You’ve been missed . . . you sexy Mad Man, YOU!
Hard to believe, it’s been a FULL YEAR since those crazy cats at Sterling Cooper up and left the agency that still bore THEIR OWN NAMES, to start a brand new one. (Actually, it’s EASY to believe. Every day away felt like pure torture to me!) But, hey, the past is in the past, right? It’s a new year (1964), and our Mad Men have a shiny new logo, and a brand new office, to call “home” . . .
Pretty snazzy, right?
So, pour yourself some scotch, light up a ciggy, and practice your “John’s” and “Marsha’s,” because it’s time to start recapping!
” . . . so cheap, they couldn’t afford to get us a whole reporter!”
“We’re crude, inappropriate, mean-spirited, and make fun of cripples. But you love us, anyway!”
When the episode begins, Don is seated at a coffee shop, enduring a tedious interview with a bland journalist from an advertising rag. The purpose of the interview is to drum up business for the still fledgling Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce advertising agency, which, a year after it’s inception, is still just finding its sea legs. “Who is Don Draper?” Bland Journalist inquires, ironically echoing nearly the exact sentiments of practically EVERY newspaper / magazine that has covered Mad Men in the past three years.
Others who have reviewed this episode found Don’s reply to this question, obnoxious. I, however, felt it was entirely understandable, if not exactly polite or appropriate. To me, “Who are you?” is the autobiographical equivalent of that all-too-familiar job interview question, most feared and despised by prospective employees the world over:
“Where do you see yourself in ten years?”
There is absolutely NO good way to answer a question like this succinctly, without sounding at best, trite, and, at worst, like a total tool. It’s a stress question, pure and simple. Bland Journalist himself all but confirms this, when Don challenges the nature of the inquiry. “How do people respond, when you ask them that question?” He scoffs.
“Usually they think about it for a moment, and then say something cute.” (That’s right, because “cute” and “trade magazine” are clearly synonymous with one another). Nevertheless, here are some examples of answers Don COULD have given:
“I am the walrus.”
Who am I? That’s a secret I’ll never tell. XOXO, Gossip Girl.
Instead, Don simply replies that he’s from the Midwest, where he was taught that it is impolite to talk about yourself. He’d much prefer to talk about his new ad campaign for his client, Glo- Coat, but Bland Journalist isn’t biting. He’s got all the information he needs. “It’s only a couple hundred words, but, with any luck, the picture will be bigger than the article,” concludes Blandy.
Good call, Ad Age magazine! VERY good call!
To make things even more awkward, Pete and Roger arrive on the scene, crowding Bland Journalist with their good natured butt-kissing, and shameless self-promotion, respectively. “Here’s my card. You’ll probably want to write an article about me when I finish my book,” offers Roger, completely without irony.
Bland Journalist is apparently so excited by this prospect, that he knocks into the table and twists his leg around . . . his wooden leg, that is. Awkward apologies are muttered all around. And with a “sincere” thanks from Pete for his service to his country (turns out Blandy’s a Korean war vet), the Journalist is on his not-so-merry way.
“Would you look at that? [Ad Age] is so cheap, they couldn’t even afford to give us a whole reporter,” quips Silver Fox, Roger Sterling.
Pretty harsh, right? In his defense, this isn’t the first time Roger’s dealt with the extremity-challenged, in a business capacity. Perhaps, you recall last season, when this . . .
. . . let to this . . .
. . . and, subsequently, this . . .
So, coming from the guy who once did THIS . . .
. . . I’d say Roger was surprisingly well behaved. Wouldn’t you?
Is it any wonder Blandy ends up writing an article that makes Don look like a total prick, putting the company in jeopardy, and forcing clients to seek representation elsewhere (including Harry’s precious Jai Alai)?
“I’m trying to be an adult about this. But it’s just SO HARD!”
Next stop for the trio is an impromptu meeting with Jantzen, a swim suit company, that wants to advertise bikinis (I’m sorry, TWO-PIECE SUITS), without resorting to any sex appeal whatsoever. They justify this by claiming to be a “Family Company.” Yeah . . . You know who ELSE is a “Family Company?” Hooters . . .
“Give me my Ham (and my Jon Hamm!)”
Disgruntled that “Family Companies” like Jantzen are the kind they now have to beg for business, the Hot Trio heads back to their “new” office . . . well, it’s new to us anyway. While bemoaning it’s small size (Employees have made a habit of lying to clients, and pretending it has a second floor . . . It doesn’t.), Scrappy Curmudgeon, Bertram Cooper, unwittingly gives us a nice tour of the place.
During that tour we learn that Joan FINALLY has her own office . . .
And Peggy has a new part-time assistant / art guru. The bad news is, it’s not Sal . . .
The good news is, this New Guy is pretty cute too!
