Detox: The Cure for the Common Don? – A Recap of Mad Men’s “Waldorf Stories”

I’m Dick Whitman Don Draper.  And who the hell are YOU . . . Girl I Just Screwed?”

Remember the good ole’ days, when Don Draper was suave, debonair, good at his job . . . and knew how to hold his liquor?

Well, this season, it seems as though that idealized version of Don is making significantly less appearances, and his alter ego, Drunk and Damaged Don, is coming out to play much more often . . .

And yet, up until this point in the series, Don’s excessive “lubrication,” poor choices, and numerous sexual partners, never really impacted his ability to run his business.  Sure, he may have lost a secretary here and there . . .

 . . . but his clients were always well served.   And, when push came to shove, he got the job done.  That all changed this week.  Suddenly, the adjective accompanying the phrase “functioning alcoholic” no longer seems to apply to our favorite Ad Man. 

It all started with an ultra uncomfortable job interview (well . . . maybe TWO interviews, but we will get to the second one a little later) . . .

Nepotism:  The Cure for the Common Unemployment

“I’m a 24-year old kid, who really wants to break into the advertising business,” insists Desperate Danny, as he tries to tap dance his way into the hearts of a blank-faced Don, and puckery lemon-faced, Peggy.

(OK, Dude, first  of all, NO 24-year olds think of themselves as “kids.”  In fact, only 56-year olds think of 24-year olds that way.)

“I think I just pooped my pants.”

Oh, Danny Boy then whips out his “portfolio,” which consists of about 10 different iterations of the same lame catchphrase “A Cure for the Common [insert noun].”  As if that wasn’t bad enough, he also includes advertisements he had absolutely nothing to do with creating, but that he finds “inspiring.”  Don and Peggy are just about to slap Danny Boy down, with the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” line, when he throws out the “Family Card.”  Apparently, Danny is the cousin of Roger Sterling’s new wife, the Not-So-Sweet Baby Jane.

“Oh Jane!  You rarely appear in episodes, anymore.  And yet you still effectively manage to ruin things for everybody.”

After Danny Boy leaves, Don and Peggy can’t help but have a little fun at his expense.  “I don’t mean to jump on his grave or anything, but that guy is NOT 24.  I’m 25,” Peggy proclaims triumphantly, while sticking her tongue out and blowing a raspberry at the recently departed fibber.  (Pssst . . . the actor who plays Danny Boy is 36.)

Don later confronts Roger about Danny Boy’s incompetency.  The latter eagerly joins in the “Danny-bashing” fun.  “I told him to be himself.  I guess that was kind of mean of me,” scoffs Roger, snickering like a school boy who just put a “Kick Me” sign on the school nerd’s back.

And yet, Roger still insists that Don hire Danny, if only so that Roger’s wife won’t chop Roger’s balls off (not that this hasn’t happened already.)

Roger’s balls

Fortunately for Don and Roger, the question of Danny Boy’s future employment status at SCDP is going to have to wait to be answered.  It’s Clio Awards time in Mad Men land!  And the firm’s controversial Glo Coat commercial has been nominated for an award.

Liquor and Joan Holloway Harris: Cures for the Common Male Insecurity

The Clio Awards are just getting underway at the Waldorf Astoria, and all the key players are there (except for Peggy, who we will get to later.)  After trading barbs with a few rivals (including that dimwitted loser, Chaough, from last week’s episode), and knocking back MORE than a few drinks, the SCDP-ians settle in for the ceremonies.  Right from the start, they are treated to the cringe-worthy slurred rant of a not-so-newly Off-the-Wagon Drunk Duck . . .

Sorry, wrong picture . . . I meant THIS Drunk Duck . . .

As the Duckman is carted off to the drunk tank, an already two sheets to the wind (on his way to three), Roger chuckles, “I really miss working with that guy.”

