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.”

image courtesy of ChicagoNow

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.

image courtesy of Tumblr

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.

image courtesy of Imgur

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.

Advertisements

Mad Men s3e3: My Old Kentucky Home

Ah yes, the episode where Roger Sterling (very uncomfortably) slaps on blackface for his Derby Day garden party to serenade Jane with a racist song. Awkward and shocking as fuck.

I like that Don and Pete are the two horrified people bearing witness to this mess, while everyone else seems bemused. Don pops off, as he does, to seek out more booze and a moment of silence away from all the tryhard noise surrounding him. He meets an older gentleman in a white tux jacket behind the bar, mistaking him for the barman.

don_connie_bar

image courtesy of Tumblr

They have an exchange about feeling out of place at fancy events, an ingrained understanding; way more than we’ve ever seen Don share in the series thus far with just about anyone, perhaps save for Rachel Menken. Fitting that it’s shared with a complete stranger.

Connie: Who are you hiding from?

Don: I am at work .. disguised as a party.

Connie: I’m at work disguised as a wedding. I hate other people’s weddings.

Don: Why’s that?

Connie: Make me nervous, All those expectations. And these poor kids in here– whew! That is a match made in the boardroom. When I was a boy, There was a mansion on the river I used to paddle by in my johnboat. The twinkling lights, violins, girls giggling about something... it’s different inside.

Don: Where are you from?

Connie: San Antonio, New Mexico, before it was a state. Don’t ask me that– old.

Don: You look fit.

Connie: You ever see “A Midsummer Dream” with Mickey Rooney?

Don: “A Midsummer Night’s dream”?

Connie: By golly, you’re prickly! I’m republican, like everyone else in there, but somehow, no matter how expensive my cufflinks, I feel like I’ve got the head of a jackass.

Don: Where I grew up, there was a roadhouse. It boasted live music– that meant a drum, a bass, and a player piano with nobody at it. I parked cars. Fancy people would go there. They’d get loud, they’d get drunk, But they wouldn’t let me use the toilet. So when nature called, I’d open up a trunk and relieve myself.

Connie: You didn’t.

Don: I was 15. There’s probably some kid out there doing it to us right now.

Don and Connie have this experience in common. And like Don, Connie is a climber of the social ladder rather than being born with a silver spoon. But that exclusionary feeling pervades; this feeling of being out of place despite the fact that they wear the proper costume, say all the right things, swing in the swanky circles, but it still just ain’t right. Rachel Menken nailed it in Season 1, and Connie is nailing it here and it resonates. Out of place.

peggy_mj

image courtesy of Tumblr

Meanwhile, Peggy is at the office working on Bacardi. She smokes marijuana (for the first time!) with Paul Kinsey, Smitty, and Kinsey’s cartoonishly handsome Patrick Bateman-esque Princeton drug hookup. Kinsey is unwillingly revealed to be a vaguely uneducated Jersey boy by nature, headed to Princeton on scholarship and putting on airs ever since. He’s insecure about who he really is and is consistently sort of a dick as a reflex.

Enjoying her experience and realising it’s helping her work, Peggy stands up to her judgemental secretary Olive, and gets on with it. She’s being open to new experiences, and doesn’t want to end up like the aforementioned secretary; wringing her hands over her college-aged son, and coming to the office on a Saturday because her husband is taking a trip to the dump.

There are some great scenes with Sally and Grandpa Gene peppered into this episode. Their relationship is sweet, it’s nice that she has an adult figure in her life who treats her (relatively) as an equal; it’s probably the most individual and encouraging attention she’s ever gotten in that house. Sally’s bonding with her grandfather, reading passages aloud from Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire before bed each night. Metaphorically speaking, Gene is pretty prophetic when he tells Sally “just wait.. all hell’s gonna break loose”. The Sixties are about to get pretty real.

sally_and_gene_reading

image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia

Sally swipes a $5 bill from his billfold, as kids tend to do when they want to push boundaries. There is panic and a search of the whole house, turning up nada; eventually Sally can’t take it anymore and “Finds It” in the dining room. She’s expecting the worst from Grandpa Gene, but he goes easy on her. I think he’s secretly relieved that it was actually taken and he’s not losing his entire damned mind just yet. As Don and Betty were on their way out to the aforementioned soirée, they were dismissive of his dismay at having his cash pilfered; they, along with Carla, treated his concern as if it wasn’t real. So having some validation must feel good for him at the very least.

Joan and Greg have a dinner party, hosting some of his hospital bros to earn brownie points. Turns out being married to a dignified and worldly woman like Joan is the best thing going for him, as it turns out (shocking nobody) he’s a pretty shit surgeon. This vile idiot wants to keep her in a very specific Wife(TM) box where he’s the alpha, the boss. Greg hates being reminded of the fact that she’s smarter than he is, that she has this whole other life aside from him and great experiences; he admonishes her to entertaining their guests by playing the accordion and singing a French song, which she nails completely.

joan_accordion

image courtesy of AMC

Back at the Derby Day garden party, Pete and Trudy show off their admittedly awesome dance moves. Everyone’s yapping about their kids or soon to be kids, and Trudy definitely feels a little left out; so they make up for it in dance form. It’s nice to see Pete enjoying himself too!

whitepeople

image courtesy of ONTD and my own idiocy

Towards the end of the party, Roger walks over at precisely the wrong time as Jane drunkenly grabs at Don wondering if he doesn’t like her. She also blabs that she’s so happy he and Betty got back together, and Betty is naturally mortified. This little scene is a nice role swap of when Don walked in on Roger coming onto Betty in their kitchen in Season 1; here, Roger is pissed. He believes it’s due to the fact that he’s conspicuously happy, Don retorts that everyone just thinks he’s a fool. Later, he sees Roger and Jane slow dancing, as if they’re the only two people in the room, totally content. Maybe Roger’s not a fool.

