Mad Men s5e10: Christmas Waltz

“You do not know how hard I’ve tried to ignore this at work. I know what I’m doing, I have some control.. but then he found a way to ruin that, too.”

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Ahh, Christmastime! How appropriate considering this will be my final review of 2017. This episode is jammed full of advantageous lies and harsh/totally awkward truths. Don is finally back in action at the office, Joan gets served, Kinsey cosplays as a giant baby, and Lane is in deep shit with the British taxman.

Hey-o, once mega pretentious Paul Kinsey resurfaces with the Hare Krishna! He’s apparently fucked it up/tumbled down the ranks of every ad agency in town, and goes to the Hare Krishnas for guidance but at his core, he’s still that arrogant writer we know. He turns to Harry Crane for help getting his atrocious Star Trek spec script to Roddenberry and co. Oy vey.

Lakshmi comes to seduce Harry to keep Kinsey on the line, purely because he’s a great Krishna recruiter; she’s got zero romantic interest in him. Part of the reason Kinsey even sticks around there is the prospect of building a life with her, so it’s a real dick move on her behalf. Thinking of his friend, Harry decides to lie to Kinsey re:his garbage script, and pops him cash and a plane ticket to start a new life in Los Angeles (not unlike what Don tried to do with Adam). Just get away from it all, Kinsey. The lie is more beneficial than the truth here.

Sure, maybe he’ll get shit on in LA, maybe he’ll be rejected 1000 times over, but at least it’s real; Los Angeles would be way better than living in Krishna limbo just to be exploited by a lady who ain’t ever gonna fuck you, Paul. And for once, Harry isn’t acting like a total knob, it’s a Christmas miracle! (Though he does bang Lakshmi in the process. Whatevs.)

“You’re all getting bonuses, and we aren’t!” || image courtesy of Twitter

Let’s move on to Lane and his shady shit. Looks like he’s in a giant money hole with the UK government, owing a whole pile of taxes on his portfolio with no way to pay. Pride is one hell of a drug; he further’s SCDP’s line of credit at the bank semi-fraudulently, claiming that the numbers for 1967 were commitments instead of just projections. He spins it to the other partners as a ~cash overflow~, so his now-possible Christmas Bonus could cover what he owes. The other partners put the kibosh on their bonuses, opting to give them to the staff. It’s blinding how quickly his entire plan was fucked.

As if it all couldn’t be shadier, he forges a check. A truly shit idea; pride and desperation lead him down that path, as those books were once sacrosanct to him. He won’t even tell his wife what’s up.

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This side of Lane is super sketch, similar to his season premiere infatuation with the wallet titty lady. Lane is culturally (and somewhat literally) so far removed from the other characters at the office that any time we peep some insight, it feels like we’re seeing something he’s been grappling with for months, whether it’s this tax debt or his estrangement from Rebecca and subsequent Chocolate Bunny.

Lane very rarely opens up to others, so we can only take a stab at his motivations. We know he’s been knocked about and beaten down by life (and his total dick of a father), but instead of being Don about it he’s pretty .. meek? Stiff upper lip and all that, I guess. And similarly, Don is a guy who plays shit close the the vest, but we see him 24/7 and thus understand him a little better. Pride also interferes with Lane even entertaining the thought of asking Don for the cash, which we know that he would’ve given without batting an eye.

Joan gets served with divorce papers via Shit Husband (and person) Greg, and after launching an airplane model at poor Meredith, she’s more than ready to engage in some Jaguar roleplay with Don. Natch, they end up at a bar. Don and Joan are both survivors of failed marriages, wondering whether tomorrow will be better than yesterday.

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Don’s connection with Joan reminds me a touch of his relationship with Anna, in that their affection for one another is unmistakable but never turns physical. Intimacy can be profound and non-sexual; I think that for Don, this is super important. He’s a guy who uses sex for a lot of things, but feeling love/showing affection ain’t it. The emotional damage he experienced at the hand of Archie and Abigail growing up adds to it, especially living in a whorehouse. He has the ability to be open and relatively honest with ladies who keep him at arms’ length, like the numerous casual bang partners. Joan’s instincts about men are so keen that she knows this better than most. After all, she and Don are alike; they’ve both used their overt sexuality and attractiveness to entice and manipulate other people. They get it.

