Mad Men 4.6 – Life? Don’t talk to me about Life…

I’ll bet you thought I was going to entitle this week’s blog “The Cure for the Common…” or something relating to the gag that kicked off tonight’s episode. Believe me, I was tempted: I thought it was pretty hilarious that this young punk – 36-year-old Danny (Strong) claiming to be a 24-year-old – strolled into Sterling Cooper Draper & Pryce with half a dozen ads based around the same general theme, with his only real defense being, “Uh, did you see me shaking hands with Roger Sterling out there?”

Looks like the candidates are pretty slim pickings, which would certainly be enough to bum Don out even if he didn’t have all of this other stuff going on in his life, but, man, he really tried to drag Peggy down to his mood, despite her unabashedly optimistic attitude about how well things are going for her. You’d think he’d be in better spirits, what with his CLIO nomination and all. (By the way, is this the first time we’ve heard mention of the CLIO Awards? It seems like it might be.) Then again, you’d also think he would’ve noticed after all of this time that Peggy isn’t the same shy girl who used to cower every time he raised his voice…although, in fairness to Don, she does tend to fall back into that old pattern when she’s around him.

Huh. I wasn’t expecting a flashback to the first time Don and Roger met. Don was selling furs…? I don’t remember hearing that tidbit of information before, either. Funny how Roger’s first reaction to one of Don’s ad slogans was to disparage it. And, holy cow, look at Joan, would you? She’s a red-headed Marilyn Monroe, especially with her hair done up like that. Man, when she dropped that fur coat, I found myself wishing “Mad Men” was on HBO…and then I laughed out loud when they cut back to Roger reminiscing about what I’m pretty sure I was imagining myself.

I couldn’t begin to guess how many bowls of Life I ate as a child, so I had a smile on my face as soon as I saw the familiar multi-colored letters of the cereal’s name…which is the exact opposite of the expression on Pete Campbell’s face when we first see him. He’s so serious these days, not unlike a li’l Don Draper circa Season 1. (Probably not a coincidence.) I liked Lane’s dismissal of Harry’s attempt at namedropping as well as Joan’s reminder to New Boy that he can get up and get his own damned drink. Peggy’s not going to waste her time drinking, though. Instead, she has to do battle with Stan, the firm’s new art director. What a jerk. Clearly, she’s going to end up sleeping with him…or kill him. One or the other.

And speaking of jerks, here’s Ted Shaw, coming up to Don and Roger in order to be his usual dickish self. As a Marx Brothers fan, I had to laugh at Roger’s description of the purported general as “Rufus T. Bullshit,” which was almost as funny as the expression on Pete’s face when he realized that he might have to work with Ken again. Great guest spot from Mark Moses, getting a chance to play a drunken Duck Phillips. The menage a trois of handholding between Don, Joan, and Roger was too cute, but…wow, they’re really going to go for broke and head straight from the CLIO Awards back to the office to meet with the people from Life? Ballsy, Don, real ballsy…especially when it’s Harry who’s stuck having to entertain the troops until he gets there. Good thing most everyone was a “Peyton Place” fan back then, I guess. That, and it’s a good thing that the SCD&P bar is always well stocked.

Or is that a good thing?

Roger’s whistle is clearly pretty damned wet as he makes the victory lap around the conference room, and Don’s obviously snockered when he begins his presentation. Really, the big question here is, “Are the men from Life equally drunk?” Actually, they’re pretty well on par with him, but it doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t quite on the same page as Don when it comes to his slogan, and, wow, his alternative suggestions just ain’t cutting it. The cut to Lane’s expression after “life is just a bowl of Life Cereal” was classic. But, wow, going with Danny’s crap “cure for the common…” idea? Wow, he is plastered…but just because he’s heading toward a blackout doesn’t mean that Peggy’s going to forget how he acted to her anytime soon. Or how Pete and Lane blew her off, for that matter.

Pete’s pissed about Ken being brought back into the firm…really pissed…and he’s throwing Lane’s previous gameplaying between the two of them right back in his face. But that was a long time ago, and Lane’s very much seeing the value in Pete and his abilities as an ad man now, explaining that the only reason he’s hiring Ken is that “he’s hungry and he has accounts.”

Peggy totally and utterly called Stan’s bluff, God love her…and, once again, another case where I really wish this show was on HBO. I would’ve thought that Peggy’s victory would’ve been slightly tainted by Stan calling her “the biggest bitch in the world,” but, no, she seems pretty proud of that title.

Don and Roger are enjoying their after-party with Joan, and the alcohol is continuing to flow freely, as are the dodgy comments from Roger’s mouth. Don sees his favorite blonde doctor and starts with the flirting again, but it looks like the CLIO is the only award he’s taking home tonight, as she shuts him down. Like that’s going to stop him: if there’s anyone who enjoys a challenge, it’s our man Don. Meanwhile, Roger’s a little flirty with Joan. Nothing like a little alcohol to put him back into his old mindset. It was a little sad, though, when she told him that he’d crossed the barrier between “lubricated” and “morose.” Cue another flashback. Wow, I can’t believe how eager Jon Hamm is playing Don in these scenes, grinning like a fool, but it’s interesting – if, when you think about it, unsurprising – that it takes alcohol for Don and Roger to first find themselves on even footing.

Cut back to the present (relatively speaking, of course), with Don gettin’ busy with the woman who’d asked about his relationship status at the after-party. After that stirring rendition of the National Anthem, it’s no wonder that he ends up sleeping ’til noon, but Betty is pissed that he’s two hours late to pick up the kids…on Sunday. What the hell happened to Saturday? And who the hell is this new blonde? Clearly, Don’s not entirely sure himself, and that’s worrying. It must’ve been a hell of a bender, though, if he gave her his real name (Dick). After sleeping the rest of Sunday away in solitude, he’s awoken by Peggy, reminding him that he swiped the slogan from Danny. And just like that, it feels like even Peggy has a better future with the firm than Don.

Meanwhile, back at SCD&P, Pete’s decided to avoid lunch with Ken in favor of a meeting in the conference room, informing him that he’d be happy to have Ken on his team. Ken thinks he’s kidding. He’s not. Surpisingly, Ken swallows his pride…and Pete feels the power coursing through his veins. And Don – who has lost his CLIO – finds his “little friend” Danny sitting in his office. He offers him $50 for the slogan. Danny wants a job. Don ups it to $100. Danny still wants a job…and Don can hardly argue the point. He ain’t happy about it, though, and Peggy is downright incredulous. Roger, however, is pleased that Don’s come around (even though he really hasn’t) and presents him with his CLIO, which he rescued from the bar, and we close on the reminder that just about every major decision made within Sterling Cooper…and, now, Sterling Cooper Draper & Pryce…has been made under the influence.

In closing, I have one question that hadn’t occurred to me ’til just now: where the hell was Bert Cooper during the CLIO Awards? Maybe he’s just getting too old for this shit…

  

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