The episode ends with Ben Webster’s “Memories of You” wafting through the air as Don and Betty share a private moment out in the garden, probably one of the more intimate moments we’ve seen on the series between them as of yet. But hey, that guy Henry might be on her mind..

And oh fuck, is ‘Connie’ actually hotel magnifico Conrad Hilton????? Insert faux-perplexed face here.

Mad Men s2e2: Flight 1

Turns out that Boho Paul Kinsey lives in Montclair, NJ! Fun fact, Montclair is a completely fucking charming place. Shoutout to The Wellmont!

Kinsey introduces his girlfriend Sheila to Joan, and they have a loaded exchange. Joan feels that Kinsey is a phoney, smoking his pipe and living out in Jersey, dating an African-American grocery store clerk to make himself appear more interesting. Is that really true, though? Joan seems to think so, yet there’s sincerity from Kinsey and how wounded he is by her savage words. Kinsey gets Man(TM) revenge by tacking up a copy of her driver’s license with her birth year circled. Oh, the humanity!

Peggy is snogging some square, isn’t impressed, and heads home alone.

pegsinbed

image courtesy of Imgur

The question of Peggy’s lovechild hasn’t yet been answered at this point, but this episode offers some insight into her family and home life. Her mother and sister appear to be loving people, but consistently make subtle (and not so subtle) jabs at her. Pegs is clearly cut from a different cloth, and they don’t really know what to do or how to relate to her other than imploring/badgering her to be a certain way.

Her mother is a devout Catholic, making up excuses as to why she hasn’t been attending mass with them for however long. People are asking after her, and Peggy quietly shuts it down with a simple “it doesn’t mean the same thing to me that it means to you”.  It’s implied that her father is dead, her mother telling her that he would’ve wanted her to “light a candle for him”, perhaps in regards to her mystery baby.

The absent baby appears to be more a metaphor for the more “accepted” domestic lady Peggy is trying her hardest not to be, despite the fact that she’s been schlepping a vacuum all over the city.

On her way out, Anita tells her to say goodnight, and she freezes momentarily. There’s a few kids in a room, along with a baby. Peggy is visibly uncomfortable.

When I first watched this episode in 2008, I thought perhaps that baby was hers and it was being raised by her sister.. at the end of the episode, Peggy is at mass with her family. When they all go to receive communion, Anita hands off said baby to Pegs and he immediately starts wailing. As I experienced an anxiety attack, Peggy stares off into the distance, willing herself to be anywhere else but that particular location.

Rewind a bit.

upsetpete

image courtesy of Imgur

So, Pete’s Waspy dad dies in the American Airlines Flight 1 crash into Jamaica Bay. He’s conflicted, as they did not have the best relationship (mad props to Vincent Kartheiser for his nuanced performance in these scenes). The fact that his father is insolvent sheds some light on his haughty rejection of Pete’s plea for financial help. It’s all oysters, travel, and club memberships.

He seeks some fatherly compassion from Don, and instead gets some general life advice. Pete is a guy who’s overall very competent and on top of things, yet he still has these flashes of naïveté.

“Go home and be with your family.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s what people do.”

“Is that what you would do?”

“.. Yes.”

Woof. Don has no genuine emotional reaction to this whole thing, and it’s not just because he never really had parents. He defaults to what people expect of him, and passes this along to Pete.

Turns out Duck knows a guy at American Airlines, Shel Keneally. Sounds like they got blasted together during their days in London. Looking for a fresh start, they’ve given Sterling Cooper a wink in the wake of this crash and the ensuing PR nightmare; Don is tasked with the shit job of firing Mohawk Airlines, a small company to which he yearns to be loyal. Mess.

In fact, the only fatherly compassion Pete gets in this time of need is from Duck, and Pete then uses his father’s untimely death for business purposes. May as well try to make something positive out of it? Campbell senior did not appear to give Pete much of anything while he was alive, maybe he figured this would be a way he could finally do something for him posthumously.

drapercardgame

image courtesy of Tumblr

That night, Don goes home to his family, and it’s tense as hell. Betty’s booked in Francine and suddenly fat Carlton for cards, and he ain’t pleased about it. His interactions with Betty are curt at best, save for when their friends are in the room and he’s suddenly fascinated by her. She publicly complains that Don isn’t firmer with the kids, after Bobby sneaks down to grab some more candy post-bedtime.

They have a bizarre conversation about Carlton, as Don observes that he’s “put on a few” and Betty launches into a whole schpiel about how he should be showering Francine with love after what he put her through. Don shuts down and tells her “Look, Bets, I’m not going to fight. I’ll say whatever you think I should say, but I’m not going to fight with you.”

Good lord.