Mad Men, “Waldorf Stories”: Don Draper’s greatest hits.

Not only is Don Draper a drunk, but he’s a sloppy drunk. Sloppy as in, lose-an-entire-day, wake-up-with-a-girl-you-don’t-even-remember-meeting, coughing-up-cigarette-butts-sloppy. And come on, no one wants to be around that.

Don’s up for a Cleo award. Winning will make him look good, it’ll make the agency look good, and it’ll make him look good. Also the agency. And it’ll also give him the excuse he needs to sink to levels of depravity heretofore unseen on the show.

The ceremony hasn’t started yet, but it’s understood that, win or lose, everyone’s gonna get hammered, and so Roger and Don have begun loosening up even before they leave the office. By the time they read his name, Don’s already what Joan might call lubricated. And everything just goes downhill from there. Coming back to the table, Don spots Megan the secretary, who says that the reps from Life Cereal have finally gotten into town and are waiting back at the office. Pete, his head still firmly attached to his body, thinks that now might not be the best time for a meeting and suggests rescheduling, but Don will hear none of it. “Let’s put a cherry on this thing,” he says.

At the office, he launches into his pitch, which is just a sad, sad retread of his speech from the end of the season finale, “The Wheel.” And while he wowed the Kodak execs in that other meeting, this time the clients aren’t too excited about what he’s come up with. So Don starts riffing, throwing out bad idea after bad idea, until he stumbles upon, “Life cereal. The cure for the common breakfast.” An idea ripped off from Roger’s wife’s cousin, Danny. Life loves it, and Don & co. set off for an evening of drinking and merry-making.

I’m not a drinker myself, but I imagine that if I was, and I was trying to pick up a woman, I’d at least try and set my sights high. And that’s exactly what Don does. His first target is Faye. She’s smart, attractive and single. He drags her away from another man and tells her that her hair smells good before making veiled references to knocking boots. Faye, who seems to be one of the most pragmatic characters on the show, turns him down. Don’s already pretty far gone by this point, so he simply moves on. We catch him with a woman in his apartment, and with an interesting sleight of hand LOSE AN ENTIRE DAY as we see Don wake up with completely different woman. Much like Don, we have no idea where she came from. Don has to check the name tag on her waitress uniform just to get that right, before making the usual excuses and booting her out of his place. After she’s gone, Don lies on his couch and passes out… for the entire day.

He awakened by Peggy, who’s come to tell him that his new Life cereal slogan is stolen, and Don’s going to have to find a way to fix it. So the next day, he brings Danny back into the office and tries to buy the idea from him, but Danny’s not having it and asks Don for a job. This provided a nice parallel to Roger’s place in the episode, thinking back to his first meeting with Don, and what he did to try and get his foot in the door. After selling Roger a mink coat, Don finds an excuse to take him out for a drink. A few days later, he shows up to work, telling Roger that he have him a job.

There’s a lot of speculation out there as to whether or not that job offer was real. Some say that Don knew Roger would never hire him and so took advantage of his drunkenness. To be completely honest, I’m not sure where I land. This is something that Don certainly wouldn’t be above doing, but then again, Roger does like to drink. If Don is lying, it has some interesting implications to the whole Don Draper persona he’s built for himself. That is, the entire thing is built on lies, not just his personal life.

There’s a certain amount of nostalgia in Roger’s recollection of this entire episode, and a certain amount of bitterness, too. As he tells Joan, he’ll never win an award for finding a guy like Don. There’s a line from the third season finale that I’m remembering. Roger telling Don that he doesn’t value his personal relationships. And while Don hasn’t done anything outright to make Roger angry here, I think Roger’s stewing a bit because in his head he sees Don taking all the glory and not stopping to tell him thank you for everything he’s done.

I’d like to say that Don can’t slip any further than what we saw here, but the show’s surprised me before, so who knows.

Random thoughts:

  • I loved hearing bits of Roger’s memoirs, especially the story about not being allowed to eat chocolate ice cream.
  • Also great was Peggy calling Rizzo out on his BS. And the stripping. You can see her resentment toward Don building, which will pay off later in the season.

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