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…?

We see Betty and her beau trying to pick out a Christmas tree, an event which is clearly serving as a painful reminder to Sally that she’s not going to be enjoying the holidays the way she wants, i.e. with both parents around. As soon creepy little Glenn started to talk to Sally, I knew this was going to be the start of some sort of “Sally’s first boyfriend” storyline, but I admit that I absolutely never saw it going in quite this direction. By the way, isn’t it amazing just how much Sally looked like her mother in this scene?

Sally, of course, ties into the next scene as well, when we hear the letter that she wrote to Don, pretending that she was mailing it to Santa Claus. Although there are a few funny moments from Don while the letter is being read, including his admission that he’s the one who actually left the freezer open, you can’t deny the poignancy of Sally’s final line: “Most of all, I’d like you to be here on Christmas morning to give it to me, but I know you can’t be.” Don tries to be the best absentee father he can be, suggesting the purchase of Beatles 45s and a transistor radio, but since he’s pawning the shopping off on his secretary, it feels like some seriously half-assed parenting.

So the office Christmas party is going to be a low-key affair where employees can’t even bring a guest? I knew that sounded a bit dodgy and absolutely not something that Roger would approve of…and I was right. But what’s this? Freddy Rumsen…? Please to check last week’s blog, when I made specific mention of Freddy, suggesting that maybe Roger might be turning into the Freddy Rumsen of this season. And now this? Awesome. But this isn’t the same Freddy Rumsen that we saw piss his pants, no sirree. He’s now been clean and sober for 16 months, he’s got a 2 million dollar account in hand (Ponds Cold Cream), and he doesn’t want Pete anywhere it. Fair enough: we see Pete acting like a complete prick to Freddy almost immediately, so we can see why Freddy doesn’t like the guy.

I didn’t quite understand the whole Glenn = Stanley thing at first, but I soon discovered that it was clearly just a way to keep his identity under wraps. We learn through this phone call that Sally’s really sad about living in the house without her dad and that she clearly hasn’t gotten a proper education on the birds and the bees yet, since she doesn’t know what “doing it” means. I was mystified about the reasons behind Glenn’s second phone call, and even after he and his pal broke into the house to do their damage, I still didn’t get it, but the havoc-wreaking was all to impress Sally. Aw, and in addition to leaving her room undamaged, he left her a little gift, too…? He’s such a sweet little mischief-maker. So Sally’s got herself a type: the bad boy. Hey, anything to piss off her mother…

Peggy and Freddy clearly have a bond, even if it’s one that’s occasionally strained by the huge gap between their respective sensibilities: he’s trying to promote the product to the best of his ability, but it’s the complete antithesis of what she believes. Despite being too old-school for Peggy at times, it’s clear that Freddy’s come a long way since the last time we saw him, and this new version of him definitely underlines just how much drinking Roger’s doing these days. I mean, the guy’s chugging Maalox to sober up after a liquid lunch, for God’s sake. That’s just sad…almost as sad as the look on Freddy’s face when Peggy calls him old-fashioned. BTW, on a Peggy-related note, her decision to lie to her new boy, Mark, isn’t entirely surprising, given that she desperately wants to keep her child a secret, but to claim that she’s a virgin? Hey, fair enough, I guess, but talk about your denial.

The appearance of Lee Garner, Jr. resulted in the sudden upgrade of the Christmas party to a major affair…make that “from a convalescent home to a Roman orgy”…much to Lane’s consternation, but, damn, that was one hell of a shindig. Leave it to Joanie to pull things together at the last second and have it look as though it was always planned to be that impressive. I’d join her conga line anytime. Wowzers. Lee’s quite the villain in this episode, riding roughshod over Roger at every turn and making constant power plays. (I also laughed when he called Lane “Olivier.”) When Freddy didn’t show up for the party, I was convinced that he’d fallen off the wagon…but he hadn’t. This is definitely an all new Freddy Rumsen, one who could prove to be a power player this season.

The whole motivational research group thing with Dr. Faye Miller was intriguing from the standpoint that it’s showing the changes in the advertising industry, but my first thought was, “Don’s going to sleep with her.” He didn’t, as it turned out, which was a little surprising. Not surprising…? His abrupt departure from taking the test in order to avoid revealing too much about himself…which, of course, ended up revealing even more. We’re only two episodes into this season, and Don’s already turning into a tragic figure. Between his pitiful state of drunkeness that his flirtatious nurse neighbor has to put up with and his sad declaration to her about how much he hates this Christmas, it’s more than a little embarrassing. What’s surprising, though, is the realization that the new generation of employees at the agency are describing him as “pathetic.” Wow, he’s fallen so far so fast. Can this really be because he doesn’t have Betty and the kids as a stabilizing force in his life? Cue Cinderella’s “Don’t Know What Got Until It’s Gone,” someone. And, of course, it only gets worse when he sleeps with his trusty secretary, the only woman left in his corner, and then tries to act as though it never happened. Don’t tell me that isn’t a resignation letter that she’s typing…