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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Men Recaps

I'd like to quickly apologize for my lack of consistent Mad Men recaps, and I want to assure you I will be back on schedule next week. More importantly, however, I'd like to congratulate Mad Men on Two Prime Time Emmys - Best Writing and Best Dramatic Writing. Additionally, I'd like to congratulate the actors for their individual nominations. Now, back to the recaps:

EPISODE 402 - "Christmas Comes But Once A Year."
It's Christmas time at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, but nobody seems to be filled with "jolly" spirits. In fact, there's even been a few naughty folk destined for coal in their stockings.

Don Draper, our beloved anti-hero, is beginning to fray around the edges as Christmas rolls around as he will not be home with his children. Alone in his sullen apartment, Draper clings to anything he can for that familiar feeling, often casting reason aside and courting anything with skirt and a slight interest in him, whether it be personal or professional. After forgetting his keys in his office, Draper's young secretary, Allison, returns them to him when Don again grasps for comfort and after initial hesitation, she gives in. It is not lost on Don or Allison that this was not a smart idea.

Freddy Rumpson is back from JWT with a large account, Pons, under his arm. He's clean and sober now, but he carries a chip on his shoulder re-entering the firm, particularly a dislike for Pete Campbell.

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has started using an outside firm specializing in the role of psychology as it is pertinent to advertising. During a presentation by the agency's attractive female specialist, Don walks out of the meeting (apologetically) avoiding a questionnaire delving into his childhood and his relationship with his father. Through the last three seasons, we have come to recognize this is one thing Don is not willing to share with anyone.

Lee Garner Jr., the man from Lucky Strike cigarettes, is in town and ready to be pampered as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce's largest leg to stand on. His connection to the firm, Roger Sterling, seems finally forced to dance for his dollar, and by the hand of Garner, is pressured into the Santa costume at SCDP's Christmas party (which had to be upgraded due to Garner's unexpected presence in New York during the holiday). A few snide remarks sets the stage that the emotions are building in Roger Sterling.

EPISODE 403 - "The Good News."
Joan Holloway, whose husband has decided to join the military as a surgeon, privately reveals to her doctor that she is working towards starting a family and wonders if any of her previous "operations" would be a problem in conceiving. Luckily (because she's GORGEOUS and otherwise would be an utter shame) every thing is fine. She butts heads with Lane Pryce, the financial partner in the firm, when she asks for a few days off following the holiday. The exchange does not go as she had planned, and after a rather contrite interaction, both are left flustered. Pryce tries to remedy the situation by sending flowers to Joan while also sending flowers to his wife back in London, but a secretarial mishap by Sandy results in the flowers (and thus, the cards) being sent to the other woman. As a result, Sandy is fired. Despite the setback, Joan keeps her spirits up but unfortunately sees what her husband Greg Holloway is made of when he stitches up a deep cut on Joan's finger.

With Christmas come and gone, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is emptying out for the new year. Don Draper needs the vacation, so he's flying out to Acapulco to get some sun. Once in California, Don heads to see the original Mrs. Draper, Anna Draper, sporting a recently broken leg. Resorting back to his old life, Draper falls into rhythm as "Dick Whitman" to Anna and her sister and niece, who are taking care of her while she's injured. Naturally Don is drawn to the niece, a smart and attractive college girl. After being turned down while dropping her off, Don finds himself struggling with the truth about his own life. She tells Don that Anna, the only connection Don has to "Dick Whitman" and his former life, is sick with cancer (unbeknownst to her) and doesn't have much time left. Don can't deal with the idea of "losing" another person he loves, so he decides to delay the Acapulco trip for a few more days until he can get a better grip on Anna's situation. But this is one situation that Don can't control, no matter how hard he tries, so he gives in the moral good, leaving Anna's for what appears to be, the last time, and heads home to New York.

"I know everything there is to know about you, and I still love you." - Anna Draper

With Lane's family back in London (and now on rocky ground with his wife, due to the mix up among other things) Don takes Lane under his arm for the evening; drinks, a movie, a dinner (a priceless scene in which Lane stands up, slaps a large T-bone steak against his belt, and shouts to the entire restaurant about his "big Texas belt buckle! Yeehaw!") and in true Draper fashion, the night ends for the gentlemen with two call girls. The following morning, Lane is appreciative of Don's gesture and reimburses him for the "company."

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce says goodbye to 1964, and hello to 1965.

EPISODE 404 - "The Rejected"
With more restrictions on cigarette advertising, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is working to calm down the riled up Lucky Strike.

