Tag: Mad Men Season 3 (Page 2 of 3)

Mad Men 3.8 – Rome If You Want To

There haven’t been many episodes in the history of “Mad Men” which have quite as streamlined as this week’s entry: it was split evenly down the middle between Don and Betty and Pete. Oh, sure, other characters made appearances during the course of the hour, but when you look back at the description of the episode on TiVo (“Don and Betty go on a business trip; Pete helps a neighbor”), it’s hard to argue against its simplicity because, well, those were the two stories this week.

When we first see Pete Campbell this week, he’s reading…”Ebony”? Has the world gone topsy-turvy…? No, of course not. This is just the residual effect of his discussion about how African-Americans have specific purchasing tendencies. Leave it to Pete to dive headlong into the concept. But what else has the guy got to do? His wife’s away…and it shows, with his offer to buy the guys a drink. The poor bastard is definitely one of those guys who can’t stand to be alone, and his tendencies toward alcoholism are evident, if only by his television viewing habits. (Many a member of AA has testified that they took their first drink while watching “Davy & Goliath.” But don’t quote me on that, since I just made it up.) In his quest to keep busy, Pete helps out his neighbor’s au pair, Gudrun, by offering to help solve her dilemma with the dress that she accidentally messed up, which results in a couple of interesting developments. The first, of course, is that the trip to the store leads to an unexpected encounter with Joan, whose face is almost as red as her hair when she’s outed by Pete in her post-Sterling-Cooper gig. She replaces the dress for him, he asks her not to mention the incident to Trudy, and it’s pretty evident that she’d prefer that he kept his mouth shut about seeing her, too. When he goes to return the dress to Gudrun, he promptly hits on her and gets shot down when she assures him that she has a boyfriend. He shrugs and accepts her claims until he gets a few drinks in him, at which point he returns to the apartment in the wee hours, says he deserves the chance to see her in the dress, and then quickly gets her out of it.

Yes, Pete’s still just as lecherous now as he was with Peggy in Season 1. The difference this time…? He gets nailed to the wall by the au pair’s boss, who basically says, “If you can’t keep it in your pants, at least don’t take it out in the building.” When Trudy gets home, we bear witness to the incredibly awkward elevator ride with her, Pete, and Gudrun, and once they get back into their apartment, Pete has something approximating a nervous breakdown when Trudy comes on to him. Surely it’s not out of guilt…or is it? I really thought he was on the verge of asking for a divorce for a second. Instead, he admits to no wrong-doing (or if he did, we didn’t actually get to see it), but he does inform her that she shouldn’t leave him alone again. Translation: whatever happened while she was gone is her fault, not his.

As for the Don and Betty storyline, it’s really far more about Betty than Don this week. When their storyline kicks off, Don’s off to catch lightning bugs with the kids while Betty continues on her quest to try and save the reservoir. As it turns out, the quest proves successful when her dear Mr. Francis turned up at the city council meeting and, by throwing his weight around as the governor’s right-hand man, saved the day and got the reservoir a reprieve. In return for his assistance, Francis decides he deserves a kiss. The sexual tension immediately prior to the lip-lock was downright palpable, and although Betty didn’t exactly seem ready for a roll in the hay afterwards (she just wore her usual pissed-off expression), she neither pulled away during the event nor complained afterward. It seemed clear that there would be more to this relationship…but, then, the Drapers flew off to Rome on a Hilton-related business trip and seemed to rekindle some of their marital magic. Betty put on her best beehive (or a hairstyle not entirely unlike one, anyway) and utilized her knowledge of Italian to shoot down a couple of rico suaves, seemingly doing a bit of roleplaying with Don up until the point that Connie turned up. I liked his description of Don as “an indecently lucky man,” and, indeed, Don got nice and indecent with Betty while in Rome, so much so that it really looked like the two of them had finally fallen back in love with each other.

Unfortunately, it seems that what happens in Rome stays in Rome: almost as soon as they got back, Betty had returned to full bitch mode, a move made all the more surprising by Don’s attempt at being romantic via his jewelry purchase. I guess we can blame that on Sally, whose macking on neighbor boy Ernie in her parents’ absence led to her treating her teasing brother like he was her opponent in Mike Tyson’s Punchout. Upon her return, Betty actually offered a moment of sweetness and understanding to her daughter about her first kiss…but, apparently, the conversation led her on a trip down Memory Lane that made her learn to hate Don all over again.

All told, it was another slow week on “Mad Men.” Let’s hope things pick up a bit next week.

Mad Men 3.7 – Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

There was always going to be a very good chance that this week’s episode would in no way live up to the level of excitement set by last week’s episode. I mean, really, how do you top the de-foot-ification of a British ad exec? Even taking that into consideration, however. tonight’s “Mad Men” still seemed pretty slow.

Not bad, just slow.

