Tag Archives: John Hamm

Mad Men, “The Suitcase”: Draper vs. Olsen

At the beginning of season 4 Faye told Don that within a year he’d be married again. Maybe, maybe not. But I think it’s safe to say that Don’s a man who needs a female anchor in his life. If not to keep him from the drinking and the philandering, then for his emotional well-being.

Don gets word from California that Anne’s passed. Well, he doesn’t get word so much as he gets a phone call. He knows what the news is and is so scared of it that he spends the rest of the day hiding from it, choosing instead to busy himself with work. He gives up his ticket to that night’s fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston and throws the creative team’s Samsonite pitch out the window (or maybe off the Eiffel Tower?). I guess you could even make the argument that Don knew what he was doing, that he was purposefully making more work for himself.

And Don did what he needed to do to keep Peggy in the office, too. If not for the entire night, then at least for a little while. When he asks Peggy for a sneak peak at what else creative’s come up with, she realizes that trying to get away from him is a losing battle and that her birthday’s been effectively canceled. And it was kind of a breaking point for her. For five years she’s been missing birthdays and dinner and long nights spent alone with back issues of Harpers Weekly. Plus she was coming off Don’s Cleo win for the Glo Coat ad, and all frustration and resentment bubbled up to the surface and came spilling out.

Once you saw that “The Suitcase” was written by Matthew Weiner, then Don’s argument with Peggy about what exactly she’s paid for seemed to take on a special significance. Weiner’s gotten a reputation for being somewhat arrogant and very controlling. And so everything Don says could be seen as directed at the show’s writing staff. The whole thing took on even more significance when you listened to his Emmy acceptance speech from that very same night, in which he awkwardly tried defending himself, swearing to everyone present that he was so grateful for all the feedback he received on the show’s scripts. I don’t know if this could really be classified as a scandal, but definitely one of those things that make you go, “Hmmmmm,” hmm?

So they fight and Peggy storms out of his office, only to be called back in a short time later when Don stumbles across a recording of Roger’s memoirs. This makes me wonder if Don’s the type of guy who doesn’t see the point in grudges, or if he was just drunk enough to quickly forget about it. There were a few revelations about Bert Coopers balls and Roger’s sexual adventures with Mrs. Blankenship, and then the episode settles into that meaty character stuff it does so well. No fireworks. Just a completely honest and personal conversation between the two, and it had to be one of the most compelling the show’s ever given us. It showed that, for all the baggage these two people carry, they really do care about each other. They’ve both got skeletons in their closet, so they see each other as kindred spirits.

There were so many great beats between the two of them throughout the night, it’d be hard to rank one as the best. Don telling Peggy why he never tried sleeping with her. Peggy taking a swipe at Don over Allison. And Don’s question, “You don’t want to start giving me morality lessons, do you?”.

“The Suitcase” also saw the return of Duck Phillips. With those business cards he had made up for Peggy, you couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him. But as soon as he started in with all that, “I need you baby,” stuff, he was suddenly pathetic again. I wonder if that perception has anything to do with the fact that, “I need you so bad, baby,” is kind of a stereotypical phrase.

When Don finally calls California that morning, after falling asleep in his office with his head in Peggy’s lap, he breaks down, and I don’t think he could have done that in front of anyone besides her. There’s a link between him and Peggy that he really doesn’t have with anyone else. And after seeing Anne’s spirit or whatever you want to call it the previous night, you could say that Peggy’s been christened the new Anne.

There’s an understanding between the two characters that wasn’t there before, and Don’s acknowledgment of that was nice cap to the episode. When Peggy asks if Don wants his door open or closed before leaving, Don’s, “Open,” may have been a little too on the nose. But it’s nice to think he may be heading on an upward trajectory.

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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.

Mad Men, “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”: Playing with it.

One thing we’ve witnessed in the past ten years is television’s rise of the antihero. Tony Soprano. Dexter Morgan. Al Swearengen. All bad guys who do bad things, yet they posses a few redeeming qualities, and as abhorrent as they can be, we still like to watch them stab, shoot, beat and bludgeon those around them.

To a certain extent, Don Draper belongs in this group, too. He’s a liar, a drunk and a cheat. And while all of those things have been evident in him from the very beginning, they’ve really been driven home in season 4 (especially the drinking). Again, all bad qualities, but while the characters’ conflicts and the ensuing drama keep us coming back every week, it’s nice to every once in a while take a break from all that and watch everyone at the top of their game, working together to screw over somebody else.

“The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” was definitely a break we needed in what’s been the show’s darkest season so far. When SCDP finds itself in competition with two other agencies for a run at Honda, who’s just now expanding into car manufacturing, Don has to figure out a way to make the agency the shining star, while at the same time following the rules that the Japanese company has set for the competition.