The Pons Cole Cream campaign Freddy Rumpson is spearheading with Peggy Olsen is in full swing, complete with test groups. When the women in the office are pulled in for the group, Dr. Faye Miller, pulls on the heart strings of the women until the session turns into a full blown female sob-fest. An unfortunate victim of the emotional test group is Draper's young secretary, Allison. Overwhelmed by her own intimacies, Allison storms out of the test group and "spills the beans" to Peggy about her post-Christmas party relations with Don Draper. Allison assumes Peggy is in the same highly turbulent Draper-obsessed boat, but Peggy takes offense and storms out, affording no assistance to the ailing girl. Allison musters enough strength to confront Draper's nonchalance, and resigns from her position as his secretary. And when she asks him for a letter of recommendation, her emotions flare, and Allison storms out leaving curious stares and broken glass in tow.

Draper returns to work to meet his new secretary, a much older woman named Mrs. Blankenship. It is obvious she is a little rusty on the details of being a secretary, but there's no doubt Draper will not make the same mistake again.

Roger Sterling and Lane Pryce incite Pete Campbell to retire the Clearasil account because of a conflict of interest with Pons. Pete was only able to bring Clearasil to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce because one of the managers of Pons is Pete's father-in-law, Tom. When Pete meets with his father-in-law to break off the account, Pete fumbles around the point until Tom interjects, breaking the news that Pete and Trudy Campbell are having a baby. Baby news trumps any other news, and Pete misses the opportunity to break off the account. A few days later, while Trudy's parents are invited over for dinner, Pete steps up and doesn't just break off the Clearasil account, but expresses his desire for more of Vick's accounts, including cough drops. Tom, clearly, is hurt by Pete's decision.

"Every time you jump to conclusions Tom, you make me respect you less." - Pete Campbell

Kenny Cosgrove, one of the former Sterling Cooper employees shedded when they made the break to a new firm, is "on the up" with another firm. Harry Crane, the head of the television department, convinces Pete Campbell to accompany him to a lunch with Ken to celebrate Ken's upcoming marriage. At lunch, while Crane is answering the phone, Ken confronts Pete on some slanderous speech Pete had apparently spread about Ken. Once resolved, their conversation revolves around Cosgrove's lack-luster position at his new firm despite the rumors, and the strategy behind his accounts, including Mountain Dew.

Peggy Olsen makes a new friend, Joyce, an assistant photo editor at Life Magazine. Joyce shows up to SCDP one day and invites Peggy to a party downtown at a photographer's loft. Once at the party, Peggy attempts to mesh with the others by talking art and smoking pot, but rubs the host and other artists the wrong way when she talks about advertising their art. Joyce tries to make a move on Peggy, but Peggy tells her about her boyfriend, and they laugh off the awkwardness. The police show up to break up the party, and Peggy is forced into a closet with a journalist and in the heat of the moment, they kiss.
The following day at work, when Peggy finds out that Pete is having a child, history gets the best of her. Joyce arrives to take Peggy out to lunch at the same time the men are headed out, and as Pete and Peggy lock eyes through the office's glass door, it's obvious both are trapped in endless questions of "what ifs" and "if onlys."

Peggy: "I have a boyfriend."
Joyce: "He doesn't own your vagina."
Peggy: "No... but... he's renting it."

EPISODE 405 - "The Chrysanthemum And The Sword."
Apparently there's another firm in town that is nipping at the heels of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, in particular, a man named Ted Shaw declared to the New York Times that he is going to take down Don Draper.

With Honda Motorcycles - a $3 million dollar account - searching for an advertising firm to help expand their American market, everybody at the firm is in support of the chase except for Roger Sterling, who's experience in World War II has reared its' ugly head in opposition to Pete's new "yellow friends." Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce goes ahead with the meeting, and after some anecdotal formalities (entertaining subtitles were supplemented), they sit down and discuss the regulations for their presentation. Shortly before the meeting ends, Roger marches in (deliberately uninvited due to his prior behavior), rudely degrades Honda's representatives then marches out.

After the meeting, Pete Campbell confronts Roger about his rage and the firm's diminishing need for Roger as Lucky Strike progressively amounts to a lesser percentage of the firm's total billings. Roger's emotions peaked and nearly resorts to blows with the young executive Campbell.

Roger gives a half-assed apology about his behavior, but the firm continues to brainstorm about the project. But Draper's creative brilliance comes through when he decides to bluff the other competing firms into thinking SCDP is producing an incredible thirty second spot, undoubtedly exceeding the $3,000 limit (keynoted with a scene of Peggy driving a Honda scooter in circles around an abandoned soundstage). When Draper arrives for the Honda presentation, he "withdraws" from the competition and gives Honda their money back, a clever move intended to make Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce stand out based on a sense of respect and moral tradition, one he hopes will win over Honda. In the end, it was merely a test, but Honda was impressed with Don's presentation and respect, and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce was given first shot at Honda's new car - a motorcycle with doors (57 horsepower).