Dancing around the idea of banging around and the lingering sense of ‘is that all there is’, Don references Bobbie Barrett’s attitude of “I like being bad and then going home and being good”. That’s obviously been rattling around in his head with all the recent changes in his life; and his analysis of those dudes who are obsessed with a sporty Jaguar is pretty telling. “He doesn’t know what he wants.. but he’s wanting.”

They’re both in a headpsace at that bar; boozing and deflated, Don feeling estranged from Megan in her new iteration, Joan begrudging her (soon to be ex) trashhusband. She admits that she tried to use her success at work as a way to be in control of her life, in denial about the end of her marriage. Don brings a touch of wisdom and lightness, a really nice gesture. Keep moving forward.

“Congratulations.”

“For what?”

“For getting divorced. Nobody realises how bad it has to get for that to happen.. Now you get to move on.”

And obvi, it’s way easier in the mid 60s for a Don Draper to get on with it than it is for a Joan Holloway, or even for a Paul Kinsey. But no matter who you are, moving forward is way smoother when you have someone in your corner to help and when needed, along with a good kick in the pants to force you to be honest with yourself.

At home, a rightfully pissed off Megan releases him back to the office with her bit about how he loved that job way before he ever loved her, and I suppose (along with Joan) that’s enough of an asskicking to launch him back into Inspirational Rallying Speech Don. Thank fuck.

“Last year at this time, whether you knew it or not, the survival of this company was on the line. l look at the faces in this room who have given their all to this tenuous recovery and l say, prepare to take a great leap forward. Prepare to swim the English Channel and then drown in champagne. There are six weekends between now and the pitch.. we are going to spend them all here. We will celebrate Christmas here, we will ring in the new year together.. And in the end, we will represent Jaguar, and it will be worth it. Every agency on Madison Avenue is defined by the moment they got their car. When we land Jaguar.. the world will know we’ve arrived.”

Thanks for reading, everyone! Here’s to 2018.

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Mad Men s4e2: Christmas Comes but Once a Year

“In a nutshell, it all comes down to what I want versus what’s expected of me.”

Just about sums up life, eh? Let’s see how much of a piping hot mess Don is in this episode..

Sally runs into creeper Glen at the Christmas tree lot. Hating living in the house on Bullet Park Road without her dad there, she expresses how strange everything is; Glen can relate. He takes it into his own hands when the Francises are all out one night, trashing the house with food and junk.. save for Sally’s room, where he leaves a friendship keychain similar to the one she complimented him on at the lot. He tries to make the house as uncomfortable for everyone as it is for Sally.

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At the office, enter Dr. Faye Miller, one of the psychologists SCDP is using for market research. In an intro with a personality test for the senior staff, Don dodges another opportunity to divulge any sort of information about himself.

A man allergic to intimacy, it’s clear that Don’s in a darker place than his usual existential loneliness.. and this is his first real Christmas sans family to boot. He ain’t handling it well; he’s hitting everything too hard. Women whom he would otherwise effortlessly charm are rebuffing his sloppy advances with ease and a touch of pity. Score one for Faye and neighbour Phoebe, I guess.

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Allison reads out Sally’s letter to Santa (c/o Don Draper), and it’s a heartbreaking reminder of the damage the divorce has caused. She tears up at Sally’s wish to have Don there on Christmas morning, knowing that it’s not a possibility.

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image courtesy of Huffpo

The vile Lee Garner Jr is in town, and is miffed he wasn’t invited to the SCDP Christmas party.. which now has to become an actual party much to Lane’s dismay. Faye and Don spar about how someone’s past can influence them today, a point with which Don disagrees. She aptly brings up that his celebrated Glo-Coat commercial is heavily steeped in nostalgia, a certain longing for someone’s childhood.. but not Don’s. He tries to change the conversation by asking her to dinner, and gets shot down.

Natch, he forgets his keys at the office, and Allison does him a favour by running down to the Village to let him in. It’s noteworthy that younger employees have always gossiped about Don, but it was always in the admiring from afar sense, with some sense of wonder; mimbo Joey calling him ‘pathetic’ sheds light on how trash Don is at this point in time. And I guess in an effort to feel something (or anything at all), Don comes on to Allison; she reciprocates and they have a bang on his couch. Awkward.

