Monday, August 30, 2010

'Mad Men:' Waldorf Stories

*Warning: Spoilers ahead from the recent episode of Mad Men.*

We learned, quite early on, that this was one of those what-comes-around-goes-around episodes. We got to see Don as an eager fur salesman who'd hounded Roger Sterling for a job, tried to impress and ingratiate himself to Roger, even showed up in the lobby of Sterling Cooper in order to "accidentally" run into him. Then, many years later, as Don’s been nominated for a coveted advertising award, Roger felt as though he’d found Don and, therefore, deserved credit when Don succeeded.

We recall that Peggy was once Don’s eager secretary who was “found” by Don (actually found by Freddy but it was Don who promoted Peggy) to have talent, whose talent Don uses, without providing proper, public credit, to accept an award for work to which Peggy contributed. And Peggy, justifiably, feels jealous.

Then there’s Danny Siegel (Doyle from Gilmore Girls) who’s like a hybrid version of those characters: He’s an eager wanna-be ad man – but he’s got connections to Roger’s wife’s cousin – who tried to impress Don and who pressed too hard. Drunk Don (!) then proceeded to steal “Roger’s idiot’s” idea and pitched it to a clients -- without providing credit -- after Don’s own advertising campaign idea fell flat.

There were a lot of hurt feelings during this episode. Peggy was hurt by Don's apparent blindness to her contributions which led to his Clio. Roger was hurt that Don didn’t credit him with plucking him out of the fur salesman business and hiring him, though the hungover Roger forgot/wasn’t sure that he even hired Don during his booze haze, kind of like how the drunken Don forgot that he used Danny’s “cure for the common [cereal]” line with the Life cereal people and was then guilted into hiring Danny, though he did try to slime his way out of it.

I loved seeing the early scenes between Don and Roger when Don was making the hard sell, slipping his portfolio of advertising ideas into the box containing the fur Roger had bought for Joan. (Ever notice how Don’s eyes seemed wider – literally – and he smiled a whole lot more in the flashbacks, like he did when he was in the flashbacks with Anna telling her that he was going to marry Betty?)

We saw the reappearance of the sad, drunk Don, who’s well on his way to becoming either a brooding Roger or an embarrassing Duck Phillips, who’s also divorced and whose kids are distant with him, largely because of his alcohol problem.

What was awful to watch was Don, fumbling his way through the Life cereal pitch, using the same “nostalgia” line he used in the season one finale, the one he’d so eloquently pitched to the Kodak people for “the Carousel.” Don was a mere shadow of what he was back then, when it dawned on him that family and loved ones were of paramount importance. Only he realized that fact a bit too late to salvage that particular Thanksgiving with Betty and the kids.

To make matters worse, sloppy, inebriated Don continued drinking on that Friday night after he won the Clio. He went home and slept with an advertising professional and woke up at noon on Sunday with a waitress named “Doris” in his bed who referred to him as “Dick,” because apparently he’d lapsed back into his original identity. He woke up from his bender to an irate phone call from his ex-wife Betty who reamed him out for being more than two hours late in picking up the kids as he'd promised to do, making Betty and Henry miss an appointment. Don didn’t even know it was Sunday yet.

And I thought that the post-Christmas party Allison situation, coupled with her emotional resignation, might’ve been a turning point for him. What is Don, another Rescue Me/Tommy Gavin type who needs to reach about a billion low-points before getting the message that things need to change? If he doesn’t allow that message to seep into his consciousness soon, he could indeed be headed for Duck territory.

As for Peggy, that moron Stan and the Vick's campaign . . . I admire the courage Peggy frequently displays when she’s facing difficult situations with no obvious way out. I certainly wouldn’t have taken the route of stripping naked to prove that Stan’s a full-of-crap-blow-hard when it came to his "we should all live purely and naked" line, but that’s why I’m a fan of Peggy’s. She takes you to very unexpected, and oftentimes pretty great places.

Most intriguing moment: Don reaching for Joan’s hand -- after Joan and Roger had already clasped hands under the table -- just before the Clio award in their category was announced. Plus the way Don kissed Joan after he won seemed curious, but maybe I’m reading too much into it.

What’d you think of “Waldorf Stories?”

Image credit: Michael Yarish/AMC.

1 comment:

Cooley Horner said...

I loved this episode. We watched it right after the Emmys, too, so it was fun to watch Don win after the cast had picked up their Emmys. I'm wondering what "rock bottom" looks like for Don, though. It's clearly not messing up in front of a client, and it's clearly not almost letting his old identity slip. It's not being alienated/absent from his kids' lives, and it's not realizing how his actions impact others (i.e. Allison). Matt Weiner never does anything on a whim, so I'm sure we're leading up to some epic climax, but I wonder what it is.

I like Peggy this year, but I feel like missed *a lot* from the time they moved in the hotel office to the time this season started. She's always been gutsy, but some of her demeanor and choices really don't seem like things the Peggy of "Shut the Door, Have a Seat" would do. I feel like we missed a piece of her character's progression, the moment when she got gutsy enough to do stuff like strip naked in a hotel room with a jerk art director.

I miss Roger and Joan together, even if they would never be happy together.