Hey look! It’s MAD MEN! Yaaay! Thanks to a popular online publication SPOILING me in the FIRST SENTENCE of a tangentially related article last week, I knew a little more than I wanted to about where we’d find our favorite chainsmoking philanderers this season, but here we are. It’s Thanksgiving 1964, about a year after we left them recovering from divorce and corporate takeovers and the death of American innocence and all that, so hey, at least they got to see the Beatles on Ed Sullivan while we were gone! Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce isn’t the huge behemoth that Sterling-Cooper was, but it’s certainly a step up from the ragtag bunch we last saw at the Pierre. Those poor Draper kids are still hanging in there, and alas, so is their creepy new stepfather. Don’s still finding his footing as a divorcé, and Bert’s a little flustered, but everybody else actually seems pretty content. Unfortunately for them, contentment is about as close as you can get to the exact opposite of what this show is about, so I don’t see that lasting too long. Spoiler Alert!
4.01 Public Relations. “Who is Don Draper?” Those are the first four words of Season Four. Sure, it’s an anvil, but I’ll take it, because yeah, good question! Don is being interviewed by Advertising Age, which I thought must have been a fledgling publication, but nope, 1930. Who knew people cared about ads in 1930? By way of response, Don makes that special face that’s somewhere between “You amuse me” and “Who farted?” It’s pretty much his default expression. The closest thing he gives to an actual answer is that he’s from the Midwest, where it’s considered impolite to talk about yourself. Except maybe when you agree to talk about yourself, to a person whose job is to listen to you talk about yourself? That seems like the polite thing to do, but what do I know, I’m from the South, specifically the part of the South where it’s socially acceptable – encouraged, even – to slurp the brain matter out of the headparts of boiled crustaceans. Anyway, he comes across as a total ass, of course, so by the time he’s actually talking about the brilliant ad campaign that drew their attention in the first place, the interviewer is kind of over it. Pete and Roger walk up just in time to thank the guy for his military service and plug his upcoming book, respectively. Yay! Don and Pete and Roger!
“Who is Don Draper?” Ever seen that Armin Tamzarian/Seymour Skinner episode of The Simpsons? Pretty much that, but with booze.
The Client Of The Week is Jantzen, represented by a bald middle-aged “Get Off My Lawn!” type and I guess his son, who has a huge ad-boner for Don, from the same commercial the Ad Age guy asked about. Soul Glo! No wait. Glo-Coat. Less fun. Anyway, the young guy is all starstruck but they manage to convey their problem: They need to boost sales for their two-piece bathing suit. Not to be confused with the bikini, which is completely different, and totally vulgar and tacky. They’re a family company, they say a few hundred times. Don, shaking out a cigarette, cool as a cucumber on a motorcycle: “You want women who want bikinis to buy your two-piece? Or you just want to make sure that women who want a two-piece don’t buy a bikini?” **crickets** Don waits, annoyed, for an answer to this question that only makes sense in his head. The young guy smiles and says they just want to sell their suits like always, without having to get all raunchy like the bikini-shilling perverts who keep luring their wholesome two-piece customers away.
And we get our first look at the headquarters of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce! It’s snug but swanky, nice mid-60s sans serif lettering on the glass door, that kind of thing. It’s no Sterling Cooper, but not in a bad way. And it’s quite a step up from The Pierre. (Did Accounts get the bed after all? We may never know.) Bert follows Don into his office to scold him for missing Jeff Atherton, who came specifically to see Don. “I’m sorry,” he deadpans. “I didn’t know he was coming, and I don’t know who that is.” Ha. Bert is apparently still annoyed that they got the small office in midtown rather than a huge office downtown, but hey, they’re in the Time-Life Building! They can do without a conference table for awhile if it means they get the Time-Life Building, especially if clients keep thinking it’s a deliberate new-agey decorating choice to encourage communication. Stupid clients.
