Mad Men 4.12 – A Certain Kind of Girl

Sorry for the delay in knocking out this week’s blog, but I spent the weekend attempting to cover the New York Comic Con, and the end result was that, upon flying home and making it into my house at about 10:30 PM, my attempts to watch and blog the show while wearing my spiffy new “Mad Men” button from NYCC – it has an illustration of Roger Sterling, along with the words, “When God closes a door, he opens a dress” – were interrupted by my complete and utter inability to stay awake.

So here we are on Monday morning, and although I’m still pretty freaking tired, I’m at least slightly better rested than I was last night.

Guess I picked the right button: it’s another episode directed by John Slattery. Things kick off with Don having an off-the-record meeting with a guy from Heinz, trying to get a feel for whether or not the company might be willing to hook up with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. It’s clear that he respects Don and his work (though he may just be saying that because Don’s behind his premise that beans don’t have to be funny), but they’re on different timetables. There are two people at that table, but only one of them has any real confidence that SCDP will be around in six to eight months, and, frankly, you can’t blame Heinz for wanting to make sure that they’re working with an ad agency that’s going to have some sort of staying power.

Geoffrey Atherthon lays the state of SCDP on the line, using dating metaphors to make his point, and since “tobacco is your ideal boyfriend,” he’s helped provide the firm with a meeting with Philip Morris about their new cigarette line for women. “We will listen more than we will speak,” says Bert, matter-of-factly. “Like a good girlfriend,” smirks Atherton. Immediately after the meeting, everyone begins to break into small camps: Bert and Roger discussing what sort of clients they should be pursuing, Harry and Ken mostly just trying to figure out where they stand in the firm, and Pete and Lane talking about the state of the office and Don saving the day. Meanwhile, Don and Faye are chatting as well, but it’s work-related, so the conversation ends in a handshake, a decision which clearly bemuses Don. I’m guessing it probably wasn’t a coincidence that the shot was framed in such a way that Megan appeared to be between them.

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Mad Men 4.11 – Too Little, Too Late

When I saw that this week’s episode was entitled “Chinese Wall,” I found myself overwhelmed by a sudden wave of deja vu. “Now, wait a minute,” I thought. “I know damned well that phrase has been utilized before, because I posted the video for Philip Bailey’s ‘Walking on a Chinese Wall’ when it happened.” And, indeed, that was true: Faye made the reference back in Episode 4.9.

If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s an expression which, according to the never-fallible Wikipedia, means “an information barrier implemented within a firm to separate and isolate persons who make investment decisions from persons who are privy to undisclosed material information which may influence those decisions.” In this case, the wall in question has been constructed by Roger, and he’s put everyone else on the other side of it.

And, now, on with the episode!

Hey, look, Peggy’s hanging with the lesbian from Life and her pals, including the guy who pissed her off with his writings a few episodes back. I guess all is forgiven now that he’s asking permission to quote her, since she immediately brings him back to her pad (I was disappointed, though, that Peggy’s reference to her roommate didn’t result in an appearance from Carla Gallo), and a good night evolves into an even better morning. We’re seeing a whole new Peggy, people!

Ray Wise in the house! Ken Cosgrove and his fiancee are having dinner with her parents – yep, Mr. Wise is her dad – when he gets word that Lucky Strike is moving out of business with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. As you can imagine, this information scares the heck out of him…so much so, in fact, that he rushes out of dinner and into the waiting room at the maternity ward, where Pete is waiting for Trudy to have their baby. Pete’s immediately on the phone to Don, and although he interrupts his makeout session with Faye to take the call, the topic of conversation instantly puts a damper on his libido. The next thing you know, everyone who’s anyone – minus Lane, of course, though it’s acknowledged that he’s been duly informed – is at the office, ready to pounce on Roger the second he walks in. He claims it’s an impossibility and immediately calls Lee, except we know from his comments that he’s clearly not talking to him.

Don heads back to his place and immediately starts drinking, and you know that ain’t a good sign. He acknowledges that he’s more or less dreaded this possibility for quite some time, but although Faye tries to remind him of how valuable a player he is, Don dismisses her level of concern, saying, “I’m not at that point yet.” Clearly, he’s not going to go down without a fight. Pete’s father-in-law, meanwhile, is almost immediately dismissive of any chance of the firm’s survival, basically saying, “Ah, well, you had your fun, now back to the real world.”