“I can’t believe that ‘sleeping with an alchy reject’ is what I was doing, when Kennedy was assassinated.  What the heck am I going to tell my children when they ask me that question?”

“I always knew that guy was bad news.  Glad I got out when I could!”

Officiating the event, was the actor, John Aniston . . .

 . . . who you might remember as ANOTHER Famous Aniston’s father . . .

 . . . or, for those of you who have ever watched Soap Operas like Days of Our Lives, as the nefarious Victor Kiriakis.

When it comes time to announce the award in the category of “cleaning products, waxes, and floor polish,” both Don and Roger instinctively grab Joan’s hand from under the table, and squeeze it tightly.  The moment is a very sweet one, and, at the same time, extremely telling, regarding the ever-evolving relationships between these three characters.  (Personally, I think it would have been really funny, if, when searching for Joan’s hand beneath the table, Roger’s fingers accidentally found Don’s  . . . but that’s just me.)

The winner is announced, and . . . SURPRISE . . . it’s SCDP!

An uncharacteristically jubilant Don practically leaps up from the table, and plants a big wet smooch on Joan’s lips.  (Bet no one saw that coming!)

The kiss had the potential to be steamy.  And it probably would have been, if Don wasn’t already so inebriated, and Joan wasn’t so completely taken aback by it.  Don then rushes the stage, to retrieve his award from Papa Aniston.  Suddenly, it’s as though no one else in the firm played any part at all in his win —  not Peggy, not Roger, not Pete, and not Lane.  Suddenly, it’s all Don, all the time  . . .

“I feel pretty!  Oh so, pretty!  I feel, pretty, and witty, and GAY!”

But Don’s One Man Party is interrupted, when SCDP’s receptionist, Megan, arrives to tell the group that their client, Life Cereal, has arrived at the office, and is ready to hear their pitch.  Talk about bad timing!

Yet, Don, fresh off HIS win, and high on “life” (among other things), feels more than prepared to give his pitch.  So, off the crew heads, back to the SCDP offices, with the stink of liquor and cigars trailing after them like a pair of obedient puppies . . .

Inebriation:  The Cure for The Common Self-Awareness

Once the crew has taken a ridiculous “Victory Lap” around the conference table, which reminded me of a poorly conceived game of “Duck, Duck, Goose . . .” (I think Don was actually skipping during it.), Don heads to the podium, and begins his pitch.  Considering, how drunk we all know Don to  be at this point, things actually don’t start off half bad.  Sure, Don almost pukes a few times, while delivering his pitch . . .

It wouldn’t be the first time, someone from that office blew chunks in public at work . . .

. . . but the idea itself is well conceived, and Don gets the desired point across. 

The concept is “Eat Life By the Bowlful.”  The artwork appeals to kids, who like to consume large adult-sized portions, and the phrasing appeals to mothers’ nostalgia for their lost youth.  If only the client bought into it, Don would have been in the clear.  But the client thinks the concept is too “smart” for his target audience, and wants the message dumbed down a bit.  That is when things start to go VERY badly, very fast .  . .

To Don’s credit, he DOESEN’T scream at the clients for not digging his idea, as he had with those prude swimsuit designers earlier in the season.  He’s in WAY too good a mood for that.  Instead, he starts belligerently spouting out one bad catch phrase after another, despite his colleagues repeated suggestions that he hold off until he is “feeling better.”  The scene is very hard to watch.  In it, the usually Dapper Don quickly starts reminding you of that senile grandparent, who keeps relaying the same dull and incoherent story about his dentures, over and over again, at family functions.

“I thought they were ice cubes!  Can you believe it?”

The rest of the SCDP-ians nod politely at Doddering Don,  hoping, that if they say nothing, maybe he will tire out and shut up soon (or, maybe, take a nap).  So, you can imagine everyone’s surprise when the client actually LIKES one of Don’s terrible ideas.  And the “winning” catchphrase is . . . you guessed it, “Life:  The Cure for the Common Breakfast.”

