It’s Christmastime in the city! Are you ready for some tidings of comfort and joy or what? Ah. Well in that case you’re watching the wrong show. You should probably find some Christmas reruns of 7th Heaven on ABC Family or something.
The Draper-Francises are Christmas tree shopping. Henry’s rockin’ the Steve Jobs black turtleneck, cause he’s cool like that. He’s smooth like that. Also, because it cannot be said enough: Gross. But aww, nice to see you, Baby Gene. And weird! It’s Glen! You know, Glen, from Season 1, back when our pity for Betty had not yet been exhausted, and we were all “Aww, poor thing, her husband doesn’t pay any attention to her so her only comfort is this vaguely unnerving friendship with this vaguely unnerving child of the scandalous neighborhood divorced lady.” Well, Glen’s picked up some seasonal employment at the Christmas tree lot, which is about the saddest, loneliest kid job I can think of. All I want for Christmas is minimum wage and constant reminders of my broken family! It also involves knives, which is probably in violation of even 1964 child labor laws. “I saw your new dad,” he tells Sally. “My mom said that would happen.” This is all old hat for Glen, so he has a few tips for her, like “After awhile they’ll have a baby, so you should probably ask for something big now.” Sally and Bobby take a moment to appreciate Glen’s awesome knife with the cool lanyard type thing he made to hold it. “Those are good colors,” Sally says politely, reminding me of Betty. “Maybe I’ll call you,” Glen shouts after her on their way out. Glen, with his adulty mannerisms and world-weariness and completely absent parents, is pretty much Charlie Brown. The Peanuts Christmas special premieres in 1965. Do the math. Somewhere behind a Douglas Fir, Charles Schultz is watching this poor kid and scribbling furiously. And you know what they say about guns in the first act going off in the third! Does that work for knives?
The kid who plays Glen is Matt Weiner’s son. I sincerely hope they both know how creepy he is.
Also heartbreaking: Sally’s letter to “Santa Claus c/o Don Draper, 1271 Avenue of the Americas.” Aww. Allison, which is Don’s secretary’s name, and which has totally been her name this entire time apparently, reads it to him, and she can’t make it through without tearing up a little. It’s your standard “the only thing I really want for Christmas is for you to be there, but I know you can’t, so here are some material items that may help fill the void, at least until my Daddy Issues send me hitchhiking topless to Woodstock” type thing. Don chooses the noisiest options from the kids’ Christmas list and hands Allison some cash so she can take care of that bothersome chore for him. Although to be fair, shopping before the internet was pretty awful. Sally didn’t ask for anything annoying enough so he throws in some Beatles 45s for good measure. Allison asks about the Christmas party, and Don says that Lane has scaled it down to “a glass of gin and a box of Velveeta.” There’s your menu for this year’s Mad Men theme party! It’s recessionlicious. They’re tightening their belts, thanks to the Ho-Ho disposable income they’re no longer disposing of, but Don tells her he will make sure she gets a bonus no matter what. She has been pretty awesome. I feel a little guilty for having to look up her name, and having it not ring any bells at all. Sorry, Allison! And sorry also to the actress who plays Allison, who does a pretty great job this week.
And whoa, it’s a weirdo reunion twofer! First Glen, now Freddy Freaking Rumsen. Roger seems genuinely happy to see him, especially once he hears that he’s coming from JWT with the Pond’s Cold Cream account. Apparently he and the client are in a “fraternity” together, he tells Roger euphemistically. The first place my mind goes is KKK, and for that I must apologize. It’s obvious from the conversation that follows that it’s actually AA. So that’s nice! Roger gives him the okay to freelance out of their office, but Freddy is adamant that Pete doesn’t go anywhere near the account. Is there a reason he hates Pete, or is it just because we all hated Pete back then?