When we first see Don Draper, he looks like he’s been through the wringer, but when we next see him, he’s getting spiffed up for work. There was a brief moment where I thought it was a case of quick recovery, but, no, we were flashing back to see the path that led him to this point. After a momentary stop in the living room to offer up his complete indifference to Betty’s plans for the living room (but still nonetheless throw in a suggestion that the interior designer apparently didn’t see herself), Don was off to work, where he was surprised to find that Conrad Hilton was already waiting for him. It was hilarious to see the guys at Sterling-Cooper giddy as schoolgirls about Hilton’s presence, but Hilton was all business, indicating his disappointment in the lack of a Bible and family photos in Don’s office. Despite these issues, Don still found himself on the fast track to handle accounts for the Waldorf Astoria, New York Hilton, and Statler Hilton…but not, however, until he signed a new contract with Sterling-Cooper. Although Don’s insistence in remaining without a contract may have ostensibly been a business move, I couldn’t help but notice his comments about how he gave his word to Hilton. Wow, remember the days when a man’s word could actually serve as his bond without any contracts needing to be signed to back it up?

Betty and her gaggle of gal pals in the Junior League, meanwhile, were tackling environmental concerns, leading Betty to contact her close personal friend Henry Francis in an attempt to get him to help them with their cause. The two of them had a lovely luncheon, but it wasn’t until the closing moments of their time together – when Henry put his hand over Betty’s eyes to keep her from looking at the eclipse – that a spark really went off with Betty. Interesting…

Don spent a lot of time in the office deflecting questions about the Hilton situation, even enduring Pete trying to get his mitts on the account, but when Peggy tried to get her foot in the door to assist…man, talk about shitting on someone’s parade. I’m not saying that his comments were completely and totally what led her to sleep with Duck, but they sure as hell didn’t hurt. Their close encounter was one which I didn’t see coming, but I think it’s fair to say that Peggy’s starting to get the hang of using her feminine abilities to get what she wants in the business world. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying that she might be able to use them to her advantage.

A few random comments:

* Betty once again proved what a grouch of a mother she is, yelling at her son for hanging up the phone, even though he did exactly what she told him to do. Be more specific next time, Betty. He’s only a kid, for God’s sake!

* I don’t know what to make of this thing with Don’s teacher, except to observe that it’s hard to believe Don’s going to hold out much longer without acting on her obvious attraction to him.

* I’m probably supposed to have been fascinated and enthralled by the surrealistic scene of Don picking up the high hitchhikers, only to take a couple of reds, see a joke-telling hillbilly, and get punched in the face, but I just thought it was weird, personally.

For me, the best moment of tonight’s episode was the one-on-one scene between Don and Cooper, when Cooper subtly but pointedly brought up his knowledge of Don’s identity as a way of hinting that it might be a good idea to sign the contract. Hey, it worked, didn’t it?

Here’s hoping next week’s “Mad Men” is more exciting than this week’s…

Mad Men 3.6 – Mow ‘Em Down

Well, I’ll say this for tonight’s episode of “Mad Men”: it might have had to suffer the indignity of airing opposite the Emmy Awards (where the series ultimately took home its second win for Outstanding Drama Series, thank you very much), but that didn’t mean that it had to offer up a throwaway episode. Not that anyone would’ve expected Matthew Weiner to turn in anything less than another outstanding chapter in this season’s stellar saga of the folks at Sterling-Cooper, but, wow, I don’t think anyone could’ve anticipated the turn of events that we ended up getting. There was so much going on in this episode that I know I’ll end up missing some of it, but here goes…

Things started and ended this evening with Sally Draper. The addition of a new child to a household is always difficult for the existing siblings, but it was definitely a bit different for Sally. First, she was afraid of what was to happen when Don turned off her light, but as the episode progressed, she basically began to believe that perhaps she was being haunted by the spirit of her late grandpa. You can kind of understand her concern, given that -as she observed – the new baby is named Gene, sleeps in Grandpa’s old room, and even looks a little bit like him. Fortunately, Don got her all straightened out by episode’s end…with virtually no help from Betty! Seriously, if she’s not one of the worst mothers in TV history, she’s got to be right up there. How anyone can have three kids and still end up as cold and detached from them as she always seems to be is beyond me.

Let’s be honest, though: Sally’s story, while serving as a very nice way of book-ending the episode, paled in significance to the shake-up within the offices of Sterling-Cooper this week.

First, there was the big meeting of all Sterling-Cooper employees, so that the announcement could be made that the board of directors from Putnam Powell Lowe would be arriving for a friendly chat and to evaluate the office’s performance, with the added bonus that their visit would be totally screwing up everyone’s 4th of July holiday, not to mention putting a wrench in the plans for Joan’s last day at the office. John Hooker got in a good joke at Paul’s expense, telling him that he’d be expected to shave his beard, thereby resulting in an indignant Mr. Kinsey demanding to know, “Who the hell are you people?” Settle down, Paul, settle down. Despite Sterling’s suspicions that the Brits might be flying across the ocean for the sole purpose of getting their knobs polished, Cooper’s theory is that they’re coming to see Don in an attempt to study him and determine his specific American genius, and Cooper floats the idea that they’re going to offer Don a dual position in both New York and London. It’s a tempting enough concept for Don to ask Betty what she thinks of the idea of living in London, so you can imagine his disappointment when it later turns out that Cooper’s just had an overactive imagination.

