Monday, August 2, 2010
"Mad Men" recap: Merry Christmas? I don't think so.
Spoilers for this week's episode of "Mad Men" below. Don't click through if you don't want to know.
This week, it's Christmas time in "Mad Men" land and, just as the holidays often reunite us with the relatives and friends we haven't seen since last Christmas (mainly because we're avoiding them), this week's episode brings the return of some old (and, in some cases, unwelcome) faces.
On the upside, Freddy Rumson is back! And yes, I am just as happy about this as Peggy initially is. I honestly didn't think we'd be seeing Joel Murray's character again, but here he is -- sobered up, and bearing the the Pond's Cold Cream account. On the one hand, Freddy's return is much-appreciated. After all, his new account will be a nice boost for the new firm -- and make it less reliant on Lucky Strike and the odious Lee Garner Jr. (more on him later). Plus, Freddy is far less strident and judgmental in sobriety than Duck Phillips ever was. Even his frantic call to the Pond's rep who falls off the wagon after lunch with Roger is laced more with concern than self-righteousness.
Alas, Freddy is still Freddy and, thus, far too old-fashioned for his former protegee Peggy. Out of loyalty (and maybe a little guilt about Pete getting Freddy fired to move Peggy into his job), she listens patiently to his dumb suggestions for a Pond's spokeswoman (Tallulah Bankhead? Really?). But when he pointedly suggests a campaign about how using Pond's can make young "spinsters" more likely to snag a husband, Peggy goes nuts. No longer the shy, reserved girl he dug out of the secretarial pool in season one, Peggy totally tells Freddy off for his antiquated ideas. He skulks away, leaving her feeling guilty. And, actually, I'm not sure how I feel about Peggy's outburst. Clearly, Freddy is wrong. He's not thinking about expanding the client's customer base to young women -- until he sees a chance to get a shot in at Peggy. But Freddy had a modern enough view of women to nurture Peggy's talent, and she can't forget that. Clearly, she hasn't and, by episode's end, they've made a tentative truce (however, Peggy does seem a little eeked out by Freddy's overly frank observations about the um, "discomfort" she's causing her boyfriend).
Anyway, as old-fashioned as Freddy is, he's far preferable to Glenn, the creepy Draper neighbor boy who resurfaces this episode as a particularly menacing Christmas tree farm employee. Gone is the lost, tentative little boy who long plaintively for Betty. Now, at the cusp of adolescence, he's kind of a psycho. He's also turned his attention from Betty to the more appropriately aged (but equally vulnerable) Sally.
He calls Sally under an assumed name (she fails to ask him the most pertinent question -- of all the pseudonyms in the world, why Stanley?).
When he vandalizes the Draper/Francis home, he leaves Sally's room untouched, save for leaving her his twine-cutting knife. And poor Sally, so starved for attention, affection and excitement, is thrilled by it all. Oh, man, Sally. I had such high hopes for you. Please don't go your mother's route of attaching yourself to an emotionally damaged man in an attempt to give your life meaning. Because, clearly, all Glenn wants is a lock of your hair. And possibly to bury you in a shallow grave.
But even future horror movie subject Glenn isn't nearly as awful as Lee Garner Jr., the Lucky Strikes exec who, lest we forget, got Sal fired when our favorite art director failed to succumb to his advances. Garner is still terrorizing Sterling, Cooper and co., badgering them into forgoing their modest "gin and Velveeta" Christmas party and amping it up into a parody of any swinging 60's movie you can think of ("The Apartment" in particular, but I can never see that orange game without thinking of "Charade").
He even humiliates Roger into wearing the Santa suit. The Silver Fox acquiesces, but we can see that his facade is cracking. Better do a good job on that Pond's account, Peggy. Looks like it's only a matter of time before someone blows up at Garner, sending Lucky Strike the way of Ho Ho and jai alai.
Anyway, here are some more of my thoughts on "Christmas Comes But Once a Year":
* With all this talk about our returning friends and enemies, I haven't dedicated much time to old Don. But really -- what else is there to say, other than that he continues to drink and slosh himself on top of random women? We did see him, once again, using women as sort of surrogate wives. Last week, it was the housekeeper, the prostitute and the blind date. This week, it was his nurse neighbor and his poor, poor secretary. Both women end up taking care of Don when he's inebriated and the poor, poor secretary offers him a little sexual healing as well. Of course, she quickly learns that a one-night stand with Donny-poo only leads to deep sadness. If it's any consolation to her, Don seems truly miserable, particularly when he hears Sally's precocious letter to "Santa." Yes, I knew Sally would say that Don's presence is the Christmas gift she wants most. But it was still poignant. Kudos to Jon Hamm for that sneakily devastated look when Sally's request was read to him.
* The one woman not content to be Don's occasional wife? The corporate survey woman, who totally calls Don on walking out on her presentation. Yes, we understand why he did it (any time the magic word "father" is mentioned, Don disappears), but still, it was rude. Not only does she take him to task, she cruelly asserts that he'll be remarried in a year, reducing him to a "type."
* Two bracingly hilarious Harry moments: shielding his survey answers like a student safeguarding his SAT answers and awkwardly perching himself on Roger's lap during the Christmas party.
* Also loved Peggy's whole interaction with her boyfriend. Oh, Peggy -- lying about your virginity is so 50s! But, it probably is wise to keep that whole Pete Campbell love child thing to yourself. By the way, I, embarrassingly, just noticed that Blake Bashoff, the actor who played Peggy's gentleman friend Mark, is the same guy who played Alex's boyfriend Karl on "Lost." Sorry for falling down on the job like that.
* Roger usually has far and away the best line of each episode, but this week, his "If Lee Garner Jr. wants three wise men from Jerusalem, he gets it" has stiff competition from an unlikely source: Peggy, who tells Mark "You're never going to get me to do anything that Swedish people do." Frankly, Mark should know better than to bring up Sweden. Peggy is Norwegian!