And yay, it’s Carla! Tied with Sally for my favorite member of this family. Sally’s doing her homework, and Carla answers the phone: “Francis Residence.” Weeeird. Anyway, Glen is calling as promised (using a fake name, on account of this is private). “How come you didn’t move?” he asks her, once she’s stretched the giant kitchen phone cord into the living room. There’s a generation divider for you: Those of us who at some point in our lives have stretched a giant kitchen phone cord into the living room so no one could hear us, and those who don’t know what a phone cord is. Sally doesn’t know why they’re still in her daddy’s house. “But I hate it here,” she confides. What is it about creepy Charlie Brown kids that gets the Draper ladies to cough up their innermost secrets? Sally makes a way less disturbing confidante than Betty did, of course, but it’s twice as heartbreaking. “They’re never getting back together, you know,” Glen says sagely, with the kind of bitterness Charlie Brown could only express offscreen. “Especially now that she’s doing it with someone else.” “Doing what?” Sally wonders, but mercifully his mom calls him down before he can elaborate. “Don’t worry,” he tells her. “One day they’ll wake up and they’ll want to move. You’ll see.” The fact that Sally seems comforted by this decidedly uncomfortable conversation is possibly the saddest part. Good Grief.
CONFERENCE TABLE! **Hallelujah Chorus**
Bert has brought in a couple of psychologists from the Motivational Research Group to give a little presentation about the kind of work SCDP will soon be paying them to do. Don pretends to have an appointment and skips out in the middle of the nice pretty lady’s lecture about how a properly worded questionnaire can trick consumers into answering more honestly. Seems like exactly his sort of deal, but he thinks he already knows all of this, and also, you kind of lose him when you start talking about people’s childhoods, even when they’re abstract, hypothetical childhoods.
Freddy, you may recall, was the first one of the guys to notice Peggy’s talent, back in the “basket of kisses” focus group in Season 1, which I only remember because they showed those marathons before the season premiere. So she seems a little disappointed that working with him is actually really annoying. Freddy wants to use someone like Tallulah Bankhead for the Ponds ad. Peggy points to all the research Ponds is doing to get younger women interested, and Freddy’s like “well, young women look up to older women!” “For beauty tips?” Peggy says. “Are you joking?” Freddy says he knows the client and this is exactly what they want, but Peggy reminds him that it isn’t only about the client – they also have to consider the reputation of the agency. Before they can get much further, Roger stumbles in slurring merrily about his crazy boozy lunch with the Ponds guy, which visibly upsets Freddy, who is obviously his sponsor in AA. Or the other way around.
Please note the poster on Peggy’s wall that says “Helvetica,” in Helvetica. That should please the font nerds who were clutching their collective pearls last week at the notion that the SCDP logo might be in (gasp!) ARIAL. (Note: it’s Akzidenz-Grotesk)
The point is, Roger knocked the guy off the wagon. And he’s recovering in his handsome new, um, Eames chair maybe? Some famous revolutionary design chair with a prototype in the MOMA, you know the kind I mean. Anyway, his nap is interrupted by a call from our favorite closeted asshole, Lee Garner Jr. You know, the one who got our favorite closeted art director fired. Sal doesn’t even get a mention, not even in the Lee Garner Jr.-related Previouslies for the episode! Like, the editors had to go out of their way to cut him carefully out of the clips. That pisses me off. So this asshole is calling to demand an invitation to the SCDP Christmas party. You know, the one that’s going to be all wild and crazy like always, and have absolutely no Velveeta involved at all? That one. So hey, when 71% of your billings (69 if they get Ponds) demands a Christmas party, you better damn well have a Christmas party. Change of plans! Roger chugs his second-favorite bottle, Maalox, while he explains the situation to a grumpy Pryce. Roger reminds him, “aren’t you the one who’s always saying that Lucky Strike is 99% of our business, or whatever? If he wants three wise men flown in from Jerusalem, he gets it!”
So Joan swoops in to fix everything, effortlessly throwing a party together with 24 hours’ notice, because she is a superhero. And oh my god, Joan and Roger, every exchange between them is golden. They’ve come to an understanding – they’re both spoken for, in the real world, but it doesn’t mean they can’t hint at the very obvious connection they still have. She says, among other things, that they’ll need a gift for Mr. Garner. Roger: “You’re off limits!” Joan, smirking: “I don’t think he’s the one who needs to be reminded.” Roger talks fondly about her red dress, “the one with the bow on the back that makes you look like a present.” Everything makes Joan look like a present. Joan is a gift from above. She’s a Christmas miracle. She shushes him when he asks her to wear it, but he stops her. “All I’m saying is, this is the office, and that’s life. And this is good. And that’s…life.” So you know. No harm in indulging each other a little, as long as it doesn’t involve the real world.
Sorry, Jane, I just don’t think Roger Sterling will ever watch you walk away quite like he watches Joan walk away.