“WOO HOO!  Barely out of Depends diapers, and I am already an ADVERTISING GENIUS!”

After the meeting, Peggy tries to warn Don that he’s just infringed on Oh, Danny Boy’s copyright, but Don blows her off.  He has MORE DRINKING TO DO!

Faye (A.K.A Annoying Marketing Research Lady):  The Cure for the Common Over-Inflated Male Ego

If you’ve read my Mad Men recaps before, you know that I haven’t exactly been the biggest fan of “Faye.”  On the contrary, I have always found her to be cold, conniving, phony, and, frankly, uninteresting.  But, I have to say, she really won me over this week, by putting Drunken Don in his place, and not falling for his crap. 

At the Clio Awards After Party, Don stumbles over to Faye, while she’s talking to another man.  He interrupts the two, by telling Faye, “Mother is calling.” 

(Really, Don?  Mother?  Is that supposed to be a turn on for a woman?  You pretending to be her BROTHER?  THAT’S what’s going to get them to jump into bed with you — Incest Fantasies?   Boy, are you off your game tonight, Honey!)

Faye politely congratulates Don on his win.  He (unconvincingly) downplays it, arguing that his work is of the same caliber, whether he wins or not.  Yet, judging by Don’s behavior since Season 1, we know this is not at all true.  Here is a man who is ALWAYS desperate to win, at all costs.  Ever the shrink, Faye attempts to psychoanalyze the enebriated Don, by cajoling him into a “Who’s Don Draper?”  Q and A session.

Don has no clue who the heck he is.  All he knows is that Faye “smells good.”  He starts nuzzling her hair with his Alcoholic’s Red Nose.  And while, a weaker woman would have succumbed instantly, rationalizing that a Drunk Don is better than No Don AT ALL, Faye is not that woman.  “I think you are confusing a lot of things right now.   I am very happy for you, Don,” she says, before walking away.

Sorry, Don!  It looks like Roger isn’t the only one wearing these today . . .

Fortunately, for Don, he doesn’t have to wear “Something Blue” for very long.  An enterprising young ad girl swoops in for the kill, just moments after Faye leaves Don in the lurch.  Almost instantly, the two are back in Don’s apartment, on his VERY lived in sheets (For these women’s sake, I hope he washes them DAILY . . . yet, somehow, I doubt it).  Ad Girl attempts to seduce Don by humming the Star Spangled Banner while . . . licking his “lollipop.”  Patriotic Sex as a seduction tool?  That’s almost as bad as brother / sister sex.  These two are perfect for one another . . .

Drunken Blackouts:  The Cure for the Common Humiliation Over All the Dumb Things You Did Last Night . . .

In the next scene, Don wakes up to an angry call from his ex-wife.  Betty claims he is two hours late in picking up his children.  “But I thought that was Sunday?”  The Hungover Don mutters, glancing nervously to his right, to see a woman in his bed who is decidedly NOT the patriotic lollipop licker, from the prior scene.

“It IS SUNDAY!”  Betty seethes, unwittingly showing Don, (who WE last saw on Friday), that he has precisely NO memory of the last 24-hours of his life.

Now THAT is a SERIOUS BLACKOUT!

Don hustles Betty off the phone, and, more or less kicks to the curb his new bedtime companion — a waitress named “Doris” who keeps referrring to him as “Dick” (as in Whitman?), and mentions his “sister” coming to visit him at the diner where the pair met . . .

Uh Oh!  What did Don say to his fake sis THIS time?

After a much needed quick shower, Don settles in on his couch for some more sleep, when Peggy comes barging into his apartment, authoritatively telling him to “fix” his Danny Boy-sized blunder regarding the Life Cereal campaign. 

Don is forced to spend the next day cleaning up after himself.  It turns out, in all the drunken sexual excitement of the last few days, Don has actually misplaced his Clio award.  He instructs his ridiculous secretary, Miss Blankenship, to locate it for him . . .

