Tag: Mad Men recap (Page 2 of 5)

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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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?

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Mad Men 4.4 – “I’m going to need a new secretary.”

This week’s “Mad Men” blog starts off in much the same way as this week’s “True Blood” blog: with a thank-you to the gentleman who so capably filled my shoes while I was at the TCA press tour. Kudos to Bob Westal, who – unlike the Beverly Hilton – actually gets AMC, thereby putting him in a far better position than myself to write up last week’s episode. Fortunately, I had the chance to watch the episode when I got home, but I also read Bob’s blog, which should ostensibly mean that I’m doubly prepared this week.

Rarely does a basic cable program which opens with the words “the following program contains brief nudity” ever disappoint me, so I was glad to see that particular phrase gracing the beginning of tonight’s episode. Based on Bryan Cranston’s comments about how he hates to direct episodes of “Breaking Bad” without having as much lead time to prepare for them as possible (to date, he’s only helmed season openers), I presumed that seeing John Slattery’s name in the directorial slot meant that we’d see little in the way of Roger Sterling, but damned if he wasn’t the second person to show onscreen. John, don’t work yourself so hard!

The national crackdown on smoking advertisements would seem to be cutting into what SCD&P can accomplish, but, of course, Roger’s telling everyone that “Don doesn’t think there’s a problem.” Meanwhile, there’s clearly a problem with Don, who picks up an empty bottle of Scotch, only to be informed that the reason it’s empty is because he drank it all. The “ladies” are looking for him to make business decisions, but he’s just looking for ice. The poor bastard: with everything going on in his personal life, he’s clearly hovering in the vicinity of a nervous breakdown, but he’s stuck having to be the big man on campus with the new firm. The moment he pulled out the photo out of the letter, there was no question in my mind that it would, by episode’s end, prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, and it was only cemented by the bug-eyed look Don gave Allison when she saw the photo and asked if it was from the letter from California.

Pete’s in a grouchy mood from the moment he turns up this week, bitching about not being included in the Lucky Strike call, and things only get worse when Roger tells him that SCD&P is going to have to kick Clearasil to the curb. Lane attempts his version of putting salve on the wound by explaining the mathematics behind the decision, leaving Pete even more upset, but Roger tells him to throw himself on the grenade, as it were, for the good of the company. “This evening, if you can,” adds Lane. What a guy. “I hate this office,” says Pete, as he storms into his office, where he finds…Harry Crane? Yep, dude’s just hanging out, having a snack, and waiting to cheer down Pete even more with the news that his old nemesis, Ken Cosgrove, is marrying the daughter of the CFO of Corning. When Harry says that he’s going to the opera with Ken because they’re friends, Pete sneers, “Friends? Why are you always looking for a job?” Oh, Pete, you’re such an unlikeable little shit. If we’re supposed to feel sorry for him…well, sorry, but I don’t. With an attitude like that, you reap what you sow. But with that said, I did have to smile at his excitement at learning that he was going to be a father, and the scene with him and Trudy was genuinely touching.

After Lane battled back from being a British Businessman to offer Pete legitimate congratulations on his impending child, it seemed as though all was right in Pete’s world, so much so that he even agreed to join Harry for a lunch with Ken. Still, I sensed that something would go wrong at the luncheon. I just didn’t expect that, as soon as Harry went to take a phone call, Ken would be the one who came roaring out of the gate, pissed off at Pete. Not a surprise: Pete flailing to avoid being seen as guilty. Less expected: offering an apology that sounded at least 10% sincere. (I was only expecting 3% sincerity, tops.) Fast forward to Pete’s dinner with the in-laws. The kid’s clearly gotten his second wind with this kid coming, giving Trudy’s dad the smackdown. Calling him a son of a bitch was probably more polite than I would’ve been.

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