Peggy’s not-fiancé from last week – you know, Karl From Lost – is apparently actually her boyfriend. And he’s apparently been trying really really hard to get her in the sack, because apparently somehow and for some reason she has led him to believe that she is a virgin. She is decidedly not, of course, but he’s quoting from “The Swedish Way of Love” (not the best tactic to use on our Norwegian Ms. Olson!) and trying to convince her not to be afraid to do this thing she’s already done a bunch of times. Oh, and also, she’s given birth. So Peggy’s all progressive and one-of-the-boys at work, but that, as Roger pointed out, is work. This is life. How does one go from Duck Phillips to this guy? I hope some blanks get filled in there at some point, but for now it looks like Peggy has rejected her nooner go-round phase and regressed to the “good girl” thing. Hm. “You’re so old-fashioned,” he says affectionately at one point. “No, I’m not,” she bristles, sounding for a moment like the real Peggy.
Don is either drinking a lot more than he used to, or he forgot how to be drunk, because he stumbles into his hallway, past the cute nurse across the hall, holds his keys up to the door, drops them, and can’t seem to remember how to bend over to pick them up. He’s not cool drunk, he’s sad drunk. She laughs when he says he’s coming from work, and asks if there was a party. Don says he hates parties. “…And you hate Christmas,” Phoebe the cute nurse finishes for him. “I don’t hate Christmas,” Don says stubbornly. “I hate this Christmas.” Sigh. She helps him into his apartment, takes off his shoes and his tie. “You’re good at that,” he flirts lamely. “My father was a drunk,” she explains. Ouch. She seems interested, in general, but his halfass drunken efforts get him a “no thank you” for the evening. A good natured, smiley, flirty, maybe-next-time rejection, but a rejection all the same. For some reason, the way he yells “Goodnight!” after her, way too loudly and way too happily, makes me laugh out loud.
“I’d have sex with you if you didn’t remind me of my drunk dad” is about as sexy as a cold shower and a kick in the junk, huh Don?
Freddy’s determined to go with the “age gracefully like Jessica Tandy or Doris Day” angle for Ponds, but Peggy still thinks they should go younger, like maybe Liz Taylor. Freddy tries to follow her logic. “If young girls started using it, maybe they’d find a husband and they wouldn’t be so angry!” Peggy is annoyed, but she’s also disappointed – after all, she’s brought his name up a hundred times for freelance work, she was excited to work with him, but dammit, he’s just so old fashioned. Karl From Lost meant it as a compliment, and it annoyed her so much she had to use it against Freddy as an insult.
Glen and a fellow proto-thug/possible-animal-mutilator sidekick break into the Draper-Francis household and just start making a huge mess. It’s pretty unsettling, which I think is what he’s going for. My first thought is “eek!” but my second thought is “poor Carla.” His sidekick is pretty imaginative really. Most of us would have stopped at tumping the jelly all over the counter, but not this kid. He’s an artist. He adds cereal and stirs. Poor Carla.
And hey, Joanie’s thrown together a pretty impressive party. Yay, first Trudy sighting of the year! The Campbells are going to the Bahamas for Christmas. The Cranes are going to the mountains. And Don, apparently, is going to Acapulco. Jane asks if he’s taking someone special. He isn’t. “Well it’s your own fault,” she says, annoyed that Don sabotaged her little Get Don Draper A New Cute Gymnast Wife project. Hey, she’s a housewife, she needs hobbies. Jane looks FANTASTIC, incidentally, and I want to marry her dress. Speaking of dresses and things I want to marry: Joan. In the red dress Roger requested, which is a cute little wink to him that makes me smile. “Man your battle stations!” she shouts merrily. I’ll man your battle stations! Or something. Anyway, in other words, the guest of honor has arrived. He smarms in and generally acts like a douche, and everybody has to pretend to be thrilled to be in his presence. This is why Don hates parties. Forced merriment isn’t my thing either, Don. He is conspicuously absent from the conga line.
This totally spontaneous conga line and not-at-all-forced merriment brought to you by Lucky Strikes™!
So yeah, this guy is a total dick. In case we’d all forgotten. Roger’s like “hey, we got you a present!” and Garner responds with “Neat! Now humiliate yourself for my own amusement!” He makes Roger wear a Santa suit, even though Pete bravely offers to spare him. For fucked up rich asshole reasons I don’t understand, he just wants to watch Roger obey. God, poor Roger. Related: John Slattery is so awesome I forget he’s there. He’s just exactly perfect, all the time. I hope he gets that Emmy.