Don’s a person who, for as much as he’s trying to run from his past, really can’t stop clinging to it. While around him, the Sixties are really starting to become the Sixties, he’s walled himself off in a dark, depressing and incredibly conservative apartment. In a conversation with Faye he says, “Why does everybody need to talk about everything?” The unspoken line here being, “Back in my day…” But for all his unwillingness to move forward, it IS an unwillingness, and not necessarily something he’s incapable of. And his idea to pull a fast one on that douchebag Ted Chaough and CGC is proof of that.

And it really was perfect. Joan letting CGC’s director catch a few glimpses of what they’re doing. Don coming into her office with the motorcycle. And best of all, Peggy riding it around the empty stage. And in the end it all worked out. The agency’s ruse got CGC to produce (eg: sink a ton of money into) their own commercial. And Don removing SCDP from the competition because he didn’t want to be bound by Honda’s rules earned them the top spot in the company’s eyes, even though they never really planned on leaving their old company.

And if the episode had ended with Pete and Lane delivering that bit of news, and Don turning to the camera, winking and saying, “Nailed it,” I wouldn’t have been disappointed. But development’s in upstate New York provided some good counterbalance to Don’s caper shenanigans.

Sally and Bobby are at Don’s apartment while he’s off on a date. While Bobby and the babysitter (Don’s neighbor Phoebe) are watching TV, Sally sneaks into the bathroom and cuts her hair. And you can’t help but feel for her. I think everyone understands that Sally’s going to be a screwed up girl just by virtue of having Don and Betty as parents, but when she says things like, “I just wanted to be pretty,” right after asking Phoebe if she’s sleeping with her dad make it all the more clear. This is a girl who’s desperately seeking her dad’s affection.

When Don takes the kids home and Betty sees what she’s done, she slaps Sally across the face and sends her upstairs. And I think everyone will agree when I say that it only gets better from there. A few nights later, Sally’s sent home from her friend’s slumber party when her friend’s mother finds her on the couch…*ahem*…you know.

Nearing the end of her rope — which looks to be very short — Betty and Henry decide to send Sally to a psychiatrist. While Betty’s setting things up, the two talk and get to know each other, and I think that talk really said as much about Betty as it did Sally. When she saw what Sally had done to her hair, she told Don that when she was a little girl she dreamed of having long hair, that her mother used to threaten her with cutting it whenever she was bad. All her life, Betty has had this image in her head, the picture perfect family life. It’s something she’s always wanted (notice the smile that crept across her face while she was staring at the dollhouse), and she’s so blinded by rage over what Don’s done to destroy that that she doesn’t see that some of the blame lies at her own feet. That even though she wasn’t sleeping with every man she came across, she’s still just as inept a parent.

I just wanted to say a quick word about Pete, because for some reason, he always feels like the main character no one pays attention to. While I found Roger flipping out on the Japanese interesting, the real interesting part was Pete’s response to the whole thing. When he told Roger to his face that he was using his outrage as a way of keeping Pete from bringing in new accounts, it really illustrated how much the character has grown over the past few seasons. Now that I think about it, it feels like we can use yelling at Don or Roger as some sort of metric for character development on the show.

Mad Men, “The Rejected”: Sad panda.

Allison certainly had a rough time of it in this episode, and while we saw just how apt an episode title “The Rejected” turned out to be — for all our characters — I don’t think this resonated as strongly with anyone else as it did with her.

And I say that for a few reasons. It can certainly be argued that Don’s problems, both drinking and philandering, are certainly worse than having your heart broken over a one night stand. But while we the viewers might not have firsthand experience with being a drunk or cheating on our spouses, we’ve all had our hearts broken. When can all think back to a time when we were doe-eyed and optimistic, and how the smallest gesture from the person we loved could set the tone for our day, our week, our month. Conversely, we know how devastating it can be when that love isn’t reciprocated. So when Allison tells Don she’s leaving the Agency and would appreciate a letter of recommendation, and Don tells her to write up whatever she wants and he’ll sign it, throwing collectible globes at him from across the office suddenly doesn’t seem so crazy.

Speaking of Don, life certainly does seem to be raining s**t on him, no? There are moments in the office when he almost seems upbeat. But then everybody goes home for the night, the lights turn off, and we see him slumped over on his couch looking completely and utterly defeated. I really and truly feel that this is a man who’s just about reached the end of his rope. When he finally stumbled back to his apartment and starts writing Allison that letter from his typewriter, I think it all stemmed from a sincere desire to apologize for the way he treated her, but in the end he realized that sending a letter and spilling all his feelings would be almost as pathetic as his drinking habit.