“I’m sorry, I use the office phone exclusively to call the Psychic Friends Network.  No Clio for you!”

“What’s the award for?”  Miss Blankenship asks, dumbfounded.

“Best Actress,” remarks Don.

As it turns out, ROGER has the award . . . which I don’t think was an accident (more on that later.)  In order to get the award back, Roger wants Don to  say that he couldn’t have won it without Roger.  Don manages to not quite say that, but get the award back anyway.  Well played, Don.  If only you were this wily during the REST of this episode . . .

Due to his snafu regarding the Life campaign, Don also finds himself forced to hire the most likely completely incompetent Danny Boy to work for SCDP.  Peggy finds out, and is less than pleased . . .

“Well, he may not be the AGE of a kid, but he sure is the SIZE of one . . .”

Nudity: The Cure for the Common Chauvinist Pig

Speaking of Peggy, she is having some work problems of her own, this week.  Not only is she experiencing some MAJOR sour grapes, over Don’s pretty much ignoring the part she played in the Glo Coat campaign, she is also being forced to spend a weekend creating an advertising campaign for Vicks cough drops with loathsome new art director, Stan Rizzo, a man who never met an ass he wouldn’t grab, or an intelligent female he didn’t despise.

Is it just me, or does this guy kind of look like a meatier version of Nathan Fillion?

Seriously, SCDP?  THIS is the guy you got to replace Sal!  Not only was Sal extremely talented, he also got along swimmingly with Peggy . . .

 . . . and he LOVED women!

OK . . . maybe he didn’t LOVE women, but he certainly respected them, and enjoyed their company.

Anyway, Don tells Peggy she has to work with Chauvenist Piggy Rizzo.  He even drunkenly suggests the two work out their differences together over the weekend in a hotel room . . . charged to the client, of course.  Piggy Rizzo is so clearly intimidated by Peggy’s intelligence and career success   . . .

(All women should be at home, barefoot and pregnant, with your babies, right Stan?)

Baby Chauvenist Rizzos

 .  . . that he can’t get any work done at all.  So, instead, he spends his time throwing pencils at the wall, reading Playboy magazine (for inspiration) and hurling insults left and right at Peggy for her appearance, lifestyle, and personality.  Tired of Rizzo’s constant references to nudity and “liberation,” Peggy calls his bluff, by stripping naked in front of him, and challenging him to do the same.  “You’re lazy and have no ideas,” Peggy explains matter-of-factly.  “I can work like this.  Let’s get liberated.”

Within moments, Peggy and Rizzo are both nude and sitting at the hotel table (Ick, I bet Room Service NEVER washes those chair cushions!)  Smirking, Peggy plugs Rizzo for ideas regarding cough drops.  The problem is that Rizzo can’t stop ogling Peggy’s breasts.  “Ummm . . . I’m thinking,” he snaps.

“Really?  About what?”  Peggy inquires, peeking under the table, at the happy little puppy that has just come out to play . . .

“Maybe I should dip that THING in some ink and write with it,” offers Peggy  . . .

Hey boys!  Does Peggy strike you as one of those girls who chews on her pens?

Ultimately, an unhappy Stan Rizzo, and his happy hot dog, both have to admit defeat, and get dressed again.  He bestows upon Peggy the award for being the “smuggest b*tch in the world.”  Coming from such a PIG, I’d take THAT as a compliment . . .

Marking Your Territory:  The Cure for the Common Ken

“I’m baaack!”

Peggy wasn’t the only SCDP-ian coping with personnel issues this week, Pete Campbell was also bearing the brunt of unwelcome hires.  After his last appearance on the show, and his public admission that he was “unhappy” at his current advertising firm, it should have surprised precisely no one that Ken Cosgrove wanted to return “home” so to speak — and by “home” I mean SCDP.