The next morning is nothing short of a disaster with how Don handles (and not handles) things. He goes to his rhetoric of “this never happened”, so much so that he doesn’t acknowledge anything in the least, and gives Allison her Christmas bonus of a hundy in cash. You can tell he doesn’t feel great about it as she walks out of his office, but not guilty enough to not be a prick. And plus.. you shouldn’t shit where you eat.

So Freddy Rumsen is back, and he’s dry as a bone– but Peggy is thrilled to see him and to work on Pond’s. Freddy has some comically oldschool ideas for the cold cream, whereas formerly oldschool Pegs has moved forward quite a bit. He’s focusing on the marriage aspect of Pond’s, but Peggy wants something more, something deeper that speaks to women.. women like her whose be-all end-all isn’t getting fucking married. She wants to make an ad that speaks to everyone!

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image courtesy of AV Club

BUT, even though her life in the office is super forward thinking and progressive she’s being weirdly old fashioned with her boyfriend Mark. Apparently they aren’t banging because she’s playing virgin.. yikes. Last I checked, she ain’t been no virgin since 1960.. maybe she’s just not so sure about the guy?

Why is Peggy dating this dolt anyway? Freddy peppers her with some absurdly old fashioned advice, firmly saying that she shouldn’t bang the guy if she wants to marry him, since he’ll never respect her.. Y I K E S.

I guess that cemented her opinion of Mark, cause she throws him a bone that night.

Maybe Allison is that gal looking to get hitched, and thought there was something deeper to her tryst with her boss.. as she stares off into space while typing, it’s hard not to feel her pain and humiliation. So uncomfortable. Don may have fucked it up with his best and most competent secretary yet.

“I don’t hate Christmas.. I hate this Christmas.”

Mad Men s3e13: Shut the Door. Have a Seat.

“You come and go as you please.”

Here we are at the Season 3 finale, and it’s a fucking good one. Right out of the gate, Conrad Hilton lets the A-bomb drop that PPL and Sterling Cooper are being sold off to McCann Erickson effective January 1st, and Don ain’t pleased. Who the hell wants to be a cog in the massive McCann machine? Looks like Jim Hobart is back to haunt Don.

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image courtesy of Bustle

This episode is peppered with flashbacks to his childhood, where the farm isn’t doing well. Archie is attempting to make a deal, and outright refuses to settle for less than he’s worth; he splits from the co-op he’s involved with, telling everyone to get the fuck out. Looks like Archie and Don have something in common after all.

Urging Archie to sell his crop for fuckall, he angrily complies with Abigail’s wishes. As he’s getting set to give it all away, he’s killed by that horse as Dick watches on in the night; should’ve stuck with your guns, Arch.

As shit falls apart, Don scrambles for an idea to make it all come back together again. He’s not gonna end up like his father. Ironically (or probably not), Don seems to be at his professional best when his personal life is a complete mess. He’s equal parts intensely focused, enthusiastic, and pissed off, abuzz with anxiety; he wants to build something of his own and pleads his case to Bert and Roger.

“You’re not good at relationships because you don’t value them.”

Shots fired from Roger, and he ain’t wrong; Don is shook. He admits defeat with Hilton, he’s certainly no account man; Don needs Roger and his talents along for the ride. It’s revealed that he does, however, value his relationship with Roger. Bert (taking a page out of Lane’s book) seals the deal for Roger to join up with them via a vanity jab.

At home, Betty bluntly lets Don know she’s made an appointment with a divorce lawyer. Trying to minimise her feelings again, he treats her like a child by saying she’s had a rough couple of weeks. Super slimy shit, Denial Don.

Don: “Forget it. I’m not gonna let you break up this family.”

Betty: “I didn’t break up this family..”

Get this motherfucker to the Burn Unit.

Betty and Henry meet with his attorney, who reveals a magical divorce loophole.. looks like they’re headed to Reno to establish residency and get on with it. Henry, in order to not drag things out, insists that he’ll provide all she could ever need in life; he doesn’t want her owing Don anything. An incredibly kind gesture, one that Betty is not accustomed to.

