Just like the sexy market research lady said, it’s all about what I want versus what’s expected of me. And we saw some of this play out not only with Don but with the entire staff of SCDP. So let’s take everything apart and see what it looks like once we’ve put it back together, hmm?
When the market researcher — Dr. Miller, for those keeping score — handed her tests out to the senior staff, asking them all very personal questions, Don didn’t waste any time coming up with an excuse and hightailing it out of there. Because the episode made it clear that this was a big deal to him, I felt it would resonate more later in the episode. I think we did see Don in a very different place than we’ve ever seen him before, but I found the payoff (if you can call it that) from what was set up earlier to be a little disappointing. In the end, it pretty much came down to Don telling Miller that he didn’t like people prying into his past. Okay. Point taken.
I think the much more important moment came later, when Allison brings Don’s keys to his apartment. What looked like a quick in and out turned into a quick in and out (see what I did there?) when Don comes on to her with those squinty, drunk eyes and his whiskey breath. For three seasons, we’ve seen Don’s philandering, and while we could all admit that it was wrong, I question how many people actually had a problem with it. After all, he’s Don. I know Tony Soprano went around killing people, but he’s in the Mob. What the hell else is he supposed to do? Tonight however, everything felt different. Maybe it’s the fact that Don no longer has a Betty to go home to, just an empty, sad apartment. I think it’s a safe assumption that Don never really expected Betty to leave him. But she has, and the kids are gone, and Don’s finding it harder to cope than he thought he would. Whatever the reason, the entire thing just felt dirty and made Don look pathetic.
There may have been a piece of him that realized as much, and that’s why he chose to go on the next morning as if nothing had happened. Although his attitude made Allison’s Christmas bonus feel that much dirtier. At least he didn’t tell her to get it off his nightstand. So while I felt Don’s story revealed a side to him we hadn’t yet seen, I didn’t think it came together the way the setup would have had us believe.
From beginning to end, I thought Peggy’s story felt much more cohesive. She’s making her bones in a man’s world and I think that in all her future romantic relationships, she’s going to be the dominating personality. Or at least too smart not to let the men she’s with walk all over her. Now, her boyfriend wants to sleep with her and she’s worried that sex could be as debilitating for her as it is for people like Don and Roger. Of course, this isn’t something she can say, so she’s told him that she would rather wait until they get married. It takes some talking with Fred Rumsen, of all people, to change her mind. But still, at the very end, when she and her boy toy are curled up under the sheets, you see the look on her face and know she’s wondering if the dynamics of their relationship have been irreversibly altered in some way.
While it’s always nice to analyze these character pieces, Mad Men has always offered its share of scenes that are just fun, and really bring you into the episode. In this week’s episode, that was the office Christmas party, which was dramatically upscaled once Roger found out that Lee Jr. was in town and was forced to invite him. You could almost hear the gasp of a million fanboys as we saw Joan leading that conga line. You have to wonder how much Lee Jr. knows about the inner workings of SCDP, but he certainly got his mileage out of them, forcing Roger to play Santa and then standing back and taking pictures of everyone sitting on his knee with the shiny, new Polaroid camera they were nice enough to buy him. He’s obviously still playing the little kid who gets what he wants, although I’m not sure if getting it makes him happy. After looking back on his scuff up with Sal last year, I’m guessing not.
This week’s episode also saw the return of Glen, who’s set his sights on Sally now that he’s realized Betty is forever out of his reach. Seeing this kid on screen keeps me on the edge of my seat every time, because I’m just waiting to see what crazy crap he’ll pull next. When he breaks into the house with his buddy, and the two start throwing food around the kitchen, it took me a moment to realize that he was doing it to help Sally, rather than just acting out in some crazy way. Although, if it had turned out that Betty found half of her underwear stolen after getting home that night, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
- In the two episodes we’ve seen this season, Lane seems to have taken a back seat to things, playing the stern father who has to tell his kids that they don’t have the money to eat at Papa John’s, but if they want to go to CiCi’s, that’s okay. Still, in a lot of ways, he’s my favorite character on the show.
- I half-expected Roger to tell Lee Jr. where to stick his Santa costume.
- Speaking of Freddy Rumsen, his return this week was an even bigger surprise than Glen’s.