The Draper-Francis “family” returns to find a huge mess. It’s probably pretty terrifying, but it’s also kind of funny. I’m just not very fond of these people at the moment, so their alarm amuses me. Apparently Glen & Sidekick trashed the whole house. (Bobby: “There’s EGGS in my BED!”) “You can sleep in our room,” Betty tells Sally as they inspect the damage, which seems unusually generous and maternal of her, but Sally realizes that her room is fine. That’s the creepy-sweetest thing I’ve seen in a long time. Especially when she finds Glen’s knife lanyard thingy (the one with the good colors) lying on her pillow. She smiles a real smile. Aww. And aiiiigh! By all rights Sally and I should both be screaming in terror, because oh my god, this fucked up kid is ARMED and can apparently break into your house whenever he wants. But also, aww. “Don’t worry, one day they’ll wake up and they’ll want to move.” He’s helping her escape. At least someone in the entire universe gives a shit about how Sally feels about anything. Well, and also Don. I think Don gets her, but he’s not there anymore, so she has to cling to KNIFE HOLDERS left on her PILLOW. Christ. Poor Sally. Round of applause while we’re at it for Kiernan Shipka who has spent the whole series turning some random background kid into a real person.
Things that make Sally Draper smile: 1) Her daddy; 2) Her dead grandaddy; 3)Homemade knife lanyards left on her pillow by vandals.
Meanwhile, Roger makes the best of it. Oh hey, everybody gets Lucky Strikes! Because this entire display is one big giant group asskiss to the guy who pays their bills, and nobody’s even pretending otherwise at this point. “That’s a big bag, Roger! Don’t want you to have a third heart attack.” …Zing? But Roger presses on. For Lee Garner, Jr, it’s…a Polaroid camera! (Garner: “You didn’t have to do that.” Lane, not even trying anymore: “Yes, we did.”)
As presents go it’s the worst idea ever. He spends the rest of the party ordering people onto Roger’s lap to take pictures. Don always manages to avoid that sort of thing though. He’s going home, but before he can pack up, Hot Psychologist Lady from earlier confronts him about how rude it was to just get up and walk out of her presentation. “I’m disappointed,” Drunk Don says, dickily. “I thought you came in here to flirt, but you came to fight.” She ignores that and just says, pleasantly, that she thinks his work is very interesting, and she was hoping he thought hers was too. Don just doesn’t think you can sell people floor wax by asking them survey questions about their childhood. “That’s somebody’s childhood” in that Glo-Coat ad, she points out. They’re in the same business, she reminds him. This is about helping people resolve their deepest conflict. “And what is that?” Don slurs, amused. “It all comes down to what I want, versus what’s expected of me,” she replies. Don likes that. He makes a mental note to put it in a tampon commercial or something, but he does admit she’s right. She turns him down for dinner, though. Don’s 0-fer this week. Oh, and her parting shot is pretty nice too: She tells him to hang in there, that the holidays are hard in his “situation,” but don’t worry, “you’ll be married again in a year.” “What?” Don says sharply. “I’m sorry, I always forget nobody wants to think they’re a Type.” Don’s not a goddamn Type, lady!
Well, okay, maybe he is a Type: Capital D Drunk. Like, sad hobo drunk. It’s not cute. He left his keys at the office, so he has to stumble out to a payphone to drag Allison away from the goddamn Christmas party so she can let his drunk ass into his apartment. “He’s pathetic,” Joey SweaterVest snarls when she tells him she has to go. Hey now, SweaterVest, that’s Don Draper, Creative Genius/Handsome Cipher you’re talking about! But yeah, okay, good point. I guess he is pretty pathetic. He’s passed out in the hallway when she gets there, but she just smiles and shakes him awake and sits him on the couch and gets him an aspirin. He seems pretty humiliated to me, which I guess partially explains this next turn of events: Awkward brief drunken mostly-clothed couch sex! Tis the season! Oh dear. Don has slept with pretty much everybody, but as far as we know, his proverbial Pen has always kept its distance from the proverbial Company Ink. But he’s too drunk to get off the couch, let alone put forth any kind of effort at seduction. And here’s this girl who already adores him, right there in his living room, so there you have it. I don’t think there’s really anything more complicated than that. Don’s been shot down a couple times, plus he’s embarrassed and trying to prove something, but mostly he just wants to get laid. Allison has always had a thing for him, and she knows it’s a dumb idea, but dammit, he’s dreamy, and single! Here’s the chance she’d given up on ever having, and she just can’t make herself leave. That’s pretty much that. She’s still fully clothed by the time he collapses onto her. “My goodness,” she sums up, hilariously. The worst part of this whole thing is how happy she is, lying on a gross sweaty couch after brief drunken sex with a sad old man. There’s no shame in her eyes, just little cartoon hearts. Sigh. Poor Allison.