A clean break.. and then drunk Roger lets the fucking bomb slip re:Betty’s new sidepiece and Don ain’t pleased. He’s drunk, pissed off, and truly nasty to her; they both know he crossed the line. Ugly shit. Marriage over.

Lane is let into the conversation, and doesn’t yet know that PPL is being sold along with Sterling Cooper. Incredulous, he rings London to find out what’s up. Saint John confirms that PPL is indeed being sold as well, and realising that he would be left to flap in the wind, Lane is ticked that he hasn’t been considered beyond a cog in a gigantic machine who will statically “prove himself irreplaceable”. Man, fuck PPL.

In a moment of great storytelling, Lane’s indubitable authority to fire anyone at the firm was set up way back in the season premiere. And this is the lightbulb moment, the one Don was trying to crack.. in one fell swoop, Lane can sever Don, Roger and Bert’s contracts by giving them the sack. There’s a partnership on the table for Lane, and the negotiations begin.

“Well, it’s official: Friday, December 13th, 1963.. four guys shot their own legs off.”

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image courtesy of IGN

And thus Don pulls off another hobo move, a truly great escape.. by managing to trash the contract that’s vexed him.

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Time to snag some accounts, which means it’s time to see faux sick Pete Campbell at home. Admitting that Pete has been ahead of the curve on loads of things, and that he’s a valuable person to have on board for the new firm moving forward, Don and Roger implore him to come along for the ride; Pete agrees, finally receiving the recognition he’s wanted since the pilot. Like everyone else on earth, Pete wants to feel valued.

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image courtesy of Vulture

Before getting everything firmly in motion for the new agency that weekend, Don and Betty have to tell Sally and Bobby about their divorce. It does not go well, with Don attempting one last time to shape the narrative to his own reality, saying it’s only temporary. “Nobody wants to do this.” No shit, Don.

Completely failing at getting Peggy to jump ship and go with him on Friday, Don follows up at her apartment. The first time around he essentially ordered her to come with; he’s been such an aloof haughty dick to her this whole goddamned season, it’s not shocking that she turned him down. Having that horrendous conversation with his kids humbles him just a touch, and it dawns on him that he doesn’t want to see important people in his life slowly slip away because of his own shit actions.

“Do you know why I don’t want to go to McCann?”

“Because you can’t work for anyone else.”

“No.. because there are people out there who buy things, people like you and me, and then something happened. Something terrible.. and the way that they saw themselves is gone. And no one understands that.. but you do. And that’s very valuable.”

“Is it?”

“With you, or without you, I am moving on. And I don’t know if I can do it alone.. will you help me?”

“What if I say no? You’ll never speak to me again..”

“No. I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you.”

That’s how you get Peggy on board, Don. Gotta be genuine. He knows they are alike; they’ve both had experiences that set them apart from the crowd, that make them see the world a little differently as a result. He understands and appreciates Peggy, and he manages to salvage their relationship in that moment.

Watching all of this come together is nothing short of magic. Getting the old team back together (with Joan!), albeit pared down, is done in a series of jazzy sequences like those of a good heist flick. This entire season has shown some very strained relationships at Sterling Cooper, making this reunion and these character reconciliations have real weight.

As everyone sits down to sandwiches via Trudy, Don rings Betty; the tone is entirely different from the last time they talked. He’s apologetic and an actual human person, emphasising that he won’t fight her in the divorce. He hopes she gets what she’s always wanted, the fulfillment and emotional support he completely failed to provide. Looks like that jab about valuing relationships really sank in.

“Good morning! Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, how may I help you?”

Will the future be better than the past like Roy Orbison croons in the closing scenes? Here’s hoping. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce will assuredly be a different agency with a forward-thinking point of view; after all, it’s a pivotal moment of the 1960s.. it’s time to get on with it.

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That’s all for 2016 here! I’ll resume with Season 4 posts in the New Year.. and here’s hoping 2017 is less of a fucking dumpster fire. Check out what I’ve written here Mad Men-wise thus far.. and thank you all so much for reading! Happy Christmas, Festivus, Hanukkah, and all that junk.

“Very good! Happy Christmas!”