Hey, where’s Don’s pocket square? Don’s suits are never naked! I guess it’s a bachelor thing. Oooh, nice symbolism, wardrobe department. Some plucky production assistant got a gold star for that one. Anyway, Pete’s trying to convince him that they don’t have anything to worry about, even though their potential clients met with a jillion agencies today, including the Goliath to their Davey, Y&R, presumably the groundbreaking, soft-focus, implausibly dramatic firm, Young & Restless LLC. (Nah, it’s actually these guys.) Pete doesn’t pout, not even a little. That’s my boy. He says they don’t have to worry about how many more bodies Y&R can throw at this account. “We’re the scrappy upstart!” He chirps proudly. Hee. Not to mention, Y&R might have six floors of Creative, but they don’t have Don Freaking Draper.
Mary Tyler Moore and That Girl had cute haircuts too, but did they also have desks covered in ham and whiskey? Advantage Peggy Olson!
Peggy and her adorable new haircut are lounging around with um. Joey? Are we supposed to know Joey? Regardless, he’s super cute and my new favorite sweater-vested employee (sorry Kurt and/or Smitty!) and they apparently have a fun pally work rapport ( “John!” “Marsha!”). Also with the pally work rapport? Pete and Peggy, who I still secretly root for even though I fell in love with Trudy and her fashionable hats last season. Anyway, no trace of secret love baby tension there, but there is ham-related tension – apparently Sugarberry only sent the one Thanksgiving canned ham for the whole office, which Pete naturally assumes is not a great sign. Seems they had an old-fashioned taste test at a few supermarkets in Queens, and they didn’t go so well. (“Two of their test markets are in Jewish neighborhoods,” Pete marvels. “They’re idiots.”) Joey SweaterVest makes a crack about sending the ham over to Don, who’s probably having Thanksgiving alone in his office. “That’s not nice,” Peggy scolds, charmingly defensive of Don as always. So they’re off on a fun little brainstorm, led by Peggy, doggedly Don-like in her creative trance. They decide an emergency publicity stunt is in order. SCDP: Viral before viral was cool! They’re going to hire a couple of actresses to fight over the last Sugarberry ham, and give their friend at the Daily News “a case of something” to get the story in the paper. But where will they get the money? “I can use my expense account if we say they’re whores!” Pete suggests brightly. Ha! They decide not to tell Don about this foolproof plan that cannot possibly go awry. Also: Peggy’s got her own little office booze tumbler! Movin’ on up!
Poor Don’s talking to his lawyer about life insurance and blah blah and GET THIS: Betty – and “him,” which is I think the first non-Slate-spoiled confirmation that Betty really has taken up with Henry – are STILL LIVING IN THE HOUSE. Don’s house. For which he is still paying the mortgage. Jesus, Henry, your balls, where are your balls? Doesn’t Henry have a house? Presumably a nice one, cause he’s a politician or whatever? What the hell kind of man cuckolds somebody and doesn’t feel like a total fucking schmuck squatting at his damn house, mooching off of his mortgage? I mean really. I never liked the guy, but that’s just above and beyond. Eleven on a douche scale of 1-10.
Don needs a nap after that conversation, but he’s interrupted by Roger. “What do you need?” Don grumbles. Roger: “Someone white to carve our turkey.” Count on Roger for some good old-fashioned family racism. Anyway, Don says no, he already has plans. Plans that do not include serving as the Sterlings’ Poor Sad Divorced Guy Who Has Nowhere Else To Go On Thanksgiving. So Roger can’t get Don to agree to Thanksgiving, but he does pester him enough to set him up on a date with Jane’s friend Bethany, a 25-year-old former Mt. Holyoke gymnast. Of course. Apparently Roger has not yet left his child bride to be with a newly-Vietnam-widowed Joan. But it’s only a matter of time.
This counts as “home,” but only on the technicality that it’s where he hangs his hat.
And holy Christmas, Don Draper has the absolute saddest bachelor pad ever. I mean wow. It looks like he sought out somebody’s sad old uncle and said “Do you have a dark, dank hole you’ve lived in for 40 years I could rent?” Opposite of swanky. You can smell the week-old cigarette butts and moldy Playboys through the TV. At least he has a feisty maid, Celia, who is great but only serves to make me miss Carla. He grumps at her for moving his shoe shine kit from the middle of the floor where he totally left it on purpose, dammit, but when yelling at a nice lady doesn’t ease the pain of a crappy day at the office, here comes television to save the day once again: He sits back and admires the Glo-Coat commercial that’s making everybody call him a visionary. Glo-Coat is the new Carousel! And watching your own commercial to massage your fragile ego is the new masturbating on the couch!
