilted dinner between the Drapers and the Pryces led to an awkward conversation during the drive home, where Don traversed a verbal minefield by daring to suggest that perhaps the reason her father’s wife left him was that “she just realized he’s a son of a bitch.” But son of a bitch or not, Don wasn’t going to sit still and let Gene Hofstadt be treated as a pawn in Betty’s brother’s game to win possession of the old man’s house. The scene between Don and William was pretty darned bad-ass, though there can’t have been anyone watching who didn’t know that the moment wasn’t going to come back to haunt Don. Still, I didn’t expect it to happen before episode’s end. If AMC ever comes knocking at Matthew Weiner’s door in search of a “Mad Men” prequel series, I’m putting in a vote for the adventures of Gene Hofstadt during Prohibition. Based on his sudden desire to pour all of Don’s hooch down the kitchen sink, I’m betting there’s a hell of a story to be told from those days.

As hinted at by the above reference to the Draper / Pryce dinner, Don found himself dealing with a fair amount of both family and business this episode. This week really underlined the differences between the worlds of American and British business sensibilities, with Lane Pryce annoying Bertram Cooper by summoning him down to his office just to tell him that they’d lost a client (providing Robert Morse with a brief but brilliant moment), then staring blankly at Roger Sterling after his non-sequitur query about the suit of armor in his office: “”Do you ever get three sheets to the wind and try that thing on?” It was clear that Don was already weary of Pryce’s methods – “I don’t usually set meetings; I attend them” – and things only got worse as the episode continued. The Madison Square Garden account looked dead in the water after that first excruciating meeting, and with Paul Kinsey sounding pretentious and Pete offering his usual smug self to the clients, it deserved to be, but with Don bring his California experiences to the table, along with another one of his great ad-man philosophies (“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation”), the day was saved. Except it wasn’t. I’m damned curious to see how the Draper / Pryce power struggle is going to pan out…

Roger Sterling got several interesting moments this episode, including a wistful line to Peggy during her brief visit to the office (“It’s not hard to adjust to happiness”), an increasing amount of uselessness in business meetings that he attends with Don, and, most notably, his daughter’s embarrassment over her father’s choice of a younger woman, an annoyance which resulted in that short but sweet scene between Roger and Peggy in the elevator. By the way, I’m sure those who know their ’60s dates better than I do offered a sad nod when they saw the date of Roger’s daughter’s wedding, but I had to look it up. Given that the camera pointedly held on the invitation, I figured, “Okay, clearly, this is an important date,” and I was right. Well, the actual wedding day isn’t necessarily important, but the day before certainly will be.

Just one more comment in closing: given Ken’s probable success on the Patio account, I’m more convinced than ever than Pete’s going to resort to something incredibly shitty to beat his opponent, and I’m a little scared to see what it’ll be.

  

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