There’s all this analysis running around about why Don slept with Allison, but in my experience, awkward drunken ill-advised embarrassingly brief fully-clothed couch sex is its own motivation.
Meanwhile, Sally is holding her creepy knife lanyard thingy, staring out the window dreamily, probably thinking about her dad, but thankfully unaware of what he’s actually doing.
Freddy’s at Peggy’s desk, the cleanest spot in the office after all the wackiness last night. She sort of accidentally finds herself opening up to him about her weird situation with Karl From Lost. Not the part about him thinking she’s a virgin, just the general situation of her not really knowing if she likes him enough to have sex with him. Freddy’s advice? “If you’re gonna marry him, you can’t do anything, or he won’t respect you.” Ha! Respect. As if. Oh, but don’t lead him on, either, cause then you’re just a blue-balling tease. This is complicated! Peggy’s woman-brains can’t keep up with all these rules! Quick, give her something to bake or sew!
Don sighs. He’s going to have to talk to Allison sooner or later, but he takes the long way to his office, just to put it off a little. He runs into Roger. “Deed you enchoy ze Führer’s birsday?” Don says, in his best WWII movie Nazi accent. Ha! Roger doesn’t miss a beat: “May he live for a sousand yeas!” I love the Don & Roger Show. But Don has to face Allison, and poor thing, she’s so happy. His desk is piled high with sparkly presents, you know, the ones she bought and wrapped for his kids, sometime between boozy awkward coitus and the morning mail. He looks her right in the eye, but he doesn’t know what to say, and he’s probably just hoping for a few seconds that she’ll say “I get it” and scurry out. But she doesn’t. “Thank you for bringing my keys,” he says carefully. “I’ve probably taken advantage of your kindness on too many occasions.” She gets it. She doesn’t like it, but she gets it. Don reaches into his desk for an envelope – which he’s obviously placed there way way before anyone could foresee any devastating couch-sex-related irony – and hands it to her. “Merry Christmas.” Ouch. He means it though. Well, what he means is “Merry Christmas, I genuinely regret ruining our working relationship forever, please don’t hate me, but also please don’t ever mention it again.” She does the Sad Charlie Brown Walk over to her desk and opens the envelope. “Thanks for all your hard work!” the card says. Two $50 bills are tucked inside. Yikes. Ulysses S. Grant looks apologetic. She starts typing and staring off into space – I assumed it was a resignation letter, but then I saw her in the previews for next week, so I guess not.
“Dear Allison: My cleaning lady found your panties between my couch cushions underneath some crushed Cheerios, and you should probably get tested for pretty much every disease. Here’s some entirely unrelated cash. Merry Christmas!”
Now apparently much of the internets thinks Don is a total jerk after this whole exchange, but I just felt bad for both of them. It was a drunken hookup. Those happen, and nobody wants “THAT WAS A HUGE MISTAKE” spelled out for them. He doesn’t avoid eye contact. He doesn’t pretend nothing happened. He just makes it clear that it won’t be happening again. The cash was just bad timing. Really, terribly bad timing, but he’d be a bigger asshole if he promised her a bonus and didn’t come through, right? Anyway, yikes, Allison is pretty devastated. I guess she liked to think she’d get what Jane Sterling got, but no dice. Joey SweaterVest has a crush on her though. Now’s your chance, Joey!
Oh, and Peggy went ahead and slept with Karl From Lost. He asks her if she feels different, you know, not being a virgin anymore and all. She too responds with a thousand-yard-stare. So either she rejected Freddy’s advice about losing his respect, or she decided she didn’t want to marry him and he was therefore okay to have sex with. That’s some fucked up gender logic right there, Peggy. You gotta figure that shit out. There’s no excuse for not having read The Feminine Mystique yet.
Next week: Joan fights with her douchey rapey husband, hooray! Isn’t it about time that Vietnam draft kicked in?