Mad Men 4.10 – Do You Promise Not To Tell?

Joan wants a chat with Roger…and the talk is serious: “I’m late. Very late.” I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at how Roger immediately did his best to calm her down, speaking to her in a tender voice and assuring her that he’d take care of everything. His doctor, however, isn’t nearly as tolerant of the fact that Roger’s gotten Joan pregnant, but he still passes along information so that she can get an abortion…if she decides to actually get one, that is.
The mere fact that Roger broached the possibility of Joan keeping the baby made me sure that we were going to spend the rest of the episode playing “will she or won’t she,” and I was right on the money about that. Even now, Joan’s impossible to read. I hate to believe that she actually went through with it ’til we get formal confirmation on the matter, but she probably did, as it would go against standard “Mad Men” storytelling for her to do something as cliched as say, “I changed my mind, I’m keeping the baby.”

Lee Garner, Jr. is back…but not for long. After the Christmas episode, you’d think they’d be glad to see him go away for good, but since Lucky Strike is basically the client that’s keeping Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce afloat, their departure could literally sink the firm. It’s a little disconcerting to see Roger shift from angry into being legitimately upset. Will he be able to save SCDP in 30 days…or before he has another heart attack?

Isn’t it amazing how the promise of a ticket to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium – which dates the events of the episode as taking place near August 15, 1965 – can make up for years of half-assed parenting? But, my God, even Betty’s icy exterior cracked when Don told her where he was taking Sally…and, perhaps even more impressively, mother and daughter actually shared a smile. Unfortunately, the way Don kept having to put pressure on Harry about the tickets, coupled with Harry’s expression while assuring him that he’d get the tickets, had me worried almost immediately that the grand event wouldn’t go off as planned. Little did I know that it’d be the only thing that would pan out.

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Mad Men 4.9 – Here’s to you, Mrs. Blankenship…

Another week, another great episode of “Mad Men.” The show has really settled into a solid groove of awesomeness over the course of the past several weeks. Not that it isn’t always pretty darned awesome, but ever since Episode 4.6, it’s been mindbogglingly good.

Given the title of this blog, I feel obliged to start things off by discussing the late, great Mrs. Ida Blankenship. I’ve spent much of this season under the presumption that Bert Cooper would be the one to die in the saddle at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Not that I’m rooting for Robert Morse to leave the show, but it just seemed like we hadn’t been seeing a whole lot of him this year, so I thought that perhaps that Bert’s days were numbered…and maybe they still are, but I certainly never expected that Mrs. Blankenship would beat him to the punch.

Of Mrs. Blankenship’s death, Roger quipped, “She died as she lived: surrounded by the people she answered phones for.” Similarly, the character departed in much the same way that she existed: as a punchline. There was some straight-up “Weekend at Bernie’s” schtick going on in the background as Don desperately tried to maintain his meeting with the gentlemen from Fillmore Auto Parts, and even though that isn’t necessarily the sort of thing that I expect when I tune in to “Mad Men,” it doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it. If I laugh harder at a Don Draper line this season than “I’d have my secretary do it, but she’s dead,” I’ll be very surprised. Still, Mrs. Blankenship’s demise did also lead to a sad, sweet moment from Bert, when he poetically described her as “an astronaut,” and it served to remind Roger of his mortality, which ultimately found him living life to the fullest…but we’ll get to that.

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Mad Men 4.8 – Power of the Poontang

Oh, come on: that line was screaming to be the title.

When we first see Don this week, he’s going for a swim…and, by the sound of it, he’s also going to be coughing up a lung in the near future. Surely someone in the firm is going to be developing lung cancer from their constant smoking, but I always thought Don’s liver would fail him first. Maybe I’m wrong…? Time will tell. We also hear him in voiceover as he bears his soul into a journal. I don’t know if he’s been inspired by Roger’s excruciatingly awful ramblings for his memoirs or if the loss of Anna has caused him to realize that someone someday should be able to know the real Don Draper, but whatever the case, these are some seriously deep thoughts that we hear over the course of the episode. Nice use of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” by the way, especially having the line about “the same cigarettes as me” roll off Mick’s lips just as Don’s preparing to put a cigarette to his.