"Since when is forgiveness a better quality than loyalty?" - Roger Sterling

Don leaves his neighbor, the nurse, in charge of the kids while he's on a date, but unbeknownst to her, Sally Draper drastically butchers her own hair in the bathroom, claiming her intention was to become "more beautiful" like the girls she knows her father sees. When Don learns of Sally's new "do," he erupts, as does Betty who slaps Sally across the face when Don drops her off at home. But Sally's outcry doesn't end there. One night, while at a friend's house, Sally experiments with her own sexuality through masturbation, and is walked in on by her sleeping playmate's mother. Shocked, she brings Sally home early and tells Betty about the incident, who is instantly mortified and embarrassed. The mystery of Sally's behavior continues to puzzle the adults, with Don and Beth pointing the fingers of responsibility at each other.

Contrary to all prior behavior, Don opens up to Dr. Faye Miller, the psychiatric analyst, and divulges the series of chips on his shoulders regarding his children, Betty, psychiatry, and the trials and tribulations of the recently divorced ad man.

Betty goes to visit a psychiatrist to discuss Sally's behavior and to set up some appointments, but after a short talk, Betty reveals her own pent up issues, and the doctor recommends she have some counseling sessions as well.

EPISODE 406 - "The Waldorf Stories"
When Roger Sterling's wife's 24 year old brother comes in interviewing for a job, he has little to offer but knockoffs of the idiom, "... cure for the common..." Don Draper and Roger share a chuckle about the kid's general ineptitude, but soon the smiles fade as Roger pulls the trigger - the kid gets a job, that's that. But getting his extended family jobs is not all Roger seems to be up to these days, he's dictating notes for an autobiography, recalling countless stories from his younger years. While digging up his glory days for his book, it becomes more and more evident he is not completely over Joan Harris.

Still riding high on the success of their Glo Coat commercial, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is nominated for the Clio, an advertising award. In anticipation of the awards that evening, the firm started early with the drinking. The boys at SDCP weren't the only ones drinking, however, an entertaining uproar by Duck Phillips sets the bar for the rest of the evening. And, in the "Best Cleansers, Waxes, and Polishes" category, the winner is... Glo Coat, "Billy the Kid," Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Hearing the announcement, Don stumbles around his table happily, accepts the award with a smile, and returns to his table victorious. Time for the celebration to begin... but not before Life Cereal interrupts by showing up at the office for a meeting. Instead of rescheduling, Draper et al charge back for their presentation with trophy in hand.

The meeting with Life starts strong but slowly begins to slip between Don's figures. In an effort to hold on to Life's attention, and showcase the genius that earned him the beautiful trophy, Draper grasps at straws, spilling out tagline after tagline, until Life snatches up the phrase, "Life, the cure for the common breakfast." Now Don has no choice but to work with the young misguided 24 year old, whom Don, ultimately (with great dissatisfaction), is forced to offer a job to.

Peggy is struggling with the Vick Chemicals campaign and working with the new art director, Stan Rizzo. The tension between the two is palpable from the outset, both stubborn to identify the varying successes of the other and Stan's almost constant degradation of Peggy. During their brainstorming, it was a constant back and forth. When Don demands the two spend the weekend locked in a room to finish the campaign, the tension between them reaches an all time high when they strip naked to finish their work (Stan claims the nudity frees his mind, and Peggy puts him on the spot by stripping down first.) Ultimately, Stan caves, dresses,
and resorts back to the belittling. Peggy smiles victoriously.

Pete Campbell, struggling to be respected as an equal partner in the office, is outraged to discover that Ken Cosgrove is being brought back into the firm, but not before Pete gets his two cents in. It is Pete's show now, and he wants to know that Ken can, and will, play by his rules. And just like that, Cosgrove's back.

Amidst all the commotion, Don lost track of the days and forgot to pick up his children on Sunday morning. Waking up next to another Clio award winner who called him "Dick," not being able to remember things, forgetting his trophy at the bar, and selling the kid's tagline, Don is coming apart at the seams. Despite being atop of the pyramid, Don is struggling to find a balance.

In this episode we finally learn the back story between Don Draper and Roger Sterling. Sterling, many years ago, was in Don's store searching for a Mink coat to give as a gift. Don was smooth in his sale and related to Sterling that he did the advertising for the shop. It turns out that the mink coat was for Joan Harris, and that Don had slipped his portfolio into the coat's box. (The man is persistent, there's no denying that.) But Don didn't stop there, he tracked down Sterling to his office and, after a tiny bit of convincing, brought him out for drinks. The following day Don showed up at the office and when Roger questions him, Don mentions that the day before, while they were having drinks, Roger had hired Don. "You said welcome aboard." And just like that, Don Draper was hired.

Roger: "I'll give it back if you just say one thing... you couldn't have done it without me."
Don: "Did I not say that? I was wrong."

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