The next day, or later, or something, he’s on his date with Bethany. She’s all nervous and cute. No need to try so hard, Bethany. You had him at “gymnast.” This whole scene just went right over me the first time around, since I spent the entire time trying to figure out where I’d seen the actress before (Answer: Jason Stackhouse’s crazy preacher’s wife conquest from True Blood, awesome!) but watching it again I notice she reminds me, and possibly Don, of Betty. A pretty blonde with a good pedigree, a college education and a knack for pushing his buttons. I guess he can go back to dating those now that some creepy weirdo stole his. Philandering Don’s affairs were all wordly, feisty brunettes, but Bachelor Don likes the Bettys. He’s amused, mostly, but he does seem to be phoning it in a lot. Like, sure, he’s going to try to get laid, obviously, but it’s not because he’s spellbound or anything, it’s just because that’s what he does. She confesses that she’s breaking one of her “rules” dating a divorced man, and hey, look at that, she actually does go home without him, rather than just threatening to. She makes it clear that she’’ll be back for more, but still, Philandering Don would have had her panties on the ground before they rolled out the Chicken Kiev. Bachelor Don is charming enough, but he just doesn’t have that kind of mojo. (Which reminds me of Peggy’s roommate, upon hearing that Duck wasn’t married, asking “well what are you doing with him, then?” Which in turn reminds me, hey, Duck! What happened with all that?)
That new sensation you’re feeling, Don? That’s what people mean when they say “blue balls.” You’ve always wondered.
In other news, apparently the ham sham was a success; in fact, the actresses were so immersed in their roles that they actually started beating up on each other. Peggy and Pete meet them at a diner and hand them each their hard-earned pay, later claimed on Pete Campbell’s November 1964 expense account as “Whores: 2 @ $25 ea.”
Good morning, Joan! Good morning, Harry! Mostly Joan though! And Joan’s dress! Harry’s been in LA, which you can tell from his comical sunburn. (Actually, Rich Sommer did a handful of Burn Notice eps in Miami right before they started filming this season, so I like to think they worked his Miami burns into the script – @richsommer is an absolute delight to follow on twitter, for those of you who Think Young.) Anyway, whew, he totally sold ABC on jai alai, aka Ho-Ho’s folly! Cause ABC at this point is branching out into the Wide World of Sports and all.
This has been your Gratuitous Christina Hendricks Image of the Week. See you next time!
And Roger’s just waiting around for Don, because this particular asschewing can’t wait for a meeting time. Also, oh my god this lobby furniture. And hey, there’s Lane Pryce, for two seconds and four words! Looking forward to seeing a little more of you, sir. Anyway, yeah, the Ad Age piece is out, and it’s not sitting especially well with the other partners. Don is a “handsome cipher” according to the article, but come on, it’s pretty impossible to argue with that. It’s not his job to run around talking about who he is, Don says. “Who knows who you are?” Roger returns, anvilliciously. “You turned all the sizzle from Glo-Coat into a wet fart,” he elaborates, demonstrating the kind of creative mind that gets your name listed first on the door.
Pete is just bursting with awesome news for Peggy and Joey SweaterVest – the Sugarberry guys don’t know the ham fight was a stunt, or they’re not admitting it, but they are saying things like “well, it’s too bad someone got hurt, but now people will hear about our hams!” No such thing as bad publicity: It’s not a cliché yet, but there’s a reason it will be. Peggy goes into another Don Draper Creative Trance: “Our hams are worth fighting for. A cartoon Indian and a Pilgrim in a tug-of-war.” She sends Joey SweaterVest off to make or possibly procure a crayon drawing. She can do that kind of thing now, our Peggy. Pete shooes her out when he gets a call from our favorite trust fund baby, Ho-Ho! Sadly, it’s a call that forces Pete to break up Harry’s meeting to tell everybody they’ve lost the jai alai account. But! But! Harry just made this huge huge deal for him! God dammit! “Apparently Don didn’t mention them in the article,” Pete says, which prompts Don’s “Who farted?” face to say “ I didn’t mention anyone!” “Spectacular,” Bert opines. Harry, understandably, freaks out. Way to stomp all over Harry’s big LA success story, Ho-Ho. Everyone seems to agree that Don should have seen this coming a mile away, and he’s an absolute dick for not mentioning jai alai out of nowhere during his brief, weird interview. Don is like “Oh my god, who cares this much about what I say?” “Turning creative success into business is your job,” Bert scolds, “and you failed.” He does know a guy at the Wall Street Journal, though, and Don will have to do a damage-control makeup interview. Everyone storms out like Don stepped on Ho-Ho’s puppy just to spite the agency.