Elsewhere around the office, Mrs. Blankenship has had eye surgery (I’m looking at her in a different light since the revelation that she used to be quite the hellcat back in her day, and I’m wondering if that might’ve been Matthew Weiner’s way of sidestepping critical accusations that she’d been less a character than a punchline), and the office neanderthals are beating the living hell out of the new vending machine. Clearly, it deserved it, what with first not doling out a tasty treat, then for swallowing Joey’s watch when he tried to go after said treat. I laughed out loud when Peggy said, “I feel like Margaret Mead.”

Yes, it’s definitely still a man’s man’s man’s world at Sterling Cooper Draper & Pryce, as evidenced by the treatment Joan has to put up with from the jackasses in the office…emphasis on “asses,” if you were watching closely during the discussion she was having with Peggy. Speaking of which, I thought that was a particularly nasty jab about how she could do with taking a few extra steps, but we soon realize that it isn’t (entirely) the goings-on at the office that have gotten her riled up but, rather, the fact that her husband is preparing to head to basic training. Given Don’s subsequent viewing of Vietnam footage on the telly and Joan pointedly referencing it in her later verbal attack on the guys (“Remember, you’re not dying for me, because I never liked you”), it’s hard to conceive of a scenario where she doesn’t end up as a widow in short order.

When Don began to space out during his meeting with the team, I thought for one moment that he was looking at Peggy in a different light after last week’s episode…but, no, it was much more likely the effects of the alcohol. That, or the simple fact that his mind just isn’t on his work the way it once was. Either there’s too much going on in his personal life or there’s not enough of what he wants there to be in it, but either way, this is not a happy camper that we see before us. An attempt to drown his sorrows in an evening with Bethany might possibly have worked, but however he might’ve anticipating things going, things changed at the precise moment that Betty and Henry stopped by their table.

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Mad Men 4.7 – If it’s Sunday night at 10 PM, it must be May 25, 1965

Tonight’s episode of “Mad Men” was one of the strongest offerings of the season, once again focusing on the unique relationship between Don and Peggy that’s been a hallmark of the series since the very beginning. He used to be the lord of the manor and she used to be as meek as a mouse, but Peggy’s come a long way, baby, and Don…well, he’s still got his title, but his power would seem to be somewhat on the wane. This week, the two went head to head, and while neither necessarily came out a victor in the end, they both learned a great deal about each other in the long run.

First, a look around the office. The gang’s all geared up to watch Sonny Liston battle Cassius Clay for the second time in their respective boxing careers, which places the precise date of the episode as May 25, 1965. As it happens, it’s also Peggy’s birthday, and since she’s 26, that means she was born in 1939…and, as it happens, on the same day as Sir Ian McKellen and the late Dixie Carter of “Designing Women” fame. Just an FYI. Before they can embark on their fun-filled fight extravaganza, however, they’ve got to present Don with their pitch for Tourister, which involves the then-mostly-unknown Joe Namath. It’s pretty funny, but Don all but sneers at it, saying, “Endorsements are lazy,” once again confirming that, for all of his gifts as an ad man, he’s destined to become a dinosaur sooner than later if he doesn’t change his attitude. And make no mistake: Don does have an attitude, snapping at Peggy, “I’m glad this is an environment where you feel free to fail.”

Ouch.

Peggy retreats to her office, where we find that good ol’ Duck has remembered Peggy’s birthday, which is more than Don’s don. Duck’s present to her: business cards with her name on them as well as a possible new title, provided that she’s willing to join forces with him. It sounds like a great idea at first, with his pitch about how it’s going to specialize in women’s products and his excitement over the likelihood that Tampax will be one of their first clients, but then things start to go south as it becomes evident that Duck’s been let go from his firm, probably because of his severely increased drinking habits. Peggy shifts from excitement to concern, Duck moves from business into personal, and when he begins to drunkenly plead with her to see him, she takes the opportunity presented by her co-workers entering her office and hangs up. I’m sure I’m not the only one who knew we’d see Duck again before episode’s end, but I can’t say as I quite expected to see him doing what he tried to do.

But we’ll get to that.

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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?

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