The character’s name is Joey Baird, and he’s played by Matt Long, who you may remember from the recently cancelled series, The Deep End, or the not-so-recently cancelled series, Jack and Bobby, or (blushes) the movie Sydney White, starring Amanda Bynes.
Wait . . . that’s not a good picture of him. Let me show you a better one . . .
When we first meet Joey, he’s playfully enjoying a little inside joke with our favorite Secretary-turned- Senior Copy Editor, Peggy Olson.
Love your newfound spunk, confidence, and laidback attitude, Peggy! Not so crazy about the new ‘do . . .
Throughout the episode, the two coo “John” and “Marsha” to one another repeatedly. I’ll admit that, while I thought the whole bit was cute and amusing, I didn’t get the reference at first. Upon further research, I learned that “John and Marsha” was a comedy sketch originated by a man named Stan Freberg in the late 1950’s. If you are curious about it, you can find it, here. However, it’s more or less what you see on the show. Namely, lots of different variations on ways of saying the same two names, OVER and OVER and OVER again . . .
Along with the always adorable Pete Campbell (who I’ve majorly crushed on for three seasons straight, DESPITE his evil tendencies and smarminess; and who was unusually sweet, polite and altogether smiley, in this episode) . . .
I LOVE YOU . . .
. . . even though you might KILL ME!
. . . Peggy and Joey devise a cheap and easy way to advertise for one of their smaller clients, Sugarberry Ham. The “advertising” will involve paying off two actresses to viciously fight over the ham in a grocery store, on the day before Thanksgiving. Knowing that Don will likely disapprove of the stunt, they decide not to tell him. Initially, the plan seems to go off without a hitch. The “fight over the ham” makes headlines, and Sugarberry increases their advertising budget, as a result. But then, one of the actresses charges the other one with assault, and an arrest is made.
So, on Thanksgiving morning, Peggy has to call Don, with her tail between her legs, so that the actress in question can make bail. Don initially balks at the request. However, eventually, Don recalls that very special time when Peggy bailed HIM out of jail for drunk driving, while he was schtupping that comedian’s wife during Season 2 . . .
That is NOT Betty Draper . . .
He ultimately relents, allowing Peggy to come to his apartment to retrieve the cash. Afraid of getting reamed a new one by her boss, Peggy brings her new boyfriend (fiance?) for protection. Unfortunately, New Beau Mark doesn’t look like he could protect Peggy from a frisky kitten, much less Don. Mark is played by Blake Bashoff, who Lost fans may remember as Dead Karl. He looks like this . . .
. . . only a bit older, and less bloody.
Mark does manage to let it slip that Peggy is his fiance, an admission which raises Don’s eyebrows, and which Peggy denies vigorously.
The next day at the office however, Don DOES ream Peggy a new one, for not informing him sooner about the stunt, and for jeopardizing the firm’s reputation. But New and Improved Peggy more than holds her own in the Lion’s Den, arguing that the stunt DID in fact increase profits for Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce. “Our reputation is pretty much where you left it,” retorts Peggy, not so subtly hinting at her boss’ Ad Age snafu.
Peggy also calls Don out on being spiteful, when he tells her she can’t take part in the Jantzen pitch meeting. “You know, we’re all here because of you. Everyone just wants to please you,” Peggy concludes matter-of-factly, before turning on her heel and stalking out of his office. You GO GIRL!
Bitch Slaps and Girl Trouble
But Peggy isn’t the only lady giving Don Draper “girl trouble.” He’s also coping with the fact that his wife is currently living in HIS marital home with the Deadly Boring Henry Francis, while HE keeps paying the mortgage (more on those two in a bit). Unaccustomed to seeing Don Draper NOT getting laid on a regular basis, Roger decides to set him up with cult leader Sarah Newlin from True Blood one of his tartlet new wife’s friends, Z-list actress, Bethany Van Nuys.
Bethany kind of reminds me of a slightly younger version of Betty Draper, on uppers. She twirls to show Don her borrowed dress, and bemoans the sorry state of the world. Later, on the taxi ride home, Bethany lets Don make out with her, and feel her up a bit, but will not let him walk her back to her apartment, “I know that trick,” she whispers coyly.
When he declines an invitation to spend Thanksgiving with Roger and his wife, Bethany offers to see him again on New Year’s Eve. “We’ll see how things go,” she concludes, nonchalantly, before leaving Don to nurse his blue balls . . .
Unable to get a proper FREE lay, Don is forced to resort to paying for one. In a slightly disturbing scene, Don invites a hooker to his shabby apartment, and instructs her to slap him in the face over and over again, with increasing force, as they screw. I haven’t felt this uncomfortable watching Don Draper, since last season, when he picked up those hitchhikers, took some hallucinogenics, danced seductively with that teen from the kid show, Zoey 101, and passed out on the floor . . .
