Mad Men 4.5 – “How does she not fall over?”

I don’t want to say that Don’s gotten himself the secretary he deserves, but…I don’t know how else to finish that sentence. Although you could easily argue that she’s almost more of a comedic device than an actual character, at least she serves a definitive statement: this is definitely a woman who Don is not going to be sleeping with. Mind you, given her performance in the first few minutes of the episode, there’s really no reason to believe that she’s going to be around for the long haul, anyway. Still, you don’t really hear Don complaining very much when she interrupts the scintillating meeting about the stats behind America’s typical cough-drop users to tell him that he’s got a phone call from Walter Hoffman from The New York Times, though it’s possible that his feelings on the matter changed after he discovered the reason for the call.

Hoffman’s found out that Clearasil’s been signed to another firm, and he’s nosing around about a possible trend with companies jumping ship from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Don claims to not be thinking about it, but Ted Shaw has claimed, “Every time Don Draper looks in his rear view mirror, he sees me.” Don’s only on-the-record comment on the matter is to claims that he’s never heard of Ted Shaw.

It’s time for a meeting of the partners, one prefaced by a brief conversation about the state of civil rights in America. (I’ve noticed that real-world goings-on seem to only be referenced offhandedly this season. I don’t know that it’s a better-or-worse situation. I’m just saying that I’ve noticed it.) When Don arrives, however, things get down to business, with Pete announcing that he’s convinced the folks at Secor Laxatives to produce a TV commercial and test market it. Cue Roger making a few inevitable jokes on the matter, which are quickly poo-pooed by Bertram Cooper.

Yes, that’s right: I went there.

Better still, Pete’s looking toward a possible relationship between the firm and Honda, which was still very much an up-and-coming company as far as American audiences were concerned. Look at Pryce, making with the funny. He’s really loosened up since his night on the town with Don, eh? Too bad Roger’s being such a hard-ass about the situation, still battling some demons which have apparently been haunting him since World War II. I was somewhat surprised with the way everyone immediately decided to bypass Roger and move forward with the Honda meeting, but I guess it’s hard to argue with the possibility of that kind of money.

Be honest, though: how many of you had ever heard of “The Sword and the Chrysanthemum“? I mean, I’m sure plenty of you have probably read it, but I’m not going to pretend that I’m one of them.

And, seriously, who the hell is Dr. Lyle Evans?

The kids are having a sleepover at Don’s swingin’ bachelor pad when his friendly neighborhood nurse pops in to serve as their designated babysitter. Sally indicates her disapproval at her father’s social life, first verbally, then by lashing out and cutting her hair to shreds in a desperate attempt to model herself after someone she thinks her father is showing an interest in. Oh, dear: Don and Betty have royally screwed up this poor little girl.

I was kind of surprised to see that Don’s still dating Bethany Van Nuys, since we haven’t seen her since the Season 4 premiere, but it’s quickly explained why: they’ve only had three dates in five months…and this one quickly descends into a bit of business talk with the arrival of Ted Shaw, whom Don quite clearly knows, despite his quote to the Times. Boy, Ted’s a real prick, isn’t he? Clearly, his wife thinks so, too, based on her disapproval of the comments he makes to Don. Fortunately, Don rises above and returns to his date. It isn’t ’til he gets back home and learns about Sally’s impromptu haircut that he gets pissed off, offering his nursely neighbor payment for her time, calling it severance and moaning about “the river of shit I’m going to get from her mother.” He’s a little rough on the nurse – what, like she’s going to follow her into the bathroom? – but I understand where he’s coming from…and, boy, was he right about Betty’s reaction to Sally’s hair.

OFFICAL: Betty Draper is the worst mother in TV history…or, at least, that’s my take on her, anyway.

Betty is really something else. I mean, I don’t blame her for being pissed at Don for his various transgressions, but the way she treats Sally…? What an awful, awful woman she is. Henry’s still a smitten kitten when it comes to his new blonde bombshell, and I get that, but if she’s going to keep acting like this, there’s no way their relationship is going to last.

The stuff with the gang from SCD&P meeting with Honda was hilarious, but you probably already knew that I felt that way, given the title of this blog. It was clear that the folks from Honda didn’t really know what to make of this incredibly American firm, and, hell, even *I* was baffled by the way Pete was acting. I thought things would go completely tits up after Roger’s awful comments, but at the very least, the translator had enough couth to recognize how embarrassed the other partners were about their associate’s rantings and let SCD&P have a shot at the competition nonetheless. My wife and I were discussing the way Roger acted and how Pete responded to his actions, and we’re both of the theory that Roger’s not trying to keep Pete from making headway in the firm. “He seems to have legitimate issues from the war,” said my wife, and I can believe that. Like Roger himself said to Pete, “You weren’t there,” and it’s true. Pete can’t understand what Roger’s gone through. But with that said, the future of the firm may well depend on the money Honda can bring to the firm, so he’d better figure out how to overcome those issues and get on board.

I love how “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” seems to be a staple in every ’60s flashback nowadays (it turned up in “Temple Grandin,” too), but I hate that it always makes me want to stop whatever I’m doing and break out my briefcase-shaped box set of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Series.” Obviously, however, it brings out other instincts in Sally Draper. Yeah, I guess that kind of thing probably would get you sent home from a slumber party…but does it really warrant a threat to cut off your child’s fingers?!? Geez, I wish they would send Sally to a psychiatrist. Seems to me it could only help at this point.

Roger’s trying to backpedal, but, of course, Pete’s not going to let him off that easily, and the two still end up sniping at each other. Cooper’s convinced that the war for Honda is over, and the smart-ass gift from Ted Shaw doesn’t help things any, but Don believes there’s still a shot. He’s alone in the wilderness on this one, though.

Don’s left momentarily speechless at the news that Sally’s been caught masturbating in front of a friend, though it’s so typical for him to ask, “Boy or girl?” The shitty conversation between him and Betty is about what you’d expect from them, with him trying to make the point that he’s not the only person at fault in this situation and her refusing to acknowledge any possible guilt. It’s a wonder their marriage survived as long as it did. It’s no wonder that Betty’s meeting with Sally’s future psychiatrist offered the doctor wayyyyyyy more insight into Betty than it did Sally.

His family might be going down the tubes, but it looks like Don’s still got a few tricks up his sleeve as an ad-man: he realizes that the best and cheapest way to win the battle for Honda is to do things the Japanese way and call them on their choice to ignore their own rules. There’s some great slapstick material with Shaw’s firm trying to put something together to counter a film that SCD&P isn’t even making, but while all that’s going on, Don finds the time to do a bit more interoffice flirting with SCD&P’s resident blonde marketing guru. (I swear, something’s going to happen with them eventually.) In the end, everything works out according to Don’s plan, Pryce gets off a few more hilarious comments, and everybody’s happy…except Sally, who walks into the psychiatrist’s office, possibly never to be seen again.

  

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