I, for one, am thrilled.  I have always LOVED the not-so-friendly rivalry between Ken and Pete, and the way they act as perfect foils for one another, both in terms of their business tactics and in their personal relationships.  Unfortunately, Pete doesn’t feel the same way I do . . .

“I’ll take him out during a fluke shooting accident.  Nobody will suspect a thing.  Just like they never found out that I rigged that lawnmower, last season . .”

Pete’s first move is to whine to Lane about not being consulted about Ken’s hiring, and to complain that Lane must “hate him,” if he could even THINK to do this.  But Lane doesn’t budge.  Instead, he argues that Ken will bring a lot of accounts and cash to the firm.  He also strokes Pete’s ego, by telling him that Roger Sterling is “a child” and that Pete should have competent help in running SCDP, which he now does (at least according to Lane) virtually, by himself.  Lane concludes by praising Pete on his pragmatism, and saying, “I’ve always been very fond of you.  And it pains me to hear you think differently.” 

Well played, Lane!

“Come here, Petey Petey!  I’ve got a nice juicy steak for you!”

Won over, Pete reluctantly agrees to meet with Ken and “allow” him to join SCDP. 

But that doesn’t mean he’s going down without a fight — at least, not without marking his territory, first.

Pete puts the clearly less-innocent-than-he-seems Ken in his place, by telling him, in no uncertain terms, that things have changed.  No longer are the two men equals.  Now PETE is in charge, and Ken works for HIM!  Be afraid, Cosgrove.  Be VERY afraid . . .

Flashbacks:  The Cure for the Common Writer’s Block

And finally, we are back to Roger, who is “busy” writing his personal memoirs, regarding his life as an Ad Man, which so far seem to include important “business” tidbits, such as why Roger prefers chocolate ice cream to vanilla, and whether or not he approves of the comedic stylings of Laurel and Hardy.  This massive case of writer’s block, coupled with Don’s recent success, cause Roger to morosely question his self worth.  “They don’t give awards for what I do,” complains Roger.

“And what is that?”  Joan inquires slyly, always quick to call Roger out on his sh*t.

“Finding guys like him,” Roger replies, pointing at Don.

Suddenly, we are flashed back about five years prior.  Don is working at a fur coat store, and Roger is buying a mink for a VERY special mistress. 

While Don waits on Roger, Roger spies an interesting fur advertisement on the wall, starring an even more interesting model . . .

It’s a good thing Betty has that fur coat.  I hear her people are Nordic.

Roger inquires after the advertisement, and Don proudly admits that he created it himself.  In just these few short statements, we can see how different Don was back then — surprisingly chipper, eager to please, and desperately hungry for success.  In essence, he was the male version of Season 1’s Peggy Olson, only a bit more worldly,  and socially graceful.

Roger hands Don his business card, ostensibly to provide Don with mailing information for the mink.  But Don immediately jumps on this as a business opportunity, slipping his advertising portfolio in the mink box, and doggedly pursuing Roger in the lobby of the offices of Sterling & Cooper each day, until Roger FINALLY agrees to let Don take him out for drinks.  At the bar, Don gets Roger so wasted, that he needs to be helped into a cab. 

The next day, Don meets Roger at the elevator again.  “What are you doing here?”  Roger asks, still nursing a hangover.

“You hired me.  Last night.  You said, ‘welcome aboard.'”

Grudgingly, Roger allows Don into the elevator with him, just as Don would allow Danny Boy into the offices of SCDP just five years later, both as the result of a drunken mistake.  Then again, with Don, who knows?  It’s possible that Roger never hired him at all.  After all, Don made up an entire new identity for himself, couldn’t he have faked a hiring too?

So, does Roger really have a “talent” for finding “talent,” or does “talent,” like Don Draper, simply keep on finding him?

[www.juliekushner.com]

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One response to “Detox: The Cure for the Common Don? – A Recap of Mad Men’s “Waldorf Stories”

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