Should I feel sympathetic for Roger? Well, I did, at least a little bit. It’s not his fault that Lucky Strike decided to pull out, and I can’t blame him for not wanting to admit the loss to the firm, but at the same time, he’s clearly getting in over his head with this chicanery, getting a highly warranted smackdown from Joan for keeping his mouth shut when something could’ve been done to save the situation. After she once again relents and lets him swing by her pad, they share a sweet embrace, but even though he’s pretty pitiful when he departs from the premises, she’s seriously disappointed the next day by the fact that he’s continuing to weave his web of lies, and the awkwardness between them is palpable. I don’t think she’d betray him to them, mostly because it’s not like they could save the account at this point, anyway, but his actions are putting her job in jeopardy, too, and I think it’s pretty well established how much she enjoys her niche at the firm. For his part, Roger seems to have been temporarily swayed by the arrival of his book. Maybe he’ll be inspired to become the ad man he once was…?

After Bert and Don give the State of the Union address, the feeling on the floor is that everything’s more or less under control, but Don’s not pulling any punches when he sits his team down. The best moment, though, came when it was just him and Peggy. They’ve definitely got their own special relationship now…if, uh, not quite as special as the one she had last night, which has put her in a stellar mood. Unfortunately, it’s pretty transparent to everyone around her, which results in Stan being an Alpha Male to the Nth degree. What a jackass that guy is. Still, even his minor-league attempt at getting revenge on her for her rebuffing of his advances didn’t do any damage: it takes more than a little lipstick on the teeth to stop the creative force that is Peggy Olson!

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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 4.5 – “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 4.2 – A Glass of Gin, A Box of Velveeta

I’d like to start this week’s “Mad Men” blog out with an apology: I’m out at the TCA Press Tour in Los Angeles (as you probably already know if you’ve been reading Premium Hollywood this week), and I’ve been at the mercy of my schedule, which has been decidedly hectic. I was sent an advance screener of the episode…more about that in just a moment…but since it was mailed to my home, I wasn’t able to watch it until my wife, God bless her, brought it to me when she flew in from Norfolk, VA, late Friday night. I was finally able to watch it on Saturday afternoon, taking notes as I did so, but then I had to find time to actually compose the blog entry…and, well, here it is 11:57 PM PST, and I’m only just now getting the opportunity to do so.

Yeah, it’s been that kind of week…and I think it’s probably going to show in the blog, so let me go ahead and apologize for that up front.

Of course, I guess I should just be happy that I had an advance screener, since lord knows I won’t be getting any more this season…and nor, for that matter, will anyone else. When my wife handed me Episode 4.2 upon her arrival, it was folded inside a piece of paper which read as follows:

July 26, 2010

Dear friend:

With a new season of “Mad Men” underway, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your incredible and unprecedented support of the series since its debut four seasons ago. I’ve enjoyed our relationship over the years and your insightful reviews and features.

It has been a privilege to be associated with such an extraordinary group of actors, crew, craftsmen and executives – all of whom are committed to the care of our show.

As we provide you a with a copy of our second episode (airing August 1), we wanted to make you aware of a new development in terms of our DVD distribution moving forward.

In an effort to avoid inevitable spoilers and preserve the experience of watching live for our fans, we have chosen to make this the last review copy we send out.

We ask that in the weeks ahead you continue to write on the progression of our show, and I look forward to your thoughts and commentary along the way.

Here’s to an amazing season.

With sincere thanks,

Matthew Weiner

This is, one can reasonably presume, the direct result of Weiner’s annoyance with The New York Times over their piece which was written in advance of the premiere and offered up ostensible spoilers, and I can feel the man’s pain, but, man, I am just not a happy camper about this situation. I mean, God love you, Matthew, but you try having to stay up late on a Sunday night to blog a show…or, worse, two shows, since Alan Ball fucked me over by declaring a moratorium on “True Blood” screeners, too.

I never spoiled nothing for nobody, and this is the thanks I get…?

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