Why is a Jaguar like a woman — specifically, like a mistress? That was the big question torturing the boys at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce as they contended with problems stemming from the real women in their lives: Joan, Peggy and Megan. The guys knew that the Jaguar was pretty yet impractical — like a mistress — but how could they sell that idea?
With the offices of SCDP buzzing with preparations for the big Jaguar pitch, Herb (Gary Basaraba), the head of Jaguar’s auto dealers’ association, told Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) and Ken (Aaron Stanton) his one non-negotiable demand to win SCDP a yes vote from him: spending a night with Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks). And she won’t be taking dictation, if ya know what he means! Of course they do, and while is Ken is grossed out; Pete sees this as just another negotiation.
What scares — correction, scared — ultimate ladies’ man Don Draper? Would you believe a woman? You would once you found out the woman was Joan! The notorious man-eater had Don quaking in his boots during the first week he worked at Sterling Cooper.
That’s just one of the interesting details we learned from this week’s MAD MEN. Another fact is that Lane is in even deeper financial trouble than we were led to believe. And he’s only digging himself in deeper.
Faced with an overdue tax bill that was due in two days, Lane (Jared Harris) did the only thing he could think of: He defrauded Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce for the dough. He went out and borrowed $50,000 for the firm, then pretended it was a company surplus and called for Christmas bonuses all around. When Don (Jon Hamm) suggested delaying the checks until the Xmas party, Lane turned to forgery to cut himself a check immediately.
“My name is Megan Draper, and I’m an actingoholic.” Well, Megan’s reveal wasn’t quite as dramatic as all that, but viewers did get another peek into her creative soul — even as we also peered deep into the dark abyss where Pete’s conscience used to be.
I’m always intrigued by the subject matter of the episodes that MAD MEN creator Matt Weiner decides to write himself. I like to imagine they are particularly important; the kind of stories Weiner doesn’t want to trust to anyone else. And I think this week’s events fell into that category; the characterizations were strong, even if the plots were lightweight. Viewers got to see the demons that drove Megan and Pete to lie to their spouses and embark on secret lives.
The Draper women edged into the spotlight a little more this week. This is nothing new for Megan, who has been a lodestone for storylines this season as MAD MEN explores Don’s new marriage. But Sally is also continuing her growth as a character. You will recall several… er, strange incidents last season; I’m expecting a payoff on that material this season.
Apparently as bored by the Heinz beans account as the viewing audience, Megan (Jessica Paré) came up with a brilliant campaign — mothers serving beans since the dawn of time and on into the future! — which Don (Jon Hamm) loved. That night, at a casual dinner with Heinz honcho Raymond, his wife let slip to Megan that Sterling Cooper Draper Price were being fired. Megan passed the news to Don in a whisper and set him up to deliver the beans pitch on the spot — “Heinz beans: Some things never change” — which he did with all the charm of first-season Don. Raymond was instantly sold and the account was saved!
Pete Campbell and his portrayer, Vincent Kartheiser, got a genuine spotlight episode this week, and it illuminated just how dark Pete’s life has gotten lately. He seems to have it all: a great job, a pregnant wife and a home in the ritzy suburbs. But in Pete’s mind, none of it holds water.
The faucet in the kitchen is leaking, and Pete can’t sleep. The relentless drip, drip, drip of the water leaking away is clearly gnawing at his mind. It parallels his feeling that his life is being wasted and he is wasting away, drip by drip, living in the wilderness of the suburbs and laboring unappreciated at the office. Nothing is working out the way he imagined it, and his life is eroding, drop by drop… The monotonous sound is washing away everything he ever dreamed for his life.
This episode was more of a return to form after last week, but it still took a while to get off the ground. It occurs to me that perhaps the problem is that this season’s episodes are featuring too many storylines that are too divorced from each other, making the episodes feel very choppy and… er, episodic. There needs to be more connection between all the disparate story elements; the threads need to entwine in a more substantial way than Sally calling her father to complain about her subplot… er, problems.
When MAD MEN returned for its fifth season— complete with new opening titles, boasting added colors, images and a lot more cast names — with back-to-back episodes stitched into one long story, we learned where all of our favorites have been since last we saw them… about 130 years ago. The refresher/introductions were nice, because I remembered that Don Draper had proposed to his hot secretary, Megan, but not much else. Luckily, not too much has changed, for the most part.
MAD MEN season finales are never exactly earth-shattering barn-burners; they tend to be understated and affecting, relying on character drama more than big gimmicks (which is not to say last season’s new agency wasn’t significant). But this season’s denouement — while fitting the pattern of the previous three years — was actually rather fitting for this season as a whole: quietly dramatic.
Apparently the title — evoking the famous futuristic attraction at Disneyland — refers to Don (Jon Hamm) turning the page and looking ahead (while Betty cannot stop wallowing in the past). Don has spent this whole season running from his past, putting out fires, and realizing that Don Draper is not who he used to think he was. Remember how the season started: with that reporter asking “Who is Don Draper?” Good question. And while the former Dick Whitman probably cannot say for sure, he certainly has a better grasp on his identity now than he did when the season began.
Lucky Strike’s defection threatened to tamp out SCDP itself! The perception that the agency was hemorrhaging accounts had other clients wary of the blood in the water.
Roger’s (John Slattery) deception certainly did not help. After wrangling a 30-day delay in the announcement from Lee Garner Jr., Roger did not spend his time beating the bushes for new clients. Rather, he… well, who knows what he did? In fact, who knows what he ever does — other than take three-martini lunches and chase after Joan (Christina Hendricks).
This episode was about the past catching up with you; chickens coming home to roost; reaping what ye sow – and any other clichés you care to mention about consequences and responsibilities. In this case, the causes were Don’t secret identity, Joan and Roger’s recent tryst, Roger coasting at work, and Lane’s marriage collapsing. They were facing the prospects of being suitably humbled; getting on their knees or holding out their hands to beg forgiveness. Actions have consequences, even for the great Don Draper. Perhaps especially for the great
Don Draper Dick Whitman.
Joan (Christina Hendricks) told Roger (John Slattery) she’s late, and Greg has been gone for seven weeks, so “it” has to be Roger’s. And there’s no way she can go to her regular OB-GYN. Luckily, Roger knew a doctor, who was (slightly) less judgmental but still accused him of “ruining her”) and begrudgingly referred them to a clinic doctor who does abortions. Joan said she’ll “take care of it.” At the clinic, she encountered a mom whose 17-year-old daughter was having a procedure. The woman was devastated, and Joan (perhaps out of sympathy more than mere embarrassment) pretended to be there with a 15-year-old daughter. I suppose that was a sort of atonement, accepting social blame, but it seemed like Joan was dodging admitting she was the one who “got in trouble.”