And from one incredibly pleasant roomful of people to another, we join the Francis family Thanksgiving, already in progress. Henry’s daughter, who is like five years younger than Betty or something weird and fucked up like that, shows up late with her husband. “That’s what’s become of this country,” Henry’s mom opines, “everyone has two Thanksgivings to go to.” Shut up, Henry’s mom, unless you say some completely awesome stuff later that makes me like you despite that kind of tacky sentiment. Sally & Bobby Draper, those poor poor souls, accept presents from their STEPSISTER and her HUSBAND. Which is weird and gross, but hey, apparently they spent last Christmas with their fucking housekeeper while their mom was in Reno obtaining a quickie divorce. So I guess this is a step up, as far as holidays go. Sally, my favorite Draper by a mile, isn’t eating much, and the elder Mrs Francis notices. Betty, presumably having read a pamphlet called “How To Give Your Already Fucked Up Daughter Some Eating Disorders While You’re At It,” is all “Look! Sweet Potatoes! Marshmallows!” and literally shoves some into Sally’s mouth. Sally gags, which is a totally normal response, but you know. Not the most appetizing. “Sorry,” she says as Betty drags her out of the room, and I believe her, poor thing. This is a sad little girl, folks. Bobby waits a beat or two before breaking the awkward silence with “Well I LOVE sweet potatoes!” Everyone chuckles. So maybe he won’t be Bobby Draper the serial killer like I’ve always assumed; maybe he’ll be Bobby Draper the crying-on-the-inside class clown who realizes that humor gets him the attention he craves, then does a few standup comedy records before passing out drunk and choking on his own vomit at a Cleveland Best Western in the early 80s.
Therapists, psychotropic pharmaceutical companies and eating disorder clinics of the late 70s? You’re welcome!
Speaking of sad dark places, the Thanksgiving plans Don’s been talking about show up at his house in the form of a saucy, feisty brunette. This isn’t new. Don reaching for a wad of cash and folding it neatly on the counter for her? That is new. Also new but not really all that surprising is that he’s paying her to mount him and smack him in the face over and over. Hot! Dominant men always want to be dominated in the sack, that’s pretty standard, but he’s also punishing himself for squandering his perfect little family he’d built from the ground up, since he never had one of his own. Ah, regret and shame – what would the holidays be without them? Happy Thanksgiving! Oh, and if that’s not enough regret and shame for you, she actually answers his freaking phone. Bad whore! It’s Peggy, already humiliated in the first place, because well, one of their ham actresses filed assault charges on the other one, so she needs bail money AND hush money. Oh, did we forget to tell you about this off-the-books stunt you would absolutely have forbidden? Oopsie.
Well, at least Henry had the balls to get himself a new bed in which to have sex with his new wife in the home her (very recent) ex is still paying for. Jesus. Betty’s all snuggly and feisty with him, gross, but she interrupts their gross marital grossness when she hears Sally on the phone in the hallway. “I was calling Daddy!” Sally says defensively. “Oh, you were calling to complain about how awful I am?” Betty says, under the impression that she is joking or employing some sort of hyperbole. Um, yes, Betty, probably so. “Don’t expect any sympathy when he hears my side of the story,” Betty continues without waiting for any kind of response from Sally apart from just general wide-eyed terror. She also goes to bed with some figurative blue balls – after her encounter with her firstborn, she returns to bed to find a way less randy Henry. “I’m really full, Betty,” he apologizes. Left unsaid: “And also, I kind of forgot that our ridiculous courtship would eventually lead to the real world, where you are not a dreamy blonde damsel in distress but a bitter and rather cruel mother of three young children.” Happy Thanksgiving!