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Mad Men 3.5 – You can’t kill an idea (updated)

First, I have to comment on the irony that real-life father Will Harris is busy documenting tonight’s season finale of “True Blood,” while non-family guy me gets to write-up the episode where Don and Betty Draper finally have their third child.

Of course, that’s only one of the key events on tonight’s show. We also witness a financial squeeze from the new British overlords of Sterling Cooper while a mercenary variation of civil rights awareness descends on Pete Campbell. Also, Herman “Duck” Phillips returns to attack from the outside and prompts some proactive behavior from cash-deficient Peggy Olson.

peggy-ep5

****

“The Fog” opens as Don and the extremely pregnant Betty have a conference with Sally’s teacher prompted by a nasty fight with a schoolmate. Betty’s revelation of the sudden passing of Grandpa Gene last episode, however, causes the teacher to becomeĀ upset and cut the meeting short. She mentions, however, that the death might explain Sally’s unusual interest in the murder of African-American civil rights leader Medger Evers.

Things aren’t too smooth at work, either. Don walks in late to a meeting in which Sal Romano is being grilled about the details of his expense account on his and Don’s nearly fateful trip a couple of episodes back. When he realizes that British honcho Lane Pryce is going to be discussing excess spending on pencils, he leaves abruptly. Later, Pryce appears in his office and, after some brief snippiness, complains about people drinking at work — reasonable enough by today’s standards. Don responds that creative people tend to be nonproductive, until they are productive, which is equally reasonable to anyone who knows anything about creative people.

Don pours a couple of Scotches and suggests a more proactive stance towards making money by working with Bert Cooper and Roger Sterling, rather than harming morale by cutting back on expense accounts. The meeting ends on a surprisingly cordial note.

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Mad Men 3.4 – Rage Against The Machine

First off, my thanks to Bob Westal for quite capably filling in for me last week. It’s not that I couldn’t have blogged both “True Blood” and “Mad Men,” it’s just that I really, really didn’t want to, so I greatly appreciated his assistance…and I hope he didn’t hate it so much that he’s considering backing out of doing the same thing next week while I’m tackling the “True Blood” season finale.

Wow, remember the good ol’ days when kids could get away with taking the wheel for awhile while their dad…or, in this case, their granddad…was sitting in the passenger seat? Actually, even *I* don’t remember the days when kids were doing it quite that young. Maybe it’s just because we lived in a pretty heavily populated area, but while I remember sitting in my father’s lap and handling the steering wheel, I don’t think he trusted me to drive like that on a public street until I was, like, 14. Maybe we can chalk it up to Gene’s increasing senility…? I spent the first part of the episode convinced that Gene was going to suddenly snap and scream at Sally, “You took my five dollars, you little shit,” but when he sat down with Betty to discuss his funeral arrangements, I sensed that we’d see them put into action sooner than later…and, of course, I was right. (As far as the disposition of his worldly goods, wow, isn’t it amazing how much has changed since the ’60s when it comes to the importance of fur as a status symbol?) If Gene had to depart the “Mad Man” universe, at least he got a lot of love in his final few episodes. This week’s tense discussion between him and Don over the merits of war was one of the moments which makes you nod as you take in the similarities to today’s world, though you rarely hear anyone today dismiss a suggestion that war might be bad by replying, “Maybe, but it makes a man out of you.” That whole sequence was great, particularly Jon Hamm’s acting with his eyebrows as Don listened to Gene giving Bobby a lesson on how to cut open a box properly, but, damn, I wanted to hear the story about how Gene got that fan!

Gene and Sally continued their bonding sessions – last week, it was The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; this week, it was ice cream – and grew closer, but as soon as he made that comment about the chocolate tasting like oranges, I immediately thought, “Uh-oh, that ain’t a good sign,” and promptly Googled the symptom. As a result, I was horrified…much as I suspect the rest of the viewing audience was…that we were going to see Gene suddenly slump against the wheel while driving his grandchildren to school. Thankfully, he at least made it to the A&P before he had his stroke or seizure or whatever it was that claimed his life. After the episode was over, I said to my wife, “You know, even in the ’60s, I just can’t believe that someone would arrive at the house and present the news to a very pregnant woman like Betty without first having her sit down.” She felt otherwise, suggesting that tact wasn’t necessarily first and foremost on the minds of those folks back then, but I’m still skeptical. Even so, however, the imagery of poor little Sally, sobbing against the front door in her ballerina outfit, was heartbreaking…even if it quickly slipped into annoyance at Betty. Seriously, is she the worst mother on this show…?

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