Obviously the Allison situation isn’t the only thing that’s got Don down. The focus group seemed to be a bust, as far as the response from the girls they had there went. The theme in the show of out with the old and in with the new is really starting to rear its head this season, and I think that at the fringes of Don’s consciousness he’s started to realize that maybe he’s becoming a bit irrelevant. You look at the office and we see Peggy and Pete as the up-and-comers. Bert Cooper seems to have faded into the background. Every now and then he’ll pop up in the background of this or that scene, sitting on a couch and eating a snack. I think Don’s floating in the nebulous area in between the two, and if he can’t figure out a way to change, he just might disappear.

A few thoughts about the Peggy situation. Mad Men has always been a show with layers, and while the same is true of this season I think that it’s dispensed with a lot of its subtlety. I mean, I was really kind of surprised to see Joyce going around with that “I am a lesbian” sign around her neck. I don’t know if the character herself only served as a device to get Peggy to the party, or if she just isn’t meant to have the depth of a character like Sal. Or maybe I’m wrong on both counts and Joyce’s openness about her sexuality is just another sign of the changing times. Yeah. It’s probably that one. While Peggy’s kiss with Joyce’s friend definitely opens possibilities for her, I really don’t see it going anywhere. If we see Peggy as a sort of protege of Don, then she’s a lot more conservative than she probably wants to admit, and while the occasional fling may be fun for her, longer, sustained relationships are harder. This just isn’t a well I see her going back to.

Surprisingly, the one who seems to have come out on top in the middle of all of this is Pete. He’s got a smokin’ wife, a kid on the way, and he just brought in a six million dollar account. While the feeling that something’s been lost is strong with several of the other characters, I don’t really get that from him. In that scene at the end of the episode, where he and Peggy catch each other through the glass doors, you can tell that Peggy’s imagining how things could have turned out between the two of them. With Pete, it seems more like he’s happy with the life he has and the decisions he’s made. I’m sure the fact that he has a son somewhere out there causes him a certain amount of mental anguish, but I feel like he’s made his peace with it. It feels like, more than anything, he wants his relationship with Peggy to be more casual, rather than the formal back and forth thing they’ve kind of got going right now.

Another name for this episode might have been, “Don’t Get Left Behind.” It’s a theme in the show that really jumped to the forefront in this episode, which I think Don, Peggy and Pete could all attest to.

“Is this how it ends?”

Hey, remember this movie? A lot of people look at remakes of classic movies and say, “What’s the point?” It’s a good question. Are remakes necessary? I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I’d much rather sit in a dark movie theater and turn my brain off for an hour and a half.

In The Day the Earth Stood Still, the planet is besieged by floating spheres and the alien Klaatu – deftly played by the robotic Keanu Reeves – who announces that because of their poo-pooing of the environment, humans have been weighed in the balance, and found wanting. Balancing out Keanu’s solid-as-a-rock performance is Jennifer Connelly, who has to convince Klaatu that humans aren’t all that bad, if only they’d give them a chance. Will we survive? I’ll give you two guesses, but you’re only going to need one.

Now, the fanboy in me jumped up and cheered when I first saw the trailer for this one. It looks really slick, and the premise held a lot of potential. Unfortunately, that’s about as far as it went. A lot of potential that really wasn’t lived up to. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I found the movie unenjoyable, but when it was over, I felt like there was a good chunk I hadn’t been shown. In the beginning, Klaatu believes that humans are destroying the planet, and should themselves be destroyed, then he doesn’t. Certain plot points, including a really good exchange with John Cleese, are really never followed.

While the original movie was an indictment of the US/Soviet arms race and nuclear weapons in general, this is takes aim at our environmental problems. I’m sure there are a good chunk of reviewers who say they didn’t like the movie because it was too “preachy.” It’s a word that’s thrown around way too much with these sorts of movies. Are movies not allowed to talk about the environment and how badly we’re screwing it up just because they might sound preachy? Who cares? Saying, “Well that’s just too preachy,” doesn’t negate the fact that it’s true. And if you’re not going to like the movie, there are plenty of other reasons besides a PSA on the environment.

In the end, a movie that’s well-acted, and interesting to a point, but if they were only going to off half-cocked, they probably should have just left well enough alone. Because this one is no longer in theaters, skip going to the theaters for this one. C+

“You should let me go.”

Here’s the first trailer for The Day the Earth Stood Still, which is playing in front of Hancock. Starring Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly and everyone’s favorite chain-smoking mad man John Hamm, the film opens December 12th. I’ve never seen the original, but this looks like a pretty different take on it.