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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

August 2, 2010 at 10:15 AM

Monday morning “Mad Men” mashup

Oh, Don. How the mighty have fallen. Last night’s episode brought us a drunk and pathetic Don (we’ve seen him drunk before — though surprisingly rarely, considering how much he drinks — but never this way), being scoffed at by junior employees and stooping to a sad little quickie with his sweet secretary Alison. The old Don, who scorned Roger for dipping into the secretarial pool, would have been above such behavior, knowing its consequences: Poor Alison, her doe eyes wide, waited for a declaration of love the next morning and got merely a $100 bonus. (Not a bad sum for 1964.) Don was quick to explain it as “the bonus we talked about before,” but we all know what Alison felt like. I thought for a minute that he was going to fire her — which would have been in-character for Don, who doesn’t like evidence of his mistakes hanging about — but he seemed to relent. That’ll make for some awkward good-mornings for a while. All this is happening, of course, because he’s upset about his personal life, particularly his kids as Christmas approaches (that Santa note from Sally definitely twisted the knife) — and, perhaps, because being the front man for SCDP isn’t sitting well with him.
In an episode filled with tantalizing dish about relationships, we learned that Joan and Roger still have a spark (oh, you know something’s coming up there — notice how she wore the dress he asked her to), that Lane’s obvious misery is at least in part due to the fact that his wife has gone home to London, that Peggy successfully deceived her boyfriend about her past, and that Don didn’t follow up with Jane’s friend (Bethany?), with whom he had an not entirely successful date last episode. (I think we’ll see more, though, of the cute nurse next door. And I want her sparkly dress.) Freddy Rumsen, he of the urine-filled shoes, returned, mostly to remind Peggy how far she’s come; as did the truly evil Lee Garner Jr. of Lucky Strikes, who caused SCDP to throw a lavish Christmas party to keep up appearances. (Lee, upon being given a Christmas present: “You didn’t have to do this.” Lane, not quite under his breath: “Oh, yes we did.” ) Keeping up appearances, now that I think of it, was the theme of the episode; look how Don’s behavior in the office is worlds apart from his off-hours conduct; how Joan so lightly played, for Roger, the role of the happy wife; how Peggy willed herself into being what her rather innocent boyfriend needed her to be.
Overall, though, not an entirely satisfying episode. (Anybody else find Glen, the neighbor boy who here had a weird, unconvincing little subplot with Sally, thoroughly off-putting? Trivia note: Glen is played by series creator Matthew Weiner’s son, Marten Holden Weiner.) I’m remembering, though, that past seasons — particularly number 3 — took a few episodes to hit their stride. What will be this season’s foot-cut-off-by-a-lawnmower? We’ll have to wait and see.
Favorite moments in this episode (which also featured an appearance by Seattle actor John Aylward)? I liked Don and Roger’s brief, German-accented exchange, the morning after the party, Freddy’s description of the new offices (“It looks like an Italian hospital”), Joan leading the conga line like a champ, Don, who earlier said sadly “I just hate this Christmas,” sweetly wishing Peggy a happy holiday. (I love how, with little said about it, these two have entirely transformed their relationship from last season.) What did you think?

Peggy and Don, at the (sadly) lawnmower-free Christmas party. (Photo courtesy AMC)

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