Ding dong! It’s Daddy at the big red door! Ringing his own doorbell, politely requesting entrance to the house he’s still paying for. Seriously, Henry, how can you possibly not feel like a total pussy? Betty, who’s dressing like a librarian all of a sudden, stands icily at the foot of the stairs and tells Don to have the kids back tomorrow night by 9. And here is possibly my favorite exchange of the evening:
Don: Where’s the baby?
Betty: **eyeroll** I had Carla take him. Henry and I have plans.
Don: Well, I’d like to see him…
Betty: **petulant shrug**
Aaaand scene. She doesn’t even make eye contact, or grunt, or anything. It’s the kind of response you’d expect to a question like “Now where did I leave my toenail clippers?” Anyway, Henry says “Hello, Don,” but what he means is “Hello, guy whose wife I stole while you were fucking a 3rd grade teacher down the street, thanks for the free house.” “Henry,” says Don, but what he means is “It’s cute that you still think you came out ahead in this arrangement; please enjoy standing in my shadow for the rest of ever.” And I guess now that the kids are gone, or more likely, now that he’s had a four-second pissing contest with Don and still feels like he has to prove something, Henry pounces on Betty’s hot hot tweed suitdress in the front seat of the car. In the garage. Don’s garage. Gross.
So hey, now that they’re divorced and their every bitter encounter is seething with contempt and resentment, surely at some point Don and Betty will eventually have the smokinest hottest sex either of them has ever had, ever? Right? I don’t see how that could be avoided.
Sadly, this is the least dreary place these kids have been in weeks.
Back at Don’s overwhelmingly, aggressively brown apartment, the kids are climbing into bunk beds, which is adorable. Bobby’s got a loose button on his adorable pajamas, which Don adorably assures him he’ll fix in the morning. Because DON FIXES SHIT, PEOPLE. Car? Angry client? Pajama button? Don’s got you covered. His silhouette tells them goodnight and lingers awhile, staring at them, before he exits through the saloon doors. (My grandparents’ house had saloon doors! Sneak nostalgia attack!) The next morning, Don is on the couch working while the kids sit in front of the TV, and it’s the most comfortable any of them have looked this whole time.
When he rings the red doorbell again that night, the house is dark and there’s no answer. He sends the kids to bed and hangs out on that couch in the den with the dog. (Hi, dog!) And of course it’s dawning on us, holy crap, they’re dead in the garage! Cool! But no, of course not. It’s not that this show doesn’t have the balls to kill off a couple of major characters in the first episode with little fanfare, it’s just that this show likes to make you think you’re smart for figuring shit out, then make you feel stupid when you’re wrong. I love you for that, show.
They’re an hour late and giggly and stumbly and Don needs to talk to Betty. “Henry, do you mind?” He asks. “Betty?” Henry looks at her for approval. “It’s okay,” she says. Awkward pause. “Does that mean I should stay, or not stay?” “Stay!” Betty commands. Good boy! Anyway, Don mentions the whole thing about how he’s still paying for their house, and could they maybe get one of their own possibly, but Betty’s all huffy and righteous about her poor poor children, and she can’t just uproot them now, after all they’ve been through! Oh, you mean the thing where you just up and left them with their (admittedly awesome) housekeeper at freaking Christmas so you could go to a tacky divorce resort in Reno shack up with some guy you barely knew? That kind of trauma maybe? I’ve been a Betty apologist since day one, and I’ll probably end up defending her a few more times even though she totally broke my heart last season, but even I’d never argue that she gave a singular solitary shit about her kids. They’re still in that house because Betty wants to be there, and her reasons are a potent (and at least partially justified) mixture of spite and terror. Her entire identity is in that house. She doesn’t know who she is outside of it. But yeah, probably mostly spite. Don says they can either do as they agreed, or he can start collecting rent. “It’s temporary,” Henry tells Don, smiling, to ease the tension. “Believe me, Henry, everybody thinks this is temporary.” Ha! Zing.