Now, I know there are a lot of powerful CEO types who enjoy being dominated in the bedroom, as a change of pace from their day-to-day lives. But Don Draper has been SO emasculated, in practically every way possible, in recent episodes, that it’s a little surprising that HE, of all people, would be into this sort of thing.
When Don picks up the children, the tension between him, Betty, and Henry is palpable. To make matters worse, when he drops them off, Betty has intentionally stayed out past curfew. He is, therefore, forced to wait alone in the dark of his former home, watching television, waiting for the inevitable confrontation to ensue . . .
In Evil Wench and Mr. Boring News . . .
Yes, that’s how I feel about them too, Sally!
When we first see Betty, this season, her and two of her three kids (What happened to Baby Gene? Who stole Baby Gene?) are spending Thanksgiving with Henry’s family. Clearly acting out, when Henry’s mother (who sort of didn’t look OLD enough to be his mother?) asks Sally Draper if she is enjoying the food, she poutily replies, “No. I’m not hungry.”
In response, the kindly Betty shoves a heaping serving of marshmallows in Sally’s mouth, practically choking her own daughter. Taken by surprise, Sally gags and spits up pre-chewed food all over the fancy table. Betty then roughly drags Sally out by her arm, her long nails clawing into Sally’s wrist. “You’re pinching me!” Sally yelps, for the whole dinner table to hear.
Between this exchange and Betty’s later, “Don’t tell your Dad how mean I am to you” – threat in the hallway, late at night, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a movie I caught on cable recently. Here, let me show you a clip . . .
“Well, she’s absolutely right! Wire hangers ruin EVERYTHING!”
Seriously, could Betty BE a more hateful mother to her kids? Fortunately, Naive and Not-Too-Swift, Bobby Draper, has, so far, gotten himself through this whole ordeal mostly unscarred. But Sally? That girl’s got “join a Doomsday cult” written ALL OVER HER!
“Time to drink the Kool Aid!”
Even Henry Francis’ cold shrew of a mother thinks Betty sucks at parenting. “I’ve raised raised a few children in my day. And those kids are terrified of her,” she cautions.
And the SECOND Worst Mother of the Year Award goes to . . .
“I see what appeals to you about her, and you don’t need marriage to get it. She’s a Silly Woman, Henry. And why are you still living in that man’s dirt?” Betty’s Monster-In-Law-To-BE continues.
“Because I’m a pig. Oink, Oink!”
Clearly affected by his mother’s speech, sniveling rat, Henry, refuses to stick up for Betty, when Don confronts her about their not moving out of the house. “He’s right, you know! You haven’t even started looking,” whines Henry.
(Whatever happened to the guy who said, “I’ll take care of you, Betty. I don’t want you to OWE [Don] anything, Betty?” Has Mommy Dearest, Betty, sucked THAT out of him too?)
And you know what the ABSOLUTE WORST thing about this couple is? They keep THEIR DOG CHAINED UP OUTSIDE!
Don throws a temper tantrum, then FINALLY RE-grows a pair, and saves the day . . .
This picture has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with what I’m about to tell you. I just really like it is all!
In the last few moments of the episode, Don and the rest of SCDP meet with the holier-than-thou Jantzen Swimsuit execs. Don responds to their request that he keep their advertising pure and clean by . . . NOT LISTENING TO THEM AT ALL!
“So well built, we can’t show you the top floor,” Don pitches, showing the saintly wing nuts a highly suggestive (especially given the times) photograph of a woman wearing only a bikini bottom, and a white band across her boobs, so that you can’t tell whether she’s wearing a top, or not.
For whatever reason, Don’s advertisement kind of reminded me of THIS.
Well, the Jantzen people are appalled. You can almost see their panties getting tied in a knot over the thought of this “lewd” picture representing their “Family Company.” When they politely protest, Don berates them for their prudishness, and violently kicks them out of the office. “Get me an interview with The Wall Street Journal,” he barks.
“And I thought I was the baby of the office!”
The Season Premiere Episode of Mad Men ended much as it began, with Don Draper being interviewed by a journalist, this time a slightly less bland one from The Wall Street Journal. Here, a newly animated Don (humbly) touts himself as the driving force behind SCDP. He then launches into the story of how SCDP got started, which is basically the same story that made up the Season 3 Finale. A very exciting tale indeed!
So, there you have it, the Season Premiere Episode of Mad Men. So what did you think? Was it everything you hoped it would be? Do you hate Betty and Henry as much as I do? Do you think I’m weird for crushing on Pete for as long as I have? Important questions . . . all.
But before you go, I have something you might want to try . . .
It’s a little quiz from AMC’s website, in which you “interview” for a job at SCDP. The first time I took it, I got “Secretary,” which, I have to admit, bugged me a bit. Apparently, I’m a bit too nice for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce . . . So, I “interviewed” again and got “Account Manager.” Much better . . .
You can try the quiz, here.
[Watch Mad Men Sunday nights, at 10 p.m. on AMC.]