So Don leaves and Henry interrupts Betty’s righteous huff to say “I know you don’t want to hear this, but he’s right.” She’s not even looking for a new place. Eventually a second husband like himself is going to start wondering why his poor mistreated wife is so attached to this house she desperately wanted out of so she could be rescued from her prison of a marriage. Well, okay, I guess that implies that he does in fact have balls somewhere.
After the long weekend, Peggy stops by Don’s office with an apology ham. He’s still pissed off at her for pulling their “shenanigans” without his okay, but she’s the right mixture of contrite and firm. Very much like a colleague, and very much like Don himself. On her way out, she reminds him that for better or worse, literally everybody in that office is there because of him. That’s not flattery or guilt, it’s just a fact.
”I may look a little like Mama Fratelli, and I may also look like I’m not nearly old enough to be your mother, but I’m totally right about your silly wife and her terrorized children.”
Henry is over at his mom’s, helping her dismantle the table from Thanksgiving. He tells her the kids liked their gifts. “Well, it’s nice the holiday is memorable in some other way,” she says, like the martyr that she is. “I’m sorry a little girl spoiled your Thanksgiving,” Henry sighs, but Mom just says she can tell those kids are terrified of their mother. And furthermore, she knows what he sees in Betty, and he could have gotten it without marrying her. “She’s a silly woman,” she sums up. Ha! Check out Henry’s mom, being all awesome all of a sudden. “Honestly, Henry, I don’t know how you can stand living in that man’s dirt.” OUCH.
So hey, everybody ready for another one of Don’s famous pitches? An act of such competent professional badassery that we are all left wondering how any one human could be so damn good at any one thing? Well, this may or may not be one of those, depending on how you see it. He gives the Jantzen guys one single pitch, and really, even Don knows it’s sort of the opposite of what they asked for. It’s a girl in their two-piece, but plastered suggestively over the top piece is a blob of text reading “So well built, we can’t show you the second floor.” Now, let’s set aside for a moment the fact that that sentence doesn’t make any sense. What’s he doing? It looks like he’s tanking, but he does it so spectacularly that by the end of it I’m not sure. When the young guy argues that they specifically said they didn’t want to be raunchy, Don says it’s a wink, not a leer. This will make the other guys look crude, while still keeping Jantzen in the game. “It’s not wholesome,” the younger Jantzen says. “Did I tell you we’re a family company?” Apparently the use of the word “family” as an adjective makes Don even crazier than it makes me, because he just absolutely loses it. “Your competitors are going to keep killing you because you’re afraid of the skin that your two-piece was designed to show!” He storms out and Roger follows, telling him that Pete will get them to come back later and hear more ideas. “What? No! That’s not the point!” Don yells, then actually storms back in. “Get out of my office! Now!” Snapping his fingers like he’s scolding a dog.
Immediately after he storms out the second time, he asks his secretary to get him Bert’s Wall Street Journal contact on the phone. So was that genuine frustration? Did he really think that would go over? Or was that a calculated attempt to readjust the image of the agency, which, Peggy reminded him earlier, was exactly where he’d left it? Now he gets to sit down to an interview he set up, on his own terms, and tell whatever story he wants to, including the story of how he single-handedly figured out how to get them all out of their contracts and into a new agency in a single weekend. He comes across as a guy who doesn’t have time for people who don’t want him to do his job, which is to make people buy their stuff. He doesn’t compromise! He won’t deliver something he thinks is inferior, even if it loses him clients. He gets people talking about Don Draper, Creative Director of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, not Don Draper, Handsome Cipher. So. Post-Thanksgiving meltdown? Or Public Relations? DUN!
Now that’s more like it!
Like pretty much every episode of this show, especially season openers, this one is better the second time around. And last season was by no means inferior, but it started off in pretty weird territory. Now we’re back in our comfort zone: clients, office furniture, the creative process, workplace politics, clever quips, excessive whiskey, and seduction. That’s more like it. AMC is famously stingy with their previews, so I don’t even really want to speculate about what we have in store for the next few months. But I’m pretty confident that it will be awesome. Now get the hell out of my office!